Thursday, January 30, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.15: Dharma and Me

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (ddhi)
tad-ehi dharma-priya mat-priyārthaṁ dharmārtham-eva tyaja buddhim-etām |
ayaṁ hi mā śoka-rayaḥ pravddho nadī-rayaḥ kūlam-ivābhihanti || 9.15

So come back, you who holds dharma dear,
because of what is dear to me.

For no reason but dharma itself, abandon this idea of yours.

For this swollen stream of sorrow eats away at me

As the flow of a river eats away its bank.

The Judeo-Christian-Muslim God is a jealous god who loves His chosen people, and I would not give Him the steam off of my piss.

My Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima used to say, “Dharma is Dharma. God is God. But we can say that Dharma is God, and God is Dharma. And by this compromise we can save all human beings in the world.”

My teacher was talking through his arse. He was not expressing the truth but was only expressing his own grandiose delusions about his (and his students') place in world history. These delusions, in turn, stemmed from his experience as a member of Japan's post-war ruling elite. He saw humankind as like the Japanese society of his era, as being amenable to top-down arrangement by the hand of an enlightened arranger.

(In the mid-1980s when we had this “God is Dharma” conversation, Japan had enjoyed 40 years of rapid post-war growth and was just beginning to enter the bubble that popped in 1990-91, since when the “Japan as Number One” arguments have tended to subside.)

The dharma as the Buddha taught is, is a totally different conception from God, and a totally different reality, whose direction is towards the abandonment of all ideas and all views, but particularly the sectarian belief that "we are right." 

In Japan I learned the recitation
“Namas! I take refuge in the Law.” 
But something here is lost – or rather added – in translation.

The original Pali, 
dharmam saranam gacchāmi, 
or the original Sanskrit 
dharmaṁ śaranaṁ gacchāmi, 
is to my ears less religious and more practical, better fitted to what George Soros calls “harsh reality.” 
dharmaṁ śaranaṁ gacchāmi
the operative word is gacchāmi, “I go” 
– I go to dharma as a place of refuge.

When I go to dharma as a place of refuge, dharma quite literally could not care two hoots. Dharma does not embrace me like the proverbial prodigal son returning. Dharma is not interested in me at all. That's why I go to dharma as a place of refuge. Dharma is free of all emotional entanglement with me.

And so I go to dharma. Literally, when my cold relents and I am able to get out of bed, I go. I walk. I go downstairs and sit, and I come back upstairs and work on this blog.

Now I need to try and explain how the above thoughts were stimulated by today's verse.

On the surface, King Śuddhodana is expressing a conception of dharma akin to the kind of conceptions that Jewish settlers have of their God, or bigoted Catholics have of their God, or Shi-ite and Sunni holy warriors have of their God. Such a God cares what a person is prepared to do, what sacrifices a person is prepared to make, for His Sake.

That being so, dharmārtham eva in the 1st and 2nd pādas of today's verse seems on the surface to mean “for the sake of Dharma” as if Dharma might somehow stand to benefit. King Śuddhodana seems to be discussing the kind of dharma that loves to be served. This sense is brought out more in the translations of EHJ and PO, than in the translation of EBC (who translated dharma as "duty"), hence:

Come, thou who lovest duty, for the sake of what is my heart's desire, — abandon this purpose for the sake of duty. (EBC)

Therefore come, lover of dharma, to do me a favour, and give up this purpose for the very sake of dharma. (EHJ)

So, for the love of me, come back, lover of dharma, for the sake of dharma itself, give up this plan. (PO)

On the surface, King Śuddhodana is making everything personal, all about me and a personal Dharma. But below the surface, aided by the ambiguity of artham and priya, a king of dharma is subverting that very personality view.

Thus, as as an expression of King Śuddhodana's personality view:
  • dharma-priya means “O you who is dharma's beloved!” – as if dharma had favourite sons.
  • mat-priyārtham means (as per EHJ) “to do me a favour” or (as per PO) “for the love of me.”
  • dharmārtham eva means (as per EHJ) “for the very sake of dharma” or (as per PO) “for the sake of dharma itself.”

But as a king of dharma's ironic subversion of the personality view:
  • dharma-priya means (as per EHJ/PO) “lover of dharma” or “you who is devoted to dharma” or “you who holds dharma dear.”
  • mat-priyārtham means “on account of what is dear to me”; in which case, “what is dear to me” means nothing personal. On the contrary, the dharma which is dear to me I go to as a place of refuge for the very reason that it is nothing personal.
  • dharmārtham eva means “on account of nothing other than dharma itself" or  "for no reason but dharma itself," in which case, dharmārtham eva is expressing the fundamental principle known in Chinese and Japanese as 祗管打坐 (SHIKAN-TAZA), “just sitting.”

Once the totally ironic sub-text of the first half of today's verse has been understood like this, the equally ironic sub-text of the second half of today's verse is readily apparent. Which is to say that on the surface King Śuddhodana, like a drama queen, is continuing to give voice to his personal suffering. But below the surface a king of dharma is describing how the stream which begins with the noble truth of suffering, when it is fully developed (pravṛddha), gradually (or momentarily?) brings about the abandonment of the personality view – or, in the traditional terminology of Chinese and Japanese Zen, the dropping off of body and mind.

tad: ind. then, therefore
ehi = 2nd pers. sg. imperative ā- √i: to come near or towards ; (with and without punar) to come back
dharma-priya (voc. sg.): O dharma's beloved! O lover of dharma! O one who holds dharma dear!
mat-priyārtham: for the sake of your love for me; for the love of me ; on account of what is dear to me ;
priya: mfn. beloved , dear to (gen. loc. dat. or comp.); fond of attached or devoted to (loc.; id. in comp. , either ibc. e.g. priya-devana , " fond of playing " , or ifc. e.g. akṣa-priya , " fond of dice ")

dharmārtham (acc. sg. n.): for dharma's sake ; on account of dharma
eva (emphatic)
tyaja = 2nd pers. sg. imperative tyaj: to abandon, quit, give up
buddhim (acc. sg.): f. mind ; idea; intention , purpose , design
etām (acc. sg. f.): this, this here

ayam (nom. sg. m.): I
hi: for
mā (acc. sg.): me
śoka-rayaḥ (nom. sg. m.): a current of sorrow
raya: m. ( √ rī) the stream of a river , current; impetuosity , vehemence , ardour , zeal
pravṛddhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. grown up , fully developed , increased , augmented , intense , vehement , great , numerous ; swollen, heaving

nadī-rayaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the current of a river
kūlam (acc. sg.): n. a shore, bank
iva: like
abhihanti = 3rd pers. sg. abhi- √ han: to thump at , strike , kill

汝若念法者 應當哀愍我
望寛遠遊情 以慰我懸心

勿令憂悲水 崩壞我心岸 

No comments: