Wednesday, July 17, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.35: Thy/My Will Be Done

atha bandhuṁ ca rājyaṁ ca tyaktum-eva ktā matiḥ |
māṁ nārhasi vibho tyaktuṁ tvat-pādau hi gatir-mama || 6.35

Or else, if kith and kingdom

You are determined to renounce,

Please, Master, do not abandon me –

For your two feet are my refuge.

Tvat-pādau hi gatir-mama, “Your two feet are my refuge,” or “Your two pādas are, for me, a path,” is a strong, attention-grabbing phrase, doubtless replete with more hidden meaning than we can guess.

Most obviously, “Your two feet are my refuge” would seem to bring together the discussion of something soft and something hard that was initiated in BC6.28, and which I have discussed in terms of the softness of “Thy will be done,” and the hardness of “My will be done.”

“Your feet [dual] are my refuge [singular],” then, can be understood as saying the acceptance of the self, and the use of the self, which you teach, are the refuge to which I turn back – that refuge being the gold standard for the transmission of the Buddha's dharma. The two feet, in this reading, are the dual basis for that state of integration which was called in Chinese 自受用三昧 (JI-JU-YO-ZANMAI), the samādhi of accepting and using the self.

Buddhist sitting practice, one tends to think, is mainly a matter of “Thy will be done” – Let it do it. Let nature work as nature intends. But when, as non-buddhas, we stop to think about it, even this backward step must include elements of “My will be done.” Mindfulness of breathing and maintenance of upright balance, true, should in principle be a matter of “Thy will be done,” a matter of letting the works work and not interfering. And yet, in Dogen's rules for how to practise sitting-meditation, he includes the instruction to make one full exhalation, and to sway left and right. And in Aśvaghoṣa's description of Nanda's progress through four stages of sitting-meditation, Nanda is more than a passive participant in the process – at every step of the way, he sees progressively subtler faults, knows what he does not want, and makes decisions, veering towards deeper and deeper depths of stillness.

In the other of the two readings that I proposed above (there may be others), “Your two pādas are, for me, a path,” your two pādas correspond to the 3rd and 4th of the Buddha's four noble truths.

Underlying almost all the four-pāda verses that Aśvaghoṣa wrote, it may be argued, is a four-phased dialectical system which also underlay the Buddha's enumeration of four noble truths, so that the first pāda/phase relates to the suffering bound up with the ideas, words, volition, and so on, of the suffering subject (“My will be done”); and the second pāda/phase is anti-thetical to the first, counterposing objective consideration of causation, and material facts in the real or natural world (“Thy will be done”). These first two phases, thesis and anti-thesis, are negated or transcended together in the 3rd phase, the synthetic stage of inhibitory action (“Thy/my will be done”). And the 4th phase is the affirmation and at the same time, the negation, of all the preceding – it is affirmation of everything, including the two legs and the unifying synthesis; and it is the negation of all such models and systems and views which ultimately must yield to what they must yield to.

The 1st and 2nd phase, can thus be understood as as “the two legs” or the dual base upon which a dialectic triangle is built. But Chandaka's phrase tvat-pādau, your two feet, rather suggests to me the 3rd and 4th phases, representing the negation and transcendence of dualism and the suggestion of unitary reality itself.

In the following suffering-born snippet, then, the dichotomy of red face (1) and gold face (2) belongs to me, but the teaching of washing (3), and the truth that excludes nothing (4), belong to the Buddha.

Red face or gold face,
We wash them the same.
The truth includes blunders, sickness, and pain.

In conclusion, it is the latter of the above readings that is more meaningful to me. But, as a translation, “Your two feet are my refuge” has the merit of being broad  broad enough (a) to cover Chandaka's ostensible appeal to the prince's emotion and (b) to allude to the 3rd and 4th pādas, pointing to an individual path of cessation of suffering, in a four-pāda verse.

atha: then, or, again
bandhum (acc. sg.): m. connection , relation , association ; kinship , kindred ; a kinsman
ca: and
rājyam (acc. sg.): n. royalty , kingship ; sovereignty; n. kingdom , country , realm
ca: and

tyaktum = inf. tyaj: to leave, abandon
eva (emphatic)
kṛtā (nom. sg. f.): made
matiḥ (nom. sg.): f. mind

mām (acc. sg.): me
nārhasi: you ought not
vibho = voc. sg. vibhū: mfn. being everywhere ; mighty ; m. a lord , ruler , sovereign , king
tyaktum = inf. tyaj: to abandon

tvat-pādau (nom. dual): your two feet
pāda: m. the foot (of men and animals); the foot or leg of an inanimate object , column , pillar ; a ray or beam of light (considered as the foot of a heavenly body); a quarter , a fourth Part (the fourth of a quadruped being one out of 4) ; a verse or line (as the fourth part of a regular stanza)
hi: for
gatiḥ (nom. sg.): f. going , moving , gait , deportment , motion in general ; acting accordingly , obeisance towards (loc.) ; path , way , course ; possibility , expedient , means ; a means of success ; way or art , method of acting , stratagem ; refuge , resource
mama (gen. sg.): of me

已違捨父王 及宗親眷屬
勿復遺棄我 要不離尊足

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