Wednesday, March 12, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.55: Justifying the Status Quo

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Kīrti)
punar-bhavo 'stīti ca ke-cid-āhur-nāstīti ke-cin-niyata-pratijñāḥ |
evaṁ yadā saṁśayito 'yam-arthas-tasmāt kṣamaṁ bhoktum-upasthitā śrīḥ || 9.55 

Some say, moreover, that there is rebirth;

Others assert with conviction that there is not.

While this matter remains thus open to doubt,

It is only natural to enjoy whatever royal rank has come one's way.

The counsellor's thinking seems to be founded on elements of saṁkhya philosophy, and in particular on the concept of prakṛti, Nature, as the original producer of the material world.

The gist of the counsellor's argument in today's verse, which he will elaborate in the next several verses, seems to be that one of two views must be correct – either (a) there is such a thing as rebirth or (b) there is not.
In case (a), a royal position, prestige and privileges are a reward accrued from past lives, so why throw them away?
In case (b), since there is no prospect of rebirth, why should a prince not simply disregard the future and live for the present, enjoying the royal perks that fall into his lap?

Aśvaghoṣa's intention, I think, is that we should compare and contrast the teaching of the Buddha, as set before Nanda, for example, at the end of SN Canto 16:

A man obtains water if he digs the ground with unflagging exertion,
And produces fire from fire-sticks by continuous twirling.
But those are sure to reap the fruit of their effort 
whose energies are harnessed to practice,
For rivers that flow swiftly and constantly cut through even a mountain.  
// SN16.97 //

After ploughing and protecting the soil with great pains, 
a farmer gains a bounteous crop of corn;
After striving to plumb the ocean's waters, 
a diver revels in a bounty of coral and pearls;
After seeing off with arrows the endeavour of rival kings, 
a king enjoys royal dominion.
tad-vīryaṃ kuru śāntaye viniyataṃ vīrye hi sarva-rddhayaḥ
So make an effort in the direction of peace, 
for in directed energy, undoubtedly, lies all growth."  
// SN16.98 //

Chinese character for "make an effort", thought to be in  Dogen's hand.

Just as, on the basis of his lifelong investigations in the field of human upright posture, FM Alexander asserted that there is no such thing as a right position, but there is such a thing as a right direction, what is true of the human individual might also be true of human society – there is no such thing as a right status quo, but there is such a thing as a right direction of travel.

Saṁkhya philosophy, however, at least as the counsellor understands it, seems rather to justify not making any effort in the right direction, but affirming instead the status quo.

I have tended to think, hitherto, that belief in reincarnation has been conducive in places like India and Tibet to maintenance of the status quo. But today's verse seems to suggest, equally, something that I hadn't considered before – namely, that to take the opposite view can also be, in its own way, conducive to maintenance of the status quo.

So today's verse, again, seems to me, on reflection, to relate to the dialectic triangle whose base is formed of opposing views, and whose apex is pointing us to effort in that right direction which Nāgārujna equated with the abandoning of all views.

sarva-dṛṣṭi-prahāṇāya yaḥ saddharmam-adeśayat |
anukampām upādāya taṁ namasyāmi gautamam || MMK27.30

In the direction of abandoning all views,

He taught the true dharma,

Using compassion.

I pay homage to him, Gautama.

punar-bhavaḥ (nom. sg.): m. new birth , transmigration ; being born again
asti: there is
iti: “...,” thus
ca: and
ke-cid (nom. pl. m.): some
āhur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. ah: to say , speak ; to express ; to call , hold , consider , regard as (with two acc. , for one of which may be substituted a phrase with iti)
na: not
asti: there is
iti: “...,” thus
ke-cid (nom. pl. m.): some
niyata-pratijñāḥ (nom. pl. m.): being definite in their assertion
niyata: fixed , established , settled , sure , regular , invariable , positive , definite
pratijña: mfn. acknowledging (ifc.)
pratijñā: f. admission , acknowledgment; a statement, assertion ; (in logic) a proposition , the assertion or proposition to be proved

evam: ind. thus
yadā: ind. when , at what time , whenever
saṁśayitaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. subject to doubt , uncertain , dubious , questionable
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this
arthaḥ (nom. sg.): m. thing, matter

tasmāt: ind. from that , on that account , therefore
kṣamam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. fit , appropriate , becoming , suitable , proper for (gen. dat. , loc. inf. or in comp.)
bhoktum = inf. bhuj: to enjoy , use , possess , (esp.) enjoy a meal , eat , eat and drink , consume ; to make use of
upasthitā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. come near , approached , arisen , arrived , appeared
upa- √ sthā: to stand or place one's self near , be present
śrīḥ (nom. sg.): f. light , lustre , radiance , splendour , glory , beauty ; prosperity , welfare , good fortune , success , auspiciousness , wealth , treasure , riches ; high rank , power , might , majesty , royal dignity

有言有後世 又復有言無
有無既不判 何爲捨現樂

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