Friday, May 9, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.30: Śreṇya Gets Further Away

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bālā)
tasmāt-tri-vargasya niṣevaṇena tvaṁ rūpam-etat-saphalaṁ kuruṣva |
dharmārtha-kāmādhigamaṁ hy-an-ūnaṁ nṇām-an-ūnaṁ puruṣārtham-āhuḥ || 10.30

Therefore by devotion to the triple set

Let this splendid frame of yours bear fruit.

For the integral attainment of dharma, wealth and pleasure

Is for mankind, they say, the whole meaning of a human life.

When, in Aśvaghoṣa's writing, a bit-part player like Bimbisāra is speaking, our critical faculties are being tested in one of two ways. 

Sometimes the speaker, unbeknowns to himself, is accidentally speaking the Buddha's truth. Many verses spoken by King Śuddhodana fit into this category. 

Sometimes the speaker sounds on the surface like he is telling the truth, or at least making some kind of sense, but if we are able to dig below the surface we soon find that it is not so. Almost everything said by the striver in SN Cantos 8 & 9 fits into this latter category. Today's verse, as I read it, also fits in the latter category.

On the surface, King Bimisāra is advocating a balanced life, avoiding the extremes of (1) all dharma-duty and no play, (2) greedy pursuit of material wealth, and (3) hedonistic pursuit of pleasure.

This sounds fair enough, until one digs behind what lies beneath Bimbisāra's belief in “balance.”

Below the surface, King Bimbisāra is putting pursuit of wealth and pleasure on a par with pursuit of dharma; and this won't do on two counts.

First of all, as discussed already, Bimbisāra's conception of pursuit of dharma is different from the bodhisattva's conception of pursuit of dharma.

Second is the case that the bodhisattva himself will set out in BC Canto 11, which is that direct pursuit of pleasure never makes any sense, even for a pleasure-seeker, because such end-gaining does not even lead to pleasure; it only ushers in suffering.

Contrary to the ostensible meaning of the Canto title śreṇyābhigamanaḥ, “Śreṇya's Drawing Near,” King Śreṇya is in fact getting further away. 

That said, if there is any good hidden meaning – accidental preaching of a buddha's dharma – it might be in the exhortation in the 2nd pāda to be fruitful.

In SN Canto 17 Aśvaghoṣa describes how Nanda, having totally lost interest in the prospect of being pleasured by celestial nymphs, and having thrown himself all-out into practice of dhama (SN17.4), successively attains:
1. the first fruit of the dharma (SN17.27); i.e. entry into the stream;
2. the second fruit of the noble dharma (SN17.37); i.e being subject to only one return;
3. the fruit of not returning (SN17.41);
On the basis of this third fruit, Nanda then passes through four stages of sitting-meditation, the four dhyānas. Then, empowered by the mindfulness and lucidity that accompanies the 4th dhyāna, Nanda makes up his mind to attain the fourth fruit, which is the worthy state of the arhat (SN17.56); and finally he does attain
4. the seat of arhathood (SN17.61).

All these stages, however, can be read as a description of what took place while, by a silent stream, Nanda was sitting with legs fully crossed at the foot of one tree (SN17.3). Put with Zen-like simplicity, Nanda just sat and came back to the origin, came back to his true self. 

When I was translating Shobogenzo I read references to the four dhyānas but was frustrated by a lack of clarity about what those four dhyānas were. They were represented in abbreviatd form by Chinese characters that could be understood in all kinds of ways. I found it very unsatisfactory.

The Theravādins, in contrast, are strong on any kind of numbered list. Thus if we want to find a record in the Pali Suttas of the four stages of sitting-meditation, this enumeration is freely available in the The Long Discourse about the Ways of Attending to Mindfulness (Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasuttaṁ; DN 22), in the section on Contemplation of (the Nature of) Things (Dhammānupassanā), in the sub- Section about the Four Truths (Catusaccapabbaṁ), in the sub- sub- section on The Truth of the Path (Maggasaccaṁ), in the passage devoted to the eighth branch of the path (sammasamādhi).

The passage in question can be found here, and I will copy and paste it below. 

Katamo ca, bhikkhave, sammāsamādhi?
Now what, monks, is right concentration?
Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu vivicceva kāmehi, vivicca akusalehi dhammehi,
Here, monks, a monk, quite secluded from sense desires, secluded from unwholesome things,
savitakkaṁ, savicāraṁ, vivekajaṁ pītisukhaṁ,
having thinking, reflection, and the happiness and joy born of seclusion,
paṭhamaṁ jhānaṁ upasampajja viharati.
dwells having attained the first absorption.

Vitakkavicārānaṁ vūpasamā 
With the calming down of thinking and reflection,
ajjhattaṁ sampasādanaṁ, cetaso ekodibhāvaṁ,
with internal clarity, and one-pointedness of mind,
avitakkaṁ, avicāraṁ, samādhijaṁ pītisukhaṁ,
being without thinking, without reflection, having the happiness and joy born of concentration,
dutiyaṁ jhānaṁ upasampajja viharati.
he dwells having attained the second absorption.

Pītiyā ca virāgā upekkhako ca viharati,
With the fading away of joy he dwells equanimous,
sato ca sampajāno, sukhañ-ca kāyena paṭisaṁvedeti,
mindful, fully aware, experiencing happiness through the body,
yan-taṁ Ariyā ācikkhanti: “Upekkhako satimā sukhavihārī” ti,
about which the Noble Ones declare: “He dwells pleasantly, mindful, and equanimous,”
tatiyaṁ jhānaṁ upasampajja viharati. 
he dwells having attained the third absorption.

Sukhassa ca pahānā, dukkhassa ca pahānā,
Having abandoned pleasure, abandoned pain,
pubbeva somanassadomanassānaṁ atthaṅgamā,
and with the previous passing away of mental happiness and sorrow,
adukkham-asukhaṁ, upekkhāsatipārisuddhiṁ,
without pain, without pleasure, and with complete purity of mindfulness owing to equanimity,
catutthaṁ jhānaṁ upasampajja viharati.
he dwells having attained the fourth absorption.
Ayaṁ vuccati, bhikkhave, sammāsamādhi.
This, monks, is called right concentration.

In this translation, by Ānandajoti Bhikkhu, jhāna (Skt: dhyāna) is translated as absorption, and samādhi as concentration.

But what strikes me when I read this text and translation is how very close it is to Aśvaghoṣa's description of Nanda passing through the four dhyānas on his way to the fourth fruit of the noble dharma (SN17.42-55).

The sense I get is of Aśvaghoṣa thus being a kind of bridge between two traditions. Looking ahead to his treatment of pratītya-samutpāda, the same may be true of Nāgārjuna, that his writing forms a kind of bridge between two traditions.

But in neither of these traditions, in any event, is it ever said that pursuit of wealth and pleasure is a way towards realization of the worthy state.

tasmāt: ind. from that, therefore
tri-vargasya (gen. sg.): m. the three things
niṣevaṇena (inst. sg.): n. visiting , frequenting , living in , practice , performance , use , employment , adherence or devotion to , honour , worship (gen)

tvam (nom. sg.): m. you
rūpam (acc. sg.): n. handsome form , loveliness , grace , beauty , splendour
etat (acc. sg. n.): this
saphalam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. fruitful ; " having seed " i.e. possessing testicles , not emasculated ; having good results , productive , profitable , successful (with √ kṛ , " to fulfil " , " keep a promise ")
kuruṣva = 2nd pers. sg. imperative kṛ: to do, make

dharmārtha-kāmādhigamam (acc. sg. m.): attainment of dharma, wealth and pleasure
adhigama: m. the act of attaining , acquisition ; acquirement , mastery , study , knowledge
hi: for
an-ūnam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. not less; whole , entire ; having full power
ūna: mfn. wanting , deficient , defective , short of the right quantity , less than the right number , not sufficient

nṛṇām (gen. pl.): m. man
an-ūnam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. not less; whole , entire ; having full power
puruṣārtham (acc. sg.): m. any object of human pursuit
āhuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. ah: to say; to call , hold , consider , regard as (with two acc.)

是故三事倶 徳流而道宣
法財五欲備 名世大丈夫

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