Monday, October 7, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 7.47: Appreciation of Devoted Doing

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bhadrā)
evaṁ pravttān bhavataḥ śaraṇyān-atīva saṁdarśita-pakṣapātān |
yāsyāmi hitveti mamāpi duḥkhaṁ yathaiva bandhūṁs-tyajatas-tathaiva || 7.47

To leave you all like this,
so devoted to all you do and so hospitable,

To leave you who have shown me such excessive kindness –

It pains me that I will leave you like this and depart,

Even as it pained me to leave my kith and kin.

Is the point to thirst for a temporary heaven? Or is the point to seek a better way?

That, for the Buddha-to-be, has long ceased to be the question. He does not yet know what a better way might be, but when he observes ascetic thirsting, he knows it is not that.

He has set his sights on an immutable happiness which he has conceptualized as “parinirvāṇa” and he has not yet ruled out the possibility that ascetic practice might be a means of realizing this parinirvāṇa. But he does know already that, insofar as it involves thirsting for heaven as the end, asceticism is not the way.

So here is a dichotomy that is highlighted in both of Aśvaghoṣa's epic poems – thirsting for heaven as an end vs. finding and following a better way as a way. 

The dichotomy, in Alexander jargon, is between “end-gaining” vs "attending to the means-whereby."

In the imagery of Chinese Zen, the dichotomy is between trying to make a mirror vs being content to polish a tile.

And these dichotomies are summed up in Sanskrit in the opposition of antonyms formed from the root √vṛt, by the prefixing of pra- or by the prefixing of ni-.

√vṛt: to turn, to turn round, to roll, and hence to move along, to advance, to proceed.
pra-: forward, forth; much; [= emphatic affirmation]
ni- : back; [= negation].

Hence the Buddha tells Nanda in SN Canto 16:
Comprehend, therefore, that suffering is doing (pravṛttim); witness the faults impelling it forward (pravartakān); / Realise its stopping as non-doing (nivṛttim); and know the path as a turning back (nivartakaṃ). // SN16.42 //
In today's verse the prince begins by describing the ascetics as evaṁ pravṛttān, in which adjectival use pravṛtta is the past participle of pra-√vṛt, to roll on, or to keep on doing -- to keep buggering on, as Winston Churchill famously put it in WWII.

The thrust of today's verse is that the prince, as in the previous two verses, is sincerely expressing the bhāva of his heart-felt gratitude. This, I think, is not only the ostensible thrust but also the real thrust of today's verse. So I think the intention of the Buddha-to-be, in describing the ascetics as pravṛttān is positively to praise them as “acting, proceeding,” i.e. keeping on, getting on with it, showing a positive and active attitude.

Each of the three professors, incidentally, took evaṁ pravṛttān more neutrally as meaning “thus engaged,” in hospitality, or in some other, unspecified activity.

leaving you who are thus engaged, you who are such a refuge and who have shown such excessive kindness to me (EBC);
leaving you thus engaged, who are so hospitable and have shown me such very great kindness (EHJ);
leaving you all thus engaged, so hospitable, so kind toward me (PO).

So I read evaṁ pravṛttān as more affirmative – “so devoted to all you do.” But within this affirmation the operative word might be “do,” with its negative connotations of busy, superfluous activity.

Notwithstanding the reality of the prince's feeling of gratitude, then, as expressed without irony in the 3rd and 4th pādas, the pravṛttān of the 1st pāda may conceal a note of irony, or a hint of criticism, which is picked up explicitly in the 4th pāda of tomorrow's verse, in which the prince states:

bhinnaḥ pravṛttyā hi nivṛtti-dharmaḥ
For different from [or destroyed by (?) or mingled with (?)] doing is the dharma of non-doing.

Investigation of the possible readings of bhinnaḥ is a job for tomorrow, but, to sum up for today, the use of the adjective pravṛttān might signal that the prince, notwithstanding his genuineness in expressing the gratitude he really feels, is now going to get round to saying what he really thinks. And what the prince really thinks centres on the difference between pravṛtti (doing) and nivṛtti (non-doing).

evam: ind. thus
pravṛttān (acc. pl. m.): mfn. driven up (as a carriage) ; set out from (-tas) , going to , bound for ; purposing or going to , bent upon ; engaged in , occupied with , devoted to (loc. or comp.) ; acting , proceeding
pra- √ vṛt: to roll or go onwards (as a carriage) , be set in motion or going ; to commence , begin to (inf.) , set about , engage in , be intent upon or occupied with ; to continue , keep on ; to produce , create , accomplish , devise , invent , perform , do , make
bhavataḥ (acc. pl m.): you, your honours, you gentlemen present
śaraṇyān (acc. pl. m.): mfn. affording shelter , yielding help or protection to (gen. or comp.)

atīva: ind. exceedingly , very, excessively
saṁdarśita-pakṣapātān (acc. pl. m.): with partiality shown, showing kindness
saṁdarśita: mfn. shown , displayed , manifested
pakṣa-pāta: m. " falling of the feathers " , the moulting of birds ; adopting a side or argument , siding with , partiality or inclination for (loc. gen. acc. with prati , or comp.) ; a partisan , adherent

yāsyāmi = 1st pers. sg. yā: to go, leave, depart
hitvā = abs. hā: to leave, abandon
iti: thus, that
mama (gen. sg.): of/in me
api: even
duḥkham (nom. sg.): n. pain, suffering, hardship, difficulty

yathā: ind. as
eva: (emphatic)
bandhūn (acc. pl.): m. connections, kinsmen, relatives
tyajataḥ = gen. sg. pres. part. tyaj: to leave
tathā: ind. so
eva: (emphatic)

汝等悉歸我 以爲法良朋
而今棄捨汝 其心甚悵然
先違本親屬 今與汝等乖

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