Saturday, January 25, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.10: “Head Forward and Up” - It's Mutual

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bhadrā)
tāv-arcayām-āsatur-arhatas-taṁ divīva śukrāṅgirasau mahendram |
pratyarcayām-āsa sa cārhatas-tau divīva śukrāṅgirasau mahendraḥ || 9.10

The two fittingly honoured him,

As in heaven 'Shining' Śukra and Āṅgirasa 
caused great Indra to shine;

And he in return fittingly honoured those two,

As in heaven great Indra caused Śukra and Āṅgirasa to shine.

The compound śukrāṅgirasau could be the dual form (either nominative or accusative) of
1. śukra + aṅgiras (as per EBC's translation).
2. śukra + āṅgirasa (as per the translations of EHJ and PO).
In the latter case, āṅgirasa means the son or descendant of Aṅgiras, who EHJ took to mean Bṛhas-pati.

Hence EBC translated Śukra and Aṅgiras
EHJ, Śukra and the son of Aṅgiras
and PO, Śukra and Āṅgirasa.

EHJ added in a footnote that Śukra and Āṅgirasa (Bṛhaspati)... are always mentioned together as the gurus of the gods and as authors of the first political treatises; cp. BC1.41 and SN1.4 [see below]. The comparison suggests that the poet looked on Śukra as the minister of the gods. I can find no exact parallel; the Mahā Bharata knows of Indra's honourable treatment of Bṛhaspati, but Śukra does not seem to be joined with him in that.
That science of kingship which Bhṛgu and Aṅgiras, those two lineage-founding seers, failed to formulate, / Was created in the course of time, O Gentle Sir!, by their sons Śukra and Bṛhas-pati. //BC1.41//
In high-mindedness, he was like a second Dīrgha-tapas; / And he was like a third in the mould of Kāvya and Āṅgirasa, in religious thought. // SN1.4 //

Simply thinking, today's verse is all about mutual respect; and googling "mutual respect" led me right back, in a strange coincidence, to the speech by President Eisenhower that I referred to in my comment of 15th January.

In his farewell address to the nation, Eisenhower referred three times to the principle of mutual respect/honour:
Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.
Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative.
To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America's prayerful and continuing aspiration: We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love. Now, on Friday noon, I am to become a private citizen. I am proud to do so. I look forward to it. Thank you, and good night.
The two fittingly honoured him,

As in heaven Śukra and Āṅgirasa honoured Indra;

And he in return fittingly honoured those two,

As in heaven great Indra honoured Śukra and Āṅgirasa.

Understood like this, as a simple pointer to the principle that what goes around comes around, today's verse could thus  serve as a stimulus for outraged pontification on such matters as America's spying on the likes of Angela Merkel, or – in another affront to Germany – America's “leasing out” of German gold that the Bundesbank thought was being held by the US Federal Reserve for safe keeping.

Thus last night I sat and pondered a while about how America has strayed from its own stated ideals... but, I asked myself, after a while, what has that got to do with me, as I sit here, here and now? I mean, it is not that I, perfect saint that I am, have ever strayed from my own stated ideals, is it?

Setting that question aside, and not being tempted by further discussion of the mirror principle, what was the connection between this sitting and today's verse. There didn't seem to be any connection... and yet there always is.

The verse as I had provisionally translated it was evidently expressing the principle of mutual respect... but how might it be saying anything, below the surface, about the principle of sitting in silence, in which the point is not for subject to honour or respect object, but the point is rather to drop off subject and object and naturally become one piece?

The answer, once I had made some time and space in which to drop the question, was readily forthcoming. The root arc, before it means to honour, means to shine or to be brilliant.

Once that is understood, today's verse manifests itself as an expression very close to Dogen's famous description of sitting as a backward step of turning one's light and letting it shine (EKO-HENSHO NO TAIHO).

Once that is seen, the relevance of Śukra's name readily becomes apparent, because the meaning of śukra is bright or resplendent, from the root śuc, to shine, flame, glow. As such, Śukra, 'The Shining One' is a name of Agni, the god of fire.

And Agni, the MW dictionary indicates, is regarded as the chief son of Aṅgiras. So Śukra (“the Shining One”) and Āṅgirasa ("son of Aṅgiras") can be understood to be two names for one person – much like "the body" and "the mind" that we are required to drop off by learning the backward step of turning our light and letting it shine.

Finally, having slept on the above and reflected on it, I would like to return once more to the canto title kumārānveṣaṇaḥ which, as discussed in comments to BC9.2 and BC9.6, ostensibly means “The Seeking of the Prince.” The title ostensibly expresses, in other words, Śuddhodana's two emissaries' search for the heir to the King's realm. On the surface kumārānveṣaṇaḥ, “Seeking the Prince,” thus includes a sense of political motivation and some connection with weighty matters of geopolitics, like NSA spying and the role of gold in the New Great Game. Because after all, the work of a prince, at least in Aśvaghoṣa's day, was to learn statecraft, to forge alliances, to defeat enemies, and generally to bestride the world stage playing power games. 

But if we read today's verse as encouraging us, below the surface, in learning of the backward step of turning our light and letting it shine, then kumārānveṣaṇaḥ in that light means something totally different, nay, opposite. It might mean, for example, “The Investigation of a Child.” And “The Investigation of a Child” might mean nothing too complicated or geopolitically momentous, but very simple inquiry – like for example coming back to one's chosen mantra – and noticing how the thinking of that mantra influences, for good or for ill, the working of one's respiratory mechanism. Coming back to one's chosen mantra means, literally, coming back to an instrument of thought – an instrument like, for example, in my book, the words “head FORWARD and UP.”

tau (nom. dual): those two
arcayām āsatur = 3rd pers. dual periphrastic causative perfect arc: to cause to shine ; to honour or treat with respect
arhataḥ: ind. fittingly
arha: mfn. meriting , deserving; becoming , proper , fit
-taḥ: ablative/adverbial suffix
tam (acc. sg. m.): him

divi (loc. sg.): in heaven
iva: like
śukrāṅgirasau (nom. dual): Śukra and Aṅgiras
śukra: mfn. (fr. √1. śuc) bright , resplendent; m. N. of agni or fire
aṅgiras: m. N. of a ṛṣi , author of the hymns of RV. ix, of a code of laws , and of a treatise on astronomy; he is considered as one of the seven ṛṣis of the first manvantara. Among his sons , the chief is agni , others are saṁvarta , utathya , and bṛhaspati ; N. of agni
āṅgirasa: m. a descendant of aṅgiras ; m. especially N. of bṛhaspati
mahendram (acc. sg. m.): great Indra ; a great chief or leader

pratyarcayām āsa = 3rd pers. sg. periphrastic causative perf. praty- √ arc: to greet in return or one by one
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
ca: and
arhataḥ: ind. fittingly
tau (acc. dual): those two

divi (loc. sg.): in heaven
iva: like
śukrāṅgirasau (acc. dual): Śukra and Aṅgiras
mahendraḥ (nom. sg. m.): great Indra

各隨其本儀 恭敬禮問訊 
猶如儵迦羅 及與央耆羅
盡心加恭敬 奉事天帝釋

No comments: