Saturday, June 8, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.85: Joyful Yakṣas, Expectant Gods

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑⏑⏑−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−    Puṣpitāgrā
iti vacanam-idaṁ niśamya tasya draviṇa-pateḥ pariṣad-gaṇā nananduḥ | 5.85
pramudita-manasaś-ca deva-saṅghā vyavasita-pāraṇam-āśaśaṁsire 'smai ||

Having heard this asseveration of his,

The yakṣa cohorts sitting around Kubera, 
Lord of Wealth, rejoiced;

And jubilant sanghas of gods in heaven

Conveyed to him their expectation 
that he must see his resolution through.

Being born on earth, some say, is a chance to prepare for the perfect fulfillment of eternal life in heaven.

But I say is it hell.

No, the truth that buddhas realize is that living and dying totally take place on this earth, and this earth is for living and dying.

Thus, in today's verse, as I read it, following on from yesterday's verse, Aśvaghoṣa is asking me, and asking you: “Have you got to the bottom of living and dying on this earth yet, or not?”

Even if the answer is negative, at least to have understood the question allows us to suspect that the ambiguity of the 4th pāda of today's verse might conceal a certain irony.

Understanding the question means, primarily, sitting on the earth and investigating what it might be to sit truly upright on the earth, notwithstanding the faulty conceptions and faulty sensory appreciation that we human beings are ever liable to bring to that task.

No professor of Sanskrit who has translated today's verse hitherto, thinking Buddhism to be a spiritual religion wherein the wishes, predictions and pronouncements of gods matter more than two earthly shits, has supposed any of this, even in a dream; and so each has translated the 4th pāda in his own way, but none has caught Aśvaghoṣa's irony at all. Hence:
Having heard this his utterance, the troops of the court of the Lord of wealth rejoiced; and the hosts of the gods, triumphing, wished him a successful accomplishment of his purpose. [EBC]
Hearing his words, the troops of the court of the Lord of Wealth rejoiced, and the hosts of gods with joyful minds foretold the fulfillment of his resolve. [EHJ]
Hearing these words of his, the retinue of the court of the Lord of Wealth rejoiced, and hosts of deities, their minds filled with joy, announced to him the success of his vow. [PO]
On the surface, then, if no irony is read into today's verse, it is just the kind of guff that gladdens the hearts of those religious types who like to sit around singing and listening to boring and ineffectual 'metta' chants about all beings equally – including troops of Kubera's court and heavenly deities – being well.

But Aśvaghoṣa's intention, as I read it, is not to afford yakṣas and gods equal status. Nor is it to esteem gods as more valuable than yakṣas. On the contrary, I think the hidden irony is to suggest that all earthy beings like yakṣas are our friends when we sit, whereas gods in heaven might be a waste of space.

Everything I write on this blog I write on the basis of sitting with my ischial tuberosities on a round black cushion and my knees on a sitting platform, or on the floor, or on the ground, or on the earth. Gods in heaven, to put it bluntly, are sod all use to me in this practice. But the earth, 1g, is the fundamental basis on which I sit. On that basis, I regard as my friends, in good times and in hard times, the earthy yakṣas who are the cohorts of the Lord of Wealth. Divine expectations, conversely, might be the enemy. 

Somebody wrote a book on the teachings of Aśvaghoṣa's grandson Nāgārjuna, titled "Between Heaven and Earth." It makes me think that for my prospective book on Aśvaghoṣa, whose putative title is Mining Aśvaghoṣa's Gold, I might like to add a subtitle along the lines of "Sitting on One's Arse and Knees on Planet Earth, and to Hell with Heaven." 

This is how I see it. Not affirmation of heaven and earth. Negation of heaven. Affirmation of earth. Whether Aśvaghoṣa also saw it in these dualistic terms I don't know. I strongly suspect that his eyes were not as clouded with various random illusory thoughts, delusory feelings, bitter memories, and miscellaneous regrets, as my eyes often are. But I don't know.

What I do notice is that the collective noun that Aśvaghoṣa uses in the first half of today's verse for yakṣa cohorts is pariṣad-gaṇāḥ, and the -ṣad of pariṣad is from the root √sad, to sit.

Conversely the collective noun that Aśvaghoṣa uses for gods in heaven is that word which, as I have pointed out many times before, Aśvaghoṣa studiously avoids using in its conventional religious “Buddhist” context – and that word is saṅgha.

The price of gold goes up....

The price of gold goes down...

For a sangha of jubilant religious celibates (sexual abuse of children notwithstanding) it is business as usual...

May all the world be saved, on a mass unconscious basis ...

Speaking personally, on an individual basis, this is a photo of yours truly in the summer of 1983, shortly before I returned to Japan, to the flat in Tokyo I had been sharing with my girlfriend of three years. When I saw the photo recently, I was struck by how loose I looked, in those distant days before I started suffering from insomnia. 

My girlfriend wanted to stay in England and so I, the dream hero, saw no choice but to return to Tokyo on my heroic lonesome, in order to devote my life to serving a Zen Patriarch I had located by the name of Gudo Nishijima. I got as far as Karachi, where my flight to Japan made an unscheduled overnight stop, before forgetting about my girlfriend and playing away. Some romantic hero. She, in turn, was soon reciprocating in London with my best friend, a stimulus in response to which my sitting, which had already become stiffer than it ought to have been under Gudo's guiding influence, stiffened to the nth degree. I might not be exaggerating if I said that I totally lost my mojo. And since then – though family life has been a blessing, as have summers in France, as have some Alexander moments  it has basically been downhill all the way. The playing out of karma in three times. This guy knows what I am talking about...

iti: thus
vacanam (acc. sg.): n. the act of speaking , utterance ; n. statement , declaration , express mention
idam (acc. sg. n.): this
niśamya = abs ni- √ śam: to pereive, hear, learn
tasya (gen. sg.): his

draviṇa-pateḥ (gen. sg.): 'the lord of wealth' name of kubera, chief of the yakṣas
draviṇa: n. movable property (as opp. to house and field) , substance , goods (m. pl. BhP. v , 14 , 12), wealth , money
pati: a master , owner , possessor , lord , ruler , sovereign
pariṣad-gaṇāḥ (nom. pl. m.): cohorts, groups of sitting companions
pari-ṣad: f. an assembly , meeting , group , circle , audience , council
pari-ṣad: (√sad) to sit round , besiege , beset
gaṇa: m. a flock , troop , multitude , number , tribe
nananduḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. nand: to rejoice , delight , to be pleased or satisfied with , be glad of

pramudita-manasaḥ (nom. pl. m.): with delighted minds
pramudita: mfn. delighted , pleased , glad ; n. gladness , gaiety
ca: and
deva-saṅghāḥ (nom. pl. m.) hosts of gods ; divine sanghas 
deva: mfn. heavenly , divine (also said of terrestrial things of high excellence); m. a deity, god ; m. (pl. the gods as the heavenly or shining ones) 

vyavasita-pāraṇam (acc. sg.): absolute accomplishing ; a finished outcome ; fulfillment of his resolution 
vy-avasita: mfn. finished , ended , done ; decided , determined , resolved ; settled , ascertained , known (n. impers.) , convinced or sure of anything (with samyak , " one who has ascertained what is right " ; with acc. , " one who has acknowledged anything as true "); energetic , persevering , making effort or exertion ; n. resolution , determination
vy-ava- √ so: to settle down or dwell separately ; to determine , resolve , decide
pāraṇa: mfn. bringing over , delivering ; n. carrying through , accomplishing , fulfilling ; n. conclusion (esp. of a fast ); n. eating and drinking after a fast , breakfast ; n. satisfaction , pleasure , enjoyment ; n. completeness , the full text
√pṛ: to bring over or to (acc.) , bring out of , deliver from (abl.) , rescue , save , protect , escort , further , promote ; [causative] to get over , overcome , bring to an end
√pṝ: to fill (A1. " one's self ") ; to fill with air , blow into (acc.) ; to sate , cherish , nourish , bring up ; to ask ; to tell , speak , recite ; to announce
āśaśaṁsire = 3rd pers. pl. perf. ā- √ śaṁs: to hope for , expect ; to wish to attain , desire
asmai (dat. sg.): to/for him 

一切諸天衆 虚空龍鬼神
隨喜稱善哉 唯此眞諦言  

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