Saturday, October 26, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.7: Being Slowed Down by Wanderers in One Direction

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
tato bhramadbhir-diśi dīna-mānasair-anujjvalair-bāṣpa-hatekṣaṇair-naraiḥ |
nivāryamāṇāv-iva tāv-ubhau puraṁ śanair-apasnātam-ivābhijagmatuḥ || 8.7

Thus, as though being slowed down,
by men wandering in their direction,
men with dispirited minds,

Men no longer blazing,
men whose eyes tears had knocked out,

The two together approached the city –

As silently as if going to a funeral bath.

Back at the end of the 19th century EB Cowell translated today's verse:

Then those two, — who were as it were silently forbidden by the sad inhabitants who were wandering in that direction, their brightness gone and their eyes dim with tears, — slowly entered the city which seemed all bathed in gloom. (EBC)

EBC's “all bathed in gloom” is ajaḥsnātam. EHJ indicates that the old Nepalese manuscript had ayasnātam, corrected in a later hand to ajasnātam, and this was presumably the basis for EBC's text. EHJ amended to the more understandable apasnātam (“a funeral bathing rite”), which he referenced to the Rāmāyaṇa (2.41.20). Subsequently he translated the verse:

Then those two came slowly to the city as if going to a funeral bathing rite, while melancholy men wandered round them, depressed and with eyes struggling with tears, and seemed to stop them from proceeding. (EHJ)

For today's verse as for other verses, among the translations of the three professors it is the most recent translation, that of Patrick Olivelle, which brings out the ostensible meaning most clearly:

Then, the two slowly went to the city, as if they were going to a funeral bath, hindered as if by men rambling around, eyes filled with tears, dejected and downcast. (PO)

Once again, then, today's verse is ostensibly describing a scene of desolation and misery, where men rambling around aimlessly are getting in the way of Chandaka and Kanthaka, blocking their progress. 

And though it is the most recent translation which best conveys this ostensible meaning, the best clue to the hidden meaning, as I read it, is in the earliest translation, that of EBC – and the hint is in EBC's phrase “who were wandering in that direction.”

The ostensible meaning is as per EHJ's “wandered round them” and PO's “rambling around”; but I think the real or hidden meaning is as per EBC's “wandering in that direction.”

“In that direction” or “in their direction” or “in a [single] direction” (diśi; locative, singular) means, if we continue to follow the thread of hidden meaning running through these opening verses, in the direction of emptiness (śūnyam; BC8.5). And those who wander in the direction of emptiness might symbolize Zen practitioners everywhere, led by those ancient patriarchs who went forth into the wandering life.

That being so, every other element of today's verse needs to be dug into in that light, so as to have the irony extracted out of it.

Thus, dīna-mānasaiḥ (EBC: “sad”; EHJ “melancholy”; PO: “dejected”) might mean “dispirited” in the sense of no longer so zealous, no longer so enthusiastic, no longer so exuberant – in short, no longer idealistic.

The same goes for anujjvalaiḥ (EBC: “their brightness gone”; EHJ “depressed”; PO: “downcast”), which might mean “no longer blazing” with evangelical zeal – i.e., again, no longer blazing with idealism.

Bāṣpa-hatekṣaṇaiḥ, “eyes knocked out by tears,” in the same ironic spirit, can be read as a description of those whose former romantic views have all been smashed.

Nivāryamāṇau (EBC: “silently forbidden”; EHJ “seemed to stop them from proceeding”; PO: “hindered”) might mean “being slowed down” in the sense of being taught or encouraged not to be in a rush, not to give in to hurried end-gaining.

Tāv-ubhau (EBC: “those two”; EHJ/PO “the two”) means not only the thinking Chandaka and not only the instinctive Kanthaka – and, by extension, it might be intended to mean not only practice with the mind and not only practice with the body.

Puram, which means not only “city” but also “fortress” might be intended to represent emptiness as a fortress or a citadel.

And going śanair-apasnātam-iva, “slowly/silently/sedately/gradually as if to a funeral bath,” might be intended to suggest action that – whether attended by negative emotion or not – is deeply reflective.

To understand today's verse like this, as being, below the surface, all about Zen practice under the auspices of the ancients, it is most probably necessary to be a Zen practitioner oneself, following – śanaiḥ śanaiḥ, softly, softly catchy monkey – in the footsteps in the ancients.

How do those ancient wanderers confound the hurried end-gaining of our minds, and at the same time (tāv-ubhau) slow down our physical movements? The answer I think is by their very wandering in a particular direction, as when Cesar Millan, preferably accompanied by the supremely chilled pit bull terrier Daddy, would take a dog in need of rehabilitation for a directed wander, i.e. a walk.

I do keep coming back to Cesar Millan, the Mexican dog-whisperer, because though he is evidently still a work in progress – not unlike yours truly – I really appreciate the truth of his approach. Cesar is not renowned for his grasp of Sanskrit, and he does not occupy any lofty academic perch, but in my book Cesar understands the real meaning of today's verse a million times better than the three professors, and also a lot better than me – though evidently not as well, in Cesar's own opinion, as a certain late lamented pit bull terrier understood it. 

Some dog lovers in England wring their hands about Cesar's methods because of the way he sometimes uses a sharp physical contact to snap a dog's mind out of where it ought not to be. (That bastion of self-righteous dog-loving pomposity the RSPCA calls it "aversive training.") But fuck those "caring" pompous, self-righteous English twits who can't get past their own limited views and opinions (mirror principle alert?). Cesar's heart, at least where helping dogs is concerned, has very evidently always been in the right place. Whatever direction he is going in with his dogs, towards balance, towards emptiness, I also am going in that direction. To be very frank, I don't give a fuck about Zen Buddhism or about the FM Alexander Technique. Being a member of the American Zen Teachers Association, or being a qualified AT teacher, is absolutely no guarantee of really knowing anything. But Cesar is a man of prajṇā  guided by prajṇā in pursuit of prajṇā, and the meaning of my life is to go in that direction. 

Speaking of going in one direction, I am not a great one for reciting, but there is one recitation I have come to value more and more over the past few years. I like the somehow stupid and jumbled effort it represents to preserve an original teaching in its pure original form. 

The verse in Japanese is

These twenty syllables in themselves are meaningless even to a Japanese. They represent symbollically in Japanese pronunciation the sounds of Chinese practitioners reciting a combination of Chinese and Sanskrit words. But mainly Sanskrit – out of the 20 syllables in the three-line verse, 13 syllables represent Sanskrit words.

Thus in the first line FU represents buddha.
In the second line BU-SA represents bodhisattva, and MO-KO-SA represents mahasattva.
And in the third line MO-KO-HO-JO-HO-RO-MI represents mahā-prajñā-pāramita

In conclusion, then, this morning I have been twice reminded that, whatever state I happen to be in this morning, and notwithstanding the principle that the first dhyāna is born of separateness, I am, as it were, in a pack of fellow practitioners – buddhas, bodhisattvas and mahasattvas – all wandering ahead of me in one direction (diśi), in pursuit of and guided by the great transcendent virtue which is knowing. But not intellectual knowing. Real knowing


JI-HO: 十方, ten directions
SAN-SHI: 三世 , three times
I-SHI: 一切, all
FU: buddha

SHI: , all (expressed plurality)
SON|: , venerable
BU-SA: bodhisattva
MO-KO-SA: mahasattva

MO-KO-HO-JO-HO-RO-MI: mahā-prajñā-pāramita

十方三世一切 buddha
諸尊 bodhisattva-mahasattva

In the ten directions and the three times, all buddhas
Venerable bodhisattvas and mahasattvas

tataḥ: ind. from that place , thence ; in that place , there ; thereupon , then , after that , afterwards ; from that , in consequence of that , for that reason , consequently
bhramadbhiḥ = inst. pl. m. pres. part. bhram: to wander
diśi (loc. sg.): f. quarter , region , direction , place
dīna-mānasaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): with distressed minds
dīna: mfn. scarce, scanty ; depressed , afflicted , timid , sad ; miserable , wretched ; n. distress , wretchedness
√dī: to decay , perish
mānasa: n. mind

anujjvalaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): not blazing up; EBC: brightness gone; EHJ: melancholy; PO: downcast
an-: (privative prefix) not, un-
ujjvala: mfn. blazing up , luminous , splendid , light
uj- √ jval : to blaze up , flame , shine
bāṣpa-hatekṣaṇaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): eyes afflicted by tears
bāṣpa: m. tear
hata: mfn. struck, smitten, lost ; marred ; knocked out (as an eye); visited by, afflicted by
ikṣaṇa: eye [?]
naraiḥ (inst. pl.): m. a man , a male , a person (pl. men , people);

nivāryamāṇau = nom. dual causative passive pres. part. ni- √ vṛ : to hold back from (abl. , rarely acc.) , prohibit , hinder , stop , prevent , withhold , suppress , forbid
iva: like, as if
tau (nom. dual): they two
ubhau = nom. dual m. ubha: both
puram (acc. sg.): n. a fortress , castle , city , town ; the body

śanaiḥ: ind. quietly , softly , gently , gradually , alternately
apasnātam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. bathing during mourning or upon the death of a relation
ajaḥsnātam [EBC]: “[the city which seemed] all bathed in gloom”
snāta: mfn. bathed , washed , cleansed or purified from
apa-: ind. (as a prefix to nouns and verbs , expresses) away , off , back
iva: like, as if
abhijagmatuḥ = 3rd pers. dual perf. abhi- √ gam: to go near to , approach (with acc.)

車匿與白馬 悵怏行不前
問事不能答 遲遲若尸行

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