Thursday, February 13, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.28: On Being Released, Like the Full Moon

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−    Upajāti (Indravajrā)
ekaṁ sutaṁ bālam-an-arha-duḥkhaṁ saṁtāpam-antar-gatam-udvahantam |
taṁ rāhulaṁ mokṣaya bandhu-śokād rāhūpasargād-iva pūrṇa-candram || 9.28

Your only son, a young boy not deserving of hurt,

Who is bearing in secret the burning heat of anguish –

Release him, Rāhula,
from his grief for his own flesh and blood
[from the sorrow of family ties];

Release him like the full moon from Rāhu's eclipsing grasp.

The seven syllables spanning the 2nd and 3rd pādas rendered by EHJ as -gatam-udvahantam taṁ are EHJ's informed guess. The original text is lost due to a tear in the old Nepalese manuscript. The tear evidently pre-dated the copying of the manuscripts which EBC worked from, since EBC's text and translation also show a gap here.

In any event, the ostensible and hidden gists of today's verse are parallel with the ostensible and hidden gists of the previous several verses. Which is to say that ostensibly a veteran priest is pulling at the prince's heartstrings with every tool in his emotional toolbox. The emotional lever he is pulling now is Rāhula: he is imploring the prince to return to Kapilavastu at once to release his young son Rāhula from the kind of deeply buried hurt that only an abandoned child can know. But below the surface the voice of experience is continuing to encourage the bodhisattva, on the contrary, to maintain the decision he expressed in BC5.84:
Then he with the lengthened eyes of a lotus – one born of mud, not of water –surveyed the city and roared a lion's roar: / “Until I have seen the far shore of birth and death, I shall never again enter the city named after Kapila.” //BC5.84//
Just as I have some experience, at one remove, of the distress of a mother cow who lost her calf (as described in comment to BC9.26), I have some experience, at one remove, of the hurt a child feels when abandoned by her father – since this is what happened to my mother in her infancy. As a general rule, I think that children are good at burying that kind of hurt; they bear it in secret, but it tends to seek expression later on, especially in the absence of what Alice Miller has called "an enlightened witness." 

So however we read today's verse – whether we take the ostensible meaning or the hidden meaning – the stimulus is very real. The appeal, to a father's wish to release his only son from suffering, is a very strong appeal.

Ostensibly, then, the appeal in the 3rd pāda is that the prince should return at once to Kapilavastu in order to deliver Rāhula from the grief he feels at separation from his father – taking bandhu to means “kinsman” or “relative,” i.e. Rāḥula's own flesh and blood, his biological father. Hence EHJ translated, somewhat interpretively, “Deliver Rāhula from grief for his parent and PO translated “Rescue Rāhula from the grief for his father.”

But bandhu-śokāt is more literally translated, in line with the hidden meaning of today's verse, as “from the sorrow of kinship.” And to release Rāhula from the sorrow of kinship, of course, is precisely what the Buddha will do in several years time, by providing Rāhula with the means to cross the ocean of suffering as a wandering mendicant who has left family life behind him.

Finally in the 4th pāda the play should be noted on the names Rāhula and Rāhu, the latter name (Rāhu, “The Grasper") being the name of a demon who is supposed to cause eclipses by grasping the sun and / or the moon.

A similar play is made in BC2.46:
Then in time to a bearer of lovely milk, to Yaśodharā, a bearer of glory by her own actions, / Was born a son who beamed like a rival of “Eclipsing” Rāhu, and that moon-faced son of Śuddhodhana's son was named Rāhula. // BC2.46//

In the final analysis, is there any relation between
(a) releasing the head from all the physical and psychological forces that tend to pull the head back and down into the body, like the head of a frightened tortoise, and
(b) the moon shining round and full, having been released, as it were from Rāhu's eclipsing grasp?

That might be a question that, ultimately, nobody can answer for anybody else. And it might be a question that nobody can even ask, as Aśvaghoṣa intended the question to be asked, without effort made with the knees on some kind of sitting platform, or on the floor, or on the ground, and the sitting bones being pushed up by something of a suitable size that passes for a cushion.

ekam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. one, alone, solitary, sole
sutam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. son
bālam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. young ; m. a child , boy (esp. one under 5 years)
an-arha-duḥkham (acc. sg. m.): undeserving of suffering
an-arha: mfn. undeserving of punishment or of reward ; unworthy ; inadequate , unsuitable.
duḥkha: uneasiness , pain , sorrow , trouble , difficulty

saṁtāpam (acc. sg.): m. becoming very hot , great or burning heat , glow , fire ; affliction , pain , sorrow , anguish , distress
antar-gatam (acc. sg. m.): m. being in the interior , internal , hidden , secret
udvahantam = acc. sg. m. pres, part. ud- √ vah : to lead or carry out or up , draw out , save ; to bear up , lift up ; to bear (a weight or burden) ; to wear, have, possess

tam (acc. sg. m.): him
rāhulam (acc. sg.): m. Rāhula
mokṣaya = 2nd pers. sg. imperative mokṣ: to free or deliver from (abl.)
bandhu-śokāt (abl. sg.): grief for his relation; the sorrow of kinship;
bandhu: m. connection , relation , association ; kinship , kindred ; a kinsman (esp. on the mother's side) , relative , kindred

rāhūpasargāt (abl. sg.): from eclipsing Rāhu's grasp
rāhu: m. (fr. √ rabh, to grasp) " the Seizer " , N. of a daitya or demon who is supposed to seize the sun and moon and thus cause eclipses
upasarga: m. misfortune , trouble , a natural phenomenon (considered as boding evil); an eclipse (of a star) ; an eclipse of sun or moon
iva: like
pūrṇa-candram (acc. sg. m.): the full moon

憑依者失蔭 當思爲救護
一子孩幼孤 遭苦莫知告
勉彼煢煢苦 如人救月蝕

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