Saturday, May 25, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.71: Transcending Secular Law

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
pratighya tataḥ sa bhartur-ājñāṁ viditārtho 'pi narendra-śāsanasya |
manasīva pareṇa codyamānas-tura-gasyānayane matiṁ cakāra || 5.71

He acquiesced, on those grounds, in his master's wisdom 

 –  Though he knew the meaning of a king's command  

And he made the decision,
as if his mind were being moved by another,

To bring the horse.

Was my tirade against Islaam  yesterday an example of the mirror principle, whereby I project onto “the other” some faulty tendency that I have failed to eliminate in myself?

If the cap fits, so the saying goes, wear it. On reflection, I have been known to run the odd red traffic light in situations where it seemed to me to be appropriate to do so, like wanting to turn left at a junction when riding a motor bike on deserted streets in the middle of the night. Not to mention other more public instances of breaking generally accepted rules and conventions.

And when you have dug yourself into a hole, so another saying goes, stop digging. Unless the task you have set yourself is to keep on digging....

The first seam to be mined in today's verse appears on the surface as “accepting his lord's command” (EBC) or “the groom accepted his lord's bidding” (EHJ) or “he acceded to his master's command” (PO). These are translations of the verb pratigṛhya (accepting), and of its object bhartur-ājñām which on the surface means the command of a lord or master but which really might be intended to suggest the Buddha's wisdom.

Aśvaghoṣa also plays on the ambiguity of ājñā in the title of the concluding canto of Saundara-nanda, his epic story of Beautiful Joy. The title of that canto is ājñā-vyākaraṇaḥ, which I struggled to translate to my own satisfaction, due to the multiple possible meanings of ājñā, including: 1. deep knowledge, knowledge of liberation, 2. order, command, or 3. authority, unlimited power. Originally, in any event, ājñā is from the root √jñā, to know, and so the word suggests something to do with knowing or wisdom. The canto title I went with in the end, in the effort to retain some of the ambiguity of the original, was “Knowing Affirmation.” But “Revelation of Deep Insight” or “Revelation of the [Buddha's] Wisdom” might be translations of ājñā-vyākaraṇaḥ that better convey the deeper meaning.

Speaking of canto titles, the title of Canto 6 in Buddha-carita, the present epic tale of Awakened Action, is chandaka-nivartanaḥ, “The Turning Back of Chandaka.” Ostensibly this describes the prince's turning back of Chandaka, but Aśvaghoṣa's real agenda might be to examine Chandaka's service of his master as an example of the practice of turning back. The point of the Canto might really be, below the surface, to ask: what kind of turning back does serving a true master involve? The 1st pāda of today's verse, as I read it, represents a first step in posing that question. At the same time, it might contain the ultimate answer to that question, and the answer might be pratigṛhya bhartur-ājñām, acquiescing in the master's wisdom.

Read in that light, tataḥ in the 1st pāda, which ostensibly means “subsequent to that” or “then” might rather be intended to mean “consequent to that” or “on those grounds” – in which case, the grounds in question are those words expressing the truth of spontaneous flow that have just flowed spontaneously out of the prince's mouth. Those words of the young prince might be intended as a metaphor for the words fitted to actions by which a true master announces himself as a true master.

The point the 2nd pāda is intended to make, then, might be the point about which Muslims do not need any convincing, namely “Whatever the implications, do not let yourself be bossed about by any old person in authority, and do not always feel obliged to obey secular roles or to follow secular convention, but submit only to that wisdom which is the wisdom of a master who you have ascertained to be a true master.”

Atrocities like the recent murder in Woolwich occur when ignorant, ill-educated people, failing to recognize their own human fallibility, too readily assume that they know what the wisdom of their true master is, without having fully acquiesced in that wisdom with their whole bodies and minds. The anger that they feel, therefore, they do not recognize as a fault in themselves, but they feel it to be righteous anger, and act upon it as such.

If I angrily assert the view that the black Muslim other, before seeking to assert his own views on infidels, ought to study for himself what it means to acquiesce in his master's wisdom, what am I getting my knickers in such a twist about? What am I really saying, and to who? 

The mirror principle, so far, remains unbroken. 

When Aśvaghoṣa describes Chandaka as viditārthaḥ, “knowing the meaning/implications,” I think he is suggesting that Chandaka knew what it meant to disobey the king. Śāsana (from the root √ śās, to punish) means “command” or “ruling” but before that it means “punishment.” And Aśvaghoṣa's ancient Indian audience would have understood, without him having to spell it out, that the punishment for disobeying the king might be a lot more serious than three points on one's driving license.

The 3rd pāda, as I read it, again brings us back to the truth of spontaneous flow. The prince, as described in yesterday's verse, has been spontaneously expressing the truth of spontaneous flow, and Chandaka in today's verse feels himself being moved in that flow.

On that basis, acquiescing in the master's wisdom, not doing any wrong but allowing his mind to be cleansed in the waters of spontaneous flow, Chandaka participates in a mysterious and miraculous event: matim cakāra, he makes a decision.

Moreover, it was not the kind of decision one makes at 6.30 am to get out of bed, before eventually struggling to one's feet at 7.30. And it was not the kind of decision one makes at 10.30 pm to sit for 30 minutes before giving up and going to bed at 10.45. It was not the kind of decision I made two hours ago to keep this comment short, remembering that less is often more. 

I think Chandaka's decision was more akin to the decision I made five years ago to translate Aśvaghoṣa's writings at the rate of one verse per day. So far so good or so far so bad I don't know. But so far so far.

And so far my conclusion is this:

If pratigṛhya bhartur-ājñām, acquiescing in the Buddha's wisdom,
is like a spontaneous flow of H20,
then kāñcanam-āsanam, golden sitting,
might be like a spontaneous flow of water.

pratigṛhya = abs. prati- √ grah: to take hold of , grasp , seize ; to take (as a present or into possession) , appropriate , receive , accept ; to assent to , acquiesce in , approve
tataḥ: ind. then; from that , in consequence of that , for that reason , consequently
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
bhartuḥ (gen. sg.): m a bearer; a preserver , protector , maintainer , chief , lord , master
ājñām (acc. sg.): f. order , command

viditārthaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the purport being known to him
vidita: mfn. known , understood , learnt , perceived
artha: m. aim , purpose, motive ; sense, meaning
api: even, though
narendra-śāsanasya (gen. sg. n.): the king's decree ; punishment of a lord of men
narendra: m. m. " man-lord " , king
śāsana: n. punishment , chastisement , correction ; n. an order , command , edict , enactment , decree , direction

manasi (loc. sg.): n. mind
iva: like, as if
pareṇa (inst. sg.): m. another (different from one's self) , a foreigner , enemy , foe , adversary
codyamānaḥ = nom. sg. m. causative passive part. cud: to impel , incite , cause to move quickly , accelerate ; to inspire , excite , animate ; to urge on

tura-gasya (gen. sg.): m. " going quickly " , a horse
ā-nayane (loc. sg.): n. bringing , leading near
matim cakāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. matim √ kṛ: to set the heart on , make up one's mind , resolve , determine

車匿内思惟 應奉太子教
脱令父王知 復應深罪責 
諸天加神力 不覺牽馬來 


jiblet said...

Hi Mike,

I considered not bothering you with this very trivial correction, but in the end decided to comply with a previous directive: to say whatever might need saying in full view - to publish and be damned.

In the vocabulary you have 'manasī (loc. sg.)'. That should be manasi. As you know.

All the best,

Mike Cross said...

Thanks Malcolm.