Monday, February 4, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.65: Personally Promising Friendship

so 'haṁ maitrīṁ pratijñāya puruṣārthāt-parāṅmukham |
yadi tvā samupekṣeya na bhaven-mitratā mayi || 4.65

Now that I personally have promised my friendship to you,

Who is turning his back on an aim of human life,

If I then were to abandon you,

There would be no friendship in me.

I think Aśvaghoṣa's intention is that we should work out for ourselves the flaw in Udāyin's thinking. In that case, a key word in signalling Aśvaghoṣa's intention in today's verse might be the opening word saḥ, used emphatically with aham to mean I myself, or me personally.

If two people promise the same thing, but one simply says “I promise” whereas the other gives his words extra emphasis with “I personally promise,” whose words are more likely to be reliable? Is it wise to trust the one who only makes one kind of promise, or the one who makes two kinds of promises, one promise of the unbreakable variety which he makes personally, cross-his-heart-and-hope-to-die, and one promise of the more flexible variety?

EHJ amended the 2nd pāda to puruṣārthāt-parāṅmukhaḥ, on the basis that the Chinese translation “seems quite clearly to have read parāṅmukhaḥ, and [the Tibetan translation] probably did so.” Consequently EHJ translated “If, after having promised friendship, I should resile from the duty of a man...”

PO thought that it made better sense to ascribe the adjective parāṅmukha to the prince rather than to Udāyin, and so reverted to the original parāṅmukhaṁ.

PO is clearly correct on this point. I don't know what possessed EHJ to amend the original Sanskrit primarily on the basis of a Chinese translation which, even at the best of times, only paraphrases the original and which, more often, goes off at its own tangents.

Having reverted to the original reading PO translated puruṣārthāt-parāṅmukhaṁ “who have turned your back on the goals of man.”

I think this translation also is a mistake insofar as puruṣārthāt is originally singular, and what Udāyin has in mind is only the first of the four objects which had long been regarded, in the brahmanical tradition to which Udāyin belonged, as the proper aims of human existence, viz. (1) kāma, the gratification of desire; (2) artha, acquisition of wealth; (3) dharma, doing one's duty; and (4) mokṣa, attaining final emancipation through ascetic striving.

Thus the best translation of parāṅmukhaṁ so far might be the first one, i.e. EBC's “when thou turnest away from the great end of man” -- in which case, by “the great end of man” or “a natural/proper aim of human life,” what Udāyin has in mind is the gratification of sexual desire.

In the end, today's verse might cause us to ask, what is the proper aim of human life? And what is friendship?

For a start, not what hurry-ups like Udāyin think.

For a hurry-up like Udāyin, friendship is something that I personally promise and then I demonstrate. Friendship, then, is all about me.

Similarly, if the Buddha's most fundamental teaching causes us to ask: Where does suffering start? And how does sitting stop it?... The answer might be, for a start, not what the likes of Udāyin think.

How to sit as a means of stopping suffering is the question. Views like those of Udāyin may seem irrelevant to that question, but in truth they might be as relevant as clouds are relevant to a person standing on the earth who wishes to observe the moon.

saḥ (nom. sg. m.): that (sometimes , for the sake of emphasis , connected with the 1st and 2nd personal pronouns , with other demonstratives and with relatives e.g. so 'ham , " I that very person , I myself ")
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
maitrīm (acc. sg.): f. friendship , friendliness , benevolence , good will
pratijñāya = abs. prati- √ jñā: to admit , own , acknowledge , acquiesce in , consent to , approve ; to promise

puruṣārthāt (abl. sg.): m. any object of human pursuit; any one of the four objects or aims of existence (viz. kāma , the gratification of desire ; artha , acquirement of wealth ; dharma , discharge of duty ; mokṣa , final emancipation)
puruṣa: m. a man , male , human being (pl. people , mankind) ; a person
artha: mn. aim, purpose ; cause , motive , reason ;
parāṅmukham (acc. sg. m.): mfn. having the face turned away or averted , turning the back upon ; averse from , hostile to , regardless of , shunning , avoiding

yadi: ind. if
tvā (acc. sg. m.): you
samupekṣeya = 1st pers. sg. optative sam-upa-√īkṣ: to look completely over or beyond , take no notice of , disregard , neglect , abandon

na: not
bhavet = 3rd pers. sg. optative bhū: to be
mitra-tā (nom. sg.): f. friendship
mayi (loc. sg.): me

我既名善友 棄捨丈夫義
言不盡所懷 何名爲三益


Rich said...

"How to sit as a means of stopping suffering is the question. "

Still here and enjoying the show.

Mike Cross said...

I know your type, Rich. A pain in the arse devoted to rough sports like hockey, whose persistence makes him difficult to shake off.

Apropos of which, if you like ice hockey and Zen, a good book for you might be one by Canadain AT teacher Malcolm Balk, like The Art of Running, or The Art of Working Out.

The Alexander world is full of wusses, but Malcolm is not one of them!