Monday, July 1, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.19: Something to Be Celebrated

ayaṁ ca kila pūrveṣām-asmākaṁ niścayaḥ sthiraḥ |
iti dāyādya-bhūtena na śocyo 'smi pathā vrajan || 6.19

And this, assuredly,

Was the firm resolve of our forebears! 

Going, in this spirit, by a path akin to an inheritance,

I am not to be sorrowed after.

Yesterday I prepared a comment on today's verse which was po-faced bordering on pious.

I explained that the firm resolve to which the prince is referring is the resolve to leave behind family life and all its sorrows, and the path which is akin to an inheritance is the path of entry into the ascetic wood in pursuit of an end to aging and death.

I recalled how the king showed his reverence for this tradition in BC Canto 1 in his deference to Asita, that sage who was devoted to sitting (taṁ munim-āsana-stham; BC1.52).

I sanctimoniously said that the Buddha's teaching, which each of us is charged with working out for himself or herself through our own individual yoga-practice, remains the Buddha's teaching, as received by the Buddha in a line of seven ancient Buddhas.

I opined that “going/proceeding by a path akin to an inheritance” (dāyādya-bhūtena patha vrajan) has a sense about it of forward movement into the future, since vraj means to go or proceed, and at the same time an inheritance means a gift whose receipt involves a turning back to face the past.

Thus I burbled on in a spirit of devout traditionalism, taking the iti at the beginning of the 3rd pāda to mean something like “on these ever-so-worthy grounds” or “in light of this resolute tradition.”

It was not until I sat this morning, worried for a good few minutes about the price of gold, and then finally turned the light of attention around upon my miserable self, that I even began to suspect that Aśvaghoṣa's wickedly ironic sense of humour might be lurking in the background to today's verse.

The first clue to such irony might be kila, which on the surface is emphatic (“assuredly”) but is also used, in the sense of “so they said” or “so they assured us.” In the latter sense, then, kila might be intended to cause us to stop and think – wait a minute, those ancient royal seers spoke of firm resolve, but how were they actually in their conduct? 

As is amply documented in SN Canto 7 and again in BC Canto 4, those royal seers, to a man, when faced with the stimulus of a beautiful nymph, totally failed (to borrow a phrase from an old American friend of mine) to keep their peckers in their pants. So much for firm resolve!

If the first two pādas are understood like this, then iti (“in this spirit”) might mean in the spirit of politely subverting the purported heroism of the ancient royal seers who went to live lives of celibate asceticism in the forest, with an iron resolve that was liable, at the drop of a hat, to give way to love at first sight.

On the surface, then, the prince is re-assuring the king that, since he is following a heroic royal tradition of asceticism, on those devout grounds the king is not to mourn him. But below the surface what Aśvaghoṣa is suggesting, as I in a better moment hear him, is the need to stay on one's toes at every moment and keep a sense of humour – lest one descends, altogether and one after another, into dead-eyed submission, po-faced self-righteousness, stiff-necked traditionalism, breathlessly grim determination, and all the rest of it.

ayam (nom. sg. m.): this
ca: and
kila: ind. (a particle of asseveration or emphasis) indeed , verily , assuredly ; " so said "
pūrveṣām = gen. pl. pūrva: m. an ancestor , forefather (pl. the ancients , ancestors)

asmākam (gen. pl.): our
niścayaḥ (nom. sg.): m. inquiry , ascertainment , fixed opinion , conviction , certainty , positiveness ; resolution , resolve fixed intention , design , purpose , aim
sthiraḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. firm , hard , solid , compact , strong ; fixed, still, calm ; constant , steadfast , resolute , persevering

iti: thus, in this way
dāyāda-bhūtena (inst. sg.): by one who is [or is like] an heir / son
dāyāda: m. receiver of inheritance , heir ; a son or distant descendant or kinsman
bhūta: (ifc.) being or being like anything , consisting of , mixed or joined with
dāyādya-bhūtena [EHJ] (inst. sg.): akin to an inheritance
dāyādya: n. inheritance
dāya: m. share , portion , inheritance

na: not
śocyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. to be sorrowed after, morned
asmi = 1st pers. sg. as: to be
yathā: ind. in which way, as
pathā [EBC/EHJ] = inst. sg. pathin: m. a way , path , road , course (pathānena, "in this way or manner")
vrajan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. vraj: to go , walk , proceed , travel , wander , move

乃祖諸勝王 堅固志不移
今我襲餘財 唯法捨非宜 

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