Friday, January 25, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.55: Agitated Calm Resolve

tāsāṁ tattve 'navasthānaṁ dṣṭvā sa puruṣottamaḥ |
samaṁ-vignena dhīreṇa cintayām-āsa cetasā || 4.55

He, an excellent man,

Considering those girls to have a loose foothold in reality,


With a mind that was agitated and at the same time resolute:

The title of the present canto is strī-vighātanaḥ. At first blush strī-vighātanaḥ, as a description of the response of the prince to those particular women in the park, means Warding Away the Women. At the same time, as an expression of Udāyin's viewpoint strī-vighātanaḥ might mean Being Dismissive of Women – as so many expendable female pawns in a male king's master-plan. Conversely, as an expression of the Buddha's teaching strī-vighātanaḥ might mean Rebutting 'Women' – i.e. refusing to countenance any sexist prejudice. I think the attitude of the prince is being portrayed as residing somewhere between these two latter positions, i.e., somewhere between the viewpoint of an ignorant young brahmin and the standpoint of an enlightened transmitter of the torch.

That being so, puruṣottamaḥ, which ostensibly means “the best of men,” might be intended to carry an ironic connotation. As a boy, Aśvaghoṣa has established, the prince was clearly already an excellent sort, a cut above ordinary boys. But at the present stage of his development, having established the will to the truth but not yet realized the truth, he is not yet the best of men. 

I think the reason Aśvaghoṣa calls him puruṣottamaḥ is to make us think in what sense the prince was excellent, in what sense he was superior to other men, and in what sense he was superior to or more excellent than those girls, or women in general. 

For example, is the prince, as a man, innately superior to, or more excellent than, these girls, and women in general? Or is the truth in fact that the true excellence of the girls' teaching has already put the prince to shame – though the prince himself may not yet realize it.

I think the truth may be that the girl with agile eyes and her nose in a blue lotus put to shame thinking men everywhere, who believe themselves to be wise, when she asked: 

Can spring deliver exuberant joy, to those that fly the skies, but not the mind of a thinking man, who thinks that he is wise? 

The girl that asked that question, I think Aśvaghoṣa intends us to understand, was a girl who had her feet very squarely planted on the ground, and her eyes and nose very much attuned to reality. 

In the 3rd pāda the original Sanskrit manuscripts used by both EBC and EHJ have sasaṁvignena. EBC read this as asaṁvignena, which he translated as undisturbed (EBC: that best of men pondered with an undisturbed, and stedfast mind) EHJ amended to samaṁ-vignena so that samaṁ-vignena dhīreṇa means agitated and at the same time resolute (EHJ:  with mind that was at the same time both perturbed and steadfast he thus meditated).

On this occasion I think EHJ's amendment was on target, the point being that establishing the bodhi-mind includes something disturbing and exciting (hence the title of Canto 3, “Arising of Nervous Excitement”) and at the same time something steadying and calming.

Read like that, today's verse can be understood to be a heads-up, encouraging us to examine the following thoughts of the prince on at least two levels. On one level, insofar as establishing the will to the truth is associated with a calm and steely resolve, the prince's thoughts might be true. On another level, insofar as establishing the will to the truth causes the mind to become agitated, as former certainties are thrown up in the air, the thoughts of the prince  superior man though he is  might be all upside down. 

bhāṣām (acc. sg.): f. speech , language (esp. common or vernacular speech , as opp. to Vedic or in later times to Sanskrit)
tāsām (gen. pl. f.): their
tattvena: ind. (inst. sg.) according to the true state or nature of anything , in truth , truly , really , accurately
tattve (loc. sg.): n. true or real state , truth , reality
vasthānam (acc. sg.): n. condition (?) [EBC note: For vasthānam cf. Maitri Upan. (Comm.) VI, 1.]
an-avasthānam (acc. sg.): n. instability , unsteadiness or looseness of conduct ; mfn. unstable , fickle
avasthāna: n. standing , taking up one's place ; residing , abiding , dwelling; stability

dṛṣṭvā = abs. dṛś: to see , behold , look at , regard , consider ; to see with the mind , learn , understand ; realize
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
puruṣottamaḥ (nom. sg.): m. the best of men , an excellent or superior man
puruṣa: m. a man , male , human being (pl. people , mankind)
uttama: mfn. uppermost

samam: ind. in like manner , alike , equally , similarly; at the same time
vignena (inst. sg. n.): mfn. shaken , agitated , terrified , alarmed
vij: to move with a quick darting motion , speed , heave (said of waves) ; to start back , recoil , flee from
a-saṁvignena (inst. sg. n.): not agitated, calm
saṁvigna: mfn. agitated , flurried , terrified , shy
dhīreṇa (inst. sg. n.): mfn. steady , constant , firm , resolute , brave , energetic , courageous , self-possessed , composed , calm , grave

cintayām-āsa = 3rd pers. sg. periphrastic perf. cint: to think , have a thought or idea , reflect , consider ; to think about , reflect upon , direct the thoughts towards , care for
cetasā (inst. sg.): n. consciousness, mind

倍生厭思惟 嘆此爲奇怪
始知諸女人 欲心盛如是

1 comment:

Rich said...

Without an agitated mind we wouldn't do anything or know what to do. Somtime agitated, somtime calm resolve. Seeing both helps.