Saturday, December 8, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 4.7: Being Held Spellbound

evaṁ tā dṛṣṭi-mātreṇa nāryo dadṛśur-eva tam |
−−−−¦¦¦¦ navipulā
na vyājahrur-na jahasuḥ prabhāveṇāsya yantritāḥ || 4.7

Thus, with the full extent of their mind's eyes,

The women did nothing but behold him:

They did not speak and did not laugh,

Held spellbound by his power.

In the present series of verses, as is becoming more apparent verse by verse, a prince's entrancing influence on a group of enchanted young women is a metaphor for the captivating influence of the Buddha's teaching on people who -- if only for a moment -- are receptive to that teaching.

That being so, every pāda of today's verse, as I read it, alludes to the practice of just sitting still in silence.

In the 1st pāda dṛṣṭi-mātreṇa, though it ostensibly means “simply by looking,” might also carry many other possible meanings, due to the multiplicity of meanings of dṛṣṭi, which in its plural form was translated in yesterday's verse as “glances,” but which also means seeing, mind's eye, view, theory, and eye. Even as an expression of the mental aspect of sitting, dṛṣṭi-mātreṇa might be translated in a number of ways, but “using the full measure of the mind's eye” seems to me to be as good as any alternative.

The 2nd pāda can be read as antithetical to the first, in its implicit negation of the activity of anything so subjective as “a mind's eye” or “a view.” When fish are swimming like fish, and birds and flying like birds, “a mind's eye” or “a view” does not get a look in. Again, when women are sitting like women, and buddha is sitting like buddha, the point might be that every woman is doing nothing but meeting buddha.

The 3rd pāda, as I read it, describes the action of just sitting in terms of actions that it is not. “What is just sitting?” is a question that nobody can answer in words. But “Is it to speak?” and “Is it to laugh?” are questions that can be answered with a word. And the word is no.

The 4th pāda is very reminiscent of two phrases that Dogen used in two versions of his rules of sitting-zen for everybody.

In his first draft of these rules (Fukan-zazengi Shinpitsu-bon), he wrote of being 
被自礙 (Jap: JI NI SAERARU), “obstructed/restricted/caught by the self.” 

In his revised edition Dogen wrote:
“In general, in this world and in other worlds, in India and in China, all equally maintained the Buddha-seal, and solely indulged in the fundamental custom: they simply devoted themselves to sitting, and were 被礙兀地 (Jap: GOCCHI NI SAERARU), obstructed/restricted/caught/held spellbound by the still state.”

In the lineage of the buddha-ancestors, evidently, what is valued most highly is not the ability to talk a good talk. Because Aśvaghoṣa belongs to this lineage, when he describes himself as mahā-vādinaḥ, a talker of the great talk, or a great talker, I think we should understand that a deal of ironic self-deprecation was at play. 

evam: ind. thus , in this way , in such a manner
tāḥ (nom. pl. f.): they, those
dṛṣṭi-mātreṇa (inst. sg.): simply by seeing ; with the whole of the mind's eye ; using the totality of theory
dṛṣṭi: f. seeing , viewing , beholding (also with the mental eye); sight , the faculty of seeing; the mind's eye , wisdom , intelligence ; view , notion ; theory , doctrine , system; eye , look , glance
mātra: n. the full or simple measure of anything , the whole or totality , the one thing and no more , often = nothing but , entirely , only

nāryaḥ (nom. pl.): f. woman
dadṛśur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. dṛś: to see , behold , look at , regard , consider
eva: (emphatic)
tam (acc. sg. m.): him

na: not
vyājahrur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. vy-ā- √ hṛ: to utter or pronounce a sound , speak ; to utter inarticulate sounds , cry
na: not
jahasuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. has: to laugh , smile

prabhāveṇa (inst. sg.): m. might , power , majesty , dignity , strength , efficacy
asya (gen. sg.): his
yantritāḥ (nom. pl. f.): mfn. restrained , curbed , bound , fettered , confined (lit. and fig.); subject to , compelled by , depending on (instr. abl. , or comp.); bandaged , placed in splints

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