Monday, April 22, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.38: Conversation Stopper

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
jagataś-ca yathā dhruvo viyogo nanu dharmāya varaṁ svayaṁ-viyogaḥ |
avaśaṁ nanu viprayojayen-mām-akta-svārtham-atptam-eva mtyuḥ || 5.38

Again, since for the living world 
separation is the immutable constant,

Is it not better for the separation 
to be willingly done for dharma's sake?

Will not death, whether I like it or not, separate me,

Leaving me unsatisfied, 
the doing of my own thing being unfinished?”

Aśvaghoṣa's writing, even moreso than Dogen's preaching, in my book, encourages the reader to think for himself or herself. After all, Dogen was writing for a Japanese audience and the Japanese, from ancient times to the present, have tended to be very amenable to some outside expert or higher authority telling them what to think and what to do.

As an aid to the kind of exercise of the critical faculties about which the Japanese are particularly reticent, Aśvaghoṣa gives us a gold standard in the form of direct quotation of the words of the enlightened Buddha. And we are given ample opportunity to form judgements, using this gold standard, as to the truth or falsity of the words of other speakers at various stages of development – also including, as in today's verse, the words of the prince of the Śākyas himself, before he became the enlightened Buddha.

This being so, words with which to compare and contrast today's verse might be the Buddha's assertion in SN Canto 5, that death, and separation from loved ones, are equally inevitable:
Nothing takes away people's beauty like aging, there is no misfortune in the world like sickness, / And no terror on earth like death (mṛtyoḥ samaṃ nāsti bhayaṃ pṛthivyām). Yet these three, inevitably, shall be obeyed. // SN5.27 // There is no fetter like love, no torrent that carries one away like thirst, / And likewise no fire like the fire of passion. If not for these three, happiness would be yours. // SN5.28 // Separation from loved ones is inevitable (avaśya-bhāvī priya-viprayogaḥ), on which account grief is bound to be experienced. / And it is through grief that other seers who were princes have gone mad and fallen helplessly apart. // SN5.29 //
Confronted with this assertion, like even the most imaginative post-modernist who is unable to fashion an individual narrative that skirts the objective reality of death, King Śuddodhana has no further recourse to reasoned argument. Rather, as transpires in tomorrow's verse, in order to secure the end he has in mind, he does what human beings – whether in India, in China, in Japan, in France or in England – have always done through our millions of years of evolution: he resorts to direct means.

If the king, however, had been more in touch with his reason, I think he might have questioned exactly what the prince meant by dharmāya (in service of dharma, for dharma's sake) and by svārtham (“my own thing”).

That is to say, a contrarian reading of the prince's words might question whether the prince is contrasting service of dharma with a personal agenda; and, if the prince is drawing such a distinction, is it a valid distinction to make?

Previous translations seem to have taken svārtham as synonymous with the prince's recently stated goal of pari-nirvāṇa. Hence EHJ: “[before I attain] my goal”; PO: “[without reaching] my goal.” (EBC put svārtham into the plural with “my objects [unattained].”

But another way of reading today's verse is that the prince's conception of dharma, at this stage, is an ascetic one. That being so, the prince assumes that pursuit of an ascetic dharma must naturally involve self-denial, including the giving up of self-interest or personal agenda or doing of one's own thing (svārtham).

The counter-argument, then, which the king fails to make but which Aśvaghoṣa may wish us to consider, is that service of dharma should ultimately be nothing other than the natural and spontaneous doing of one's own thing.

Hence Aśvaghoṣa, in this instance not putting words in the Buddha's mouth but speaking his own mind, describes the enlightened Nanda as follows:
Having attained to the seat of arhathood, he was worthy of being served. Without ambition, without partiality, without expectation; / Without fear, sorrow, pride, or passion; while being nothing but himself, he seemed in his constancy to be different. // SN17.61 //
And hence again Aśvaghoṣa writes of dharma not as a distant object to be desired, aspired to, and worked towards in a spirit of service, but as something more amenable to being embraced here and now:
When devotion springs from an agenda or desire, there it remains rooted; / But when a person has love and devotion for dharma (dharmānvayo yasya tu bhakti-rāgaḥ) , that person is steeped to the core in tranquillity. // SN18.4 //
In conclusion, I think the kind of love of dharma that Aśvaghoṣa has in mind when he writes of bhakti-rāgaḥ is not the kind of emotion that the prince is now feeling for what he calls “dharma” – which may be an ascetic dharma that he will eventually reject; or which may be the dharma of sitting that he has yet fully to make into his own thing but which he will in due course, under the bodhi tree, make fully into the doing, and the non-doing, of his own thing.

jagataḥ (gen. sg.): n. that which moves or is alive ; n. the world , esp. this world , earth
ca: and
yathā: ind. as, since
yadā [EHJ]: ind. when, since
dhruvaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. fixed , firm , immovable , unchangeable , constant , lasting , permanent , eternal
viyogaḥ (nom. sg.): m. disjunction , separation (esp. of lovers) , loss or absence

na: not
tu: but
nanu: ind. not , not at all , never ; (interr.) not? is it not? = none ; (hence often = ) certainly , surely , indeed , no doubt (esp. in questions amounting to an affirmation)
dharmāya (dat. sg.): m. dharma; that which is established or firm , steadfast decree , statute , ordinance , law
varam (nom. sg. m.) : mfn. better , preferable
svayam: ind. myself ; of or by one's self spontaneously , voluntarily , of one's own accord
viyogaḥ (nom. sg.): m. disjunction , separation (esp. of lovers) , loss or absence

avaśam: ind. not having one's own free will , doing something against one's desire or unwillingly
nanu: ind. not , not at all , never ; (interr.) not? is it not? = none ; (hence often = ) certainly , surely , indeed , no doubt (esp. in questions amounting to an affirmation)
na: not
tu: but
viprayojayet = 3rd pers. sg. causative optative vi-pra- √ yuj: to cause to be separated
mām (acc. sg. m.): me

akṛta-svārtham (acc. sg. m.): my personal aim not achieved ; self-interest not accomplished
akṛta: mfn. undone ; not made, not completed
svārtha: m. one's own affair or cause , personal matter or advantage , self-interest , one's own aim or object
atṛptam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. unsatisfied , insatiable , eager
eva: (emphatic)
mṛtyuḥ (nom. sg.): m. death, dying

分析爲常理 孰能不聽求 
脱當自磨滅 不如以法離
若不以法離 死至孰能持 

No comments: