Friday, January 31, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.16: Sorrow As a Means-Whereby a Zealous Prince Becomes More Dry

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bhadrā)
meghāmbu-kakṣādriṣu yā hi vttiḥ samīraṇārkāgni-mahāśanīnām |
tāṁ vttim-asmāsu karoti śoko vikarṣaṇocchoṣaṇa-dāha-bhedaiḥ || 9.16

For the action which on clouds, water, brushwood and mountains,

Is exerted by wind, sun, fire and the mighty thunderbolt:

Sorrow exerts that action on us –

Tearing us apart, causing us to become dry, 
burning us out and demolishing us.

Today's verse bears a striking resemblance to SN17.59:

agni-drumājyāmbuṣu yā hi vṛttiḥ kavandha-vāyv-agni-divākarāṇām /
doṣeṣu tāṃ vṛttim-iyāya nando nirvāpaṇotpāṭana-dāha-śoṣaiḥ //
The action which on fire, trees, ghee and water is exerted by rainclouds, wind, a flame and the sun, / Nanda exerted that action on the faults, quenching, uprooting, burning, and drying them up. // SN17.59 // 
Today's verse, then, tends strongly to confirm the suspicion that Aśvaghoṣa wants us to dig below the surface of the words of the Śākya King of Kapilavastu, so that we see the correspondence with the teaching of the Śākya king of dharma. That may be why the 3rd pāda has asmāsu, “us,” in the plural – on the surface Śuddhodana is just moaning on about how his personal sorrow is killing him, but below the surface a king of dharma is describing the practical benefits that sorrow can have on us, if we are able to let it.

Those practical benefits are listed under four ironic headings, namely:
  • vikarṣaṇa: tearing us apart.
  • ucchoṣaṇa: causing us to become dry.
So on the surface King Śuddhodana is expressing without irony what it is to be wet. But below the surface a dharma king might be suggesting with all due irony how sorrow can help a Zen practitioner on the way to becoming dry. 
  • dāha: burning us.
The Mirriam-Webster online dictionary, incidentally, defines burnout as:
the condition of someone who has become very physically and emotionally tired after doing a difficult job for a long time.
2 a :  exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration
  • bheda: demolishing us.
Full Definition of DEMOLISH
1a :  tear down, raze   b :  to break to pieces :  smash
2a :  to do away with :  destroy b :  to strip of any pretense of merit or credence.

meghāmbu-kakṣādriṣu (loc. pl.): on clouds, water, grass and mountains
megha: m. " sprinkler " , a cloud
ambu: n. water
kakṣa: m. lurking place ; a forest of dead trees , a dry wood , underwood (often the lair of wild beasts) ; grass, dry grass
adri: m. a stone , a rock , a mountain
yā (nom. sg. f.): [that action] which
hi: for
vṛttiḥ (nom. sg.): f. rolling; course of action; working , activity , function

samīraṇārkāgni-mahāśanīnām (gen. pl.): of/by wind, sun, fire, and the mighty thunderbolt
sam-īraṇa: m. breeze , wind , air , breath
arka: m. a ray , flash of lightning ; the sun
agni: m. fire
mahat: mfn. great
aśani: f. the thunderbolt , a flash of lightning

tām (acc. sg. f.): that
vṛttim (acc. sg.): f. rolling; course of action; working , activity , function
asmāsu (loc. pl.): in us
karoti = 3rd pers. sg. kṛ: to do, make, effect
śokaḥ (nom. sg.): m. flame , glow , heat ; m. sorrow , affliction , anguish , pain , trouble , grief

vikarṣaṇocchoṣaṇa-dāha-bhedaiḥ (inst. pl.) by blowing apart, drying up, burning up, and breaking up
vikarṣaṇa: n. the act of drawing or dragging asunder
ucchoṣaṇa: n. drying up; making dry, parching
dāha: m. (fr. √ dah) burning , combustion , conflagration , heat
bheda: m. breaking , splitting , cleaving , rending , tearing , piercing

如雲水草山 風日火雹災
憂悲爲四患 飄乾燒壞心 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.15: Dharma and Me

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (ddhi)
tad-ehi dharma-priya mat-priyārthaṁ dharmārtham-eva tyaja buddhim-etām |
ayaṁ hi mā śoka-rayaḥ pravddho nadī-rayaḥ kūlam-ivābhihanti || 9.15

So come back, you who holds dharma dear,
because of what is dear to me.

For no reason but dharma itself, abandon this idea of yours.

For this swollen stream of sorrow eats away at me

As the flow of a river eats away its bank.

The Judeo-Christian-Muslim God is a jealous god who loves His chosen people, and I would not give Him the steam off of my piss.

My Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima used to say, “Dharma is Dharma. God is God. But we can say that Dharma is God, and God is Dharma. And by this compromise we can save all human beings in the world.”

My teacher was talking through his arse. He was not expressing the truth but was only expressing his own grandiose delusions about his (and his students') place in world history. These delusions, in turn, stemmed from his experience as a member of Japan's post-war ruling elite. He saw humankind as like the Japanese society of his era, as being amenable to top-down arrangement by the hand of an enlightened arranger.

(In the mid-1980s when we had this “God is Dharma” conversation, Japan had enjoyed 40 years of rapid post-war growth and was just beginning to enter the bubble that popped in 1990-91, since when the “Japan as Number One” arguments have tended to subside.)

The dharma as the Buddha taught is, is a totally different conception from God, and a totally different reality, whose direction is towards the abandonment of all ideas and all views, but particularly the sectarian belief that "we are right." 

In Japan I learned the recitation
“Namas! I take refuge in the Law.” 
But something here is lost – or rather added – in translation.

The original Pali, 
dharmam saranam gacchāmi, 
or the original Sanskrit 
dharmaṁ śaranaṁ gacchāmi, 
is to my ears less religious and more practical, better fitted to what George Soros calls “harsh reality.” 
dharmaṁ śaranaṁ gacchāmi
the operative word is gacchāmi, “I go” 
– I go to dharma as a place of refuge.

When I go to dharma as a place of refuge, dharma quite literally could not care two hoots. Dharma does not embrace me like the proverbial prodigal son returning. Dharma is not interested in me at all. That's why I go to dharma as a place of refuge. Dharma is free of all emotional entanglement with me.

And so I go to dharma. Literally, when my cold relents and I am able to get out of bed, I go. I walk. I go downstairs and sit, and I come back upstairs and work on this blog.

Now I need to try and explain how the above thoughts were stimulated by today's verse.

On the surface, King Śuddhodana is expressing a conception of dharma akin to the kind of conceptions that Jewish settlers have of their God, or bigoted Catholics have of their God, or Shi-ite and Sunni holy warriors have of their God. Such a God cares what a person is prepared to do, what sacrifices a person is prepared to make, for His Sake.

That being so, dharmārtham eva in the 1st and 2nd pādas of today's verse seems on the surface to mean “for the sake of Dharma” as if Dharma might somehow stand to benefit. King Śuddhodana seems to be discussing the kind of dharma that loves to be served. This sense is brought out more in the translations of EHJ and PO, than in the translation of EBC (who translated dharma as "duty"), hence:

Come, thou who lovest duty, for the sake of what is my heart's desire, — abandon this purpose for the sake of duty. (EBC)

Therefore come, lover of dharma, to do me a favour, and give up this purpose for the very sake of dharma. (EHJ)

So, for the love of me, come back, lover of dharma, for the sake of dharma itself, give up this plan. (PO)

On the surface, King Śuddhodana is making everything personal, all about me and a personal Dharma. But below the surface, aided by the ambiguity of artham and priya, a king of dharma is subverting that very personality view.

Thus, as as an expression of King Śuddhodana's personality view:
  • dharma-priya means “O you who is dharma's beloved!” – as if dharma had favourite sons.
  • mat-priyārtham means (as per EHJ) “to do me a favour” or (as per PO) “for the love of me.”
  • dharmārtham eva means (as per EHJ) “for the very sake of dharma” or (as per PO) “for the sake of dharma itself.”

But as a king of dharma's ironic subversion of the personality view:
  • dharma-priya means (as per EHJ/PO) “lover of dharma” or “you who is devoted to dharma” or “you who holds dharma dear.”
  • mat-priyārtham means “on account of what is dear to me”; in which case, “what is dear to me” means nothing personal. On the contrary, the dharma which is dear to me I go to as a place of refuge for the very reason that it is nothing personal.
  • dharmārtham eva means “on account of nothing other than dharma itself" or  "for no reason but dharma itself," in which case, dharmārtham eva is expressing the fundamental principle known in Chinese and Japanese as 祗管打坐 (SHIKAN-TAZA), “just sitting.”

Once the totally ironic sub-text of the first half of today's verse has been understood like this, the equally ironic sub-text of the second half of today's verse is readily apparent. Which is to say that on the surface King Śuddhodana, like a drama queen, is continuing to give voice to his personal suffering. But below the surface a king of dharma is describing how the stream which begins with the noble truth of suffering, when it is fully developed (pravṛddha), gradually (or momentarily?) brings about the abandonment of the personality view – or, in the traditional terminology of Chinese and Japanese Zen, the dropping off of body and mind.

tad: ind. then, therefore
ehi = 2nd pers. sg. imperative ā- √i: to come near or towards ; (with and without punar) to come back
dharma-priya (voc. sg.): O dharma's beloved! O lover of dharma! O one who holds dharma dear!
mat-priyārtham: for the sake of your love for me; for the love of me ; on account of what is dear to me ;
priya: mfn. beloved , dear to (gen. loc. dat. or comp.); fond of attached or devoted to (loc.; id. in comp. , either ibc. e.g. priya-devana , " fond of playing " , or ifc. e.g. akṣa-priya , " fond of dice ")

dharmārtham (acc. sg. n.): for dharma's sake ; on account of dharma
eva (emphatic)
tyaja = 2nd pers. sg. imperative tyaj: to abandon, quit, give up
buddhim (acc. sg.): f. mind ; idea; intention , purpose , design
etām (acc. sg. f.): this, this here

ayam (nom. sg. m.): I
hi: for
mā (acc. sg.): me
śoka-rayaḥ (nom. sg. m.): a current of sorrow
raya: m. ( √ rī) the stream of a river , current; impetuosity , vehemence , ardour , zeal
pravṛddhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. grown up , fully developed , increased , augmented , intense , vehement , great , numerous ; swollen, heaving

nadī-rayaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the current of a river
kūlam (acc. sg.): n. a shore, bank
iva: like
abhihanti = 3rd pers. sg. abhi- √ han: to thump at , strike , kill

汝若念法者 應當哀愍我
望寛遠遊情 以慰我懸心

勿令憂悲水 崩壞我心岸 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.14: Timing Is Everything

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Māyā)
jānāmi dharmaṁ prati niścayaṁ te paraimi te bhāvinam-etam-artham |
ahaṁ tv-akāle vana-samśrayāt-te śokāgnināgni-pratimena dahye || 9.14

'I know your resolve with regard to dharma.
[I know your fixity of purpose in regard to dharma.]

I realize that this will be your goal.
[I realize this purpose here and now, existing in you.]
[I realize that this goal of yours is becoming.]

But at your going to the forest at the wrong time,

I am consumed with a fire of sorrow that burns like a fire.

As a general rule whenever King Śuddhodana is ostensibly saying one thing, we are invited to investigate how a king of dharma might, below the surface, be saying something entirely different.

Thus the ostensible gist of what King Śuddhodana is saying in today's verse is: “I know how set your mind already is on dharma, and I understand that pursuit of dharma will be your goal in future; but it grieves me greatly to think that you have gone to the forest at too young an age.”

As a translation of jānāmi dharmaṁ prati niścayam, this ostensible gist is conveyed by “I know your resolve with regard to dharma.” But if that were the only meaning of the 1st pāda, then King Śuddhodana might be a liar – because how could King Śuddhodana know the resolve with regard to Dharma of a bodhisattva who had established the will to the truth? If any king could truly say “I know your resolve with regard to dharma,” it might not be King Śuddhodana but might be a king of dharma.

Digging deeper, however, still purer gold might be contained in the principle that the only thing we ever truly know in this world is when we are wrong. And for me, that knowing is centred on knowing that stiffening the neck by pulling in the chin, as I practised those directions in Japan, is a mug's game. On that basis, I think the real meaning of jānāmi dharmaṁ prati niścayam, below the surface, might be “I know your fixity of purpose in regard to dharma” – in which ironic context “fixity of purpose” is not a virtue but is an impediment.

Niścaya can be read as concealing this kind of ironic meaning also in BC5.31:
When his curious senses reach out to objects, when in the face of wearying observances he lacks fixity of purpose (vrata-khedeṣv-asamartha-niścayasya), / When, above all, he is not accustomed to separateness, the mind of one who is young veers away from the wasteland.// BC5.31 //
Elsewhere in BC Canto 5, the sense of “fixity of purpose” is conveyed by vyavasāya (BC5.33; 5.39; 5.47; 5.69).

BC5.47 in particular might be worth copying and pasting here, as this verse also seems to convey the ironic message that it takes one to know one.
At that juncture, the a-kaniṣṭha gods, the doyens of asceticism 'of whom none is youngest,' being acquainted with his fixity of purpose (vyavasāyam-asya buddhvā), / Visited, upon all the young women at once, deep sleep, and upon their bodies and limbs, irregular poses.//BC5.47//

The same kind of double-barreled analysis can be applied to the 2nd pāda of today's verse, so that paraimi te bhāvinam-etam-artham ostensibly means “I realize that this will be your goal,” but below the surface can be read:

(as an affirmative expression of a real will to the truth in the other)
“I realize this purpose here and now, existing already in you”;

(as an ironic negation of the other)
“I realize that this goal of yours is becoming” (i.e. I see that you are end-gaining).

There may be other possible readings too, for example
(as an affirmative expression of one's own realization),
“I realize, as what actually exists, this goal of yours.”

In the second half of today's verse, then, we are called upon to find a hidden meaning such that the words which are ostensibly addressed by Śuddhodana to his son and heir might be read as words addressed by a king of dharma (like Gautama Buddha) to a student (like Nanda). That imperative brings to mind the Buddha's use of the word akāle when addressing Nanda in SN Canto 16:
One set on abandoning the afflictions, then, should attend to timing and method; / For even practice itself, done at the wrong time (akāle) and relying on wrong means, makes for disappointment and not for the desired end. // SN16.49 // If a cow is milked before her calf is born, milking at the wrong time (akāla-dohī) will yield no milk. / Or even at the right time no milk will be got if, through ignorance, a cow is milked by the horn. // SN16.50 //

Read in this light today's verse, like yesterday's verse, has to do with the momentary nature of time. Which is to say that in the past everything is fixed and in the future nothing can be realized, but in a moment of the present there is a chance, if not of being right, then at least of hitting the target. In rugby, for example, wrong timing of a pass is the difference between a try in the corner and a knock-on; in football, wrong timing of a volley is the difference between the ball bulging the back of the net and ending up in Row Z; and, at the level of sitting-meditation, holding of the breath, be it every so subtle and ever so slight, might be a matter of bad timing, whereas well-coordinated breathing, even if maintained only for the duration of one out-breath, might be a matter of good timing.

jānāmi = 1st pers. sg. jñā: to know
dharmam (acc. sg.): dharma
prati: ind. towards
niścayaṁ m. inquiry , ascertainment , fixed opinion , conviction , certainty , positiveness ; resolution , resolve ; fixed intention , design , purpose , aim
te (gen. sg.): your

paraimi = 1st pers. sg. parā- √i: to go or run away , go along , go towards (acc.) ; to reach , attain , partake of (acc.)
te (gen. sg.): your
bhāvinam = acc. sg. m. bhāvin: mfn. becoming , being , existing , wont to be (often ifc.); about to be , future , imminent , predestined , inevitable (often used as fut. tense of √ bhū)
etam (acc. sg. m.): this , this here , here (especially as pointing to what is nearest to the speaker
artham (acc. sg.): m. aim, purpose ; cause , motive , reason ; use, utility ; thing , object ; matter, affair, concern

aham (nom. sg. m.): I
tu: but
akāle (loc. sg.): m. a wrong or bad time
vana-samśrayāt (abl. sg.): because of going to the forest
samśraya: going or resorting or betaking one's self to any person or place (loc. or comp.) , going for refuge or protection , having recourse to
te (gen. sg.): your

śokāgninā (inst. sg. m.): by a fire of sorrow
śoka: m. flame , glow , heat ; m. sorrow , affliction , anguish , pain , trouble , grief
agni: m. fire
agni-pratimena (inst. sg. m.): fire-like
pratimā: f. f. an image , likeness , symbol ; ifc. like , similar , resembling , equal to ; having the measure of , as long or wide &c as
dahye = 1st pers. sg. passive dah: to be burnt , burn , be in flames ; to be consumed by fire or destroyed ; to be consumed by internal heat or grief , suffer pain , be distressed or vexed

勅我有所命 唯願留心聽
知汝樂法情 決定無所疑
非時入林藪 悲戀嬈我心

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.13: Exhortation to Pay Attention and Listen Well

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Sālā)
tvac-choka-śalye hdayāvagāḍhe mohaṁ gato bhūmi-tale muhūrtam |
kumāra rājā nayanāmbu-varṣo yat-tvām-avocat-tad-idaṁ nibodha || 9.13

“Learn of the moment when a king, 
losing consciousness, is on the ground,

The arrow of your sorrow having penetrated his core –

To these words which the king, O child!, his eyes raining tears,

Said to you, listen well:

The seventeen verses from today's verse to BC9.29 are spoken by the voice of experience, the veteran priest, the puro-hita (lit. “one placed before”). Perhaps the sense of his seniority (as also the seniority of the king) is highlighted by the vocative kumāra, which – as in the Canto title – means prince, or young one, child. 

The veteran priest and the knowing counsellor seem to be intended to represent a duality, a double-act – maybe experience and reason? – and the suggestion seems to be, so far, that the veteran priest takes precedence.

The grammar of today's verse, and of muhūrtam (a moment) in particular, was not immediately apparent to me, but in the end I have taken the imperative nibodha as having two objects – 1. muḥurtam ([learn of] the moment) and 2. idam ([listen well to] this, these words).

EBC translated muhūrtam with nibodha:
‘O prince, consider for a moment what the king with his eyes raining tears said to thee, as he lay fainting on the ground with the arrow of thy sorrow plunged into his heart.

EHJ took muhūrtam with mohaṁ gataḥ:
“Listen, Prince, to this that the king said to you, with his eyes raining tears, when he was stupefied for a moment on the ground with the dart of grief for you plunged into his heart.”

PO apparently took mohaṁ gato bhūmi-tale muhūrtam to mean “fell on the ground for a moment”:
“The king fell on the ground for a moment, his heart struck by the dart of grief for you: Listen, prince, to what the king said to you, as streams of tears kept flowing from his eyes.” 

Ostensibly, however we read muhūrtam, the gist of today's verse is simply to emphasize the depth of King Śuddhodana's emotion.

But if we wish to understand today's verse as another needle for sitting-meditation, then nibodha muhūrtam, “Attend to the moment,” may indeed be words by which a veteran priest invariably addresses one who is young.

Going further down this line of inquiry, might a king losing consciousness on the ground describe, for example, the sitting-meditation of the 14th Zen patriarch Nāgārjuna – a patriarch who, to us, is a very old one, but who to Aśvaghoṣa was not even yet a twinkle in Kapimala's eye? And when Nāgārjuna wrote of the dharma that Gautama taught being directed towards the abandonment of all views (sarva-dṛṣṭi-prahāṇāya), was that evidence of Nāgārjuna having been penetrated to the core by the arrow of Śakyamuni's sorrow? Was that expression, in other words, evidence of Nāgārjuna having been penetrated to the core by the arrow of Aśvaghoṣa's sorrow?

In the 3rd pāda,  the juxtaposition of kumāra and rājā seems designed to draw our attention. Is Aśvaghoṣa's intention to cause us to consider whether a prince can be old and a king young? 

When a veteran priest speaking with the voice of experience addresses a prince as "you, child" how can the arrow of your sorrow cause an old king to lose consciousness on the ground? Somehow something does not add up. Something does not tally with our everyday experience of precedence, or of former and latter, or of three times  past, present, and future. 

Amidst any confusion that Aśvaghoṣa has thus seemed to generate, a way out may also have been provided, in the imperative nibodha muhūrtam, “Attend to the moment." 

tvac-choka-śalye (loc. sg.): the arrow of grief for you
hṛdayāvagāḍhe (loc. sg.): plunged into his heart
hṛdaya: n. the heart (or region of the heart as the seat of feelings and sensations ; hṛdaye- √kṛ , " to take to heart ") , soul , mind (as the seat of mental operations); the heart or centre or core
avagāḍha: mfn. immersed , bathed , plunged into (acc. ; loc.)

moham (acc. sg.): m. loss of consciousness , bewilderment , perplexity , distraction , infatuation , delusion , error , folly ; fainting , stupefaction , a swoon ; (with Buddhists) ignorance (one of the three roots of vice )
gataḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. gone into any state
bhūmi-tale (loc. sg.): n. the surface of the earth , the ground
muhūrtam (acc. sg.): m. n. a moment , instant , any short space of time

kumāra (voc. sg.): O prince!
rājā (nom. sg.): m. the king
nayanāmbu-varṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): raining tears
nayana: n. eye
ambu: n. water
varṣa: mfn. (fr. √ vṛṣ) raining

yad (acc. sg. n.): [that] which
tvām (acc. sg.): m. to you
avocat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist vac: to speak , say , tell , utter , announce , declare , mention , proclaim , recite , describe (with acc. with or without prati dat. or gen. of pers. , and acc. of thing ; often with double acc. e.g. tam idaṁ vākyam uvāca , " he spoke this speech to him ")
tad (acc. sg. n.): that
idam (acc. sg. n.): this
nibodha = 2nd pers. sg. imperative ni- √ budh: to learn or hear anything (acc.) from any one ; to attend or listen to (esp. Impv. nibodha) ; to know , understand

父王念太子 如利刺貫心
荒迷發狂亂 臥於塵土中

日夜増悲思 流涙常如雨 

Monday, January 27, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.12: Sitting On Earth As [It Might Be] In Heaven

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Buddhi)
taṁ vkṣa-mūla-stham-abhijvalantaṁ puro-hito rāja-sutaṁ babhāṣe |
yathopaviṣṭaṁ divi pārijāte bhas-patiḥ śakra-sutaṁ jayantam || 9.12

The veteran priest addressed that son of a king

Who abode at the foot of the tree, shining,

As in heaven 'Lord of Prayer' Bṛhas-pati

Addressed 'Victorious' Jayanta, son of Mighty Indra,
sitting under the celestial coral tree:

So far today I have not been sitting much and not been shining at all; I have been laid low with a heavy cold, whose symptoms I suspect have been aggravated by abrupt withdrawal of all the caffeine I usually drink in coffee.

I'm not capable today of much in the way of deep thought. I couldn't even remember what today's verse was as I lay in bed all day feeling sorry for myself. What I did manage to remember, barely, when I finally managed to cross my legs, is

buddhaṁ śaraṇaṁ gacchami
dharmaṁ śaraṇaṁ gacchami
saṁghaṁ śaraṇaṁ gacchami
I go to buddha as a place of refuge
I go to dharma as a place of refuge
I go to saṁgha as a place of refuge.

What that means in practice is mainly plodding on with this translation of Aśvaghoṣa, which is the dharma of a buddha. My rent on earth is mainly serving the saṁgha to whom it belongs, that saṁgha being composed of people who love it.

That said, truly to love it is not only to like it intellectually. Truly to love it might be to sit, and in so sitting, to shine.

Hence what I do manage to notice about today's verse is that, like several recent verses, it describes a son of a king as shining (abhijvalantam) and sitting (upaviṣṭam).

Parallel expressions are
  • in BC9.8 shining with handsome form (vapuṣojjvalantam) and being royally seated, or sitting as a king (nṛpopaviṣṭam);
  • in BC9.10 honoured / caused him to shine (arcayām-āsatur) and honoured /caused them to shine (pratyarcayām-āsa);
  • and in BC9.11 the two sat (niṣīdatur) and the two shone (virejatur).

tam (acc. sg. m.): him
vṛkṣa-mūla-stham (acc. sg. m.): abiding at the root/foot of the tree
abhijvalantam = acc. sg. m. pres. part. abhi- √ jval: to blaze forth

puro-hitaḥ (nom. sg.): m. the veteran priest ; mfn. placed foremost or in front
rāja-sutam (acc. sg. m.): the king's son
babhāṣe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bhāṣ: to speak , talk , say , tell

yathā: ind. as
upaviṣṭam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. seated , sitting
divi (loc. sg.): in heaven
pārijāte (loc. sg.): m. the coral tree , Erythrina Indica (losing its leaves in June and then covered with large crimson flowers) ; N. of one of the 5 trees of paradise (produced at the churning of the ocean and taken possession of by indra from whom it was afterwards taken by kṛṣṇa)

bṛhas-patiḥ (nom. sg.): m. " lord of prayer or devotion " N. of a deity (in whom Piety and Religion are personified ; he is the chief offerer of prayers and sacrifices , and therefore represented as the type of the priestly order , and the purohita of the gods with whom he intercedes for men ; in later times he is the god of wisdom and eloquence , to whom various works are ascribed ; he is also regarded as son of aṅgiras , husband of tārā and father of kaca , and sometimes identified with vyāsa ; in astronomy he is the regent of Jupiter and often identified with that planet)
śakra-sutam (acc. sg.): m. " indra's son "
śakra: mfn. strong , powerful , mighty (applied to various gods , but esp. to indra) ; m. N. of indra
jayantam (acc. sg.): m. victorious ; m. the moon ; m. N. of a son of indra

王師及大臣 啓請於王子
如毘利波低 語彼闍延多 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.11: Being Allowed to Sit (in a Flag) and Shine

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Upendravajrā)
ktābhyanujñāv-abhitas-tatas-tau niṣīdatuḥ śākya-kula-dhvajasya |
virejatus-tasya ca saṁnikarṣe punar-vasū yoga-gatāv-ivendoḥ || 9.11

Having thus on these grounds been allowed,

The two, in the presence of the flag of the Śākya family, sat;

And in his vicinity they shone –

Like the twin stars of Punar-vasu in conjunction with the moon.

If my aim on this blog is to connect every verse that Aśvaghoṣa wrote with kāñcanam āsanam, “golden sitting,” then today's verse, for one, does not present too much of a challenge.

In the first pāda kṛtābhyanujñau describes the two as having gained assent or as having been allowed. The compound inevitably puts me in mind of the word “allow” as used in the teaching of FM Alexander, where allowing is opposed to conceptions like doing, or end-gaining.

In the 2nd pāda, niṣīdatuḥ means “the two sat.” The root is √sad, to sit. And sitting, I should like to argue here, in accordance with what my Zen teacher taught me in Japan, is basically what saves us.

Yesterday, following from the conclusion of my comment, I asked a true paṇḍit (to whom I am very grateful) about the etymology of the word mantra, and it turns out that much more has been written on that subject than I ever dreamed.

When Monier Williams wrote that mantra means “instrument of thought,” the idea in the background (which apparently prevailed in the 19th and earlier 20th century but which has been questioned since) was that the -tra in mantra is a suffix with which words expressing the notion of an instrument are built (from verbal bases). Other examples would be śastra 'weapon' from śas 'to cut'; netra 'eye' from 'to lead'.

However when Pāṇini teaches such a primary suffix -tra (a kṛt suffix) in the sense of an instrument (karaṇa), he does not mention √man as one of the roots to which it can be added (see Aṣṭādhyāyī 3.2.181-183). So it is not certain that Pāṇini regarded mantra as being formed with this suffix.

A sixteenth century grammarian and poet Nārāyaṇa (in his Prakriyāsarvasva) held that mantra was formed with another kind of suffix (an uṇādi suffix). According to him the suffix can convey different meanings; in the case of the word mantra he attributes to it the meaning not of the instrument but of the object: a mantra is something that is thought about or meditated upon (dhyāyate). 
Yet another explanation, apparently favoured by religious commentators, especially in tantric traditions, is that the element -tra is related to another verbal root, trā (sometimes given as trai), which has the meaning 'rescue, save'.
So surveying these three options, from where I sit, there is a more religious option (1. a mantra saves us); a more objective option (2. a mantra is an object); and a more practical option (3. a mantra is an instrument).
Of these three, I naturally prefer no. 3. And, at least in regard to Aśvaghoṣa's usage, I particularly reject no. 1, on the grounds that what saves us in the Buddha's teaching is not a mantra, but what saves us is primarily the act of sitting.
In saying this I am not departing by a hair's breadth from what my Zen teacher taught me. Where I have disagreed with my teacher, however – as I have documented, in perhaps too much gory detail already, on this blog – is in the instrumentality of thinking, as oppposed to blind unconscious doing.

Still in the 2nd pāda, śākya-kula-dhvaja, “the banner of the house of Śākya” or “the flag of the Śākya family” (EBC/EHJ: the banner of the Śākya race) ostensibly means the Prince himself, Śākyamuni, the Sage of the Śākyas. But I think Aśvaghoṣa might have intended it to mean, below the surface, a traditionally-sewn kaṣāya.

The 3rd pāda of today's verse causes us to reflect again, as also yesterday's verse caused us to reflect, on what it means to shine.

When we are young and full to overflowing with doing energy, it is maybe easier to conceive of the backward step of turning our light and letting it shine as a step that we take or do. I certainly liked to conceive it like that during my twenties and early thirties. And in Fukan-zazengi-shinpitsu-bon, the first edition of Fukan-zazengi written when he was in his mid-twenties, Dogen uses the more direct imperative EKO-HENSHO NO TAIHO O MOCHI-IYO, “Take the backward step of turning the light and letting it shine,” whereas his later, revised edition, Fukan-zazengi-rufu-bon has the somewhat less direct SUBEKARAKU EKO-HENSHO NO TAIHO O GAKUSUBESHI, “Learn the backward step of turning the light and letting it shine.”

Having reflected on it for an hour just now, I don't know what it means to shine and I certainly do not know how to shine. A person with a grey, ashen face has lost his or her shine. A person with a glowing red face – like somebody in the first flush of love – has a certain shine; a person with a glowing golden face – like a Zen master in his element – also has a particular kind of shine. That much is obvious. But I don't know how to shine. I don't even know how to sit, or how – even with a good mantra – to think. But I have picked up some understanding along the way about how NOT to sit and about how NOT to think. So, though I may be deluding myself, I don't regard my efforts thus far, to learn the backward step, as having been totally in vain.

With regard to the simile in the 4th pāda, according to a footnote by EHJ, the simile of the two stars of the asterism Punarvasu and the moon occurs in Rāmāyaṇa 6.51,22. 

PO adds in his own footnote: Here the Buddha is compared to the moon. The twin asterism (nakṣatra) Punar-Vasu is the seventh in the Indian list. They are the [alpha] and [beta] Geminorum.

The different wordings of the three professors' translations of the nominative dual compound punarvasū may be instructive.
EBC has “the two stars of the asterism Punarvasū in conjunction with the moon.”
EHJ: “they resembled the twin stars of Punarvasu in conjunction with the moon.”
PO: “like Punar and Vasu in conjunction with the moon.”

These translations (not to mention the grammar of PO's footnote) seems to show a certain uncertainty about whether Punar-vasu is one asterism or two stars.

How to treat 身心 in Chinese and Japanese Zen writing poses a parallel conundrum:
  • body and mind?
  • body-and-mind?
  • the body-mind?
  • the bodymind?

A parallel conundrum, again, might be contained in the Alexander mantra “head FORWARD and UP.”
  • Is it one direction? 
  • Is it two directions?

The answer, I am prepared to venture without too much hesitation, might be NO!

kṛtābhyanujñau (nom. dual): having gained assent; having been allowed
kṛta: mfn. done, accomplished, gained
abhyanujñā: f. assent , approval ; authorization , permission ; granting leave of absence , dismissing
abhy-anu- √ jñā: to assent to , approve , allow , permit , concede ; to authorize , direct ; to allow one to depart , dismiss
abhitaḥ: ind. near to , towards ; near , in the proximity or presence of (gen.)
tataḥ: ind. then, thence, from that

niṣīdatuḥ = 3rd pers. dual perf. ni-√sad: to sit or lie down or rest upon (loc.)
śākya-kula-dhvajasya (gen. sg. m.): the banner of the house of Śākya
śākya: mfn. derived or descended from the śakas ; m. N. of a tribe of landowners and kṣatriyas in kapila-vastu (from whom gautama , the founder of Buddhism , was descended) ; m. N. of gautama buddha himself ; m. of his father śuddhodana (son of saṁjaya)
kula: n. a race , family , community , tribe , caste , set , company ; a house , abode ; a noble or eminent family or race
dhvaja: m. banner, flag, standard

virejatuḥ = 3rd pers. dual perf.
tasya (gen. sg.): his
ca: and
saṁnikarṣe (loc. sg.): m. drawing near or together , approximation , close contact , nearness , neighbourhood , proximity , vicinity (saṁnikarṣe , " in the vicinity of , near ")

punar-vasū (nom. dual): m. " restoring goods " , N. of the 5th or 7th lunar mansion RV. , &c (mostly du.)
punar: ind. back , home ; with √ dā , to give back , restore
vasu: n. wealth , goods , riches , property; n. gold
yoga-gatau = nom. dual m. yoga-gata: being in union, contained in the harness
yoga: m. the act of yoking , joining , attaching , harnessing , putting to (of horses) ; any junction , union ; application or concentration of the thoughts , abstract contemplation , meditation , (esp.) self-concentration , abstract meditation and mental abstraction practised as a system (as taught by patañjali and called the yoga philosophy ; it is the second of the two sāṁkhya systems , its chief aim being to teach the means by which the human spirit may attain complete union with īśvara or the Supreme Spirit ; in the practice of self-concentration it is closely connected with Buddhism)
gata: mfn. gone ; come to , approached , arrived at , being in , situated in , contained in (acc. or loc. or in comp; gone to any state or condition ; m. (in astron.) conjunction , lucky conjuncture ; a constellation , asterism (these , with the moon , are called cāndra-yogāḥ and are 13 in number ; without the moon they are called kha-yogāḥ , or nābhasa-yogāḥ) ; the leading or principal star of a lunar asterism
yoga-gati: f. state of union , the being united together
iva: like
indoḥ = gen. sg. indu: m. ( probably fr. ind = √ und , " to drop " and cf. índra ), Ved. a drop (especially of soma) , soma ; a bright drop , a spark ; the moon
ind: perhaps = √und , " to drop? " (the meaning " to be powerful " seems to be given by native lexicographers merely for the etymology of the word indra q.v.)

王子亦隨敬 王師及大臣
如帝釋安慰 儵迦央耆羅
即命彼二人 坐於王子前
如富那婆藪 兩星侍月傍