Wednesday, October 2, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 7.42: Us & Them. And an Invitation to Let It Shine

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Kīrti)
tapo-vane 'sminn-atha niṣkriyo vā saṁkīrṇa-dharme patito 'śucir-vā |
dṣṭas-tvayā yena na te vivatsā tad-brūhi yāvad-rucito 'stu vāsaḥ || 7.42

Or else, in this forest of painful practice,
you have seen a neglecter of rites;

Or you have seen one who is not pure,
one who, in a commingled dharma, has fallen;

For which reason
there is in you no desire to dwell --

Then say so and be pleased to stay!
express as much and, 
on the act of abiding, let light be shone!  

The implicit question Aśvaghoṣa is asking us again, in today's verse, as I read it is this:

Is the speaker one of them?

Or is he one of us?

If my starting point is that I am right, because I not only know about Buddhism (as a Buddhist scholar knows about Buddhism) but I also through my sitting practice know the Buddha's teaching itself, that starting point is liable to lead me to the sectarian conclusion that the veteran forest practitioner, steeped though he may be in many years of painful practice, is one of them. He is a devotee of asceticism, whereas I know that the sitting practice I do every day does not belong to asceticism.

If my starting point, conversely, is that the only thing I truly know, the only thing I have learned from 30 years of sitting practice and 20 years of Alexander work, is that “I am right” is wrong, then I may be more open to the possibility that the veteran forest practitioner, though he is wearing an ascetic guise, may in fact be on the same side as me. More than that, he might be a bodhi-sattva or a maha-sattva who is presaging the Buddha's golden preaching of prajñā.

If the speaker is one of them, every element of today's verse can be read in the light of him being one of them. Hence:

tapo-vane: “in the ascetic grove;” the standard Vedic term used by many generations of forest practitioners since ancient times. Since the speaker is a devotee of tapas, ascetic practice, he uses the term tapo-vana, “the ascetic grove” without any of the irony that might be conveyed by a more knowing translation like “the woods of asceticism.”

niṣkriyaḥ: “neglectful of religious rites;” describes, for example, a blameworthy ascetic who, when night falls, neglects the kinds of rite referred to in BC7.33 – making burned offerings in sacred flames, performing bathing rites, and muttering prayers.

saṁkīrṇa-dharme patito 'śuciḥ: “impure from having fallen into an adulterated dharma” [EHJ]; a conception rooted in ancient Indian views of purity and adulteration that Aśvaghoṣa lampoons (albeit circumspectly) in SN Canto 1:
With soft, sandy, and smooth soil, made yellowish white by a covering of kesara blossoms, / And divided into areas, with no commingling (asaṁkīrṇaiḥ), it was like a body painted with cosmetic pigments. // SN1.7 //
[Footnote: Asaṁkīrṇaiḥ means not mixed, not adulterated, not polluted, not impure, not born of a mixed marriage. Beneath a camouflage of kesara flowers, Aśvaghoṣa may be alluding, always with due circumspection, to traditional Bhramanical conceptions around caste.]

yena na te vivatsā: “for which reason you do not wish to stay”; the veteran ascetic fears that because of having witnessed somebody's laxity in practice the prince does not wish to stay in this ashram.

rucito 'stu vāsaḥ: “be pleased to dwell here” [EHJ]; simple expression of the veteran ascetic's wish that the prince might remain in this ashram.

If the veteran practitioner is heard as one of us, however, or as one who is like us only better, a first among equals, then each of the above elements has to be read in a different light:

tapo-vane: “in the forest of painful practice;” an appropriation of the ancient term by a practitioner who has abandoned the viewpoint of asceticism, but who nonetheless continues to live in the forest and to experience practice there as painful.

niṣkriyaḥ: “neglectful of rites;” describes, for example, a Japanese Zen master like Kodo Sawaki, or a Chinese Zen master like Tendo Nyojo (Ch: Tiantong Rujing), each of who famously placed a marked emphasis on the primacy of sitting-meditation, as opposed to ritual bells and whistles.

saṁkīrṇa-dharme patito 'śuciḥ: “fallen, in a dharma of commingling; not pure” might be, again, an ironic description of Zen masters of the ilk of Kodo Sawaki and Tendo Nyojo, who sat in lotus with body, sat in lotus with mind, and who dropped off everything, in a dharma in which body and mind, subject and object, us and them, inside and outside, are all commingled; and who thus transcended viewpoints of purity and impurity.

yena na te vivatsā: “for which reason there is no desire in you to dwell”; for which reason, there is no complacency in you --  the veteran practitioner understands how witnessing the sincere devotion of one human being to the practice of sitting-meditation can facilitate the growth of that same devotion (as opposed to lazy dwelling) in another human being.

rucito 'stu vāsaḥ: “let abiding be shone upon”; in other words, let the backward step be learned of turning the light and letting it shine.

tapo-vane (loc. sg. n.): in the ascetic wood
asmin (loc. sg. n.): this
atha: ind. now, then , else
niṣkriyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): = niṣ-karman: mfn. inactive ; exempt from or neglecting religious or worldly acts
vā: or

saṁkīrṇa-dharmāpatitaḥ [old Nepalese manuscript / EHJ] (nom. sg. n.): fallen into a commingled dharma (EHJ: fallen into an adulterated dharma)
saṁkīrṇa: mfn. mingled , confused , disordered , adulterated , polluted , impure ; born of a mixed marriage
dharma: dharma
āpatita: mfn. happened , befallen; descended
ā- √ pat: to fly towards , come flying ; to hasten towards , rush in or on ; to fall towards or on
saṁkīrṇa-dharme [Gawronski]: into a commingled dharma
patitaḥ (nom. sg. n.): mfn. fallen , dropped , descended , alighted ; (ifc.) fallen upon or from
aśuciḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. impure
vā: or

dṛṣṭaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. seen
tvayā (inst. sg.): by you
yena (inst. sg.): by which, for which reason
na: not
te (gen. sg.): of you
vivatsā (nom. sg.): f. (fr. Desid. of √ 5. vas) desire of dwelling, Bcar.
vas: , to dwell , live , stop (at a place) , stay (esp. " overnight "); to remain, abide

tad (acc. sg. n.): it, that ; ind. in that case, then
brūhi = imperative brū: to speak , say , tell
yāvat: ind. (connective particle) during which time; until, up to (acc.); ind. (relative adv.) for as long as, while, until
EHJ note: I understand yāvat as = tāvac ca, this use of the relative being not uncommon in Aśvaghoṣa. (“mention it and just be pleased to dwell here.”)
rucitaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. shone upon (by the sun &c ) , bright , brilliant , glittering ; pleasant , agreeable
astu (3rd pers. sg. imperative as): let it be
vāsaḥ (nom. sg.): m. staying , remaining (esp. " overnight ") , abiding , dwelling

若汝見我等 懈怠不精進
行諸不淨法 而不樂住者
我等悉應去 汝可留止此 

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