Thursday, April 11, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.27: The Anchor

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
mga-rāja-gatis-tato 'bhyagacchan-npatiṁ mantri-gaṇair-upāsyamānam |
samitau marutām-iva jvalantaṁ maghavantaṁ tri-dive sanat-kumāraḥ || 5.27

And so, going with the gait of a king of beasts,

He approached the lord of men attended by his coveys of ministers,

Like “Fresh Prince” Sanat-kumāra in the third heaven

Approaching shining Indra among his retinue of storm-gods.

Today's verse has not got much to do with sitting in lotus – except that each, in its own way, is a kind of anchor.

Sitting in lotus is an anchor insofar as it connects the sitter with something that is constant, imperishable, indestructible (akṣaya-dharma). That something is intimately and unfathomably bound up with gravity. I think, in light of the 1st law of thermodynamics, we might call it energy itself.

This opens up veins of hidden meaning that I failed to consider yesterday, in the compound akṣaya-dharma-jāta-rāgaḥ. On the surface, the compound describes the prince as having ardent desire aroused (jāta-rāgaḥ) for an imperishable object (akṣaya-dharma). A hidden meaning that I failed to consider is that the prince was coloured, or impassioned  (jāta-rāgaḥ) by the imperishable reality (akṣaya-dharma) which is energy itself  like the celibate Zen masters of Sung China who Dogen described as being full of life and laughing very loudly. 

Those guys were like that because they channeled all their energy into sitting in lotus; and at the same time, sitting in lotus channeled all their energy. 

To sit in full lotus is to sit on a very stable base, formed by the knees and the pelvis, like a triangle whose acute angles are formed by the knees and whose blunted apex is formed by the sitting bones (or ischial tuberosities, to give them their anatomical title). Partly because of this inherent stability, the full lotus posture seems to keep pointing our energy up in the right direction, as defined by gravity, if we continue to sit in it regularly.

But there is a lot we can do, of course, to oppose this right direction, pulling ourselves down in the wrong direction through reliance on our own wrong ideas and faulty sensory appreciation. I know whereof I speak.

Within not too many years my energy will have dissipated out into the universe and what was this body will have turned to ashes. So feeling strong is only a fleeting impression. Nevertheless, after three weeks or so of sitting here by the forest, sometimes I feel very up and very strong. And sometimes I feel down, dark, weak. But the sense of being very up and indestructibly strong that I sometimes get when I am alone by the forest is certainly stronger than any sense I get when I am living in the over-crowded, airplane-bedevilled Southeast of England. So the feeling of strength derives partly from living in solitude and enjoying that joy and ease that is born of separateness. But most of all I think it derives from the integrity which is inherent in sitting in lotus.

These thoughts on being anchored and on integrity were stimulated by looking back to where Sanat-kumāra is mentioned previously in Aśvaghoṣa's epic story of Awakened Action, and finding that the verse I was searching for was also number 27:
The prince, with his supremely fine form shining forth, like “the Prince Who Was Forever Fresh,” Sanat-kumāra, / Enjoyed himself together with that Śākya princess as did mighty “All-Eyed” Indra, mightily, with Śacī. //BC2.27//
I guess that in days of old when Sanskrit story-tellers would have memorized the Sanskrit epics, those monks who memorized Aśvaghoṣa's epic story of Awakened Action might have found a kind of structural integrity in Aśvaghoṣa's poetry that somehow mirrors the structural integrity of sitting in lotus. Aśvaghoṣa's  strict adherence to formal metres like the Aupacchandasaka metre of the present Canto, is one aspect of that structural integrity. These two mentions of Sanat-kumāra, functioning in some unfathomable way as anchors, might also be part of that structural integrity.

On a lighter note, what might be the most appropriate collective noun for a group of ministers? Parties? Swarms? Hives? Teams? Squads? Troops? Broods? Convocations? Gaggles? Companies? Cohorts? Coveys?

I will sleep on it. If I am feeling strong and brave when I come to publish this post, I think I might go for “murmurations of ministers,” because it sounds good to my ear. But “coveys of ministers” might be more accurate in conveying the sense of small flocks, and less open to the accusation of idiosyncratic use of language.

mṛga-rāja-gatiḥ (nom. sg. m.): with the gait of the king of beasts ; stepping like a lion
gati: f. going , moving , gait , deportment , motion in general ; manner or power of going
tataḥ: ind. then
abhyagacchat = 3rd pers. sg. perf. abhi- √ gam: to go near to ; approach (with acc.)

nṛpatim (acc. sg.): m. " lord of men " , king
mantri-gaṇaiḥ (inst. p. m.): groups of ministers
mantrin: m. a king's counsellor , minister
gaṇa: m. a flock , troop , multitude , number; a company , any assemblage or association of men formed for the attainment of the same aims
upāsyamānam = acc. sg. m. pass. pres. part. upa- √ās: to sit by the side of , sit near at hand (in order to honour or wait upon) ; to wait upon , approach respectfully , serve , honour , revere , respect , acknowledge , do homage , worship , be devoted or attached to

sam-itau (loc. sg.): f. coming together , meeting , assembling , an assembly , council ; a flock, herd
marutām = gen. pl. marut: m. (prob. the " flashing or shining ones") the storm-gods (indra's companions and sometimes the gods or deities in general)
iva: like
jvalantam = acc. sg. m. pres. part. jval: to burn brightly , blaze , glow , shine

maghavantam = acc. sg. m. magha-vat: mfn. possessing or distributing gifts , bountiful , liberal , munificent (esp. said of indra and other gods); m. N. of indra
tri-dive (loc. sg.): n. the 3rd or most sacred heaven , heaven (in general)
sanat-kumāraḥ (nom. sg.): m. " always a youth " or " son of brahmā " , N. of one of the four or seven sons of brahmā ( the N. of sanat-kumāra is sometimes given to any great saint who retains youthful purity)

師子王遊歩 徐入於本宮
猶如帝釋子 心敬形亦恭

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