Tuesday, July 23, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.41: When Turning Back Becomes Imperative, For Me

−−−−¦⏑⏑⏑−¦¦−−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑−   navipulā
sānukrośasya satataṁ nityaṁ karuṇa-vedinaḥ |
−−−−¦⏑⏑⏑−¦¦⏑−−−¦⏑−⏑−   navipulā
snigdha-tyāgo na sadśo nivartasva prasīda me || 6.41

For one who is eternally compassionate,

Who is constantly steeped in kindness,

It is not befitting to abandon devoted friends,

Turn back, please, for me.”

On the surface, Chandaka's imperative nivartasva, “turn back!” means turn back from the forest and return to the city – for me, the suffering Chandaka, the attached / devoted friend (snigdha).

But below the surface, of course, nivartasva once again points to the Buddha's exhortation to know the path as a turning back:
So with regard to the truth of suffering, see suffering as an illness; with regard to the faults, see the faults as the cause of the illness; / With regard to the truth of stopping, see stopping as freedom from disease; and with regard to the truth of a path, see a path as a remedy.// SN16.41 // Comprehend, therefore, that suffering is doing; witness the faults impelling it forward; / Realise its stopping as non-doing; and know the path as a turning back.// SN16.42 //
Thus understood, nivartasva unlocks a different understanding of the agreement between the genitives in the first two pādas (sānukrośasya and -vedinaḥ) and the final word of the verse, the genitive me.

With pra-√sad (to favour), the genitive expresses the object favoured – so that prasīda me means “favour me” (“have mercy on me” EBC; “have pity on me” EHJ/PO).

Ostensibly, then, the genitives in the first two pādas belong to one sentence, or one stream of meaning, expressing the subject for whom the abandonment of a devoted friend is not befitting; and the genitive me belongs to a separate stream, expressing the object to be favoured.

But an alternative, more inclusive reading is that the two genitives in the first two pādas agree with the me in the 4th pāda who is to be favoured, so that prasīda me means “Please favour me” – the one who is compassionate (sānukrośasya; genitive), the one who is steeped in kindness (karuṇa-vedinaḥ; genitive).

Equally, me (of me), being genitive, and occupying pride of place at the end of the verse, seems to convey some sense of everything being included in or belonging to me.

In the 4th pāda of today's verse, then, below the surface, unbeknowns to himself, Chandaka can be heard as expressing the gist of what the Buddha expresses to Nanda in Saundarananda – that gist being, to paraphrase: “For me, or being of me (belonging to this teaching of mine), please learn the backward step of turning your light and letting it shine.”

To complicate matters further, snigdha, in the compound snigdha-tyāgaḥ, could mean many things (including 1. friend, 2. viscidity / attachment, and 3. light), and it could be singular or plural; hence “to abandon one who loves” (EBC); “to desert the affectionate” (EHJ); “to forsake loved ones” (PO).

If in the translation of today's verse primacy were to be given to the ostensible meaning, I would take snigdha as singular (“to abandon a devoted friend”) since Chandaka is ostensibly pulling out all the emotional stops in his final appeal to the prince's sense of compassion.

Digging deeper, however, we could take snigdha as expressing 1. friends (all living beings in general, or friends in the good in particular); 2. adhesion (to the Buddha's teaching); or 3. light itself (the light to be turned?); and we can hear today's verse as a secret whisper coming straight from the heart of the Horse-Whisperer himself:

Being of me, who belongs to eternal compassion;
Who is steeped in constant practice of kindness;
It is appropriate not to abandon friends / adhesiveness / the light;
So turn back; being of me, favour me.

Sitting in lotus, alone by the forest, and reciting today's verse to myself, this is what I hear Aśvaghoṣa whispering, though not necessarily in so many words. All might be contained, in the end, in the last word me (belonging to me, being of me).

This, in the end, is the whole point of this translation effort – to allow a possibility of communing with Aśvaghoṣa, but more than that, by just sitting, and thus by knowing the path as a turning back, to be of him.

(In view of BC6.39, such wordiness should doubtless be accompanied by a healthy dose of guilt or shame.)

sānukrośasya (gen. sg.): mfn. full of compassion , compassionate , merciful , kind
anukrośa: m. tenderness , compassion
satatam: ind. constantly, always, ever

nityam: ind. always , constantly , regularly , by all means
karuṇa-vedinaḥ (gen. sg.): mfn. compassionate , sympathizing
vedin: mfn. knowing , acquainted with or versed in (ifc.) ; feeling, perceiving

snigdha-tyāgaḥ (nom. sg.): m. abandonment of a beloved person Bcar
snigdha: mfn. sticky ; adhesive , attached , affectionate , tender , friendly , attached ; m. a friend ; n. viscidity , thickness , coarseness ; n. light , lustre
tyāga: m. leaving , abandoning , forsaking
na: not
sadṛśaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. conformable , suitable , fit , proper , right , worth

nivartasva = 2nd pers. sg. imperative ni- √ vṛt: to turn back , stop (trans. and intrans.)
prasīda = 2nd pers. sg. imperative pra- √ sad : to settle down , grow clear and bright , become placid or tranquil (as the sea or sky , met. applied to the mind) ; to become clear or distinct ; to become satisfied or pleased or glad , be gracious or kind (with gen. " to favour " ; Impv. often " be so gracious , please ")
√ sad: to sit , settle
me (gen. sg.): me

太子心柔軟 常慈悲一切
深愛而棄捨 此則違宿心
願可思還宮 以慰我愚誠

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