Sunday, April 20, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.11: Towards Ultimate Knowing

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Rāmā)
jñānaṁ paraṁ vā pthivī-śriyaṁ vā viprair-ya ukto 'dhigamiṣyatīti |
sa eṣa śākyādhipates-tanū-jo nirīkṣyate pravrajito janena || 10.11

"Ultimate knowing, or else earthly power,

Inspired sages said he would realize:

It is he, the son of the Śākya ruler,

Who, having gone forth, is being admired by the people."

On the surface King Śreṇya asked the reason for the crowd's gathering, and some bloke told him the reason, which was that the people were all gawping at the marvel of a royal prince who had gone forth into the life of a wandering beggar. In that case, the answer to the king's question is contained in the second half of today's verse. The reason the crowd gathered was to gaze at the prince.

But below the surface, as I argued yesterday, the king was inquiring into the motive behind all the activity, and the motive was the bodhisattva's desire to realize ultimate knowing. In that case, the answer to the king's question is contained in the first two words of today's verse – jñānaṁ param. The motive behind everything was ultimate knowing.

Speaking of knowing, FM Alexander said that to know when we are wrong is all that we shall ever know in this world.

In those terms, the highest order of knowing might include insight into faulty sensory appreciation and its causes.

But I think that Aśvaghoṣa is rather intending to suggest with jñānaṁ param a still higher order of knowing, namely, direct experience of what does not belong in the realm of knowable knowledge. Ultimate knowing, then, might be not so much knowledge as realization.

So again I come back to Nāgārjuna's assertion, which has been occupying my mind of late, that what the Buddha taught was just pratītya-samutpāda, or All Springing Up Together, with direction.

Buddhist scholars in the past have translated pratītya-samutpāda as “dependent origination” – a doctrine that does belong in the realm of knowable knowledge.

But Zen Master Dogen, as a distant descendant of Aśvaghoṣa and Nāgārjuna, took pains to clarify that what has been transmitted by the Zen patriarchs is just the practice and experience of sitting in full lotus. And this practice and experience, I submit, can never be expressed by a phrase like “dependent origination.” Springing Up Together, with direction, also does not hit the target – insofar as the target cannot be hit with words. But as a pointer to what is called in today's verse jñānaṁ param “ultimate knowing,” I submit that All Springing Up Together, with direction is – as a translation of pratītya-samutpāda which is literal enough and which has meaning – in the right general area.

jñānam (acc. sg.): n. knowing , becoming acquainted with , knowledge , (esp.) the higher knowledge (derived from meditation on the one Universal Spirit)
param (acc. sg. n.): mfn. highest, of the highest order
vā: or
pṛthivī-śriyam (acc. sg. f.): earthly majesty ; power over the earth
pṛthivī: f. the earth or wide world
śrī: f. light, glory; prosperity, wealth, treasure ; high rank , power , might , majesty , royal dignity
vā: or

vipraiḥ (inst. pl.): a sage , seer , singer ; a Brahman ; mfn. stirred or excited (inwardly) , inspired , wise (said of men and gods , esp. of agni , indra , the aśvins , maruts &c ; cf. paṇḍita)
yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
uktaḥ (nom. sg m.): mfn. said
adhigamiṣyati = 3rd pers. sg. future adhi- √ gam: to go up to, accomplish, realize
iti: “....,” thus

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
eva (emphatic)
eṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. this, this here ; sometimes used to give emphasis to the personal pronouns
śākyādhipateḥ (gen. sg. m.): of the Śākya ruler
tanū-jaḥ (nom. sg.): m. 'born of the body'; son

nirīkṣyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive nir- √ īkṣ: to look at or towards , behold , regard , observe (also the stars) , perceive
pravrajitaḥ (nom. sg. m.): one who has left home to become a religious mendicant
pra- √ vraj: to go forth ; to leave home and wander forth as an ascetic mendicant
janena (inst. sg.): m. people

昔聞釋氏種 殊特殊勝子
神慧超世表 應王領八方

今出家在此 衆人悉奉迎

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