Friday, January 10, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 8.83: Coming Back to Constancy

⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑⏑⏑−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Puṣpitāgrā
tyaja nara-vara śokam-ehi dhairyaṁ ku-dhtir-ivārhasi dhīra nāśru moktum |
srajam-iva mditām-apāsya lakṣmīṁ bhuvi bahavo hi n-pā vanāny-atīyuḥ || 8.83

“Abandon sorrow, O best of men, and come back to constancy;

You should not shed tears, O stout soul, like a man who lacked grit.

For, flinging away their fortune like a crushed garland,

Many rulers of men on this earth have gone into the forests.

Even if the intention behind them is to give a real person's voice to the noble truth of suffering, lamentations of drama queens and drama kings are hard to listen to for too long.

That being so, today's verse is music to the ear. It is easy not only on the ear but also on the intellectual faculties, since the gist of today's verse is what it says on the tin.

The 1st pāda, in particular, as I read it, expresses the essential practical instruction for sitting-meditation practice.

If the virtue of dhairyam, firmness, constancy, fortitude, is the idealistic thesis, the description in BC8.81 can be read as a description of the anti-thesis, throwing away constancy (vihāya dhairyam); and now comes the practical synthesis, in the injunction to come back to constancy (ehi dhairyam). 

In this practical imperative, the operative word might be the  ā  of  ā-√i, to come back, to come again to.

The ehi (come back to), as I read it, expresses the difference in approach between practice that aims at being something special, like an enlightened being, and practice whose aim is simply to come back to balance, allowing oneself to be what one originally is.

I am not at all impressed when people use Japanese Zen words, especially ones of dubious derivation that Dogen never used – the so-called sesshin (or “intensive Zen retreat”) being a prime example....

And as I begin another tirade along these lines, I am caused to reflect, via the mirror principle, that this kind of artificiality is much easier for me to see in others than it is to see in myself.

If I see it at all, how come?

Maybe the answer, following on from the thoughts expressed yesterday, is that I begin to see it  
(a) as a result of being informed, via teaching that requires me to listen, and to practice a certain discipline; but mainly
(b) as a result of getting older.

Having seen it, what is the right direction to go in?

The right direction to go in might be the direction that follows the decision to give up all idea of being firm, or constant, or right.

Understanding without experience, like a junior doctor making big decisions in a hospital, or like a new M.B.A in charge of a trading desk, might be dangerous. So might experience without understanding be life-threatening and potentially disastrous, like an old Zen Master pulling and pushing here and there on the basis of an un-abandoned view on “correct posture.”

In today's verse, in summary, understanding and experience, experience and understanding, are speaking with one voice, saying “Come back to constancy” and, moreover, “Don't be such a wimp.”

tyaja = 2nd pers. sg. imp. tyaj: to leave , abandon , quit ; to let go, dismiss; to give up , surrender , resign , part from , renounce ; to shun , avoid , get rid of , free one's self from (any passion &c ); to set aside , leave unnoticed , disregard
nara-vara (voc. sg.): O best of men
vara: " select " , choicest , valuable , precious , best , most excellent or eminent among (gen. loc. abl. , or comp.)
śokam (acc. sg.): m. sorrow , affliction , anguish , grief
ehi = 2nd pers. sg. imp. ā- √i: to come near or towards , go near , approach ; (with and without punar) to come back , come again to ; to reach , attain , enter , come into (a state or position)
dhairyam (acc. sg.): n. firmness, constancy, fortitude

ku-dhtiḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. one who has little or no control over himself, Bcar.
ku-: a prefix implying deterioration , depreciation , deficiency , want , littleness , hindrance , reproach , contempt , guilt
dhti: f. holding , seizing , keeping , supporting , firmness , constancy , resolution , will , command
iva: like
arhasi (2nd pers. sg. arh): you ought, please do
dhīra (voc. sg.): mfn. steady , constant , firm , resolute , brave , energetic , courageous , self-possessed , composed , calm , grave
na: not
aśru (acc. sg.): n. tears
moktum = inf. muc: to shed, release

srajam (acc. sg.): f. a wreath of flowers , garland , chaplet worn on the head , any wreath or garland
iva: like
mṛditām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. pressed , squeezed , crushed , broken , trampled down , laid waste
apāsya = abs. apa √as: to fling away , throw away or off , discard ; to disregard
lakṣmīm (acc. sg.): f. a good sign , good fortune , prosperity , success , happiness (also pl.) ; wealth , riches

bhuvi (loc. sg.): f. the earth
bahavaḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. many
hi: for
nṛ-pāḥ (nom. sg. m.): protectors of men, kings
vanāni (acc. pl.): n. woods
atīyuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. ati-√i: to pass by , elapse , pass over , overflow ; to pass through; to enter

願自寛情念 勿以憂自傷
古昔諸勝王 棄國如散花 

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