Friday, January 24, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.9: A Veteran Abandons a Vehicle

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Māyā)
yānaṁ vihāyopayayau tatas-taṁ purohito mantra-dhareṇa sārdham |
yathā vana-sthaṁ saha-vāmadevo rāmaṁ didkṣur-munir-aurvaśeyaḥ || 9.9

Thus on those grounds the veteran, 
abandoning a vehicle, went in his direction,

Joined by the keeper of the compass of thought –

As, when Rāma was in the forest,

The sage Aurvaśeya, 'Dawn's Descendant,'
along with the minister Vāmadeva,
went to Rāma, wishing to see him.

In a verse like today's verse, there is no denying it, Aśvaghoṣa seems to wish to draw a parallel between the bodhisattva's journey and the journey of Rāma.

Patrick Olivelle, in describing “Buddha's Dharma as Consummation of Brahmanism,” sees particular significance in the implicit undercurrent of the entire text that compares the Buddha to significant Brahmanical figures of the past. Thus, his extraordinary birth is compared to that of other famous kings of the past who had unusual births (1.10). Siddhārtha's departure to the forest parallels that of Rāma: Śuddhodana's grief is similar to that of Daśa-ratha [Rāma's father]; the mission of the minister and chaplain to bring Siddhārtha back is compared to that of Aurvaśeya and Vāma-deva, who were commissioned to bring back Rāma. Śuddhodana himself compares his grief to that of Rāma's father (8.79, 8.81).

I say to the professor: no way. No way was Aśvaghoṣa interested in presenting the Buddha's Dharma as “consummation of Brahmanism.”

In Buddhist studies as in economics, there is a gap between the views of brahmins of Balliol college and reality, and out of that gap a bubble is born. 

If we want to know what Aśvaghoṣa saw as paramount, we should pay attention to what Aśvaghoṣa wrote, viz:

ity-eṣā vyupaśāntaye na rataye mokṣārtha-garbhā kṛtiḥ
This work is pregnant with the purpose of release: it is for cessation, not for titillation;
śrotṝṇāṃ grahaṇārtham-anya-manasāṃ kāvyopacārāt kṛtā /
It is wrought out of the figurative expression of kāvya poetry in order to capture an audience whose minds are on other things --
yan-mokṣāt kṛtam-anyad-atra hi mayā tat-kāvya-dharmāt kṛtaṃ
For what I have written here not pertaining to liberation, I have written in accordance with the conventions of kāvya poetry.
pātuṃ tiktam-ivauṣadhaṃ madhu-yutaṃ hṛdyaṃ kathaṃ syād-iti // SN18.63 //
This is through asking myself how the bitter pill might be made pleasant to swallow, like bitter medicine mixed with something sweet.

prāyeṇālokya lokaṃ viṣaya-rati-paraṃ mokṣāt pratihataṃ
Seeing, in general, that the world is moved primarily by fondness for objects and is repelled by liberation,
kāvya-vyājena tattvaṃ kathitam-iha mayā mokṣaḥ param-iti /
I for whom liberation is paramount have told it here like it is, using a kāvya poem as a pretext.
tad-buddhvā śāmikaṃ yat-tad-avahitam-ito grāhyaṃ na lalitaṃ
Being aware of the deceit, take from (this verb-rooted dust) what pertains to peace and not to idle pleasure.
pāṃsubhyo dhātu-jebhyo niyatam-upakaraṃ cāmīkaram-iti // SN18.64 //
Then elemental dust, assuredly, shall yield up serviceable gold.

If thus for Aśvaghoṣa liberation was paramount, why in a verse like today's verse does he seem to be mainly interested in drawing a parallel between Sarvārtha-siddha and Rāma?

My answer to this question is that in a verse like today's verse Aśvaghoṣa was NOT mainly interested in drawing such a parallel, even if he made it seem like he was. Rather, the discussion of Rāma, Aurvaśeya, and Vāmadeva, might be arranged like a bed of flowers to occupy the eyes of believers in -isms, lest they be offended by seeing what Aśvaghoṣa, below the surface, is really saying.

Gautama taught the true dharma, in Nāgārjuna's words, sarva-dṛṣṭi-prahāṇāya – in the direction of the abandonment of all views.

Reading today's verse in light of Nāgārjuna's conclusion, we should understand that the discussion of Rāma, Aurvaśeya, and Vāmadeva might be incidental and superficial. What is primary and fundamental might be yānam vihāyaabandoning a vehicle.

The point is that a true vehicle is a means of going in a certain direction but in our perception of a vehicle as such, a vehicle becomes a view, an -ism. When that happens it is time for a vehicle to be abandoned. 

A clue to this meaning is in the repetition of tataḥ in the 1st pāda of each of the last three verses. In view of this repetition, I want to go back and translate tasmāt-tataḥ in BC9.7 as the emphatically repetitive “thus, on those grounds” (instead of “then, on those grounds”). In today's verse and in yesterday's verse, then, tataḥ means on the grounds described in BC9.6, i.e. on the grounds of repeatedly coming back, seeking freedom.

On the grounds of repeatedly coming back, seeking freedom, a veteran approaches (or goes to for refuge, or goes in the direction of) tam.  Tam means him, or that  him who sits royally, like the sun; or that action of sitting. The veteran goes in his direction or in that direction, desiring to see; and, in so moving, a veteran (singular) abandons a vehicle.

Notice that the agent in this narrative is an individual, in the singular.

Both upayayau (he went towards) in the 1st pāda of today's verse and didṛkṣuḥ (desiring to see) in the 4th pāda are singular. Not plural, and not even dual, but singular. Those action words are describing the action of one veteran, one man of experience. The bright sparks whose department was thought, or administering of ministerial advice, are in today's verse secondary or subordinate to the main agent who is the man of experience, the sage. In the first half of today's verse this singular individual is the veteran, the purohita (lit. one whose place is in front); in the second half it is the sage Aurvaśeya, whose name means “Descended from the Dawn.” 

Today's verse, then, as I read it, is saying something below the surface not only about Brahmanism but also about Mahāyana Buddhism, and Hinayana Buddhism, and Theravada Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism. Since the message is very subversive to what Brahmanists and Buddhists hold most dear, the message is buried deep below the surface and covered over with a flower-bed of Brahmanical literary references. But the intended message might be that even Mahāyana Buddhism, and Hinayana Buddhism, and Theravada Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism, are all so many -isms, to be abandoned. And this abandonment cannot be accomplished on a group basis. Even on an individual basis, moreover, the abandoning might be hard for anyone who lacks ample practical experience.

If my reading of today's verse is correct, then today's verse is too subversive for words to the way that Buddhist studies has been taught and studied in universities since before the days of EH Johnston. The first question that Buddhist scholars have asked in regard to Aśvaghoṣa, from the end of the 19th century onwards, seems to have been: to what school of Buddhism did Aśvaghoṣa belong?  

In Buddhist studies as in economics, there is a gap between the views of brahmins of Balliol college and reality, and out of that gap a bubble is born. 

yānam (acc. sg.): n. a vehicle of any kind , carriage , waggon , vessel , ship , litter , palanquin ; n. (with Buddhists) the vehicle or method of arriving at knowledge , the means of release from repeated births (there are either 3 systems , the śrāvaka-yāna , the pratyeka-buddha-y° or pratyeka-y° , and the mahā-y° ; or more generally only 2 , the mahā-yāna or " Great method " and the hina-y° or " Lesser method " ; sometimes there is only " One Vehicle " , the eka-yāna , or " one way to beatitude ")
vihāya = abs. vi- √ hā: to leave behind , relinquish , quit , abandon
upayayau = 3rd pers. sg. perf. upa- √ yā: to come up ; to come near , go near or towards ; approach (for protection)
tataḥ: ind. then, thence; thereupon , then , after that , afterwards ; from that , in consequence of that , for that reason , consequently
tam (acc. sg. m.): him, the prince

purohitaḥ (nom. sg.): m. (esp.) a family priest , a domestic chaplain ; mfn. placed foremost or in front , charged , commissioned , appointed
puras: ind. in front , in advance , forward ; (as prep.) before (of place and time) , in the presence or before the eyes of (gen. abl. acc. or comp.)
hita: put , placed , set , laid , laid upon , imposed , lying or situated or contained in (loc.)
mantra-dhareṇa (inst. sg.): m. a counsellor , adviser
mantra: m. " instrument of thought " , speech ; consultation , resolution , counsel , advice , plan , design , secret
dhara: ifc. holding , bearing , carrying , wearing , possessing , having , keeping (also in memory) , sustaining , preserving , observing
sārdham: ind. jointly , together , along with , with (instr.)

vana-stham (acc. sg. m.): abiding in the forest
saha-vāmadevaḥ (nom. sg. m.): with Vāmadeva
saha: ind. along with, with
vāmadevaḥ (nom. sg.): m. name of minister of daśa-ratha MBh. R.
vāma: mfn. lovely , dear , pleasant , agreeable , fair , beautiful , splendid , noble ; m. the female breast ; m. the god of love ;

rāmam (acc. sg.): m. Rāma; mfn. dark , dark-coloured , black
didṛkṣuḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. desirous of seeing (acc.)
muniḥ (nom. sg.): m. sage
aurvaśeyaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a descendant of urvaśī ; N. of agastya
urvaśī: f. (fr. uru and √1. aś , " to pervade”) , " widely extending " , N. of the dawn (personified as an apsaras or heavenly nymph who became the wife of purū-ravas)

國奉天神師 執正法大臣
捨除俗威儀 下乘而歩進
猶王婆摩疊 仙人婆私吒
往詣山林中 見王子羅摩

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