Sunday, August 11, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.60: Merging In with Nature

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Kīrti)
tato mga-vyādha-vapur-divaukā bhāvaṁ viditvāsya viśuddha-bhāvaḥ |
kāṣāya-vastro 'bhiyayau samīpaṁ taṁ śākya-rāja-prabhavo 'bhyuvāca || 6.60

Then a sky dweller in the guise of a hunter of forest game,

His heart being pure, knew what was in the other's heart

And drew near, in his ochre-coloured camouflage.

The son of the Śākya king said to him:

The ochre robe, the kaṣāya, has been known since ancient times in Chinese and Japanese as 福田衣 (FUKU-DEN-E), “the robe of a field of happiness.” And 福田 (FUKU-DEN), “a field of happiness,” from the Sanskrit puṇya-kṣetra, over the last ten or so years has come to mean to me one particular field, which is the strip of land at the back of this place in France, by the forest, where I am writing now.

It is the field of happiness where I have sat for ten summers in the shade of apple and ash trees, and where I have watched my sons play cricket and otherwise grow up. It is the field of happiness where I have sat in cold air enjoying hot cafe-au-lait in the winter sunshine. It is the field of happiness where I have sat in spring under falling blossoms. And it is the field of happiness where I have sat in autumn, silently singing a hymn to nature:

We blossom and flourish, like leaves on the tree.
Then wither and perish, but nought changeth thee.

The hymn, which ingrained itself into my nervous system in school assemblies of my youth, is of course originally directed towards a Judeo-Christian god, who Christians call God with a capital G, and Thee with a capital T. I don't believe in God and I don't revere God. Neither do I believe in nature. And nature does not seem to care. But I do revere nature – without anybody telling me that I ought to do so.

On a good day, in moments when my sitting is free from the kind of polluting influence that I described yesterday, the kind of polluting influence by which Japanese Zen is tainted, or in which Japanese Zen is steeped, I do more than revere nature. I hold a mirror up to nature. The big ash tree on the edge of Farmer Louvelle's field, which has been growing so imposingly year by year for these past ten years, is always going up and out, and sometimes I just sit there in full lotus going up and out with it. That for me is the kind of thing that Aśvaghoṣa was suggesting in yesterday's verse with the compound kāñcana-haṁsa, the goose of gold, that is, the best of gold.

Application of the principles of the FM Alexander Technique to the practice of just sitting, I venture to submit, can be a method of freeing the self from the influence of those polluting influences (āsrava) that the Buddha exhorted the kaṣāya-camouflaged Nanda to eliminate. Submitting it in principle, I admit, is a lot easier than demonstrating it in practice. It is like the old joke about predictions – it's hard to make predictions, especially about the future. It is hard to manifest the FM Alexander Technique as a compassionate means of helping humanity, especially for the benefit of pesky human beings.

Besides the aformentioned hymn, another song that seems frequently to bubble up from my unconscious when I am alone in France is this old one by Ricky Nelson.

The Sanskrit puṇya-kṣetra, by the way, is given in the dictionary as a holy place, a place of pilgrimage. But kṣetra means n. land, soil, a field. And the first definitions given in the dictionary for puṇya are: mfn. auspicious, propitious, fair, pleasant; good; n. the good. Any way up, if this field by the forest is a holy place, it is holy only in the etymological sense of being conducive to healing, or becoming whole – nothing divine, nothing sacred. And the kaṣāya, the ochre robe, the robe whose shades are the reds, yellows, and browns of the forest, at least the kaṣāya that I wear, is also like that.

To bring out this sense of the kaṣāya being clothing that we wear to merge in with nature, I wanted in this verse to translate either vapus in the 1st pāda or vastraḥ in 3rd pāda as camouflage – either “a sky dweller camouflaged as a hunter of forest game” or “wearing ochre-coloured camouflage.”

tataḥ: ind. then
mṛga-vyādha-vapur-divaukā (nom. sg. m.): a sky-dweller with the form of a hunter
mṛga-vyādha: m. a huntsman
mṛga: m. (prob. " ranger " , " rover ") a forest animal or wild beast , game of any kind , (esp.) a deer
m. " one who pierces or wounds " , a hunter , one who lives by killing deer (said to be the son of a kṣatriya by a low-caste mother) ; a low man , wicked person
√vyadh: to pierce , transfix , hit , strike , wound
vapus: n. form, figure; body
divaukas: m. " sky-dweller " , a deity

bhāvam (acc. sg.): m. manner of being , nature , temperament , character ; manner of acting , conduct , behaviour ; any state of mind or body , way of thinking or feeling , sentiment , opinion , disposition , intention ; purport , meaning , sense ; the seat of the feelings or affections , heart , soul , mind
viditvā = abs. vid: to know, see
asya (gen. sg.): of him
viśuddha-bhāvaḥ (nom. sg. m.): being pure of heart
viśuddha: mfn. completely cleansed or purified (also in a ritual sense) , clean , clear , pure (lit.and fig.) ; free from vice , virtuous , honest

kāṣāya-vastraḥ (nom. sg. m.): clad in brown-red cloth
kāṣāya: mfn. (fr. kaṣāya) , brown-red , dyed of a reddish colour ; n. a brown-red cloth or garment
kaṣāya: mfn. astringent ; red , dull red , yellowish red (as the garment of a Buddhist bhikṣu) ; mn. an astringent juice , extract of juice ; mn. a yellowish red colour
vastra: n. cloth , clothes , garment , raiment , dress , cover
abhiyayau = 3rd pers. sg. perf. abhi- √ yā : to up to, approach
samīpam (acc. sg. m): near (in place or time) , contiguous , proximate , adjacent , close by , at hand , approaching , imminen
tam (acc. sg. m.): him

śākya-rāja-prabhavaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the progency of the Śākya king
pra-bhava: m. production , source , origin , cause of existence (as father or mother , also " the Creator ") , birthplace (often ifc. , with f(ā). , springing or rising or derived from , belonging to)
abhyuvāca = 3rd pers. sg. perf. abhi- √ vac: to say to, tell

時淨居天子 知太子心念
化爲獵師像 持弓佩利箭
身被袈裟衣 徑至太子前

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