Saturday, November 30, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.42: Where Tears Meet Tearfulness

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
itīha devyāḥ paridevitāśrayaṁ niśamya bāṣpa-grathitākṣaraṁ vacaḥ |
adho-mukhaḥ sāśru-kalaḥ ktāñjaliḥ śanair-idaṁ chandaka uttaraṁ jagau || 8.42

When thus he had heard, here in this world,
the lament-laden words of the queen,

Whose every syllable had been punctuated with a tear,

Chandaka, face turned down,
tongue-tied by his own tearfulness,
and hands held like a beggar's,

Softly voiced the following response:

Here in this world (iha) is the place where weeping abandoned wife meets tearful bearer of bad news and she, in her lament-laded words, demonstratively expresses the truth and the reality of suffering.

Here also is the place where pearl necklaces dance upon the upturned sandal-scented breasts of beautiful women.

And here in this epic poetry Aśvaghoṣa never seems to tire of describing breasts and tears, tears and breasts, manifestations of the most negative of emotions and stimulators or reminders of the most positive of emotions.

In Shobogenzo chap. 79, Ango, The Summer Retreat, Dogen goes into excruciating detail about the performance of preparations for a 90-day sitting retreat. He quotes the injunction in Zen-en-shingi that practitioners should arrive half a month in advance of the retreat -- “It is important that the service of tea, and personal salutations, should not be rushed.” There then follow more than ten pages in translation in which Dogen proves how seriously he takes this injunction not to be in a hurry, but to attend patiently to niceties, before he finally writes: “Having thus inaugurated the summer retreat, we make effort in pursuit of the truth” – i.e. we finally begin the main task at hand, which is just to sit.

Today's verse, with its repeated talk of tears, puts me in mind of how I felt slogging through the translation of Ango, with all its boring descriptions of three prostrations here and nine prostrations there, and writing cards of congratulation, and serving tea.

Tears and tits and tea are all very well, up to a point, but so much talk on these topics seems designed to cause us to ask: what else is there?

For a bloke who sits, what else might there be, below the surface, to dig for?

In today's verse, I must admit, I haven't been able to find anything. There are no words with negative prefixes obliquely hinting at the buddha-nature as a bit of nothing. There is no talk of golden seats which might be intended to symbolize enlightened sitting. There is only repeated talk of tears, and of words laden with laments. 

lament:  (intrans.)  to mourn aloud ; (trans.) to express sorrow, mourning, or regret for, often demonstratively.
lament: (noun) an expression of sorrow; especially : a song or poem that expresses sorrow for someone who has died or something that is gone ; a crying out in grief.

In the introduction to his translation of Buddha-carita, EH Johnston stated his view (contrary to what had been the prevailing view) that Aśvaghoṣa wrote Buddha-carita before he wrote Saundara-nanda. 

Reflecting as above on today's verse caused my own conviction to strengthen that EHJ was most probably correct about this. 

EHJ wrote that “the handling of the Saundarananda is altogether more mature and assured than that of the Buddhacarita, whose effect is often marred by repetitions of the same words or phrases, or even of a whole pāda, in a way that the kavis of the classical age sedulously avoided, and the poet's technique reaches its high-water mark in passages such as SN4.1-11, or SN10.8-13, while the latter's [SN's] metrical system is more elaborate and includes faultless manipulation of such difficult schemes as Upasthita-pracupita and Udgatā.”

Though I am not able to judge the finer points of poetic technique to which EHJ refers, I do see a certain evolution or development in Aśvaghoṣa's handling of his content. Also, it does seem to make logical sense that Aśvaghoṣa would have wanted to tell the Buddha's story first, before taking a second bite of the cherry with his epic tale of Handsome Nanda.

As I have already documented, the present Canto shifts back and forth between lamenting subjects – Chandaka, Kanthaka, the people of the city, the common folk, the women, the King, the Queen, and Yaśodharā – in a way that is not so easy to follow. That is why, for my own benefit, I felt the urge to map out the various subjects of the present Canto: 

1-2 horseman Chandaka
3-4 horse Kanthaka
5 horseman & horse together
6 city of Kapilavastu (almost emptiness itself)
7 horseman & horse together
8 people of the city
9 common folks
10 horseman Chandaka
11-13 common folks
14 women
15 King Śuddhodhana
16 horseman Chandaka,
17 horse Kanthaka,
18 birds and horses
19 common folks
20-23 women
24 Queen Gautamī
25-30 women (including anyāḥ, different ones)
31-41 Yaśodhara
42-49 horseman Chandaka
50 women
51-58 Queen Gautamī
59 women
60-70 Yaśodhara
71 women
72-81 King Śuddhodhana
82-85 counsellor and family priest
86-87 King Śuddhodhana

This varied treatment in the present Canto of antaḥ-pura-vilāpaḥ, “Lamenting Within the Battlements,” can be contrasted with SN Canto 6, bhāryā-vilāpaḥ, “A Wife's Lament,” and SN Canto 7, nanda-vilāpaḥ, “Nanda's Lament.”

In other words, Aśvaghoṣa was already clear in his mind by the time he came to write Buddha-carita that tears of lament (along with breasts of beautiful women) were a subject upon which he wished to dwell. In elucidating the first noble truth, the truth of suffering, via descriptions of events taking place here in this world (iha), Aśvaghoṣa chose not to focus on, say, the kind of pain we feel if we sprain an ankle, or if we sit cross-legged for longer than we are used to.Neither did he focus on say, the pain of being cold, or the suffering of hunger.  He chose to focus on the emotional suffering that is manifested by tears of sorrow and by lament-laden words. And this focus on emotional suffering, I venture to opine, seems to be even more clearly developed in Saundara-nanda than it is in Buddha-carita.

Thus, in Buddha-carita we have one canto devoted to the lamenting of two or three groups and various individuals, along with a somewhat idealized picture of the buddha-to-be who never sheds a tear at all (anything else might have caused offence to those who were already well-versed in the legend of how the heroic Prince Siddhārtha became the enlightened Buddha). Whereas in Saundara-nanda we have two cantos devoted to a detailed investigation of not only the lamenting of the abandoned wife Sundarī but also the lamenting of the abandoning buddha-to-be Nanda.

What I have thus tried to do in the above comment is (a) to clarify why Aśvaghoṣa so often and repeatedly described his protagonists' tears, in a manner that is liable to try the patience of a Zen practitioner who is in a hurry; and (b) to put Aśvaghoṣa's focus on lamenting into the picture of (i) his wider scheme, and (ii) the evolution and probable chronology of his writing.

iti: thus
iha: ind. in this place , here ; in this world; in this book; in this case; now
devyāḥ (gen. sg.): f. the queen
paridevitāśrayam (acc. sg. n.) replete with lamentation
paridevita: n. wailing , lamentation
pari- √ div: to wail , lament , cry , bemoan
āśraya: mfn. ifc. depending on , resting on , endowed or furnished with

niśamya = abs. ni- √ śam: to observe, perceive, hear, learn
bāṣpa-grathitākṣaram (acc. sg. n.): syllables strung with tears
bāṣpa: m. tears
grath: to fasten , tie or string together , arrange , connect in a regular series ; to string words together , compose (a literary work)
grathita: mfn. strung , tied , bound , connected , tied together or in order , wound , arranged , classed ; set with , strewn with ; artificially composed or put together (the plot of a play) ; closely connected with each other , difficult to be distinguished from each other ; coagulated , thickened , hardened ;
akṣaram (acc. sg.); n. a syllable ; n. a sound ; mfn. imperishable ; unalterable ; m. a sword
vacaḥ (acc. sg.): n. speech, words

adho-mukhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having the face downwards ; headlong
sāśru-kalaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. inarticulate through tears
sāśru: mfn. accompanied by tears , tearful , shedding tears
bāṣpa-kala: mfn. inarticulate through tears (EBC: his voice low with tears ; EHJ: hardly intelligible through his tears; PO: choking with tears)
kala: mfn. indistinct , dumb; (ifc. , bāṣpa , or aśru preceding) indistinct or inarticulate (on account of tears) ; m. a low or soft and inarticulate tone (as humming , buzzing &c ) ; m. (in poetry) time equal to four mātras or instants
kala-kala: m. any confused noise (as a tinkling or rattling sound , the murmuring of a crowd &c )
kṛtāñjaliḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. one who joins the hollowed palms in reverence or to solicit a favour (holding the hollowed palms together as if to receive alms or an offering) , standing in a reverent or respectful posture

śanaiḥ: ind. quietly , softly , gently , gradually , alternately
idam (acc. sg.): n. this
chandakaḥ (nom. sg.): m. Chandaka
uttaram (acc. sg.): n. answer , reply ; n. (in law) a defence , rejoinder , a defensive measure ; n. contradiction
jagau = 3rd pers. sg. perf. gai: to sing , speak or recite in a singing manner ; relate in metrical language

車匿聞苦言 飮氣而息結
收涙合掌答 願聽我自陳

Friday, November 29, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.41: How My Suffering Could and Would and Should Have Been

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
yadi hy-aheṣiṣyata bodhayan-janaṁ khuraiḥ kṣitau vāpy-akariṣyata dhvanim |
hanu-svanaṁ vājanayiṣyad-uttamaṁ na cābhaviṣyan-mama duḥkham-īdśam || 8.41

For if he had whinnied, waking people up,

Or else had made a noise with his hoofs on the ground,

– Or had he made the loudest sound he could with his jaws
[had he sounded the ultimate warning of death and disease] –

I would not have experienced suffering like this.”

Thus Yaśodharā concludes one eleven-verse monologue (she begins another eleven-verse monologue from BC8.60), and thus she also concludes her present four-verse treatment of the horse Kanthaka. Thus coming at the end of these series of verses, today's verse can be expected to express something conclusive and significant. So where might its hidden meaning lie?

The first clue must be bodhayan-janam in the 1st pāda, which means “waking people up” or “causing people to be attentive.” If we see an autobiographical undercurrent continuing into today's verse, the suggestion might be that the fundamental aim of the whinnying of Aśvaghoṣa (The Horse-Whinnier) is to cause us to wake up, or at least to pay attention.

In that case, is the 2nd pāda antithetical to the 1st pāda in contrasting intentional whinnying with noisily unconscious clattering about?

I am not sure about that. I feel more confident that the irony in today's verse centres on the ambiguity of hanu at the beginning of the 3rd pāda.

The Monier-Williams dictionary gives hanu as “a jaw” and gives hanu-svanam, referenced to today's verse, as “sound made with the jaws.” Hence the ostensible meaning of the 3rd pāda is:

or had made the loudest sound he could with his jaws (EBC)
or if he had made the loudest sound he could with his jaws (EHJ)
or had he made a loud sound with his jaws (PO)

But before hanu is given as “a jaw,” hanu is given as "'anything which destroys or injures life,' a weapon; death; disease.”

I think Aśvaghoṣa, playing on this ambiguity, is suggesting what the main thrust of his donkey work was –  through his poetry, to sound a warning about death and disease, and, more broadly, about all that is destructive or injurious to life.

This is in line with what Aśvaghoṣa himself has already told us about his desire to cause us to swallow that bitter pill which is the truth of suffering:

This work is pregnant with the purpose of release: it is for cessation, not for titillation;
It is wrought out of the figurative expression of kāvya poetry in order to capture an audience whose minds are on other things -- /
For what I have written here not pertaining to liberation, I have written in accordance with the conventions of kāvya poetry.
This is through asking myself how the bitter pill might be made pleasant to swallow, like bitter medicine mixed with something sweet. // SN18.63 //

The 4th pāda, then, can be read as suggesting, below the surface, Dogen's famous principle that SHOJI NO NAKA NI HOTOKE AREBA, SHOJI NASHI (“When in life-and-death there is buddha, there is no life-and-death”) – the point being that pain and suffering are still pain and suffering, but when a person has a means to deal with them, or has a bigger picture to put them in, they are not experienced as before.

To relate it to what my Zen teacher taught many years ago during Zen retreats that involved a lot of sitting cross-legged, he taught:
“It is not the pain in your legs that is the problem. 
It is worrying about the pain that is the problem."  
"Enjoy the pain in your legs!”

Again, to relate it to what I was discussing yesterday, the attitude of my Zen teacher towards pain was very similar to, or totally the same as, George Soros's appetite for “harsh reality.” It was not asceticism and not masochism, more a certain strength of mind to confront what we ordinarily find it more comfortable to avoid.

All this hidden meaning, however, seems to be lost on Yaśodharā herself. Rather, Yaśodharā on the surface, as I hear her, is voicing the kind of thoughts that those of us are prone to have when reality is too harsh for us to confront and, far from exhibiting strength of mind, we exhibit weakness of mind. This weakness of mind tends to express itself with thoughts prefaced by “could have,” “would have,” and “should have.” Hence the four examples in today's verse of verbs (aheṣiṣyata, akariṣyata, ajanayiṣyat, abhaviṣyat) in the hitherto rarely encountered conditional voice.

"I would not have experienced suffering like this," says Yaśodharā. Or, more literally, "my suffering would not be like this," or "such suffering would not be in me." I picture Gudo Nishijima and George Soros there, saying (a) such suffering is harsh reality, into which coulda, woulda, shoulda never come; and (b) enjoy the pain in your heart! 

In conclusion, then, I think that in today's verse Yaśodharā, albeit unbeknowns to herself, is indeed saying something significant. 

yadi: if
hi: for
aheṣiṣyata = 3rd pers. sg. conditional heṣ: to neigh, whinny
bodhayan = nom. sg. m. caus. pres. part. budh: to wake up , arouse , restore to life or consciousness ; to cause to observe or attend , admonish , advise
janam (acc. sg.): m. people

khuraiḥ (inst. pl.): m. a hoof , horse's hoof
kṣitau (loc. sg.): f. an abode , dwelling , habitation , house ; the earth, soil of the earth
vā: or
api: even
akariṣyata = 3rd pers. sg. conditional kṛ: to make, do
dhvanim (acc. sg.): m. sound , echo , noise

hanu-svana (acc. sg.): m. sound made with the jaws Bcar.
hanu: f. " anything which destroys or injures life " , a weapon ; death; disease ; various kinds of drugs ; a wanton woman, prostitute; f. (not fr. √ han) a jaw ; n. " cheek " , a partic. part of a spearhead
svana: m. sound, noise (in the older language applied to the roar of wind , thunder , water &c ; in later language to the song of birds , speech , and sound of any kind )
vā: or
ajanayiṣyat = 3rd pers. sg. conditional jan: to generate , beget , produce , create , cause ; to produce (a song of praise , &c )
uttamam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. uppermost , highest , chief ; the highest (tone) ; ind. most , in the highest degree ; at last , lastly

na: not
ca: and
abhaviṣyat = 3rd pers. sg. conditional bhū: to be
mama (gen. sg.): of/in me
duḥkham (nom. sg.): n. suffering, pain, sorrow
īdṛśam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. endowed with such qualities , such

若爾時有聲 擧宮悉應覺
爾時若覺者 不生今苦惱

Thursday, November 28, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.40: A Doer of Low-Down Donkey Work Loudly Neighs

⏑−⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
anārya-karmā bhśam-adya heṣate narendra-dhiṣṇyaṁ pratipūrayann-iva |
yadā tu nirvāhayati sma me priyaṁ tadā hi mūkas-turagādhamo 'bhavat || 8.40

Now the doer of un-āryan deeds is neighing loudly,

As if filling with sound the seat of a first among men;

But when he carried away my love,

Then the low-down donkey was dumb.

Yesterday George Soros published an op-ed piece in The Guardian which contained the following sentence:

Let's be honest: there is a Roma problem in Europe, and it is getting worse. 

When I read the sentence I knew I wanted to connect it to today's verse – even though, at time of reading the Soros article, I had actually forgotten what today's verse was about.

But indeed there is a profound connection, and the connection relates to the taste Soros has cultivated through his life for dealing with harsh reality – not noble reality, not Āryan reality, not upper-middle class intellectual reality, not reality as we would like it to be.

Ostensibly in today's verse  anārya-karmā is an insult that Yaśodharā is hurling at the horse Kanthaka in her rage – “That doer of ignoble deeds!” But if we follow the dictionary definition of an-ārya-karmin, “doing work becoming only a non-āryan,” that opens the way to a reading which does make very well the connection I wish to make.  “Doing work becoming only a non-āryan,” describes George Soros very well, considering that (a) his Hungarian Jewish family escaped the Nazi holocaust in WWII, and (b) Soros is not above, but actively seeks out, the most apparently intractable and messy of problems. 

Read in this ironic sense, anārya-karmā might also fit very well with Aśvaghoṣa's purposes which, as I read them, are both ironic and auto-biographical.

Anārya-karmā might be auto-biographical in many ways. Who knows what history Aśvaghoṣa had of doing low-down and dirty donkey work? Was Aśvaghoṣa the kind of horse-whisperer, for example, like Monty Roberts, who knew well from his own experience what a hard-working donkey goes through when he ought to be given carrots but instead gets the stick?

One thing we do know is that Aśvaghoṣa was not above investigating in detail the physical manifestations of human grief, in terms of arm movements, changes in skin colour, sounds of breathing, and so on. Far from being content to discuss suffering in the abstract, and much less enlightenment in the abstract, in a high-faluting or snobbish manner, Aśvaghoṣa in cantos like the present canto, as I hear him, is anārya-karmā, doing work becoming only a non-āryan.

Again, bhṛśam-adya heṣate, “today he neighs loudly” is an apt description of one whose name aśva (horse) + ghoṣa (indistinct sound, roar)  could literally mean “The Horse-Whinnier/Whisperer” or could mean “The Neighing of a Horse” or could mean “The Horse's Roar.”

In the 2nd pāda, narendra-dhiṣṇyam (lit. “the abode of a prince [indra] among men”) could also be taken, from what little we know of Aśvaghoṣa's history, as an auto-biographical element. There is some evidence that Aśvaghoṣa was asked by the Northern Indian King Kaniṣka to preside over his imperial court, in which case Aśvaghoṣa himself, in a very real sense, as the principal teacher of the king, would have been a first among men. In that case, narendra-dhiṣṇyam might describe a Dharma-Hall built at Kaniṣka's court for the purpose of listening to the preaching of Aśvaghoṣa. Or Kaniṣka's royal palace itself, with Aśvaghoṣa teaching there, might have become a Dharma-Hall filled by the Horse's Roar.

Finally in the 4th pāda, mūkaḥ (dumb, speechless, mute) might be an apt description of a horse whose neighing was rooted in the silence of a Zazen Hall. So the Zen patriarch Aśvaghoṣa – in spite of all his poetic verbal outpourings – might have had good reason to describe himself originally as mūkaḥ, dumb. 

But why turagādhamaḥ, lit. “the lowest of horses”?

Adhama, “lowest,” is a superlative form from adhara, which means “tending downwards.” As a suffix at the end of a compound, -adhama is ostensibly very pejorative; hence EBC: “this vilest of horses”; EHJ: “the wretched horse”; PO: “this vile horse.”

But it may be that Aśvaghoṣa is using this most pejorative of terms to express his own unshakeable self-confidence. How so?

They say that it is the most low-down of voices which – paradoxically – are richest in the kind of high-frequency overtones that best fill up a place with good acoustics, like a magnificent royal palace, or like an old wooden temple.

Again, to quote a famous saying in Chinese Zen:

Flowers in space open on the ground.

But why refer to Chinese Zen when we have already got it here, direct from the source, straight from the horse's mouth...
A dirt-washer (pāṃsu-dhāvakaḥ) in pursuit of gold washes away first the coarse grains of dirt, / Then the finer granules, so that the material is cleansed; and by the cleansing he retains the rudiments of gold. // SN15.66 //

So if anybody asks me what I would like to be when I grow up, the answer I have been looking for these past 50 years might be here in Aśvaghoṣa's words pāṃsu-dhāvakaḥ and mūkas-turagādhamaḥa dumb, low-down, dirt-washing donkey.

anārya-karmā (nom. sg. m.): the doer of non-āryan work
anārya: mfn. not honourable or respectable , vulgar , inferior; destitute of āryans ; m. not an āryan
karman: n. act , action ; (frequently ifc. , the first member of the compound being either the person who performs the action [e.g. vaṇik-k°, trade] or the person or thing for or towards whom the action is performed [e.g. rāja-k° , business of a king] or a specification of the action [e.g. prīti-k° , kind action]); work , labour , activity
an-ārya-karmin: m. doing work unbecoming an ārya or becoming only a non-ārya.
bhṛśam: ind. strongly , violently , vehemently , excessively , greatly , very
adya: ind. today, now
heṣate = 3rd pers. sg. heṣ: to neigh

narendra-dhiṣṇyam (acc. sg.): the abode of the man-lord; the palace
narendra: m. 'man-lord' ; king
indra: ifc. best , excellent , the first , the chief (of any class of objects )
dhiṣṇya: mfn. mindful , attentive , benevolent , liberal ; n. site , place , abode , region , house ; n. the seat of a god i.e. a quarter of the sky ; n. power , strength
pratipūrayan = nom. sg. m. causative pres. part. prati- √ pṝ : to fill (said of a noise)
iva: like, as if

yadā: ind. when
tu: but
nirvāhayati = 3rd pers. sg. causative nir- √ vah: , to lead out of , save from (abl.) ; to carry off , remove ; to attain one's object , be successful , overcome obstacles
sma: ind. (joined with a pres. tense or pres. participle to give them a past sense)
me (gen. sg.): my
priyam (acc. sg.): m. a lover , husband

tadā: ind. then, at that time
hi: for
mūkaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. " tied or bound " (scil. tongue-tied) , dumb , speechless , mute , silent ; wretched , poor ; m. the offspring of a mule and mare
turagādhamaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the lowest of horses
turaga: m. " going quickly " , a horse ; the mind , thought
adhama: mfn. (from adhara) lowest , vilest , worst , very low or vile or bad (often ifc. , as in narādhama , the vilest or worst of men)
adhara: mfn. (connected with adhas) , lower , inferior , tending downwards
adhas: ind. below , down ; in the lower region
abhavat = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect bhū: to be

汝是弊惡蟲 造諸不正業
今日大嗚呼 聲滿於王宮
先劫我所念 爾時何以唖

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.39: Has Mother Nature Been Motivated by Intimidation?

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
yadā samarthaḥ khalu soḍhum-āgatān-iṣu-prahārān-api kiṁ punaḥ kaśāḥ |
gataḥ kaśā-yāta-bhayāt kathaṁ nv-ayaṁ śriyaṁ ghītvā hdayaṁ ca me samam || 8.39

When he is well able to defy even incoming arrows,

To say nothing of whips,

How could fear of a whip's goading
have caused this [fast-goer] to go,

Snatching away, in equal measure,
my royal pomp and my heart?

Below the surface of today's verse as I read it, the ancient Horse-Whisperer Aśvaghoṣa is expressing a principle that modern horse-whisperer Monty Roberts has rediscovered for our time – which is namely that, to train a fearless warhorse, fear is not the way.

Techniques which aim  through intimidation to harness the natural power of a horse (Skt: turaṇgama, “ready-mover” or “fast-goer”) put the end before the means. They are thus what FM Alexander described as “end-gaining.” They are akin to approaches to sitting-meditation in which a practitioner wishes to make a splendid mirror but sees the polishing of a tile as a mug's game.

Below the surface of today's verse, therefore, I think Aśvaghoṣa's real intention concerns not so much horses as humans, as beings whose natural energy is to be harnessed, using such non-intimidatory techniques as awareness of breathing –  a means of allowing the natural laws of the organism to work without interference....
"When an investigation comes to be made it will be found that every single thing we do in the work is exactly what is done in Nature, where the conditions are right, the difference being that we are learning to do it consciously." 
Ostensibly, then, today's verse is the continuation of Yaśodharā's complaint directed at Kanthaka for carrying away her husband, and the mention of arrows and whips and fear thereof is incidental.

But below the surface the key word in today's verse, appearing in the 3rd pāda, is bhayāt, “because of fear” or “through intimidation.”

Then in the 4th pāda Yaśodharā is ostensibly bemoaning the loss of her śriyam (physical power, or royal pomp, or 'lustre' in the outward, superficial sense) and her hṛdayam (the heart as centre of emotional thoughts and feelings). But below the surface the snatching away of śriyam and hṛdayam, or power and heart, in equal measure, in balance (samam), can be taken as a symbol of body and mind being caused spontaneously to drop off – not something to be complained about but rather a bit of nothing to work towards, an aim of practice.

So today's verse asks a question. And the gist of the question is: As a means of causing body and mind to drop off, is intimidation valid? Or, more simply: Is mother nature amenable to being intimidated? 

In the Chinese translation, by the way, Yaśodharā addresses her words to , “you,” i.e. to Kanthaka himself.

yadā: ind. when
samarthaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. very strong or powerful , competent , capable of , able to , a match for (gen. dat. loc. inf.)
khalu: ind. (as a particle of asseveration) indeed , verily , certainly , truly
soḍhum = inf. to prevail , be victorious ; to overcome , vanquish , conquer , defeat (enemies) , gain , win (battles) ; to master , suppress , restrain ; to bear up against , resist , withstand
āgatān (acc. pl. m.): mfn. coming, arriving

iṣu-prahārān (acc. pl. m.): arrow strikes
iṣu: mf. an arrow
prahāra: m. striking , hitting , fighting ; a stroke , blow , thump , knock , kick &
pra- √ hṛ: to thrust or move forward ; to hurl , throw , discharge at (loc.) ; to strike , hit , hurt , attack , assail
api: even
kiṁ punaḥ: ind. how much more?
kaśāḥ (acc. pl.): f. a whip; a rein , bridle ; whipping , flogging

gataḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. gone , gone away , departed
kaśā-yāta-bhayāt: (abl. sg.): from fear of being goaded by a whip
yāta: n. motion , progress , gait , course , drive ; n. the guiding or driving of an elephant with a goad
bhaya: n. fear
kaśā-pāta-bhayāt [EBC/EHJ] (abl. sg.): because of fear of the fall of a whip
kaśā-pāta: m. the stroke of a whip, Bcar.
pāta: m. flying, fall; alighting , descending or causing to descend , casting or throwing upon , cast , fall (of a thunderbolt) ; a stroke (of a sword &c )
katham: ind. how? katham is often found in connection with the particles iva , nāma , nu , svid , which appear to generalize the interrogation (how possibly? how indeed? &c ) with nu it is sometimes = kimu , or kutas (e.g. katkaṁ nu , how much more!)
tu: but (sometimes expletive)
nu [EHJ]: ind. now, indeed
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this [horse]

śriyam (acc. sg.): f. light , lustre , radiance , splendour , glory , beauty , grace , loveliness ; prosperity , welfare , good fortune , success , auspiciousness , wealth , treasure , riches ; high rank , power , might , majesty , royal dignity
gṛhītvā = abs. grah: to grasp , lay hold of ; to catch , take captive , take prisoner , capture , imprison ; to take possession of , gain over , captivate ; to seize , overpower ; to eclipse ; to abstract , take away (by robbery)
hṛdayam (acc. sg.): n. the heart (or region of the heart as the seat of feelings and sensations)
ca: and
me (gen. sg.): my
samam: ind. in like manner , alike , equally , similarly ; ind. together with or at the same time

乘汝戰鬥時 刀刃鋒利箭
一切悉能堪 今有何不忍
一族之殊勝 強奪我心去

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.38: Letting What Moves Quickly Take Everything Away

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
anartha-kāmo 'sya janasya sarvathā turaṅgamo 'pi dhruvam-eṣa kanthakaḥ |
jahāra sarvasvam-itas-tathā hi me jane prasupte niśi ratna-cauravat || 8.38

This here horse Kanthaka, also, is constantly desirous that I,

In every way, should come to naught.

For thus, from here, he took away my everything –

Like a jewel thief who steals in the night, while people are fast asleep.

The 1st pāda of today' verse, as I read it, belongs to the first phase, partly because it relates to desire; partly because it is about the 1st person singular, me; and partly because, below the surface, it points to anartha-kāmo 'sya janasya, “the downfall / coming to naught of this person,” as an aim of practice.

If the 1st pāda thus centres on me and my desires and aims, the 2nd pāda, to the contrary, is all about nature, here and now. Nature here and now in today's verse Aśvaghoṣa calls turaṅgama eṣa kanthakaḥ, “Kanthaka, this here horse” – a horse being turaṇgama, lit. “what moves quickly/willingly.” So the 2nd pāda, as I read it, belongs to the second phase because it relates to nature, including the natural instinct – or what moves quickly – here in me.

The 3rd pāda belongs to the third phase because it relates to action, starting from here, in which everything is taken away from me. On this subject – i.e. on the subject of nature being allowed to work and take over – the Alexander teacher Walter Carrington (quoted here, from the book Thinking Aloud) spoke as follows:
"Non-doing is, above all, an attitude of mind. It's a wish. It's a decision to leave everything alone and see what goes on, see what happens. Your breathing and your circulation and your postural mechanisms are all working and taking over. The organism is functioning in its automatic way, and you are doing nothing." "If you're going to succeed in doing nothing, you must exercise control over your thinking processes. You must really wish to do nothing. If you're thinking anxious, worried thoughts, if you're thinking exciting thoughts that are irrelevant to the situation at hand, you stir up responses in your body that are not consistent with doing nothing. It's not a matter of just not moving--that can lead to fixing or freezing--it's a matter of really leaving yourself alone and letting everything just happen and take over." "This is what we're aiming at in an Alexander lesson, and if we're wise, and we understand, it's also what we aim at in our own practice of non-doing. It is something that requires practice. Like most other things in life, it isn't some-thing that you can achieve by simply wishing to do so, by just thinking, 'Well, I will now leave myself alone and not do anything.' Unfortunately, it doesn't work out like that. The whole process requires a lot of practice, and a lot of observation. Out of this process a tremendous lot of experience is to be gained..."
Thus the 4th pāda, while ostensibly a simile, is really a metaphor for what Walter Carrington was talking about – body and mind dropping off in the practice of non-doing.

A translation of today's verse that better preserves this progression through four phases might be:

Desirous of the downfall, in every way, of me,

This here horse Kanthaka also surely is;

For thus, from here, he bore away my everything –

Like a jewel thief who steals in the night, while people are fast asleep.

This is in fact how the translation of today's verse stood when I lay down to sleep last night. But on reflection, an-artha (lit. "non-value") might be one of those negative phrases which is intended below the surface to point to the supremely valuable buddha-nature as a bit of nothing. In that case “coming to naught” might be closer to Aśvaghoṣa's intention than “downfall.” Also on further reflection, “constantly” might be a stronger translation of dhruvam than “surely” – the point being that natural forces, and especially the constant 1g of the earth's gravity, are always there, ready and willing (tura) to take everything from me, if only I allow them to work.

Have I done today's verse justice, in this translation and commentary? Absolutely not. But have I made a start, in at least scratching the surface of the tortoise? I hope so. As a teacher of the FM Alexander Technique, I know, for a start, that today's verse is a metaphorical description of non-doing, of letting nature work. And as a bloke who has sat four times a day for the past 30 years, I know, for a start, that today's verse is a metaphorical description of body and mind dropping off in sitting-meditation.

anartha-kāmaḥ (nom. sg. m.): desiring the disappointing occurrence
an-artha: m. non-value , a worthless or useless object; disappointing occurrence , reverse , evil
kāma: n. (ifc.) desirous of , desiring , having a desire or intention
asya (gen. sg. m.): this
janasya (gen. sg.): m. person ( ayaṁ janaḥ , " this person " , I )
sarvathā: ind. in every way , in every respect , by all means ; altogether , entirely , in the highest degree , exceedingly

turaṅgamaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a horse
tura: mfn. quick , willing , prompt; strong , powerful , excelling , rich , abundant
gama: ifc. going ; riding on (comp.) ; m. going , course
api: even
dhruvam: ind. firmly , constantly , certainly , surely ;
dhruva: mfn fixed , firm , immovable , unchangeable , constant , lasting , permanent , eternal (e.g. the earth , a mountain , a pillar , a vow &c ); settled , certain , sure
eṣa (nom. sg. m.): this , this here , here (especially as pointing to what is nearest to the speaker
kanthakaḥ (nom. sg.): m. Kanthaka

jahāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. hṛ: to take ; to take away , carry off , seize , deprive of , steal , rob
sarva-svam (acc. sg.): n. the whole of a person's property or possessions
itaḥ: ind. from here
tathā: ind. in that manner, like that
hi: for
me (gen. sg.): my

jane (loc. sg.): m. people
prasupte (loc. sg. m.): mfn. fallen into sleep , fast asleep , sleeping , slumbering ; asleep i.e. insensible ; quiet , inactive , latent
niśi (loc. sg.): in the night
ratna-cauravat: ind. like a jewel thief
ratna: n. a gift ; a jewel , gem , treasure , precious stone
ratna-caura: m. a stealer of jewels, Bcar
caura: mfn. ( √cur, to steal) thievish ; a thief. robber

告馬汝無義 奪人心所重
猶如闇冥中 怨賊劫珍寶 

Monday, November 25, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.37: Emotional Palaces Abduct Their Arms

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
imāś-ca vikṣipta-viṭaṅka-bāhavaḥ prasakta-pārāvata-dīrgha-nisvanāḥ |
vinā-ktās-tena sahāvarodhanair-bhśaṁ rudantīva vimāna-paṅktayaḥ || 8.37

These rows of palaces too,
flinging the dove-cots of their arms up and out,

Their long calls being the cooing of devoted doves,

Seem when bereft of him,
along with the women of the inner apartments,

Mightily to weep and wail.

EHJ noted “The verse is intended to overtrump Rām. 2.43.33, and 3.58.40.” Presumably the verses in the Rāmayana to which EHJ referred also personify palaces in some way. In the version of the Rāmayana that I checked, however, I could not locate those verses.

Prasakta (1. attached, devoted, enamoured; 2. lasting, constant) appeared in the 2nd pāda of yesterday's verse, where I translated it as 2. “forever” (“whose bloodshot eyes have been clouded forever by tears”). Reflecting on the primary meaning of prasakta, and taking account of the truth of impermanence, I might change the translation of prasakta either to “lingering” (“whose bloodshot eyes are clouded by lingering tears”) or to “devoted” ( “whose bloodshot eyes have been clouded by tears of devotion.”) Or I might at least add a footnote or an alternative translation in square brackets to highlight the ambiguity of prasakta

In any event, the same word prasakta appears in the 2nd pāda of today's verse, where EBC reads it as again expressing 2. constancy; hence “the long unbroken moans of their doves.” EHJ notes that the Tibetan translation also reads prasakta as describing the sounds of the doves or pigeons as 2. “incessant.” EHJ himself, however, prefered to read prasakta as describing the birds as 1. “enamoured” ; hence “heaving long sighs with their enamoured doves.” PO followed EHJ's reading and translated  “sighing deeply through their cuddling doves.”

The truth of the matter may be that as usual, Aśvaghoṣa is using a word with multiple meanings to encourage us to engage the grey matter. Yesterday, in straining my grey matter over the many possible meaning of same, I overlooked the ambiguity of prasakta – in which situation, the repetition of prasakta in today's verse comes as if as a reminder, or a red flag. 

In the 3rd pāda, the old Nepalese manuscript has vinā-kṛtās-tena sahaiva rodhanair, which EBC translated “separated verily, with him, from all who could restrain them.” EBC thus took tena + saha = “with him,” and vinā-kṛtās rodhanair as describing the palaces being separated from agents of restraint.

EHJ amended the text to vinā-kṛtās-tena sahāvarodhanair, and translated “together with the women, on separation from him.” So EHJ took vinā-kṛtās + tena = “separated from him”; and saha + avarodhanair as “together with the women.”

There might be something to be said for retaining the original Sanskrit and translating the second half of the verse along the lines that EBC did:

“[The palaces] seem, when they are rendered free – along with him – from all confinements, mightily to weep and wail.”

In that case, the sense of unbridled emotional reaction would fit with the suggestion of arms flying up and out like doves scattering from a dove-cote.

All things considered, however, EHJ's amendment does make sense and I have followed it. 

Either way, the main point of interest raised by today's verse, as I read it, as a bloke who sits – apart from prasakta raising a question about the lasting nature (or otherwise) of devotion/attachment – is contained in the 1st pāda in the compound vikṣipta-viṭaṅka-bāhavaḥ, (lit. “their dove-cotes/arms being thrown about”). The allusion, as I take it, is to the survival reflex (called the Moro reflex) which can readily be elicited in new-born babies by allowing them to drop backwards in space – upon receipt of which stimulus their arms fly up and out.

Any regular reader of this blog will have been bored to tears already by me going on about the Moro reflex. What I will add in connection with today's verse is a word about how the hands are held in sitting-meditation, in a mudrā called in Japanese 法界定印 HOKKAI-JO-IN, “the mudrā of the balanced state of the Universe.”

As I sat this morning, acknowledging the lingering (prasakta) presence of emotional attachments and of the lingering (prasakta) influence of the Moro reflex on and in my body and mind, I reflected on 1. the meaning of the action of holding the hands so that the tips of the thumb are touching together and the fingers are overlapping, and at the same time 2. the significance of this use of the hands being called “the mudrā of the balanced state of the Universe.”

Holding the open hands so that the tips of the thumb are touching together and the fingers are overlapping can be understood as the very antithesis of the Moro reflex --  in both aspects of that reflex, the first of which is the flinging of the arms up and out in an extension response of the whole body, and the second of which is a grasping of the hands in a closing response. 

But this expression of inhibition of the Moro reflex is not traditionally called “the mudrā of inhibiton of lingering emotion in me.” It is rather called “the mudrā of the balanced state of the Universe.” So behind this traditional term 法界定印 HOKKAI-JO-IN, “the mudrā of the balanced state of the Universe,” there appears to be the same recognition as Yaśodharā is expressing in today's verse, which is namely that when women are emotional, the palaces that contain those women are emotional; and so that, conversely, if we wish the whole Universe to be peaceful, a good place to start might be the use of our own head, neck, back, legs, arms, hands, fingers, and – last but not least – thumbs.

imāḥ (nom. pl. f.): these
ca: and
vikṣipta-viṭaṅka-bāhavaḥ (nom. pl. f.): their dove-cotes/arms being flung up and out
vikṣipta: mfn. thrown asunder or away or about , scattered &c
vi- √ kṣip: to throw asunder or away or about , cast hither and thither , scatter , disperse ; to extend , stretch out
viṭaṅka: mn. the loftiest point , top , pinnacle ; a dove-cot , aviary
bāhu: m. arm

prasakta-pārāvata-dīrgha-nisvanāḥ (nom. pl. f.):
prasakta: mfn. attached , cleaving or adhering or devoted to ; clinging to the world , mundane ; being in love , enamoured ; continual , lasting , constant , eternal
pārāvata: mfn. remote , distant , coming from a distance , foreign ; m. a turtle-dove , pigeon
dīrgha: mfn. long (in space and time) , lofty , high , tall; deep
nisvana: m. sound , noise , voice

vinā-kṛtāḥ (nom. pl. f.): mfn. " made without " , deprived or bereft of , separated from , left or relinquished by , lacking , destitute of , free from (instr.)
tena (inst. sg. m.): him
saha: ind. together with , along with , with (often as a prep. governing instr. case , but generally placed after the governed word e.g. tena saha , " along with him ")
eva: emphatic
rodhanaiḥ (inst. pl.): n. shutting up , confinement ; n. stopping , restraining , checking , preventing , impeding
ava-rodhanaiḥ [EHJ] (inst. pl.): n. siege , blockade ; n. secluding , imprisonment ; n. a closed or private place , the innermost part of anything ; n. obtaining ; n. the inner or women's apartments (in a royal palace) ; n. pl. = ava-rodhās m. pl. the women's apartments , the wives of a king
ava- √ rudh: to obstruct , enclose , contain ; to check , keep back , restrain

bhṛśam: ind . strongly , violently , vehemently , excessively , greatly , very much
rudanti = 3rd pers. pl. to weep , cry , howl , roar , lament , wail ; to bewail, deplore
iva: like
vimāna-paṅktayaḥ (nom. pl. f.):
vimāna: m. disrespect , dishonour ; m. n. a car or chariot of the gods , any mythical self-moving aerial car ; m. the palace of an emperor or supreme monarch (esp. one with 7 stories)
paṅkti: f. a row or set or collection of five ; a sort of five fold metre consisting of 5 pādas of 8 syllables each ; any stanza of 4 x 10 syllables ; any row or set or series or number , a group , collection , flock , troop , assembly , company (e.g. of persons eating together or belonging to the same caste)

況此窓牖中 悲泣長叫者
生亡其所天 是苦何可堪