Thursday, May 1, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.22: Exhortation to Listen

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Vāṇī)
prītiḥ parā me bhavataḥ kulena kramāgatā caiva parīkṣitā ca |
jātā vivakṣā suta yā yato me tasmād-idaṁ sneha-vaco nibodha || 10.22

“I have, in connection with your noble house,
a love of the highest order,

Transmitted from offspring to offspring, and tested well.

Hence the desire, O offspring, which is born in me to speak.

Therefore, to this expression of loving devotion, give your attention.

On the surface, in today's verse Bimbisāra is soft-soaping the bodhisattva in preparation for making a proposal, or an approach, which the bodhisattva will reject as not in accordance with his pursuit of the truth.

Below the surface, at a stretch, I think it might be possible to read today's verse as a buddha-to-be, while sitting as a king on a big flat rock, accidentally expressing his own inherent will to the truth -- and maybe expressing even more than that. 

In that case, prītiḥ parā, a love of the highest order, in the 1st pāda, might be love of sitting itself.

And in the 2nd pāda kramāgata (MW: coming from one's ancestors in regular succession) might be an unintended description of the one-to-one transmission of the buddha's dharma which, at the time of Aśvaghoṣa's writing, had passed through twelve generations from Śākyamuni to Aśvaghoṣa.

In that case again, in the 3rd pāda vivakṣā, the desire to speak, might be an inherent will to express the Buddha's truth – and not necessarily in words.

Read in that light, in the 4th pāda sneha-vacas, words of devotion, could be words that express devotion to the Buddha's teaching, in which case nibodha is an exhortation to listen to such words.

Or, going further, idaṁ sneha-vacas, this expression of loving devotion, might be read as a description of the very practice of just sitting, exempted from all worries, in the full lotus posture – in which case nibodha is an exhortation to listen, or to pay attention, to everything that is going on without and within.

In the final analysis, then, might even the singing of birds be included in idaṁ sneha-vacas?

On a textual point, I am not sure why, but EHJ amended suta yā in the 3rd pāda to sva-vayaḥ (with sandhi, sva-vayo ) and noted:

The word sva-vayaḥ in c refers presumably to the legend that Bimbisāra was of exactly the same age as the Buddha; some schools (e.g. Dīpavaṁsa, 3.58) made him a few years younger.

EHJ seems to have translated sva-vayaḥ, however, as if it were vocative, as “my friend”:

I have a strong friendship for your family, which has come down by inheritance and has been well tested; hence, my friend, my desire to speak with you. So listen to these words of affection.”

PO, more understandably, takes sva-vayaḥ as nominative and translates, “because you are my age”:

I have the strongest friendship with your family, an ancestral friendship that has been well tested; Because you are my age, I want to talk to you; listen, therefore, to these my affectionate words.”

In retaining suta yā, I have stuck to the old Nepalese manuscript and followed EBC who translates:

I have a strong friendship with thy family, come down by inheritance and well proved; since from this a desire to speak to thee, my son, has arisen in me, therefore listen to my words of affection.'

In any event, it is not in doubt that today's verse ends with an exhortation to listen, or to pay attention. The imperative nibodha, from the verb root ni-√budh, takes pride of place at the end of the verse.

To that end, and apropos of what I wrote yesterday about sitting-meditation, my investigations over the years brought me into contact with a protege of Alfred Tomatis (“Einstein of the Ear”) named Paul Madaule, who spoke of what Tomatis called “the listening posture.”

“The listening posture” is a potentially misleading term – like “seated meditation” or like “full lotus posture.” It is not that one gets into some kind of right posture, which is conducive to listening. Rather, what Tomatis meant by “the listening posture,” if I understand correctly, is the attitude of a one who – like a rabbit with its ears pricked up – is listening.

The rabbit, one supposes, does not have any self-consciousness of itself as being in a listening posture. It is not pulled down by any pernicious concept of “right posture.”

So the best instruction for a Zen devotee who aspires to sit in “the listening posture,” in Sanskrit as in English, might be a simple one-word imperative:


When I googled “listening posture, Tomatis,”
 I was surprised to find on the front page,
three rows down, a photo I took myself!

prītiḥ (nom. sg.): f. pleasure ; friendly disposition , kindness , favour , grace , amity, affection, love (with gen. loc. , or ifc.)
parā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. ultimate, best or worst , highest , supreme
me (gen. sg.): of me
bhavataḥ (gen. sg.): you (lit. " the gentleman or lady present ")
kulena (inst. sg.): n. family , house ; a noble or eminent family or race

kramāgatā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. descended or inherited lineally , (anything) coming from one's ancestors in regular succession
krama: m. step ; hereditary descent
āgata: mfn. arrived, come
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
parīkṣitā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. carefully inspected , tried , examined
pari- √īkṣ: to look round , inspect carefully , try , examine , find out , observe , perceive
ca: and

jātā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. born, arisen
vivakṣā (nom. sg.): f. (fr. Desid. of √ vac) the wish or desire to speak or declare or teach or express ; meaning , signification , sense ; the (mere) wish or intention to speak , uncertainty , doubt , hesitation ; a question
suta (voc. sg.): m. son, offspring; mfn. begotten , brought forth
yā (nom. sg. f.): which [desire to speak]
sva-vayaḥ [PO] (nom. sg. m.): being the same age
sva-vayaḥ [EHJ] (voc. sg. n.??): “my friend”
yataḥ: ind. (correlative of tataḥ) whence, whereof, from which ; from which time forward , since when (also with prabhṛti ; yato jātā , " ever since birth ")
me (gen. sg.): in me

tasmāt: ind. from that , on that account , therefore (correlative of yad , yasmāt)
idam (acc. sg. n.): this, the following
sneha-vacaḥ (acc. sg. n.): words of affection / devotion
sneha: m. blandness , tenderness , love , attachment to , fondness or affection for (loc. gen. , or comp.) , friendship with (saha) MaitrUp. MBh. Ka1v. &c
nibodha = 2nd pers. sg. imperative ni- √ budh: to learn or hear anything (acc.) from any one (gen. , rarely sakāśāt) , to attend or listen to (esp. Impv. nibodha); to know , understand

伏聞名高族 盛徳相承襲
欽情久蘊積 今欲決所疑

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