Friday, April 5, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.21: Decision Time (1) – A Means

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
gaganaṁ kha-ga-vad-gate ca tasmin n-varaḥ saṁjahṣe visismiye ca |
upalabhya tataś-ca dharma-saṁjñam-abhiniryāa-vidhau matiṁ cakāra || 5.21

When he had gone, like a bird into the sky,

The foremost of men was full of gladness and wonder;

And having thus received a hint of dharma,

He set his mind on the matter of marching forth.

The four ga in the 1st pāda, I am afraid, are lost in translation. “When he had gone like a sky-goer into the going-going-gone-ness...”?

The hint of dharma (dharma-saṁjñam or dharma-saṁjñām) mentioned in the 3rd pāda can be understood as referring to an indication received from the celestial striver, but I prefer to understand that the hint was received from the experience of gladness and wonder described in the 2nd pāda.

So whereas on the surface the prince felt gladness and wonder because of the intervention of a celestial being, a more ironic reading is that the prince felt gladness and wonder after the god or demon had buggered off and left him alone. And on that basis (tataś-ca), on the basis of that initial experience of gladness and wonder, the prince received a hint of the greater and deeper gladness and wonder which practice of the dharma would eventually hold in store for him. 

Today's verse and BC5.25 both end with the expression -vidhau matiṁ cakāra, “he set his mind on the matter of ...” In today's verse the matter in question is abhiniryāṇa, “marching out,” i.e. leaving home and going forth into the homeless life of a wandering mendicant. In BC5.25 the matter is parinirvāṇa, “complete extinction/happiness” i.e. conclusive ending of afflictions and associated suffering.

The former decision can be understood as deciding on a means, the latter decision as deciding on an end – in which case it might be noteworthy that, in the prince's decision-making process, the means came before the end.

The first dhyāna, we are told in BC5.11, as in SN17.42, is viveka-jam, “born of separateness.” But it is not separation of self and other, and not disunity of body and mind. Neither it is the kind of divergence from the intended outcome which tends to arise when we identify an end and go for it directly, without stopping to consider what is the appropriate means.

If I were immune to this "end-gaining" tendency in myself I might not feel such strong emotional criticism when I see it in others – particularly men who have assumed positions as leaders and teachers.

To the extent that march means “walk with a rhythmic stride and in step with others,” march may not be the right word, since the prince is going to depart on his horse and not initially on foot. But the second definition of march the dictionary gives fits better: to move in a direct purposeful manner.

As with separateness, then, so too with directness. Going directly for an end without proper consideration of proper means, is a hallmark of ignorance. And at the same time, going directly may be the manifestation of a certain clarity in one's decision-making.

In the prince's decision to march on out, I think there were elements of both kinds of directness – bad directness and good directness, if you like. Thus in the opening verse of Saundara-nanda Canto 3, Aśvaghoṣa indicates the bad directness with the opening words tapase tataḥ, and the good directness with the closing words niścita-manā vanaṁ yayau.
For ascetic practice (tapase tataḥ), then, he left Kapilavāstu -- a teeming mass of horses, elephants and chariots, / Majestic, safe, and loved by its citizens. Leaving the city, he started resolutely for the forest (niścita-manā vanaṁ yayau). // SN3.1 //
tapase tataḥ kapilavāstu
sa vihāya niścita-manā vanaṁ yayau

This whole translation effort, at the relentless snail's pace of one verse per day, is an exercise in endeavoring to suppress the bad directness of end-gaining while manifesting the good directness of energy resolutely directed in a particular direction. I still have a long way to go, in more ways than one. But on the basis of progress made so far, my tentative conclusion about today's verse is as follows:

Just because the prince marched forth to the forest for ascetic practice doesn't necessarily mean that we should react to his example by feeling that we should rush to do the same.

gaganam (acc. sg.): n. the atmosphere , sky , firmament
kha-ga-vat: ind. like a bird
kha-ga: m. 'moving in the air,' a bird
kha: n. ( √khan, to dig) a cavity , hollow , cave , cavern , aperture ; vacuity , empty space , air , ether , sky ; heaven
ga: only ifc. going , moving
-vat: (affix expressing likeness)
gate (loc. sg. m.): mfn. gone, deparated, disappeared
ca: and
tasmin (log. sg. m.): he

nṛ-varaḥ (nom. sg.) m. best or chief of men , sovereign , king
saṁjahṛṣe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. saṁ- √ hṛṣ: to bristle , stand erect (as the hair of the body from joy or fright) ; to thrill with delight , be glad , rejoice
visismiye = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi- √ smi: to wonder , be surprised or astonished at
ca: and

upalabhya = abs. upa- √ labh: to seize , get possession of , acquire , receive , obtain , find; to perceive , behold , hear ; to understand , learn , know , ascertain
tataḥ: ind. then, from that, on that basis
ca: and
dharma-saṁjñam (acc. sg.): consciousness of dharma
saṁjña: mfn. (ifc. for saṁ-jñā e.g. labdha-saṁjña , " one who has recovered consciousness "
dharma-saṁjñām (acc. sg. f.): consciousness of dharma; the term 'dharma'
dharma: m. that which is established or firm , steadfast decree , statute , ordinance , law; the law or doctrine of Buddhism (in comp. for dharman)
dharman: n. law , rule , duty; n. practice , custom , mode , manner
saṁjñā: f. agreement , mutual understanding , harmony ; consciousness , clear knowledge or understanding or notion or conception ; a sign , token , signal , gesture ; direction ; a track , footstep ; a name , appellation , title , technical term (ifc. = " called , named ")

abhiniryāṇa-vidhau (loc. sg.): the matter of marching forth ; a means of leaving home
abhiniryāṇa: n. march of an assailant
abhi-nir- √ yā: to march out , go out towards (dat.) or from (abl.)
niryāṇa: n. going forth or out , exit , issue ; setting out , decamping (of an army) , going out (of cattle to the pasture ground)
vidhi: m. a rule , formula , injunction , ordinance , statute , precept , law , direction ; method , manner or way of acting , mode of life , conduct , behaviour ; a means , expedient for (dat. loc. , or comp. ); any act or action , performance , accomplishment , contrivance , work , business (ifc. often pleonastically e.g. mathana-vidhi , the [act of] disturbing)
matiṁ cakāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. matiṁ √ kṛ: to set the heart on , make up one's mind , resolve , determine

太子心歡喜 惟念過去佛
建立此威儀 遺像見於今
端坐正思惟 即得正法念
當作何方便 遂心長出家
[Conflated with previous verse? anya-buddhi misunderstood as 過去佛?]

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