Saturday, November 24, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.59: Ultimate Certainty

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Kīrti)
tataḥ praṇetā vadati sma tasmai sarva-prajānām-idam-anta-karma |
hīnasya madhyasya mahātmano vā sarvasya loke niyato vināśaḥ || 3.59

Then the guide said to him:

“This is the ultimate karma of all creatures:

For everybody in this world, whether low, middling, or mighty,

Utter loss is certain.”

The old Nepalese manuscript has idam-anta-karmaḥ, which is gramatically not possible and which EHJ therefore amended to idam-anta-karma (“This is the last act...”); EBC has ayam-aṁta-karmā (“This is the final end...”).

I guess that, whether read as idam-anta-karma or as ayam-anta-karmā, Aśvaghoṣa's original phrase was intended to be ambiguous, so that it ostensibly means death, but really points to the experience of totally forgetting oneself that Dogen called “losing body and life.”

The 4th pāda raises the question of what in this world is truly certain?

If we look for an answer in proverbial wisdom, the answer might be found in the expression “As sure as eggs is eggs,” which is thought to derive from the mathematical certainty that x = x.

This is the kind of arithmetic that Dogen liked, as evidence in the many places in Shobogenzo where he compares a stone lantern in the garden, for example, to a stone lantern in the garden; or where he states his ultimate conclusion about the state in sitting by describing fishes as swimming like fishes and birds as flying like birds.

Understood like this, then, vināśaḥ, “utter loss,” does not necessarily mean death, at least not as conventionally understood. It might rather mean the complete removal from x of plus or minus anything.

In the 16th canto of his epic story of Beautiful Joy, Aśvaghoṣa quotes the Buddha as telling Nanda:
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. // SN16.42 //Though your head and clothes be on fire direct your mind so as to be awake to the truths. /For in failing to see the purport of the truths, the world has burned, it is burning now, and it will burn. // 16.43 //When a man sees a separate bodily form as decrepit, that insight of his is accurate; /In seeing accurately he is disenchanted, and from the ending of exuberance ends the red taint of passion. // 16.44 //By the ending of the duality which is exuberance and gloom, I submit, his mind is fully set free. /And when his mind is fully liberated from that duality, there is nothing further for him to do. // SN16.45 //
In eggs-is-eggs terms, exuberance = (x + 1), and gloom = (x – 1). Turning back, to the certainty of utter loss, might be to come back to x = x.

This kind of arithmetic, it should be emphasized, is traditionally and necessarily computed by a person under whose backside -- whether the backside in question is low, middling, or eminent --  a round black cushion is doing its best not to be squashed into oblivion.

tataḥ: ind. then
praṇetā (nom. sg.): m. leader, guide; charioteer
vadati = 3rd pers. sg. to speak , say , utter , tell , report
sma: (joined with a pres. tense or pres. participle to give them a past sense)
tasmai (dat. sg.): to him

sarva-prajānām (gen. pl. f.): all creatures; all living beings
idam (nom. sg. n.): this, this here
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this, this here
anta-karma = nom. sg. n. anta-karman = anta-kara: mfn. causing death , mortal , destructive
anta-karmā = nom. sg. m. anta-karman
anta: m. end , limit , boundary , term ; end of life , death , destruction ; pause , settlement , definite ascertainment , certainty
karman: n. action ; former act as leading to inevitable results , fate (as the certain consequence of acts in a previous life)
hīnasya (gen. sg.): mfn. left , abandoned , forsaken ; left behind , excluded or shut out from , lower or weaker than , inferior to (abl.); left out , wanting , omitted ; deficient , defective , faulty , insufficient , short , incomplete , poor , little , low , vile , bad , base , mean ; brought low , broken down in circumstances
madhyasya (gen. sg.): mfn. middle ; middlemost , intermediate , central
mahātmanaḥ (gen. sg.): mfn. “high-souled" , magnanimous , having a great or noble nature , high-minded , noble ; eminent , mighty , powerful , distinguished
vā: or

sarvasya (gen. sg.): all
loke (loc. sg.): m. the world, this world
niyataḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. held back or in , fastened ; constant , steady ; fixed , established , settled , sure , regular , invariable , positive , definite
ni- √ yam: to stop (trans.) , hold back; to hold in , keep down , restrain; to fix upon , settle , determine , establish
vināśaḥ (nom. sg.): m. utter loss , annihilation , perdition , destruction , decay , death , removal

對曰普皆爾 夫始必有終
長幼及中年 有身莫不壞 

No comments: