Saturday, March 23, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.8: Desiring Separateness & Getting Close to the Root

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
manasā ca viviktatām-abhīpsuḥ suhdas-tān-anuyāyino nivārya |
abhitaś-cala-cāru-parṇavatyā vijane mūlam-upeyivān sa jaṁbvāḥ || 5.8

And desiring to be alone with his thoughts,

He fended away those amicable hangers on

And drew close to the root of a solitary rose-apple tree

Whose abundant plumage fluttered agreeably all around.

One of the question marks left hanging over the translation of Aśvaghoṣa's other epic poem, Saundara-nanda, concerns the meaning of viveka in Aśvaghoṣa's descripton of the first stage of sitting-meditation as viveka-jaṃ which means either “born of discrimination” (as per EHJ and as per my original 4-line translation of February 2010or “born of solitude” (as per my more recent 2-line translation):
Distanced from desires and tainted things, containing ideas and containing thoughts, / Born of solitude (viveka-jaṃ) and possessed of joy and ease, is the first stage of meditation, which he then entered. // SN17.42 //
The compound viveka-jaṁ re-appears in three verses time in BC5.11, but the related term that appears in the 1st pāda of today's verse is vivikta-tām.

Both viveka and vivikta are derived from the root vi-√vic which the dictionary gives as 1. to sift (esp. grain by tossing or blowing), divide asunder, separate from; 2. to distinguish , discern , discriminate; to decide (a question).

With vivikta the former sense of physical separation seems to be somewhat to the fore. Thus the dictionary gives vivikta as 1. separated, kept apart , distinguished , discriminated; 2. isolated, alone, solitary; 3. clear, distinct. And in compounds such as vivikta-ga (going to a lonely place, seeking solitude) and vivikta-tva (solitude), vivikta-sevin (resorting to or seeking solitude), and viviktāsana (sitting at a sequestered place), vivikta suggests solitude rather than clarity, i.e. physical separateness rather than things being clearly separated in one's mind. In compounds such as vivikta-cetas (pure-minded) and vivikta-tarka (clear in reasoning), however, it is true that vivikta suggests mental clarity rather than physical solitude.

With viveka the sense of mental discrimination or discernment seems, in general usage, to be to the fore. Hence viveka-ja (produced or arising from discrimination) is one of many viveka- compounds for which the dictionary gives viveka as “discrimination.” Other examples are viveka-jña (skilled in discrimination); viveka-jñāna (knowledge arising from discrimination); viveka-dṛśvan (one who sees or is conversant with true knowledge); viveka-bhraṣṭa (one who has lost the faculty of discrimination, foolish); viveka-vat (possessing discrimination, judicious), and so on. There is at least one nice counter-example, however, in which viveka expresses distinctly physical separateness, and that is the compound viveka-rahita, which means 1. not separated (as a description of breasts) and 2. wanting discernment.

We will return in BC5.11 to discuss what Aśvaghoṣa intended by viveka-jam – “born of physical solitude” or “born of mental discrimination” or, what may be more likely, given Aśvaghoṣa's general love of double-meanings, neither exclusively one nor the other. "Born of separateness"?

Further ambiguity in the 1st pāda attaches to manasā, which can mean 1. mentally, with one's mind; 2. in one's mind, in one's thoughts; 3. with all one's heart and mind. So manasā viviktatām abhīpsuḥ might be translated “Desiring separateness with all his heart...”

All things considered, however, for the purposes of the present verse, I think that manasā viviktatām is close to what we express in English as “being alone with one's thoughts.” Hence, though he avoided the idiom, EBC described the prince as “desiring to become perfectly lonely in his thoughts.” EHJ went with “desiring to reach perfect clearness with his mind” and PO followed suit with “wishing to reach some clarity in his own mind.”

If we continue digging for the earthy sub-text which seems to run through the present series of verses, the phrase mūlam-upeyivān sa (he drew near to the root) in the 4th pāda may be significant, in the sense that mūlam, the root, is the part of tree via which the tree draws nourishment from the earth, and in the sense that upeyivān sa, he drew near, hints at the proximity of the nugget at the end of this particular vein we have been digging in the earth. That denouement comes in tomorrow's verse in the form of the words niṣasāda bhuvi, “he sat on the ground” or “he sat in earth.” EBC, EHJ, and PO all translated niṣasāda as “he sat down,” but as I shall argue tomorrow, the “down” might be superfluous.

Today when I stepped out of the hut where I sit at the bottom of the field, touching the earth through my feet and through the end of a home-made hazel thumbstick, I surprised myself by how up I was. I hadn't noticed while I was sitting how up I was. But when I stepped into the fresh air, surrounded on all sides by natural stuff growing up from the earth, I suddenly noticed how remarkably I was going up with all that other natural stuff.

Such is the reward for setting aside time for sitting, four times every day, for 30 years and counting, and also the reward for 20 years of struggling to work out what the hell FM Alexander was going on about. But the upwardness I have just described does not come from Alexander work, any more than it comes from sitting-meditation. It comes from the ground, the soil, the land, the earth. 

So far, the flag counter tells me, 124 different countries have visited this site – 124 different countries, but one earth.

manasā: ind. (inst.) in the mind ; in thought or imagination ; with all the heart , willingly
ca: and
viviktatām (acc. sg.): f. separation , isolation ; f. clearness , purity ; being well , good health ; distinction , discrimination ; an empty or free place , loneliness
abhīpsuḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (from Desid. abhy- √āp) longing for , desiring
abhy- √āp: to reach to , get , obtain

suhṛdaḥ = acc. pl. suhṛt: m. friend
tān (acc. pl. m.): those
anuyāyinaḥ (acc. pl. m.): mfn. going after ; a follower , a dependant , attendant ; following
nivārya = abs. causative ni- √ vṛ: to hold back from (abl. , rarely acc.) , prohibit , hinder , stop , prevent , withhold , suppress , forbid

abhitaḥ: ind. near , in the proximity or presence of (gen.); on all sides , everywhere , about , round
cala-cāru-parṇavatyāḥ (gen. sg. f.): with abundant leaves trembling agreeably
cala: mfn. moving , trembling , shaking , loose
cāru: mfn. agreeable; pleasing , lovely , beautiful
parṇa-vat: mfn. abounding in leaves , leafy
parṇa: n. a feather ; a leaf (regarded as the plumage of a tree)

vijane (loc. sg.): n. a deserted or solitary place
mūlam (acc. sg.): n. a root
upeyivān = nom. sg. m. perfect part upa- √i: to go or come or step near , approach , betake one's self to , arrive at , meet with , turn towards ; near to , at , on , upon ; to join (in singing)
upa-: ind. (a preposition or prefix to verbs and nouns , expressing) towards , near to (opposed to apa , away) , by the side of , with , together with , under , down
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
jaṁbvāḥ = gen. sg. jambu: f. the rose apple tree (Eugenia Jambolana or another species)

安慰諸人衆 各令隨處坐

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