Sunday, December 22, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.64: A Partial Dharma

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
dhruvaṁ sa jānan mama dharma-vallabho manaḥ priyerṣyā-kalahaṁ muhur-mithaḥ |
sukhaṁ vibhīr-mām-apahāya rosaṇāṁ mahendra-loke 'psaraso jighkṣati || 8.64

Evidently, as dharma's beloved, he left me suddenly and in secret,

Knowing that my mind would be violently jealous
where he, my own darling, was concerned.

Having so easily and fearlessly deserted me in my anger,

He is wishing to obtain heavenly nymphs in the world of Great Indra!

Judaism, Christianity, Islaam, Buddhism... all religions, so people say, come down to the same thing. Maybe so, but today's verse, as I read it, contains below the surface a reminder not to include the Buddha-dharma along with the -isms in that list.

Ostensibly today's verse concerns a wife's jealousy: Yaśodharā, in jumping to a wrong conclusion, is at least being open and honest about her own jealousy. She is portraying herself and dharma as jealous rivals for her husband's love.

Below the surface, however, today's verse is the fourth in a series of four verses that have stimulated us to clarify what the Buddha-dharma is NOT.

The point as I take it is that, unlike the jealous God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islaam, the Buddha-dharma has no beloved ones, no favourites, no chosen people. So that when Yaśodharā speaks of her husband being a dharma-vallabhaḥ, a favourite of the dharma, the dharma she is talking about cannot be the Buddha-dharma.

EBC missed and obscured this point when he translated dharma-vallabhaḥ as “this fond lover of religion.”

EHJ responded to EBC's mistake by noting: The exact significance of the first line is not clear to me. Vallabha can only mean 'beloved of,' not 'fond of.' Therefore dharma-vallabha is 'the favourite of dharma,' and so 'distinguished for it.'

EHJ consequently translated: “Being distinguished for dharma, he must have held my mind to be secretly and repeatedly given to jealousy and quarrelling.”

In each of the three professors' translations, muhur mithaḥ is thus taken as describing Yaśodharā's mind (EHJ: my mind to be secretly (mithaḥ) and repeatedly (muhur) given to...). But I have taken muhur mithaḥ as describing the prince's exit, suddenly (muhurand in secret  (mithaḥ) . In that case, the two elements at the end of the 2nd pāda and the two elements at the beginning of the 3rd pāda form a series of four elements describing the prince's desertion of his wife as
1. muhur (momentary),
2. mithaḥ (secret),
3. sukham (easy),
4. vibhīḥ (fearless).

When four elements are thus presented in a series, I usually seek to understand them in four phases; but momentariness, for a start, generally belongs to the third phase (where subject meets object in the moment of the present) and so that approach initially looks unpromising here.

On further reflection, and re-reading the end of BC Canto 5, it is true that
1. the desire to leave is described as suddenly springing up in the prince's mind;
2. the escape was secret in the sense of not observed by others;
3. the action of leaving flowed with spontaneous ease; and
4. prince and horse together exhibited fearlessness.

Whether this interpretation is valid or not, I can say with confidence that
(a) it fills the word vibhīḥ (fearless) with more meaning;
(b) it has helped me (when commiting today's verse to short-term memory) to remember the four elements in their original sequence.

In any event, the exact significance EHJ refers to in his note, as I see that significance, is this: By describing her husband as 'the favourite of dharma,' Yaśodharā was expressing the implicit view that the dharma can have favourites, and Aśvaghoṣa is inviting us to see exactly that this is just the wrong view of an emotional woman.

Does this have anything to do with American exceptionalism, the bubble of US supremacy, the New Great Game, the decline through 2013 of the price of gold, and the accumulation of physical gold by the central banks and citizens of Russia and China? I suspect it does, in some way that I do not yet clearly understand. 

I did witness the inflation and bursting of the bubble of “Japan as Number One” during the 1980s and early 1990s, during which time I heard my own Zen teacher say, in a lecture in English, “I believe that Master Dogen is the most excellent Zen master in the history of Japan. Therefore I believe that Master Dogen is the most excellent Zen master in the history of the world.”

Dogen himself asserted that the Buddha-dharma is sitting and sitting is the Buddha-dharma. If this is Dogen's conclusion, for those of us who consider ourselves to be Dogen's dharma-descendants, it might be a good starting point. So what, in the end, is the Buddha-dharma? I don't know. But yesterday's verse seems, below the surface, to say it is nothing sacred. And today's verse seems to say it is nothing partial. 

So anybody who thinks that the Buddha-dharma is especially partial to, say, America, or Tibet, or Japan might, in Aśvaghoṣa's book as I read it, be deluding themselves – and in so deluding themselves creating the conditions for the inflation and subsequent inevitable bursting of the kind of bubble of arrogance against which Dogen warned in the 2nd section of his instructions for sitting, Fukan-zazengi.
However, if there is a thousandth or a hundredth of a gap, heaven and earth are far apart, and if a trace of disagreement arises, we lose the mind in confusion. Even if, proud of our understanding and richly endowed with enlightenment, we obtain special states of insight, attain the truth, clarify the mind, manifest a zeal that pierces the sky, and ramble through those remote spheres that are entered with the head; we have almost completely lost the vigorous path of getting the body out. 
God bless America? God save us all from the delusion of American exceptionalism, more like. 

dhruvam: ind. firmly , constantly , certainly , surely
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
jānan = nom. sg. m. pres. part jñā: to know
mama (gen. sg.): my
dharma-vallabhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): dharma's favourite
vallabha: mfn. beloved above all , desired , dear to (gen. loc. , or comp.) ; a favourite , friend , lover , husband
vallabhā: f. a beloved female , wife , mistress

manaḥ (acc. sg.); n. mind
priyerṣyā-kalaham (acc. sg. n.): having strife due to being jealous about my husband
priya: m. a lover , husband
īrṣyā: f. envy or impatience of another's success; spite, malice ; jealousy
kalaha: m. strife , contention , quarrel , fight ; the sheath of a sword; a road, way; deceit ; violence without murderous weapons , abuse , beating , kicking
priye [EBC] (loc. sg.): m. a lover , husband
api : even
ākalaham [EBC: quarrelling]
muhur: ind. suddenly , at once , in a moment ; for a moment, for a while ; at every moment , constantly , incessantly
mithaḥ: ind. together , together with (instr.) , mutually , reciprocally , alternately , to or from or with each other ; privately , in secret ; by contest or dispute

sukham: ind. easily , comfortably , pleasantly , joyfully , willingly
vibhīḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. fearless
bhī: f. fear , apprehension , fright , alarm , dread
mām (acc. sg. f.): me
apahāya = abs. apa- √ hā: to run away from (abl.) or off
rosaṇām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. angry , wrathful , passionate , enraged

mahendra-loke (loc. sg.): in the world of great Indra
apsarasaḥ (acc. pl.): f. apsarases, celestial nymphs
jighṛkṣati = loc. sg. m. desid. pres. par. grah: to seize, take ; " to take by the hand in the marriage ceremony " , marry ; to take possession of , gain over , captivate

或見我嫉惡 更求無嫉者
或當嫌薄我 更求淨天女 

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