Monday, September 16, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 7.26: An Elegant Rationale Against Asceticism

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Mālā)
śarīra-pīḍā tu yadīha dharmaḥ sukhaṁ śarīrasya bhavaty-adharmaḥ |
dharmeṇa cāpnoti sukhaṁ paratra tasmād-adharmaṁ phalatīha dharmaḥ || 7.26

If causing the body pain, in contrast, is the dharma here,

The body being happy constitutes the opposite of dharma.

And yet by dharma the body obtains happiness in future....

Therefore the dharma here results in the opposite of dharma.

The conclusion that the prince's power of reasoning leads him to in today's verse, as I read it, is that when means and ends are divided, the means are liable to produce a result which is diametrically opposed to the end originally aimed for. Thus is a dharma liable to be turned into its opposite. 

Shortly before I decided to go and look for some quiet, cheap place in the Norman countryside to use as a retreat, ten or so years ago, I had a conversation with Marjory Barlow in which she impressed on me that in order to spread a teaching that is supposed to conduce to happiness, the teacher has to be happy in himself or herself, so that ripples of happiness radiate outward in waves.

That conversation, to my mind, resonates with what the prince recognizes in today's verse about disunity or unity of means and end.

I notice that the Chinese translation of the 2nd pāda is a good one:

安樂 ease/happiness
un-, anti-, non-
And the Chinese characters 安樂, representing the Sanskrit sukhaṁ śarīrasya (the body being happy , physical ease), resonate with the phrase that Dogen famously uses to describe sitting-dhyāna in his various instructions for how to sit:

The Dharma-gate of ease/happiness.

There are many people in the academic world, and specifically in the world of Buddhist studies, who know a lot about the Buddha's teaching but who seem to me not really to know the Buddha's teaching at all. I received an email from one such person yesterday.

After I sent a brief and challenging reply along these lines, I asked myself whether I had just expressed the mirror principle. Do I myself know the Buddha's teaching, or am I one of those who knows a lot about the Buddha's teaching?

It is a good question to ask oneself and it is not irrelevant to today's verse, especially when today's verse is seen in the wider context of the Buddha-to-be's six years of severe ascetic practice, as very briefly described at the end of BC Canto 12 – the point being that in today's verse the prince has figured out intellectually, with impeccable reasoning, that asceticism is not the way to lasting inner happiness; but when the Buddha-very-shortly-to-be sits in lotus under the bodhi tree, feeling himself going up with the bodhi tree and with all the grass and trees all around, as the good food he has eaten releases the energy of life into his bloodstream, then he really knows, with his whole body and mind, that asceticism is not it.

śarīra-pīḍā (nom. sg. f.): bodily pain ; paining of the body
pīḍā: f. pain , suffering , annoyance , harm , injury , violation , damage ; obscuration , eclipse (of a planet)
pīḍ: to press , squeeze ; to hurt , harm , injure , oppress , pain , vex
tu: but
yadi: ind. if
iha: ind. here, in this place
dharmaḥ (nom. sg.): m. dharma

sukham (nom. sg.): n. ease, happiness, comfort
śarīrasya (gen. sg.): n. body
bhavati = 3rd pers. sg. bhū: to be, become
adharmaḥ (nom. sg.): m. non-dharma; unrighteousness , injustice , irreligion , wickedness ; demerit

dharmeṇa (inst. sg.): mn. dharma
ca: and
apnoti = 3rd pers. sg. āp: to reach , overtake , meet with , fall upon ; to obtain, gain ;
sukham (acc. sg.): n. ease, happiness, comfort
paratra: ind. elsewhere , in another place , in a future state or world , hereafter

tasmād: ind. therefore
adharmam (acc. sg.): m. non-dharma; unrighteousness , injustice , irreligion , wickedness ; demerit
phalati = 3rd pers. sg. phal: to bear or produce fruit , ripen (lit. and fig.) , be fruitful , have results or consequences , be fulfilled , result , succeed
iha: ind. here, in this place
dharmaḥ (nom. sg.): m. dharma

苦身是法者 安樂爲非法
行法而後樂 因法果非法 

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