Tuesday, July 30, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.48: Preaching a Dream In a Dream

yasmād-yāti ca loko 'yaṁ vipralabhya parasparam |
mamatvaṁ na kṣamaṁ tasmāt-svapna-bhūte samāgame || 6.48

And since this world slips away,

Each side leaving the other disappointed,

The sense that it belongs to me is not fitting

In a coming together that's like a dream.

At the beginning of a long footnote EHJ observes: A difficult verse.

EHJ is not wrong to see today's verse as difficult. Where he might be wrong is in seeing the preceeding verses as not so difficult. I suspect he saw today's verse as particularly difficult because of failing to notice the irony in previous verses. And that failure, in turn, might have been because of not knowing, even in a dream, the centrality of the practice of sitting-meditation in the thinking and the writing of the Zen patriarch Aśvaghoṣa.

Today's verse as I read it is exactly as difficult as yesterday's verse. The difficulty is the same difficulty. The irony is the same irony, which is to say that on the surface the prince is bemoaning the inevitable suffering that is inherent in the attachment of human beings to one other, when separation follows union; while below the surface Aśvaghoṣa is concerned not so much with the first and second of the four noble truths (the fact and cause of suffering), but rather with the third and fourth noble truths, namely the truth of cessation of suffering, and the truth of a way out of suffering – that way being, in the final analysis, a path of separation.

Read in this light, yāti loko 'yaṁ “this world slips away” on the surface points to the evanescent flimsiness of this world, or in other words, to the unreality of this world. But below the surface yāti loko 'yaṁ “this world slips away” might be intended to point, on the contrary, to reality -- and to point in particular to the truth of the instantaneous appearance and disappearance of the universe.

Again, vipralabhya parasparam “lit. having deceived / disappointed each other,” on the surface is redolent with the truth of suffering, as exemplified by the separation of lovers. But below the surface vipralabhya parasparam can be read as contrasting 1. dissonance between subject and object and 2. the samādhi of accepting and using the self – sitting in the latter being a way out of suffering which is never totally a function of me, and never totally a function of circumstances. Vipralabhya parasparam, then, can be read as an ironic negation of subjective and objective viewpoints, or of idealistic and materialistic philosophy – “subject and object leaving each other unfulfilled.”

Again, in the 3rd pada, mamatvaṁ na kṣamam “the sense of it being mine is not fitting” on the surface is the negation of a subject's sense of ownership of his or her object, and is negation especially of a lover's sense of owning his or her beloved. But below the surface Aśvaghoṣa may be echoing the discussion in comments to previous verses, of thy will be done, of my will be done, and of all coming undone.

Finally, the 4th pāda on the surface seems like a negation of the reality of union. Hence in EBC's translation, “a time of union” is equated with [the unreality of] a dream:

And since this world goes away, each one of us deceiving the other, — it is not right to think anything thine own in a time of union which is a dream. (EBC)

The translations of EHJ and PO, similarly, seem to emphasize the flimsiness of union, comparing the transitory or fleeting nature of a coming together with the transitory or fleeting nature of a dream:

And since this world is in a state of continuous separating, therefore the feeling that 'this is mine' is improper with regard to a coming together that is transitory as a dream. (EHJ)

As this world continues to roll sundering one from another, / So it's wrong to invest yourself in this coming together that's as fleeting as a dream. (PO)

Aśvaghoṣa's intention below the surface, however, might be that what is really real is neither one side nor the other, neither subject nor object, neither the attitude of thy will be done nor the attitude of my will be done. What is really real, I think Aśvaghoṣa is suggesting, is neither subject nor object but the moment of subject and object coming together. This coming together is not described as svapna-bhūta (“consisting of a dream” or “like a dream”) because it is as flimsy or as unreal as a dream. On the contrary, I think Aśvaghoṣa is suggesting that a meeting of subject and object is so real that it is a like a dream.

Finally, lest this comment sounds too abstract or philosophical, I shall cite (from recent experience, I confess) as an example of subject leaving object disappointed a garden that has become overgrown with weeds. Conversely, if I don't like what I see in the mirror as a consequence of over-indulging in food, that is an example of object having left subject disappointed. But if I take food in moderation, if I sharpen the scythe well, if the sun shines so that the grass is dry, and if I use myself well in using the scythe, then there might be moments when the scythe cuts through long grass like a dream.... (always assuming that nobody in the vicinity is using a chainsaw or a petrol-driven strimmer).

yasmāt: ind. since
yāti = 3rd pers. sg. to go , proceed , move , walk , set out , march , advance , travel , journey; to go away ; to pass away , elapse (said of time) ; to vanish , disappear (as wealth)
[EHJ: yāti with the gerundive implies continuous or habitual action, possibly here in a passive sense, 'is being continually separated.'
ca: and
lokaḥ (nom. sg.): m. the world ; the earth or world of human beings &c ; ayáṁ lokáḥ , " this world " ; (also pl.) the inhabitants of the world , mankind , folk , people ;
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this

vipralabhya = abs. vi-pra- √ labh: to insult , violate , to mock at , take in , cheat , deceive
[EHJ: vipralabhya is used in the sense of vipralambha, the 'parting' of lovers, an extension from 'deception', 'disappointment'.]
pra- √ labh: to lay hold of , seize ; to overreach , cheat , deceive , befool
vipralambha: m. (fr. Caus. vi-pra-√labh) deception , deceit , disappointment ; separation of lovers ; disunion , disjunction ; quarrel , disagreement
parasparam: ind. one another , each other , with or from one another , one another's , mutually , reciprocally

mamatvam (nom. sg.) n. = mamatā: f. the state of " mine " , sense of ownership , self-interest , egotism , interest in (loc.) (-tvaṁ √ kṛ to be attached to , with loc. ; to envy )
na: not
kṣamam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. fit , appropriate , becoming , suitable , proper

tasmāt: ind. therefore
svapna-bhūte (loc. sg. m.): dream-like
svapna: m. sleep, sleeping ; dreaming, a dream
bhūta: (ifc.) being or being like anything , consisting of , mixed or joined with
samāgame (loc. sg.): m. coming together ; union

世間本自乖 暫會恩愛纒
如夢中聚散 不應計我親

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