Wednesday, October 9, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 7.49: Appreciating Traditionalism

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Vāṇī)
tan-nāratir-me na parāpacāro vanād-ito yena parivrajāmi |
dharme sthitāḥ pūrva-yugānurūpe sarve bhavanto hi mahārṣi-kalpāḥ || 7.49

So it is neither displeasure in me nor wrong conduct by another

That causes me to walk away from this wood;

For, standing firm in a dharma adapted to the first age of the world,

You all bear the semblance of great sages.”

In today's verse, as I read it, the Buddha-to-be expresses both his appreciation of adherence to tradition and his appreciation of traditionalism.

“Bearing the semblance of great sages” could be a description of what a true dragon looks like. Equally it could be a description of a fake elephant.

It could be a description of a true dragon who cannot help bearing the semblance of a true dragon. Or it could be a description of a fake elephant trying his damnedest to bear the semblance of a true dragon.

Just going by the dictionary, -kalpa at the end of a compound means having the manner or form of anything, similar to, resembling, like but with a degree of inferiority.

So describing the ascetics as mahārṣi-kalpāḥ did not necessarily imply a degree of inferiority. But then again it might have implied a degree of inferiority.

This uncertain reading finds support in tomorrow's verse which describe's the prince's speech as both friendly and full of real meaning, tender and at the same time strong and spirited.

Having written the above last thing last night, speaking of friendliness/love and of meaning, I sat this morning and a couple of images floated up into my mind out of the murky depths of memories gleaned from watching TV. One image was related to love, and one was related to knowing, 

The image related to love was from an interview with a paragon of gentleness and female beauty named Reeva Steinkamp, shortly before she was shot and killed by her boyfriend Oscar Pistorius. She was on a Caribbean island on a reality TV show talking to the camera about what it was like to be “in love with love.”

The image related to knowing was from an interview with former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson who was talking about hitting an opponent with a powerful punch to the body and knowing that the opponent's guard was going to drop.

In the words of the Buddha-to-be, as Aśvaghoṣa is portraying him, is manifestation of genuine love, or gentle friendliness, and at the same time this kind of real knowing.

The friendliness is genuine; it is the prince's bhāva, from the heart. But it is not the kind of love of love that might render a person too innocent or unduly trusting – too susceptible, for example, to being shot by a man of dubious character.

The knowing is the knowing of what a bodhisattva has to know – like Mike Tyson in his heyday knew, like a shark knows what is prey. Adherence to tradition, yes. Traditionalism, no. Not fucking likely.


All buddhas in the ten directions and of the three times,
All venerable bodhisattvas and maha-sattvas,
The great transcendent accomplishment which is real knowing –

Reciting these words after sitting serves as a reminder that the buddhas are the true dragons, the good guys, among whom there are no fake elephants and no bad guys.

But trying to be one of those good guys, trying to become buddha, fancying oneself as a true dragon, is never it. Fancying oneself as a true dragon, when we investigate it in detail, might be just the behaviour of a fake elephant.

A bodhisattva, as now being described by Aśvaghoṣa, is not yet a buddha; but he will be so in future. As such his karma is exclusively good, and though he does not yet know what a buddha knows, he knows what a bodhisattva has to know. And a mahasattva might be one who transcends worrying about good and bad, and about knowing or not knowing. So if we were going to strive to be anything, we might strive to be a bodhisattva or a mahasattva.

What my unconscious mind seemed to be reminding me this morning, and what the above dedication constantly reminds us, is that in the end, above all, a bodhisattva who practices sitting-dhyāna is – as Mike Tyson in his heyday was – in the business of knowing.

Since in this there is neither ease nor suffering, and the act of knowing abides here, being its own object, / Therefore utter lucidity through indifference and awareness is specified in the protocol for the fourth stage of meditation. // SN17.55 //

tad: ind. therefore
na: not
aratiḥ (nom. sg.): f. dissatisfaction , discontent , dulness , languor
me (gen. sg.): of/in me
na: not
parāpacāraḥ (nom. sg. m.): the wrong conduct of another
para: another
apacāra: m. want , absence ; fault , improper conduct , offence
apa-: ind. (as a prefix to nouns and verbs , expresses) away ; (When prefixed to nouns , it may sometimes = the neg. particle)
cāra: m. going , motion , progression ; practising

vanāt (abl. sg.): n. the forest
itaḥ: ind. from here, from this
yena (inst. sg.): by which, because of which
parivrajāmi = 1st pers. sg. pari- √ vraj: to go or wander about , walk round , circumambulate ; to wander about as a religious mendicant

dharme (loc. sg.): in dharma
sthitāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. standing firm
pūrva-yugānurūpe (loc. sg.): conforming with the yoke of the ancestors ; adapted to the first age of the world
pūrva: mfn. being before or in front fore , first ; former , prior , preceding , previous ; ancient , old , customary , traditional ; first (in a series) ; m. an ancestor , forefather (pl. the ancients , ancestors)
yuga: n. a yoke ; a race of men , generation ; an age of the world , long mundane period of years (of which there are four , viz. 1. kṛta or satya , 2. tretā , 3. dvāpara , 4. kali , of which the first three have already elapsed , while the kali , which began at midnight between the 17th and 18th of Feb. 3102 B.C. [O. S.] , is that in which we live ; the duration of each is said to be respectively 1 ,728 ,000 , 1 ,296 ,000 , 864 ,000 , and 432 ,000 years of men , the descending numbers representing a similar physical and moral deterioration of men in each age ; the four yugas comprise an aggregate of 4 ,320 ,000 years and constitute a " great yuga " or mahā-yuga )
pūrva-yoga: m. olden time , history of olden time
anurūpa: mfn. following the form , conformable , corresponding , like , fit , suitable; adapted to , according to ; n. conformity , suitability

sarve (nom. pl. m.): all
bhavantaḥ (nom. pl. m.): you, you gentlemen present
hi: for
mahārṣi-kalpāḥ (nom. pl. m.): similar to great seers
kalpa: m. (ifc.) having the manner or form of anything , similar to , resembling , like but with a degree of inferiority , almost

汝等所行法 自習先師業
我爲滅諸集 以求無集法
是故於此林 永無久停理

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