Wednesday, February 5, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.21: Dominion vs Majesty? Sovereignty vs Glory?

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Sālā)
etān gha-sthān npatīn-avehi naiḥśreyase dharma-vidhau vinītān |
ubhe 'pi tasmād-yugapad-bhajasva vittādhipatyaṁ ca npa-śriyaṁ ca || 9.21

These men who remained at home as kings, you should know,

Were steeped in the dharma-practice 
that leads to the highest happiness;

Therefore, enjoy both together

Sovereignty over what is acquired and the glory of a protector of men.

In the 1st pāda of today's verse etān gṛha-sthān nṛpatīn, “these kings who remained at home,” ostensibly means royals who remained on jewelled thrones in their royal palaces, instead of taking to the forest life of the wandering mendicant. But below the surface what might be the hidden meaning of gṛha-stha, “remaining at home”?

When a master of bushcraft like Ray Mears goes to the forest on his own, makes a campfire, sits by it, and takes a massive deep breath of fresh forest air, is he at home or is he not at home? 

Conversely, haven't we all experienced times – when some visitor overstays their welcome, for example – of being in our own place and yet not feeling at home?

Below the surface, then, might etān gṛha-sthān nṛpatīn, “these who remained at home as kings,” refer to dharma-kings who were able to make themselves at home at any quiet place they happened to park their round black cushion?

To paraphrase the song... Wherever I lay my mat, that's my home.

That kind of flexibility of approach  being content to sit on any old floor, so long as circumstances are reasonably quiet and it is not too hot and not too cold   might be the result of having become steeped in the dharma-practice which leads to the highest happiness.

The 3rd pāda of today's verse invites us to expect two elements in the 4th pāda that should be opposed to each other – a dichotomy along the lines of something material vs something spiritual, the sovereignty of a king like Śuddhodana vs the sovereignty of a king of dharma.

The 4th pāda seems to be designed to confound such an expectation by providing two elements each of which could express either the sovereignty of a king like Śuddhodana, or the sovereignty of a king of dharma, or – as per the King's imperative – both together. The effect seems to me to be to shock us into realizing that our expectation was false, and that all dichotomies might ultimately be false dichotomies.

To read today's verse as I think Aśvaghoṣa wished to us to read it, then, requires us to dig through several layers of mud before we arrive at the gold.

In the beginning we assume or accept the existence of a dichotomy between (a) mendicants who have gone forth into the wandering life and (b) lay people; in Chinese/Japanese there are (a) 出家 SHUKKE, those who have left home, and (b) 在家 ZAIKE, those who remain at home.

On the surface, King Śuddhodana is expressing a view that accepts this dichotomy but suggests that it is possible even for a layman to be steeped in the dharma-practice that leads to the highest happiness.

Below the surface I think a king of dharma, having gone totally beyond all dichotomies, and at the same time being totally at home in his own skin, might be suggesting that, for a king who truly remains at home, there is no conflict between having his cake and eating it. A king of dharma, in other words, does indeed enjoy both vittādhipatyam (sovereignty over what is acquired) and nṛpa-śriyam (the majesty of a protector of men).

The underlying logic here – the logic whereby no dichotomy exists – somehow reminds me of something the Buddha tells Nanda in SN Canto 16:
The many and various disappointments of men, like old age, occur as long as their doing goes on. / (For, even when violent winds blow, trees do not shake that never sprouted.) // SN16.10 //
The point, to put it another way, is this: before the distinction between remaining at home and going to the forest ever sprouted, where then was the conflict between two kinds of sovereignty or two kinds of majesty? 

Going further, today's verse seems to pose the following questions about how a moment of sitting truly upright in the lotus posture might be described:

As true transcendence? Or as truly being at home? Or both? Or neither?

As a state of physical sovereignty? Or as a state of mental sovereignty? Or both? Or neither?

As a physical state of majesty, as experienced by a powerful protector of men?
Or as a mental state of majesty, as experienced by a powerful protector of men?
Or both? Or neither?

Incidentally, because the 4th pāda, as I read it, as described above, is designed to confound the reader's expectations, Sanskrit and English editors alike have seen fit to question the wording of the 4th pāda and to edit it based on their answers.

Thus EBC's text has cittādhipatyam, which EBC translates “the control over the mind” – producing a dichotomy between something mental (“control over the mind”) and something political/material (“royal magnificence”).

Do thou also therefore obtain both simultaneously — royal magnificence and the control over the mind. (EBC)

EHJ notes that both the old Nepalese manuscript and the Tibetan translation have vittādhipatyam, which disposes of the cittādhipatyam of Cowell's manuscripts, but to translate it as “lordship over wealth” makes very poor sense.... The Chinese translation has 'You can now return home [汝今可還家] and reverently practise both duties [崇習於二事]; prepare your mind for the highest dharma [心修増上法] and become the highest ruler on earth [爲地増上主]', on the strength of which I put in 'knowledge' as a stopgap, till the correct solution is found.

Therefore resort even to both at once — lordship over knowledge and royal sovereignty. (EHJ)

PO adds in his own footnote:
The Nepali manuscript, the only extant one in Sanskrit, reads vittādhipatyam, but as EHJ notes, such a meaning (“dominion over wealth”) is impossible in the context. The appeal is to the possibility that the Buddha can both rule the kingdom and follow dharma. EHJ takes vitta to mean knowledge simply on the basis of its connection to √vid “to know.” I have opted to go with EBC's reading found in the copies of the Nepali manuscript he had access to, namely, cittādhipatyam.

Therefore. you should enjoy both together— lordship over mind and royal fortune. (PO)

Finally, after re-reading all this verbage, I am still not sure that I have stated clearly and succinctly what needs to be stated... and so here goes: 

Below the surface, a king of dharma is expressing the truth that for a person of small desire, for a person who already has nirvāṇa, for a person who is happy to make himself at home wherever he lays his mat, for a person, in short, who has already kicked Māra's ass, the treasure house is already totally open, and he is free to accept and use its contents just as he likes. 

etān (acc. pl. m.): these
gṛha-sthān (acc. pl. m.): who remained at home, householder
nṛpatīn (acc. pl.): m. " lord of men " , king , prince , sovereign
pati: m. a master , owner , possessor , lord , ruler , sovereign
avehi = 2nd pers. sg. imperative ava-√i: to look upon , consider ; to perceive , conceive , understand , learn , know

naiḥśreyase (loc. sg. m.): mfn. leading to happiness or future beatitude
naiḥ = nis: ind. out , forth , away &c (used mostly as a prefix to verbs and their derivatives or to nouns not immediately connected with verbs , in which case it has the sense , " out of " , " away from " or that of a privative or negative adverb = " without " , " destitute of " , " free from " , " un- " , or that of a strengthening particle " thoroughly " , " entirely " , " very ")
śreyas: n. (as) the better state , the better fortune or condition (sometimes used when the subject of a sentence would seem to require the masc. form); m. good (as opp. to " evil ") , welfare , bliss , fortune , happiness
dharma-vidhau (loc. sg.): m. course of law legal precept or injunction
vidhi: a rule , formula , injunction , ordinance , statute , precept , law , direction (esp. for the performance of a rite as given in the brāhmaṇa portion of the veda); method , manner or way of acting , mode of life , conduct , behaviour ; a means , expedient for (dat. loc. , or comp.); any act or action , performance , accomplishment , contrivance , work , business (ifc. often pleonastically e.g. mathana-vidhi , the [act of] disturbing)
vinītān (acc. pl. m.): mfn. led or taken away , removed &c ; tamed , trained , educated , well-behaved , humble , modest ; versed in , acquainted or familiar with (loc. or comp.)

ubhe (acc. dual n.): both
api: and, even, also (emphatic)
ubhau (acc. dual m.): both
pi = api: and, even, also (emphatic)
tasmāt: ind. from that , on that account , therefore
yugapad: ind. " being in the same yoke or by the side of each other " , together , at the same time , simultaneously
bhajasva = 2nd pers. sg. imperative bhaj: to obtain as one's share , receive as (two acc.) , partake of , enjoy (also carnally) , possess , have (acc.) ; to turn or resort to , engage in , assume (as a form) , put on (garments) , experience , incur , undergo , feel , go or fall into (with acc.); to pursue , practise , cultivate

vittādhipatyam (acc. sg. n.): sovereignty over what is acquired
cittādhipatyam [EBC/PO]: sovereignty over the mind
vitta: n. (fr. √3. vid, to find, discover) anything found, a find ; acquisition , wealth , property , goods , substance , money , power
ādhipatya: n. (fr. adhi-pati) , supremacy , sovereignty , power
ca: and
nṛpa-śriyam (acc. sg. f.): the shining majesty of a protector of men
śrī: f. light , lustre , radiance , splendour , glory , beauty , grace , loveliness ; prosperity , welfare , good fortune , success , auspiciousness , wealth , treasure , riches , high rank , power , might , majesty , royal dignity); symbol or insignia of royalty
ca: and

如是等諸王 悉皆著天冠
瓔珞以嚴容 手足貫珠環
婇女衆娯樂 不違解脱因 

汝今可還家 崇習於二事
心修増上法 爲地増上主  

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