Saturday, February 16, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.77: The Truly Despicable

mātaṅgyām-akṣamālāyāṁ garhitāyāṁ riraṁsayā |
¦−⏑⏑−¦¦⏑−−⏑¦⏑−⏑−   bhavipulā
kapiñjalādaṁ tanayaṁ vasiṣṭho 'janayan-muniḥ || 4.77

The sage Vasiṣṭha

Through desire for sexual enjoyment,

Begat his son Kapiñjalāda

In the despised outcaste Akṣa-mālā.

Nanda refers in Saundara-nanda Canto 7 to the same story of how the eminent sage Vasiṣṭha, 'Most Wealthy' – the owner of the cow of plenty – fell for Akṣa-mālā:
And through desire the sage Vasiṣṭha, who even among the upstanding was eminent, had his way with an outcaste, Akṣa-mālā, 'String of Beads,'  (śvapākīṃ akṣamālāṃ) / To whom was born his son Kapiñjalāda, an eater of earth and water to rival the Sun. // SN7.28 //
Nanda thus identifies Akṣa-mālā as śvapākīṃ akṣamālāṃ, “the outcaste, Akṣa-mālā” or – more literally – “the dog-cooker Akṣa-mālā.” While this is hardly complimentary, once again one senses that Nanda's phrasing is less emotionally charged than Udāyin's mātaṅgyām-akṣamālāyāṁ garhitāyāṁ,Akṣa-mālā the vile/contemptible outcaste.”

One senses, in other words, that in Udāyin's thoughts Akṣa-mālā was vile or contemptible not because of anything she had done as an individual, but because of being born as a caṇḍāla, an outcaste or half-caste.

Having yesterday prepared the above comment on a translation whose last line was In the contemptible half-caste Akṣa-mālā,” I woke up feeling dissatisfied with the one-dimensionality of what I had expressed.

When I went for a cycle ride yesterday and recited today's verse along the way, I mistakenly recited to myself not garhitāyām (loc. sg. f. garhita, blamed, condemned) but garhitavyām (acc. sg. f. garhitavya, to be blamed, contemptible). True, the dictionary does give contemptible and vile as definitions of garhita, but before that the dictionary defines garhita as blamed or despised. And EBC, EHJ, and PO all translated garhitāyām simply as “despised.”

So somehow in my mind Udāyin had become less real and individual than a pantomime villain so that when Aśvaghoṣa caused Udāyin to describe Akṣa-māla with a word that can be either neutral or prejudicial (describing Akṣa-māla as blamed or blameworthy, as despised or despicable), I unconsciously veered in the direction of hearing Udāyin expressing a prejudice.

This remains one way of seeing Udāyin – as a despicable man of unexamined views who in today's verse is expressing a brahmin caste-based prejudice that he has unconsciously accepted. But another way of reading today's verse is that Udāyin is simply relating the ancient Indian legend in a matter-of-fact fashion – in which case, the despicable one is me for lazily casting aspersions on poor old Hurry-Up.

The practical point behind the above discussion/confession is that Aśvaghoṣa's teaching is never one-dimensional. To misconstrue it as one-dimensional, through laziness, might be truly despicable.

This practical point is related to the truth that one cannot do an undoing.

The truth that one cannot do an undoing is worthy of much more attention than I generally bother to give it. 

A would-be Zen master who does not understand the truth one cannot do an undoing, is not a true master. A would-be Zen master who understands the truth one cannot do an undoing, is not a true master either. And yet even a would-be Zen master is liable, sitting in lotus, to experience unexpected moments of undoing (at least he might be so liable if he has ever met somebody else who knows the score in regard to the impossibility of doing an undoing).  Just in such a moment of undoing, however briefly, he is not a would-be anything. 

The practical point, to put it another way, can be related to the intention to realize one's true buddha-nature by doing something like sitting, or swimming, or going for a walk or a cycle ride. Realizing the buddha-nature might inevitably depend on the arising of some such intention to do something. And yet the intention to do something is the very thing that, most of the time, is obscuring the buddha-nature.

The practical point, to put it another way, in the context of lying on one's back with one's knees bent is this:

Form a clear intention to move a leg. Notice consquent arising of nervous excitement. Until such excitement completely abates, totally give up all idea of moving a leg. Continue to inhibit the desire to move the leg, in order to be truly free,  in a non-habitual manner, to move the leg. In short, while inhibiting all desire to move the leg, move the fucking leg. 

What is truly despicable might be a would-be Zen master who takes it upon himself to express to others his own useless one-dimensional and prejudiced views, while remaining mentally lazy in himself in regard to the whole paradoxical point of such practice.

I plead guilty as charged mi'lud, and would ask in sentencing for 84,000 previous offences to be taken into consideration.

mātaṅgyām = loc. sg. mātaṁgī: f. N. of the mythical mother of the elephant tribe ; a caṇḍāla or kirāta woman
caṇḍāla: an outcast , man of the lowest and most despised of the mixed tribes (born from a śūdra father and a Brahman mother)
kirāta: m. pl. N. of a degraded mountain-tribe (inhabiting woods and mountains and living by hunting , having become śūdras by their neglect of all prescribed religious rites
mātaṁga: m. (fr. mataṁ-ga) an elephant ; a caṇḍāla , man of the lowest rank ; a kind of kirāta mountaineer , barbarian
mataṁga: m. " going wilfully " or " roaming at will " , an elephant ; a cloud
akṣa-mālāyām (loc. sg.): f. a string or rosary of beads , especially of Eleocarpus seeds ; N. of arundhatī , wife of vasiṣṭha (from her wearing a rosary)

garhitāyām (log. sg. f.): mfn. blamed , censured ; contemned , despised , contemptible , forbidden , vile
garh: to lodge a complaint (acc.) before any one (dat.) ; to accuse , charge with , reproach , blame , censure any one or anything
riraṁsayā (inst. sg.): f. (fr. Desid. of √ ram) desire of pleasure or of sexual enjoyment , lasciviousness , lustfulness

kapiñjalādam (acc. sg.): m. Kapiñjalāda
tanayam (acc. sg.): m. a son

vasiṣṭhaḥ (nom. sg.): m. " the most wealthy " , N. of a celebrated Vedic ṛṣi or sage (owner of the " cow of plenty ")
ajanayan = 3rd pers. pl. causative imperf. jan: to cause to be born
muniḥ (nom. sg.): m. the sage


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