Monday, January 13, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 8.86: Not Going to Quiet

⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑⏑⏑−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Puṣpitāgrā
nara-patir-atha tau śaśāsa tasmād-drutam-ita eva yuvām-abhiprayātam |
na hi mama hdayaṁ prayāti śāntiṁ vana-śakuner-iva putra-lālasasya || 8.86

“On those grounds,” the lord of men then ordered them,

“Go quickly you two to battle, starting right here;

For my heart no more goes to quiet,

Than does the heart of a bird of the forest
when it longs for a missing nestling.”

In the 1st pāda, EBC appeared to take tasmād with atha to mean “then;” or else he omitted to translate it. 

Then the king commanded them both, ‘Do you both go quickly hence...' (EBC)

I have followed EHJ in taking tasmād as the first word of the king's order –

Thereon the king ordered them, “Therefore do you two set out speedily from this very spot...”

The real meaning of tasmād (“on those grounds” or “on that basis”), as I read today's verse, is on the grounds discussed in the comments to yesterday's verse – on the grounds of the need to make effort in order not to be a slave to fate. On the grounds of being required somehow or other to clamber onto that plane of being that FM Alexander called “constructive conscious control of the individual.”

When the 2nd pāda is read in this light, the emphatic eva in drutam-ita eva (quickly, starting right here) is emphasizing the fact that effort to turn things around cannot be made five minutes hence, any more than it can be made five minutes ago.

In the 3rd pāda I would like to connect na prayāti śāntim (lit. “does not go to quiet” or “does not advance towards quiet”) with the ehi dhairyam (“come back to constancy”) of BC8.83.

Ostensibly, King Śuddhodana is expressing his own anxiety by saying “my heart does not go to quiet,” but below the surface the words “the heart in me does not go to quiet” can be read as words a king of dharma might use to express a universal truth of the human condition, which is namely that nobody finds quiet or constancy out there. We find it, if we find it at all, by coming back to it, in here.

“Let the neck be free” advocated FM Alexander, for a start. Free of what? For a start, free of greed. That might be a good starting point. And, in light of the ultimate teaching of the Buddha on the night before he died, when he sang the praises of small desire, it might also be a good ending point.

Free, for another thing, of anger. In Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-do as I was taught it in Tokyo (and briefly in Okinawa), the first movement in a traditional form is always defensive. The training was never about starting fights or going around looking for trouble. And yet, though I gave up formal martial arts training long ago, still in my bones I feel a fighting spirit, and a hunger for justice, on a par with Jack Reacher. If you start a war with me, one way or another, I want to see you go down. The challenge, starting right here (ita eva), might be to allow the deliverance of just retribution in a way that is free of anger. 

In summary, and on further reflection, I think today's verse is designed to remind us that sitting-meditation is a kind of battle. And the battle, as described in detail in SN Canto 17, is not so much a battle positively to do something as it is a battle in the direction that Nāgārjuna called sarva-dṛṣṭi-prahāṇāya, towards the abandonment of all views. It is not so much a battle to go to quiet as it is a battle to come back to quiet.

nara-patiḥ (nom. sg.): m. lord of men, king
api: and , also , moreover , besides , assuredly , surely
atha: ind. and so, then
tau (acc. dual): those two
śaśāsa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. śās: to chastise , correct , censure , punish ; to restrain , control , rule , govern ; to direct , bid , order , command , enjoin , decree (with an inf. or a sentence followed by iti)
tasmāt: ind. from that, on that account , therefore

drutam: ind. quickly
itaḥ: from hence , hence
eva: (emphatic)
yuvām (nom. dual): you two
abhiprayātam = 2nd pers. dual imperative abhi-pra- √ yā: to come towards ; to set out , march off , go to battle

na: not
hi: for
mama (gen. sg.): my
hṛdayam (nom. sg.): n. heart
prayāti = 3rd pers. sg. pra √ yā: to go forth , set out , progress , advance towards or against ; to get into a partic. state or condition , enter , undergo , incur (acc.)
śāntim (acc. sg.): f. tranquillity , peace , quiet

vana-śakuneḥ (gen. sg.): m. a forest-bird
śakuni: m. a bird (esp. a large bird
iva: like
putra-lālasasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. devotedly fond of a son, Bcar.
putra: a son , child (also the young of an animal )
lālasa: mfn. (fr. Intens. of √ las, to shine) eagerly longing for , ardently desirous of , delighting or absorbed in , devoted or totally given up to (loc. or comp.)

王喜即答言 唯汝等速行
如舍君陀鳥 爲子空中旋
我今念太子 便悁心亦然 

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