Monday, December 2, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.44: Effortless Following, On the Road Again

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
ahaṁ hi jānann-api rāja-śāsanaṁ balāt-ktaḥ kair-api daivatair-iva |
upānayaṁ tūrṇam-imaṁ turaṅgamaṁ tathānvagacchaṁ vigata-śramo 'dhvani || 8.44

For, knowing full-well the instruction of the king,

As though I were compelled by gods of some description,

I swiftly brought this swift horse

And in that effortless manner followed, on the road.

Ostensibly Chandaka is offering an excuse along the lines of “The dog ate my homework.”

But below the surface, the hidden meaning of today's verse, as I read it, carries on where the hidden meaning of yesterday's verse left off.

Understood like that, the king's instruction (rāja-śāsanam) means the teaching of the Dharma-king. And the central teaching of the Dharma-king, in my book for one, is the instruction 自成一片, “naturally/spontaneously become all of one piece.”

In that light, again,
being compelled by gods of some kind or other (balāt-kṛtaḥ kair-api daivataiḥ),
being swift (tūrṇam),
going swiftly or moving readily (turaṁgamam), and
being effortless (vigata-śramaḥ)
are all likewise (tathā) expressions of naturalness or spontaneity
 – i.e. theof

So if we follow the ostensible meaning, the api of the 1st pāda means “even though [I knew the king's instruction, something made me go against it].”

But if we follow the real or hidden meaning, the api is emphatic “[knowing] full well [the instruction of the Dharma-king, I acted naturally, spontaneously, effortlessly].”

In the real or hidden meaning, then, the horse-master did not act as he did in spite of knowing the king's instruction. He acted as he did because of knowing the king's instruction.

The two readings are each perfectly valid, but the intent of each is diametrically opposed to the other.

The three professors, never having listened with their own ears to the fundamental instruction of a king of the Buddha-dharma, could only suppose that the king in question was King Śuddhodana. Thinking Aśvaghoṣa to be some kind of humourless Buddhist missionary hell-bent on converting others to his religion, they missed his underlying irony and translated api as “though” (EBC), “although” (EHJ), and “even though” (PO).

Not only in today's verse, but in general, because Buddhist academics have failed to realize how subversive the Buddha's teaching really is to the kind of views and opinions in which Buddhist academics deal, Buddhist academics have failed to appreciate the very thing – Aśvaghoṣa's brilliant and pervasive use of irony – that might cause a modern audience to think afresh about what the Buddha's teaching originally was.

People think and say that all religions – including “Buddhism” – come down in their essence to the same thing, which is namely love and compassion.

But the Buddha's teaching, in my book, is much closer to the teaching of Cesar Millan than it is to teaching of religions which preach the primacy of love of some god or other.

Why? Because Cesar, taking the dharma of mother nature as his teacher, has understood that in nature, balance through what he calls “exercise and discipline” comes first, followed by the soppy stuff – affection, love, compassion et cetera – always in that order.

What the Horse-Whisperer Aśvaghośa, through the horse-master Chandaka, is describing in today's verse, and what he will continue to describe in the next few verses, is action in the balanced state of body and mind, that action having a quality of spontaneity, natural flow, effortlessness.

This quality of spontaneity, natural flow, effortlessness is more generally associated in the popular mind with “Zen” than with the Buddha's teaching. Whereas Aśvaghoṣa is generally thought of, thanks to the efforts of Oxbridge scholars like EBC and EHJ, as a champion of the Buddha's teachings and not of “Zen.”

The fact as I see it is that the 12th Zen patriarch Aśvaghoṣa was indeed a true champion of the Buddha's teaching, but the Buddha's teaching – being totally steeped in all kinds of irony, from the verbal to the cosmic – is a million miles from what Buddhist scholars hitherto have thought.

aham (nom. sg. m.): I
hi: for
jānan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. jñā: to know
api: and , also , moreover , besides , assuredly , surely ; api api or api-ca , as well as ; is often used to express emphasis , in the sense of even , also , very
rāja-śāsanam (acc. sg.): n. a royal edict or order
śāsana: n. punishment , chastisement , correction ; n. government ; n. an order , command , edict , enactment , decree , direction

balāt (abl. sg. bala): forcibly , against one's will , without being able to help it
kṛtaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. done, made
kaiḥ (inst. pl. n.): who? which?
api: even ; may be affixed to an interrogative to make it indefinite , e.g. ko 'pi , any one
daivataiḥ (inst. pl.): n. a god , a deity (often coll. " the deities "): mfn. relating to the gods or to a partic. deity , divine
iva: like, as if

upānayam = 1st pers. sg. imperfect upa- √ nī: to lead near, to bring
tūrṇam: ind. quickly , speedily
tūrṇa (√ turv ; √ tvar) = tūrta: mfn. quick , expeditious ;
√ turv: (cf. √1. tur) to overpower , excel
√ tvar: to hurry , make haste , move with speed
imam (acc. sg. m.): this
turaṅgamam (nom. sg. m.): 'willing-mover'; 'fast-goer' ; horse
tura: mfn. quick , willing , prompt ; strong , powerful , excelling , rich , abundant
√ tur: to hurry , press forwards

tathā: ind. likewise, in that way
anvagaccham = 1st pers. sg. imperfect anu- √ gam: to go after, follow
vigata-śramaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. effortlessly
vigata: mfn. gone away , departed , disappeared , ceased , gone (often ibc.)
śrama m. fatigue , weariness , exhaustion ; exertion , labour , toil , exercise , effort either bodily or mental , hard work of any kind
adhvani (loc. sg.): m. a road , way , orbit ; journey

我極畏王法 天神所驅逼

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