Friday, July 12, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.30: My Will Be Done?

kathaṁ hy-ātma-vaśo jānan vyavasāyam-imaṁ tava |
¦−⏑⏑−¦¦−−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑−   bhavipulā
upānayeyaṁ turagaṁ śokaṁ kapilavastunaḥ || 6.30

For how by my own will could I, 

Knowing this purpose of yours,

Lead swift-going sorrow

Away from Kapilavastu?

On first reading today's verse, as I have translated it, the logic of hi (for), in relating today's verse to yesterday's verse, would seem to be like this:

When I brought you the horse, something akin to divine intervention made me do it, against my own will. FOR how could I, by my own volition, knowing your intention to abandon your loved ones, do the cruel and regrettable deed of aiding and abetting your departure, upon the 'swift-going' horse Kanthaka, which represents the embodiment of Kapilavastu's sorrow?

The picture is complicated by the ambiguity of upā-√nī, which can mean 1. bring near and 2. lead away; and also by the ambiguity of kapilavastunaḥ, which could be genitive (Kapilavastu's) or ablative (from Kapilavastu). Because of these ambiguities, katham upānayeyam,  could mean not only 1. “how could I lead the horse away [from Kapilavastu]," but also 2. “how could I bring the horse [to you]?” and even 3. “how could I lead the horse back [to Kapilavastu]?”

Both EHJ and PO took upānayeyam to refer to the past act of bringing the horse near. Apparently such use of the optative to express what might have happened in the past is permissible, if uncommon. And by taking upānayeyam like this as referring to an event in the past, hi is naturally translated as “for.” The logic is: I did it against my will; for, had I been in command of myself, how could I have done such a cruel deed as bringing you the horse?  Hence:
For if I had been in command of myself, how could I, on knowing this your resolve, have brought you the horse, the bale of Kapilavāstu? (EHJ)
For knowing this resolve of yours,
  would I have brought to you the horse,
To make Kapila-vastu grieve,
  had I been master of myself? (PO)

EBC's translation followed a different tack, taking the optative upānayeyam as referring to an act, which might (or might not) happen in the future, of leading the horse back to Kapilavastu. Grammatically, this might be a more natural rendering of the optative, whose prevalent use in Classic literary texts, according to Coulson's Teach Yourself Sanskrit, is potential, to express what 'may' or 'might' be the case now or in the future (or even occasionally in the past).

Notice, however, that this reading causes EBC to translate hi as “But”:
[When, on hearing thy resolve, I first brought thee this horse, — it was fate only, O my lord, which made me do it, mastering my will.] But how could I, O king, by mine own will, knowing this thy decision, — carry back the horse to the sorrow of Kapilavastu?
I have translated today's verse such that the optative upānayeyam can be read as retaining its more usual use (to express what might be now or in future); and at the same time such that hi retains its original meaning of “for,” according to the following alternative or hidden logic:

When the right thing did itself in the bringing of the horse, I participated in something magical, allowing Thy will to be done. FOR how could/might I (or anybody), knowing the one great purpose for which a buddha appears on the earth, aspire to work towards the accomplishment of that purpose with the wilful attitude of “My will be done”?

Read like this, Chandaka's question implies the negation of “my will be done” as opposed to “Thy will be done.” But still deeper below the surface, I suspect, Aśvaghoṣa may wish us also to challenge that implied negation   insofar as it implies bias one way or the other. 

In any event, Chandaka as I hear him is asking “how might I lead away?” (katham upānayeyam) from Kapilavastu (kapilavastunaḥ) the sorrow (śokam) which, like darkness in the presence of light, can be swift to go (tura-gam).

When today's verse is read like this, how (katham) wilful or self-willed (atma-vaśaḥ) to be, in responding to the one great purpose, is the question. And this, I think, is the key to understanding the progression to the following four verses, beginning in tomorrow's verse with the word tad (therefore).

The question is how self-willed to be, or what kind of balance to maintain between the antithetical attitudes of “my will be done” and “Thy will be done.” The wise thing might be to turn back from bias either way. Tad (therefore) in abandoning loved ones, Chandaka is about to tell the prince, you should not be like this and should not be like that. On the one side, you should not veer towards the unduly self-assertive attitude of the profane nihilist or the ingrate. On the other side, you should not veer towards the unduly self-effacing attitude of the coward who shies away from receiving his rightful inheritance or the hard worker who shuns credit that is due to him. 

Thus, although today's verse is spoken from the 1st person (“how could/might I”) and the following four verses are addressed to the 2nd person (“you should not”), I think the real point of all these verses is to express a universal principle – or at least to raise a timeless question – about non-doing and doing, or about “Thy will be done” and “My will be done.”

In conclusion, if we understand that, through Chandaka, Aśvaghoṣa is asking us to ask, in working to alleviate the suffering of living beings, how self-assertive to be, then the answer might be: not too wilful and not too submissive either. The answer Chandaka points to, below the surface, might be to turn back and reside somewhere in the middle between those two extremes to which we veer unconsciously, until such time as we are truly acting by our own will, as masters of ourself (atma-vaśaḥ). 

And so this veiled exhortation by Chandaka, that the prince should  withhold consent from either "Thy will be done" or "My will be done," might be one way of understanding the Canto title chandaka-nivartanaḥ, Chandaka's Turning Back. 

katham: how
hi: for , because , on account of 
ātma-vaśaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. dependent on one's own will
vaśa: m. will , wish , desire ; authority , power , control , dominion ; ifc. authority , power , control , dominion ; mfn. willing , submissive , obedient , subject to or dependent on
jānan = nom. sg. m. pres. part jñā: to know

vyavasāyam (acc. sg.): m. strenuous effort or exertion ; settled determination , resolve , purpose , intention
imam (acc. sg. m.): this
tava (gen. sg.): of yours

upānayeyam = 1st pers. sg. optative upā - √ nī: to convey or bring or lead near ; to lead away or off , carry off ; to lead near , introduce to ;
turagam (acc. sg.): m. " going quickly " , a horse; the mind , thought
tura: mfn. quick , willing , prompt

śokam (acc. sg.): m. sorrow , affliction , anguish , pain , trouble , grief ; m. Sorrow personified
kapilavastunaḥ = gen./abl. sg. Kapilavastu

何意令太子 決定捨深宮
迦毘羅衞國 合境生悲痛 

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