Thursday, June 20, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.8: Action Gets the Marrow

tat-prīto 'smi tavānena mahā-bhāgena karmaṇā |
dṛśyate mayi bhāvo 'yaṁ phalebhyo 'pi parāṅ-mukhe || 6.8

Therefore I am gladdened

By this most magnificent action of yours.

This attitude towards me is conspicuous,
[Or this transformation into me is realized,]

Turned away while I am from rewards.

Today's verse is another verse to be wrestled with long and hard. Its difficulty, centred on the many meanings of the word bhāva, is indicated by my resort to square brackets.

Today's verse is ostensibly all about how a devoted servant thinks and feels towards his master. On the surface, then, the key word in today's verse is bhāva, and bhāva means “feeling” (EBC/EHJ) or “love” (PO). 

Below the surface, though, the key words in today's verse are really tavānena mahā-bhāgena karmaṇā, “this most magnificent action of yours.” Because what today's verse is really all about is that which transcends thinking and feeling, and love and hate, which is namely most magnificent action.

In the 3rd pāda, then, mayi bhāvaḥ ostensibly means “a feeling (of love or affection) towards me,” but if we follow the hidden meaning in which action is to the fore mayi bhāvaḥ suggests at least two other readings.

First, bhāva can mean “manner of acting” or “disposition,” in which case mayi bhāvaḥ can be understood to mean nothing to so emotional or attached as a servant's feeling of love for the master to whom he is devoted; on the contrary, if we understand bhaktimān (“being devoted”) in yesterday's verse to express devotion not to a person but to the principle of action itself, then mayi bhāvo' yam (“this attitude towards me” or “this manner of acting towards me”) suggests the manner of action of one who is learning to devote himself just to his own action, without clinging to, or trying to curry favour with, or win brownie points from, his teacher/master.

Second, and more profoundly removed from the ostensible reading, since bhāva with the locative can mean “turning into,” mayi bhāvaḥ can be understood as a master describing a servant's action of just serving as “turning into me.” The 3rd pāda in that case means something like “This transformation into me becomes visible” or “This transformation into me is realized.”

In that case, the 3rd pāda can be read as pre-saging Bodhidharma's famous words to four successors, “You have got my skin,” “You have got my flesh,” “You have got my bones,” and “You have got my marrow.”

On a textual note, I have retained EBC's Sanskrit, which is as per the old Nepalese manuscript except with yas at the end of the 3rd pāda amended to 'yaṁ. In these original versions of the text the 3rd pāda begins with dṛśyate (EBC: “is seen”) which I have understood to mean “is conspicuous” or “is realized.” And the verse ends with parāṅ-mukhe (loc. sg.) agreeing with mayi (hence EBC: “I am regardless...”):
“I am pleased with this noble action of thine; this feeling is seen towards me, even though I am regardless of conferring rewards.” (EBC)
EHJ changed dṛśyate in the 3rd pāda to yasya te, and changed parāṅ-mukhe in the 4th pāda to parāṅ-mukhaḥ, which then agrees not with mayi (towards/into me) but with bhavāh (feeling or love). Hence:
“Therefore I am well-pleased with this your noble action in displaying towards me this feeling, which takes no count even of possible rewards.” (EHJ)
“I am delighted, therefore, at this lofty deed of yours; This love of yours toward me, has no regard for rewards.” (PO)
With EHJ's amendments, then, the emphasis undergoes a significant lovey-dovey shift, bringing to mind again the analogy of the husband on Valentine's Day sweet-talking his neglected but loving wife.

Whereas the thrust of the original text, as I read it, is to subvert just such sentimentality and point in the direction of what gets the marrow, after an arm has been cut off, which is action itself.

Finally, if in the 4th pāda we accept the parāṅ-mukhe of the original text, the implicit suggestion might be as per the chapter of Shobogenzo called Kuyo-shobutsu, in which Dogen considers the whole question of having and not having an agenda in serving buddhas.

The point might be, to spell it out, that in the action of serving buddhas, buddha is totally free of any reward-seeking agenda. But for the servant engaged in the lengthy process of learning what it means to serve buddha, how is it? 

In a theory like that of pure land Buddhism, when we light incense, chant ineffectual chants (“May all beings be well.”... “May all beings be well”...), ring bells, and blow whistles, our mind in serving buddhas is not tainted by any consideration of result or reward.

But how is it really, in practice?

Speaking for myself, there are moments, I must admit, when I hope the heroic nature of my lonesome efforts will some day be recognized (and all the blots will be magically erased from the karmic copybook). Nothing too grand, you understand, just a few craggy lines on some old bit of rock somewhere...

tad: ind. so, therefore
prītaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. pleased or delighted or satisfied with , joyful at , glad of (with instr. loc. gen. , or ifc.)
asmi = 1st pers. sg. as: to be
tava (gen. sg.): of yours
anena (inst. sg. n.): this

mahā-bhāgena (inst. sg. n.); mfn. one to whom a great portion or lot has fallen , highly fortunate , eminent in the highest degree , illustrious , highly distinguished (mostly of persons and frequently in address) ; virtuous in a high degree , pure , holy
bhāga: m. ( √ bhaj) a part , portion , share , allotment , inheritance (in Ved. also = lot , esp. fortunate lot , good fortune , luck , destiny)
√ bhaj: to divide , distribute , allot or apportion to (dat. or gen.) , share with (instr.) ; (A1.) to grant , bestow , furnish , supply ;
karmaṇā (inst. sg.): n. act , action , performance , business

dṛśyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive dṛś: to be seen , become visible , appear ; to be shown or manifested , appear as (iva) , prove
yasya [EHJ] (gen. sg.): of which
te [EHJ] (gen. sg.): of you
mayi (loc. sg.): to me
bhāvaḥ (nom. sg.): m. being; turning or transition into (loc. or comp.) ; manner of being , nature , temperament , character ; manner of acting , conduct , behaviour ; any state of mind or body , way of thinking or feeling , sentiment , opinion , disposition , intention ; love , affection , attachment ; the seat of the feelings or affections , heart , soul , mind
yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): [relative pronoun] which, that
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this , this here , referring to something near the speaker

phalebhyaḥ (abl./dat. pl.): n. fruit (met.) , consequence , effect , result , retribution (good or bad) , gain or loss , reward or punishment , advantage or disadvantage
api: even
parāṅ-mukhe (loc. sg. m.): mfn. having the face turned away or averted , turning the back upon ; averse from , hostile to , regardless of , shunning
parāṅ-mukhaḥ [EHJ] (nom. sg. m.): ibid

捐棄世榮利 進歩隨我來
何人不向利 無利親戚離

汝今空隨我 不求現世報 
[Conflated with next verse]

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