Monday, November 12, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.47: Back to the Royal Seat

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−    Upajāti (Mālā)
nivartyatāṁ sūta bahiḥ-prayāṇān-narendra-sadmaiva rathaḥ prayātu |
śrutvā ca me roga-bhayaṁ ratibhyaḥ pratyāhataṁ saṁkucatīva cetaḥ || 3.47

Let the chariot of joy, O master of the horse!,
be turned back from going onward and outward.

Let the chariot go back to the royal seat of the best of men.

Having learned of the danger arising from disease,

My mind, driven back from miscellaneous enjoyments,
also seems to turn inward.”

Rathaḥ, depending on whether it comes from the root √ṛ, to go, or the root √ram, to enjoy, means (1) chariot, and (2) joy. Narendra-sadmaiva, “the royal seat of the best of men,” also has two meanings: (1) the palace of a king, (2) the ground and the round cushion under a sitting practitioner's knees and sitting bones.

To turn back (ni-√vṛt) is to turn back, as in the prince's word in today's verse nivartyatām, “Let it be turned back,” and as in the Buddha's words to Nanda nivartakaṃ cāpy-avagaccha mārgam, “and know the path as a turning back”:
Comprehend, therefore, that suffering is doing; witness the faults impelling it forward; / Realise its stopping as non-doing; and know the path as a turning back (nivartakaṃ cāpy-avagaccha mārgam) //16.42//
As I concluded in my comment yesterday, the Buddha's teaching as I hear it is never about engaging as a “political Buddhist.” It is about, in Dogen's words, learning the backward step of turning one's own light and letting it shine.

That being so, the 4th pāda of today's verse, even if it could be read as having an ascetic flavour, does not in fact contain any trace of asceticism. It is rather pointing away from miscellaneous external enjoyments (ratibhyaḥ, plural) to that singular inner enjoyment (rati, singular) to which Ānanda points Nanda in the 11th canto of Aśvaghoṣa's epic story of Beautiful Joy:
Again, since in spiralling through saṁsāra you have gained celestial nymphs and left them /A hundred times over, what is this yearning of yours for those women? // SN11.31 // A fire is not satisfied by dry brushwood, nor the salty ocean by water, / Nor a man of thirst by his desires. Desires, therefore, do not make for satisfaction. // SN11.32 // Without satisfaction, whence peace? Without peace, whence ease? / Without ease, whence joy? Without joy, whence enjoyment (rati)? // SN11.33 // Therefore if you want enjoyment, let your mind be directed within. / Tranquil and impeccable is enjoyment of the inner self and there is no enjoyment to equal it (nāsty-adhyātma-samā ratiḥ). // SN11.34 // In it, you have no need of musical instruments, or women, or ornaments; / On your own, wherever you are, you can indulge in that enjoyment (rati). // SN11.35 //

Yesterday I found myself while chopping wood in autumn sunshine joyfully singing a chorus from an old hymn:

We blossom and flourish
Like leaves on a tree
Then wither and perish
But nought changeth thee.

As an expression of the Buddha's teaching, the elements really need to be re-arranged:

We wither and perish [suffering subject] 
Like leaves on a tree [analogy using tangible and concrete objects] 
Then blossom and flourish [vigorous action] 
But nought changeth thee [praise of reality]. 

Unable to get rid of the ear-worm of this old hymn, I asked myself, as I took in the forest's various shades of green and gold, who or what my subconscious was addressing as “thee.” Not the God of Abraham, that is for damn sure.

"God is Dharma. Dharma is God," pronounced my teacher Gudo Nishijima. "This is a compromise. But this compromise can save all human beings in the world." 

Who did the deluded old fool think he was? Bloody liar. "God is Dharma. Dharma is God," my teacher pronounced. And the whole of the Buddha's teaching boils down to balance of the autonomic nervous system. Truly speaking, I say stuff all his stupid ideas. What kind of a total pratt was I to have lent an ear for so long to any of them? 

This morning, having slept on it and sat, it struck me that the entity I was accidentally praising is exactly that dharma which is expressed in today's verse by the words narendra-sadmaiva, the royal seat of the best of men.

Dogen wrote in Shobogenzo:
Instantly surpassing the whole world and being, in the house of the Buddha-Ancestor, a great noble being, is full lotus sitting. Treading on the heads of strayers and demons and being, in the inner sanctum of the Buddha-Ancestor, a real human being, is full lotus sitting. What surpasses the supremacy of the Buddha-Ancestor's supremacy is only this One Dharma. For this reason buddha-ancestors practise this, being otherwise utterly jobless.
This passage contains quite a statement: that if we just sit in full lotus, we have already risen above the supremacy of Gautama Buddha, of Bodhidharma, and of Dogen himself.

Aśvaghoṣa is saying exactly the same thing, but so indirectly, in such a whisper, that we can only hear him by really paying attention.

Ostensibly narendra-sadmaiva means “straight to the king's palace.” But what Aśvaghoṣa is really pointing to is realization of the timeless and unsurpassed majesty and dignity of putting right foot on left thigh and left foot on right thigh and parking one's own backside on a round black cushion.

And, on further reflection, the old hymn is OK as it is: 

We blossom and flourish 
[thesis: suffering subject, full of himself, deluded by feeling] 
Like leaves on a tree 
[antithesis: tangible and concrete undeluded objects] 
Then wither and perish 
[synthesis: truth of cessation] 
But nought changeth thee 
[praise of the timeless dharma, which is change itself]. 

nivartyatām = 3rd pers. sg. passive causative imperative ni- √ vṛt: to turn back, stop
sūta (voc.): m. a charioteer , driver , groom , equerry , master of the horse (esp. an attendant on a king who in earlier literature is often mentioned together with the grāma-ṇī́ ; in the epics also a royal herald or bard , whose business was to proclaim the heroic actions of the king and his ancestors , while he drove his chariot to battle , or on state occasions , and who had therefore to know by heart portions of the epic poems and ancient ballads
bahiḥ-prayāṇāt (abl. sg.): from going outside
bahis: out , forth , outwards , outside (a house , village , city , kingdom &c )
prayāṇa: n. setting out , starting , advancing , motion onwards , progress , journey

narendra-sadma (acc. sg. n.): the seat of the best of men; the palace
nara: man
indra: m. ifc. best , excellent , the first , the chief (of any class of objects)
sadman: n. a seat , abode , dwelling , house , place (esp. of sacrifice) , temple
eva: (emphatic)
rathaḥ (nom. sg.): m. (1) chariot, (2) joy
prayātu = 3rd pers. sg. imperative pra- √ yā: to go forth; to cause to go i.e. to lead into (acc.)
śrutvā = abs. śru: to hear, listen, hear or learn anything about (acc.)
ca: and
me (gen. sg.): of me
roga-bhayam (nom. sg. n.): terror of disease
bhaya: n. fear , alarm, dread, apprehension ; fear of (abl. gen. or comp.) or for (comp.); sg. and pl. terror , dismay , danger , peril , distress ; danger from (abl. or comp.)
ratibhyaḥ (abl. pl.): f. pleasure , enjoyment

pratyāhatam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. driven back , repelled , repulsed , rejected
saṁkucati = 3rd pers. sg. pres. saṁ- √ kuc: to contract , shrink , close (as a flower)
iva: like, as if, almost
cetaḥ (nom. sg.): n. mind

於是迴車還 愁憂念病苦
如人被打害 捲身待杖至
靜息於閑宮 專求反世樂 

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