Sunday, November 18, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.53: Enigmatic Effort, Turning Chariot and Charioteer Around, In Order to Go Outwards

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Mālā)
tato viśeṣeṇa narendra-mārge svalaṁkṛte caiva parīkṣite ca |
vyatyasya sūtaṁ ca rathaṁ ca rājā prasthāpayām-āsa bahiḥ kumāram || 3.53

Then, the royal road having been adorned even more beautifully

And inspected with even more care,

The king switched around the charioteer and the chariot,

And urged the prince on his way, outwards.

The first two pādas of today's verse seem to describe the king persisting with the same tactic, with ever increasing intensity. Such persistence might be understood as the height of stupidity, insofar as it represents adherence to a means that evidently does not lead to the desired end. “If at first you don't succeed, try harder,” represents the essence of the approach of the end-gainer – the one who goes for the desired end without having stopped to reason out an appropriate means.

On the face of it, then, today's verse seems to be another one that is holding up the king's behaviour as an example of selfish stupidity.

If we look for an alternative reading, or hidden meaning, it might be that the first two pādas are describing exactly the kind of effort made by a king of dharma, which is to practise that sitting which is originally untainted by any separation of means and end, but which is characterized by utter lucidity through full awareness (upekṣā-smṛtimad viśuddhaṃ; SN17.54 / upekṣā-smṛti-pāriśuddhiḥ SN17.55).

In the 3rd pāda even the ostensible meaning is in doubt, due to the ambiguity of vyatyasya, from vy-aty-√as, which Apte gives as “to invert.” EHJ and PO understood vy-aty-√as simply to mean “change” i.e. replace; hence EHJ: “the king changed the charioteer and the chariot”; PO: “he changed the driver and the chariot.” EBC, more interestingly, understood vy-aty-√as to signify a change of direction; hence: “having ordered the charioteer and chariot to proceed in a contrary direction (to the previous one).”

Whatever ostensible meaning Aśvaghoṣa intended, his real intention might be related with Dogen's teaching that there is sitting with body (represented by chariot) which is different to sitting with mind (charioteer), and vice versa. Because sitting with the body is different from sitting with the mind, and vice versa, when we are stuck in our sitting it may sometimes be wise to study a sentence or two of ancient wisdom and reflect deeply on our own motivation, and it may sometimes be wise to eat plenty of carbohydrates and, having digested them, to embark on some physical challenge like a long walk or run or cycle ride. 

The 4th pāda again features the word bahiḥ, which points outwards. In so pointing it points again to a paradox inherent in sitting practice, which is a turning of one's attention backwards and inwards, in order that one's head might release in a direction that is sometimes described as “forwards and outwards,” so that the whole torso might expand outwards, while the legs and arms also are released outwards.

Awareness of this paradox, I suspect, is what is behind Aśvaghoṣa’s repeated use of bahiḥ, outwards, alongside words derived from ni-√vṛt, to turn back.

tataḥ: ind. then
viśeṣeṇa: ind. exceedingly , especially , particularly , even more
narendra-mārge (loc. sg. m.): the royal road, the king's highway

svalaṁkṛte (loc. sg. m.): mfn. beautifully adorned
alaṁ-kṛta: mfn. adorned , decorated
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
parīkṣite (loc. sg. m.): mfn. carefully inspected , tried , examined
pari- √īkṣ: to look round , inspect carefully , try , examine , find out , observe , perceive
ca: and
vyatyasya = abs. vy-aty- √ as: (1) [middle voice] to be above , excel , surpass; (2) [Apte; active voice] to invert
aty- √ as: to excel , surpass ; to shoot beyond , overwhelm , overpower (as with arrows).
sūtam (acc. sg.): m. the charioteer
ca: and
ratham (acc. sg.): m. the chariot
ca: and
rājā (nom. sg.): m. the king

prasthāpayām-āsa = 3rd pers. sg. periphrasic perf. caus. pra- √ sthā: to send out ; send away or home , dispatch messengers &c , dismiss , banish ; drive , urge on (horses)
bahiḥ: ind. out , forth , outwards , outside (a house , village , city , kingdom &c
kumāram (acc. sg.): m. the prince

増修王御道 防制諸不淨并勅善御者 瞻察擇路行 

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