Monday, September 23, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 7.33: Meaningless Doing

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Vāṇī)
abhyuddhta-prajvalitāgni-hotraṁ ktābhiṣekarṣi-janāvakīrṇam |
jāpya-svanākūjita-deva-koṣṭhaṁ dharmasya karmāntam-iva pravttam || 7.33

– Into the flaring forest,
where the sacrificial flame was passed from fire to blazing fire;

Into the bespattered forest,
filled with seers performing their bathing rites;

Into the cooing forest,
where shrines to gods resounded with muttered prayers;

Into the forest which was like a hive of dharma,
all busy with doing.

In the everyday life of this bloke who sits, for one, there is no sacrificial fire, there is no ritual bathing, there is no reverence of gods, and restricting myself to one verse of Aśvaghoṣa per day is a means designed to prevent me from becoming too busy with dharma-doings.

On the basis of my own daily life, then, I read today's verse as having a sting in its tail with the word pravṛttam, which I have translated as “all busy with doing.”

Each of the three professors translated the 4th pāda of today's verse as if Aśvaghoṣa was affirming the vigorous activity going on in the forest after ascetic practices had finished for the day; hence:

it seemed all alive like the full service of religion in exercise (EBC);
It was in full activity, a workshop as it were of dharma (EHJ);
a forest rendered tranquil by ascetic toil, a forest that was like the workshop of dharma (PO).

Thus EBC translated pravṛttam as “all alive,” EHJ as “in full activity,” and PO appears to have taken pravṛttam as referring back to the 4th pāda of the preceding verse, and therefore translated pravṛttam as “rendered.”

Again, this may have been in accordance with Aśvaghoṣa's ostensible intention – to show politeness and respect to the ancient Brahmanist tradition, and to paint the goings-on in the ascetic forest in a somewhat favourable light. But Aśvaghoṣa's real intention, I would bet my bottom dollar, was nothing like that.

To understand Aśvaghoṣa's real intention, we have to go back to the verse in SN Canto 16 that I quoted several times while digging for the real meaning of BC Canto 6, titled chandaka-nivartaṇaḥChandaka / Turning Back.
Comprehend, therefore, that suffering is doing (pra-vṛttim); witness the faults impelling it forward (pra-vartakān); / Realise its stopping as non-doing (ni-vṛttim); and know the path as a turning back (ni-vartakam). // SN16.42 //

abhyuddhṛta-prajvalitāgni-hotram (acc. sg. n.): with fire oblations for which the blazing sacred fire was transferred
abhyuddhṛta: mfn. taken up , &c
abhy-ud-dhṛ: Ved. to take out (especially one fire in order to add it to another)
prajvalita: mfn. flaming , blazing , burning , shining ;
agni: m. fire
hotra: n. sacrificing , the function or office of the hotṛ ; a burnt-offering , oblation with fire , sacrifice
hotṛ: m. (fr. √hu, to offer a sacrifice) an offerer of an oblation or burnt-offering (with fire) , sacrificer , priest , (esp.) a priest who at a sacrifice invokes the gods or recites the ṛg-veda

kṛtābhiṣekarṣi-janāvakīrṇam (acc. sg. n.): filled with seer-people doing religious bathing
kṛta: mfn. doing, done, making, made
abhiṣeka: m. anointing , inaugurating or consecrating (by sprinkling water) , inauguration of a king , royal unction ; the water or liquid used at an inauguration ; religious bathing , ablution
ṛṣi: m. seer ; a singer of sacred hymns , an inspired poet or sage
jana: m. people
avakīrṇa: mfn. who has spilt his semen virile , i.e. violated his vow of chastity ; poured upon , covered with , filled

jāpya-svanākūjita-deva-koṣṭham (acc. sg. n.): with its gods-treasuries cooing with the sounds of muttering of prayers
jāpya: mfn. to be muttered ; n. a prayer to be muttered , muttering of prayers
svana: m. sound, noise
ākūjita: mfn. cooing
ākūj: to coo (as pigeons) , lament
deva: m. god
koṣṭha: m. any one of the viscera of the body (particularly the stomach , abdomen) ; mn. a treasury ; m. an inner apartment ; n. any enclosed space or area , chess square

dharmasya (gen. sg.): of dharma
karmāntam (acc. sg. m.): m. end or accomplishment of a work ; end or conclusion of a sacred action ; work , business , action , management , administration (of an office) ; tilled or cultivated ground
iva: like
pravṛttam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. come forth, purposing, acting, proceeding ; n. (with karman n. action) causing a continuation of mundane existence

如是竟日夜 觀察彼所行

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