Thursday, April 3, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.77: The Bodhisattva's Disdain for a Breaker of a Vow of Practice

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
gha-praveśaṁ prati yac-ca me bhavān-uvāca rāma-prabhtīn nidarśanam |
na te pramāṇaṁ na hi dharma-niścayeṣv-alaṁ pramāṇāya parikṣata-vratāḥ || 9.77

And as for what you said to me about going home,

Citing as an example Rāma and the rest,

They are not the standard.
For, in no way, as a standard for decisions in dharma,

Do vow-breakers measure up.

In the present canto the bodhisattva speaks twenty-seven and a half verses (twenty-one verses from BC9.31-51; plus six and a half verses from BC9.73-79).

These verses are spoken very much in the spirit of one who is standing firm in his iron resolve (dhṛtau sthitaḥ; BC9.72).

Below is a selection of the verses that hammer home the point.

For it is praiseworthy for kings to leave their kingdoms behind them

And, in their desire for dharma,
to betake themselves back to the forest.

But it is not fitting for a vow-breaker (bhagna-pratijñasya)

To shun the forest and betake himself back to the family.

For what man of character born into a good family,

Having betaken himself, in his desire for dharma, to the forest,

Would cast off the red-brown robe and, dead to shame,

Make for the city
– even if the city were that of Indra himself,
“Breaker Down of City Walls”?

For he who, out of greed, out of ignorance, or else in fear,

Would take back the food he has vomited,

He, out of greed, out of ignorance, or else in fear,

Would take back the desires he has renounced.

Again, he who, after escaping,
by the skin of his teeth, from a burning house,

Would go back again into that inferno –

He, after leaving family life,
having seen the faults attendant on it,

Would desire in his ignorance to embrace it again.

Resolutely, therefore, those rulers of the wealth-giving earth

Abandoned their kingdoms and obtained peace;

Or else, firmly anchored, on the grounds of sovereign power, 
on the grounds of subdued senses,

They affixed the name 'liberation' to what was not the ultimate.

Or if any of those kings during his kingship
did properly realize peace, be that as it may!

I, for my part, have not come to the forest
with any lack of conviction.

For, having cut the snare called kith and kin,

I am free, and not about to enter it again.”

Standing firm in his resolve, the son of a king said:

“As to the doubt you raise,
about existence in this world and non-existence,

I shall arrive at conviction in this matter
not by way of another's words.

Seeing the truth by the heat of asceticism,
or else by the coolness of quietism,

I will grasp for myself what, in this matter, is to be ascertained.

For it would ill befit me to accept a worldview born of doubt,

Unintelligible and beset with internal contradictions.

For what wise person would proceed
on the grounds of another person's grounds –

Like a blind man in the darkness, whose guide is blind?

In the first verse in the above selection, the bodhisattva expresses his disdain for the bhagna-pratijña, the vow-breaker. In today's verse the equivalent phrase is parikṣata-vrata, which means one who breaks vows, or – perhaps more literally “one who wounds a purpose” or “one who wounds practice.”

One imagines that Indian bhikṣus in ancient times would have drawn strength from the bodhisattva's words, and been encourged in the maintenance of their vow of practice.

Even today, those of us who practise on a daily basis a way that demands direction of all one's energy into some practical task, even though we are not necessarily celibate wandering mendicants, can maybe draw similar strength and encouragement from the bodhisattva's expression of his firm resolve.

gṛha-praveśam (acc. sg. m.): going home
prati: ind. about, with regard to
yat (acc. sg. n.): [that] which
ca: and
me (gen. sg.): my
bhavān (nom. sg.): lit. " the gentleman present "

uvāca = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vac: to say, speak (with double acc. also "to name , call")
rāma-prabhṛtīn (acc. pl. m.): Rāma et cetera
nidarśanam (acc. sg.): n. instance , example , illustration

na: not
te (nom. pl. m.): they
pramāṇam (nom. sg.): n. measure; right measure , standard , authority
na: not
hi: for
dharma-niścayeṣu (loc. pl.): in decisions regarding dharma
niścaya: m. inquiry, ascertainment , fixed opinion , conviction , certainty , positiveness; resolution , resolve, fixed intention , design
niś- √ ci : to ascertain , investigate , decide , settle , fix upon , determine , resolve

alam: ind. enough (with dative e.g. alaṁ śaṅkayā , enough i.e. away with fear!)
pramāṇāya (dat. sg.): n. measure; right measure , standard , authority
parikṣata-vratāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. one who has broken his vow, Bcar
parikṣata: mfn. ( √ kṣan) wounded , hurt , injured , killed
vrata: n. solemn vow; any vow or firm purpose , resolve

如説羅摩等 捨家修梵行
終歸還本國 服習五欲者
此等爲陋行 智者所不依
我今當爲汝 略説其要義

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