Wednesday, September 4, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 7.14: Step One – The General Guideline

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Sālā)
agrāmyam-annaṁ salila-prarūḍhaṁ parṇāni toyaṁ phala-mūlam-eva |
yathāgamaṁ vttir-iyaṁ munīnāṁ bhinnās-tu te te tapasāṁ vikalpāḥ || 7.14

"Unprocessed food – food that grows in the presence of water –

Leaves and water and fruits and roots:

This, according to tradition, is the fare of sages.

But in their painful practices there are alternative approaches, 
each being distinct.

Today's verse as I read it, in its first three lines, expresses step one, the general principle. The general principle for sages in the forest tradition – the tradition which the Buddha-to-be followed – is to eat whole, natural food.

Read like that, agrāmyam (unprocessed) and salila-prarūḍham (grown in the presence of water) are saying more or less the same thing, describing food that is natural – for what in nature grows except in the presence of water?

I have followed EBC's reading of salila-prarūḍhaṁ. According to EHJ, the old Nepalese manuscript has salilaṁ prarūḍhaṁ, which EHJ amended to salile prarūḍhaṁ (EHJ: “that which grows in the water”; PO: “whatever grows in water”).

EHJ cites again the research of Eggers in stating that salile prarūḍham refers to śaivāla. The śaivāla plant, internet research indicates, is also called jala-kuntala, or “water-hair,” and it corresponds to the English hornwort – which does not look like appetizing fare for human beings, though goldfish apparently love it. EHJ appears to be suggesting, based on Eggers' research into ancient Indian ascetic practices, that the tradition of ancient sages was to eat a pond-plant akin to hornwort.

In today's verse again, then, the twice-born speaker could be a brahmin who attaches to strange ascetic practices like eating hornwort. Alternatively, he could represent a man born again in the sense that an enlightened person, or a person following any conscious way, is born again.

And again I think that Aśvaghoṣa – as he did with the sleeping beauties in Canto 5 – wishes us to keep these two possibilities in mind as he proceeds step by more difficult step.

My first attempt at translating the 4th pāda of today's verse was:

But among ascetic practices there are alternative approaches which are distinct and different.

This translation I think conveys the ostensible meaning, but the problem with it is that it is only about ascetic practices (= the ostensible meaning of tapasām). As such, it doesn't really speak to my situation here and now, in which my sitting practice, though it is not ascetic, is filled with pain. Originally, however, tapasām (plural) does not only mean ascetic practices (EBC: penance; EHJ: [omitted]; PO: ascetic paths). Tapasām also means sufferings in general, or instances of pain. For that reason I have again opted to translate tapas, as yesterday, as “painful practice.”

Yesterday my wife's dog had to be put to sleep. I am still in France now, but I phoned the kennel-owner / dog-whisperer who my wife had taken her dog to see in Wales and thanked her for helping the dog on its way. A couple of days in the company of other dogs apparently made our dog forget her problems and become active again – like a dog again. But this enabled the nerve damage to manifest itself in earnest so that her back legs became completely unable to support her weight. The lady kennel-owner told me that it was the saddest [episode of a dog having to be put down] that she had experienced in thirty years, since our dog was so lovely and so young. My brother and my son, who I also spoke to on the phone, told me not to blame myself, which I could easily do, since my taking the dog cycling was at least a contributory factor in its demise, and since I am particularly inclined to blame myself even at the best of times. So there are these particular circumstances, these and those (te te), which are individual and distinct (bhinnāḥ). At the same time, there is the general, universal, absolute rule by which everybody comes to grief, that rule being cause and effect.

Quod Erat Demonstrandum

[PS I would be grateful if people didn't leave any personal comments on this post. You are welcome to eavesdrop on me discussing my personal stuff, but I would prefer it to be one way traffic. So if you feel tempted to comment, I refer you to the 3rd noble truth] 

agrāmyam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. not rustic , town-made; not tame, wild
grāmya: mfn. used or produced in a village ; prepared in a village (as food) ; living (in villages i.e.) among men , domesticated , tame (an animal) , cultivated (a plant ; opposed to vanya or araṇya , " wild ") ; allowed in a village , relating to the sensual pleasures of a village ; rustic, vulgar (as speech); n. the Prakrit and the other dialects of India as contra-distinguished from the Sanskrit ; n. food prepared in a village
grāma: m. an inhabited place , village , hamlet ; n. a village
annam (nom. sg.): n. food or victuals , especially boiled rice
salila-prarūḍham [EBC] (nom. sg. n.): produced from water
salile [EHJ] (loc. sg.): n. water
prarūḍham (nom. sg. n.): mfn. growing ; arisen or proceeded from (comp.)

parṇāni (nom. pl.): n. a leaf
toyam (nom. sg.): n. water
phala-mūlam (nom. sg.): n. sg. or du. or pl. fruits and roots
eva: (emphatic)

yathāgamam: ind. according to tradition
vṛttiḥ (nom. sg.): f. rolling ; mode of life or conduct , course of action , behaviour ; profession , maintenance , subsistence , livelihood
iyam (nom. sg.): f. this
munīnām (gen. pl. m.): of the sages

bhinnāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. split ; divided into parts , anything less than a whole ; disunited , set at variance ; distinct , different from or other than (abl. or comp.) ; deviating , abnormal , irregular
bhid: to split , cleave , break , cut or rend asunder , pierce , destroy ; to disunite , set at variance ; to distinguish , discriminate
tu: but
te te = nom. pl. m. tad tad: this and that , various , different
tapasām (gen. pl.): n. ascetic practice
vikalpāḥ (nom. pl.): m. alternation , alternative , option ; variation , combination , variety , diversity , manifoldness

非聚落所出 清淨水生物
或食根莖葉 或復食華果
種種各異道 服食亦不同  

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