Tuesday, April 30, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.46: Pursuit (By Fight or Flight?) of Ultimate Riches

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
paramair-api divya-tūrya-kalpaiḥ sa tu tair-naiva ratiṁ yayau na harṣam |
paramārtha-sukhāya tasya sādhor-abhiniścikramiṣā yato na reme || 5.46

But even those ultimate instruments,
on a par with heavenly harps,

Gave him no pleasure nor any joy.

His desire, as a sincere man going straight for his goal,
was to get out, in pursuit of the happiness of ultimate riches;

And therefore he was not in the mood for play.

Today's verse, as I read it, expresses the prince's sincerity in going straight for his goal – ostensibly in the affirmative sense of that description but also, ironically, in the pejorative sense.

Ostensibly, Aśvaghoṣa describes the prince as a good or virtuous or honest man, or even as a holy man, a saint, a sage or a seer. All these are dictionary definitions of the word sādhu, with which the 3rd pāda ends. But the original meaning of sādhu, in an adjectival sense, is leading straight to a goal. The word may thus have hidden connotations of what FM Alexander called “end-gaining” – that is, being grimly determined to achieve the end in view, irrespective of what miseries might be caused to self and others along the way.

The compound paramārtha, as discussed in comments to BC5.19, can literally be translated in any number of ways. In the context of BC5.19, where the pursuit of paramārtha is contrasted with subsisting on scraps gleaned from begging, “ultimate riches” seemed to fit. For consistency, therefore, I have stuck with “ultimate riches” in today's verse.
“Dwelling anywhere – at the root of a tree, or in an abandoned house, or on a mountain, or in the forest, / I wander here and there, with no possessions and no expectations, subsisting, for the sake of ultimate riches (parmārthāya), on whatever scraps I chance to get from begging.” //BC5.19//
The irony which I think Aśvaghoṣa has in mind, in today's verse as in BC5.19, is that ultimate treasure in the teaching of the enlightened Buddha is the kāñcanam-āsanam described two verses ago in BC5.44 – i.e. the sitting whose substance is gold, or the gold whose substance is sitting – in which case, since it is already right there on the top floor of the royal palace, where is the hurry to go out hunting for it in the forest?

As Ānanda tells Nanda in SN Canto 11:
A fire is not satisfied by dry brushwood, nor the salty ocean by water, / Nor a man of thirst by his desires. Desires, therefore, do not make for satisfaction. // SN11.32 // Without satisfaction, whence peace? Without peace, whence ease? / Without ease, whence joy? Without joy, whence enjoyment? // 11.33 // Therefore if you want enjoyment, let your mind be directed within. / Tranquil and impeccable is enjoyment of the inner self and there is no enjoyment to equal it. // 11.34 // In it, you have no need of musical instruments, or women, or ornaments; / On your own, wherever you are, you can indulge in that enjoyment. // SM11.35 //

In today's verse, then, the desiderative form abhiniścikramiṣā could express the will to transcend as a manifestation of wisdom. Or abhiniścikramiṣā could express the desire to flee as a manifestation of a fight or flight response associated with unduly excited fear reflexes.

In the former case, na reme might express an admirable decision not to join in with worldly fun, to avoid involvement with others like a thorn (“he did not join in the fun”); in the latter case, na reme might express a pitiable inability to enjoy the moment (“he felt no joy”).

Read in light of this ambiguity, today's verse sheds further light on Aśvaghoṣa's choice for the title of the present Canto, abhi-niṣ-kramaṇaḥ – which expresses both the transcendent act of going out (hence PO: “The Departure”) and the emotional reaction which is to run away (hence EHJ: “Flight”).

Last night I watched a documentary on Dave Allen, whose comedy I used to love in the 1970s, when I was an avid watcher of Dave Allen At Large. This was before I went to Japan and, falling deeply into the sin of certainty, strove to impose rightness on myself.

A keen sense of humour, I suppose, is a handy weapon in the fight not to lie to oneself. Hence today's verse, when we dig down for its ironic meaning, might contain an antidote to the disease of fancying oneself to have become a man of sincere action (a sādhu). It might be truer to recognize how,  after however many years of daily sitting practice, transcendent action and emotional reaction are still liable to be tangled up with each other in one big muddle.

paramaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. finest, highest, most excellent, superlative
api: even
divya-tūrya-kalpaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): almost the equal of celestial musical instruments
divya: mfn. divine , heavenly , celestial
tūrya: n. a musical instrument
kalpa: m. (ifc.) having the manner or form of anything , similar to , resembling , like but with a degree of inferiority , almost

sa (nom. sg. m.) :he
tu: but
taiḥ (inst. pl. m.): by those
na: not, nor
eva: (emphatic)
ratim (acc. sg.): f. pleasure , enjoyment , delight in , fondness for (loc. or comp. ; ratim with √ āp , labh , upa-labh , adhi-gam , vidkṛ or bandh and loc. , " to find pleasure in ")
yayau = 3rd pers. sg. perf. yā: to go; to go towards or against , go or come to , enter , approach , arrive at , reach
na: not, nor
harṣam (acc. sg.): m. bristling , erection (esp. of the hair in a thrill of rapture or delight) ; joy , pleasure , happiness

paramārtha-sukhāya (dat. sg.): for the pleasure/happiness of the highest object
paramārtha: m. the highest or whole truth , spiritual knowledge ; any excellent or important object [see BC5.19]
sukha: n. ease , easiness , comfort , prosperity , pleasure , happiness
tasya (gen. sg. m.): that
sādhoḥ (gen. sg.): m. a good or virtuous or honest man ; m. a holy man , saint , sage , seer ; m. a jeweller; m. a merchant , money-lender , usurer ; mfn. straight , right; leading straight to a goal , hitting the mark , unerring (as an arrow or thunderbolt) ; straightened , not entangled (as threads) ; good , virtuous , honourable , righteous ; well-born , noble , of honourable or respectable descent

abhiniścikramiṣā (nom. sg.): f. desire of going forth from home
niścikramiṣā: f. (fr. Desid. of niṣ √kram) desire to escape
niṣ- √ kram: to go out , come forth ; to leave (worldly life) ; (in dram.) to make an exit
abhi-niṣ- √ kram: to go out towards ; to leave the house in order to become an anchorite
yataḥ: ind. from which, because of which, whence, wherefrom
na: not
reme = 3rd pers. sg. perf. ram: to stop , stay , make fast , calm , set at rest ; to delight , make happy , enjoy carnally ; to be glad or pleased , rejoice at , delight in , be fond of (loc. instr. or inf.) ; to play or sport , dally , have sexual intercourse with

太子心所念 第一遠離樂
雖作衆妙音 亦不在其懷

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