Monday, November 4, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.16: BREAKING NEWS - Deceitful Combatant Misleads Would-Be Real Dragon

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
tataḥ sa bāṣpa-pratipūrṇa-locanas-turaṅgam-ādāya turaṅgamānugaḥ | 8.16
viveśa śokābhihato npa-kṣayaṁ yudhāpinīte ripuṇeva bhartari ||

Then, with eyes filled with tears,

The horse-servant betook to himself the horse

And, beaten by sorrow, he entered the abode of a protector of men –

As though his master had been spirited away by an enemy warrior.
[Or like when a master has been reeled in by a deceitful combatant.]

What the bleep do I know?

It is not black and white. If anything, it is multi-layered. And since my eyes are clouded by faulty sensory appreciation, I see it – however it originally is – through clouded eyes.

So as I sat after writing another unduly long comment yesterday, and then having to go back like a twit and add a short PS to the effect that I probably got everything wrong, I thought to myself: what the bleep do I know?

As I sat, inwardly deflated but outwardly erect, I remembered standing on a balcony of Hyde Park Flats in Sheffield in the summer of 1980, between my 2nd and 3rd years purportedly studying accounting & financial management at Sheffield University. I remembered looking out on the world then and asking myself where to begin – asking myself: what the bleep do I really know? 

Accounting and finance is not generally regarded as a field that has produced many great philosophers... but there again George Soros, for one, might be a candidate. And the course I did at Sheffield had a strong philosophical streak running through it. This, in combination with karate training, led me not only to the thoughts of Karl Popper but also to every book I could borrow from Sheffield public library on Zen.

So here I am, 33 years later, sitting upstairs in the sunshine, still looking out on the world, i.e. the top of apple tree in the back garden and out towards the Chiltern Hills beyond, and asking myself the same question: what the bleep do I know?

After a good number of minutes, I go spontaneously into something of a slump and breath deeply.

So here at least is a clue. What I feel to be the right posture, even after 20 years in Alexander work, is still apt to be too tense. This much I know, on the grounds that deep and easy breathing is always better than shallow and tense breathing. But there again shallow and tense breathing is hugely better than not breathing at all.

When investigated like this, mindfulness of breathing might be the horse-servant betaking to itself the horse.

A bloke who himself learned a lot from horses said:
 "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." 

Reading today's verse in light of all of the above, while the ostensible subject of today's verse is Chandaka, other possibilities also present themselves. 

To begin with there is textual uncertainty. The old Nepalese manuscript has turaṅgamānuṣ(?)aḥ, and EBC's text has turaṅgamānasaḥ. Hence EBC translated sa... turaṅgamānasaḥ as his whole soul fixed on the horse, he …,” with a footnote clarifying that he means Chandaka. EHJ amended to turaṅgamānugaḥ (EHJ: “the groom”; PO “the horse's groom”), and this would clearly seem to refer to Chandaka . 

Accepting EHJ's amendment, and accepting that turaṅgamānugaḥ means Chandaka, then Chandaka betaking to himself the horse might represent Chandaka having moved on from the state described in the opening verse of the canto, in which the thinking Chandaka was working against Mother Nature, trying to suppress his grief. 

But, especially after yesterday's debacle, I am alert to the possibility that turaṅgamānugaḥ (= turaṅgama “fast-goer,” horse + anuga, companion, follower, servant) might, below the surface, be intended as a metaphor for somebody other than Chandaka. Might it be intended to suggest Aśva-ghoṣa himself, for example, the original Horse Whisperer?

In that case, if today's verse has an autobiographical under-current, what did it mean for the horse-servant to give to himelf, or to take, or to accept (ā-√dā) the horse? Did his conscious mind take possession of the instinctive body? Did his conscious mind yield to the demands of the instinctive body? Is the point that the conscious mind leads the instinctive body? Is the point that the conscious mind is led by the instinctive body?

Again, if today's verse has an autobiographical under-current, what did it mean for Aśvaghoṣa to enter nṛpa-kṣayam, the abode of a ruler of men? Does a ruler of men necessarily mean King Śuddodhana? Might it be a mistake, in light of yesterday's debacle, to rule out the possibility that a ruler/protector of men is an epithet of a buddha, or a Zen patriarch? In that case does kṣayam necessarily mean, as per definition 1. and 2. in the dictionary a dominion; an abode, dwelling-place, seat? Could kṣayam possibly mean, as per definition 3. in the dictionary, a state of loss? Nṛpa-kṣayam ostensibly means the palace (EBC/EHJ: “the palace”: PO: “the residence of the king”), but below the surface might entering the abode of a ruler/protector of men be intended to suggest the parking of a Zen patriarch's arse upon a round black cushion?

In that case, again, might śokābhihataḥ, “beaten by sorrow” (EBC/EHJ/PO: “overcome with grief”), be an ironic description of the mature state of mind a buddha, or a Zen patriarch, the bubble of whose youthful exuberance or arrogance has been irredeemably popped?

In the 4th pāda, to add another layer of uncertainty, the yu of yudhāpinīte is EHJ's conjecture, since the original manuscript is one syllable short.

Aaaaagh, the bloody cloud of unknowing!

In EBC's text, the 4th pāda is kṣayaṁ vinīte ripuṇeva bhartari, so that kṣayaṁ vinīte means “led to destruction” i.e, killed – “as if his master had been killed by an enemy” (EBC).

Accepting EHJ's conjecture, yudhāpinīte ripuṇeva bhartari means “as if his master had been carried off by an enemy (ripunā) warrior (yuddhā)” [EHJ]; or taking the instrumental agent as the subject, “as if an enemy (ripunā) soldier (yuddhā) had carried away his lord” (PO).

The ostensible meaning, whether one accepts EHJ's reading or EBC's, is that Chandaka entered the palace in very low spirits having been unable to meet the King's wishes by returning with the prince – Chandaka's returning without the prince being as disastrous as if the prince had been carried off or killed by an enemy.

But a possible hidden meaning which occurs to me, with yesterday's debacle fresh in my mind, rests on these questions:

Can bhartari (master) be taken as an ironic expression for a purported master or a would-be master – a master only in his own mind, as opposed to a true master, like the image of a dragon as opposed to a real dragon?

Alternatively, can the whole of the 4th pāda be taken as an ironic description of how a real master becomes a real master – by being reeled in by a deceitful combatant?

In that case, might the autobiographical under-current from the 2nd pāda also be operating in the 4th pāda? In other words, might the horse-servant and the deceitful combatant be, in Aśvaghoṣa's secret thoughts, one and the same person – namely, Aśvaghoṣa himself? 

It is probably because I was reeled in and tripped up yesterday that I am framing all these questions, in a chastened manner, as questions. But if I dare to venture something more assertive, Aśvaghoṣa in my view is the most deceitful, treacherous enemy combatant any would-be Zen master could ever be faced with, and his chief weapon is irony. So far that hasn't been recognized in the English-speaking world, including god-worshipping India, but when it is recognized, then Aśvaghoṣa will likely receive as much attention in India as Shakespeare receives in Britain and America  – and so he ought to. So far we have barely scratched the surface of the tortoise. 

If I think on the basis of experience what it might mean to be reeled in by a deceitful combatant, in addition to the kind of experience documented yesterday, when I was left feeling that Aśvaghoṣa had made a fool of me, I think of lying on Marjory Barlow's teaching table and listening to her give me the stimulus “Now move your leg.” Hearing her words my whole nervous system mobilizes like a great army preparing to do the movement. Is this what Marjory wanted to see? Yes and no. Yes, because being wrong is the best friend we've got. No, because if I had understood what she was teaching me, I would have inhibited all idea of moving the leg, at least until such time as I had done the rounds a few times in terms of thinking the words “Let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, while sending the knees up to the ceiling.” 

So when Marjory said, “Now move your leg,” she sounded as if she wanted to see the leg move right away, but she didn't really want that. What she really wanted to see, in the end, was evidence that her pupil was making Alexander's principles of inhibition and direction into his own possession. It was a kind of game played by a mistress of deceit.

In the end, if I have got anywhere in the last 33 years it is to see what the bleep do I know? as not so much a question, as a positive assertion, the truth of which a digger for Aśvaghoṣa's gold cannot afford to forget for a moment – even when confronted with such a seemingly innocent statement as “the groom, leading the horse, entered the palace” (EHJ) or “the horse's groom... taking the horse... went into the residence of the king” (PO).

What, in the end, do I know of Aśvaghoṣa's teaching? I know that if one thinks one has got to the bottom of it, one is liable to be proven – upon further investigation – to have been much mistaken. The truth, I am sure, to repeat, is that so far we have barely scratched the surface of the tortoise. 

What I am writing now is nothing definitive.  That's why I continue to allow myself to write these unduly long comments, like slag heaps around a mining operation. All this is just a start. 

The ultimate question that Aśvaghoṣa's poetry poses is: Do you know awakened acting? Do you know, in other words, beautiful happiness? Speaking for myself, if I have had moments of knowing it at all, those moments have been a much more solitary experience than I was expecting them to be. When more than ten years ago I bought a small stone semi-detached cottage by the forest in France, with half an acre of land, I envisaged it becoming a place where I might lead a small (to medium) group of Zen practitioners on retreats. For one reason and another, that idea proved too ambitious. 

tataḥ: ind. then
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
bāṣpa-pratipūrṇa-locanaḥ (nom. sg. m.): with eyes filled with tears

turaṅgam (acc. sg.): m. “fast-goer”; horse
ādāya = abs. ā- √ dā: to give to one's self " , take , accept
turaṅgamānugaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the companion of the horse
turaṅgama (acc. sg.): m. “fast-goer”; horse
anuga: mfn. going after , following , corresponding with , adapted to ; a companion , a follower, servant; (ifc.) followed by
turaṅgamānasaḥ (EBC): his whole soul fixed on the horse

viveśa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. viṣ: to enter
śokābhihataḥ (nom. sg. m.): overcome with sorrow
abhihata: mfn. struck , smitten , killed ; afflicted , visited with
abhi- √ han: to thump at , strike , kill ; to beat (as a drum , &c ) ; to afflict , visit with (instr.)
nṛpa-kṣayam (acc. sg. m.): the dwelling of the ruler of men ; the palace
nṛpālayaṁ [EBC] (acc. sg. m.): the dwelling of the ruler of men ; the palace
kṣaya: m. 1. dominion; 2. an abode , dwelling-place , seat , house; 3. loss , waste , wane , diminution , destruction , decay

yudhā (inst. sg.): m. a fighter , warrior , hero
apinīte api- √ nī: to lead towards or to , bring to a state or condition
kṣayaṁ vinīte [EBC]: killed
kṣayaṁ (acc. sg.): m. loss, destruction, death
vinīta: mfn. led or taken away
ripuṇā (inst. sg. m.): mfn. deceitful , treacherous , false ; m. an enemy
iva: like, as if
bhartari (loc. sg.): m. a preserver , protector , maintainer , chief , lord , master

如戰士破敵 執怨送王前

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