Thursday, January 23, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.8: Seeing Sitting Sunshine

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Māyā)
yāntau tatas-tau mjayā vihīnam-apaśyatāṁ taṁ vapuṣā jvalantam |
nṛpopaviṣṭaṁ pathi vkṣa-mūle sūryaṁ ghanābhogam-iva praviṣṭam || 9.8

As thus on those grounds they were going, they saw him,

Who had totally neglected purification,
shining with handsome form,

On the road, royally seated at the foot of a tree –

Like the sun when it has entered a canopy of cloud.

This epic tale, as Aśvaghoṣa is telling it, is the story neither of a god nor of a bloke who, by the means of cleaning and wiping an old mirror, becomes Buddha.

Thus in today's verse as I read it, the two wise men see a most truly wonderful sight, which is a human being as he is, sitting naturally underneath a tree.

Read like this, yāntau tatas-tau apaśyatāṁ tam, “going, on that basis, those two saw him,” suggests, following on from yesterday's verse, that those two saw him – i.e., they met non-buddha – as a result of grasping that truth which is grasped by repeatedly coming back to it, and going at once into movement, in the right direction. Tataḥ (thus, on that basis) they were going. And thus they saw him. The principle in the background might be that only buddha sees buddha. And buddha is something going, in the right direction, as opposed to something fixed.

Then mṛjayā vihīnam vapuṣā jvalantam, “shining with handsome form, having entirely negelected purification,” suggests that the prince was already shining with handsome form as a result of just naturally being there, before he ever began tainting his original nature with some end-gaining agenda like making a mirror, or keeping a mirror clean by endless wiping.

The literal meaning of mṛjayā vihīnam is “having entirely abandoned wiping” or “being destitute of cleanliness.” And on the surface the meaning might be as per PO's translation “unwashed.” But below the surface the meaning is closer to EBC's “bereft of all ornaments” (EHJ's text has sṛjayā vihīnam); and EHJ's “not adorned with the artifices of the toilet.”

The three professors each added a disjunctive (“but” or “yet”), as per the ostensible meaning. 

“As they were going, they saw him bereft of all ornaments, but still radiant with his beauty,”

“Then as they went along, they saw him... not adorned with the artifices of the toilet but blazing with his form,”

“The two then, as they went along, saw him, unwashed, yet radiant with innate beauty,”

Originally, however, Aśvaghoṣa did not include any disjunctive. Ostensibly in the original Sanskrit, a contrast is understood between neglecting purification and shining with handsome form. But I think that below the surface Aśvaghoṣa is intending to suggest that we truly shine with our original handsome form only when we abandon purification. “Purification” (mṛjā) in that case is another word for “doing” – or for arranging ourselves, grossly or subtly, into what we feel to be the right position.

I have described on this blog before my efforts to do the right thing in the context of Alexander work with a very experienced teacher, and being constantly told by her
Not that” …. 
No, you are arranging yourself” …. 
No, you helped”.... 
No, not quite...”

Until one gets to a point of inwardly screaming “FUCK THIS FOR A GAME OF CARDS!!!!”

Yes. That's better.”

It is better because “FUCK THIS FOR A GAME OF CARDS!!!!” is the verbal expression of a real decision to throw away the metaphorical cloth with which one has been trying to wipe the metaphorical mirror. 

More than that, it might be the manifestation of a decision to abandon even the metaphor. 

Have I twisted this comment so as to arrive once again at the truth that there is no such thing as a right position, but there is a right direction?

Or is it that, solely because of having been caused to see the truth of FM Alexander's assertion, I am singularly able to understand Aśvaghoṣa's words as he really meant them?

I tend to feel that the latter is the case. Mind you, I felt that the price of gold would most likely continue going in the right direction, upward, in 2013.

In the 3rd pāda of today's verse I think the compound nṛpopaviṣṭam (EBC: “sitting like a king”) echoes rāja-bhaktyā (royal devotion) in yesterday's verse. So I have translated nṛpopaviṣṭam “royally seated.” I also wanted to avoid the repetition of "like", since iva appears in the 4th pāda. But I must admit that it is tempting to follow EBC with “sitting like a king.” Maybe “royally seated” has got something more modest – less bubbly – about it.

As a general rule, when we are talking about ZAZEN (ZA = sitting, ZEN = meditation) I think “sitting-meditation” is a vastly better translation than “seated meditation.” But in today's verse, being fickle as I am, I decided to break my own rule.

If I wax lyrical about my own experience of sitting like a king out in the open air underneath the spreading canopy of a mighty tree, I am afraid I might be inviting the invisible hand of cosmic irony, like a falling branch, to clobber me once more about my crown... as if to say, “Don't be so sure of yourself."

Any way up, whether we translate it as “royally seated” or “sitting like a king,” nṛpopaviṣṭam suggests sitting in lotus as the samādhi which is king of samādhis; and so I think EHJ was wrong to amend the excellent phrase nṛpopaviṣṭam, which literally means “sitting as a protector of men” or “being royally seated.”

The point in conclusion might be that so long as there are trees left on this earth, we all, every one of us, can be royally seated under a tree. And to take this throne we don't need to resort to political means to establish dominance over others. But it might be necessary, in every case, to understand in practice (though not necessarily in words) what it means to totally neglect purification.  

yāntau = nom. dual pres. part. √i: to go , walk
tataḥ: ind. thence; thereupon , then , after that , afterwards ; from that , in consequence of that , for that reason , consequently
tau (nom. dual): the two of them
mṛjayā (inst. sg.): f. wiping , cleansing , washing , purification , ablution ; purity , cleanliness ; a pure skin , clear complexion
vihīnam (acc. sg. m): mfn. entirely abandoned or left &c; low, vulgar ; mfn. destitute or deprived of , free from (instr. abl. , or comp.)

apaśyatām = 3rd pers. dual imperfect paś: to see
tam (acc. sg. m.): him
vapuṣā (inst. sg.): n. form , figure , (esp.) a beautiful form or figure , wonderful appearance , beauty ; the body
jvalantam = acc. sg. m. pres. part. jval: to burn brightly , blaze , glow , shine
vapuṣojjvalantam [EHJ]
vapuṣā (inst. sg.): n. form , figure , (esp.) a beautiful form or figure , wonderful appearance , beauty ; the body
ujjvalantam = acc. sg. m. pres. part. ud- √jval: to blaze up , flame , shine

nṛpopaviṣṭam (acc. sg. m.): seated as a protector of men, royally seated
nṛpa: protector/ruler of men, king
upaviṣṭa: mfn. seated , sitting ; come to , arrived , entered (into any state or condition)
upopaviṣṭam [EHJ] (acc. sg. m.): seated
upopa- √ viś: , to sit down or take a seat by the side of , sit down near to (acc.)
pathi (loc. sg.): m. a way , path , road
vṛkṣa-mūle (loc. sg.): at the root of a tree

sūryam (acc. sg. m.): m. the sun or its deity
ghanābhogam (acc. sg.): m. the orb or circumference of a cloud, Bcar.
ghana: m. a cloud
ābhoga: m. winding , curving , curve , crease ; the expanded hood of the Cobra Capella (used by varuṇa as his umbrella) ; circuit , circumference , environs , extension , fulness , expanse ; m. ( √2. bhuj) , enjoyment , satiety , fulness , completion ; mfn. ifc. enjoying , eating
iva: like
praviṣṭam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. entered
pra- √ viś: to enter , go into , resort to (acc. or loc.) ; to enter upon , undertake , commence , begin , devote one's self to ; to enter into i.e. be absorbed

見太子處林 悉捨俗儀飾
眞體猶光耀 如日出烏雲 

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