Saturday, August 17, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.65: In Praise of a Mind-Altering Substance

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
chandaṁ tataḥ sāśru-mukhaṁ visjya kāṣāya-saṁvid-dhti-kīrti-bht-saḥ |
yenāśramas-tena yayau mahātmā saṁdhyābhra-saṁvīta ivoḍu-rājaḥ || 6.65

Then, having set the tear-faced Chanda free,

He, clad in consciousness of the ochre robe,
wearing constancy and honour,

Moved majestically
in the direction of the ashram
[or by the means of the inexhaustible]

Like the moon – king among stars – veiled by a dusky cloud.

In the 1st pāda, Chandaka is tear-faced having been set free or sent away or dismissed (visṛjya) by the prince. Ostensibly, the cause of Chandaka's tears is the prince sending him back to Kapilavastu on his own, i.e. dismissing him. But the first meaning of vi-√sṛj is to set free. So a hidden meaning might be that the prince, presaging his future influence on people as the enlightened Buddha, has helped Chandaka to show some emotion and put expression in his eye.

A change of clothing, as Gudo Nishijima used to point out, changes our mind. In the 2nd pāda I understand kāṣāya-saṁvid (“kāṣāya-consciousnesss”) in light of this fact – the point being that to wear a kaṣāya is to be clad in changed consciousness.

EBC amended the 2nd pāda to kāṣāya-saṁvid-vṛta-kīrti-bhṛt-saḥ and translated “wearing his fame veiled by the sign of the red garment.” EHJ amended to kāṣāya-saṁbhṛd-dhṛti-kīrti-bhṛt-saḥ and translated “wearing the ochre robe and bearing the fame of his steadfastness.” PO accepted EHJ's text, separated according to CSL conventions as kāṣāya-saṁbhṛd dhṛti-kīrti-bhṛt saḥ, and translated “wearing the ochre robe and the fame of resolve.”

In amending the 2nd pāda, EHJ noted: The reading is uncertain, though the Tibetan and Chinese translations show clearly that the old Nepalese manuscript's saṁvid stands for a word meaning 'wearing.' This note runs the risk of making Aṣvaghośa's original words answerable to his Tibetan and Chinese translators. I think it is another case of EHJ being too ready, when he does not understand the meaning of his Sanskrit manuscript, to change the text in deference to Tibetan and Chinese translators who most probably did not understand the text either.

EBC understood the prince to be wearing (bhṛt) fame (kīrti) which was veiled (vṛta) by the sign (saṁvid) of the red garment (kāṣāya).

EHJ/PO understood the prince to be wearing the ochre robe (kāṣāya-saṁbhṛt), and bearing/wearing (bhṛt) the fame (kīrti) of steadfastness/resolve (dhṛti).

In my reading of the 2nd pāda, the prince is described as wearing (bhṛt) three things, those three elements being listed according to the dialectic logic that Gudo Nishijima emphasized, viz. 1. kāṣāya-consciousness (kāṣāya-saṁvid), 2. constancy (dhṛti), and 3. good repute or honour (kīrti).

The prince's wearing of 1. kāṣāya-consciousness relates to the principle, discussed above, that changing into a uniform, or the clothing of one's profession or vocation, changes one's mind

 The prince's wearing of 2. constancy refers, I think, to the form of the kāṣāya, which is at one and the same time totally variable and eternally immutable – in the sense that it always has been and always will be a rectangular sheet of cloth, with no Tibetan yellow hat, no Chinese wide sleeves, and no Japanese white underwear. 

And wearing 3. honour or good repute relates to the fact that when we are wearing a kāṣāya we are generally prevented from grosser forms of wrong-doing, like say adultery and murder – though an exception to the rule may be the guy in Burma who has been stirring up murderous hatred against individuals he sees as the non-Buddhist other.

I am no fan of certain aspects of Islaamic teaching, but if strong attachment to a belief that has no basis in reality were a just cause for hating a person, I would have to hate myself for a start. (Sometimes, I must admit, in the middle of a sleepless night, I do!)

In the 3rd pāda, yenāśramaḥ is ostensibly yena + āśramaḥ (yenāśramas-tena yayau = he went in that direction wherein was the āśram), but it could be read as yena + aśramaḥ (yenāśramas-tena yayau = he went by that means which is the indefatigable / inexhaustible).

The ostenisble reading, naturally enough, is followed by each of the three professors – EBC: “went towards the hermitage”; EHJ: “moved to where the hermitage was”; PO: “went to the hermitage.”

As suggested by EHJ's translation, however, which is more clunky but a truer mirror of the original Sanskrit, the original construction looks as if Aśvoghaṣa contrived it with a hidden agenda in mind. Why, instead of simply writing āśramam yayau, “he went to the āśram,” and then giving himself three more syllables to play with, did Aśvoghaṣa beat around the bush by writing yenāśramas-tena yayau (= yena + āśramaḥ tena yayau), “in that direction wherein the āśram was he went.”? One possible answer is that he wished to make a play on the double-meaning of yenāśramaḥ.

In the 4th pāda, saṁdhyā could mean either the morning or the evening twilight, or both, and uḍu-rājaḥ “king of stars” generally stands for the moon, but the heavenly body most usually associated with saṁdhyā (EHJ informs us) is the sun.

If the hidden reading of the 3rd pāda is to point to a means which is indefatigable (i.e. a practical means-whereby, a practical teaching, which is indestructible) then maybe the sun fits better, as the more conspicuous and massive reservoir of energy.

Apropos of that, Marjory Barlow once said that FM Alexander had told her not to worry, as she was prone to worry, about his teaching being lost. The words Marjory quoted, if I remember correctly, were: “This work is too valuable ever to be destroyed.” For FM, Marjory used to say, “the work” had a kind of objective quality – he saw it as something eternally out there, something he had discovered rather than invented.

So sun or moon? It largely depends on what colour we conceive the word kāṣāya to express – for example, ochre or saffron? Kāṣāya is given in the dictionary as “a brown-red cloth or garment.” Does the moon veiled in dusky clouds give more a sense of brown or ochre shades? Does the sun wrapped in clouds at sunset give more of a sense of the brighter reds and yellows of a saffron robe?

Since Aśvaghoṣa has described the robe as “of the forest,” and I have been translating kaṣāya as ochre, my first instinct was to stick with ochre and therefore to go with the moon.

Like the moon – king among stars – veiled by a dusky cloud.

On reflection, however, a translation that remains ambiguous, not coming down on the side of the sun or of the moon, may be more in accord with Aśvaghoṣa's intention.

Like the king of stars cloaked by a twilight cloud.

The Chinese translator, as EHJ points out, hedges his bets in this non-sectarian spirit with 圍繞日月輪 "winding around the disc of the sun or moon.”

Looking at the forest now, from the outside, it is predominantly green. But when I go inside the forest, under the trees, the predominant colours are browns and yellow – unless I venture inside in the middle of a moonless night, in which case the predominat colour will be black. And in autumn all kinds of bright colours, golds and reds, are liable to come into play. If a blue jay flies by, or I go down to the stream, a whole lot of other colours meet the eye.

Perhaps we can conclude, then, that if the colour of a kaṣāya should be a colour of the forest, that is not an unduly narrow definition.

To put it another way, if we cite today's verse as evidence in support of a narrow view that the Buddha's robe was ochre, or saffron, or brown-red, or yellow-red, we might be falling into a trap that Aśvaghoṣa has wittingly laid for us.

Did Aśvaghoṣa hide below the surface of today's verse the suggestion that the means-whereby which is a kaṣāya has shades of colour and meaning which are indefatigably, or inexhaustibly, or unfathomably many?

Is the hidden meaning of today's verse thus to suggest how unfathomable the kaṣāya is?

We may not have got to the bottom of it yet.

As a final postscript, at the end of the Friday when I would have published this post had I not lost the internet connection on Thursday, I happened to step out of my Zendo / shed as night was falling – having just taken off and folded up the old brown kaṣāya which I sewed in the 1980s in Japan and now keep in France -- to be greeted by a half moon thinly veiled by a cloud. That was enough to clinch the decision to go with the moon after all – it seemed to be, all at once, yellow enough, red enough, and brown enough, not to mention saffron enough and ochre enough.

chandam (acc. sg.): m. Chanda, Chandaka
tataḥ: ind. then
sāśru-mukham (acc. sg. m.): tearful-faced
visṛjya = abs. vi- √ sṛj : to set free, send away, dismiss
√ sṛj: to let go or fly , discharge ; to let loose , cause (horses) to go quickly ;

kāṣāya-saṁvid-dhti-kīrti-bht (nom. sg. m.): he, with kāṣāya-consciousness, wearing constancy and good repute,
kāṣāya: n. a brown-red cloth or garment
saṁvid: f. consciousness , intellect , knowledge , understanding ; perception , feeling , sense of (gen. or comp.) ; a mutual understanding , agreement , contract , covenant ; a name, appelation
dhṛti: f. holding , seizing , keeping , supporting , firmness , constancy , resolution , will , command ; satisfaction , content , joy
kīrti: f. mention , making mention of , speech , report ; good report , fame , renown , glory
√ kṛ: to make mention of , praise , speak highly of
bhṛt: mfn. bearing , carrying , bringing , procuring , possessing , wearing , having , nourishing , supporting , maintaining (only ifc.
saḥ (nom. sg. m.): he

kāṣāya-saṁvid-vṛta-kīrti-bhṛt- [EBC] (nom. sg. m.): 'wearing his fame veiled by the sign of the red garment'
vṛta: mfn. concealed , screened , hidden , enveloped , surrounded by , covered with (instr. or comp.)

kāṣāya-saṁbhṛd-dhṛti-kīrti-bhṛt [EHJ] 'wearing the ochre robe and bearing the fame of his steadfastness'
sam- √ bhṛ: to draw together , roll or fold up ; to bring together , gather , collect , unite , compose , arrange , prepare , make ready , procure ; to maintain, cherish

yena: by whom or by which , by means of which , by which way ; in which direction , whither , where ; in which manner
āśramaḥ (nom. sg. m.): a hermitage , the abode of ascetics , the cell of a hermit or of retired saints or sages
aśramaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. indefatigable
tena: ind. in that direction , there (correl. to yena , " in which direction , where ")
tena (inst. sg.): by that, by those means
yayau = 3rd pers. sg. perf. yā: to go
mahātmā (nom. sg. m.): mfn. " high-souled " , magnanimous , having a great or noble nature , high-minded , noble ; eminent , mighty , powerful , distinguished ; m. the Supreme Spirit , great soul of the universe

saṁdhyābhra-saṁvītaḥ (nom. sg. m.): clothed in clouds at twilight or the break of day
saṁdhyā: f. holding together , union , junction , juncture , (esp.) juncture of day and night , morning or evening twilight
abhra: n. 'water bearer' ; cloud , thunder-cloud , rainy weather
saṁvīta: mfn. covered over , clothed , mailed , armoured ; covered or surrounded or furnished with , concealed or obscured by (instr. or comp.)
iva: like
uḍu-rājaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the king of stars (= the moon)
uḍu: fn. a star; n. a lunar mansion or constellation in the moon's path
adri-rājaḥ [EBC] (nom. sg. m.): the king of mountains

即與車匿別 被著袈裟衣
猶若青絳雲 圍繞日月輪
安詳而諦歩 入於仙人窟

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