Friday, August 16, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.64: Thinking Highly of What Is Of The Forest

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Kīrti)
tataḥ kumāraś-ca sa cāśva-gopas-tasmiṁs-tathā yāti visismiyāte |
āraṇyake vāsasi caiva bhūyas-tasminn-akārṣṭāṁ bahu-mānam-āśu || 6.64

Then the prince and the horse-master (aśva-gopa)

Marvelled at his departing in such a manner;

And of that clothing of the forest

All the more highly did they think.

Apologies for the late posting. I was without an internet connection on Thursday.

On a grammatical query, in the 2nd pāda of today's verse the locative yāte would seem to fit better with the locative tasmin. The upajāti metre, however, requires not a long syllable like the te of yāte but rather a short syllable like the ti of yāti. [But see clarification in comments below]. 

EBC translated tasmiṁs-tathā yāti as “as he was thus going,” EHJ as “when he departed thus,” and PO as “as he departed in that wise,” and so the meaning does not appear to be in doubt – unless I am missing something?

I have included the original Sanskrit word aśvagopa in the 1st pāda for obvious reasons – euphonically it is too close to Aśvaghoṣa to have been an accident.

The meaning to be inferred, at least as I infer it, is confidence on the part of Aśvaghoṣa that when it came to revering the wonderful power of the kaṣāya to see off pesky celestial beings, he (=the horse-master) and the Buddha (=the prince) were carrying one pole on their two shoulders.

The first I saw of a kaṣāya was my teacher Gudo Nishijima wearing rather a shiny silk one. He “the Reverend Gudo Wafu Nishijima,” had one, but others in his group, at that time, didn't have one. And, as I mentioned before, the first I read of the kaṣāya was in Gudo's original translation of Shobogenzo in which it was referred to as “the ritual robe.”

But, I dare say, on the basis of my own reading of what Dogen wrote, which came several years later, and even more explicitly on the basis of what Aśvaghoṣa is saying here, in no way should the kaṣāya be thought of as a “ritual robe.” In being misled by the word “ritual,” as in several other matters, the most fundamental of which was the matter of how to direct the spine upwards in sitting-meditation, I was given by my teacher a bum steer.

That I sought out the teacher I did, I totally confess and repent, was a function of the many misdeeds I had done, since times without beginning, stemming from greed, anger, and delusion.

What it is truly to direct the spine upwards in sitting-meditation nobody can say in words. The right thing which does itself is not accessible to the human intellect. But we can look at somebody (for example in the mirror) stiffening his neck and pulling his chin down, and say “No, that is not it.” Similarly with the kaṣāya. No words are adequate to express its mysterious merit. But we can look at the translation “ritual robe,” and say “No, it is not that.”

If we feel angry about having been given a bum steer in life when we were young and impressionable, we might silently go further than that and think: Fucking rubbish! “Ritual robe”? Fucking rubbish translation!

But that kind of instinctive response, genuine and heartfelt though it might be, might not necessarily be completely of the forest. Going into the forest does not necessarily mean leaving one's reason behind in the city and going completely wild. It doesn't mean blaming others for having gone wrong, as if there were no such thing as individual responsibility for one's own karma. 

No, rather than just reacting emotionally to the words “ritual robe,” a better way might be to engage one's reason and explain what is wrong with those words as a translation of the Sanskrit kaṣāya.

“Ritual robe” is a bad translation because – though the translator's intention may have not been like that – the word “ritual” tends, for a reader whose mother tongue is English, to point to the kaṣāya as something akin to the religious vestment of an archbishop or a cardinal or something. But Aśvaghoṣa as I hear him is now clarifying for us that the kaṣāya is not that kind of religious vestment. It is not of heaven. It is not of the divine. It is not of a religious congregation (a deva-saṅga). It is of the forest.

What does it mean that the original kaṣāya was vanya or āraṇyaka, “of the forest”? Does it mean that the kaṣāya was a practical item of clothing? Does it mean that the kaṣāya was a piece of kit or forest gear whose value was purely utilitarian? Yes and no. Yes, of course the kaṣāya has practical or utilitarian value. But no, it is not as simple as that.

The forest, I would like to submit, especially since I am living next to one at the moment, is both a teacher of nature and our natural teacher.

Yesterday I identified myself as one who fucking loves science – science being the study of nature, and fucking maybe suggesting a certain profane contempt for the unscientific, the irrational, the religious. The purpose of a robe of the forest, however, might be to facilitate a connection with nature even more intimate than the connection realized by studying nature in a scientific manner. Still, do not call it religious.

Alexander work is really a scientific approach to the study of natural phenomena, and particularly the study of how habits get in the way of upward direction of a person's energy. And sitting-meditation, for me, for one, includes that kind of investigation, so that the sitting-meditator may gradually come to know natural phenomena better, including the act of knowing itself.

But again, being of the forest is more than simply fucking loving science. It might be a question of loving nature, and being loved right back by nature. And not only that. It might be a question of being taught by nature, and – in the final analysis – teaching nature back, at least in the sense of holding up the mirror to nature.

The forest, when I go into it, is not originally religious and not originally profane. There are originally no churches, mosques or temples, and few if any people. What is originally there in abundance, by definition, is a lot of trees, growing upwards and outwards, but primarily upwards out of the earth.

If I have thus learned anything of what it really means to be of the forest, I have learned it mainly in the context of Alexander work. The direction my teacher imparted to me with his hands while I was in Japan was not of the forest; it was of the Japanese Zen temple. It was a downward direction purporting to be up, which originated not with my teacher himself but with a certain habitual rigidity in Japanese society. Kaṣāya-worshippers who put Master Kodo Sawaki up on a lofty Zen pedestal should know that he also was not immune from it.

tataḥ: ind. then
kumāraḥ (nom. sg.): m. the prince
ca: and
sa (nom. sg. m.): he, the
ca: and
aśva-gopaḥ (nom. sg.): m. the attendant of a horse, Bcar
gopa: a cowherd , herdsman , milkman (considered as a man of mixed caste ) ; a protector , guardian

tasmin (loc. sg.): at him
tathā: ind. in that manner
yāti = loc. sg. m.. yā: to go , go away
yāti = 3rd pers. sg. yā: to go , go away
yāte = loc. sg. m. past. part. yā: to go , go away
visismiyāte = 3rd pers. dual perf. vi- √ smi: to wonder , be surprised or astonished at (instr. loc. , or abl.)

āraṇyake (loc. sg. n.): mfn. forest , wild , forest-born , produced in a forest , relating to a forest or a forest animal ; m. a forester
vāsasi (loc. sg.): n. clothing
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
bhūyaḥ (ind.): more

tasmin (loc. sg.): towards it
akārṣṭām = 3rd pers. dual perf. kṛ: to do, make
bahu-mānam (acc. sg.): m. high esteem or estimation , great respect or regard for (with loc. of pers. or thing)
√man: to think
āśu: ind. quickly , quick , immediately , directly (expletive – see EHJ note; cf. SN6.9)

太子及車匿 見生奇特想 
此必無事衣 定非世人服
内心大歡喜 於衣倍増敬  


Rich said...

Yes, of course the kaṣāya has practical or utilitarian value. But no, it is not as simple as that.

that's for sure and its funny to think that a simple robe allowed Buddhism to flourish

Mike Cross said...

[Kindly sent by H.I. via email]

Thank you for keeping on with the blog.

yāte would be the locative (masc. sg.) of the past passive participle; so tasmin .. yāte would mean (normally) 'when he had gone'. As you say, that would not fit the metre. yāti here must not be (though indeed in itself it could be) the third person present sg. (active) from yā, which could hardly be construed (your justified unease comes, I would guess, from sensing this at some level), but should be understood to be the locative (masc. sg.) of the present active participle of the same verb. So it does agree with tasmin, and the syntax works. Rather than 'when he had gone', tasmin ... yāti means, then, something like 'as/while he was going'. EBC's translation is very literal; EHJ's and PO's slightly freer (but not excessively so).

I have recently recommended Mining Aśvaghoṣa's Gold to some people (in Taiwan); whether anyone will actually follow you regularly I do not know.

All the best,


Mike Cross said...

Many thanks, the clarification is much appreciated.

Somehow I knew that yāti must be the locative of the present active participle, but since yāti did not
show up as a participle in the stemmer of the Sanskrit Heritage Dictionary, but only as a verb, I
lacked the confidence to trust my judgement. Such are the perils of learning Sanskrit grammar on the
hoof, rather than from first principles.

If you don't object, tomorow I shall post the comment you tried to post from Taiwan -- since jiblet
and one or two others might also appreciate it.

Thanks again,