Friday, February 7, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.22: A King's Desire to Enter the Forest

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Māyā)
icchāmi hi tvām-upaguhya gāḍhaṁ ktābhiṣekaṁ salilārdram-eva |
dhtātapatraṁ samudīkṣamāṇas-tenaiva harṣeṇa vanaṁ praveṣṭum || 9.22

For I desire – having contained you in a close embrace,

Besprinkled you, wet with nothing but water,

Seeing you in possession of the ā-tapa-tra
(the big umbrella, 
the instrument of protection from the heat of tapas) –

I desire, in that very state of happiness, to enter the forest.'

This is the last verse in the King's speech, as reported by the veteran priest.

I have found it a tough nut to crack on more than one level. 

For one thing, far from me kicking Māra's ass, for the last couple of days and nights ill-health has rather been kicking my ass, which is why I didn't post yesterday. Yesterday afternoon – after I had managed to get up and sit for an hour between 11 and 12 am – was particularly bleak. I lay there reflecting on suffering and impermanence, waiting for some sense of improvement, of movement in the right direction. For what seemed like the longest time, I seemed to be waiting in vain. There is nothing worse than being stuck, having no sense of movement in the right direction. 

The cruellest blow that anybody can deal to you, and to the community you are serving, if you have found a constructive direction in life and are going in it, like a slow freight train, is to knock you off course, to cause you to suffer a dislocation, like a train being derailed. 

Why would some cruel person do that? Maybe jealousy. Maybe vengeance, if they had been offended in some way. Maybe personal ambition, as in the case of the Buddhist priests in China who tried to poison Bodhidharma. Maybe the sheer ignorance of somebody who does not know what he is doing. 

The kindest thing that anybody can do for you, conversely, is help you get going again, back in the right direction. That might be easier if you were wandering on foot than if you were hauling heavy freight along iron tracks. 

The essential gist of today's verse, difficult though it is, is icchāmi vanaṁ praveṣṭum, “I desire to enter the forest.” And these words can be read as an expression of, or at least a pointer to, the right direction. In that case vanam, the forest, represents what we would call Mother Nature – she whose direction (unlike intellectual human beings in general, and in particular Zen Buddhists who are after something) is always right and always true.

The ostensible meaning of today's verse is as conveyed in EHJ's translation:
For it is my wish to embrace you closely while you are still wet with the coronation waters, to behold you beneath the imperial umbrella, and with the selfsame joy to proceed to the forest.”
So ostensibly the king is talking about embracing or seeing the prince after he has been besprinkled with coronation waters, i.e. after he has been anointed or inaugurated. But what is the real or hidden meaning?

I think the real meaning might be intended to convey some sense of the ultimate desire of a king of dharma. In that case, “I desire to enter the forest” makes perfect sense. But what is the meaning of salilārdram-eva? Thoroughly wet with water? Wet indeed with tears?

Is the 2nd pāda intended to express the oneness of something spiritual (kṛtābhiṣekam = “consecrated”) and something material (salilārdram eva = “wet with nothing but water”)? Or is the intention of the 2nd pāda to express nothing spiritual at all? Is the ironic meaning that a king of dharma wishes to see his successor having become totally dry, like a sea-bed after the tide has long gone out?

In that case, the 1st and 2nd pādas can perhaps be understood as being in a kind of dialectic opposition to each other, and the 3rd pāda as representing the practical synthesis.

So maybe, at a stretch, today's verse below the surface can be read as the ultimate expression of what, for a king of dharma, nirvāna might be.

If anybody thinks this is all getting too difficult, I agree. It is all much too difficult. If I had known what I was letting myself in for, I might never have started out on this path in the first place. But what other direction is there to go in?

I must have done something to deserve all this pain. 

icchāmi = 1st pers. sg. iṣ: to endeavour to obtain , strive , seek for ; to desire, wish
hi: for
tvām (acc. sg. m.): you
upaguhya = abs. upa- √ guh: to hide , cover , conceal ; to clasp , embrace , press to the bosom
gāḍham: ind. tightly , closely , firmly ; strongly , much , very much , excessively , heavily; mfn. dived into , bathed in ; " deeply entered " , pressed together , tightly drawn , closely fastened , close , fast
√gāh: to dive into , bathe in , plunge into (acc.) , penetrate , enter deeply into (acc.) ; to be absorbed in (acc.)

kṛtābhiṣekam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. one who has performed a religious ablution ; consecrated , inaugurated ; m. a prince who has been inaugurated
abhi- √sic: to sprinkle , water , wet ; to consecrate , anoint , appoint by consecration
salilārdram (acc. sg. m.): being wet with water
salila: n. flood , surge , waves ; n. (also pl.) water ; n. eye-water , tears
ārdra: mfn. ( √ard, to move , be moved , be scattered) wet , moist , damp ; fresh , not dry , succulent , green (as a plant) , living ; n. dampness , moisture
eva (emphatic)

dhṛtātapatram (acc. sg. m.): bearing the large umbrella
dhṛta: mfn. held , borne , maintained , supported kept , possessed; used , practised , observed
ā-tapa-tra: n. " heat-protector " (ifc. f(ā). Megh. Katha1s. ), a large umbrella (of silk or leaves) MBh. &c
samudīkṣamāṇaḥ = nom. sg. m. pres. part. sam-ud- √ īkṣ: to look up at , look at attentively , perceive , observe ; to have regard or respect for (acc.)

tena (inst. sg. m.): by that
eva (emphatic)
harṣeṇa (inst. sg.): m. bristling , erection (esp. of the hair in a thrill of rapture or delight); joy , pleasure , happiness
vanam (acc. sg.): n. the forest
praveṣṭum = inf. pra- √ viś: , to enter , go into , resort to (acc. or loc.) ; to enter into i.e. be absorbed or thrown into the shade by (acc.)

For Chinese, see BC9.19, with which today's verse is conflated in the Chinese translation.

No comments: