Saturday, March 9, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.98: A Contrasting I

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
ahaṁ punar-bhīrur-atīva-viklavo jarā-vipad-vyādhi-bhayaṁ vicintayan |
labhe na śāntiṁ na dhtiṁ kuto ratiṁ niśāmayan dīptam-ivāgninā jagat || 4.98

I, in contrast, am fearful – I am exceedingly agitated

As I contemplate the terror of aging, death, and disease;

I know neither peace nor constancy, much less enjoyment,

Seeing the world blazing as if it were on fire.

What is unambiguously expressed in today's verse, as I read it, is the painfully self-conscious I who, in establishing the will to a truth he has not yet begun to experience as enjoyment, is neither fish nor fowl.

This unambiguity of today's verse juxtaposed with the ambiguity of yesterday's verse causes me to reflect on the old karate maxim that a beginner starts with a white belt and then gains a black belt, which, as it wears out over the years, gradually turns white again. That being so, a belt that looks white may signify either (1) the innocence of a total beginner or (2) the experience of somebody very experienced.

In a similarly ambiguous way, in a verse like yesterday's, caleṣu kāmeṣu may express (1) the fleeting pleasures in which a sensualist indulges, or (2) the intermittent wishing described yesterday as being at the centre of sitting-meditation; and viṣayeṣu sajjase could mean (1) “you are attached [contemptibly] to sensual enjoyments,” or (2) “you are adhering [heroically] to your objectives.”

But a verse like today's – which is the penultimate verse in the prince's present monologue – does not seem to be so open to being read as a description of either one thing or the other. In the analogy of the karate belt, it rather seems to correspond to the belt which is definitively black.

When Aśvaghoṣa uses the word ratim, “enjoyment,” as he does in the 3rd pāda of today's verse, he may have in mind (1) the sensual (or infantile) enjoyment of a man (or a baby) in close proximity with a woman's breast; or (2) the kind of inner enjoyment described by Ānanda in Saundara-nanda Canto 11:
Again, since in spiralling through saṁsāra you have gained celestial nymphs and left them /A hundred times over, what is this yearning of yours for those women? // SN11.31 // A fire is not satisfied by dry brushwood, nor the salty ocean by water, / Nor a man of thirst by his desires. Desires, therefore, do not make for satisfaction. // SN11.32 // Without satisfaction, whence peace? Without peace, whence ease? / Without ease, whence joy? Without joy, whence enjoyment? // SN11.33 // Therefore if you want enjoyment, let your mind be directed within. / Tranquil and impeccable is enjoyment of the inner self and there is no enjoyment to equal it. // SN11.34 // In it, you have no need of musical instruments, or women, or ornaments; / On your own, wherever you are, you can indulge in that enjoyment. // SN11.35 //
The prince, at the present stage of his unfolding towards the truth, is not experiencing either kind of joy: he can no longer find anything to enjoy in pursuit of sensual enjoyment and nor yet does he know the inner enjoyment of sitting-meditation.

So when the prince in the 3rd pāda says “I know neither peace nor constancy, much less enjoyment,” I cannot find any ambiguity or irony in his words. That is not to say that Aśvaghoṣa did not intend any irony; just that I cannot find any. I rather read the prince's statement as a straight expression of what it can feel like to awaken the bodhi-mind – not necessarily a barrel of laughs but sometimes a state of agitation in which the fear reflexes become over-excited at the harshness of objective reality.

I could easily personalize this comment with reference to my own contrasting I – or else move on to dig into something more objective, like tomorrow's verse...

aham (nom. sg. m.): I
punar: ind. back , home , in an opposite direction; moreover; however
bhīruḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. fearful , timid , cowardly , afraid
atīva-viklavaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. exceedingly perplexed
atīva: ind. exceedingly , very; excessively
viklava: mfn. overcome with fear or agitation , confused , perplexed , bewildered , alarmed , distressed
vi- √klav: to become agitated or confused

jarā-vipad-vyādhi-bhayam (acc. sg.) the terror of aging, death, and sickness
jarā: f. aging, old age
vipad: f. going wrongly , misfortune , adversity , calamity , failure , ruin , death
vyādhi: m. disorder , disease , ailment , sickness
bhaya: n. fear ; sg. and pl. terror , dismay , danger , peril , distress
vicintayan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. vi- √ cint: to perceive ; to think of , reflect upon , ponder , consider , regard

labhe = 1st pers. sg. labh: to gain, obtain, win, meet with, find, have ; to perceive , know , understand , learn , find out
na: neither
śāntim (acc. sg.): f. tranquillity , peace
na: nor
dhṛtim (acc. sg.): f. holding , seizing , keeping , supporting , firmness , constancy
kutaḥ: ind. from where? whence?
ratim (acc. sg.): f. repose ; pleasure , enjoyment ; the pleasure of love , sexual passion or union , amorous enjoyment

niśāmayan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. caus. ni- √ śam: to observe , perceive , hear , learn
dīptam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. blazing , flaming
iva: like, as if
agninā (inst. sg.): m. fire
jagat (acc. sg.): n. the world

今我至儜劣 其心亦狹小
思惟老病死 卒至不預期
晝夜忘睡眠 何由習五欲 

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