Tuesday, October 29, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.10: Nowt As Queer As Folk

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
tataḥ sa tān bhaktimato 'bravīj-janān-narendra-putraṁ na parityajāmy-aham |
rudann-ahaṁ tena tu nirjane vane gha-stha-veśaś-ca visarjitāv-iti || 8.10

Then he said to those devout folk:

“No neglecter am I of the child of a lord among men.

On the contrary, by that child in the folk-free forest, the weeping I,

And the clothes of a householder, are both cast off together.”

There is the distressed mooing through the night of the cow whose calf has been stolen away to satisfy the French appetite for veal. And there is the tearful sobbing of the actor who, his wife having left him, catches sight of himself in the mirror and makes a mental note to himself, for future reference, that “This is what grief looks like.”

The neighing of Kanthaka described in BC8.4 was of the former kind. The weeping of Chandaka described in BC8.1 and in today's verse was of the latter kind.

To suppress instinctive loud neighing is not the aim. Neither is it the aim to banish human weeping. But belief in the weeping I might be something to cast off. 

That being so, today's verse challenges us to understand by who, and by what means, and at what time, the weeping I (rudann-aham) was or is cast off.

Ostensibly Chandaka is describing what did or didn't happen in the past, but literally na parityajāmi in the 2nd pāda is in the present tense (“I do not abandon/neglect the child/embryo of a lord of men”) and so visarjitau (“the two [are] abandoned”) is also logically read as being in the present tense. To translate Chandaka's words as such, however, would sound strange. Hence of the three professors only EHJ translated parityajāmi in the present – even if it did not sound quite right – and all three professors translated visarjitau as referring to the past ("were abandoned/dismissed"; "he forsook"): 

Then he said to those faithful ones, I have not left the king's son; but by him in the uninhabited forest I weeping and the dress of a householder were abandoned together.’ (EBC)

Then he said to those devoted people, “It is not I who am deserting the king's son. On the contrary, it was by him in the uninhabited forest that for all my tears I and the householder's garb were dismissed together.” (EHJ)

Then he said to those devoted people:
I've not forsaken the son of the king.
It is he who in the lonely forest
forsook me as I wept,
and the householder's garb.” (PO)

The reason the present tense might be significant is that, although ostensibly Chandaka is thus talking about something that happened in the past, Aśvaghoṣa's real intention, below the surface, might be to have Chandaka express a general principle about (1) the importance of each individual regularly not neglecting (atop a round black cushion) his or her own buddha-nature; (2) how, ultimately, it is not I who abandons the weeping I so much as it is the buddha-nature which casts off the weeping I.

Aśvaghoṣa himself, however, never resorts to philosophical jargon like "the buddha-nature" (buddha-tā). He only writes of rāja-putraḥ (the/a child/embryo of the king) and narendra-putram (the child/embryo of a lord/Indra among men), using those words to describe the Buddha-to-be. And the Buddha-to-be refers (at least ostensibly), not to any generic old body who sits, but specifically to the concrete individual human being called Prince Sarvārtha-siddha. 

In today's verse as I read it, the use of parityajāmi in the present tense is thus designed to draw our attention to, and to invite us to dig for, the hidden meaning that Aśvaghoṣa intended us to see. At the same time, the hidden meaning that Aśvaghoṣa intended might be called su-duṣkaram khalu, "very difficult indeed" or "very difficult indeed to do." (For further discussion of  su-duṣkaram khalu, see tomorrow's verse.)

In the final analysis, it might be that what Aśvaghoṣa is suggesting about abandonment of the weeping I is very difficult to understand... and totally impossible, for thinking man or instinctive beast, to do. 

Still, having slept on it last night, and sat this morning, I shall endeavour to answer the question of how to cast off the weeping I, in the manner that – whether for good or ill I don't know  – Gudo Nishijima showed me how to answer all the stupid questions that I asked him, in four phases. 

In the first phase, contemplation of all things as 1. free of self. 2. impermanent, and 3. full of suffering, might not be a bad starting point. Other objects of mental contemplation, like the eight great human truths, and the four noble truths, are also available. 

In the second phase, it may help to betake oneself to a forest that is free of folk (nir-jane). As discussed yesterday, I think Aśvaghoṣa's use of jana (people) in the plural suggests not so much human beings in general as this and that race or type, common sorts. To convey this sense I translated janāḥ yesterday as "common folk" and janāṇ today as "folk." In so doing, I am mindful of hearing the phrase, "There's nowt as queer as folk," in the front room of my great granny's house in Blackburn Road, Darwen, over the road from the Anchor Pub. My great granny, by the way, married my great grandpa Bill Haworth (aka Mr Nobody) on 25th December 1909. I remember the date since my own birthday came exactly 50 years later. Any way up, it might be a universal truth that there is indeed nowt as queer as folk; hence the merit of betaking oneself to a forest that is free of folk. 

In the third phase, it is a fact in everyday life that a person's mind can be changed by a change of clothes, or an action like putting on a traditionally-sewn robe. 

And the fourth phase might be compared to letting an embryonic Indra among men run around wherever he or she likes. 

This kind of anwering my own question in four phases is not something I do intentionally; after I have asked myself some kind of stupid philosophical question like I did yesterday in preparing the above comment, I seem unconsciously to spend hours chewing on it and digesting it... and then I sit for an hour or so in the morning, and then I come upstairs and crap out my answer on this blog. In so doing, I hope it is not my intention to show how clever I am... but it might be! In general, I tend to desire to show myself to be top of the class. But so to desire may be just to neglect the embryo of an Indra among men. The same feet used for treading on the heads of three professors might better be employed walking up the path to a meditation hut by the forest.  

tataḥ: ind. then
sa (nom. sg.): m. he
tān (acc. pl. m.): those
bhaktimataḥ (acc. pl. m.): mfn. accompanied by devotion or loyalty; religious 
bhakti: f.  attachment , devotion , trust , homage , worship , piety , faith or love or devotion (as a religious principle or means of salvation , together with karman , " works " , and jñāna , " spiritual knowledge ")
abravīt = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect brū: to speak , say , tell
janān (acc. pl.): m. people, races; common folks

narendra-putram (acc. sg. m.): the son/child/embryo of a lord among men
na: not
parityajāmi = 1st pers. sg. pari- √ tyaj : to leave , quit , abandon , give up , reject , disregard , not heed
aham (nom. sg. m.): I

rudan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. rud: to weep , cry , howl , roar , lament , wail
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
tena (inst. sg.): by him
tu: but
nirjane (loc. sg. n.): mfn. unpeopled , lonely , desolate; free of folk 
vane (loc. sg.): n. forest

gṛha-stha-veśaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the dress of a householder
ca: and
visarjitau (nom. dual): mfn. (fr. Caus. vi- √ sṛj) sent forth , emitted , dismissed , abandoned , left &c ; exposed (in a forest)
vi- √ sṛj: to send or pour forth , let go or run or flow , discharge ; to shed (tears); to send away , dismiss , repudiate , reject , throw or cast off
iti: “...,” thus

車匿抑悲心 而答衆人言
我眷戀追逐 不捨於王子
王子捐棄我 并捨俗威儀
剃頭被法服 遂入苦行林 

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