Wednesday, November 20, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.32: Everything Goes in Waves

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
niśi prasuptām-avaśāṁ vihāya māṁ gataḥ kva sa chandaka man-mano-rathaḥ |
upāgate ca tvayi kanthake ca me samaṁ gateṣu triṣu kampate manaḥ || 8.32

“Leaving me helplessly asleep in the night,

Where, Chandaka, has the joy of my heart gone?

Seeing you and Kanthaka come back,

When three departed, my mind, in all honesty, wavers.

Samādhi, it has been said since ancient times, is a state like the sea, on the surface of which there may be all kinds of waves, but the deeper you go the stiller it gets.

Aśvaghoṣa's poetry, in that sense, is like samādhi, and like the sea.

Something else Aśvaghoṣa poetry is like, it occurred to me this morning as I lay lazily in bed, is the puzzles I used to seek out in Beano and Dandy annuals where you were challenged to find a number of images hidden in a picture. For example:

In this big picture find the baseball cap, turtle, fish, duck, needle, nail, ice-cream cone, butterfly, boot, spoon, cane, ring, and scissors.

Can you find 5 horses in this picture?

In the big picture of outward emotional suffering painted in today's verse can you find 5 hidden depictions of deep inner peace?

For a start, in the 1st pāda, both prasupta (asleep, far gone) and avaśa (helpless), as discussed in connection with the sleeping beauties in BC Canto 5 (see e.g. BC5.51, 5.55, 5.59), while ostensibly describing a state of slumber, might be an ironic description of sitting in which body and mind have totally dropped off and something other than one's own intention has taken over.

In the 2nd pāda mano-rathaḥ is another expression whose ambiguity we have examined before, since ratha can mean either, or both, a chariot (from √ṛ, to go), or a joy or love (from √ram, to enjoy or love).

Hence gataḥ kva sa chandaka man-mano-rathaḥ ostensibly means:
“Where, Chandaka, has he, the joy of my heart, gone?”
But if we wish to find a hidden meaning connected with body and mind spontaneously dropping off in sitting-meditation, that reading might be:
“Where, Chandaka, is it, the chariot of my mind, going?”

Finally, as reflected by the many definitions of sama and samam listed in the MW dictionary, the meaning of samam is very open and changeable depending on its context. That being so, it is possible in the second half of today's verse to read samam in any number of ways.

EBC and EHJ read samam as an indeclinable participle (or acc. sg. neuter form) meaning “together” and modifying gateṣu triṣu; hence samaṁ gateṣu triṣu = “while three went away together” (EBC); “while three went forth together” (EHJ).

PO translated the second half of today's verse: “As I see you and Kanthaka return, whereas three had departed, my heart begins to tremble.”
Did PO neglect to translate samam? Or is samam + loc. taken as meaning “with regard to” so that upāgate ca tvayi kanthake ca... samaṁ is equivalent to as I see you and Kanthaka return”? 

Another possible reading, and a reading that I guess that Aśvaghoṣa may have wished us to consider for its ironic hidden meaning, is to take samam as nom. sg. neuter, describing me manaḥ as “balanced” or “flat”; so that me samaṁ kampate manaḥ means something like “my balanced mind is vibrating” or, paradoxically, “my balanced mind is wavering unsteadily.”

There again, samam could be taken as an indeclinable participle (or acc. sg. neuter form) meaning “in a balanced manner” or “honestly”; so that me samaṁ kampate manaḥ means something like "my wind is wobbling in a balanced manner" or “my mind is honestly wobbling.”

Which reading did Aśvaghoṣa intend us to decide on? I think Aśvaghoṣa's intention, in general, is to cause us consider all the possibilities. The point might be that Aśvaghoṣa does not wish us to attach to any one reading – except when he does.

But what in conclusion I can report, not as opinion but as fact, is a conversation I had with Gudo Nishijima many years ago, about how my attitude to sitting and to translation work tended to change throughout the course of 24 hours, so that a kind of red-raw sincerity in the early morning was liable to give way to a certain insincere frivolity during the course of the day. This prompted Gudo to say, “Yes, it's true. Our mind goes in waves.”

There again, according to an old surfer friend of mine, Everything goes in waves.”

niśi (loc. sg.): in the night
prasuptām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. fallen into sleep , fast asleep , sleeping , slumbering ; asleep i.e. insensible ; quiet , inactive , latent
avaśām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. unsubmissive to another's will , independent , unrestrained , free ; not having one's own free will , doing something against one's desire or unwillingly
vihāya = abs. vi- √ hā: to leave behind, abandon
mām (acc. sg.): me
gataḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. gone, gone away, departed

kva: where?
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
chandaka (voc. sg.): O Chandaka!
man-mano-rathaḥ (nom. sg. m.): my heart's joy ;
mano-ratha: 'heart's joy' ; fancy , illusion; the heart compared to a car
mad: me
manas: n. mind, heart
ratha: m. ( √ṛ) " goer " , a chariot , car ; m. ( √ ram) pleasure , joy , delight ; love

upāgate (loc. sg. m.): mfn. approached , arrived
[EHJ footnote: Note upāgate in the singular with two subjects.]
ca: and
tvayi (loc. sg.): you
kanthake (loc. sg.): Kanthaka
ca: and
me (gen. sg. n.): my

samam (nom./acc. sg. n.): mfn. even , smooth , flat , plain , level , parallel ; same , equal , similar , like , equivalent , like to or identical or homogeneous with (instr. e.g. mayā sama , " like to me " ; or gen. , rarely abl.) , like in or with regard to anything (instr. gen. loc.); always the same , constant , unchanged , fair , impartial ; having the right measure , regular , normal , right , straight ; equable , neutral , indifferent ; equally distant from extremes , ordinary , common , middling ; just , upright , good , straight , honest; ind. in like manner , alike , equally , similarly ; ind. together with or at the same time ; ind. just , exactly , precisely ; ind. honestly , fairly
gateṣu (loc. pl.): mfn. gone, gone away, departed
triṣu (loc. pl.): three
kampate = 3rd pers. sg. kamp: to tremble , shake 
kampana: mfn. trembling , shaken , unsteady
kampin: mfn. trembling , quivering
manaḥ (nom. sg.): n. mind

生亡我所欽 今爲在何所
人馬三共行 今唯二來歸
我心極惶怖 戰慄不自安

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