Thursday, October 17, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 7.57: Affirmation

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
gambhīratā yā bhavatas-tv-agādhā yā dīptatā yāni ca lakṣaṇāni |
ācāryakaṁ prāpsyasi tat-pthivyāṁ yan-narṣibhiḥ pūrva-yuge 'py-avāptam || 7.57

Moreover, in view of this unfathomable depth which you have
[or to which you belong],

In light of this brilliance, and judging by these signs,

You will realize on earth that seat of a teacher

Which was obtained not even by seers of the first age.”

To begin with a point of grammar, EHJ writes in his Introduction to Buddhacarita of this use of the relative (yā... yā... yāni) without a correlative in the sense of 'in view of,' 'having regard to':
Nor have I anywhere else, except for a passage in the Rāmāyaṇa quoted by Gawronksi [Studies about the Sanskrit Buddhist Literature 13] and perhaps Pratijñāyaugandharāyaṇa 4.17, come across the practice of using a relative absolutely without postcedent to express the idea 'as for'; it occurs BC5.69, BC7.57, and BC13.59, and SN6.47.

On another point of grammar, the genitive bhavataḥ (lit. "of the gentleman present," i.e. "your") fits with what was written yesterday about the ocean swallowing subject and object, inasmuch as the genitive leaves the question open of whether the depths are being described as belonging to the prince, or whether the prince is being described as belonging to the depths.

As Coulson explains the genitive case in Teach Yourself Sanskrit:
Where the substantive embodies a verbal notion, the relationship may be either subjective or objective, just as the word 'its' in English is subjective in the phrase 'its consumption of electricity' and objective in 'its consumption by the community.' nṛpasya krodham in the preceding example is subjective (the king is angry); in nṛpasya darśanam when this means 'sight of the king' it is objective (I see the king).

Grammatical niceties aside, today's verse is an example of what was called in Sanskrit vyākaraṇa, and represented in the Lotus Sutra by the Chinese characters 授記 , which is the title of Shobogenzo chap. 32 授記 (Jap: JUKI), Affirmation. As a general rule, such an affirmation is given by buddhas to a buddha-to-be – as described for example in this sutra.

Since affirmation is supposed to be given by buddhas, today's verse as I read it is again challenging us to ask (somewhat in the manner of Paul Newman and Robert Redford asking each other in Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, “Who are those guys?”),  in relation to the ash- and bark- covered ascetic with red eyes and his hair in a bun “Who is this guy?” For example, is he just some misguided bloke who lies in ash and carries around a skull? Or might he be an emissary of the buddhas?

At the same time, today's verse can be read as challenging us to ask who or what, in the final analysis gives affirmation or (if we follow the dictionary definition of 授記) “assurance of future enlightenment.”

I remember 25 years ago in Gudo Nishijima's office, when I was interrogating my teacher about what 授記 really meant, and demanding, as was my habit, concrete examples, he came up with the example of those on the Titanic who let others onto lifeboats and went down with the ship. Those men in making that decision, Gudo said, were affirmed by the Universe itself.

Regardless of whoever or whatever is affirming the Buddha-to-be, the affirmation is that he will obtain what even seers of the legendary Golden Age failed to obtain. In light of this, I have translated the tu (“but”) in the 1st pāda as “moreover.” The suggestion might be that, if drinking up the whole ocean of what is to be known is understood, as I understood it yesterday, as an affirmation of the fourth dhyāna, whereby the act of knowing and what is known are one, then what is being affirmed in today's verse is more than that. So "you will attain the fourth dhyāna, BUT (more than that) you will realize the status of a teacher." 

Read like that, the tu is a subtle reminder of the principle that the fourth dhyāna is not the ultimate treasure, but is rather akin to an ally in the quest for ultimate treasure; hence:
Consequently, relying on the fourth stage of meditation, he made up his mind to win the worthy state, / Like a king joining forces with a strong and noble ally and then aspiring to conquer unconquered lands. // SN17.56 // Then he cut the five upper fetters: with the sword of intuitive wisdom which is raised aloft by cultivation of the mind, / He completely severed the five aspirational fetters, which are bound up with superiority, and tied to the first person. // SN17.57 //

The three elements that the speaker sees as grounds for affirmation are gambhīra-tā agādhā (unfathomable depth), dīpta-tā (brilliance or brightness), and lakṣaṇāni (marks or signs). Again, these elements suggest something more than knowing – and certainly something deeper and more real than intellectual knowing. The thin and red tongue, for example, regarded as one of the eighty minor signs, was not the result of what the prince had got to know, intellectually or otherwise, in his present lifetime.

gambhīra-tā (nom. sg.): f. depth (of water) ; profoundness , earnestness , sagacity
gambhīra = gabhīra: mfn. deep ; deep in sound , deep-sounding , hollow-toned ; profound , sagacious , grave , serious , solemn , secret , mysterious
yā (nom. sg. f.): [that] which
bhavataḥ (gen. sg.): of the gentlemen present, of yours
tu: but
agādhā (nom. sg. f): mfn. not shallow , deep , unfathomable

yā (nom. sg. f.): [that] which
dīpta-tā (nom. sg.): f. shiningness, brilliance, brightness, spendidness
dīpta: mfn. blazing , flaming , hot , shining , bright , brilliant , splendid
yāni (nom. pl. n.): [those] which
ca: and
lakṣaṇāni (nom. pl.): n. a mark , sign , symbol , token , characteristic , attribute , quality

ācāryakam (acc. sg.): n. the office or profession of a teacher
prāpsyasi = 2nd pers. sg. future pra- √āp: to attain to ; reach , arrive at , meet with , find
tat (acc. sg. n.): that (correlative of yat)
pṛthivyām (loc. sg.): f. the earth or wide world

yat (acc. sg. n.): which
na: not
ṛṣibhiḥ (inst. pl.): m. seer
pūrva-yuge (loc. sg. n.): in the past epoch
pūrva: mfn. former , prior , preceding , previous to , earlier than ; ancient, old
yuga: n. an age of the world , long mundane period of years
api: even
avāptam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. attained, reached
ava-√āp: to reach , attain , obtain , gain , get

當度不測深 世間無有比
耆舊諸仙人 不得者當得

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