Thursday, December 12, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.54: Do We Get the Leaders We Deserve?

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
abhāginī nūnam-iyaṁ vasuṁ-dharā tam-ārya-karmāṇam-anuttamaṁ patim |
tatas-tato 'sau guṇavān hi tādśo npaḥ prajā-bhāgya-guṇaiḥ prasūyate || 8.54

Shall this treasure-bearing earth not claim as her possessor

That peerless man of noble action?

For such a protector of men,
endowed as that one is in all respects with virtues,

Is born to her by the merits that her offspring accrue.

Though today's verse was evidently included in the Sanskrit version of Buddha-carita that was translated into Chinese, EHJ suspected that it might have been added in an earlier version, noting that this verse... intrudes so oddly into the sequence of verses, that it may well be an early interpolation.

I don't think today's verse was an interpolation, but it is a difficult verse to crack, and I think the difficulty was only increased when the beginning of the 3rd pāda was amended to gatas-tato.

The old Nepalese manuscript has tātas-tato, which the metre does not permit. The metre permits tatas-tato or gatas-tato. The latter reading, gatas-tato was most probably the conjecture of Amṛtānanda (the regency pandit who made the copies on which EBC's text was based). Accepting that gataḥ (gone) was probable, EHJ followed EBC in reading gatas-tato  (EHJ: "gone from here").

When I came to recite and memorize the Sanskrit text of today's verse, with gatas-tato, I could not make head or tail of the second half of the verse. The second half only begins to make sense to me if tatas-tato (“everywhere”) is emphasizing that the prince was virtuous in all respects.

The reading gatas-tato required both EBC and EHJ to separate the second half of the verse in order to make sense of it – though they chose different points of separation. EBC separated the 3rd and 4th pāda from each other...
This earth is indeed unworthy as regards that peerless doer of noble actions, for such a virtuous hero has gone away from her (gatas-tato' sau guṇavān hi tādṛśo npaḥ) — it is the merits and virtues of the subjects which produce their king (npaḥ prajā-bhāgya-guṇaiḥ prasūyate).
...while EHJ took gatas-tato' sau as an independent clause, separated from the rest of the 3rd and 4th pādas...
Is this earth then not to have its portion of that peerless, noble-doing lord? He has gone from here (gatas-tato' sau); for it is only through the good fortune and virtues of the subjects that such a virtuous ruler of men is born (guṇavān hi tādśo npaḥ prajā-bhāgya-guṇaiḥ prasūyate)
… and PO followed EHJ's lead:
Shall this earth, then, not win him as her lord, a man who's peerless and of noble deeds, now that he has gone forth from here (gatas-tato' sau)? For it is through the virtues and good fortune of the subjects that such a virtuous king is born (guṇavān hi tādśo npaḥ prajā-bhāgya-guṇaiḥ prasūyate)
In all three of the above translations, despite a certain disjointedness, the basic gist is transmitted that the earth gets the ruler she deserves.

And I think the broader and deeper point that Aśvaghoṣa is wishing to make is that – the law of cause-and-effect being absolute – none of has ever failed to get anything other than exactly what we have deserved.

One of the favourite sayings of my father, when he was working in the West Midlands police force 40 years ago, was that society gets the police force it deserves. The reasoning, in light of the iron law of karma, is impeccable. But since this was in the days of the Birmingham Six, the implication is that the Birmingham where I grew up in the 1970s was not a tremendously deserving society.

Everything we get we deserve. And we deserve everything we get – including the nṛpāḥ (rulers/protectors/overseers/policers of men) who rule, protect, oversee and police us.

In today's verse I have translated nṛ-paḥ as “protector of men.” EBC and PO translated nṛ-paḥ simply as “king.” And EHJ translated nṛ-paḥ as “ruler of men.”

Besides nṛ-pa, another of the many Sanskrit words for king is bhūmi-pati (“earth-lord” or “possessor of the earth”; see e.g. BC1.7, BC1.48, BC3.48, BC5.39). So the ostensible gist of Gautamī's words is that the earth (vāsu-dharā, or bhūmi), by the merits accrued to her human offshoots, is entitled by the law of cause and effect to have as her lord or possessor (pati) such an excellent king as Prince Sarvartha-siddha would make.

As we have seen by now in too many verses to cite, however, any reference in Aśvaghoṣa's writing to a king is likely to carry a hidden allusion to the Buddha as king of dharma and true possessor of the earth, or else to Zen patriarchs as protectors of men. That being so, I think that in today's verse, below the surface, by putting these words into Gautamī's mouth, Aśvaghoṣa is reminding us not to do any wrong but every day to heap up good karma, or else we are absolutely sure to get the protector we deserve – whether he be an old-school policeman after a confession, or a Zen patriarch after fame and sexual favours.

abhāginī (nom. sg. f.): mfn. having no share ; not participating in , excluded from (gen.)
bhāgin: mfn. entitled to or receiving or possessing a share , partaking of , blessed with , concerned in , responsible for (loc. , gen. or comp.)
bhāga: m. ( √ bhaj) a part , portion , share , allotment , inheritance (in Ved. also = lot , esp. fortunate lot , good fortune , luck , destiny); a part (as opp. to any whole); a fraction
√ bhaj: to divide , distribute , allot or apportion to (dat. or gen.) , share with (instr.)
nūnam: ind. now , at present , just , immediately , at once ; for the future ; now then , therefore (esp. in later lang.) certainly , assuredly , indeed (also in questions e.g. kadā n° , when indeed? kva n° , where indeed?)
iyam (nom. sg. f.); this
vasuṁ-dharā (nom. sg.): f. 'containing wealth'; the earth
dhara: ifc. holding , bearing , carrying , wearing , possessing , having
vasu: n. wealth , goods , riches , property ; n. gold ; n. a jewel , gem , pearl ; n. any valuable or precious object

tam (acc. sg. m.): him
ārya-karmāṇam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. doing noble actions, acting like an Aryan, Bcar. viii, 54
an-uttamam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. unsurpassed , incomparably the best or chief , excellent ; (in Grammar) not used in the uttama , or first person
patim (acc. sg.): m. a master , owner , possessor , lord , ruler , sovereign; husband

gataḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. gone, gone away, departed
tataḥ: ind. from that place , thence ; from that , in consequence of that , for that reason , consequently
tatas-tataḥ: ind. (in dram.) what then? what took place after that? from that and that place , here and there , hither and thither , from all sides , to every place , everywhere
asau (nom. sg. m.): that , a certain (opposed to idam; e.g. ayaṁ lokaḥ or idaṁ viśvam or idaṁ sarvam , this earthly world , this universe ; ayam agniḥ , this fire which burns on the earth ; but asāv agniḥ , that fire in the sky , i.e. the lightning)
guṇavān (nom. sg. m.): mfn. " furnished with a thread or string " and " endowed with good qualities "; endowed with good qualities or virtues or merits or excellences , excellent , perfect
hi: for
tādṛśaḥ (nom. sg. m.): such like , such a one

nṛpaḥ (nom. sg.): m. protector of men , prince , king , sovereign
pa: mfn. guarding , protecting , ruling
√pā: to watch , keep , preserve ; to protect from , defend against (abl.) ; to protect (a country) i.e. rule , govern ; to observe , notice , attend to , follow
prajā-bhāgya-guṇaiḥ (inst. pl.): by the merits to be shared among subjects
prajā: f. procreation , propagation , birth ; offspring , children , family , race , posterity , descendants , after-growth (of plants) ; a creature , animal , man , mankind ; people , subjects (of a prince)
bhāgya: mfn. ( √ bhaj) to be shared or divided , divisible; mfn. (fr. bhāga) entitled to a share ; n. sg. or pl. (ifc. f(ā). ) fate , destiny (resulting from merit or demerit in former existences) , fortune , (esp.) good fortune , luck , happiness , welfare ; n. reward
√ bhaj: to divide , distribute , allot or apportion to (dat. or gen.) , share with (instr.)
guṇa: m. good quality , virtue , merit , excellence
prasūyate = 3rd pers. sg. pra- √ sū: to procreate , beget , bring forth , obtain offspring or bear fruit , produce ; (mostly A1. -sūyate , rarely °ti) to be born or produced , originate , arise

持是上妙相 入於苦行林
世間何薄福 失斯聖地主

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