Thursday, February 27, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.42: Back to Nature (Nowhere Else)

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Sālā)
itthaṁ ca rājyaṁ na sukhaṁ na dharmaḥ pūrve yathā jāta-ghṇā narendrāḥ |
vayaḥ-prakarṣe 'parihārya-duḥkhe rājyāni muktvā vanam-eva jagmuḥ || 9.42

No comfort, then, is kingship, nor inabdicable dharma –

So that ancient kings who felt disgust, 

As the drag of getting old brought forth inevitable suffering, 

Ceded their kingdoms and retired nowhere else but to the forest.

Today's verse, for a start, gives us a bit more insight into what the buddha-to-be meant by the Sanskrit word dharma, as a masculine noun, at least in certain contexts. The first definition of dharma given in the MW dictionary is “that which is established or firm.” So the sense of a law which is unassailable or inviolable, or of a duty which is not abdicable, seems to be inherent in the original word dharma. This is why I have felt justified in translating dharmaḥ in the 1st pāda of today's verse as “inabdicable dharma” – though I am not looking forward to reading that phrase aloud if and when I get as far as making an audio recording of this translation.

The other word in today's verse that strikes me as worthy of comment is the emphatic eva in vanam-eva, which I have translated as “nowhere else but to the forest.” The emphasis has the effect of reminding me, for one, that whether I am sitting in France on the edge of an area that is designated as a forêt domaniale, a national forest,” or sitting in middle England amid a cluster of houses some of which have trees in their garden, the direction this sitting is intended to take me in, is nowhere else but back to nature.

Any old lumberjack can go and feel at home in the forest. But how to sit in such a way that the respiratory mechanism is allowed to work as nature intended – that is more of a challenge.

Sitting can be like a wooden stake fixed in the ground – like a stake to which to tie a donkey for 10,000 years. Or sitting can be like a growing tree, expanding upward and outward in all directions. Opting for the former might be like being lost in the woods. Vanam-eva in today's verse, as I read it, is a kind of reminder – insofar as we have a choice in the matter – to opt for the latter, getting back to the forest. 

According to the idea of the philosopher-king (an idea which we think of as rooted in Greek philosophy, but which may also have been current in ancient India), a person proceeds from enlightenment to the seat of government. The bodhisattva in today's verse, as in many verses in the present canto, is expressing his unwavering conviction that the right direction is the opposite direction, away from government of others and back to finding oneself in the forest. 

ittham: ind. (fr. id) thus , in this manner
id: ind. even, just, only ; indeed , assuredly (especially , in strengthening an antithesis)
ca: and
rājyam (nom. sg.): n. royalty , kingship , sovereignty , empire
na: not
sukham (nom. sg.): n. ease , easiness , comfort , prosperity , pleasure , happiness
na: not
dharmaḥ (nom. sg.): m. that which is established or firm , steadfast decree , statute , ordinance , law; dharma, duty

pūrve (loc. sg.): mfn. (declined like a pron. when implying relative position whether in place or time) being before or in front fore , first ; former , prior
yathā: ind. so that
jāta-ghṛṇāḥ (nom. pl. m.): feeling disgust
ghṛṇā: f. a warm feeling towards others , compassion , tenderness ; f. aversion , contempt ; horror, disgust
narendrāḥ (nom. pl. m.): indras among men, kings
vayaḥ-prakarṣe (loc. sg. m.): at the dragging along of age
vayas: n. vigorous age , youth , prime of life , any period of life , age
prakarṣa: m. pre-eminence , excellence , superiority , excess , intensity , high degree; length of time , duration
pra- √kṛṣ: to draw or stretch forth , drag along or away
aparihārya-duḥkhe (loc. sg. n.): inevitable suffering
aparihārya mfn. not to be avoided , inevitable

rājyāni (acc. pl.): n. kingship, empire; n. kingdom, realm
muktvā = abs. muc: to release, let go of
vanam (acc. sg.): n. the forest
eva: (emphatic)
jagmuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. gam: to go

位高爲災宅 慧者所不居
古昔先勝王 見居國多愆
楚毒加衆生 厭患而出家

No comments: