Sunday, November 11, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.46: Nervous Laughter

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Ārdrā)
idaṁ ca roga-vyasanaṁ prajānāṁ paśyaṁś-ca viśrambham-upaiti lokaḥ |
vistīrṇam-ajñānam-aho narāṇāṁ hasanti ye roga-bhayair-amuktāḥ || 3.46

“Seeing this for living creatures as 'the evil of disease,'

Still the world rests easy.

Vast, alas, is the ignorance of men

Who laugh and joke
though not yet liberated from their fears of disease.

That the world does indeed fear dis-ease as an evil (vyasanam) – as opposed to recognizing this disorder in me as a function of faulty sensory appreciation – is evidenced by the translations of EBC, EHJ, and PO of eṣa doṣaḥ (this fault here in me) as “this evil.”

Seeing disorder in myself as an evil to be feared is a most inauspicious conception, bound up with trying to be right, and the antidote to it is contained in the words of Marjory Barlow that “in this work, being wrong is the best friend we have got.” “In this work, being wrong is the best friend we have got” are the words of a woman who was suffering from the sickness of clouded eyes, and in meeting Marjory I was fortunate to meet such a person of clouded eyes – the kind of person described in Shobogenzo chap. 43, Kuge.

EBC, EHJ, and PO all translate doṣa in 3.43 and 3.44 as “evil.” In today's verse EBC and EHJ translate vyasanam as “calamity” and PO sticks with “evil.” But the true distinction, as I see it, is between how we ought to see dis-ease, as a fault (doṣa) to be overcome, and how the world sees disease, as an evil or calamity (vyasanam) to be feared.

If roga is understood not as the sickness of clouded eyes, aka faulty sensory appreciation, but as a manifestation of ill-health like cardiac arrest or cancer or amoebic dysentery, then the closing words of the verse which describe men as roga-bhayair-amuktāḥ, “not free from the terrors of ill-health,” raise the question of whether or not it is possible to be free from the terrors of ill-health. For example, are buddhas invariably free from ill-health? Or are buddhas invariably free from seeing ill-health as a terror?

The answer to the former question is self-evidently no. The answer to the latter question, contrary to idealistic expectations, might also be no. Sometimes, the truth might be, that buddhas are afraid of going down with cardiac arrest or cancer or amoebic dysentery. But there might be examples from the past, like just before the Buddha died, of buddhas who saw a disease as a disease and, without getting their knickers in a twist, prepared either to get better or to die.

Somebody should have explained the content of today's verse to George Bush junior before he embarked on his “war on terror.” The point being that insofar as dis-ease is a fault, it resides here in me, and it is up to me to overcome it. And insofar as people see this and that “evil” as a terror, the problem is not that evil objectively exists; the problem is people's perception of evil, and our fear -- the solution to which war generally is not.

Sometimes on Facebook I see things inviting people to sign up to engage in “political Buddhism.” My response is: not bloody likely. I have got enough on my plate addressing faults in myself and in others on an individual basis, as well as doing work like this translation, again on an individual basis. Political Buddhism is for Buddhists. Count me out. 

idam (acc. sg. n.): this , this here , referring to something near the speaker
ca: and
roga-vyasanam (acc. sg. n.): calamity of sickness
roga: m. " breaking up of strength " , disease , infirmity , sickness
vyasana: n. moving to and fro , wagging (of a tail) ; attachment or devotion or addiction to (loc. or comp.) , passion , (esp.) evil passion , sin , crime , vice ; evil predicament or plight , disaster , accident , evil result , calamity , misfortune (vyasanāni pl. misfortunes) , ill-luck , distress , destruction , defeat , fall , ruin
prajānām (gen. pl.): f. creatures, people

paśyan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. paś: to see ; to be a spectator , look on ; to regard or consider as , take for (acc. with acc. or adv. in vat)
ca: and
viśrambham: m. slackening , loosening , relaxation (of the organs of utterance) , cessation ; trust , confidence ; absence of restraint , familiarity , intimacy
upaiti = 3rd pers. sg. upa- √i: to go near, to reach, to enter any state,
lokaḥ (nom. sg.): m. the world
vistīrṇam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. spread out , expanded , broad , large , great , copious
ajñānam (nom. sg.): n. non-cognizance, ignorance
aho: ind. a particle (implying joyful or painful surprise) Ah! (of enjoyment or satisfaction) Oh! (of fatigue , discontent , compassion , sorrow , regret) Alas!
narāṇām (gen. pl.): m. men

hasanti = 3rd pers. pl. pres. has: to laugh , smile ; to deride , mock , ridicule (acc.)
ye (nom. pl. m.): who
roga-bhayaiḥ (inst. pl. n.): the terrors of sickness
amuktāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. not loosed , not let go , not liberated from birth and death

處斯大苦器 云何能自安
嗚呼世間人 愚惑癡闇障

病賊至無期 而生喜樂心 

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