Tuesday, January 21, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.6: Gold Below the Surface, Seeking Freedom

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
tau so 'bravīd-asti sa dīrgha-bāhuḥ prāptaḥ kumāro na tu nāvabuddhaḥ |
dharmo 'yam-āvartaka ity-avetya yātas-tv-arāābhimukho mumukṣuḥ || 9.6

The sage told them:
“Indeed! The young prince, he of long arms, did arrive,

But not as an unwitting youth.

On the contrary,
seeing that this dharma practised here
involves repeatedly coming back,

He set out towards Arāḍa, seeking freedom.”

The present canto, titled kumārānveṣaṇaḥ or “The Seeking of a Prince,” is ostensibly about two emissaries of King Śuddhodana seeking Prince Sarvārtha-siddha. But below the surface, since in the compound kumārānveṣaṇaḥ, kumāra could equally be the agent, as well as the object, of anveṣaṇa, Aśvaghoṣa might be intending to consider how and what the Prince was seeking, or how and what child mind seeks. Kumārānveṣaṇaḥ, then, could mean “The Prince's Search” or "A Child's Search" or “The Prince Seeking the Prince” or “A Prince Seeking a Prince” or even (since one meaning of kumāra is pure gold) “A Prince Seeking Pure Gold.”

In today's verse, at the ostensible level, the sagacious son of Bhṛgu is informing the two emissaries that the prince has moved on, heading for Arāḍa's place; and the reason the prince moved on was that he was dissatisfied with a dharma that was āvartaka (EHJ/PO: leading to rebirth), and so he went to Arāḍa with a view to “striving after emancipation” (MW dictionary definition of mumukṣu), or becoming free from the cycle of transmigration.

What Aśvaghoṣa's writing teaches us to do, however, in verse after verse after verse, is to look below the surface – or, to use a better metaphor, to dig below the surface. Spiritually thinking, Aśvaghoṣa teaches us to dig below the surface for that gold which is one's own real/royal nature. Not thinking spiritually, Aśvaghoṣa's teaching has encouraged me for one to dig below the surface and reconsider the practical utility of physical gold, that scarce natural resource, which really is gold – as opposed, for example, to a claim on gold such as the kind of money that central banks can create ad infinitum.

It is a strange irony that over the last five or so years of maintaining this blog titled Mining Aśvaghoṣa's Gold, seeking to understand what Aśvaghoṣa meant by gold has caused me to revisit what I studied, albeit sporadically, 35 years ago at Sheffield University, where I did a degree in Accounting & Financial Management. According to Linda Covill, Aśvaghoṣa used gold as metaphor for the liberated mind. Maybe so. But with a scepticism born of many painful years that followed a decision to eschew accountancy in favour of a bubble called “True Buddhism,” I think Aśvaghoṣa also understood that gold was gold – not only a symbol, but a real, beautiful metal, with unique chemical characteristics, which human beings since time immemorial have found convenient to use as money.

Money (or love of money), people (especially Christians) say, is the root of all evil. But it may be more accurate to observe that evil tends to be associated with the corruption of sound money – as in times of crisis, especially wartime, when governments have traditionally turned to the printing press.

Hyper-inflation, history suggests, is not generally conducive to human freedom. On the contrary, hyper-inflation tends to usher in political leaders like Adolf Hitler. And the hyper-inflation suffered by the Weimar Republic from 1921 onwards had been rooted, in its turn, in Germany's decision, when WWI broke out, to suspend the convertibility of its currency into gold.

On the surface, the United States of America, with her staunch ally the United Kingdom by her side, stands for freedom. But below the surface, I for one am convinced, our countries have been hijacked by bankers in whose interests central banks have intervened in one crisis after another over the past 20 years, resulting in the creation of a massive Money Bubble.

In a book thus appropriately titled The Money Bubble, James Turk describes how, at the heart of central bank anti-gold machinations, there is an accounting fraud whereby gold that central banks like the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England have leased out to banks like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan is still counted as an asset on the central bank's balance-sheet, even after the gold has been shipped to Swiss refineries, re-cast, and imported into China for keeps. When the bubble finally bursts and the truth comes out, the ensuing scandal will make the false accounting behind the Enron scandal look like small potatoes.

“A bubble arises,” James Turk rightly observes, “when conventional wisdom contradicts economic reality.”

This brings me back nicely to what, as I read it, is the true gold, hidden below the surface, of today's verse.

What the sagacious son of Bhṛgu might be saying, below the surface, is that a true prince does not pursue liberation or enlightenment in such a manner that a gap arises and a bubble inflates.

Read in that light, today's verse follows on neatly from yesterday's verse – the point being that in seeking freedom, here and now, modesty has got to be our middle name.

It is not a question of wanting to go from here to there so that then, having got there, we might seek freedom. When we have that attitude, a gap arises – the wrong kind of gap – and a bubble is liable to inflate. It is more a question of seeking freedom whenever and wherever the opportunity arises or the time can be made, both in a process of going from here to there and in the gap – the good gap – of being right here.

In other words, it is not a question of seeking out Arāḍa, and then going for the BIG ONE – Liberation, Enlightenment, shit or bust. It is more a question of coming back, again and again and again, when one has a few opportune moments, to one's chosen mantra.

“Never let a day go by,” said FM Alexander, “without coming back to those words.”

Head FORWARD and UP...
Head FORWARD and UP...
Head FORWARD and UP...


Here, then, is a nice irony to finish with. Here in 2014, thirty-three years after I finished my accounting degree and decided to seek Zen Enlightenment (yes, unwittingly, with a big E), I am caused to reflect that the world has got no shortage of interesting English-speaking Zen masters. Especially in the United States, taking advantage of favourable treatment afforded by the US tax system to religious organizations, the Zen business (along with creationist Christian churches of this and that, Scientology, et ceteramight already be in a bubble of its own. But what is desperately lacking is some sound accountancy. 


Thus endeth the 2nd gospel according to Homer Simpson.

tau (acc. dual): those two
saḥ (nom. sg. m.): he
abravīt = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect brū: to speak, say, tell
asti: ind. (3. sg. pr. √1. as) sometimes used as a mere particle at the beginning of fables ; existent, present
[EHJ notes that asti is here used as a particle and its exact force is rendered by the English idiom with “did”]
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
dīrgha-bāhuḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. long-armed

prāptaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. attained to , reached , arrived at , met with
kumāraḥ (nom. sg.): m. a child , boy , youth ; a prince
na: not
tu: but
na: not
avabuddhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. learnt (as skilfulness)
avabuddhaḥ = nom. sg. m. past part. ava- √ budh: to become sensible or aware of , perceive , know

dharmaḥ (nom. sg.): m. dharma
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this , this here , referring to something near the speaker
āvartakaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. bringing back (?), Bcar. ix, 6
ā- √ vṛt: to turn or draw round or back or near ; to turn or go towards ; to turn round or back , return , revolve ; (causative) to cause to turn , roll ; to bring back ; to turn round or back
āvarta: m. turning , winding , turning round , revolving
āvartam: ind. repeating
vartaka: mfn. who or what abides or exists , abiding , existing , living ; (ifc.) given up or devoted or attached to (cf. guru-v°)
guru-vartaka: mfn. behaving respectfully towards parents or venerable persons
ā-: (as a prefix to verbs , especially of motion , and their derivatives) near , near to , towards; Prefixed to adj. it implies diminution, " a little " e.g. ā-piñjara mfn. a little red , reddish ; Some commentaries (e.g. Comm. on Ragh. iii , 8) occasionally give to ā in this application the meaning samantāt , " all through , completely " , as ā-nīla , " blue all round. "
iti: thus, as
avetya = abs. ava-√i: to look upon , consider ; to perceive , conceive , understand , learn , know

yātaḥ = nom. sg. m. past part. yā: to go , proceed , move , walk , set out
tu: but
arāḍabhimukhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): heading for Arāḍa
arāḍa: m. 'having high horns'; name of a muni
abhimukha: (ifc.) going near , approaching
mumukṣuḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. mfn. desirous of freeing; eager to be free (from mundane existence) , striving after emancipation
muc: to loose , let loose , free , let go , slacken , release , liberate

答言有此人 長臂大人相
擇我等所行 隨順生死法

往詣阿羅藍 以求勝解脱 


Rich said...

The real gold are the mantras, mine being
don't know
Or maybe the real gold is just breathing.

Anyhow, this is what is wrong with gold.

Mike Cross said...

Gold won't take offence, Rich, that you think there is something wrong with it.