vibhor-daśa-kṣatra-ktaḥ prajāpateḥ parāpara-jñasya vivasvad-ātmanaḥ |
priyeṇa putreṇa satā vinā-ktaṁ kathaṁ na muhyed-dhi mano manor-api || 8.78
For, though Manu is the mighty lord of living creatures,
maker of ten dominions,
Knower of former and latter things, son of the shining Sun,
When dispossessed of a beloved true son,
How could the mind of even Manu not be bewildered?
True is a direction. Anybody can observe it for free simply by letting an object dangle freely on the end of a piece of string, like a plumb bob.
Understood in that light, the truth is not an object to be realized by doing something, like eating a sandwich or lifting a weight. The truth might be a direction that one points oneself in, like up, and keeps on going.
What that direction is in myself I cannot feel. My feeling as to what is true is unreliable (though my antennae may have become more sensitive over the years to what is not true). Because my feeling in regard to true is unreliable, seeking the truth as if it were an object in my grasp, relying on unreliable feelings, is a path to bewilderment.
The above reflection was stimulated by today's verse, which contains the words satā (being true) and mudhyet (might be bewildered); at the same time, the above reflection was stimulated by an hour of sitting in lotus just now, asking myself where is up.
My Zen teacher, Gudo Nishijima, was a very sincere man and in some senses a true Zen patriarch. When I stated in a post a few days ago that his teaching did me fuck all good, I was possibly overstating my case. The fact remains, however, that right at the very centre of his teaching was the instruction to keep the spine straight vertically. But when push came to shove – as push literally did come to shove when Gudo “corrected” his students' postures, shoving our chins backwards – what Gudo thought and felt was true, was not that direction which truly is up; it was just pure downward doing. The direction that Gudo believed to be up was in fact down – a cruel and unintended irony.
In 1909, five years before WWI became A Terrible Reality, an English journalist wrote a best-selling book explaining how the prospect of a long drawn-out war between the world powers was not realistic. In a cruel and unintended irony, he called that prospect, and he called his book, The Great Illusion.
More of that later, but to come back first to the description of Manu in today's verse, EBC asks in a footnote:
Does this refer to his loosing his son Sudyumna, who was changed to a woman, Viṣṇu Pur, IV, I?
EHJ adds in a note of his own:
I can find no reference to Manu's grief for a lost son and presume from the optative that the case stated is purely suppositious. Manu's ten sons, or nine sons and a daughter, founded ten lines of kings. cp. especially Harivaṁśa, 633, also 433.
Exactly thinking, what is being described in today's verse is not Manu's loss of his son, but rather Manu's mind being in some sense dispossessed of a son.
That is to say, the second half of today's verse describes Manu's mind (mano manor) as being separated from, or being rendered void of, or being left destitute of, or being dispossessed of (vinā-kṛtam) a beloved son (priyeṇa putreṇa) who is real or true or good (satā).
The 4th pāda is a rhetorical question, but the inference seems to me to be that if the mind of even mighty Manu would be bewildered when no longer able to commune with a true son, how much more is the mind of us who are not mighty as Manu liable to be bewildered?
And that inference resonates loud and clear with my own actual experience – as touched on in the “About Me” section of this blog – of being left somewhat bewildered by the actions and teaching of a Zen patriarch, i.e., a true son, whose instruction in the matter of what was true, as described above, turned out, in a cruel and unintended irony, not to be true at all.
We naturally tend to think of the Zen patriarch Aśvaghoṣa as a beloved true ancestor, like a father or grandfather. But if he was indeed a true Zen patriarch, then before he was anything else he was first and foremost another Zen patriarch's beloved true son.
So I am confident that, in endeavouring to serve Aśvaghoṣa by this translation, I am endeavouring to serve a true son – because every Zen patriarch, in spite of the name, is invariably a son or daughter before being a father or mother or grandfather or grandmother.
And this confidence of which I speak, of serving somebody's true son, serves me, when I wake up in the middle of the night in a state of worry and self-doubt, as a kind of antidote to further bewilderment.
Speaking of bewilderment, I put forth a lot of mental effort in the course of 2013 seeking to glean at least a little bit of understanding of what drives the price of gold up or – as was generally the case in 2013 – down. If I went into 2013 with a kind of delusory conception, rooted in study many years ago of classical economics, that what governed the price of gold was basically supply and demand, I enter 2014 having allowed myself to be disabused of that view the hard way. I have become convinced instead that what has been governing the price of gold in 2013, as described in this piece, is a big US bank named JP Morgan.
Why the manipulation has been allowed to happen by the authorities; and why – despite a precious metals commentator like Ted Butler clearly explaining the mechanics of how the manipulation happens – a magazine like The Economist which I read every week never runs any stories on the allegations of price manipulation, continues to be bewildering.
One explanation is, in George Orwell's words, that "The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it."
Educated opinion seems to see talk of manipulation of the gold price as belonging to “gold bugs” on the lunatic fringe. If educated opinion is correct, that must be what I am – a gold bug on the lunatic fringe.
Gold bugs, as a rule, do not put their trust in governments. So it was that my attention was drawn, on a gold bug website, to this essay, titled The Rhyme of History, which draws parallels between the state of the world in 1914 and the state of the world now. The essay concludes by cautioning against what may happen if government leaders fail, as they failed in 1914, “to work together to build a stable international order.”
One particular passage of the essay caught my eye, and seemed worthy of reproducing here, since the passage describes a cruel and unintended irony; and Aśvaghoṣa's writing, as I have argued many times on this blog, cannot be appreciated without a developed sense of irony in its many forms – verbal, dramatic, and cosmic.
The growth of international law, the Hague disarmament conferences of 1899 and 1907, and the increasing use of arbitration between nations lulled Europeans into the comforting belief that they had moved beyond savagery. The fact that there had been an extraordinary period of general peace since 1815, when the Napoleonic wars ended, further reinforced this illusion, as did the idea that the interdependence of the countries of the world was so great that they could never afford to go to war again. This was the argument made by Norman Angell, a small, frail, and intense Englishman who had knocked around the world as everything from a pig farmer to a cowboy in the American West before he found his calling as a popular journalist. National economies were bound so tightly together, he maintained in his book, The Great Illusion, that war, far from profiting anyone, would ruin everyone. Moreover, in a view widely shared by bankers and economists at the time, a large-scale war could not last very long because there would be no way of paying for it (though we now know that societies have, when they choose, huge resources they can tap for destructive purposes). A sensational best-seller after it was published in Britain in 1909 and in the United States the following year, its title—meant to make the point that it was an illusion to believe there was anything to be gained by taking up arms—took on a cruel and unintended irony only a few short years later.
"The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." And, the example of Norman Angell seems to demonstrate, the more accepting society will be of the views of those who turn the truth into its opposite.
A beloved Dharma-loving son in China truly said, to paraphrase: “Don't be bewildered. Mountains are mountains.” And market manipulation is market manipulation. And a downward direction, even when transmitted by the hand of a Zen patriarch who was the beloved son of a previous Zen patriarch, is a downward direction.
vibhoḥ (gen. sg. m.): mfn. being everywhere , far-extending , all-pervading , omnipresent , eternal ; mighty , powerful ; m. a lord , ruler , sovereign , king (also applied to brahmā , viṣṇu , and śiva) ; m. name of indra under manu raivata and under the 7th manu
daśa-kṣatra-kṛtaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the maker of the ten dominions
kṣatra: n. sg. and pl. dominion ; sg. and pl. government ; the military or reigning order (the members of which in the earliest times , as represented by the Vedic hymns , were generally called rājanya , not kṣatriya); a member of the military or second order or caste , warrior
prajā-pateḥ (gen. sg.): m. " lord of creatures " , N. of savitṛ , soma , agni , indra &c
parāpara-jñasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. knowing what is remote and proximate &c
para: mfn. far , distant ; previous (in time) , former
apara: mfn. posterior , later , latter
jña: mfn. knowing
vivasvad-ātmanaḥ (gen. sg. m.): the son of Vivasvat; son of the sun
vivasvat: mfn. shining forth , diffusing light , matutinal (applied to uṣas agni &c); m. " the Brilliant one " , N. of the Sun (sometimes regarded as one of the eight ādityas or sons of aditi , his father being kaśyapa ; elsewhere he is said to be a son of dākṣāyaṇī and kaśyapa ; in epic poetry he is held to be the father of manu vaivasvata or , according to another legend , of manu sāvarṇi by sa-varṇā ; in RV. x , 17 , 1 he is described as the father of yama vaivasvata , and in RV. x , 17 , 2 as father of the aśvins by saraṇyū , and elsewhere as father of both yama and yamī , and therefore a kind of parent of the human race); m. of the seventh or present manu (more properly called vaivasvata , as son of vivasvat)
ātman: m. the soul, self; a son
priyeṇa (inst. sg. m.): mfn. beloved, dear
putreṇa (inst. sg.): m. son
satā (inst. sg. m.): mfn. real , actual , as any one or anything ought to be , true , good , right
vinā-kṛtam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. " made without " , deprived or bereft of , separated from , left or relinquished by , lacking , destitute of , free from (instr.)
katham: ind. how?
muhyet = 3rd pers. sg. optative muh: to become stupefied or unconscious , be bewildered or perplexed , err , be mistaken , go astray ; to become confused , fail ,
manaḥ (nom. sg.): n. mind
manoḥ (gen. sg.): m. Manu