Monday, June 2, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.12: Insatiable Desires vs Constant Desire

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Ārdrā)
samudra-vastrām-api gām-avāpya pāraṁ jigīṣanti mahārṇavasya |
lokasya kāmair-na vitptir-asti patadbhir-ambhobhir-ivārṇavasya || 11.12

Even having taken possession of the sea-girt earth,

Men desire to conquer what lies beyond the great ocean.

The world is no more sated by desires

Than the ocean is sated by waters descending into it.

In today's verse the bodhisattva gives the first example of what he means by desires (kāmaḥ).

In the ancient Indian triad of dharma, artha, and kāma, each element could be defined in any number of ways, but dharma, wealth and pleasure seems to be the generally accepted English rendering – or religious merit, wealth and pleasure, if we follow MW in translating dharma into English.

Thus, since King Bimbisāra discusses dharma, wealth and pleasure in the previous canto, there is something to be said for translating kāmaḥ as pleasures in the present canto. EBC went down this route (mankind are never satiated with pleasures) as did PO (Men are not sated by gaining pleasures). EHJ, as in yesterday's verse, stuck with the passions (There is no satiety for man with the passions).

But in today's verse as I read it the bodhisattva is clearly not talking about pleasures or about sensual enjoyments or even about “the passions” in general. He is talking about the tendency which we human beings have to desire more and more, as exemplified by empire-builders who can never control enough of what lies out there (even if they have not yet eliminated the faults in here).

The more I reflect on what the bodhisattva is saying in this Canto about kāmaḥ, desires, in the plural, the more I see the key to understanding the bodhisattva's mind as in the word mumukṣayā in BC11.7. Mumukṣayā means “with the desire for release,” this desire for release being in the singular.

A man of small desire, the Buddha is said to have said on the night before he died, already has nirvāṇa. Small desire in Sanskrit is alpecchu or alpeccha which means small desire, or wanting little (alpa = small, little; icchu / iccha = wishing, wanting, desiring). In SN16.38, the  Buddha speaks of alpecchatā (lit. "the state of wanting little"). So obviously in these compounds the word alpa is important, expressing the opposite of greed or thirsting. But also important, when we compare the old Buddha's affirmation of small desire with the bodhisattva's present condemning of desires, might be the point that the bodhisattva is condemning pursuit of desires in the plural, whereas the Buddha affirmed moderate desire in the singular.

samudra-vastrām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. sea-clothed , seagirt (the earth)
api: even, though
gām (acc. sg.): f. the earth (as milk-cow of kings) ; (hence) the number " nine "
avāpya = abs. avāp: to reach , attain , obtain , gain , get

pāram (acc. sg.): n. (rarely m.) the further bank or shore or boundary , any bank or shore , the opposite side
jigīṣanti = 3rd pers. pl. desiderative ji: to win or acquire (by conquest or in gambling) , conquer (in battle)
mahārṇavasya (gen. sg.): the great ocean
arṇava: mfn. agitated , foaming , restless ; m. the foaming sea

lokasya (gen. sg.): m. the world, mankind
kāmaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. desires, pleasures
na: not
vitṛptiḥ (nom. sg.): f. satisfaction ; satiety
vi- √ tṛp: to be satisfied , become satiated with (loc.)
asti: there is

patadbhiḥ = inst. pl. n. pres. part. pat: to fall, descend
ambhobhiḥ (inst. pl.): n. water
iva: like, as
arṇavasya (gen. sg.): m. the foaming sea

王領四海内 猶外更希求
愛欲如大海 終無止足時 

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