Friday, May 2, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.23: A Question of Will to the Truth

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Vāṇī)
āditya-pūrvaṁ vipulaṁ kulaṁ te navaṁ vayo dīptam-idaṁ vapuś-ca |
kasmād-iyaṁ te matir-akrameṇa bhaikṣāka evābhiratā na rājye || 10.23

Mighty is your house, with a son of 'The Infinite' Aditi as its founder;

Young is your life; and shining is this your handsome form –

From where came this will of yours which, all of a sudden,

Is set not on kingship but on abject begging?

On the surface King Bimbisāra's question is not too challenging: the answer is that the bodhisattva's will to be a beggar, instead of a king, came from his will to the truth.

But digging deeper, Bimbisāra might be asking where, all of a sudden, the will to the truth itself comes from.

I remember reading a story told by Matthieu Ricard of a Tibetan master who in a past life was a hunter. One day, the story goes, he shot a pregnant doe from afar. By the time he arrived at the place where his quarry was lying, she had given birth, and with her dying breaths was licking the newborn fawn. This episode had a profound impact on the man's mind so that he decided to give up hunting and devote himself to helping, instead of hunting, other living beings.

So if we ask where this Tibetan master got the will which, all of a sudden, was set not on hunting but on helping all living beings, the answer on the surface is that the episode with the dying doe was a kind of turning point, or catalyst. But the deeper question remains of where his will to the truth came from.

Again, the young Richard Feynman asked his father why a ball in a wagon seems to roll backwards when the wagon is pulled forward. The superficial answer would have been to call it “inertia.” But the first answer that Richard Feynman got from his father was “nobody knows.”

With this in mind I come back again to the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, which is difficult enough at the level of what to call it, to say nothing of the difficulty of really penetrating it.

Since the prefix prati- can mean 1. towards, in the direction of, and 2. back, back down to again, pratītya could originally mean something like 1. having gone up and out towards, or 2. having gone back down and in again. Accepting that “springing up together,” or more simply “arising,” are literal translations of samutpāda, then, pratītya-samutpāda might be translated in brief as either 1. directed arising, or 2. grounded arising. A more complete translation that tries to cover both bases might be "a Springing Up Together, grounded in direction." 

But “grounded arising” gives some sense of this kind of springing up, while also being close enough to “dependent/conditional arising/origination,” which is roughly how pratītya-samutpāda tends to be translated, as a teaching of causality, or of how one thing leads to another, based on causality.

In a previous post, I mistakenly supposed that paccayā in Pali is an instrumental form. It turns out that paccayā is ablative, in which case “on the grounds of” might be a formula that fits in such phrases as
avijjāpaccayā saṅkhārā,
On the grounds of ignorance there are (volitional) processes,
saṅkhārapaccayā viññāṇaṁ,
On the grounds of (volitional) processes there is consciousness...

So “grounded arising” could be a translation of  pratītya-samutpāda / paṭiccasamuppāda that would fit this formula, and at the same time would fit as an abbreviated description of what happens, on a good day, in sitting-meditation.

But an abbreviated description of the truth that the Buddha expressed as paṭiccasamuppāda or pratītya-samutpāda, even if the translation chosen is a good one, works only in the way that “inertia” works as a description of what happened to the ball in the wagon of the young Richard Feynman.

With inertia, the general principle, in Richard Feynman's words, is that things that are moving try to keep on moving, and things that are standing still tend to stand still, unless you push on them hard. And this tendency is called inertia. But nobody knows why it is true.

With pratītya-samutpāda the general principle might be that when things spring up, they do so either going in the direction of somewhere new or going back somewhere old, or both.

But when we sit in lotus and, on a good day, seem to spring effortlessly upwards, what is this springing up? And from what does it follow?

I hesitate to say “nobody knows.” Maybe the Buddha knew.

From where arises the will to the truth? 

King Bimbisāra for one did not know, and neither do I. 

āditya-pūrvam (nom. sg. n.): having a son of aditi as the first
āditya: mfn. belonging to or coming from aditi ; m. pl. N. of seven deities of the heavenly sphere RV. ix , 114 , 3 , &c S3Br. iii , 1 , 3 , 3 (the chief is varuṇa , to whom the N. āditya is especially applicable ; the succeeding five are mitra , aryaman , bhaga , dakṣa , aṁśa ; that of the seventh is probably sūrya)
aditi: f. boundlessness , immensity , inexhaustible abundance , unimpaired condition , perfection , creative power , N. of one of the most ancient of the Indian goddesses (" Infinity " or the " Eternal and Infinite Expanse " , often mentioned in RV. , daughter of dakṣa and wife of kaśyapa , mother of the ādityas and of the gods)
varuṇa: m. " All-enveloping Sky " , N. of an āditya ; the sun
pūrva: mfn. first (in a series) , initial
vipulam (nom. sg. n.): large , extensive , wide , great , thick , long (also of time) , abundant , numerous , important , loud (as a noise) , noble (as a race)
kulam (nom. sg.): n. family, lineage ; a noble or eminent family or race
te (gen. sg.): your

navam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. new, young
vayaḥ (nom. sg.): n. age
dīptam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. shining
idam (nom. sg. n.): this
vapuḥ (nom. sg.): n. body, form
ca: and

kasmāt: ind. (abl.) whence, from where
iyam (nom. sg. f.): this
te (gen. sg.): of/in you
matiḥ (nom. sg.): f. thought , design , intention , resolution , determination , inclination , wish , desire ; mind
akrameṇa (inst. sg.): mfn. not happening successively , happening at once ; m. want of order , confusion.

bhaikṣāke (loc. sg.): n. mendicancy, Bcar. [EBC: a mendicant's life; EHJ: alms-seeking; PO: the mendicant life]
eva: (emphatic)
abhiratā (nom. sg. f): mfn. pleased or contented with (loc.) , satisfied; engaged in , attentive to (loc.) , performing , practising
na: not
rājye (loc. sg.): n. kingship, kingdom

日光之元宗 祚隆已萬世
令徳紹遺嗣 弘廣萃於今
賢明年幼少 何故而出家

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