Monday, May 19, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.40: Śreṇya / Going Beyond Buddha

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
suvarṇa-keyūra-vidaṣṭa-bāhavo maṇi-pradīpojjvala-citra-maulayaḥ |
nparṣayas-tāṁ hi gatiṁ gatā makhaiḥ śrameṇa yām-eva mahārṣayo yayuḥ || 10.40

For, with arms hugged by golden bands,

With conspicuous crowns blazing with the light of gems,

Seers who were protectors of men have walked that same path,
by their sacrifices,

Which the maharishis, the great seers, 
reached by their hard practice.”

The final irony in Śreṇya's speech, as I read it, relates to the teaching known in Chinese as 仏向上事 (Jap: BUTSU-KOJO-JI), which means “the matter of buddha going beyond” or “the matter of going beyond buddha.” Except that 向上 (KOJO) expresses an upward direction. So it includes the sense of “buddha going up.” 

仏向上事 (BUTSU-KOJO-JI) is the title of Shobogenzo chap. 28, and it is a difficult title to translate. At my last attempt, six years ago, I went with “The Matter of Buddha Going On Up.”  

On the surface in today's verse King Śreṇya is making a distinction between “the great seers” (mahārṣayaḥ) and, only slightly lower down the spiritual foodchain, if lower at all, “royal seers” (nṛparṣayaḥ). The former type of seers we know in the west as maharishis. The latter type, royal seers, were celebrated in ancient Indian culture, often with reference to their sexual pecadillos; Nanda in SN Canto 7 cites several famous examples of royal seers who were tripped up in their ascetic practice by sexual desire. 

So on the surface Śreṇya is recommending the bodhisattva to resume a royal position, complete with golden accessories and jewelled crowns, and to pursue the truth while keeping that bejewelled royal position. On the surface, Śreṇya is saying “there have been bejewelled royal seers whose practice was as great, or almost as great, as those maharishis who were devoted full-time to cultivating their own empty field in the forest.”

The irony, below the surface, might be that nṛparṣayaḥ, lit. “seers who are protectors of men,” alludes to seers who are second to nobody, namely, buddhas who sacrifice joys like their own solitary sitting-meditation (in which their arms and heads are illuminated by their own light?) in order to protect others from the terrors of aging, sickness and death.

In this vein, the Buddha tells Nanda in SN Canto 18: 

avāpta-kāryo 'si parāṃ gatiṃ gato na te 'sti kiṁ-cit karaṇīyam-aṇv-api /
Walking the transcendent walk, you have done the work that needed to be done: 
in you, there is not the slightest thing left to work on.
ataḥ-paraṃ saumya carānukampayā vimokṣayan kṛcchra-gatān parān-api//18.54
From now on, my friend, go with compassion, 
freeing up others who are pulled down into their troubles.

ihārtham-evārabhate naro 'dhamo vimadhyamas-tūbhaya-laukikīṃ kriyām /
The lowest sort of man only ever sets to work for an object in this world. 
But a man in the middle does work both for this world and for the world to come.
kriyām-amutraiva phalāya madhyamo viśiṣṭa-dharmā punar-apravṛttaye// 18.55 
A man in the middle, I repeat, works for a result in the future. 
The superior type, however, tends towards abstention from positive action.

ihottamebhyo 'pi mataḥ sa tūttamo ya uttamaṃ dharmam-avāpya naiṣṭhikam /
But deemed to be higher than the highest in this world is he who, 
having realized the supreme ultimate dharma,
acintayitvātma-gataṃ pariśramaṃ śamaṃ parebhyo 'py-upadeṣṭum-icchati//18.56
Desires, without worrying about the trouble to himself, 
to teach tranquillity to others.

vihāya tasmād-iha kāryam-ātmanaḥ kuru sthirātman para-kāryam-apy-atho /
Therefore forgetting the work that needs to be done in this world on the self, 
do now, stout soul, what can be done for others.
bhramatsu sattveṣu tamo-vṛtātmasu śruta-pradīpo niśi dhāryatām-ayam//18.57
Among beings who are wandering in the night, 
their minds shrouded in darkness, 
let the lamp of this transmission be carried.

In the terms used in today's verse, the Buddha in so many words is telling Nanda, “You are a great seer already; now continue on as a seer who is a protector of men.”

Read like this, today's verse seems to throw further light on the relation between means and end discussed in connection with yesterday's verse. Today's verse in its hidden meaning seems to say that, yes, to gain the end is valuable. But what is even more valuable is, having gained the end, to carry on applying the means-whereby principle, to carry on walking the path.

A wider irony, in that case, might relate to the canto title śreṇyābhigamanaḥ, or “Śreṇya / Drawing Near” – insofar as, below the surface, Śreṇya's words seem to be the words of one who has already drawn near to the target of buddha, who has already hit the target of buddha, and who his now pointing to the teaching of going beyond buddha.

A final reflection, stimulated by the description of golden bands and illuminated crowns, is that gold and crowns in the world are generally rewards for advancement or promotion in the world, for having gone forward. But in sitting-meditation, the golden light and illuminated crown of directed energy is realized by going backward  by learning what Dogen called the backward step of turning one's light and letting it shine. So one fundamental meaning of the middle way is for this going forward and this turning backward to be in some kind of balance. Too much go forward and we stress our systems out (as I did on my way back from the forest to the ferry last Monday night, or as I did in spades twenty years ago when preparing Shobogenzo Book One for publication). Too much go backward and we run the risk of disappearing up our own backsides and failing to do what can be done for others. 

The pratītya of pratītya-samutpāda comes from the root prati-√i, which can mean 1. to go towards, and 2. to go backward. And one way of understanding pratītya-samutpāda, as a suggestion of sitting at what my teacher used to call  "the fourth phase" is as "A Complete Springing Up, having gone back." This fits with the very earliest descriptions of the Buddha's practice of the way of cessation of suffering under the bodhi tree. At the same time, those early descriptions describe the Buddha applying his mind to pratītya-samutpāda  in both forward and backward directions. So another way of translating pratītya-samutpāda is "A Complete Springing Up, grounded in [forward and backward] direction." 

In any event, what has become evident to me in recent weeks and months, not having been evident before, is that the Buddha placed great emphasis on seeing the true meaning of  pratītya-samutpāda, not only at the level of objective teaching of causality at what my teacher used to call the second phase; but also at the practicality of the third phase; and also at the magical reality (complete with golden bands and illuminated crowns) of the fourth phase. 

suvarṇa-keyūra-vidaṣṭa-bāhavaḥ (nom. pl. m.): their arms squeezed by golden bracelets
suvarṇa: mfn. of a good or beautiful colour , brilliant in hue , bright , golden , yellow; gold, made of gold
keyūra: n. a bracelet worn on the upper arm ; m. N. of a samādhi
vidaṣṭa: mfn. crushed or forced asunder
daṣṭa: mfn. ( √ daṁś) bitten , stung
√ daṁś: 1. to speak, to shine ; 2. to bite
saṁdaṣṭa (EBC ref.: Raghuv. XVI, 65): mfn. bitten , compressed , pressed closely together , pinched , nipped
bāhu: m. the arm, (esp.) the forearm

maṇi-pradīpojjvala-citra-maulayaḥ (nom. pl. m.): with spectacular crowns blazing with the light of gems
maṇi: m. a jewel , gem , pearl (also fig.)
pradīpa: m. light, lamp (often ifc. " the light i.e. the glory or ornament of ")
ujjvala: mfn. blazing up , luminous , splendid , light
citra: mfn. conspicuous, bright, variegated
mauli: mf. a diadem , crown , crest ; hair ornamented and braided round the head

nṛparṣayaḥ (nom. pl.) m. a royal sage, Bcar.
nṛpa: m. protector of men , prince , king , sovereign
tām (acc. sg. f.): that
hi: for
gatim (acc. sg.): f. manner or power of going ; procession , march , passage , procedure , progress , movement ; path, way, course
gatāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. gone ; ;gone to any state or condition , fallen into (acc. or loc.); walked (a path)
makhaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. (prob. connected with √1. mah or √ maṁh)a feast , festival , any occasion of joy or festivity ; m. a sacrifice , sacrificial oblation ; mfn. jocund , cheerful , sprightly , vigorous , active , restless (said of the maruts and other gods)
√mah: to elate , gladden , exalt , arouse , excite ; to magnify , esteem highly , honour , revere
√ maṁh: to give , grant , bestow ; to increase
śrameṇa (inst. sg.): m. exertion , labour , toil , exercise , effort either bodily or mental , hard work of any kind
yām (acc. sg. f.): [that] which
eva: (emphatic)
mahārṣayaḥ (nom. pl. m.): great sages
yayuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. yā: to go; to go towards or against , go or come to , enter , approach , arrive at , reach

先勝諸聖王 嚴身寶瓔珞
祠祀設大會 終歸受天福

No comments: