Tuesday, February 11, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.26: Having Regard for Another's Distress

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Buddhi)
saṁvardhayitrīṁ samavehi devīm-agastya-juṣṭāṁ diśam-aprayātām |
pranaṣṭa-vatsām-iva vatsalāṁ gām-ajasram-ārtāṁ karuṇaṁ rudantīm || 9.26

Have regard for the queen who fostered you –

For her who has yet to go south, 
into the region inhabited by Agastya,

For her who, like a loving mother-cow that lost her calf,

Is constantly and piteously wailing in distress.

The metaphor of the cow that lost her calf, as I have mentioned before, has meant something to me ever since I slept (or rather didn't sleep) in a caravan next to a field of cows all of which were suckling their calves, except for one distressed mother whose calf had evidently been taken away to satisfy the French appetite for veal. This cow, when I observed her, truly was a piteous sight, her massive red eye-balls bulging out as she constantly bellowed – so piteous that I have studiously avoided eating veal ever since.

The ostensible gist of today's verse, then, is that the veteran priest is continuing to do King Śuddhodana's bidding by tugging at the prince's heartstrings, trying to convince him that he ought to show some compassion by returning now to Kapilavastu.

The irony below the surface, of course, is that the voice of experience is encouraging the bodhisattva to show his true compassion precisely by not going back.

In the former reading, the region inhabited by Agastya, as per EBC's footnote, means the south — the region of the god of death.

Translating “and has almost gone to the region over which Agastya presides,” EHJ notes further that The second pāda, by saying that she has not died, implies that she is on the point of doing so; C [the Chinese translator] seems to have understood it thus.

(The Chinese translation describes the queen as  忘眠食forgetting to sleep or eat.”) 

PO's footnote spells out more clearly still the ostensible meaning of agastya-juṣṭāṁ diśam-aprayātām (PO: although to Agastya's region she has not gone) :–
Agastya's departure to the southern regions of India is a well-known myth. He is regarded as still dwelling in the south, and thus the south, the region of death, is identified as Agastya's region. Not going to Agastya's region means that she had not died yet.

In the latter, hidden reading, whereby the voice of experience is encouraging the prince NOT to pander to the wishes of an unenlightened being, “not having passed yet into Agatsya's region” or “not yet having gone south,” might mean “yet to drop off body and mind” or “yet to give up one's own body and life.”

Eventually, of course,  as described in SN Canto 3, the sage of the Śākyas does go back out of compassion to Kapilavastu which, under his guiding influence, enters a kind of golden age. So it was never that the bodhisattva had no regard for the distress of the unenlightened drama queen: it was rather that he understood that going back now to embrace the queen, like she wanted, was not the way to manifest his regard.

So today's verse, in conclusion, causes us to reflect on the virtue of not allowing compassion to stimulate us to go directly for the target, like a non-swimmer who jumps into a lake to try and save a drowning child, with fatal consequences for both. The bodhisattva manifests his compassion for the inhabitants of Kapilavastu precisely not by taking the direct route, but by taking instead the indirect route, via realization of the state of buddha.

saṁvardhayitrīm (acc. sg. f.): mfn. rearing, bringing up, Bcar.
saṁ- √ vṛdh: to grow to perfection or completion , grow up , increase ; (causative) to cause to grow , rear , bring up , foster , cherish , augment , enlarge , strengthen , beautify , make prosperous or happy
ca: and
samehi = 2nd pers. sg. imperative sam-√i: to go or come together , meet at (acc.) or with (instr. or dat.) , encounter (as friends or enemies) ; to come to , arrive at , approach , visit , seek , enter upon , begin
samavehi [EHJ] = 2nd pers. sg. imperative sam-ava-√i: , to come or meet or mix or assemble together , be united in (acc.) ; to regard , consider
devīm (acc. sg.): f. queen, goddess

agastya-juṣṭām (acc. sg. f.): inhabited by Agastya
agastya = agasti: m. N. of a ṛṣi (author of several Vedic hymns ; said to have been the son of both mitra and varuṇa by urvaśī ; to have been born in a water-jar ; to have been of short stature ; to have swallowed the ocean , and compelled the vindhya mountains to prostrate themselves before him ; to have conquered and civilized the South ; to have written on medicine , &c ); the star Canopus (of which agastya is the regent , said to be the " cleanser of water " , because of turbid waters becoming clean at its rising Ragh. xiii , 36)
diśam (acc. sg.): f. quarter or region pointed at , direction
aprayātām (acc. sg. f.): not yet gone to [EHJ: has almost gone to]
prayāta: mfn. set out , gone , advanced ; gone or passed away , vanished , deceased , dead

pranaṣṭa-vatsām (acc. sg. f.): having lost her calf
vatsa: m. a calf , the young of any animal , offspring , child
iva: like
vatsalām (acc . sg. f.): mfn. child-loving , affectionate towards offspring
gām (acc. sg. f.): cow

a-jasram: ind. perpetually , for ever , ever
ārtām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. fallen into (misfortune) , struck by calamity , afflicted , pained , disturbed
karuṇam: ind. mournfully , woefully , pitifully , in distress
rudantīm = acc. sg. f. pres. part. rud: to weep , cry , howl , roar , lament , wail

慈母鞠養恩 盡壽報罔極
如牛失其犢 悲呼忘眠食 

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