Sunday, March 17, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.2: Wanting to Get Away

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
atha mantri-sutaiḥ kṣamaiḥ kadā-cit-sakhibhiś-citra-kathaiḥ ktānuyātraḥ |
vana-bhūmi-didkṣayā śamepsur-nara-devānumato bahiḥ pratasthe || 5.2

Then one day, attended by sons of ministers

Whose diverse chatter would make them suitable companions,

Since, in his desire for tranquillity, he wanted to visit the forest,

With the king's permission he set off out.

The title of the present Canto is  abhi-niṣkramaṇaḥ, from the root √kram, to step, walk, go. I think I may translate it as Getting Away  (EHJ: Flight; PO: The Departure).  The MW dictionary gives abhi-niṣkramaṇa as “going forth.” 

These opening verses, however, describe not the prince's famous clanestine escape in the middle of the night accompanied only by the servant Chandaka and the horse Kanthaka; they describe a preliminary excursion, undertaken with the king's permission, in which the prince temporarily loses his gossiping companions and sits down to rest at the foot of a rose-apple tree, where he naturally enters the first dhyāna, i.e. the first stage of sitting-meditation. Shortly after that he meets a wandering mendicant whose example inspires him to want properly to go forth himself into the wandering life. 

So what these opening verses seem to describe is going forth without going forth – i.e., getting away or getting out of the palace, without going forth in the more decisive sense associated with shaving the head, wearing a mendicant's robe, and begging with a bowl. Inferior though this kind of provisional getting away may have been, tainted though it was by the prattle of sons of ministers, it was enough for the prince, as Aśvaghoṣa tells his story, at least to enter the first stage of sitting-meditation.

So was going forth the cause of the prince realizing the first dhyāna? Or was realizating the first dhyāna a cause of the prince going forth?

By telling the story as he tells it, it seems to me, Aśvaghoṣa is not encouraging us to take a view on which comes first, the chicken or the egg.

In the Books and arts section of this week's Economist, by way of contrast, is a review of a book on W.D. Hamilton, who is credited (if credited is the right word) with putting the -ism into Darwinism. The review mentions in passing the suicide of [Hamilton's] early collaborator, George Price (a mentally unstable individual, who was driven mad by his conversion from atheism to Christianity).

The bit in parenthesis struck me as demonstrating shoddy thinking on the part of the reviewer, and shoddy editing on the part of the Economist. Just because George Price converted to Christianity and went mad, or went mad and converted to Christianity, does not mean the conversion drove him mad, or that the madness drove the conversion. It may have been that there was another cause altogether of George Price's mental instability, and both the madness and the conversion were symptoms of that instability. For all we know George Price might have gone madder sooner without his conversion to Christianity. 

It really bugs me that this reviewer smugly passes off his own biased view as if it were fact. 

This is a sure warning sign, via the mirror principle, that I am unconsciously aware of, or afraid of, a similar tendency in myself.

The reviewer who was chosen to review a book about evolutionary biology, I am assuming, was himself steeped in the science of evolutionary biology. And yet, instead of pursuing the truth for the benefit of all in the open-minded manner of a true scientist, the reviewer seems to  describe George Price in a manner that distorts the objective truth in such a way as to support some personal bias, or agenda, or self-serving narrative. 


Hypocritical bastard.

atha: ind. now, and so, then
mantri-sutaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. the son of a minister
mantrim: mfn. wise or eloquent ; m. " knowing sacred texts or spells " , a conjurer , enchanter ; m. a king's counsellor , minister;
kṣamaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. patient (said of the earth); enduring , suffering , bearing , submissive , resisting; adequate , competent , able , fit for ; fit , appropriate , becoming , suitable
kadā-cit: ind. at some time or other , sometimes , once

sakhibhiḥ (inst. pl.): m. a friend , assistant , companion
citra-kathaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. full of varied converse
citra: mfn. conspicuous , excellent , distinguished ; variegated ; agitated (as the sea , opposed to sama); various , different , manifold
kath: to converse with any one
kṛtānuyātraḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. accompanied by
kṛta: mfn. made, done
anuyātra: n. retinue , attendance

vana-bhūmi-didṛkṣayā (inst. sg.): with the desire of seeing the forest environs
vana-bhūmi: f. " forest-region " , the neighbourhood of a wood
didṛkṣā: f. (fr. Desid. √ dṛś ) desire of seeing / visiting
√ dṛś: to see, wait on, visit
śamepsuḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. desirous of a tranquil life
śama: m. tranquillity , calmness , rest , equanimity , quietude ; peace
īpsu: mfn. (fr. Desid. of √āp) striving to obtain ; wishing to get or obtain , desirous of (with acc.)

nara-devānumataḥ (nom. sg m.) with the king's permission
nara-deva: m. " man-god " , a king
anumata: mfn. approved , assented to , permitted , allowed , agreeable , pleasant ; loved , beloved
bahiḥ: ind. out , forth , outwards , outside (a house , village , city , kingdom &c )
pratasthe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. pra- √ sthā: to set out

王使諸大臣 貴族名子弟
年少勝姿顏 聰慧執禮儀
晝夜同遊止 以取太子心
如是未幾時 啓王復出遊

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