Wednesday, June 26, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.14: Bowing as Turning Back

anena maṇinā chanda praṇamya bahuśo npaḥ |
vijñāpyo 'mukta-viśrambhaṁ saṁtāpa-vinivttaye || 6.14

“Using this pearl, Chanda,

Bow down repeatedly before the protector of men,

And, without loosening your grip on fearlessness, 
communicate with him

So that the fires of anguish 
may be turned back and extinguished –


Using this shining pearl,

Taking possession of the whole head

With hands, feet, arms, legs, and back, back, turning back,

Again and again ... but avoiding meaningless repetition... slowly bowing forward.

In the first two pādas of today's verse, the ostensible meaning of anena maṇinā praṇamya bahuśo nṛpaḥ is offering/paying to the king repeated obeisance/homage with the jewel/pearl.

Hence “By thee with this jewel, O Chaṁda, having offered him repeated obeisance, the king,..” (EBC); “With this jewel, Chanda, you must make repeated obeisance to the king,...” (EHJ); “With this gem, Chanda, you must pay repeated homage to the king,...” (PO).

But if we follow the subtext identified yesterday in which the shining pearl is a metaphor for head/consciousness, then praṇamya is better understood not so much as the paying of obeisance or homage as the physical/developmental activity of bowing down to the ground.

In that case, as many times before, nṛ-paḥ “protector of men,” which ostensibly means King Śuddodhana, might be intended below the surface to suggest the Buddha.

In bowing before the King of Dharma, how should we be? Should we bow down to the protector of men in religious awe, like a God-fearing Christian kneeling before the putative King of Kings? The 3rd pāda, as I read it, suggests not.

I think amukta-viśrambham is another one of those paradoxical compounds (like ānṛśaṁsa-cikīrṣayā, “wanting to do prevention of harm,” in BC6.12) that Aśvaghoṣa employs to cause us to engage the grey matter.

A-mukta means “not loosed” or “without letting go” or “without losing hold”; and vi-śrambha means 1. loosening, relaxation; 2. confidence, trust; and 3. absence of restraint, familiarity.

Amukta-viśrambham might therefore literally be translated as “without loosening your grip on loosening” or “without letting go of coming undone.”

As such it might be a negative equivalent of “think this state of not-thinking.”

The prince is asking Chandaka not to stiffen up in fear but rather to abide in that loose, relaxed, and uninhibited state which is confidence or fearlessness – but in so asking, paradoxically, the prince speaks of a-mukta, not letting go of it.

How is a bloke to think not-thinking? 


How is a bloke not to loosen his grip on fearlessness? 

It sounds like the kind of problem that an Alexander teacher encounters in using his or her hands to convey a lengthening and widening direction to a pupil while taking the pupil into movement. 

How is a bloke not to loosen his grip on fearlessness? 

The answer in words might be "non-doing." 

But it is perfectly possible to know the answer in words, while stiffening one's wrists like anything. 

The final word of today's verse, vinivṛttaye, is, like the nivartanaḥ of the Canto title, from the root √vṛt, to turn. So just as chandraka-nivartanaḥ means “The Turning Back of Chandaka” or even “Turning Back with Chandaka,” saṁtāpa-vinivṛttaye means “for the turning back of anguish” or “for turning back from anguish.”

Ostensibly, then, saṁtāpa-vinivṛttaye means “so that he [the king] will be turned back from anguish” or “so that his anguish will be extinguished.” But below the surface saṁtāpa-vinivṛttaye might also mean “so that you, Chanda, turn back from anguish” and “so that all beings are turned back from anguish.”

“So that the fires of anguish may be turned back and extinguished” is my best effort at a translation that allows the ostensible meaning and the hidden meanings, and which also includes the allusion to the “Turning Back” of the Canto title – remembering that the Buddha exhorted Nanda to know the path as a turning back (nivartakaṃ cāpy-avagaccha mārgam).
Comprehend, therefore, that suffering is doing; witness the faults impelling it forward; / Realise its stopping as non-doing; and know the path as a turning back (nivartakaṃ). // SN16.42 //
In conclusion, then, I read today's verse as suggesting that bowing can be a powerful means of knowing the path as a turning back. But bowing is not necessarily so effective. If we bow with neck stiffened and head pulled back, for example, in a state of grovelling fear, or solicitous prayer, bowing might not be such an effective means of turning back or of communicating with a protector of men. It might all depend on how one takes into one's possession and uses one's own shining pearl.

anena (inst. sg. m.): this
maṇinā (inst. sg.): m. a jewel , gem , pearl (also fig.) , any ornament or amulet , globule , crystal
chanda (voc.): Chanda!

praṇamya = abs. pra √nam: to bend or bow down before (often with mūrdhnā , śirasā &c ) , make obeisance to (dat gen. loc. or acc.)
bahuśaḥ: ind. manifoldly , repeatedly , much , often
nṛpaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the guardian/protector of men, the king

vijñāpyaḥ = vi-jñāpanīyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. to be made known , to be communicated ; to be (respectfully) informed or apprised
a-mukta-viśrambham (acc. sg. n.): without losing hold of loosening [EBC: with his loving confidence still unshaken; EHJ: in full confidence; PO: without being diffident]
a-mukta: mfn. not loosed , not let go , not liberated from [birth and death]
viśrambha: m. slackening , loosening , relaxation (of the organs of utterance) , cessation ; trust , confidence in (loc. gen. , or comp.) ; absence of restraint , familiarity , intimacy ; °bhaṁ √ kṛ with gen. , " to win the confidence of "
vi- √śrambh: , to confide , be confident , trust in or rely on (loc.) ; Caus. vi-śrambhayati , to relax , loosen , untie
√śrambh: to be careless or negligent ; to trust , confide

saṁtāpa-vinivṛttaye (dat. sg.): for the cessation of sorrow
saṁtāpa: m. becoming very hot , great or burning heat , glow , fire ; affliction , pain , sorrow , anguish , distress
vinivṛtti: f. cessation , coming to an end ; omission , discontinuance ; cessation of work, inactivity, Bcar.
vi-ni-√vṛt : to turn back , return ; to turn away , desist or cease from (abl.) ; to cease , end , disappear ; to be extinguished (as fire)
vi-nivartana: n. turning back , return ; coming to an end , cessation

車匿持此珠 還歸父王所
持珠禮王足 以表我虔心
爲我啓請王 願捨愛戀情


jiblet said...

Hi Mike,

At the risk of appearing stupid...

Why are nṛpaḥ and vijñāpyaḥ/vi-jñāpanīyaḥ (presumably the causative gerundive of vi-jñā, and, I suppose, the main verb required by the absolutive praṇamya if that modifier is to be left undangling[?]) nominative, not accusative - isn't the king the object of Chanda's praṇamya?

And why is a-mukta-viśrambhaṁ accusative?

What's agreeing with what and why?

Mike Cross said...

Hi Malcolm,

Good question. I took nṛpaḥ and vijñāpyaḥ both to be nominative in the sense that the prince is saying that the king (nom.) is to be communicated with (nom.).

As you point out the king is not accusative and therefore shouldn't necessarily be understood to be the object of praṇamya. Though counter-intuitive, this fits the reading that what is being emphasized is bowing itself as an action in itself (as opposed to the paying of homage to an accusative object).


“Using this pearl, Chanda, bow down repeatedly; and the protector of men,/ Without loosening of grips on fearlessness, is to be communicated with so that the fires of anguish may be turned back and extinguished."

The construction does look unusual. Was this intentional on Aśvaghoṣa's part? An encouragement for us to ask the kind of question we are now asking?

H.I. may be able to shed further light, if and when he happens by.

I understood a-mukta-viśrambhaṁ, as per Teach Yourself Sanskrit pp.64:

Sanskrit adjectives do not have a termination exclusively reserved for adverbial usage. Instead the acc. sg. n. (acting as an 'internal accusative') may do duty.

śīghram calati [he moves a swift (moving):] he moves swiftly.

jiblet said...

I took nṛpaḥ and vijñāpyaḥ both to be nominative in the sense that the prince is saying that the king (nom.) is to be communicated with (nom.).

Yes, for that reason I think it must be right that nṛpaḥ and vijñāpyaḥ should agree.

Your reading of a-mukta-viśrambhaṁ as an 'internal accusative' adverbial phrase makes sense.

I would be interested to hear what H.I or anyone else has to say about the use of the absolutive in this verse.