Friday, December 21, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 4.20: Subjugated Seer (5/5) – Viśvā-mitra

viśvāmitro maharṣiś-ca vigāḍho 'pi mahat-tapaḥ |
daśa-varṣāṇy-ahar-mene ghtācy-āpsarasā htaḥ || 4.20

And the great seer Viśvā-mitra, 'Friend of All,'

Though steeped in rigorous asceticism,

Deemed ten years to be a day,

While captivated by the nymph Ghṛtācī.

The story of Viśvā-mitra's maintenance of mighty asceticism for thousands of years, in his effort to rise from the rank of a kṣatriya to that of a brahmin, is the culminating example in Hurry-Up Udāyin's present series of five examples of seers who were distracted in their practice by women. Viśvā-mitra's seduction by a nymph generally known as Menakā resulted in the conception of Śakuntalā, who is the heroine of Kalidaśa's famous play “The Recognition of Śakuntalā.”

Nanda also refers to the story of Viśvā-mitra's seduction in the 7th canto of Saundara-nanda:  
And the son of Gādhin who, in order to become 'the Brahman Seer,' renounced his kingdom and retired to the forest, having become indifferent to sensual objects: / He was captivated by the nymph Ghṛtācī, reckoning a decade with her as a single day. // SN7.35 //

The British situation comedy called "Till Death Us Do Part" (which transferred to America as "All In the Family") featured a patriarch named Alf Garnett who the writer Johnny Speight used as a vehicle for the comical investigation of racial and other prejudices. 

Udāyin, like the striver in Saundara-nanda, is an ancient prototype of Alf Garnett. 

People who watched Till Death Us Do Part and thought that its creater Johnny Speight must have been out to encourage viewers blindly to harbour bigoted views, singularly failed to get the point. 

Whereas Alf idolized West Ham United legend Bobby Moore and Her Majesty the Queen, Udāyin sees as great the seer Viśvā Mitra -- not to be confused with Victor Moses, currently playing football at Chelsea but formerly of Wigan Ascetic. 

Speaking of Her Majesty the Queen, a few days ago she was filmed shaking hands one by one with the members of the British cabinet. Arriving at the place of Chancellor George Osborne, she asked a question to the effect of "How much of the gold in the Bank of England's vaults actually belongs to us?" Osborne's smiling reply (cognissant of the fact that political opponent Gordon Brown was responsible for the decision to sell) was something like "We sold most of it but still have some left." 

Was it the harmless inquiry of an innocent old lady? I somehow doubt it, in which case it is good to know that there is at least one person who genuinely cares about the parlous state of Britain's finances. 

A few years ago a royal butler named Paul Burrel revealed that the Queen had warned him to be careful of "dark forces." Maybe the Queen saw these dark forces as behind the selling off of 60% of the UK's gold reserves, about 395 tons of gold over 17 auctions from July 1999 to March 2002, at an average price of about US$275 per ounce. 

The Queen's question, and a bit of internet research into what may have lain behind it, caused me to re-examine my view of the Queen and her function in British society.  If I subconsciously had a view that I was quite a clever bloke, whereas she was an irrelevant old relic with little real understanding of how things are on the ground in Britian, the Queen's pointed question to the chancellor causes me to glimpse the possibility that the reality might be totally the other way round. 

In 3 days from Tuesday to Thursday this week, the price of gold has fallen steeply from  US$1700 to  $1640 per ounce. Why? I honestly have not got a clue. Maybe the Queen has a view on it. Or maybe she knows something about it. 

It is humbling to be reminded by reality how little one really knows. But some things, for my sins, I do know. 

When Patrick Olivelle writes as follows in his introduction to his translation of Buddha-carita for the Clay Sanskrit Library, I know that Patrick Olivelle has totally missed Aśvaghoṣa's point.
“Life of the Buddha” is concerned principally with the intellectual challenges to the Buddhist dharma, especially to the Buddhist view of the ascetic life as the highest religious aspiration and the only mode of life that can lead a person to final liberation from the phenomenal life of suffering.
There is no Buddhist view on asceticism. Thousands of years of rigorous practice of asceticism are the playing out of a view. The Buddha's teaching, as transmitted by Aśvaghoṣa, is to abandon all views. 

viśvāmitraḥ (nom. sg.): m. (prob.) " friend of all " N. of a celebrated ṛṣi or Sage (he was at first a functionary , together with vasiṣṭha , of su-dās , king of the tṛtsus ; seeing vasiṣṭha preferred by the king , he went over to the bharatas , but could not prevent their being defeated by su-dās , although he caused the waters of the rivers vipāś and śutudrī to retire and so give the bharatas free passage RV. iii , 33 ; he was born as a kṣatriya , deriving his lineage from an ancestor of kuśika , named purū-ravas , of the lunar race of kings , and himself sovereign of kanyā-kubja or Kanoj ; his fame rests chiefly on his contests with the great Brahman vasiṣṭha , and his success in elevating himself, though a kṣatriya , to the rank of a Brahman » Manu vii , 42 : the rāmāyaṇa , which makes him a companion and counsellor of the young rāma-candra , records [i , 51-65] how viśvāmitra , on his accession to the throne , visited vasiṣṭha's hermitage , and seeing there the cow of plenty , offered him untold treasures in exchange for it , but being refused , prepared to take it by force ; a long contest ensued between the king and the saint [symbolical of the struggles between the kṣatriya and Brahmanical classes] , which ended in the defeat of viśvāmitra , whose vexation was such that , in order to become a Brahman and thus conquer his rival , he devoted himself to intense austerities [during which he was seduced by the nymph menakā and had by her a daughter , śakuntalā] , gradually increasing the rigour of his mortification through thousands of years , till he successively earned the titles of rājarṣi , ṛṣi , maharṣi , and finally brahmarṣi ; he is supposed to be the author of nearly the whole of RV. iii , and of ix , 67 , 1315 ; x , 137 , 5 ; 167 ; moreover , a law-book , a dhanurveda , and a medical wk. are attributed to him)
maharṣiḥ (nom. sg.): m. great seer
ca: and

vigāḍhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. plunged into , entered ; one who has entered or plunged into , bathing in (loc.) ; (a weapon) that has deeply penetrated ; deep , excessive
api: though
mahat-tapaḥ (acc. sg. n.): mighty austerity, intense asceticism
mahat: mfn. great (in space , time , quantity or degree) i.e. large , big , huge , ample , extensive , long , abundant , numerous , considerable , important , high , eminent ; violent (pain or emotion) ; thick (as darkness) , gross ; loud (as noise)

daśa = acc. daśan: ten
varṣāṇi (acc. pl. n.): m. and (older) n. rain; a year
ahar (acc. sg.): n. a day
mene = 3rd pers. sg. perf. man: to think, deem; to regard or consider any one or anything (acc.) as (acc.)

ghṛtācyā (inst. sg.): f. 'Abounding in Ghee,' name of a nymph
apsarasā (inst. sg.): f. celestial nymph
hṛtaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. taken , taken away , seized ; ravished , charmed , fascinated

毘尸婆梵仙 修道十千歳
深著於天后 一日頓破壞 

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