Wednesday, March 20, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.5: Dangerous Compassion

⏑⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
hala-bhinna-vikīrṇa-śaṣpa-darbhāṁ hata-sūkṣma-krimi-kīṭa-jantu-kīrṇām |
samavekṣya rasāṁ tathā-vidhāṁ tāṁ svajanasyeva vadhe bhśaṁ śuśoca || 5.5

As the ploughs tore and scattered tufts of young grass over the soil,

And littered the soil with dead worms, insects, and other little creatures,

He saw that soil like that,

And felt intense sorrow, as if at the killing of his own human relatives.

Not only today's verse but the gist of the whole of Cantos 3, 4, and 5 of Buddha-carita are summarized in two verses of Saundara-nanda:

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 (hṛdaya-gata-para-ghṛṇaḥ) 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 //

Today's verse, then, elaborates on what the prince witnessed, how his mind was wounded, and how his compassionate desire arose to terminate the terror of being born and dying.

The sense one gets from today's verse is how painfully impotent the prince's compassion was before he realized what he realized while sitting in lotus under the bodhi tree. In SN2.64, hṛdaya-gata-para-ghṛṇaḥ could equally be translated “he experienced utmost compassion in his heart” – ghṛṇaḥ (from the root √ghṛ, to shine or burn) means 1. a warm feeling towards others, compassion, tenderness, and 2. aversion, horror, disgust. In the context of the unenlightened prince finding no pleasure in objects, I think the sense of disgust was to the fore. 

The words Aśvaghoṣa uses to describe the compassion of the enlightened Buddha are less ambiguous: anukampā (from anu-√kamp, lit. to tremble along with, to feel compassion for); and kāruṇika (compassionate).
Awake to the one great ageless purpose, and universal in his compassion (anukampayā vibhuḥ), / He proceeded, in order to display the eternal deathless nectar, to the city sustained by the waters of the Varaṇā and the Asī – to Vārāṇasī. // SN3.10 //
Having instructed many people at Kāśi and at Gaya as also at Giri-vraja, / He made his way then to the city of his fathers, in his deeply compassionate (parama-kāruṇikaḥ) desire to include it. // SN3.15 //
Why is such a distinction worth making, between the kind of compassion that motivated the Buddha to seek enlightenment for the benefit of others, and the kind of compassion that he showed others after he was enlightened?

Certainly in a practical sphere like learning as a student teacher how to go about teaching the FM Alexander Technique, it is explicitly recognized that the compassionate desire to help one's pupil can be a dangeorous stimulus, if one fails to inhibit one's habitual responses to such a stimulus – because those responses are liable to be deluded, or tied up with faulty sensory appreciation.

Hence the wisdom of the old Japanese saying, "Don't give yourself a headache over somebody else's bad back."

hala-bhinna-vikīrṇa-śaṣpa-darbhām (acc. sg. f.): tufts of young grass torn and scattered by the plough
hala: mn. a plough
bhinna: mfn. split , broken , shattered , pierced , destroyed; divided into parts
vikīrṇa: mfn. scattered , thrown about , dispersed &c
śaṣpa: n. young or sprouting grass , any grass
darbha: m. a tuft or bunch of grass

hata-sūkṣma-krimi-kīṭa-jantu-kīrṇām (acc. sg. f.): strewn with slain little worms, insects, and [other] creatures
hata: mfn. struck , beaten , smitten , killed , slain , destroyed
sūkṣma: mfn. minute , small , fine , thin , narrow , short , feeble , trifling , insignificant , unimportant
krimi = kṛmi: m. a worm , insect ; an ant
kīṭa: m. a worm , insect
jantu: m. a child; a creature , living being; any animal of the lowest organisation , worms , insects
kīrṇā: mfn. ( √kṝ) scattered , thrown , cast; filled with; covered

samavekṣya = abs. sam-ava-√īkṣ: to look at , behold , observe , perceive , notice ; to reflect or ponder on , consider , mind , heed
rasām (acc. sg.): f. moisture , humidity ; a mythical stream supposed to flow round the earth and the atmosphere; the lower world , hell ; the earth , ground , soil
tathā-vidhām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. of such a sort or kind , being in such a condition or state
tām (acc. sg. f.): that

sva-janasya (gen. sg.): m. a man of one's own people , kinsman ; one's own people , own kindred
iva: like
vadhe (loc. sg.): m. the act of striking or killing , slaughter , murder , death , destruction
bhṛśam: ind. strongly , violently , vehemently , excessively , greatly , very much
śuśoca = 3rd pers. sg. perf. śuc: to suffer violent heat or pain , be sorrowful or afflicted , grieve , mourn at or for (loc.)

出城遊園林 修路廣且平
樹木花果茂 心樂遂忘歸 
路傍見耕人 墾壤殺諸虫
其心生悲惻 痛踰刺貫心

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