Friday, July 5, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.23: With Words Like These & Otherwise

evam-ādi tvayā saumya vijñāpyo vasudhādhipaḥ |
prayatethās-tathā caiva yathā māṁ na smared-api || 6.23

With words like these and otherwise, my gentle friend,

You are to commune with a ruler of the wealth-giving earth;

And may you endeavour further,

So that he is not mindful of me at all.

In today's verse a servant is being exhorted to commune with a king,  evam-ādi, thus and otherwise.

I read this is a metaphor, in which the servant who is being addressed as saumya (my friend) is me the reader. In that case, evam (thus / by such means / with such [words]) refers to words like these words of Aśvaghoṣa's that we are studying; and adī (otherwise / by other means) means non-verbally – e.g. by turning back from words and miscellaneous worries and communing with a king of dharma through acts like sitting.

The compound vasudhādhipaḥ (vasu-dha “wealth-giver” = the earth + adhi-pa “over-guarder” = ruler), as befits an expression in the second of four pādas, means a king as a human being with real power on the real earth.

Thus prompted to think in four phases, we can read the 1st pāda as relating to verbal and non-verbal means, the 2nd pāda as relating to material powerthe 3rd pāda as speaking of continued endeavour, and the 4th pāda as pointing, like a finger pointing to the moon, towards a state in sitting-meditation of not being mindful of a particular object.

So even a verse like today's verse, from the  1st pāda through to the 4th pāda, can be read as being all about the one great paramārtham which is sitting-meditation. 

My original title for this post was "How to Commune with a King." 

How to commune with a king of dharma? That is the question. 

And the answer Aśvaghoṣa gives us, as I hear him, is: With words like these, and otherwise. 

It is not that study of words is always to be negated. As I argued yesterday, sometimes Zen ancestors use words very skillfully, like fingers pointing towards the moon, to point us away from words and towards objective reality. 

And not only that. Words can also be used to tell one story that many people can believe in. Such use of narrative, as clearly argued in this article, has its uses. 

So, on the one hand, words can tell a good story, helping us all to believe together in some believable narrative. And on the other hand words can point to the objective realities (like the objective reality of death, for example, or the objective reality of physical gold) which are not susceptible to being influenced by anybody's believable narrative. 

For both these reasons, the words of a dharma-king like Aśvaghoṣa are, in  my book, deserving of exact investigation. 

For example, in the  1st pāda, please somebody correct me if I am wrong, but I read evam-ādi as an accusative neuter compound which in Sanskrit serves an adverbial function – so I think evam-ādi literally means “in such a way and in other ways beginning with this way” or “thusly and otherwise.” 

The translations of EHJ (“in such wise”) and PO (“with words such as these”) both seem to me to fail to take adequate account of the word ādi. EBC's translation (“with these and such-like words”) does take account of ādi but EBC, like PO, limits the means to verbal means.

Otherwise, I hope I am not alone in feeling that in plodding through Aśvaghoṣa's poetry day by day like this, with ample opportunities in between verses for turning back from words, we are communing with a king of dharma not only through the means of words. Rather, it is the otherwise bit, the other means, the unconventional, non-verbal means, which is of primary importance.

With words like these, a Chinese Zen Master taught a student who was probably guilty of practising too mindfully,   “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill the Buddha!”

Otherwise, having totally turned back from words, another Chinese Zen master, called in Japanese Taiso Eka, bowed to the ground before Bodhidharma and got Bodhidharma's marrow.

evam-ādi (acc. sg. n.): thus and otherwise
evam: ind. thus , in this way , in such a manner , such ; (it is also often used like an adjective [e.g. evaṁ te vacane rataḥ , rejoicing in such words of thine ; where evam = evaṁ-vidhe])
evaṁ-vidha: mfn. of such a kind , in such a form or manner , such
ādi: ifc. beginning with , et caetera , and so on
tvayā (inst. sg.): by you
saumya (voc.): My friend! O man of the soma!

vijñāpyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. to be made known , to be communicated ; to be (respectfully) informed or apprised
vasudhādhipaḥ (nom. sg.): m. lord of the earth , a king
vasu-dhā: f. 'producing wealth'; the earth
adhipa: m. a ruler , commander , regent , king

prayatethāḥ = 2nd pers. sg. optative pra- √ yat: to strive , endeavour , exert one's self , devote or apply one's self to (loc. dat. acc. , arthe , artham , hetos , or inf.)
tathā: ind. in such a manner that
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)

yathā: ind. (correlative of tathā) so that
mām (acc. sg.): me
na: not
smaret = 2nd pers. sg. optative smṛ: to remember , recollect , bear in mind , call to mind , think of
api: even, (emphatic)

如上諸所啓 汝悉爲我宣
唯願今父王 不復我顧戀 

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