Friday, August 23, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 7.2: A Paragon of Animals (Let's Get Physical)

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Mālā)
sa rāja-sūnur-mga-rāja-gāmī mgājiraṁ tan-mgavat praviṣṭaḥ |
lakṣmī-viyukto 'pi śarīra-lakṣmyā cakṣūṁṣi sarvāśramiṇāṁ jahāra || 7.2

He the son of a king, moving like a lion-king,

Entered like a forest creature that arena of forest creatures;

By the majesty of his physical person,
though bereft of the tokens of majesty,

He stole the eyes of all the ashram-dwellers 


What a piece of work is a man! 
How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! 
In form and moving how express and admirable! 
In action how like an Angel! 
in apprehension how like a god! 
The beauty of the world! 
The paragon of animals!

These lines from Hamlet, which he called “Shakespeare's great word picture,” were a favourite of FM Alexander.

In the 1st pāda of today's verse mṛga-rāja means a lion, king of beasts – i.e. king of all the creatures of the forest, not only deer. That being so, I read mṛga in the 2nd pāda also as referring to all creatures of the forest, and not only to deer. The three professors all go with deer, which is reasonable insofar as mṛga often specifically means deer. Translating mṛga as deer, however, misses what I see as a philosophical point of the verse, which is that the prince is described as mṛga-vat, “like a creature of the forest.” So the prince had much in common with a lion, and with all the creatures of the forest, but he was not a lion and was not a creature of the forest – he was the son of a human king, and was a paragon of animals.

One connotation of mṛga-vat (like a forest creature / like a deer) is to allude to the ascetic practice described later in this Canto of skulking and springing around the forest in imitation of a deer or other wild creature. So the implication is that the prince did not need to make such a big effort – he was like a forest creature already.

Still in the 2nd pāda, mṛgājiraṁ tan (that arena of forest creatures) means the forest. Possibly because I rarely see wildlife other than birds and insects in the forest by where I am in France, I tend to conceive of this forest as a place of many trees and the odd edible mushroom, rather than as abode of mammalian creatures. But over the years I have indeed seen several deer and one pine marten, some red squirrels, and one bloody great wild boar crossing the road. So mṛgājiraṁ tan (that arena of forest creatures) is a reminder that, notwithstanding anybody's romantic conceptions of the forest, the forest in reality is always an arena for Darwinian struggle, with four legged creatures generally competing at the top of the food chain. 

In the 3rd pāda, the repetition of lakṣmi (majesty), echoing the repetition of rāja in the 1st pāda, seems to emhasize that the forest when the prince entered it became a place of sovereignty (but not the sovereignty of a royal palace) and a place of majesty (but not the majesty of a royal palace).

So the forest was an arena where wild creatures were in competition, and the prince was more than at home in such an arena. At the level of the physical or the animal – at the level where the abstract intellectual thinking we have recently engaged in about attachment and detachment doesn't count for much -- the prince was was no loser.

Thus, it can be argued, the śarīra (physical person) in the 3rd pāda of today's verse, as also the vapuṣa (physical presence) in the 3rd pāda of yesterday's verse, signal a shift that is antithetical to preoccupations with the abstract, the philosphical, the psychological, and the emotional.

My Alexander head of training Ray Evans had, like me, been a rugby player in his younger days. But somehow our liking for physical pursuits like rugby had morphed into interest in karate and Zen in my case, and into aikido and yoga in Ray's case, and thence to that most mental of all things, the FM Alexander Technique. Notwithstanding the fact that AT is, in Alexander's words, "the most mental thing there is," I remember one memorable piece of advice that Ray gave me towards the end of my teacher training when I was stressing about some fine point or other – “Release into the physical.”

It was an odd thing for an Alexander head of training to say, considering that an Alexander head of training's job is to help wean people off addiction to the physical and to get us to use our brains. ("We can throw away the habits of a lifetime in a few minutes, if we  use our brains.") But at that time and place, and given our shared backgrounds so that Ray knew that I would know what he meant, Ray's advice to me was wise 
and good advice – “Release into the physical.”

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
rāja-sūnuḥ (nom. sg. m.): the son of the king, the prince
mṛga-rāja-gāmī (nom. sg. m.): going with the gait of a king of beasts
mṛga: m. a forest animal or wild beast , game of any kind , (esp.) a deer , fawn , gazelle , antelope , stag , musk-deer
mṛga-rāja: m. " king of beasts " , a lion
gāmin: mfn. going anywhere ; (in the following meanings only) ifc. going or moving on or in or towards or in any peculiar manner

mṛgājiram (acc. sg.): n. an arena of deer Bcar.
ajira: n. place to run or fight in , area , court
tad (acc. sg. n.): that
mṛgavat: ind. like a forest animal ; like a deer
praviṣṭaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. entered

lakṣmī-viyuktaḥ (nom. sg. m.): bereft of his royal majesty
lakṣmī: f. a mark , sign , token ; wealth , riches ; beauty , loveliness , grace , charm , splendour , lustre ; N. of the goddess of fortune and beauty ; the Good Genius or Fortune of a king personified (and often regarded as a rival of his queen) , royal power , dominion , majesty
viyukta: mfn. disjoined , detached , separated or delivered from , deprived or destitute of. deserted by (instr. or comp.)
api: though, even
śarīra-lakṣmyā (inst. sg. f.): with the majesty of his body

cakṣūṁṣi (acc. pl.): n. faculty of seeing , sight ; the eye
sarvāśramiṇām (gen. pl. m.): of all the āśram-dwellers
āśramiṇ: belonging to a hermitage , a hermit , anchorite
jahāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. hṛ: to take away , carry off , seize , deprive of , steal , rob

譬如師子王 入于群獸中 
俗容悉已捨 唯見道眞形
彼諸學仙士 忽覩未曾見
懍然心驚喜 合掌端目矚 

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