Sunday, December 23, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 4.22: Work In Such a Way, It Being So

tad-evaṁ sati viśrabdhaṁ prayatadhvaṁ tathā yathā |
iyaṁ npasya vaṁśa-śrīr-ito na syāt-parāṅmukhī || 4.22

It being so, with calm confidence,

Apply yourselves in such a way,

That this light of the lineage of a protector of men

Might not be turned away from here.

The following comment does not do today's verse justice, but I hope it will at least serve to underline the point that Aśvaghoṣa is very often saying the profoundest things about sitting-meditation, indirectly, in those verses where sitting-meditation might seem to be the furthest thing from the speaker's mind.

Udāyin's intention is to tell the courtesans to trust the reliability of his words and on that basis to hurry up and get on with captivating the prince, so that he might not abandon his father's kingdom and make for the forest.

Returning to his well-used instrument of verbal irony, however, Aśvaghoṣa has framed Udāyin's expression in such a way as not only to express what Udāyin would have the women do in the way of doing (pravṛtti), but also to express what Aśvaghoṣa would have his readers and listeners NOT do in the way of non-doing (nivṛtti). 

Thus, the first half of the verse, as Hurry Up Udāyin intends it, is a pushy exhortation to bold striving– “This being so, boldly put forth your efforts that...” [EBC]; “This being so, exert yourselves boldy, so that...” [EHJ]; “Such being the case you should, therefore, strive boldly in such a way that...”

But Aśvaghoṣa might really intend the same words, on the contrary, to be a gentle encouragement to practice that ineffable practice, non-doing, which proceeds from letting things be as they are.

Such being the case, “it being so” (tad-evaṁ sati) means, in other words, fishes swimming like fishes and birds flying like birds.

And such being the case, “work in such a way” (prayatadhvaṁ tathā yathā) can be read as an exhortation to practice the ineffable practice of detachment, or non-doing, in the spirit of let it be.

Again, the desired outcome expressed by the second half of the verse, as the king's errand boy Udāyin intends it, is that the prince will not turn his back on all the royal riches and rank and glory attendant on his succession to Śuddodhana's throne (vaṁśa-śrīḥ).

But the desired outcome Aśvaghoṣa has in mind, on the contrary, might be related to the transmission that at the end of Saundara-nanda the Buddha encourages the enlightened Nanda to serve:
Therefore forgetting the work that needs to be done in this world on the self, do now, stout soul, what can be done for others. / Among beings who are wandering in the night, their minds shrouded in darkness, let the lamp of this transmission be carried. // SN18.57 //
Such being the case, śrī means not riches and rank but light -- the light of the conscious awareness and the light of conscious inhibition which can, when conditions are right, beget each other in a virtuous circle.

And such being the case, “not being turned away from here” (ito na syāt-parāṅmukhī) can be read as a description of the light that is not turned away from here, when a bloke is practising the backward step of turning his light and letting it shine within.

Udāyin's words, then, although Udāyin himself does not know it, contain Aśvaghoṣa's indirect encouragement to stick to principle, applying the principle of conscious inhibition here and now, and thus working on the self in such a way that the light which is not turned away from here, might ultimately help others too.

Such being the case, coming as it does after several verses in which I could not detect any brightness, today's verse truly seems like clarity, after fearful darkness (bhīmāndhakārād-iva ca prakāśam; SN17.68).

tad: ind. therefore, so
evam: ind. thus, so
sati = 3rd pers. sg. pres. part. as: to be
viśrabdham: ind. confidingly , quietly , without fear or reserve
viśrabdha: mfn. confiding , confident , fearless , tranquil , calm ; showing or inspiring confidence
vi- √śrambh: to confide , be confident , trust in or rely on
√śrambh: generally found with the prefix vi: to be careless or negligent ; to trust , confide

prayatadhvam = 2nd pers. pl. imperative pra- √yat: to be active or effective ; to strive , endeavour , exert one's self , devote or apply one's self to
√yat: to place in order , marshal , join , connect ; to keep pace , be in line , rival or vie with (instr.); march or fly together or in line ; to seek to join one's self with , make for , tend towards (loc.) ; to endeavour to reach , strive after , be eager or anxious for ; to exert one's self , take pains , endeavour , make effort , persevere , be cautious or watchful
tathā yathā: ind. in such a way that, so that

iyam (nom. sg. f.): this
nṛ-pasya (gen. sg.): m. 'ruler/protector of men,' king
pa: mfn. ( √pā) guarding , protecting , ruling
vaṁśa-śrīḥ (nom. sg. f.): the royal rank/glory of his lineage ; the light of a lineage
vaṁśa: m. a bamboo cane ; the line of a pedigree or genealogy (from its resemblance to the succession of joints in a bamboo) , lineage , race , family , stock (esp. a noble race , a dynasty of kings etc.)
śrī: f. light , lustre , radiance , splendour , glory , beauty , grace ; prosperity , welfare , good fortune , success , auspiciousness , wealth , treasure , riches ; high rank , power , might , majesty , royal dignity ; symbol or insignia of royalty

itaḥ: ind. from hence , hence , here ; from this point ; from this world , in this world ; from this time , now
na: not
syāt = 3rd pers. sg. opt. as: to be
parāṅmukhī (nom. sg. f.): mfn. having the face turned away or averted , turning the back upon ; averse from , hostile to , regardless of , shunning , avoiding

當更勤方便 勿令絶王嗣 

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