api ca niyata eṣa tasya bhāvaḥ smara vacanaṁ tad-ṣeḥ purāsitasya |
na hi sa divi na cakra-varti-rājye kṣaṇam-api vāsayituṁ sukhena śakyaḥ || 8.84
Moreover, this orientation of mind was predestined in him –
Remember those words long ago of the seer Asita,
'the Not White One.'
'the Not White One.'
For neither in heaven nor in the domain of a wheel-rolling king
Could he, even for a moment, be made happily to dwell.
What the combined voice of knowledge and experience is saying in the 1st pāda of today's verse is something about the pre-set orientation of the prince's mind – which, since the prince was a normal human being, is the pre-set orientation of everybody's mind.
Read like that the progression from yesterday's verse, which contained the injunction to come back to constancy, is perfectly logical. It is the logic of all living beings being without the buddha-nature.
In the 2nd pāda, as in BC Canto 1, Asita being called “the Not White One” seems to me to have meaning. Asita long ago was also speaking from chequered experience, not as the voice of immaculate innocence.
In the second half of today's verse, as I read it, the key words are hi (“for”), which points us towards the logical progression mentioned above; and the causative vāsayitum, to be made to dwell.
The suggestion is that to seek happiness, or to seek the truth – to seek nirvāṇa, let's say – is in accordance, as it were, with our factory settings. That being so, it is not a question of parking our backsides on a round black cushion for the purpose of writing some new software to make something happen. It is more a question of truly not doing anything, and thereby allowing to assert itself an orientation of the mind, or a direction, that is hard-wired, or preordained.
Nearly 30 years ago during a conversation over a cup of green tea during a sitting retreat (call it a “mondo” session, if you like, you arsehole), my teacher Gudo Nishijima said to me emphatically “We are not monks. We are not lay people. We are something ineffable.”
That was one of his better moments. This was in the days before he became authorized within the Soto Sect hierarchy to wear a big hat and conduct “ordination” ceremonies to make people into celibate or non-celibate “monks.”
Later in his life, Gudo seemed to discriminate between two kinds of people who he called “Ven.” and “Mr.” – both titles ostensibly being terms of respect, but the latter, as I sensed it, really being used in a particular context as a term of disrespect, a slight. The criterion seemed to be whether a student or correspondent accepted Gudo's “True Buddhism” as the ultimate truth or not. This pettiness may have been a symptom of creeping dementia. At the same time, it was, as I saw it, a later manifestation of something subtly present in Gudo (a homeopathic dose?) that stimulated very strong anger in me from about 1986 onwards – via, inevitably, the mirror principle. Something was evidently not quite true, not 100% pure, not totally white, in a little space in the universe, at least, in which I wanted to see absolute perfection.
Nowadays if you ask me whether or not I am ordained, I am liable to tell you to fuck off – certainly in my heart, if not in so many words. But a gentler answer, suggested by today's verse, might be that I am pre-ordained, as is everybody else on this planet.
api ca: (at beginning of sentence) moreover
niyataḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. fastened ; fixed , established , settled , sure , regular , invariable , positive , definite
eṣa (nom. sg. m.): this
tasya (gen. sg. m.): his
bhāvaḥ (nom. sg.): m. becoming , being ; state , condition , rank; any state of mind or body , way of thinking or feeling , sentiment , opinion , disposition , intention ; the seat of the feelings or affections , heart , soul , mind
smara = 2nd pers. sg. imp. smṛ: to remember, be mindful of
vacanam (acc. sg.): n. the act of speaking , utterance ; sentence, word
tat (acc. sg. n.): that
ṛṣeḥ (gen. sg.): m. seer
purā: ind. before , formerly , of old
asitasya (gen. sg.): m. 'the non-white one'; Asita
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
divi (loc. sg.): f. in later Skr. heaven , the sky
cakra-varti-rājye (loc. sg.):
cakra-vartin: mfn. rolling everywhere without obstruction ; m. a ruler the wheels of whose chariot roll everywhere without obstruction , emperor , sovereign of the world , ruler of a cakra (or country described as extending from sea to sea ; 12 princes beginning with bharata are esp. considered as cakravartins)
rājya: n. royalty , kingship , sovereignty , empire ; kingdom, realm
kṣaṇam: ind (acc.): for a moment
vāsayitum = inf. causative vas: to dwell
sukhena: ind. (inst.) easily , comfortably , pleasantly , joyfully , willingly
śakyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. capable of being (with inf. in pass. sense )