Saturday, October 12, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 7.52: Affirming that "You Are The Man"

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
dhīmann-udāraḥ khalu niścayas-te yas-tvaṁ yuvā janmani dṣṭa-doṣaḥ |
svargāpavargau hi vicārya samyag-yasyāpavarge matir-asti so 'sti || 7.52

“O man of understanding! High indeed is the purpose

Of one who, young as you are, has seen the faults in rebirth;

For the man who,
having properly thought about heaven and about ending rebirth,

Is minded towards ending rebirth – he is the man!

The final two syllables of today's verse so 'sti (= saḥ, he, + asti, is / exists) could be translated in any number of ways.

(1) We could, with EBC, take so 'sti as referring back to udāraḥ: – 
“[high] he is.”
EBC: he is indeed brave!

(2) We could, with EHJ and PO, take so 'sti as a stand alone affirmation, buttressed by some extra words in or out of square brackets: – 
he [really] exists.”
EHJ: only he truly exists in reality.
PO: he alone does really exist.

(3) In view of the repetition of asti in matir asti and so' sti, we could take it as referring back to matir: – 
“[minded] he is.”

When I went to bed last night the option I was favouring was a combination of (1) and (3): 
“[high-minded] he is.”

But when I woke up this morning, it occured to me to take the final so 'sti as referring back to yas ([one] who) and yasya (of [him] who):  
“he is [the one].”

Then finally, considering that so 'sti is basically a strong affirmation, along the lines of “You are the man” (or “You the man” or “You da man”), I have decided to translate yasya as “the man who” and so' sti as “he is [the man].”

So on the surface the ascetic who is helpfully speaking up, the ascetic who Aśvaghoṣa has seemed to affirm as one who stands tall, is strongly affirming the prince as the Buddha-to-be.

On the surface it is all affirmation. The ascetic affirms the Buddha-to-be, and so we affirm the ascetic. All Buddhists together, affirming each other, like good Christians and true Muslims. 

Knowing Aśvaghoṣa's style as well as we do by now, it being on the surface all affirmation means only one thing, which is that below the surface we should look for and understand what is being negated.

A couple of days ago I received a facebook message from Adam Tebbe asking if I would help publicize his effort to raise money to make a film on American Zen.

Adam is aiming to raise $US 30,000 to make a film on Zen in America.

Adam did not ask my opinion on American Zen but, stimulated by his message, in which I couldn't help seeing as somehow symbolic the juxtaposition of an aim expressed in dollars and the words Zen in America, here is my opinion anyway: I see a possibility of American Zen waxing mightier and mightier in the world, just like the US dollar has continued for the past 40 years to wax mighty, even though it is no longer backed by gold.

What, below the surface, is Aśvaghoṣa negating?  Not the might of the dollar per se. Not the necessity of raising money to pursue worthwhile aims. Still less is he negating the reality of gold. 

What Aśvaghoṣa is out to negate, at least in my reading between the lines, is a kind of groupthink whereby because you affirm me, I for my part affirm you, and we all believe together in a lie. 

The lie might be, for example, that a US dollar or a unit of any other fiat currency has any intrinsic value. The lie might be that Zen as taught by this or that member of the AZTA, the American Zen Teachers Association, is really the Buddha's teaching. As long as everybody believes the lie, everything goes swimmingly and the bubble keeps inflating, until such time as it is popped. 

I don't know how the dollar will do in the coming weeks, months, and years, vis-a-vis other currencies and vis-a-vis real commodities like oil, copper, and gold itself. The assumption I held twelve-months ago has proved totally wrong and painfully expensive. For all I know now the US dollar will continue to wax mighty as a fiat currency for 40 more years, and the dollar price of gold will continue on a downtrend.

But sooner or later – and I may no longer be around to see the day – the world will come back to valuing the US dollar and other readily-expandable fiat currencies less highly, relative to real, physical assets like gold.  That will be a time of rapid inflation, and by that time the lion's share of the world's gold is likely to be concentrated in China (as indeed it may already be). 

That being so, I foresee a time when Masters of Chinese Zen, in various ways, will be affirming each other “You are the man!” No, my friend, “You are the man!”

If still around then, I would like to think that I would not join in with that mutual affirmation and mutual admiration, not for all the gold in China.

In my reply to Adam I wrote that “I'm ploughing a lonely furrow recently.”

Ploughing a lonely furrow... and continuing with a solitary gold mining operation, mainly for my own benefit but also for an audience, I am afraid, who may be more interested in US dollars.

dhīman (voc. sg.): mfn. intelligent , wise , learned , sensible
dhī: f. thought , (esp.) religious thought , reflection , meditation , devotion , prayer (pl. Holy Thoughts personified); understanding , intelligence , wisdom (personified as the wife of rudra-manyu BhP. ) , knowledge , science , art
udāraḥ (nom. sg.): mfn. high , lofty , exalted ; noble , illustrious , generous ; upright , honest
khalu: ind. indeed
niścayaḥ (nom. sg.): m. purpose, resolve
te (gen. sg.): your

yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): who
tvam (nom. sg. m.): you
yuvā (nom. sg. m.): mfn. young
janmani (loc. sg.): n. birth , re-birth
dṛṣṭa-doṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): seeing the faults

svargāpavargau (acc. dual): heaven and exemption
svarga: m. heaven , the abode of light and of the gods , heavenly bliss , (esp.) indra's heaven or paradise (to which the souls of virtuous mortals » transferred until the time comes for their re-entering earthly bodies ; this temporary heaven is the only heaven of orthodox Brahmanism ; it is supposed to be situated on mount meru
apavarga: m. completion , end ; the emancipation of the soul from bodily existence , exemption from further transmigration ; opp. to svarga (in phil.)
apa- √vṛj: to turn off, drive off ; to leave off
hi: for
vicārya = abs. vi- √ car: , to move in different directions , to rove ; to move hither and thither (in the mind) , ponder , reflect , consider
samyak: ind. in one or the same direction , in the same way , at the same time , together; in one line , straight ; completely , wholly , thoroughly , by all means ; correctly , truly , properly , fitly , in the right way or manner , well , duly

yasya (gen. sg.): of [him] who
apavarge (loc. sg.): m. the end, exemption, release
matiḥ (nom. sg.): f. the mind
asti = 3rd pers. sg. as: to be
saḥ (nom. sg. m.): he
asti = 3rd pers. sg. as: to be

決定了生過 善知離生安

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