Thursday, December 19, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.61: What Was Meant by Dharma?

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
sa mām-anāthāṁ saha-dharma-cāriṇīm-apāsya dharmaṁ yadi kartum-icchati |
kuto 'sya dharmaḥ saha-dharma-cāriṇīṁ vinā tapo yaḥ paribhoktum-icchati || 8.61

“If he wishes to perform dharma, the Law,
having left me widowed,

Having cast aside his partner in dharma, his lawful wife,

Then where is his dharma?
Where is the dharma of one who, without his partner in dharma,

Wishes to go ahead before her and taste ascetic practice?

The Buddha-dharma is sitting and sitting is the Buddha-dharma, asserted Zen master Dogen... which might be an ultimate conclusion, or might be a good starting point. 

What does Yaśodharā have in mind in today's verse when she says dharmaṁ yadi kartum-icchati, “if he wishes to perform dharma”?

Yaśodharā uses the infinitive kartum from the verb kṛ, to do. So this choice of word suggests dharma as something that we perform or do – as in the dictionary definition of dharmaṁ kṛ, “to do one's duty.”

EBC translated dharmaṁ yadi kartum-icchati “if he wishes to practise a religious life”
EHJ “if he wishes to carry out dharma”
PO “if it is his wish to practice dharma.”

What did Yaśodharā mean by dharmaṁ kṛ?

To observe dharma as law, or as religion?
To abide in dharma as nature, or as the Universe?
To do dharma as practice, or as duty?
To devote oneself to dharma as a teaching, or as reality?

I think the reference in the 4th pāda to embracing, or going ahead and tasting, tapas, ascetic practice, suggests that Yaśodharā primarily had it in mind that dharma was something that her husband had gone to the ascetic woods to do. 

At the same time Yaśodharā describes herself twice in today's verse as saha-dharma-cāriṇī, lit. “a woman who jointly practices dharma.”

The MW dictionary gives saha-dharma-cāriṇī as
1. a wife who helps a husband in fulfilling duties,
2. a helpmate
3. lawful or legitimate wife
These definitions bring out the sense of dharma as not only
1. the doing of duty; but also 
2. practice that can be assisted; and
3. the law, or something with legal status. 

Today's verse is thus, as I read it, a stimulus to inquire into what dharma, in the end, is.

I went to bed on Wednesday night reflecting on the redeeming truth that, although there is no such thing in this world as being right, there is such a thing as a right direction.

That was my own tentative conclusion about dharma, in light of Dogen's teaching.

But in the middle of the night I lay in bed wanting to be reminded of how, in the end, Aśvaghoṣa used the word dharma. So I got up, in the dark, in more ways than one, and cut and pasted the following verses from the final canto of Saundara-nanda:

yasyārtha-kāma-prabhavā hi bhaktis-tato 'sya sā tiṣṭhati rūḍha-mūlā /
For when devotion springs from an agenda or desire, there it remains rooted;
dharmānvayo yasya tu bhakti-rāgas-tasya prasādo hṛdayāvagāḍhaḥ // 18.4 //
But when a person has love and devotion for dharma, that person is steeped to the core in tranquillity.

kṣayaṃ gataṃ janma nirasta-janman saddharma-caryām-uṣito 'smi samyak /
Rebirth is over, O Refuter of Rebirth! I am dwelling as one with observance of true dharma.
kṛtsnaṃ kṛtaṃ me kṛta-kārya kāryaṃ lokeṣu bhūto 'smi na loka-dharmā // 18.10 //
What was for me to do, O Doer of the Necessary! is totally done. I am present in the world without being of the world.
maitrī-stanīṃ vyañjana-cāru-sāsnāṃ saddharma-dugdhāṃ pratibhāna-śṛṅgām /
Having drunk from the milk-cow of your voice, whose udder is loving-kindness, whose lovely dewlap is figures of speech, who is milked for true dharma, and whose horns are boldness of expression,
tavāsmi gāṃ sādhu nipīya tṛptas-tṛṣeva gām-uttama vatsa-varṇaḥ // 18.11 //
I am properly satisfied, O Most Excellent One, like a little calf that, because of thirst, has drunk milk.

aniścitaś-cāpratibaddha-citto dṛṣṭa-śrutādau vyavahāra-dharme /
In the daily round of dharma-practice since I am neither certain about nor bound in mind to visual, auditory and other kinds of perception,
yasmāt samātmānugataś-ca tatra tasmād visaṃyoga-gato 'smi muktaḥ // 18.19 //
And since through that dharma-round I am graced by trailing equanimity, on that account I am detached and am free."

tataḥ pramādāt prasṛtasya pūrvaṁ śrutvā dhṛtiṁ vyākaraṇaṁ ca tasya /
Then, after listening to him who had emerged already out of heedlessness, after hearing his firmness and his testimony
dharmānvayaṁ cānugataṁ prasādaṁ meghasvaras-taṁ munir-ābabhāṣe //18.21//
And a clarity consistent with the gist of dharma, the Sage boomed at him like a thundercloud:

uttiṣṭha dharme sthita śiṣya-juṣṭe kiṃ pādayor-me patito 'si murdhnā /
"You who stands firm in the dharma which is loved by those who study it, stand up! Why are you fallen with your head at my feet?
abhyarcanaṃ me na tathā praṇāmo dharme yathaiṣā pratipattir-eva //18.22 //
The prostration does not honour me so much as this surefootedness in the dharma.

adyārthavat-te śrutavac-chrutaṃ tac-chrutānurūpaṃ pratipadya dharmaṁ /
Listening ears open to the truth which is replete with listening, and with purpose, today you stand surefooted in the dharma, in a manner that befits the listening tradition.
kṛta-śruto vipratipadyamāno nindyo hi nirvīrya ivāttaśastraḥ // 18.25 //
For a man equipped with listening ears who is wavering is like a swordsman lacking valour: he is worthy of blame.

adyāpadeṣṭuṃ tava yukta-rūpaṃ śuddhodano me nṛ-patiḥ piteti /
Today you may fittingly proclaim that King Śuddhodana is your father.
bhraṣṭasya dharmāt pitṛbhir-nipātād aślāghanīyo hi kulāpadeśaḥ // 18.31 //
For it is not commendable for a backslider, after falling from the dharma alighted on by ancestors, to proclaim his lineage.

sa-dharma dharmānvayato yataś-ca te mayi prasādo 'dhigame ca kauśalam /
O possessor of dharma! Since, because of abiding by dharma, you have skill in making it your own and quiet confidence in me,
ato 'sti bhūyas-tvayi me vivakṣitaṃ nato hi bhaktaś-ca niyogam-arhasi // 18.53 //
I have something else to say to you. For you are surrendered and devoted, and up to the task.

ihārtham-evārabhate naro 'dhamo vimadhyamas-tūbhaya-laukikīṃ kriyām /
The lowest sort of man only ever sets to work for an object in this world. But a man in the middle does work both for this world and for the world to come.
kriyām-amutraiva phalāya madhyamo viśiṣṭa-dharmā punar-apravṛttaye // 18.55 //
A man in the middle, I repeat, works for a result in the future. The superior type, however, tends towards abstention from positive action.

ihottamebhyo 'pi mataḥ sa tūttamo ya uttamaṃ dharmam-avāpya naiṣṭhikam /
But deemed to be higher than the highest in this world is he who, having realized the supreme ultimate dharma,
acintayitvātma-gataṃ pariśramaṃ śamaṃ parebhyo 'py-upadeṣṭum-icchati // 18.56 /
Desires, without worrying about the trouble to himself, to teach tranquillity to others.

bravītu tāvat puri vismito janas-tvayi sthite kurvati dharma-deśanāḥ /
Just let the astonished people in the city say, while you are standing firm, voicing dharma-directions,
aho batāścaryam-idaṃ vimuktaye karoti rāgī yad-ayaṃ kathām-iti // 18.58 //
'Well! What a wonder this is, that he who was a man of passion is preaching liberation!'

ity-eṣā vyupaśāntaye na rataye mokṣārtha-garbhā kṛtiḥ
This work is pregnant with the purpose of release: it is for cessation, not for titillation;
śrotṝṇāṃ grahaṇārtham-anya-manasāṃ kāvyopacārāt kṛtā /
It is wrought out of the figurative expression of kāvya poetry in order to capture an audience whose minds are on other things --
yan-mokṣāt kṛtam-anyad-atra hi mayā tat-kāvya-dharmāt kṛtaṃ
For what I have written here not pertaining to liberation, I have written in accordance with the conventions of kāvya poetry.
pātuṃ tiktam-ivauṣadhaṃ madhu-yutaṃ hṛdyaṃ kathaṃ syād-iti // 18.63 //
This is through asking myself how the bitter pill might be made pleasant to swallow, like bitter medicine mixed with something sweet.

For Yaśodharā, then, dharma is something that we perform or do, and it has to do with law and with legal status.

Dharma in the words of Aśvaghoṣa, the Buddha, and the enlightened Nanda evidently means something else... (and yet, in the end, evidently, there also has to be some overlap): 

Thus Aśvaghoṣa, the Buddha, and the enlightened Nanda speak 
  • of love and devotion for dharma (as Nature, as a way, as a teaching?);
  • of observance of true dharma (as true law?);
  • of dharma-practice in a daily round;
  • of the gist of dharma (as a teaching?);
  • of standing firm and sure-footed in the dharma (as a teaching, as a way of life?);
  • of falling from the dharma of the ancestors (as a standard?);
  • of possessing dharma (as a prize?  as a realization? as a transmission?);
  • of abiding in dharma (as reality?);
  • of realizing the supreme, ultimate dharma;
  • of dharma as directions, instructions, or orders to be voiced; and finally
  • of dharmas as conventions or rules to be followed.

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
mām (acc. sg. f.): me
a-nāthām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. having no master or protector ; widowed ; helpless , poor
saha-dharma-cāriṇīm (acc. sg.): f. a wife who helps a husband in fulfilling duties , a helpmate , lawful or legitimate wife
saha: ind. jointly, together with
cārin: ifc. acting , proceeding , doing , practising (e.g. dharma- , bahu- , brahma- , &c )
dharma-cārin: mfn. observing the law , fulfilling one's duties , virtuous , dutiful , moral ; m. an honest wife , a virtuous woman

apāsya = abs. apa √as: to fling away , throw away or off , discard , to scare , drive away ; to leave behind ; to take no notice of , disregard.
dharmam (acc. sg.): m. dharma
yadi: if
kartum = inf. kṛ: to do , make , perform , accomplish , cause , effect , prepare , undertake (dharmaṁ- √kṛ , to do one's duty )
icchati = 3rd pers. sg. iṣ: to want, desire, wish

kutaḥ: ind. from whom? from where? where? whereto? in which direction? wherefore? why? from what cause or motive?
asya = gen. sg. m. ayam: this , this here , referring to something near the speaker
dharmaḥ (nom. sg.): m. dharma
saha-dharma-cāriṇīm (acc. sg.): f. a wife who helps a husband in fulfilling duties , a helpmate , lawful or legitimate wife

vinā: ind. without , except , short or exclusive of (preceded or followed by an acc.)
tapaḥ (acc. sg.): n. ascetic practice
yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): who
paribhoktum = inf. pari- √ bhuj: to span , encompass , embrace ; to eat before another (with acc.) ; to neglect to feed ; to feed upon , eat , consume , enjoy
icchati = 3rd pers. sg. iṣ: to want, desire, wish

我今失依怙 同法行生離
樂法捨同行 何處更求法

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