Friday, April 25, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.16: Backward & Forward Steps

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
tatrainam-ālokya sa rāja-bhtyaḥ śreṇyāya rājñe kathayāṁ cakāra |
saṁśrutya rājā sa ca bāhumānyāt-tatra pratasthe nibhtānuyātraḥ || 10.16

That servant of the king, having seen him there,

Reported back to King Śreṇya.

And the king, having listened, out of great respect,

Set off in that direction, with only a modest retinue.

Was the listening done out of great respect? Or was the size of the retinue determined out of great respect?

The word order tends to support the former reading, since saṁśrutya (having listened) and  bāhumānyāt (out of great respect) appear together in the 3rd pāda.

The latter reading is supported by the tradition, noted by EHJ, that It is more proper for a king to visit a saint with a small retinue.

This tradition, of which I was unaware when translating SN Canto 3, may have been pertinent to SN3.20:

atha pārthivaḥ samupalabhya sutam-upagataṁ tathāgataṁ /
And so the king learned that his son had arrived
as the Tathāgata, the One Arrived Thus;
tūrṇam-abahu-turagānugataḥ suta-darśanotsukatayābhiniryayau // 3.20 //
With but a few horses straggling behind him,
out the king charged, in his eagerness to see his son.

But, EHJ adds, in connection with today's verse, some versions of this legend make Bimbisāra go out with a large following and C [the Chinese translation] here gives 100,000 followers and may have read pratasthe 'nibhṛtānuyātraḥ, if it did not wilfully alter the sense.

The Chinese translation, however, is ever unreliable, and the line about 100,000 followers  (導從百千衆) is even less credible since, in my reading, it is appended to the Chinese translation not of today's verse but of tomorrow's verse.

Setting aside this uncertainty with regard to respect and retinues great and small, what is clear is that King Śreṇya/Bimbisāra is described as first listening, and then advancing into movement.

For a Zen patriarch such as Aśvaghoṣa was, though this description of the king's behaviour is unobtrusive, it might conceal high praise.

Ostensibly it is tomorrow's verse in which Aśvaghoṣa heaps praise on Bimbisāra, comparing him to a lion. But when we dig for the gold in today's verse, Aśvaghoṣa's gold might be quietly reflecting the essence of what the Zazen life is – namely, endless cycles of

  • (a) taking the backward step of turning our light around and coming back to what Alfred Tomatis called “the listening posture,” and
  • (b) charging forward and making one mistake after another.

In Shobogenzo chap. 14, Sansuigyo, Dogen wrote that there should be stepping backward and there should be stepping forward.

Today's verse as I read it is a pointer to that teaching. The backward step and forward steps. Listening and going into movement. Sitting-meditation and everyday life.

tatra: ind. there
enam (acc. sg. m.): him
ālokya = abs. ā- √ lok: to look at, behold
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
rāja-bhṛtyaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a king's servant , royal servant or minister

śreṇyāya (dat. sg.): Śreṇya
rājñe (dat. sg.): m. the king
kathayāṁ cakāra = 3rd pers. sg. periphrastic perfect kath: to tell , relate , narrate , report , inform , speak about , declare , explain , describe

saṁśrutya = abs. saṁśru: to hear or hear from, to listen attentively
rājā (nom. sg.): m. king
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
ca: and
bāhu-mānyāt: out of the great worthiness of honour
bahu: mfn. much , many , frequent , abundant , numerous , great or considerable in quantity
manya: mfn. to be respected or honoured , worthy of honour , respectable , venerable
bahu-māna: m. high esteem or estimation , great respect or regard for

tatra: ind. there, to that place
pratasthe pra- √ sthā: to advance towards; to proceed or march to
nibhṛtānuyātraḥ (nom. sg. m.): with a modest retinue
nibhṛta: mfn. borne or placed down , hidden , secret ; quiet , humble , modest , mild , gentle
anuyātrā/a: f/n. retinue , attendance ; that which is required for a journey.
a-nibhṛtānuyātraḥ (nom. sg. m): with no small retinue; with an imposing retinue

使見安住彼 次第具上聞
王聞心馳敬 即勅嚴駕行 

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