Monday, October 21, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.2: Slow .... Zen .... Once .... Again ....

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
yam-eka-rātreṇa tu bhartur-ājñayā jagāma mārgaṁ saha tena vājinā |
iyāya bhartur-virahaṁ vicintayaṁs-tam-eva panthānam-ahobhir-aṣṭabhiḥ || 8.2

But the road which at his master's behest

He with that warhorse had travelled in one night –

That same road, pondering the master's desertion,
[or reflecting on the separateness of a master,]

He now travelled in eight days.

The ostensible point of today's verse is that Chandaka progressed very slowly because of being dispirited, so that moving slowly was symptomatic of suffering associated with brooding about his master being absent (EBC), or about his own separation from his master (EHJ/PO).

Hence the three professors translated bhartur-virahaṁ vicintayan as
pondering his lord's absence” (EBC);
ever thinking of the separation from his master” (EHJ)
as he mused over his separation from his lord” (PO).

If the meaning that Aśvaghoṣa had meant to specify was as per EHJ and PO's translation, however, the dictionary indicates that the instrumental bhartrā rather than the genitive/ablative bhartur might have been the case to use with viraham = separation (esp. of lovers) , absence from (instr. or comp.). From the point of view of the metre, bhartrā instead of bhartur would fit just as well.

I suspect that Aśvaghoṣa used the phrasing he did so as to invite our contemplation of hidden meanings.

Since viraham can mean “want” or “lack,” one such possible hidden meaning is that Chandaka, as result of turning back, has been caused to reflect upon what it is to be without a master – to be on your own, no direction home, like a rolling stone, "reflecting on your lack of a master." 

Another possible reading of bhartur-virahaṁ vicintayan is something like “reflecting on a master's lack” i.e. reflecting on what is/was lacking in a master. Such reflection would presume the existence of a master who was not yet totally perfect. Is that a contradiction in terms? It could be that Aśvaghoṣa was encouraging us at least to ask the question.

But the most likely hidden reading, given the context of Chandaka's slow return to the city, is that iyāya bhartur-virahaṁ vicintayan  means “he travelled reflecting on the separateness of a master” – the point being that reflecting on separateness (viraham), as a starting point of a Zen master's practice of sitting-meditation, is never something to be done in a hurry but is always something to be enjoyed slowly.

Acting quickly is not the same as being in a hurry – a fact which is demonstrated by great sportsmen whose quick thinking seems to give them extra time on the ball. But moving deliberately slowly can be an effective means of separating oneself from the hustle and bustle of the world and from one's own inner hustle and bustle.

If we follow this hidden meaning, the tu (but) in the 1st pāda makes sense – Chandaka tries to suppress his grief, which is ineffective end-gaining. But now he moves eight times slower than he did before, at a speed which is conducive to reflecting on that separateness from unconscious end-gaining out of which the first stage of meditation is born.

Hence in Aśvaghoṣa's words:
Distanced from desires and tainted things, containing ideas and containing thoughts, / Born of separateness and possessed of joy and ease, is the first stage of meditation, which he then entered. // SN17.42 //
In stumbling upon firm upstandingness of the mind he was instantly released from worries, such as those associated with desires for objects; / He entered the first peaceful stage, in which there are ideas and thoughts, of the meditation whose essence is freedom from polluting influences. //BC5.10// But then, having experienced that most excellent state of joy and ease, born of separateness, which is integration of the mind,/...
And hence in Dogen's words:
If we rise from sitting, we should move the body slowly and stand up calmly, not being in a hurry.

As a final afterthought, today's verse puts me in mind of a conversation I had on my first morning of Alexander teacher training in September 1995. I cycled the 5 miles to the school and was sweating when I arrived. “How long did it take you to cycle in?” a 3rd-year student asked me. “About 25 minutes.” “By the end of your three years training,” my fellow student predicted, “it will be taking you three hours.”

yam (acc. sg. m.): [that] which
eka-rātreṇa (inst. sg.): in one night
rātri: f. night , the darkness or stillness of night (often personified) RV. &c (°trau ind. or °tryām ind. at night , by night)
tu: but
bhartur (gen. sg.): m. master
ājñayā (inst. sg.): f. order , command ; authority , unlimited power

jagāma = 3rd pers. sg. perf. gam: to go
mārgam (acc. sg.): m. path, way
saha (inst. sg.): along with
tena (inst. sg.): that
vājinā (inst. sg.): m. the steed of a war-chariot ; horse, stallion ; mfn. swift , spirited , impetuous , heroic , warlike

iyāya = 3rd pers. sg. perf. i: to go
bhartur (gen.abl. sg.): m. master
vi-raham (acc. sg.): m. abandonment , desertion , parting , separation (esp. of lovers) , absence from (instr. or comp.) ; lack, want
rahas: n. a lonely or deserted place , loneliness , solitude , privacy , secrecy , retirement ; a secret , mystery , mystical truth ;
vicintayan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. vi- √ cint : to think of , reflect upon , ponder , consider , regard , mind , care for

tam (acc. sg. m.): that
eva: the same (emphatic)
panthānam = acc. sg. pathin: m. a way , path , road , course
ahobhiḥ = inst. pl. ahan: n. day
aṣṭabhiḥ (inst. pl.): eight

先與太子倶 一宿之徑路
今捨太子還 生奪天蔭故
徘徊心顧戀 八日乃至城 

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