Monday, September 2, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 7.12: What's the Matter

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
tat-pūrvam-adyāśrama-darśanaṁ me yasmād-imaṁ dharma-vidhiṁ na jāne |
tasmād-bhavān-arhati bhāṣituṁ me yo niścayo yat prati vaḥ pravttaḥ || 7.12

"Since today is my first visit to an ashram

And I do not understand this method of dharma;

Therefore, kind sir, please tell me –

You are all possessed of what intention, directed towards what."

The parents of former Irish president Mary Robinson were doctors in the rural west of Ireland. When her father delivered a baby, or so I heard when Mary Robinson was on Desert Island Discs, he would be asked: “Tell me, Doctor, is it a boy, or is it a child?”

So what was on the face of it a question was really expressing the speaker's wish or desire. The real intention was: “Please tell me it's a boy!”

The 4th pāda of today's verse, as I read it, can also be understood on those two levels. On the face of it, the prince is asking the ascetic a question. 

Hence EBC (reading the pāda as yo niścayo yaṁ prati vaḥ pravṛttaḥ) translated: [kindly explain to me] what resolve possesses each one of you.

EHJ (reading the pāda as yo niścayo yat prati vaḥ pravṛttaḥ) translated: [kindly explain to me] what is your resolve and to what point it is directed?

And PO (following EHJ's reading) translated: what is your resolve? What do you seek to achieve?

With each new generation of translator, the explicit sense of a question seems to have emerged more clearly.

But Aśvaghoṣa's real intention may be to have the Buddha-to-be, below the surface, express what is not so much a question as a description of how each person's mind should be, in a group of people who are following this exhortation of Dogen: 

“If you wish to get the matter of it,
practice at once the matter of it!”

Dogen's matter of it, then, might be a later variation of Aśvaghoṣa's original what. It may be that, originally speaking, before it became the matter, what, indeed, was the matter....

Dogen: Practice the matter of it!

Aśvaghoṣa: You mean what!

Dogen: I just said – It!

Aśvaghoṣa: No, you mean what!

Dogen: I just said! It! Did you not hear me? What's the matter?

Aśvaghoṣa: Yes, what is the matter. The matter is what.

Read in this light imaṁ dharma-vidhiṁ na jāne in the 2nd pāda might be a Sanskrit precursor to the words of the Chinese Zen master who said, 不会仏法I do not understand the Buddha-dharma.

The desire for release is eternal. (BC7.10)
Wanting to know the truth of that-ness is impossible. (BC7.11)
And this buddha-dharma is unfathomable. (BC7.12)
That being so, what is our intention, and we are pursuing what.

Some would say that Aśvaghoṣa, like Dogen after him, belonged to a tradition of mystical realism. But that might be to insult Aśvaghoṣa and Dogen with an -ism.

tat-pūrvam: ind. happening for the first time
adya: ind. today
āśrama-darśanam (nom. sg. n.): seeing an ashram
me (gen. sg.): of/for me

yasmād: ind. since
imam (acc. sg. m.): this
dharma-vidhim (acc. sg.): m. course of law, legal precept or injunction ; method of dharma
na: not
jāne = 1st pers. sg. jñā: to know, understand

tasmād: ind. therefore
bhavān (nom. sg. m.): your honour ; you (lit. " the gentleman or lady present”)
arhati (2nd pers. sg.): you should, please
bhāṣitum = inf. bhāṣ: to speak, say , talk, tell ; to speak of or about or on (acc.)
me (dat. sg.): to me

yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): what , whatever
niścayaḥ (nom. sg.): m. inquiry , ascertainment , fixed opinion , conviction , certainty , positiveness; resolution , resolve, fixed intention , design , purpose , aim
yam (acc. sg. m.): what
yat [EHJ] (acc. sg. n.): what
prati: as a prep. with usually preceding acc. , in the sense of towards , against , to , upon , in the direction of (e.g. śabdam p° , in the direction of the sound R. ; agnim pr° , against the fire Mn. ; also °ty-agni ind. Pa1n2. 6-2 , 33 Sch. ; ripum pr° , against the enemy Mn. ; ātmānam pr° , to one's self Ratna7v. )
vaḥ (gen. pl.): of you all
pravṛttiḥ (nom. sg. f.): f. moving onwards , advance , progress ; active life (as opp. to ni-vṛtti); conduct , behaviour , practice
pravṛttaḥ (nom. sg. m.): going to , bound for (acc.) ; purposing or going to , bent upon (dat. loc);

今我初至此 未知行何法
隨事而請問 願爲我解説  

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