Thursday, February 21, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.82: Udāyin's Conclusion – “You Despise Objects.”

tvaṁ punar-nyāyataḥ prāptān balavān rūpavān yuvā |
viṣayān-avajānāsi yatra saktam-idaṁ jagat || 4.82

And yet you disdain enjoyments that fittingly belong to you,

A young man possessed of strength and handsome form;

You despise objects

To which the whole world is attached.”

In today's verse as in yesterday's, I have translated viṣayān as both “objects” and “enjoyments.” The Sanskrit covers both meanings – that is, 1. “object” (in the sense of an aim or an end to be gained, or a matter to be attended to; as well as in the primary sense of an object of physical sense perception) and 2. “enjoyment” (the pleasurable feeling that one experiences, or expects to experience, from sensory experience of an object, especially a sexual one).

In today's verse Udāyin states his view: 
“You despise objects/enjoyments.”

This might be an example of the mirror principle at work, whereby I project onto others a blameworthy tendency, either because it exists, or because I am afraid it might exist, in myself. Who really is the one in this canto who sees women as objects? And who is the one who thinks light of them as such?

In BC4.85, speaking with a voice as resonant as thunder, the bodhisattva-prince directly contradicts Udāyin's view with his own statement of fact: 
nāvajānāmi viṣayān 
“I do NOT despise objects/enjoyments."

The meaning of viṣayān that is in the forefront of Udāyin's mind would seem to be “sensual enjoyments,” but as a rule I think the safest translation of viṣaya is simply “object.” The English “object” may not be as broad as the Sanskrit viṣaya, but “object” might be the broadest translation available to us. Hence:
“I do not despise objects (nāvajānāmi viṣayān). I know they are at the heart of human affairs. / But seeing this world to be impermanent, my mind does not delight in them.// BC4.85
The prince's own expression here of his attitute towards objects accords with Aśvaghoṣa's description in Saundara-nanda Canto 2 of the prince's establishment of the bodhi-mind:

For he had seen for himself an old man, a sick man, and a corpse,
After which, as with a wounded mind he witnessed the unwitting world, /
He was disgusted to the core and found no pleasure in objects
But wished totally to terminate the terror of being born and dying. // SN2.64 //

Having focused his agitated mind on the end of becoming, 
He fled the king's palace, indifferent to the most beautiful of women sleeping there;/
Determined to go to the forest, he fled in the night,
Like a goose from a lake of ruined lotuses. // SN2.65 //

Finding no pleasure in ephemeral objects, evidently, is not the same as despising objects or holding objects in contempt. In Shobogenzo when Dogen expresses his strong contempt for people who used the Buddha's teaching as vehicles to pursue their own fame and profit, he is not expressing any disdain for fame or for profit or for any other object. He is rather despising the manner in which certain people pursued fame and profit. Especially Dogen despised the attitude of so-called monks who lived in temples in China, greedily expecting offerings as a result of telling lay people what they wished to hear. These monks, Dogen saw, distorted the original teaching of the Buddha because of a will to pursue their own fame and gain. For those monks, lay people's offerings were objects. And Dogen did not despise the objects; he despised the minds of the monks who took pleasure in and were greedy for those objects.

That Dogen did not despise objects is conspicuously manifested in those chapters of Shobogenzo in which he sings the praises of objects like a robe, a certificate of transmission, or a bowl, not to mention an object like a plum tree, or an object like the moon. What Dogen expressed his contempt for so strongly that one senses the mirror principle working (demonstrating Dogen's own self-confessed fear of losing the bodhi-mind) is the will to pursue fame and profit as if fame and profit were valuable ends in themselves, rather than dharmas that are subject to decay. 

This is the background I bring, as a student of Dogen, to the endeavor of clarifying the steps in Aśvaghoṣa's telling of the story of how the Buddha-to-be established the bodhi-mind. And in essence, in Saundara-nanda and in Buddha-carita, those steps appear to be twofold: 

The bodhisattva-prince, in the process of establishing the bodhi-mind, (1) first becomes disgusted with pursuit of perishable objects, and then (2; in that order) he sets his heart on an object (if it may be called an object) which is not subject to decay, and which is thus truly great.

Picking up Udāyin's reference to great men (mahātmanaḥ) in yesterday's verse, the prince at first speaks of greatness (mahātmyam) only in the negative – and specifically in terms which negate devotion to objects.
I do not see greatness where destruction prevails, / Or where there is addiction to objects, or where there is no practice of self-possession. //BC4.91
So in the description of the prince's establishment of the bodhi-mind, in Buddha-carita as in Saundara-nanda, the negative precedes the positive. Disillusionment or disgust with pursuit of ephemeral objects comes first. Then the prince sets his sights on “the end of becoming” (apunar-bhave; SN2.65), or in other words, “the matter of complete cessation” (parinirvāṇa-vidhau; BC5.25).

A princess who sees the bodhisattva-prince on the road in BC5.24 exclaims how happy/tranquil (nirvṛtā) his wife must be, and hearing this word nirvṛtā (which is cognate with nirvāṇa) is the stimulus which causes the prince to set his sights on the matter of complete cessation (parinirvāṇa-vidhau; BC5.25).

The identification of parinirvāṇa as an aim, or imperishable object, however, is still 45 verses away. Before we get there, Aśvaghoṣa takes pains to clarify what attitude the prince has, in the process of establishing the bodhi-mind, towards ephemeral objects.

And the attitude is not what the likes of Udāyin think.

Thus in today's verse Aśvaghoṣa has Udāyin say: 
“You despise objects.”

And in BC4.85 the prince could not refute Udāyin's view more clearly when he says: nāvajānāmi viṣayān 
“I do NOT despise objects.” 

tvam (nom. sg.): you
punar: ind. back , home , in an opposite direction; however , still , nevertheless
nyāyataḥ: ind. in a fitting manner , as is fit or proper , according to right or justice
prāptān (acc. pl. m.): mfn. attained to , reached , arrived at , met with , found , incurred , got , acquired , gained ; proper, right

balavān (nom. sg. m.):mfn. possessing power , powerful , mighty , strong , intense
rūpavān (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having form ; having a beautiful form or colour , handsomely formed , handsome , beautiful
yuvā (nom. sg.): m. a youth , young man

viṣayān (acc. pl.): m. an object of sense ; anything perceptible by the senses , any object of affection or concern or attention , any special worldly object or aim or matter or business , (pl.) sensual enjoyments , sensuality
avajānāsi = 2nd pers. sg. ava- √ jñā: to disesteem , have a low opinion of , despise , treat with contempt

yatra: ind. to which, wherein
saktam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. clinging or adhering to , sticking in (loc.); fixed or intent upon , directed towards , addicted or devoted to , fond of , engaged in , occupied with (loc.)
√sañj: to cling or stick or adhere to , be attached to or engaged in or occupied with (loc.)
idam (nom. sg. n.): this ; (opposed to adas e.g. ayaṁ lokaḥ or idaṁ viśvam or idaṁ sarvam , this earthly world , this universe ; ayam agniḥ , this fire which burns on the earth ; but asāv agniḥ , that fire in the sky , i.e. the lightning: so also idam or iyam alone sometimes signifies " this earth " ; ime smaḥ , here we are.)
jagat (nom. sg.): n. world

宿世殖徳本 得此妙衆具
世間皆樂著 而心反不珍

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