Friday, April 11, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.2: Entering Unperturbed, In the Middle

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Vāṇī)
śailaiḥ su-guptaṁ ca vibhūṣitaṁ ca dhtaṁ ca pūtaṁ ca śivais-tapodaiḥ |
pañcācalāṅkaṁ nagaraṁ prapede śāntaḥ svayambhūr-iva nāka-pṣṭham || 10.2

Well guarded, and beautified, by mountains;

Preserved, and purified, by healing hot springs;

In the hook of five hills, stood the city he entered –

Like 'Self-Existing' Svayam-bhū, unperturbed, 
entering the heights of heaven.

If I ever went on a pilgrimage anywhere it might include a visit to the tapo-dāḥ (lit. “heat-givers”), the hot springs of Rāja-gṛha, “Kingsbury,” which was the main city in the region of Magadha, where the Buddha was enlightened under the bodhi tree.

Before mealtimes in temples in Japan a verse is recited which begins

The Buddha was born in Kapila[vastu]
Realized the truth in Magadha
Preached the Dharma in Varāna[sī]
Entered pari-nirvāṇa in Kuśi-nagara...

So Rāja-gṛha was the main city in the kingdom of Magadha, where the Buddha realized himself as the Buddha.

The king of that ancient kingdom is generally known as Bimbi-sāra, but in this Canto Aśvaghoṣa calls him Śreṇya; hence the canto title śreṇyābhigamaḥ Since abhigamaḥ is from the root abhi-√gam, which means to go near, to visit, to meet, this title also is ambiguous in that Śreṇya could be understood as either the one who drew near (the agent of abhigama), or as the one whom the bodhisattva met (the object of abhigama).

Either way, in these opening verses of the present Canto, apart from setting the geographical and historical context, Aśvaghoṣa as I hear him is once again highlighting the point that was first made in BC Canto 1 – namely, that the life of the Buddha was something beautiful in the beginning, in the middle and at the end.

And I think this is not merely the expression of the rose-coloured religious sentiment of a Buddhist believer in Buddha. It rather includes the practical principle which the non-Buddhist FM Alexander expressed as “the right thing does itself,” and which Dogen emphasized at the very beginning of his instructions for sitting-Zen, where he affirmed that enlightenment originally is all around us.

The point, in other words, is that spontaneous springing up is not something that any of us has to strive to manufacture on the round black cushion. The effort required might be more in the direction of cessation of striving.

Speaking of spontaneous springing up, svayam-bhū was a name used for mighty gods like Brahmā the creator and Śiva the destroyer – gods who did pretty much whatever they liked. Svayam means by oneself, spontaneously, of one's own accord, and bhū means being, existing, or springing up.

So in today's verse as I read it, even though the bodhisattva has not yet realized himself as the Buddha, Aśvaghoṣa is describing him in terms that might be used to describe a Buddha's sitting-meditation – as existing by and for itself, or as a spontaneous springing up.

śailaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. a rock , crag , hill , mountain
su-guptam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. well-guarded ; well hidden or concealed , kept very secret
ca: and
vibhūṣitam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. adorned , decorated
ca: and

dhṛtam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. held , borne , maintained , supported, kept , possessed
dhṛ: to hold , bear (also bring forth) , carry , maintain , preserve , keep , possess , have , use , employ , practise , undergo ; (with or scil ātmānam , jīvitam , prāṇān , deham , śarīram &c ) to preserve soul or body , continue living , survive
ca: and
pūtam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. cleaned , purified , pure , clear , bright
ca: and
śivaiḥ (inst. pl. n.): auspicious, healthy
tapodaiḥ (inst. pl.): n. " granting religious merit " , N. of a tīrtha ; any sacred place, Bcar.
tapas: n. warmth , heat
-da: mfn. giving

pañcācalāṅkam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. in the hook of five hills
pañca: five
acala: m. 'not moving' ; a mountain , rock
aṅka: m. a hook ; a curve ; the side or flank ; any mark , line , stroke , ornament , stigma
nagaram (acc. sg.): n. the city
prapede = 3rd pers. sg. perf. pra- √ pad : to go forwards set out for , resort to , arrive at , attain , enter (with acc.

śāntaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. appeased , pacified , tranquil , calm , free from passions , undisturbed
svayam-bhūḥ (nom. sg.): m. 'self-existing , independent ' name of Brahman ; of Śiva
svayam: ind. of or by one's self spontaneously , voluntarily , of one's own accord
bhū: mfn. becoming , being , existing , springing , arising
iva: like
nāka-pṛṣṭham (acc. sg.): n. " sky-ceiling " , the uppermost heaven
nāka: m. vault of heaven , firmament , sky
pṛṣṭha: n. the upper side , surface , top , height

藏根於五山 特秀峙中亭
林木花果茂 流泉温涼分
入彼五山城 寂靜猶昇天 

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