Wednesday, February 19, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.34: No Sin in This Certainty

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
evaṁ ca te niścayam-etu buddhir-dṣṭvā vicitraṁ jagataḥ-pracāram |
saṁtāpa-hetur-na suto na bandhur-ajñāna-naimittika eṣa tāpaḥ || 9.34

Thus, moreover, should you let your mind go towards certainty,

After observing the world, in its manifold diversity, manifesting itself.

Neither the son nor a relative is the cause of suffering!

This pain has its cause in ignorance.

Is anything certain in this world? Maybe absolute certainty, at least in the realm of what we usually call knowledge, is impossible. 

But when we see a heavy rock lodged precariously on a steep hill, our mind approaches total certainty that the rock is not going to start spontaneously rolling upwards. If anything, if initial resistance is overcome so that it separates itself from its moorings, the rock is going to spontaneously roll downwards. Thus, in this direction, we can let our mind go towards certainty. 

This is the direction of impermanence, aka the 2nd law of thermodynamics. It might also be called the law of separation. 

Closely related to this relative certainty of impermanence, as suggested by the 4th pāda of yesterday's verse, is the relative certainty of suffering. So that these two – impermanence and suffering – are two of the three seals or marks of reality that are traditionally enumerated as distinguishing the Buddha's teaching from other teachings. The third is non-self, i.e. the relative certainty that there is such a thing as objective reality. Among modern philosophers, the best discussion I have come across of the relative certainty that there is such a thing as objective reality, is the discussion of George Soros – for example in his lectures available on Youtube.

At the beginning of today's verse, then, I read the evaṁ (thus) as referring back to the 4th pāda of yesterday's verse, which I read as pointing to the relatively certain truths of impermanence, suffering, and non-self (see for example SN Canto 17, from 17.16 onwards).

If the 1st pāda of today's verse thus relates to epistemology, or what if anything the human mind can know about objective reality, the 2nd pāda, in dialectic opposition to the 1st pāda, is about objective reality itself, or how the world multifariously manifests itself.

The 3rd pāda is translated by the three professors as follows:
neither a son nor kindred is the cause of sorrow (EBC);
the cause of affliction is neither the son nor the father (EHJ);
the cause of anguish is neither father nor son (PO).
EBC's translation of bandhuḥ as “kindred” would seem to be more strictly literal, whereas “father” as per EHJ and PO would appear at first glance to make better sense.

The explanation may simply be that banduḥ (kinsman; two long syllables) fit the metre whereas pitā (father; one short, one long syllable) did not fit.

At the same time, though the 4th pāda seems at first glance to assert that the cause of suffering is not in a person but is in ignorance itself, is it possible that the bodhisattva is suggesting indirectly that the ignorance in question is the ignorance of nobody but the father?

In conclusion, is it true for me to say
(a) All the suffering in the world has its cause in me?
(b) All the suffering in the world has its cause in ignorance?
(c) This here suffering in the world now has its cause in my ignorance?

(a) is a somewhat subjective view.
(b) is a somewhat comforting thought but takes the onus away from me to take responsibility.
Thus, when I ask the question like this, my mind goes towards certainty that the most pragmatic of these three assertions is (c).
Since I am the father of my own destiny, this here suffering has its cause neither in a son of mine nor in any other relative, but just in my own ignorance. Therefore the elimination of faults is up to me.

This, I would like to think, is kumārānveṣaṇaḥ not as a child's seeking, but as a bodhisattva's investigation.

And the final conclusion, or realization of objective reality, from where sits a bodhisattva whose father is a king (even he refrains from saying it directly), might be that
(d) the cause of pain here and now that is being suffered by the father, on separation from me his son, is neither in me his son nor in any other of his relatives, but just in the father's own ignorance.

evam: ind. thus , in this way , in such a manner , such
ca: and
te (gen. sg.): your
niścayam (acc. sg.): m. inquiry , ascertainment , fixed opinion , conviction , certainty , positiveness; resolution , resolve, fixed intention
etu = 3rd pers. sg. imperative i: to go, flow; to go to or towards (with acc.)
buddhiḥ (nom. sg.): f. mind, perception, understanding

dṛṣṭvā = abs. dṛś: to see
vicitram (acc. sg. m.): mfn. variegated , many-coloured , motley , brilliant ; manifold , various , diverse
jagataḥ (gen. sg.): n. the world , esp. this world , earth
vividham [EBC] (acc. sg. m.): mfn. manifold, of various sorts
pracāram (acc. sg.): m. roaming , wandering ; coming forth , showing one's self , manifestation , appearance , occurrence , existence ; a playground , place of exercise

saṁtāpa-hetuḥ (nom. sg. m.): the cause of the burning heat of anguish
saṁtāpa: m. becoming very hot , great or burning heat , glow , fire ; affliction , pain , sorrow , anguish , distress
na: not
sutaḥ (nom. sg.): m. son
na: not
bandhuḥ (nom. sg.): m. a kinsman (esp. on the mother's side) , relative , kindred

ajñāna-naimittikaḥ (nom. sg. m.): produced by ignorance
a-jñāna: n. ignorance
naimittika: produced by any or by some partic. cause
eṣa (nom. sg. m.): this
tāpaḥ (nom. sg.): m. heat , glow ; pain (mental or physical) , sorrow , affliction ; fever

汝當決定知 衆生性不同
憂苦之所生 不必子與親
所以生離苦 皆從癡惑生

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