Thursday, July 25, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.43: Rules for Owners of a Body

mad-viyogaṁ prati chanda saṁtāpas-tyajyatām-ayam |
¦⏑⏑⏑−¦¦⏑−−⏑¦⏑−⏑−   navipulā
nānā-bhāvo hi niyataḥ pthag-jātiṣu dehiṣu || 6.43

“Let this distress at separation from me, Chanda,

Be abandoned.

Disparate existence is the rule

Among singly-born beings who own a body.

Again, should there be anxiety about whether or not your family is prospering, / Investigate the nature of the world of the living in order to put a stop to it. // SN15.30 // Among beings dragged by our own doing through the cycle of saṁsāra / Who are our own people, and who are other people? It is through ignorance that people attach to people. // 15.31 // For one who turned on a bygone road into a relative, is a stranger to you; / And a stranger, on a road to come, will become your relative. // 15.32 // Just as birds in the evening flock together at separate locations, / So is the mingling over many generations of one's own and other people. // 15.33 // Just as, under any old roof, travellers shelter together /And then go again their separate ways, so are relatives joined. // 15.34 // In this originally shattered world nobody is the beloved of anybody. / Held together by cause and effect, humankind is like sand in a clenched fist. // 15.35 // For mother cherishes son thinking "He will keep me," / And son honours mother thinking "She bore me in her womb." // 15.36 // As long as relatives act agreeably towards each other, /They engender affection; but otherwise it is enmity. // 15.37 // A close relation is demonstrably unfriendly; a stranger proves to be a friend. / By the different things they do, folk break and make affection. // 15.38 // Just as an artist, all by himself, might fall in love with a woman he painted, / So, each generating attachment by himself, do people become attached to one another. // 15.39 // That relation who, in another life, was so dear to you: / What use to you is he? What use to him are you? // 15.40 // With thoughts about close relatives, therefore, you should not enshroud the mind. /There is no abiding difference, in the flux of saṁsāra, between one's own people and people in general. // SN15.41 //

A monk asked Joshu: What was Bodhidharma's intention in coming from India?
Joshu answered: The cedar trees in the garden.
Monk: Don't teach me with objective things!
Joshu: I'm not teaching you with objective things!
Monk: What was Bodhidharma's intention in coming from India?
Joshu: The cedar trees in the garden.

On one level of understanding, the prince in today's verse, as also the Buddha in the above passage from SN Canto 15, is counterposing objective reality against the subjective ideas of the suffering subject.

The compound mad-viyogam (separation from me) can indeed be taken as a hidden pointer to objective reality, to the reality which is not of the self, which is separate from me.

Understood at this level, the 3rd and 4th pādas of today's verse are an expression of the truth of suffering as objective fact, as the unavoidable truth of what is hard for us to swallow, hard cheese, tough cheddar. At this level, nānā-bhavaḥ expresses expresses something painful -- “parting from each other” or “separation.” Hence:

"Separation is the fixed law among coporeal beings, in that they are subject to different births” (EHJ).

“Embodied beings in diverse births are bound to part from each other” (PO).

When Aśvaghoṣa uses a compound as ambiguous as nānā-bhavaḥ, however, he invariably has more than one reading in mind.

How are we to dig for those deeper meanings, if not by placing our sitting bones on the centre of a round cushion, crossing our legs, and thereby owning our own body?

For a singly-born (pṛthag-jāta) individual who sits like this, owning his own body (dehin), Aśvaghoṣa may secretly be suggesting, real existence goes far beyond negation of subjectivism, in the same way that Joshu did not denigrate the cedar trees as "objective things." For an individual who owns his own body, the suggestion might be, nānā-bhāvaḥ expresses real existence as multifarious, multidimensional, variegated, distinct, and in this sense disparate.

Not so much hard cheese, then. More life's rich tapestry

What was Bodhidharma's intention in coming from India to China and silently facing the wall? Multifarious existence.

What was Aśvaghoṣa's intention in staying in India and producing thousands of verses of Sanskrit poetry? Disparate, multidimensional reality.

Speaking of multidimensional reality...

A couple of interviews with Israelis I have heard on different radio programmes during the last 24 hours stand out in my mind, contrasting with each other. One was in a documentary called The Story of the Talmud, in which a student from a Jerusalem yeshiva was heard to justify his parasitic existence by saying that devoting all his time to studying the Talmud, as opposed to engaging in gainful employment, was what God (conveniently) wanted him to do. He seemed to suggest further that God might repay such devotion to the purely spiritual realm by intervening with miracles to cause the nation of Israel to prosper.

The second interview, which I heard in the middle of the night on the BBC World Service, was with an Israeli doctor dealing with injured Syrian refugees arriving at the border, the youngest of these patients being a nine-year old boy who had lost his eyes due to shrapnel injuries.

No prizes for guessing for which of these two Isrealis I felt admiration, and for which one I felt disdain. And no prizes also for guessing which one did me the favour of holding up the mirror to me – the self-indulgent parasite who spends all day studying an ancient text which is not so much, as one rabbi put it, about answering questions, as about questioning answers.

I shall conclude this idle ramble by making the connection with turning back (nivartanaḥ) from greed and fear and owning a body (dehin). But I shan't claim, like the religious bloke in the Jerusalem yeshiva, that my intermittent turning back and temporary owning of a body are for the greater good, and that therefore everybody owes me a living.

“A day without work,” as an old Chinese owner of his own body once said, “is a day without food.” 

This particular singly-born owner of a body was not talking here about cultivating the empty field. He was talking about digging the multifarious earth. 

I would have liked to translate nānā-bhāvaḥ as "multifarious existence," but I think "disparate existence" works better as a translation that retains the ambiguity Aśvaghoṣa may have intended. 

mad-viyogam (acc. sg.): separation from me
viyoga: m. disjunction , separation (esp. of lovers) , loss or absence or want of
prati: towards, at
chanda (voc. sg.): O Chanda!

saṁtāpaḥ (nom. sg.): m. becoming very hot; affliction , pain , sorrow , anguish , distress
tyajyatām (3rd pers. sg. passive imperative tyaj): let it be abandoned!
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this

nānā-bhāvaḥ (nom. sg. m.) different states of being ; multifarious / disparate existence; becoming/being different/separate/manifold (EBC: change; EHJ: separation)
mfn. various , manifold
nānā: ind. differently , variously , distinctly , separately
nānāśraya: mfn. wearing different forms (or, "resorting to various means") BC8.18
nā́nā-karaṇa: n. variation
nā́nā-kāma: m. pl. many desires or wishes
nā́nā-gati: m. " moving in different ways " , the wind
nā́nā-jana: m. pl. different people or tribes
nā́nā-tva: n. difference , variety , manifoldness
nā́nā-deśa: m. sg. different regions or countries
bhāva: m. becoming , being , existing , occurring , appearance ; turning or transition into (loc. or comp.)
hi: for
niyatam: ind. always , constantly , decidedly , inevitably , surely
niyataḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. fixed , established , settled , sure , regular , invariable , positive , definite ; customary , usual

pṛthag-jātiṣu (loc. pl. m.) born separately
pṛthak: ind. widely apart , separately , differently , singly , severally , one by one
pṛthag-ātman; m. individualized spirit , the individual soul (as distinct from universal spirit or the soul of the universe)
pṛthag—ātmikā: f. separate or individual existence , individuality
pṛthag-bhūta: mfn. become separate , separated , different
pṛthaṅ—niṣṭha: mfn. existing by itself , being something different or distinct in each case
jāta: mfn. born , brought into existence by (loc.) , engendered by (instr. or abl.); grown , produced , arisen , caused , appeared ; happened , become , present , apparent , manifest
dehiṣu (loc. pl.): m. a living creature , man
dehin: mfn. having a body , corporeal

汝今爲我故 而生別離苦
當捨此悲念 且自慰其心 
衆生各異趣 乖離理自常

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