Monday, April 21, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.12: Wanting to Know the Direction of Going

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Ārdrā)
tataḥ śrutārtho manasāgatārtho rājā babhāṣe puruṣaṁ tam-eva |
vijñāyatāṁ kva pratigacchatīti tathety-athainaṁ puruṣo 'nvagacchat || 10.12

Then, having learned the motive,
having been motivated in his own mind,

The king told that same man:

“Let me know in what direction he is going!”

The man said “So be it!” and followed him.

On the surface, following the superficial track of the two preceeding verses, śrutārthaḥ in today's verse describes the king as having heard the meaning, or having heard the gist; and manasāgatārthaḥ describes the king as having perceived (lit. arrived at) that meaning with his mind.

Hence EBC translated the 1st pada of today's verse, “having heard this and perceived its meaning with his mind...”

EHJ must have felt that the repetition of artha was redundant, and maybe not worthy of such an elegant poet as Aśvaghoṣa, and so he amended the second artha to āstha, and translated manasāgatāsthaḥ as “was excited in mind.”

“Then the king, on hearing the reason, was excited in mind...” [EHJ]
“When he heard the reason, then, confidence returned to the mind of the king...” [PO]

Below the surface, following the buried meaning of the two preceding verses, the two artha can be understood as expressing not so much “meaning” or “reason,” but – like the original hetu of BC10.10 – “motive.”

In that case, the compound āgatārtha (lit. arrived at motivation) might be read as meaning “motivated” in the same way that, for example, ā́gata-kṣobha (lit. “arrived at agitation”) means confounded or perplexed.

In that case, again, as in yesterday's verse we are dealing not so much with intellectual curiosity as with a deeper motivation. Not so much a desire to know a fact as a desire to go in the direction of ultimate knowing.

That, I think, is the light in which we are intended to read the 3rd pāda of today's verse.

So when King Śreṇya says “Let me know in what direction he is going!”, the king's motivation might be something more than intellectual curiosity, and more than fear of an implicit threat to the prevailing value system of Rājagṛha.

This accords with what we know, from the Pali suttas, of the steps that
Śreṇya, aka Bimbisāra, subsequently took in the direction of ultimate knowing.

In the introduction to his translation of Mahākhandhako (The Great Chapter), Ānandajoti Bhikkhu writes, in connection with the Fourth Section of this text belonging to the Vinaya (Disciple) collection of the Theravada suttas:
Following the conversion of the Kassapas and their one thousand followers, the Buddha goes with them to Rājagaha, the capital of Magadha. King Bimbisāra hears that he has come to his Royal Capital and along with twelve thousand of his fellow citizens he goes out to meet him, fulfilling some wishes he had made while still a prince.
The Buddha teaches them a discourse at this point, but only a synopsis is given in the Pāḷi text, while in the Mahāvastu the full discourse is given. After the discourse the King goes for refuge to the Three Treasures and invites [the Buddha] for a meal on the following day, after which he donates the Bamboo Wood to the Buddha, thus ensuring the material establishment of the Dispensation.

The text and translation of the episode in which the King donates the Bamboo Wood to the Buddha can be found here.

The workrate and general devotion to the cause of Ānandajoti Bhikkhu, quite honestly, put me to shame. 

In consulting his website yesterday to find the above reference to King Bimbisāra, I noticed that Ānandajoti Bhikkhu has just this month published The Analysis of Conditional Origination, which is AB's translation of Paṭiccasamuppādavibhaṅga,

Paṭiccasamuppāda is the Pali equivalent of pratītya-samutpāda.

That Pali text evidently contains a detailed consideration of the twelvefold chain of causation. The text begins (AB's translation): 

Avijjāpaccayā saṅkhārā,

With ignorance as condition there are (volitional) processes,

saṅkhārapaccayā viññāṇaṁ,

with (volitional) processes as condition: consciousness....

The Pali paccayā thus appears to be an instrumental form of the Pali word corresponding to the Sanskrit pratyayaAnd my guess is that also in the Pali there might originally be more of a sense of direction than is conveyed by “with so and so as condition.”

So could the above two lines be translated for example as “Ignorance leads in the direction of (volitional) processes, (volitional) processes in the direction of consciousness....”?

Might a truer translation of paṭiccasamuppāda, then, rather than “conditional origination” be something like “directional origination” or “directional springing up”?

At one point in the Majjhima Nikaya (Middle Length Discourses), AB reports, the Buddha went to so far as to state:

He who sees conditional origination sees the Dhamma, 
 and he who sees the Dhamma sees conditional origination.

MN 28: Yo paṭiccasamuppādaṁ passati so Dhammaṁ passati, 
yo Dhammaṁ passati so paṭiccasamuppādaṁ passati.

The subject, however, is complex and even when Ven Ānanda said he had understood it, he was rebuked by the Buddha, who told him:
This conditional origination is deep, Ānanda, and it appears deep. Through not understanding and penetrating this Dhamma this generation ... he does not transcend the downfall, the bad destinations, the falling away and the cycle of birth and death.
DN 15: Gambhīro cāyaṁ, Ānanda, paṭiccasamuppādo gambhīrāvabhāso ca. Etassa, Ānanda, Dhammassa ananubodhā appaṭivedhā evam-ayaṁ pajā ... apāyaṁ duggatiṁ vinipātaṁ saṁsāraṁ nātivattati.
In the coming centuries when the Abstract Teaching (Abhidhamma) was compiled, the depth and profundity of this particular teaching was worked out in detail, and in the Vibhaṅga it has been pushed to its limits.

So what is written in the Majjhima Nikaya in Pali tends strongly to corroborate what Nāgārjuna wrote in Sanskrit at the beginning of his mūla-madhyamaka-kākarikā, that what the Buddha taught was just pratītya-samutpāda.

And at the same time none of us, including yours truly, should be too quick to jump to the conclusion that we have really understood what pratītya-samutpāda means.

But what I do know, what I would stake my life on, what I already in some sense staked my life on, is that there is no such thing as a right position, but there is such a thing as a right direction. And the words pratītya, and pratyaya, both apparently being derived from prati-√i (prati = towards, in a direction; √i = to go), seem to me to be pointing in a direction.

Coming back to today's verse, but still speaking of verbal roots meaning to go, with a prefix meaning in a direction, the 3rd pāda of today's verse has pratigacchati, “he is going [in a direction],” from prati-√gam, which lit. means “to go towards,” Or then again, it can sometimes mean “to go back.”

Yesterday's verse had adhigamiṣyati, “he will realize,” from adhi-√gam, lit. to go up to, or to go over and above, or to go beyond.

And the canto title is śreṇyābhigamanaḥ, which might mean “Śreṇya Approaching,” or might mean “Meeting Śreṇya.” Either way, abhigamana is from abhi-√gam, lit. to go near to.

EHJ translated śreṇyābhigamanaḥ as “Śreṇya's Visit” and PO as “Encounter with King Śreṇya.”

My inclination at present is to translate śreṇyābhigamanaḥ as “Śreṇya's Approach” or, more literally, “Śreṇya Approaching.” I think the ambiguity that Aśvaghoṣa may have intended was that on the surface Śreṇya's approach or Śreṇya's proposal was in the wrong direction – in the direction of earthly power (pṛthivī-śriyam) rather than ultimate knowing (jñānaṁ param). But below the surface, in light of future developments like the donation of the Bamboo Wood, we can guess that Aśvaghoṣa saw that Śreṇya was going in the right direction, that as a bodhisattva in his own right he was approaching ultimate knowing.

tataḥ: ind. then, on those grounds
śrutārthaḥ (nom. sg.): m. any matter ascertained by hearing
artha: n. aim, purpose ; cause , motive , reason ; sense , meaning , notion
manasā (inst. sg.): n. mind
āgatārthaḥ (nom. sg. m.): [EBC: having perceived its meaning]
āgatāsthaḥ [EHJ] (nom. sg. m.): mfn. full of interest [EHJ: was excited in mind ; PO: confidence returned to the mind]
āgata: mfn. come , arrived ; entered (into any state or condition of mind)
ā́gata-kṣobha: mfn. confounded , perplexed
kṣobha: m. shaking , agitation , disturbance , tossing , trembling , emotion
ā-sthā: f. consideration , regard , care ; assent , promise ; confidence , hope

rājā (nom. sg.): m. the king
babhāṣe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bhāṣ: to speak, tell
puruṣam (acc. sg.): m. man, human being
tam (acc. sg. m.): him
eva: (emphatic)

vijñāyatām = 3rd pers. passive imperative vi- √ jñā: to distinguish , discern , observe , investigate , recognize , ascertain , know , understand ; to have right knowledge
kva: ind. where
pratigacchati = 3rd pers. sg. prati- √ gam: to go towards , go to meet ; to go back , return , go home
iti: “...,” thus

tathā: ind. yes , so be it , so it shall be (particle of assent , agreement , or promise ; generally followed by iti)
iti: “...,” thus
atha: ind. and so
enam (acc. sg. m.): this , that (Grammarians assert that the substitution of enam &c for imam or etam &c takes place when something is referred to which has already been mentioned in a previous part of the sentence)
puruṣaḥ (nom. sg.): m. man, human being
anvagacchat = 3rd pers. sg. perf. anu- √ gam: to go after, follow

王聞心驚喜 形留神已馳
勅使者速還 伺候進趣宜
奉教密隨從 瞻察所施爲

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