Monday, October 28, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.9: Following Behind Tensely, Asking About Him Over There

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
atha bruvantaḥ samupeta-manyavo janāḥ pathi chandakam-āgatāsravaḥ |
kva rāja-putraḥ pura-rāṣṭra-nandano htas-tvayāsāv-iti pṣṭhato 'nvayuḥ || 8.9

There again, speaking tensely,

Common folk afflicted by distress 
addressed Chandaka on the road –

“Where is the Child of the King, 
the joy of the city and of the kingdom?

You have stolen away that child!” they said, 
from the rear, following behind.

The people who are the subject of today's verse are described in tomorrow's verse as bhaktimataḥ, being possessed of bhakti. And bhakti is given in the dictionary as: 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 "). That being so, my intuition is that these janāḥ (common folk; plural) and the nagaro janaḥ (people of the city; singular) of yesterday's verse, are different people. Ostensibly they are all the same people. But nagaro janaḥ, in my reading, means people abiding in emptiness, whereas these janāḥ are common or garden religious believers. Hence, whereas EBC saw atha as insignificant and left it untranslated, and EHJ translated as “Thereon,” and PO as “Then,” I think atha means “Or else” or “There again” – suggesting, below the surface, a change of subject.

At the end of the 2nd pāda the old Nepalese manuscript has āgatāsravaḥ, but all three professors have āgatāśravaḥ (EBC: “crying with tears”; EHJ: “burst into tears”; PO: “shedding copious tears”). If I am correct in thinking that the nominal plural masculine of āgatāsrava is āgatāsravāḥ, then I would prefer to amend the original āgatāsravaḥ not to āgatāśravaḥ (from āgata, entered into + āsru, tears) but rather to āgatāsravāḥ (from āgata, entered into + āsrava, distress, affliction, polluting influence). Ostensibly, then, āgatāsravāḥ would describe the common folk as “in distress” or “entered into a state of affliction,” but with an allusion below the surface to the Buddha's teaching around eradicating the polluting influences (āsrava):

Thus, by methodically taking possession of the mind, getting rid of something and gathering something together, / The practitioner makes the four dhyānas his own, and duly acquires the five powers of knowing: //SN16.1 // The principal transcendent power, taking many forms; then being awake to what others are thinking; / And remembering past lives from long ago; and divine lucidity of ear; and of eye. // 16.2 // From then on, through investigation of what is, he applies his mind (mano dadhāti) to eradicating the polluting influences (āsrava-saṃkṣayāya), / For on this basis he fully understands suffering and the rest, the four true standpoints: // 16.3 // This is suffering, which is constant and akin to trouble; this is the cause of suffering, akin to starting it; / This is cessation of suffering, akin to walking away. And this, akin to a refuge, is a peaceable path. // SN16.4 // Understanding these noble truths, by a process of reasoning, while getting to know the four as one, / He prevails over all pollutants (sarvāsravān), by the means of mental development (bhāvanayā), and, on finding peace, is no longer subject to becoming. // SN16.5 //
The Chinese translation 傾身, “with bent body,” if it supports either amendment, would seem to support mine – insofar as a bent body represents a state of distress or affliction. Certainly there is nothing about tears in the Chinese.

Reflecting on today's verse in light of SN16.1-5, I see it as significant that chandakam in the 2nd pāda and pṛṣṭhato 'nvayuḥ at the end of the 4th pāda are separated as they are. The gist is that the common folk followed after Chandaka, but the interposition of one and a half pādas of direct speech has the effect of giving added emphasis to the sense of the lack of initiative in those who  pṛṣṭhato 'nvayuḥ, “followed behind” – particularly since the sense of “behind” or “after” or “from the rear” in pṛṣṭhataḥ is already inherent in the anu- of anvayuḥ, “they followed after.”

The point, as I see it, is that these common folk, as opposed to those who abide in emptiness, are religious believers, trusting devotees, followers. They are not the kind of individual who, on his or her own initiative, makes the four dhyānas his or her own. They are not the kind of individual who applies his or her own mind (mano dadhāti) to eradicating the polluting influences (āsrava-saṃkṣayāya), by the means of mental development (bhāvanayā).

The term bhāvanā (lit. bringing into being, development, cultivation) was one that I struggled with the most in the translation of Saundara-nanda, partly since I did not see any direct link to a term that I was familiar with in Master Dogen's Shobogenzo. Gradually I have come to think that the Chinese character that comes closest to conveying the sense of bhāvanā might be 修行 (SHUGYO; training), and especially the of 修行, which is used in the sense of “to cultivate” for example in the phrase 修禅定 (SHU-ZENJO; “to cultivate Zen balance”) and 修智慧  (SHU-CHI-E; “to cultivate wisdom"). 

I have also come to think that what the Buddha meant by bhāvanā may be very similar to, if the not the same as, what FM Alexander called “the work” or “work on the self” – the point being, in conclusion, that this kind of work requires a certain initiative on the part of the individual, and cannot be done by slavishly following others.

Hence FM Alexander famously remarked that he didn't want a bunch of monkeys following him around imitating his every move.

And hence, I think, the Buddha told Nanda at the end of SN Canto 16:
So, in order to make the noble truths your own, first clear a path according to this plan of action, / Like a king going on campaign to subdue his foes, wishing to conquer unconquered dominions. // SN16.85 // These salubrious wilds that surround us are suited to practice and not thronged with people. / Furnishing the body with ample solitude, cut a path for abandoning the afflictions. // 16.86 // Kauṇḍinya, Nanda, Kṛmila, Aniruddha, Tiṣya, Upasena, Vimala, Rādha, / Vāśpa, Uttara, Dhautaki, Moha-rāja, Kātyāyana, Dravya, Pilinda-vatsa, // 16.87 // Bhaddāli, Bhadrāyaṇa, Sarpa-dāsa, Subhūti, Go-datta, Sujāta, Vatsa, / Saṁgrāmajit, Bhadrajit, Aśvajit, Śrona and Sona Koṭikarna, // 16.88 // Kṣemā, Ajita, the mothers of Nandaka and Nanda, Upāli, Vāgīśa, Yaśas, Yaśoda, / Mahāhvaya, Valkalin, Rāṣṭra-pāla, Sudarśana, Svāgata and Meghika, // 16.89 // Kapphina, Kāśyapa of Uruvilvā, the great Mahā-kāśyapa, Tiṣya, Nanda, / Pūrṇa and Pūrṇa as well as Pūrṇaka and Pūrṇa Śonāparānta, // 16.90 // The son of Śāradvatī, Subāhu, Cunda, Kondeya, Kāpya, Bhṛgu, Kuṇṭha-dhāna, / Plus Śaivala, Revata and Kauṣṭhila, and he of the Maudgalya clan and Gavām-pati-- // 16.91 // Be quick to show the courage that they have shown in their practice, working to principle. / Then you will assuredly take the step that they took and will realise the splendour that they realised. // 16.92 //  Just as a fruit may have flesh that is bitter to the taste and yet is sweet when eaten ripe, / So heroic effort, through the struggle it involves, is bitter and yet, in accomplishment of the aim, its mature fruit is sweet. // 16.93 // Directed energy is paramount: for, in doing what needs to be done, it is the foundation; without directed energy there is no accomplishment at all; / All success in this world arises from directed energy -- and in the absence of directed energy wrongdoing is rampant. // 16.94 // No gaining of what is yet to be gained, and certain loss of what has been gained, / Along with low self-esteem, wretchedness, the scorn of superiors, Darkness, lack of spirit, and the breakdown of learning, restraint and contentment: / For men without directed energy a great fall awaits. // 16.95 // When a capable person hears the guiding principle but realises no growth, When he knows the most excellent method but realises no upward repose, / When he leaves home but in freedom realises no peace: The cause is the laziness in him and not an enemy. // 16.96 // A man obtains water if he digs the ground with unflagging exertion, And produces fire from fire-sticks by continuous twirling. / But those are sure to reap the fruit of their effort whose energies are harnessed to practice/ For rivers that flow swiftly and constantly cut through even a mountain. // 16.97 // After ploughing and protecting the soil with great pains, a farmer gains a bounteous crop of corn; After striving to plumb the ocean's waters, a diver revels in a bounty of coral and pearls; / After seeing off with arrows the endeavour of rival kings, a king enjoys royal dominion. So direct your energy in pursuit of peace, for in directed energy, undoubtedly, lies all growth." // 16.98 //
Read in this light, asau "that child" or "that one over there" has meaning. Ostensibly asau simply means "him" but originally asau (that one, referring to something distant from the speaker) is opposed to ayam (this one, referring to something close to the speaker). The MW dictionary gives the examples of ayaṁ lokaḥ or idaṁ viśvam or idaṁ sarvam, this earthly world, this universe, and ayam agniḥ, this fire which burns on the earth; but asāv agniḥ, that fire in the sky, i.e. the lightning.

In conclusion, in Aśvaghoṣa's poems as I read them there are essentially two kinds of verses, one kind designed to inspire us how to sit, and the other designed to remind us how not to sit. Today's verse belongs to the latter category.

It is cautioning us against expecting, as religious believers are liable to expect, some hero regarded by his followers as a true son of the King of Dharma – like a Gudo Nishijima, or an Ajahn Sumedho, or a Tich Naht Hahn, or a Dalai Lama – to come along and save everybody. It is cautioning us against being prey to the mental and physical tension that invariably follows the disappointment of such an expectation. 

But being reminded how not to sit, in the final analysis, is no different from (except maybe more useful than) being encouraged how to sit. In those positive terms, today's verse is encouraging us to be pro-active in seeking the truth, by freeing our own Chandaka of ideas, expectations and attachments, by walking or riding our own Kanthaka, and thereby dropping off our own Chandaka and Kanthaka.... so that our own original features might be enabled spontaneously to emerge. Such emergence, even if it is only for a moment, is something, or is a bit of nothing, that, unlike the Golden Child, can never be stolen away (hṛtaḥ) from the individual who owns it. 

Perhaps, then, after all, there is only one kind of verse, encouraging each of us day by day to dig out for ourselves the true meaning of kāñcanam āsanam, golden sitting. 

atha: ind. and so, then, moreover, rather, but, else
bruvantaḥ = nom. pl. m. pres. part. brū: to speak , say
samupeta-manyavaḥ (nom. pl. m.): in a state of high spirit / zeal / anger
samupeta: mfn. come , arrived
manyu: m. spirit , mind , mood , mettle (as of horses) ; high spirit or temper , ardour , zeal , passion ; rage , fury , wrath , anger , indignation ; grief , sorrow , distress , affliction
manyu-tas: ind. from anger , in a rage
manyu-parita: mfn. filled with anger
manyu-mat: mfn. spirited , ardent , zealous , passionate , vehement , enraged
manyu-maya: mfn. formed or consisting of wrath , filled with resentment
manyú-ṣāvín: mfn. preparing soma in anger or with zeal

janāḥ (nom. pl.): m. creature , living being , man , person , race (páñca jánās , " the five races " = p kṛṣṭáyas RV. iii , viii ff. MBh. iii , 14160), people , subjects (the sg. used collectively); m. a common person , one of the people
pathi (loc. sg.): m. way, road
chandakam (acc. sg.): m. Chandaka
āgatāsravaḥ [or āgatāsravāḥ ?] (nom. pl. m.): in distress
āsrava: m. distress , affliction , pain ; (with Buddh. ) impurity, defilement, sin ; pollutant
āgatāśravaḥ (nom. pl. m.): in tears
āgata: mfn. come, arrived ; entered (into any state or condition of mind)
aśru: n. a tear

kva: ind. where?
rāja-putraḥ (nom. sg. m.): the son of the king
pura-rāṣṭra-nandanaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the joy of the town and kingdom
pura: n. a city, town
rāṣṭra: a kingdom , realm , empire , dominion ; a people , nation , subjects
nandana: n. gladdening or gladness ; a divine garden , (esp.) indra's paradise

hṛtaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. taken , taken away , seized ; ravished , charmed , fascinated
hṛ: to take away , carry off , seize , deprive of , steal , rob
tvayā (inst. sg.): by you
asau (nom. sg.): m. that one, he
iti: “...,” thus
pṛṣṭhataḥ: ind. from or on or behind the back , behind (with gen. or ifc.)
anvayuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf anv-√i: to go after or alongside , to follow

有人來路傍 傾身問車匿
王子世所愛 擧國人之命
汝輒盜將去 今爲何所在

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