Tuesday, February 25, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.40: What the Prince Had Firmly Decided

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Premā)
kathaṁ nu mohāyatanaṁ n-patvaṁ kṣamaṁ prapattuṁ viduṣā nareṇa |
sodvegatā yatra madaḥ śramaś-ca parāpacāreṇa ca dharma-pīḍā || 9.40

How can kingship, as the dwelling place of delusion,

Be fit to be entered by a man of wisdom?

For there reside perturbation, intemperance, and exhaustion;

And transgression against dharma 
through harsh treatment of others.

The 3rd pāda of today's verse seems to cite three elements of the moha (EBC: illusion; EHJ/PO: delusion) wherein the bodhisattva does not wish his own mind and body to dwell. Those three elements are 

  • sodvegatā (EBC/PO: anxiety; EHJ: fearfulness), 
  • madaḥ (EBC: passion; EHJ: the intoxication of pride; PO: pride) and
  • śramaḥ (EBC/EHJ: weariness; PO: fatigue). 

The 4th pāda adds a less subjective element, related to the effect of the exercise of kingship on others.

According to EHJ's footnote, the Abhidharma-kośa-śāstra written by Vasubandhu (the 21st Zen patriarch in the lineage in which Aśvaghoṣa is the 12th and Bodhidharma is the 28th) says that kings are incapable of saṁvara (restraint / forbearance), because the maintenance of order requires them to use personal violence against others (AK 3.91). The bodhisattva appears to pick up this point again in BC9.48, with another rhetorical question pointing to the incompatibility of the dharma of kings and the dharma of freedom.

Below the surface, is it possible to read today's verse as subverting this ostensible meaning?

If I thought that was Aśvaghoṣa's intention, I would refer to Daikan Eno's teaching (see Shobogenzo chap. 17, Hokke-ten-hokke) on delusion and realization, the latter being a function of the former. I would consider also the suffering the Buddha brought down on Nanda in using skillful but nonetheless painful means to separate Nanda and his beautiful wife Sundarī. 

Since today's verse is in the form of a question, it is of course possible to read it as being not a rhetorical assertion but an open question. From BC9.53, indeed, the king's counsellor will attempt to respond to the bodhisattva's question as if it were such, citing historical examples like the Śalva king Druma and Antideva who proceeded from the forest to the throne.

As I said at the beginning of this monologue, however, I think the tone of the narrative has changed so that the bodhisattva is not now speaking, as the prince was speaking before, as somebody who did not see the deeper meaning in his own words. On the contrary, the bodhisattva is speaking as one who knows his own mind, and whose mind is made up. So when Aśvaghoṣa described this response of the bodhisattva as praśritam (“full of secret meaning”; BC9.30), I think that this was not a pointer to the reader that we should seek ironic hidden meaning. If the meaning of today's verse was hidden, then I think the meaning was hidden from the king's clever counsellor, but the meaning was not on this occasion hidden by Aśvaghoṣa, through the use of irony, from us.

As a translation of the title of the present canto, kumārānveṣaṇaḥ, my provisional first choice so far is “The Seeking of a Prince,” which at least has the merit of leaving it open whether the prince is the subject or the object of the seeking. But on the evidence of a verse like today's verse, a more meaningful translation would be “The Prince's Investigation” or, better, but not so literally, “What the Prince Had Unequivocally Decided.”

Finally, as I generally ask myself as I sit in the morning having memorized a verse of Aśvaghoṣa's poetry the day before, what has today's verse got to say to a bloke who sits?

For a start the bodhisattva's words might serve to remind a bodhisattva who sits of the practical merits
  • of balanced stillness (samādhi) as opposed to perturbation (sodvegatā);
  • of small desire and complete contentment (alpecchu-saṁtuṣṭi) as opposed to intemperance (mada);
  • of constancy and energy (dhṛti-vīrya) as opposed to exhaustion (śama).

At the same time, the 4th pāda might be a reminder that the successful bodhisattva is one who avoids involvement with others (pareṣām saṁsargam) like a thorn (kaṇṭakam-iva)...

kṛtārthaḥ sa jñeyaḥ śama-sukha-rasa-jñaḥ kṛta-matiḥ
He is to be known as a success, a knower of the taste of peace and ease, 
whose mind is made up --
pareṣāṃ saṃsargaṃ pariharati yaḥ kaṇṭakam-iva // SN14.50 //
He avoids involvement with others like a thorn.

katham: how?
nu: indeed (emphatic)
mohāyatanam (acc. sg. n.): the seat of delusion
moha: m. loss of consciousness , bewilderment , perplexity , distraction , infatuation , delusion , error , folly ; ignorance
muh: to become stupefied or unconscious , be bewildered or perplexed , err , be mistaken , go astray
ā-yatana: n. resting-place , support , seat , place , home , house , abode
nṛ-pa-tvam (acc. sg.): n. 'protector-of-men-ness'; royalty , dominion

kṣamam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. fit , appropriate , becoming , suitable , proper for (gen. dat. , loc. inf.)
prapattum = infinitive pra- √ pad: to go forwards set out for , resort to , arrive at , attain , enter (with acc.); to fly to for succour , take refuge with (acc.) ; to obtain , gain ; to adopt or embrace (a doctrine)
viduṣā (inst. sg.): mfn. one who knows , knowing , understanding , learned , intelligent , wise , mindful of , familiar with , skilled in ; m. a wise man , sage , seer
nareṇa (inst. sg.): a man

sodvega-tā (nom. sg. f.): agitation, fearfulness
sodvega: mfn. agitated , disturbed , anxious , fearful
udvega: m. trembling , waving , shaking; agitation , anxiety
yatra: ind. where
madaḥ (nom. sg.): m. hilarity , rapture , excitement , inspiration , intoxication
śramaḥ (nom. sg.): fatigue , weariness , exhaustion
ca: and

parāpacāreṇa (inst. sg.): “by the mishandling of others” [EHJ];
para: m. another (different from one's self) , a foreigner , enemy , foe , adversary
apacāra: m. want , absence ; defect; fault , improper conduct , offence
apa: ind. (as a prefix to nouns and verbs , expresses) away , off , back; down ; When prefixed to nouns , it may sometimes = the neg. particle a e.g. apa-bhī , fearless ; or may express deterioration , inferiority , &c (cf. apa-pāṭha)
cāra: m. going , motion , progression , course ; practising
apa- √ car: to depart; to act wrongly
paropacāreṇa [EBC] (inst. sg.): “through another's service”
upacāra: m. approach , service , attendance
ca: and
dharma-pīḍā (nom. sg.): f. transgression of law or duty
pīḍā: f. pain , suffering , annoyance , harm , injury , violation , damage ; devastation ; obscuration , eclipse (of a planet)

終身常畏怖 思慮形神疲
順衆心違法 智者所不爲 

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