Sunday, March 2, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.45: The Forest & The Kāṣāya

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bālā)
jātaḥ kule ko hi naraḥ sa-sattvo dharmābhilāṣeṇa vanaṁ praviṣṭaḥ |
kāṣāyam-utsjya vimukta-lajjaḥ puraṁdarasyāpi puraṁ śrayeta || 9.45

For what man of character born into a good family,

Having betaken himself, in his desire for dharma, to the forest,

Would cast off the red-brown robe and, dead to shame,

Make for the city
– even if the city were that of Indra himself,
“Breaker Down of City Walls”?

If yesterday's verse caused us to reflect on the meaning of betaking ourselves to the forest, today's verse as I read it is an invitation to consider the connection between the forest and the kāṣāya, the traditional robe.

To that end, the place in Aśvaghoṣa's writing to return to is the climax of BC Canto 6, in which the robe is alternately described as “clothing of the forest” (vanyaṁ vāsaḥ) and “the ochre robe” (kāṣāya). Though I translated it then as “the ochre robe,” kāṣāya is given in the dictionary as “a brown-red cloth or garment.” At the same time, kāṣāya is from kaṣāya, which the dictionary gives as “mfn. red, dull red, yellowish red (as the garment of a Buddhist bhikṣu)” and “n. a dull or yellowish red garment or robe.” The point is that the colours of the kaṣāya or kāṣāya, originally speaking, were the browns, yellows and reds of the forest. So the connection between the forest and the bodhisattva's robe, as Aśvaghoṣa describes the origins of that robe at the end of BC Canto 6, are very profound indeed:

He [Prince Sarvārtha-siddha], however,
having let go of being wedded to ornaments,

Having acted to banish the crowning glory from his head,

And having seen the softly shining light
whose brightness is the best of gold,

He with firm steadfastness longed for clothing of the forest
(vanyaṁ sa dhīro 'bhicakāṅkṣa vāsaḥ).

Then a sky dweller in the guise of a hunter of forest game,

His heart being pure, knew what was in the other's heart

And drew near, in his ochre-coloured camouflage (kāṣāya-vastraḥ).

The son of the Śākya king said to him:

“Your propitious ochre robe, the banner of a seer
(śivaṁ ca kāṣāyam-ṛṣi-dhvajas-te),

Does not go with this pernicious bow.

Therefore, my friend, should there be no attachment in this matter,

Give me that and you take this.”

The hunter spoke:
“This, O granter of desires, is the means whereby,
from as far away as desired,

I inspire trust in wild creatures,
only to shoot them down....

But if you have a use for this means,
O man as mighty as Indra,

Here, accept it, and render here the white.”

Then, with joy of the highest order,

He took the garment of the forest (vanyaṁ jagrāha vāsaḥ)
and gave away his linen finery;

But the hunter, wearing the very essence of the divine,

Went to heaven, taking that whiteness with him.

Then the prince and the horse-master 

Marvelled at his departing in such a manner;

And of that clothing of the forest (āraṇyake vāsasi)

All the more highly did they think.

Then, having set the tear-faced Chanda free,

Clad in consciousness of the ochre robe (kāṣāya-saṁvit)
and wearing constancy and honour,

He moved majestically in the direction of the ashram

Like the moon – king among stars – veiled by a dusky cloud.

And so, as his master was retiring like this
into the ascetic woods,

Desiring nothing in the way of sovereignty
and wearing clothing of no distinction (vivarṇa-vāsasi),

The preserver of the war-horse,
there and then, threw up his arms,

Cried out wildly, and fell upon the earth.

Looking again, he bellowed in full voice

And embraced the horse Kanthaka with both arms;

Thus, devoid of hope or expectation,
and lamenting over and over,

He journeyed back to the city with his body,
not with his mind.

Here he reflected, there he lamented;

Here he stumbled, there he fell;

And so keeping on, suffering pain on account of devotion,

He did without meaning to do many actions on the path.

The 6th canto, titled Chandaka / Turning Back, in an epic tale of awakened action.

So today's verse as I read it is once again strongly affirming the existence for the bodhisattva of one right direction, which is towards the forest. But once again we might be mistaken if we conceive of that direction as necessarily a movement from geographical location A to geographical location B.

It is a common mistake in Alexander work, I can't help mentioning in passing, to confuse direction with movement. Sometimes direction and movement can be the same, as when a person lets his head release forward and up in the act of walking forwards or in the act of going up on tiptoes. But sometimes direction and movement can be opposite, as when a person lets his head release forward and up in the act of walking backwards or in the act of lowering the body by bending the knees.

Again, one often sees people in Alexander work trying to implement the direction “knees forwards and away” by actually bending the knees. But this shows a misconception. The direction “knees forwards and away” is to bring about a separation at the hip joints which one wants in all circumstances, whether bending the legs, straightening the legs, or keeping the legs still.

To understand this point in practice right now, point your fingers up towards the ceiling, and keep them pointing up to the ceiling as you move your forearm up and down. When your forearm is moving up, the direction your fingers are pointing in is up. When your forearm is moving down, the direction your fingers are pointing in is still up.

It doesn't matter where you move; what you want all the time is release, and the direction of release does not change. Hence Alexander's primary directions are the same for all people in all circumstances – let the neck be free, to let the head go out, to let the back lengthen and widen, while sending the knees forwards and away.

To wear the kāṣāya, in an analogous way, is to remind oneself and show others that one's direction is towards the forest. But that does not preclude the wearer from going to the city – as of course the Buddha demonstrated soon after his enlightenment under the bodhi treee. Hence:
For the fathomless sea of faults, whose water is falsity, where fish are cares, / And which is disturbed by waves of anger, lust, and fear; he had crossed, and he took the world across too. // SN3.14 // Having instructed many people at Kāśi and at Gaya as also at Giri-vraja, / He made his way then to the city of his fathers, in his deeply compassionate desire to include it. // SN3.15 //

* * * * * 

The name kaṣāya means something

Like a robe of yellows, reds, and browns –

A robe of the forest; nothing religious. 

Every morning, naturally, a sitter wears one to sit.

* * * * * 

jātaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. born
kule (loc. sg.): n. a family ; a noble or eminent family or race
kaḥ: who?
hi: for
naraḥ (nom. sg.): m. man
sa-sattvaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. possessing energy or vigour
sattva: n. being ; spiritual essence , spirit , mind; vital breath , life , consciousness , strength of character , strength , firmness , energy , resolution , courage , self-command , good sense , wisdom , magnanimity

dharmābhilāṣeṇa (inst. sg.): in his desire for dharma
vanam (acc. sg.): n. forest
praviṣṭaḥ = nom. sg. m. past. part. pra- √ viś: to enter, go into, resort to

kāṣāyam (acc. sg.): n. a brown-red cloth or garment
utsṛjya = abs. ut- √ sṛj: to let loose; to quit , leave , abandon , avoid , eschew
vimukta-lajjaḥ (nom. sg. m.): delivered from shame, dead to shame
vimukta: mfn. unloosed , unharnessed ; set free , liberated (esp. from mundane existence) , freed or delivered or escaped from (abl. instr. , or ifc. ; rarely ibc)
lajjā: f. shame , modesty , bashfulness , embarrassment

puraṁdarasya (gen. sg.): m. " destroyer of strongholds " , N. of indra
dara: mfn. ( √ dṝ) ifc. cleaving , breaking
api: even
puram (acc. sg.): n. a fortress , castle , city , town
śrayeta = 3rd pers. sg. optative śri: to go to , approach , resort or have recourse to (for help or refuge) , tend towards (acc.) ; to go into , enter

日夜苦法増 此則非所應
名族大丈夫 樂法而出家
永背名稱族 建大丈夫志
毀形被法服 樂法遊山林
今復棄法服 有違慚愧心
天王尚不可 況歸人勝宅

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