Saturday, December 22, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 4.21: Some People Say There's a Woman to Blame...

evam-ādīn-ṣīṁs-tāṁs-tān-anayan vikriyāṁ striyaḥ |
⏑⏑−−¦⏑⏑⏑−¦¦−⏑−⏑¦⏑−⏑−   navipulā
lalitaṁ pūrva-vayasaṁ kiṁ punar-npateḥ sutam || 4.21

Various seers such as these

Have women brought down;

How much more then the son of the king,

Who is in the first flush of frolicsome youth?

When would-be celibate devotees fail to maintain their celibacy, Udāyin, like the unenlightened Nanda and the striver in Saundara-nanda, blames women as the cause.

To think that Aśvaghoṣa's portrayal of these three characters somehow reflected a prejudice against women in Aśvaghoṣa himself would be the most extreme stupidity – stupidity on a par with the stupidity of the academic who opined that Aśvaghoṣa, as a Buddhist, was necessarily “anti-beauty.”

On the contrary, what Aśvaghoṣa is drawing our attention to, using dramatic irony, is the truth of which the unenlightened Nanda, the Buddhist striver, and the young Brahmin Udāyin, are all strikingly unaware. That truth is, namely, that when would-be male celibates fail to maintain celibacy, though some people say there's a woman to blame, we should know, in every case, that it's our own damn fault.

So this business of blaming women for seeming to be too attractive (when in fact, the striver would have us believe, women are intrinsically foul) is a particular case of what is known in Alexander work as “blaming the stimulus." 

The Buddhist striver and the Brahmin Udāyin are more glaring examples of blaming the stimulus. Nanda, being a naturally unassuming type, blames the stimulus only gently and in passing: 
With their way of being, their pride, their way of moving, their grace; with a smile or show of indignation, with their exuberance, with their voices, / Women have captivated hosts of gods and kings and seers: how then could they fail to bewilder a bloke like me? // SN7.24 //
But male ignornance in each of the three cases -- the stupidity of the unenlightened Nanda in blaming the stimulus, the stupidity of the Buddhist striver in blaming the stimulus, and the stupidity of Udāyin in blaming the stimulus -- is portrayed so as to provide a dark background against which the Buddha's teaching is brought into more vividly stark relief. That teaching is to see the fault, not in women, and not in any other external stimulus, but in faults themselves. 

Marjory Barlow, as I have reported ad nauseam, taught me a practical method for observing faults -- for watching how the many-tentacled monster of misuse which is sustained by faulty sensory appreciation raises its ugly head, when it is spurred into action by the merest hint of an idea of doing something. Marjory's teaching, it dawns on me more and more clearly in the years since she died in 2006, is just too fucking true for words. And gradually the truth will out, if not because of me, then in spite of me. As sure as eggs is eggs. 

If we want to cite textual evidence in Saundara-nanda, Aśvaghoṣa's epic story of Beautiful Joy, to support the assertion that in the Buddha's teaching the blame for going wrong resides with the faults in us, we are spoilt for choice.

Try searching for “fault” in Saundara-nanda Canto 16, for example, and you will find it, by my count, no less than 29 times.

In conclusion, then, it seems that I cannot repeat often enough, for the benefit of self and others, that when somebody (or something in me) like Udāyin blames the stimulus, that is an example of striking ignorance of the Buddha's teaching (as also the teaching of FM Alexander/Marjory Barlow) wherein the faults which are the cause of suffering are never to be found on the outside.

evam-ādīn (acc. pl. m.): such as these
ṛṣīn (acc. pl.): m. seers
tāṁs-tān (acc. pl. m.): mfn. various, these and those, different

anayat = 3rd pers. pl. imperfect nī: to lead towards or to (acc. with or without prati) ; to bring into any state or condition (with acc. e.g. with vaśam , to bring into subjection)
vikriyām (acc. sg.): f. transformation , change , modification , altered or unnatural condition ; change for the worse , deterioration , disfigurement , deformity ; perturbation , agitation , perplexity ; injury , harm , failure , misadventure (acc. with √ yā , to suffer injury , undergo failure)
striyaḥ (nom. pl.): f. women

lalitam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. sported , played , playing , wanton , amorous , voluptuous ; artless , innocent , soft , gentle , charming , lovely
pūrva-vayasam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. being in the first period or stage of life , young

kiṁ punar: ind. how much more?
nṛ-pateḥ (gen. sg.): m. " lord of men " , king
sutam (acc. sg.): m. son

如彼諸美女 力勝諸梵行
況汝等技術 不能感王子  

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