Monday, March 11, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.100: Light-Producer Meets Earth-Container

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
atho kumāraś-ca viniścayātmikāṁ cakāra kāmāśraya-ghātinīṁ kathām |
janasya cakṣur-gamanīya-maṇḍalo mahī-dharaṁ cāstam-iyāya bhās-karaḥ || 4.100

And so, as the prince made a speech
that was tantamount to a decision

Murdering any recourse to Love,

The disc that is plain for all to see
went to meet the western mountain –

Light-producer meeting Earth-container.

In the 1st pāda of today's verse Aśvaghoṣa describes the prince's speech as viniścayātmikāṁ, “tantamount to the making of a decision.” This seems to raise the question of the relationship between expressing oneself in words and deciding something in one's heart.

In the 2nd pāda Aśvaghoṣa describes the prince's speech as kāmāśraya-ghātinīṁ, which EBC translated as “abolishing the objects of desire.” EHJ and PO might have been closer to Aśvaghoṣa's original intention (unless Aśvaghoṣa was intending to be ambiguous) with “which controverted recourse to the passions” and “that wiped out any resort to pleasure.” I think EBC's translation reflects a misunderstanding of why the present Canto is titled strī-vighātanaḥ, Warding Women Away. As we approach the end of the Canto, in order to counter that misunderstanding, I am inclining towards putting 'Women' in quotation marks – Warding 'Women' Away.

Have I made this decision already, and now I am putting it in words? Or is my putting this in words part of me coming to a decision which I have not yet conclusively made?

In any event, the meaning of the 2nd pāda, as I read it, is related with the ancient Indian idea that kāma, love, desire, or pleasure, is one of the four aims of human life. So the point is that the prince utterly rejected Love as the proper aim of human life. He rejected Love in favour of what? At this stage of the proceedings, no aim is specified. In the next Canto, the prince's mind alights almost incidentally on the word nirvāṇa. But his first thought is nothing too positive or specific. His first thought is a resounding “Not that.”

The 3rd and 4th pādas are difficult to translate. On one level they are simply a poetic expression of the setting of the sun, which was supposed to happen behind the western mountain. But there might be more than that to Aśvaghoṣa's words.

Why instead of writing, janasya cakṣur-gamanīya-maṇḍalo bhās-karaḥ “the light-producing disk accessible to people's eyes,” didn't Aśvaghoṣa simply write, for example, sūryaḥ, “the sun,” for a saving of several words? Aśvaghoṣa was no inelegant waster of words, and so I think he must have had a reason.

One thing Aśvaghoṣa may have had in mind was the famous saying, recorded in the Pali Suttas, that three things shine forth for all to see – the disc of the sun, the disc of the moon, and [the disc/wheel of] the dharma-discipline (or the virtuous circle of dharma and discipline?): 
Monks, there are these three things which shine forth for all to see, which are not hidden. Which three? The disc of the moon shines for all to see; it is not hidden. The disc of the sun does likewise. The Dhamma-Discipline [dhamma-vinaya] of a Tathagata [Buddha] shines for all to see; it is not hidden. 
Read in this light, “the light-producing disk accessible to people's eyes,” may be understood as carrying a double (or triple) meaning – ostensibly the light-producer is the sun, but it could also be intended to suggest the practice of learning the backward step, for example, as a light-producer.

If we understand bhās-karaḥ in that light, it may only be natural also to understand mahī-dharam on those grounds.

What a terrible translation I have done, and what a rubbish comment I have written. Still, I hope that they might serve at least to lend support to the suspicions of anybody out there who, like me, suspects that the truth of sitting-meditation was never far from Aśvaghoṣa's thoughts – even in verses like today's which on the surface seem not to have anything to do with mountain-like sitting.

Below the surface, I venture to suggest, Aśvaghoṣa never makes any reference to mountains without having in mind the mountain-still sitting of the Buddha, as described in Saundara-nanda Canto 3:
Sitting there, mind made up, as unmovingly stable as the king of mountains (upaviśya tatra kṛta-buddhir-acala-dhṛtir-adri-rājavat), / He overcame the grim army of Māra and awoke to the step which is happy, irremovable, and irreducible. // SN3.7 //
In the end, what is sitting in full lotus? Is it doing? Is it the negation of doing? Is it thinking? Is it the negation of thinking? Is is production of light? Is it containment of earth? Is it the negation of production and containment?

Gudo Nishijima taught me that the answer to every such question was No. For some reason, however, when it came to one of these questions – namely “Is it the negation of thinking,” Gudo saw fit to answer with a resounding Yes.

But I say, No, sitting in full lotus is not the negation of thinking. Sitting is not the negation of the cognitive aspect of thinking, any more than it is the negation of containment of the earth; and sitting is not the negation of the manipulative function of thinking, any more than it is the negation of production of light.

atho: ind. then, and so, now
kumāraḥ (nom. sg.): m. the prince
ca: and
viniścayātmikām (acc. sg. f): having the nature of a firm decision
viniścaya: m. deciding , settling , ascertainment , settled opinion , decision , firm resolve regarding (gen. or comp.)
ātmaka: mf(ikā)n. belonging to or forming the nature of (gen.) ; having or consisting of the nature or character of (in comp.)

cakāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. kṛ: to do, make
kāmāśraya-ghātinīm (acc. sg. f.): destroying resort to desire
kāma: m. desire; pleasure , enjoyment ; love , especially sexual love or sensuality ; Love or Desire personified ; name of the god of love
āśraya: m. that to which anything is annexed or with which anything is closely connected or on which anything depends or rests ; a recipient , the person or thing in which any quality or article is inherent or retained or received; dwelling , asylum , place of refuge ; depending on , having recourse to ; authority , sanction , warrant ; a plea , excuse ; the being inclined or addicted to , following , practising ; attaching to , choosing , taking ; joining , union , attachment ; dependance , contiguity , vicinity ; mfn. ifc. depending on , resting on , endowed or furnished with
ghātin: mfn. ifc. killing , murderous , murderer; destroying , ruining , destructive
kathām (acc. sg.): f. conversation , speech , talking together ; talk

janasya (gen. sg.): m. people , subjects (the sg. used collectively)
cakṣur-gamanīya-maṇḍalaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the disk which is accessible to sight
cakṣus: n. the act of seeing ; sight ; the eye
gamanīya: mfn. accessible , approachable , that may be gone to or reached (by gen.)
maṇḍala: n. a disk (esp. of the sun or moon); anything round ; a circle

mahī-dharam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. " earth bearing," supporting the earth ; m. a mountain
mahī: f. " the great world " , the earth ; earth (as a substance) ; the base of a triangle or other plane figure
dhara: mfn. ( √ dhṛ) bearing , supporting ; ifc. holding , bearing , carrying , wearing , possessing , having , keeping (also in memory) , sustaining , preserving , observing
ca: and [EHJ: ca.... ca denoting simultaneity]
astam (acc. sg.): mfn. (perf. Pass. p. √2. as) , thrown , cast ; m. setting (as of the sun or of luminaries) ; m. " end , death " ; m. the western mountain (behind which the sun is supposed to set)
√2. as: to throw , cast , shoot at (loc. dat. , or gen) ; to drive or frighten away
iyāya = 3rd pers. sg. perf. √i: to go ; to go to or towards (with acc.)
bhās-karaḥ: m. " making light;” the sun

太子爲優陀 種種巧方便
説欲爲深患 不覺至日暮

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