Thursday, March 14, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.103: Objects & Desires

⏑−−−−−,⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑−−⏑⏑⏑−   Śikhariṇī
tataḥ śrutvā rājā viṣaya-vimukhaṁ tasya tu mano
na śiśye tāṁ rātriṁ hdaya-gata-śalyo gaja iva |
atha śrānto mantre bahu-vividha-mārge sa-sacivo
na so 'nyat-kāmebhyo niyamanam-apaśyat-suta-mateḥ || 4.103

iti buddha-carite mahā-kāvye strī-vighātano nāma caturthaḥ sargaḥ || 4 ||

Then, hearing that the prince's mind was turned away from objects,

The king, like an elephant with an arrow in its heart, 
did not sleep that night;

Though he wearied himself further 
in all sorts of consultations with his ministers,

He saw no other means, aside from desires, 
to control his offspring's mind.

The 4th canto, titled “Warding Women Away,” 
in an epic story of awakened action.

During the course of the Canto which concludes with today's verse I have commented a few times on how Aśvaghoṣa plays on the ambiguity of the words viṣayaḥ (which means 1. objects and 2. sensual enjoyments) and kāmaḥ (which means 1. desires 2. sensual enjoyments). Ostensibly or superficially the use of these two terms, in this Canto and more broadly in Aśvaghoṣa's writing, coincides with the latter meaning, in which case sensual enjoyments or desired objects are the male practitioner's enemy number one.

If this is the only way we understand the words viṣayaḥ and kāmaḥ, as expressing objects of sexual desire, or sensual enjoyments, then it is natural to understand the Canto title as describing the rejection of those objects; hence, “The Women Rejected” (EHJ) or “Rebuffing the Women” (PO). This is indeed what the Canto title does mean, on the surface. 

However, perhaps because he understood that the Buddha's teaching was not about seeing half of humankind as objects, and rejecting them as such; and given that he evidently was not afraid of paraphrasing rather than translating the original Sanskrit, the Chinese translator titled the Canto 離欲, which means “Distancing [Oneself] from Desire” or “Transcending Desire.” This is closer to what I suspect Aśvaghoṣa intended as the hidden meaning of strī-vighātanaḥ, which is to say that the kind of rejection or rebuttal implied by vighātana was not necessarily the rejection of the women in the park, and not necessarily the rejection of women as objects.  The rejection or rebuttal implied by vighātana, at least below the surface, might rather have been a rejection or rebuttal or transcendence of something within the practitioner himself. 

Digging deeper below the surface, however, I don't think desire is what Aśvaghoṣa saw as the enemy. I think it was the whole conception of "women" that Aśvaghoṣa might have wanted us to question. So strī-vighātanaḥ might have been intended to suggest the striking of a blow against "women" as conceived by the likes of the young brahmin Hurry-Up Udāyin. In that conception women themselves are the viṣayaḥ and kāmaḥ (objects and desires) which cause men trouble, and cause us to cry out in frustration "Bloody women!"

So maybe Aśvaghoṣa's intention is to cause us to ask ourselves: When men, in the frustration we sometimes feel, cry “Bloody women!” where really is the fault? In womankind in general? In particular individual women? Or in the mind of the offended agent?

Again, when a bloke like Udāyin sees chasing women as a proper aim of life, exactly what does chasing 'women' mean? When men chase 'women,' who or what is being chased?

If we follow the narrow, overlapping meanings of viṣayaḥ and kāmaḥ (sensual enjoyments / objects of desire) then women in the present Canto correspond to viṣayaḥ and kāmaḥ – women are sensual objects to be enjoyed and desired. So strī-vighātanaḥ, “rejecting women,” is tantamount to trying to eliminate viṣayān and kāmān – which is the essence of the religious asceticism that the likes of Udāyin admire.

But if we follow the original, broader meaning of viṣaya (object) and of kāma (desire), then, as in previous verses in this Canto, Aśvaghoṣa's irony reveals itself in today's verse in at least a couple of ways.

Firstly, though somebody evidently informed the king that the prince's mind was turned away from objects, the truth is, on the contrary, that the prince's mind is in the process of alighting on a proper object – the object in question being (as will be confirmed in BC5.25), pari-nirvāṇa.

Secondly, though the king hopes that the mind of his son might be controlled through the use of objects of desire (i.e. beautiful women), the truth is that the king cannot control his son's mind by the means of objects of desire – not because his son has no desire, but rather because his son has a different desire. That desire is the desire to go forth – abhiniścikramiṣā, from the DESIDERATIVE of abhi-niṣ-√kram, to put an egg in one's boot and beat it, to get the hell out of the house. In BC5.46 the prince is described as having the desire to go forth (abhiniścikramiṣā) towards the pleasure/happiness of the highest object (paramārtha-sukhāya).

I have said it before, but it bears repeating, for some of us are very slow on the uptake, that the Buddha's teaching is not to have no desire; the Buddha's ultimate teaching, as expressed on the night before he died, is to have small desire and be content.

We might say that the King of Dharma at the end of his life saw no other means, aside from small desire, to control the minds of his offspring.

tataḥ: ind. then, and so
śrutvā = abs. śru: to hear, learn ; hear or learn anything about
rājā (nom. sg.): m. the king
viṣaya-vimukham (acc. sg. n.): turned away from objects
viṣaya: 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 ; an object
vimukha: mfn. having the face averted , turned backwards; averse or opposed to , abstaining or desisting from (loc. abl. , gen. with upari , or comp.) ; (ifc.) indifferent to
tasya (gen. sg.): his
tu: but, contrary to expectations
manaḥ (acc. sg.): n. the mind

na: not
śiśye = 3rd pers. sg. perf. śī: to lie , lie down , recline , rest , repose ; to remain unused (as soma) ; to lie down to sleep , fall asleep , sleep
tām (acc. sg. f.): that
rātrim (acc. sg.): f. night , the darkness or stillness of night (often personified)
hṛdaya-gata-śalyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): with an arrow in his heart
hṛdaya: heart
gata: mfn. gone to, in
śalya: mn. a dart , javelin , lance , spear , iron-headed weapon , pike , arrow
gajaḥ (nom. sg.): m. an elephant
iva: like

atha: ind. now, then, moreover
śrāntaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. wearied , fatigued , tired , exhausted , pained , distressed
mantre (loc. sg.): m. " instrument of thought " , speech , sacred text or speech , a prayer or song of praise ; consultation , resolution , counsel , advice , plan , design , secret
bahu-vividha-mārge (loc. sg. m.): in manifold ways
bahu: mfn. many
vividha: mfn. of various sorts , manifold , divers
mārga: the track of a wild animal , any track , road , path , way to (loc. or comp.) or through (comp.)
sa-sacivaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. along with (his) minister or ministers
saciva: m. an associate , companion , friend ; esp. a king's friend or attendant , counsellor , minister

na: not
saḥ (nom. sg. m.): he
anyat (acc. sg. n.): mfn. other
kāmebhyaḥ (abl. pl.): m. desire; pleasure , enjoyment ; love , especially sexual love or sensuality
niyamanam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. subduing , taming , overpowering ; n. the act of subduing &c ; n. restriction , limitation , definition
ni- √yam: to stop (trans.) , hold back ; to hold in , keep down , restrain , control , govern , regulate (as breath , the voice , the organs of sense &c)
apaśyat = 3rd pers. sg. perf. paś: to see
suta-mateḥ (gen. sg.): his son's mind
suta: m. a son , child , offspring
mati:  f. thought , design , intention , resolution , determination , inclination , wish , desire; the mind

iti: thus
buddha-carite mahākāvye (loc.): in the epic story of awakened action
strī-vighātanaḥ (nom. sg. m.): warding off women
strī: f. woman, female
vighātana: mfn. warding off , averting; n. impeding , interrupting , disturbing
ghātana: n. slaying , killing , slaughter , immolating
ghāta: mfn. ( √han ) ifc. " killing " ; m. a blow , bruise ; m. slaying , killing ; m. injuring , hurting , devastation , destruction
nāma: ind. by name
caturthaḥ sargaḥ (nom. sg. m.): 4th canto

父王聞太子 心絶於五欲
極生大憂苦 如利刺貫心
即召諸群臣 問欲設何方
咸言非五欲 所能留其心 


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