Saturday, November 23, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.35: Affirmation II (of Having a Friend in Being Without)

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
varaṁ manuṣyasya vicakṣaṇo ripur-na mitram-aprājñam-ayoga-peśalam |
suhd-bruveṇa hy-avipaścitā tvayā ktaḥ kulasyāsya mahān-upaplavaḥ || 8.35

It is better for a man to have an insightful enemy,

Rather than a friend of no wisdom, skilled in no method;

For thanks to you,
one versed in nothing who calls himself a friend,

Great misfortune has befallen this noble house.

At a certain level, on the surface at least, what the grief-stricken Yaśodharā is saying here might be true. It is probably better for a bloke to have a tooth filled by a dentist who hates the sight of him but who knows the score as a dentist, rather than to have the job done by his best friend who is an incompetent dentist.

But today's verse really makes sense to me – as a bloke who sits, endeavouring to make sense of the poetry of a bloke who sat in ancient times – only in the following context:

Here I am sitting in lotus early on a cold November morning. All is quiet, and I am wrapped up warm. I want to come undone. I want to be released to lengthen upward in such a way that as the spine lengthens the whole torso expands and I can breathe easier. So what can I do, as I sit here in lotus, to bring about such an undoing?

Absolutely nothing.

To repeat: Absolutely nothing. Not a thing. 

Real clarity on this point I got from Alexander work, not from any Zen teacher. And no Alexander teacher summed it up better for me than Marjory Barlow, with her constant reminder: “You cannot do an undoing.”

You cannot do an undoing. And yet, here is a true mystery: Just in a renewed moment of clarity that there is absolutely nothing one can do,  in wishing to come undone, to bring about that undoing, the undoing does itself, and the breathing opens up.

Whether anybody else understands what I am saying here, or not, this is in fact what happens, on a good day, in my sitting. And in the end this is what matters. For, as Marjory once memorably said to me, in exasperation, “Well, I know what I mean!”

If its surface meaning was all there was to today's verse , I think the prize for the best translation of Aśvaghoṣa's poetry would go to the most recent of the three professors' translations, that done by Patrick Olivelle. That is to say, I think PO's translation is the one that, in conveying the ostensible meaning, sounds the best. 

Better for a man a wise enemy rather than a foolish friend unskilled in emergencies; by thee, the unwise self-styled friend, a great calamity has been brought upon this family. (EBC)

Better it is for a man to have a wise enemy than a silly friend, who is skilful only in the wrong way. For your imprudence and so-called friendship have wrought great ruin for this family. (EHJ)

It's better for a man to have a prudent foe, than a foolish friend, skilled in doing what is unfit. For calling yourself a friend, you dimwitted man, you have brought this family to utter ruin. (PO)

But insofar as Aśvaghoṣa's original verse, as I read it, is pointing below the surface to nair-guṇyam, the virtue of being without, also called (but not by Aśvaghoṣa himself) buddha-tā “the buddha-nature,” then a truer translation might be one that retained the three negatives in the 2nd pāda (na, a-, and a-), and the further negative in the 3rd pāda (again, a-).

For ayoga-peśalam in the 2nd pāda, the MW dictionary gives “unskilled in emergencies,” referenced to today's verse. Presumably MW lifted “unskilled in emergencies” from EBC's translation, rather than the other way around? Either way, I think the ostensible meaning is more in line with EHJ's “skilful (peśalam) only in the wrong way (a-yoga)” or PO's “skilled in doing (peśalam) what is unfit (a-yoga).” But the real meaning totally subverts the ostensible meaning, in line with what Gudo Nishijima taught about 仏性 (MU-BUSSHO). 

仏性 (MU-BUSSHO) ostensibly means “not having the buddha-nature,” 
but 仏性 (MU-BUSSHO) really means, as Dogen understood it: 
"having the buddha-nature in being without."
In other words 
being without = the buddha-nature,
無= 仏性
and the buddha-nature = being without 

Thus, in today's verse
  • A friend in the good is a friend (mitram) in the wisdom (prājñā) whose essence is not (a-).
  • A good Alexander teacher is skilled (peśalam) in a method (yoga) whose essence is “No” (a-).  
  • To be steeped in the Buddha's wisdom might be to be versed (vipaścit) in nothing (a-).

varam: ind. preferably , rather , better ; it is better that , it would be best if ; ind. it is better than , rather than (in these senses varam is followed by , na – varaṁ mṛśyur na cākīrtiḥ , " better death than [lit. " and not "] infamy " )
manuṣyasya (gen. sg.): m. a man , human being
vicakṣaṇaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. conspicuous , visible , bright , radiant , splendid ; distinct , perceptible ; clear-sighted (lit. and fig.) , sagacious , clever , wise
cakṣ: to appear, become visible
ripuḥ (nom. sg.): m. enemy

na: not
mitram (nom. sg.): n. a friend
aprājñam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. unlearned , ignorant.
a-yoga-peśalam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. unskilled in emergencies, Bcar. viii, 35.
ayoga: m. separation , disjunction; separation from a lover ; unfitness , unsuitableness , nonconformity ; medical treatment counter to the symptoms , non-application or mis-application of remedies ; vigorous effort , exertion ; inauspicious conjunction of planets
yoga: m. the act of yoking , joining , attaching , harnessing , putting to (of horses); employment , use , application , performance ; a means , expedient , device , way , manner , method
peśala: mfn. artificially formed , adorned , decorated ; beautiful , charming , lovely , pleasant ; soft , tender , delicate ; expert , skilful , clever ; fraudulent , crafty ; ind. tenderly , delicately

suhṛd-bruveṇa (inst. sg. m.) purporting to be a good-heart ; calling himself a friend
suhṛd: m. " good-hearted " , " kindhearted " , " well-disposed " , a friend , ally
bruva: mfn. calling one's self by a name without any real title to it ; being merely nominally (ifc. ; cf. kṣatriya- , dvija- , brāhmaṇa-bruva)
kṣatriya-bruva: mfn. pretending to be a kṣatriya
hi: for
a-vipaścitā (inst. sg. m.): mfn. unwise , ignorant
vipaś-cít: mfn. inspired , wise , learned , versed in or acquainted with (comp.)
vipas: n. inspiration
vi- √ paś: to see in different places or in detail , discern , distinguish
tvayā (inst. sg. m.): by you

kṛtaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. done
kulasya (gen. sg.): n. herd ; a race , family , community , tribe , caste , set , company ; house ; a noble or eminent family or race
asya (gen. sg. n.): this
upaplavaḥ (nom. sg.): m. affliction , visitation , invasion , inundation ; any public calamity , unlucky accident , misfortune , disturbance
upa- √ plu: to overflow, inundate; to assault, invade , afflict

假名爲良朋 内實懷怨結
今此勝王家 一旦悉破壞

No comments: