Friday, September 6, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 7.16: Other Steps Again, Digging Deeper

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
aśma-prayatnārjita-vttayo 'nye ke-cit-sva-dantāpahatānna-bhakṣāḥ |
ktvā parārthaṁ śrapaṇaṁ tathānye kurvanti kāryaṁ yadi śeṣam-asti || 7.16

Ones who are different 
live by what is ground out through effort on a stone;

Some are sustained by breaking food down with their own teeth;

Ones, again, who are different, 
having done the cooking for others,

Do what is for them to do, if anything is left over.

Anye (others, different ones) appears twice in today's verse, as the subject of the 1st pāda and as the subject of the 3rd and 4th pādas. The second time it appears as tathānye (= tathā, likewise + anye, others, different ones). This use of tathā (likewise), as I read it, like the inversion of the logical order of anye and ke-cid discussed in yesterday's verse, is Aśvaghoṣa's signal to us that he wants us to think twice about what anye means.

I am going in a minute to point out how each of the three professors failed to pick up the signal. As I do so, I hope I am not conveying any sense of blame – because sometimes failure to pick up signals is not so much blameworthy as just an element in the unfolding of a terribly sad scenario.

When I was an infant, a locum doctor who attended to me failed to pick up the signals that I was suffering from testicular torsion. He gave me antibiotics, with the result that the testicle in question atrophied – a process which, though I have no conscious memory of it, must have been painful. Was that locum doctor to blame? Did he mean me any harm? Or was he just doing his best? Twenty years later, it so happened that the doctor running the student health practice at Sheffield University when I was there, was an expert on testicular torsion and he gave me a paper he had published on the subject. All a doctor needs to do when a patient is suffering from testicular torsion, the paper explained, is to twist the testicle back into place and the patient will be freed from pain instantly, like magic. But that locum doctor back in Birmingham in 1962 was not in possession of that information. That is all it was, not even ignorance, just lack of knowledge.

In just the same way I certainly meant no harm to my wife's dog – on the contrary, I was more attached to that dog than I realized until we lost her earlier this week, but I failed to recognize the signs that I was over-exercising the dog which, as a labrador-spaniel cross, was not bred for prolonged fast running. The cutting short of the life of a four-legged friend is nowhere close to being the worse thing that has ever happened to me, but it feels like the saddest thing, because the dog was so sweet-natured and always so keen to please. The dog's mind was utterly pure. So now it feels like there are no complicating emotions to be experienced, just pure and deep sadness.

In a spirit of no blame but just telling it as I see it, then, here is how each of the three professors failed to pick up Aśvaghoṣa's signal:

EBC translated:
Others win their nourishment with great effort from stones, others eat corn ground with their own teeth; some (tathānye), having boiled for others, dress for themselves what may chance to be left.

EHJ translated:
Some gain their subsistence by laborious pounding with stones, others eat only what has been husked by their own teeth, and some again (tathānye) cook for others and meet their needs on anything that may be left over.

PO translated:
some procure their food by pounding with stones,
others eat food that's been ground with their teeth,
some (tathānye) cook for others and if there's some left,
with that they do take care of their own needs.

Each of the three professors thus translated anye as some, and EBC and PO omitted to translate tathā at all.

EHJ added in a footnote:
The aśmakuṭṭas are described in a [the 1st pāda] and the dantolūkhalikas in b [the 2nd pāda].

According to the Monier-Williams dictionary
aśmakuṭṭa means breaking [grain] with a stone; and
dantolūkhalika means "using the teeth as a mortar," eating unground grain (an ascetic).

So in today's verse, as in yesterday's verse, the man born again is ostensibly describing the dietary practices of distinct schools of asceticism  the aśmakuṭṭas, the dantolūkhalikas, and so on and so forthBut below the surface the man born again is describing the lives of buddhas and bodhisattvas.

On the surface, Aśvaghoṣa's inversion of the logical order of ke-cid and anya is a little odd, and the word tathā is superfluous. But below the surface anya conceals real meaning, and when that meaning is recognized, the word tathā also becomes meaningful  because anya (being other / different) is a way of being. And as past buddhas and bodhisattvas were like that, so again  (tathā), likewise (tathā), in like manner (tathā) will future buddhas and bodhisattvas be like that. 

Aśvaghoṣa's anya found its echo in Chinese Zen with the teaching of   (HI-BUTSU), the non-buddha.

An example celebrated in China of a non-buddha who ground out effort on a stone was the Zen master known in Japanese as Sekito Kisen, the Sekito being (SEKI; stone) and (TO; top, head).

In the 2nd pāda, breaking down food with one's own teeth brings to mind the expression “blowing one's own nose,” which I remember Dogen using somewhere in Shobogenzo – the emphasis being on the sva, “one's own.” Again one thinks of the aged Zen Master in ancient China who, when his tools were hidden from him, refused to eat, saying “A day without work is a day without food.” This old bloke wished to do his own digging, for himself, using his own spade, and generations of Zen Masters in China and Japan were united in saying, in so many words, “Good on him!”

And though the para (others) in the 3rd pāda is opposed to sva (one's own) in the 2nd pāda, the 3rd and 4th pāda can be read as expressing the same practical attitude which Sekito had, and which all the Zen masters of India and China had. As those bodhisattvas were, so (tathā) that bodhisattva was. 

The 3rd and 4th pāda, in other words, can be read as expressing the fundamental principle of one who has taken the vow of a bodhisattva, or a buddha-to-be, that vow being to exhaust oneself crossing others over first, before – if anything is left over – taking oneself across.

Thus the last line of the verse recited in praise of the kaṣāya reminds us about
(KO; widely),
(DO; crossing over),
(SHO; all / many),
衆生 (SHUJO; living beings).

aśma-prayatnārjita-vṛttayaḥ (nom. pl. m.): with subsistence gained through effort exerted on stones
aśman: m. a stone, rock
prayatna: m. persevering effort , continued exertion or endeavour , exertion bestowed on (loc. or comp.) , activity , action , act
arjita: mfn. acquired , gained , earned
vṛtti: f. rolling ; profession , maintenance , subsistence , livelihood (often ifc. ; cf. uñcha-v° ; vṛttiṁ- √kṛ or √ kḷp [Caus.] with instr. , " to live on or by ")
anye (nom. pl. m.): others, different ones

ke-cit (nom. pl. m.): some ones
sva-dantāpahatānna-bhakṣāḥ (nom. pl. m.): living on corn milled by one's own teeth
sva-danta: one's own teeth
apahata: mfn. destroyed , warded off , killed
apa- √ han: to beat off , ward off , repel , destroy
anna: n. food or victuals , especially boiled rice ; n. bread corn ; n. food in a mystical sense (or the lowest form in which the supreme soul is manifested , the coarsest envelope of the Supreme Spirit)
bhakṣa: ifc. having anything for food or beverage , eating , drinking , living upon

kṛtvā = abs. kṛ: to do, make
parārtham: ind. for the sake of others
śrapaṇam (acc. sg.): n. (fr. Caus. śrā, to cook, boil) cooking , boiling
tathā: ind. likewise
anye (nom. pl. m.): others, different ones

kurvanti = 3rd pers. pl. kṛ: to do, make
kāryam (acc. sg.): n. work or business to be done , duty , affair
yadi: if
śeṣam (nom. sg.): n. remainder, leftovers
asti (3rd pers. sg. as): there is

木石舂不食 兩齒嚙爲痕
或乞食施人 取殘而自食 

1 comment:

gniz said...

Mike, it has been of use to me.