Friday, October 11, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 7.51: A Man Who Stands Tall Helpfully Offers Advice

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
kaś-cid-dvijas-tatra tu bhasma-śāyī prāṁśuḥ śikhī dārava-cīra-vāsāḥ |
ā-piṅgalākṣas-tanu-dīrgha-ghoṇaḥ kuṇḍaika-hasto giram-ity-uvāca || 7.51

But up spoke one twice-born individual there,
whose practice was to lay in ashes;

Standing tall,
clothed in bark strips and wearing his hair in a top-knot,

His eyes dark red, his nose long and thin,

Holding in one hand a bowl-shaped container,
he said these words:

EHJ notes that bhasmaśāyin (“one who lays in ashes”) shows that this individual was a Śaiva ascetic – i.e. a devotee of Śiva. Literally, though, Aśvaghoṣa leaves unspoken the circumstances of the twice-born individual being born again. So the one who lay in ashes might have considered himself a Śaivist. Or he might have considered himself another kind of -ist.

Wikipedia lends support to EHJ's supposition, confirming that sacred ash came to be used as a sign of Shaivism. Devotees of Shiva wear it as a sectarian mark on their foreheads and other parts of their bodies with reverence. The Sanskrit words bhasma and vibhuti can both be translated as "sacred ash."

An internet search for Śaiva ascetic leads to a webpage containing this photo of a Śaiva asetic holding in one hand a container which is indeed shaped like a bowl... 

The holding of the skull in one hand is interesting in light of a textual uncertainty in the 4th pāda, for which the old Nepalese manuscript (EHJ records) has kuṇḍ*k(?v)a-hasto. EHJ amended to kuṇḍaika-hasto, lit. “holding in one hand a bowl-shaped vessel” – which does accurately describes the Śaiva ascetic in the photo. 

Further internet research indicates that a class of early Indian Śaiva yogins were known as kapalikas or 'skull-bearers' (kapāli = skull).

The kapalikas, their Wikipedia entry states,  were originally miscreants who had been sentenced to a twelve-year term of penance for the crime of inadvertently killing a Brahmin. The penitent was prescribed to dwell in a forest hut, at a desolate crossroads, in a charnel ground, or under a tree; to live by begging; to practice austerities; and to wear a loin-cloth of hemp, dog, or donkey-skin. They also had to carry the emblems of a human skull as an alms-bowl, and the skull of the Brahmin they had slain mounted upon a wooden staff as a banner. These Hindu kapalika ascetics soon evolved into an extreme outcast sect of the 'left-hand' tantric path of shakti or goddess worship. The early Buddhist tantric yogins and yoginis adopted the same goddess or dakini attributes of the kapalikas. These attributes consisted of; bone ornaments, an animal skin loincloth, marks of human ash, a skull-cup, damaru, flaying knife, thighbone trumpet, and the skull-topped tantric staff or khatvanga.

My guess is that if Aśvaghoṣa had wanted to suggest that these “Buddhist tantric yogins” were not in fact following the Buddha's teaching, two verses like yesterday's verse and today's verse are exactly the kind of means he would have used to suggest such a negation – not directly, in a way that would risk unduly offending people's religious beliefs, but obliquely.

Thus the suggestion in the previous verse, represented by the mirroring of ojas-vi and tapas-vinaḥ, is that bodhisattvas and ascetic yogins are in some sense all in the same boat of painful practice. But (tu), there is something different about this particular ascetic yogin. The difference is presented in a somehow favourable light, since this individual is the helpful one who, standing tall, speaks up and advises the bodhisattva to visit the sage Arāḍa. But the subtext, as I read it, might be that this sort who lays in ashes, though he stands out from the crowd, is never going to be a true non-Buddhist individual who has been born again as a follower of the teaching of the buddhas – at least not until he washes off the ash, cuts off his top-knot and shaves his head, swaps his bark strips for a traditionally-sewn kaṣāya, and swaps his skull for a more conventional bowl.

From my earliest years I observed my father, as a police constable, wearing a policeman's uniform, and then as a detective constable not wearing a uniform. When he was promoted to sargeant, he wore a sargeant's uniform, but then as a detective sargeant, he didn't wear a uniform. And so on through the ranks. Whether he was in or out of uniform, he was a policeman. He worked as a policeman and got paid as a policeman. 

There again, Gary Lineker, in his footballing days, was a striker. Whatever team he was playing for, he wore the uniform of a professional footballer, and he scored goals. That was his job -- to score goals, for club and country. "The life of a striker," Gary once said, "is 99 percent frustration." Gary knew what he was talking about. Because he was a striker. He didn't just dream of scoring goals for England in the World Cup: he actually did it. 

These reflections were promoted by asking myself the question of what it really is to be a follower of the Buddha. Believing oneself to be a Buddhist, and declaring oneself to be a Buddhist, in my book, is not it. Neither is wearing the uniform of shaved head and robe in itself a guarantee -- any more than dressing up as a policeman for a fancy dress ball is a true criterion. 

For a person to be dvi-ja ("twice-born") in the India of the Buddha and Aśvaghoṣa, in the generally accepted meaning of dvi-ja, meant to have been born again as an Aryan, and especially as a Brahmin, through an initiation ceremony. But what did it mean, what does it mean, to be born again as a follower of the Buddha? 

Today's verse, as I read it, is designed to cause us to ask that question. And I may be biased by my own pre-existing view, but I would like to think that I see it as Aśvaghoṣa saw it -- that whatever it might mean to really and truly be a follower of the Buddha, a person who lays in ash and wears a top-knot, even he considers himself to be a "Buddhsit tantric yogin," probably isn't a true follower of the Buddha. 

There again, there is no Buddhist Chief Constable to arrest and charge him with falsely impersonating a police officer. There is no Buddhist Ron Manager to relegate him to the substitutes bench. There is no Buddhist Pope to excommunicate him. 

kaś-cid (nom. sg. m.): a certain, any one
dvi-jaḥ (nom. sg.): m. 'twice born' ; a man born again ; m. a man of any one of the first 3 classes , any Aryan , (esp.) a Brahman (re-born through investiture with the sacred thread) ; m. a bird or any oviparous animal (appearing first as an egg)
tatra: ind. there
tu: but
bhasma-śāyī (nom. sg. m.): mfn. lying on ashes
bhasman: mfn. chewing , devouring , consuming , pulverizing ; n. " what is pulverized a or calcined by fire " , ashes ; n. sacred ashes (smeared on the body)
śāyin: mfn. lying down , reclining , resting , abiding

prāṁśuḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (said to be fr. pra + aṁśu) high , tall , long; strong, intense
aṁśu: m. a filament (especially of the soma plant) ; a point , end
śikhī (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having a tuft or lock of hair on the top of the head ; one who has reached the summit of knowledge ; proud ; m. a peacock ; a cock
dārava-cīra-vāsāḥ (nom. sg. m.): clothed in bark strips
dārava: mfn. wooden , made of wood or coming from wood
cīra: n. a strip , long narrow piece of bark or of cloth , rag , tatter , clothes ; the dress of a Buddhist monk
vāsas: n. cloth , clothes , dress , a garment

ā-piṅgalākṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): with dark red eyes
ā-piṅgala: mfn. reddish-brown
piṅga: yellow , reddish-brown , tawny
akṣa: n. [only ifc. for akṣi] , the eye.
tanu-dīrgha-ghoṇaḥ (nom. sg. m.): with a thin, long nose
tanu: mfn. thin
dīrgha: mfn. long
ghoṇā: f. the nose

kuṇḍaika-hastaḥ [EHJ] (nom. sg. m.): holding in one hand a bowl-shaped vessel
kuṇḍa: n. a bowl-shaped vessel , basin , bowl , pitcher , pot , water-pot; a vessel for coals ; a round hole in the ground (for receiving and preserving water or fire cf. agni-kuṇḍa) , pit , well , spring or basin of water (especially consecrated to some holy purpose or person) ; n. a particular appearance of the moon (surrounded by a circle)
eka: mfn. one
hasta: m. the hand (ifc. = " holding in or by the hand ")
kuṇḍoda-hastaḥ [EBC]: “carrying a pot with water in his hand”
uda: n. (only at the beginning or end of a compound) water
kuṇḍāvahastaḥ [ Boehtlingk]: “the back of whose hand was like a kuṇḍa.”
ava-hasta: m. the back of the hand
kuṇḍā: f. ( √ kuṇḍ, to mutilate) mutilation
kuṇḍī: f. a bowl , pitcher , pot
giram (acc. sg.): f. invocation , addressing with praise , praise , verse , song ; speech , speaking , language , voice , words
iti: thus
uvāca = 3rd pers. sg. vac: to say, speak

kapāli: mn. ( √kamp, to tremble ) a cup , jar , dish (used especially for the puroḍāśa offering) ; the alms-bowl of a beggar ; the skull , cranium , skull-bone

時有一梵志 常臥塵土中
縈髮衣樹皮 黄眼脩高鼻 

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