Thursday, December 6, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 4.5: Inwardly Turned Moonlight

saumyatvāc-caiva dhairyāc-ca kāś-cid-enaṁ prajajñire |
avatīrṇo mahīṁ sākṣād gūdhāṁśuś-candramā iti || 4.5

Because of his soma-steeped mildness,
and his constant gravity,

Some women intuited him to be,

Alighting on the earth in person,

A moon whose beam is contained within.

In the 4th pāda, candramā means the moon or the moon-god, and gūdhāṁśuḥ means with its/his moonbeams veiled/concealed/disguised/kept secret. Hence EHJ: “the moon with his rays veiled”; and PO: “Moon himself with his beams concealed.” So the ostensible meaning is to suggest the prince's devastating attractiveness to women by comparing him to the moon, or the god thereof, in disguise.

But in translating today's verse the first question I have asked myself is: Is it possible to read the 4th pāda as an expression of sitting-practice?

If the answer is yes, then the real point of gūdhāṁśuś-candramā (“a moon whose beam is contained within”) might be to allude to the principle that in sitting-meditation the light of attention is primarily turned in, or turned back (nivṛttam).

In that case, gūdha is pointing not so much to any intention to veil or conceal one's light from others; it is rather pointing to the fact that sitting-meditation as the Buddha practised and taught it is something exceptionally self-contained, whose standard is the samādhi of accepting and using the self.

The 1st pāda, then, can be read not only as presaging the metaphor of the moon in the 4th pāda but also as pointing to just this samādhi in which something gentle, mild, placid, and yielding (corresponding to acceptance of the self) coexists with something firm and constant, filled with gravitas and strong direction (corresponding to use of the self).

This leads me to think that today's verse, while ostensibly the portrait of one particular individual who was especially attractive to women, is really all about that treasure that Dogen said was available to everybody, to accept and use as we like. Today's verse, in other words, is really a celebration of samādhi.

That being so, in the 1st pāda the samādhi of accepting and using the self is a kind of verbal explanation or a theoretical construct. In the 2nd pāda, in contrast, such balance is nothing so abstract or intellectual; it is rather a state of being that some know, or perceive, intuitively. In the 3rd pāda, in practice, the samādhi in question is a function of the relation between an individual human being and mother earth. And the 4th pāda indirectly suggests the reality of just sitting, using (and accepting) the metaphor of the moon.

saumya-tvāt (abl. sg.): n. gentleness , mildness
saumya: mfn. relating or belonging to soma (the juice or the sacrifice or the moon-god) , connected or dealing with soma , having his nature or qualities &c ; cool and moist ; " resembling the moon " , placid , gentle , mild
soma: n. juice, extract, (esp.) the juice of the soma plant ; the moon or moon-god
ca: and
eva (emphatic)
dhairyāt (abl. sg.): n. firmness , constancy , calmness , patience , gravity , fortitude , courage
ca: and

kāś-cid (nom. pl. f.): some
enam (acc. sg. m.): that, this
prajajñire = 3rd pers. pl. perf. pra- √ jñā : to know , understand (esp. a way or mode of action) , discern , distinguish , know about , be acquainted with (acc.); to find out , discover , perceive , learn
avatīrṇaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. alighted , descended
mahīm (acc. sg.): f. " the great world " , the earth
sākṣāt: ind. (abl. of sākṣa, 'having eyes') with the eyes , with one's own eyes ; before one's eyes , evidently , clearly , openly , manifestly ; in person , in bodily form , personally , visibly , really , actually

gūdhāṁśuḥ (nom. sg. m.): with beams concealed/kept secret
gūdha: mfn covered, concealed , invisible , secret , private ; disguised ; n. a secret place or mystery
guh: to cover , conceal , hide , keep secret
aṁśu: m. a filament (especially of the soma plant) ; a ray , sunbeam
candramāḥ (nom. sg.): m. the moon , deity of the moon
iti: “....,” thus

一切皆瞻仰 謂月天子來

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