Thursday, December 27, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 4.26: Shedding Diffidence

rājñas-tu viniyogena kumārasya ca mārdavāt |
jahuḥ kṣipram-aviśraṁbhaṁ madena madanena ca || 4.26

But in view of the king's assignment,

And thanks to a prince's mildness of manner,

They quickly shed their diffidence --

Through inspiration and through enchantment.

Despite being subject to the limitations of one who purports to translate the Buddha's teaching without having got to the bottom of that teaching in his own practice and experience, I have to admit that PO sometimes has a very nice way with words. (Attentive students of English grammar may be assured, in light of the mirror principle, that the preceding sentence does not need re-casting.)

Among the three previous translations that I refer to on this blog, PO's translation of today's verse stands out for its beautiful rendering of the ostensible meaning, viz:
But on account of the king's command,
and the gentle nature of the prince,
they quickly dropped their timidity,
under the spell of liqour and love.
The hidden meaning of today's verse, however, as I read it, is very different from the ostensible meaning, and “under the spell of liquor and love,” though it sounds good, blots out the hidden meaning.

In the hidden meaning, the king (rājṇan) is Gautama Buddha, and a prince (kumāra) is an heir to his teaching. In that case, those who quickly shed their diffidence (i.e. who are momentarily liberated from a habitual lack of confidence) are individuals who have been inspired by the Buddha's teaching and who have entered into sympathetic resonance with a mild-mannered individual (i.e. not a violent end-gainer) who is an heir to the Buddha's teaching.

In his Rule of Sitting-Zen for Everybody, Dogen wrote that when we get the gist of the Buddha's teaching, we are like a dragon that found water, or like a tiger before its mountain stronghold: 
What is called sitting-zen, sitting-meditation, is not meditation that is learned. It is the Dharma-gate of effortless ease. It is the practice and experience that gets to the bottom of the Buddha's enlightenment. The laws of the Universe are realized, around which there are no nets or cages. To grasp this meaning is to be like a dragon that has found water, or like a tiger before a mountain stronghold. Remember, true reality spontaneously emerges, and darkness and dissipation vanish at a stroke.
“The king's assignment” (rājño viniyoga) Dogen expressed as this meaning. And “shedding diffidence” (aviśraṁbham √hā) Dogen expressed as being like a dragon or a tiger in its natural element.

The 4th pāda of today's verse is not about being inspired by the truth of the Buddha's teaching, and neither is it about being totally enamoured with sitting-Zen: it is about both, about practice and theory in mutual accord.

The above being so, I venture to assert, today's verse also is nothing but the lifeblood.

On the surface today's verse is the recounting of historical details by means of beautiful poetry but Aśvaghoṣa's intention, as stated by him at the end of his epic story of beautiful joy, was that we should extract what is truly valuable, discarding all the poetic stuff like a dirt-washer in search of gold.

What Aśvaghoṣa is really telling, in every verse, is the epic story of awakened action (buddha-carita); the historical details of the Buddha's career (also buddha-carita) are of incidental importance.

Similarly,  for a teacher of the FM Alexander Technique, it is not important to know the historical details of the life of FM Alexander (though Alexander teachers naturally tend to be interested in such details). What is vital is to understand how FM Alexander -- following a plan that might have been based on the Buddha's four noble truths, though it wasn't -- solved the problem that manifested itself in him losing his voice when reciting. This also is a story of awakened action. 

In the end, what is the Dharma-king's assignment? What did Dogen mean by this meaning? What is the lifeblood? And what is Aśvaghoṣa's true gold? 

On a bad day, the answer might be a non-mild-mannered


rājñaḥ (gen. sg.): m. the king
tu: but
viniyogena (inst. sg.): m. commission , charge , duty , task , occupation
vi-ni- √ yuj: to unyoke; to discharge (an arrow) ; to assign , commit , appoint to , charge or entrust with

kumārasya (gen. sg.): m. the prince
ca: and
mārdavāt (abl. sg.): n. softness (lit. and fig.) , pliancy , weakness , gentleness , kindness , leniency

jahuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. hā: to leave , abandon , desert , quit , forsake , relinquish ; to shed
kṣipram: ind. quickly , immediately , directly
aviśraṁbham (acc. sg.): m. want of confidence , diffidence

madena (inst. sg.): m. hilarity , rapture , excitement , inspiration , intoxication
madanena (inst. sg.): n. passion , love or the god of love ; the season of spring
ca: and

情欲實其心 兼奉大王旨
慢形媟隱陋 忘其慚愧情 

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