Tuesday, January 28, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.13: Exhortation to Pay Attention and Listen Well

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Sālā)
tvac-choka-śalye hdayāvagāḍhe mohaṁ gato bhūmi-tale muhūrtam |
kumāra rājā nayanāmbu-varṣo yat-tvām-avocat-tad-idaṁ nibodha || 9.13

“Learn of the moment when a king, 
losing consciousness, is on the ground,

The arrow of your sorrow having penetrated his core –

To these words which the king, O child!, his eyes raining tears,

Said to you, listen well:

The seventeen verses from today's verse to BC9.29 are spoken by the voice of experience, the veteran priest, the puro-hita (lit. “one placed before”). Perhaps the sense of his seniority (as also the seniority of the king) is highlighted by the vocative kumāra, which – as in the Canto title – means prince, or young one, child. 

The veteran priest and the knowing counsellor seem to be intended to represent a duality, a double-act – maybe experience and reason? – and the suggestion seems to be, so far, that the veteran priest takes precedence.

The grammar of today's verse, and of muhūrtam (a moment) in particular, was not immediately apparent to me, but in the end I have taken the imperative nibodha as having two objects – 1. muḥurtam ([learn of] the moment) and 2. idam ([listen well to] this, these words).

EBC translated muhūrtam with nibodha:
‘O prince, consider for a moment what the king with his eyes raining tears said to thee, as he lay fainting on the ground with the arrow of thy sorrow plunged into his heart.

EHJ took muhūrtam with mohaṁ gataḥ:
“Listen, Prince, to this that the king said to you, with his eyes raining tears, when he was stupefied for a moment on the ground with the dart of grief for you plunged into his heart.”

PO apparently took mohaṁ gato bhūmi-tale muhūrtam to mean “fell on the ground for a moment”:
“The king fell on the ground for a moment, his heart struck by the dart of grief for you: Listen, prince, to what the king said to you, as streams of tears kept flowing from his eyes.” 

Ostensibly, however we read muhūrtam, the gist of today's verse is simply to emphasize the depth of King Śuddhodana's emotion.

But if we wish to understand today's verse as another needle for sitting-meditation, then nibodha muhūrtam, “Attend to the moment,” may indeed be words by which a veteran priest invariably addresses one who is young.

Going further down this line of inquiry, might a king losing consciousness on the ground describe, for example, the sitting-meditation of the 14th Zen patriarch Nāgārjuna – a patriarch who, to us, is a very old one, but who to Aśvaghoṣa was not even yet a twinkle in Kapimala's eye? And when Nāgārjuna wrote of the dharma that Gautama taught being directed towards the abandonment of all views (sarva-dṛṣṭi-prahāṇāya), was that evidence of Nāgārjuna having been penetrated to the core by the arrow of Śakyamuni's sorrow? Was that expression, in other words, evidence of Nāgārjuna having been penetrated to the core by the arrow of Aśvaghoṣa's sorrow?

In the 3rd pāda,  the juxtaposition of kumāra and rājā seems designed to draw our attention. Is Aśvaghoṣa's intention to cause us to consider whether a prince can be old and a king young? 

When a veteran priest speaking with the voice of experience addresses a prince as "you, child" how can the arrow of your sorrow cause an old king to lose consciousness on the ground? Somehow something does not add up. Something does not tally with our everyday experience of precedence, or of former and latter, or of three times  past, present, and future. 

Amidst any confusion that Aśvaghoṣa has thus seemed to generate, a way out may also have been provided, in the imperative nibodha muhūrtam, “Attend to the moment." 

tvac-choka-śalye (loc. sg.): the arrow of grief for you
hṛdayāvagāḍhe (loc. sg.): plunged into his heart
hṛdaya: n. the heart (or region of the heart as the seat of feelings and sensations ; hṛdaye- √kṛ , " to take to heart ") , soul , mind (as the seat of mental operations); the heart or centre or core
avagāḍha: mfn. immersed , bathed , plunged into (acc. ; loc.)

moham (acc. sg.): m. loss of consciousness , bewilderment , perplexity , distraction , infatuation , delusion , error , folly ; fainting , stupefaction , a swoon ; (with Buddhists) ignorance (one of the three roots of vice )
gataḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. gone into any state
bhūmi-tale (loc. sg.): n. the surface of the earth , the ground
muhūrtam (acc. sg.): m. n. a moment , instant , any short space of time

kumāra (voc. sg.): O prince!
rājā (nom. sg.): m. the king
nayanāmbu-varṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): raining tears
nayana: n. eye
ambu: n. water
varṣa: mfn. (fr. √ vṛṣ) raining

yad (acc. sg. n.): [that] which
tvām (acc. sg.): m. to you
avocat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist vac: to speak , say , tell , utter , announce , declare , mention , proclaim , recite , describe (with acc. with or without prati dat. or gen. of pers. , and acc. of thing ; often with double acc. e.g. tam idaṁ vākyam uvāca , " he spoke this speech to him ")
tad (acc. sg. n.): that
idam (acc. sg. n.): this
nibodha = 2nd pers. sg. imperative ni- √ budh: to learn or hear anything (acc.) from any one ; to attend or listen to (esp. Impv. nibodha) ; to know , understand

父王念太子 如利刺貫心
荒迷發狂亂 臥於塵土中

日夜増悲思 流涙常如雨 

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