Tuesday, October 1, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 7.41: Better Up North

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (ddhi)
itaś-ca bhūyaḥ kṣamam-uttaraiva dik-sevituṁ dharma-viśeṣa-hetoḥ |
na tu kṣamaṁ dakṣiṇato budhena padaṁ bhaved-ekam-api prayātum || 7.41

And going further, from here,
the direction is northward

That deserves to be cultivated,
for the sake of distinction in dharma;

It ill befits a wise man to take, contrarily,

Even one step that might lead southward.

The opening word of today's verse, itaḥ means “from here,” and so ostensibly it means (a) “from this place” or “from this ashram;” but itaḥ  can also be read as meaning (b) “on these grounds” – i.e. on the grounds clarified yesterday, on the grounds of the sacred and the concrete being combined – or (c) “starting from this place and from this moment.”

So the ostensible meaning of itaś-ca bhūyaḥ (EHJ/PO: “And from here again”) is geographical. But the words may also have been chosen to carry philosophical meaning (“And on these grounds, going further”), and practical meaning (“Carrying on further, from here”).

With the former reading, uttarā dik means the northern quarter (as per EBC and PO) or the northern direction (as per EHJ) in a geographical sense.

Hence EHJ notes that the idea of the north being auspicious and the south inauspicious is so frequently mentioned in the Upaniṣads and elsewhere that references are unnecessary.

PO adds: This appears to anticipate Siddhārtha's journey later to the Vindhya mountains in the south to visit the sage Arāda Kalāma.

With the latter philosophical and practical readings, uttarā dik can be taken as meaning northward, and dakṣiṇataḥ as meaning southward, in the sense that 2013 has been a year in which the the price of gold has not headed northward but has headed most definitely southward. In other words uttarā dik can be read as indicating the upward direction, and dakṣiṇataḥ as suggesting what is regarded in Alexander work as a four-letter word – D.O.W.N.

So uttarā dik in physical or geographical terms means the northern direction, and sevitum means to go there or to live there. But uttarā dik in mental or developmental terms, if we follow the hidden philosophical and practical meanings of today's verse, is the direction of life and growth, and sevitum means to honour it, to study it, to practise it, and to cultivate it. 

And so whereas BC7.39 and BC7.40 were ostensibly about a holy mountain and holy bathing places but carried more concrete and irreligious hidden meanings, today's verse is ostensibly about physical geography but it carries a hidden meaning related to human (dare I say, at the risk of incurring my own wrath, 'spiritual'?) growth.

Once again, then, but from the opposite side, a person who on first reading seems to be one of them, on closer investigation might be one of us – a maha-sattva speaking the mahā-prajñā-pāramitā. In the former case, what the veteran believer in asceticism says in today's verse finds its echo, as EHJ points out, in too many places to mention in the Upaniṣads and elsewhere. In the latter case, what the human being says on the basis of plentiful experience of painful practice finds its echo, for example, in what the Buddha tells Nanda in SN Canto 16:
For just as a man afraid of thieves in the night would not open his door even to friends, / So does a wise man withhold consent equally to the doing of anything bad or anything good that involves the faults. // SN16.79 //
And in the latter case, again, the veteran practitioner's itaś-ca bhūyaḥ finds its echo in the Buddha's ataḥ prabhṛti bhūyaḥ in SN Canto 13:
"Starting afresh from here (ataḥ prabhṛti bhūyaḥ), my friend, with the power of confidence leading you forward, / In order to get to the nectar of deathlessness you should watch the manner of your action. // SN13.10 //

itaḥ: ind. from hence, here ; from this point ; from this world , in this world ; therefore
ca: and
bhūyaḥ: ind. still more , moreover , besides , further on ; again
kṣamam (acc. sg. n.): fit , appropriate , becoming , suitable , proper for (gen. dat. , loc. inf. or in comp.)
uttarā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. upper, higher ; northern ; f. name of the northern quarter , the north
eva: (emphatic)

dik (nom. sg.): f. quarter or region pointed at , direction , cardinal point
sevitum = inf. sev: to remain or stay at , live in , frequent , haunt , inhabit , resort to (acc.) ; to serve , wait or attend upon , honour , obey , worship ; to devote or apply one's self to , cultivate , study , practise , use , employ , perform , do
dharma-viśeṣa-hetoḥ (gen. sg.): for the sake of superior dharma
viśeṣa: m. a kind , species , individual (e.g. vṛkṣa-v° , a species of tree , in comp. often also = special , peculiar , particular , different , e.g. chando-v° , " a particular metre " , viśeṣa-maṇḍana , " a peculiar ornament " ; argha-viśeṣāḥ , " different prices "); distinction , peculiar merit , excellence , superiority (in comp. often = excellent , superior , choice , distinguished e.g. ākṛti-v° , " an excellent form " ; cf. viśeṣa-pratipatti)

na: not
tu: but
kṣamam (acc. sg. n.): fitting
dakṣiṇataḥ: ind. from the right or south , on the right side or southward from (gen.)
budhena (inst. sg.): m. a wise or learned man , sage

padam (acc. sg.): n. a step
bhavet = 3rd pers. sg. optative bhū: to be (bhavet , may be , granted , admitted)
ekam (acc. sg. n.): one
api: even
prayātum = inf. pra- √ yā: to go forth , set out , progress , advance towards or against , go or repair to (acc.)

求福學仙者 皆從此已北
攝受於正法 慧者不遊南 

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