Thursday, June 5, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.15: Being Of Objects vs Being Among Objects

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bālā)
aiḍaś-ca rājā tri-divaṁ vigāhya nītvāpi devīṁ vaśam-urvaśīṁ tām |
lobhād-ṣibhyaḥ kanakaṁ jihīrṣur-jagāma nāśaṁ viṣayeṣv-atptaḥ || 11.15

Again, King Purū-ravas, son of Iḍā, having penetrated triple heaven

And even brought into his thrall that goddess Dawn, Urvaśī,

Was still desirous, in his greed, of carrying off the Rishis' gold –

Unsatisfied, among all his possessions in sensory realms, 
he went to his end.

The story of the love affair between Purūravas and Urvaśī is told in Kālidāsa's drama Vikramorvaśī, which means Urvaśī [Won] by Vikrama, or Dawn [Won] by Valour. So well-known is the story in India that EHJ evidently deemed it not to warrant a footnote. (EBC had included a short footnote referencing the story to Mahābh. I, 3147.)

Nanda refers to the story as follows in SN Canto 7 (where 'Moon-Armoured' Soma-varman is an epithet of Purū-ravas, as grandson of the moon).

naptā śaśāṅkasya yaśo-guṇāṅko budhasya sūnur-vibudha-prabhāvaḥ /
As grandson of the hare-marked moon,
as son of 'The Learned' Budha and the goddess Iḍā,
and as one marked by personal honour and virtue,
[Purū-ravas] had the special powers of the lunar and the very learned;
tathorvaśīm-apsarasaṃ vicintya rāja-rṣir-unmādam-agacchad-aiḍaḥ // SN7.38
But thinking of the apsaras Urvaśī, this royal seer also went mad.

hṛtāṃ ca saunandakinānuśocan prāptām-ivorvīṃ striyam-urvaśīṃ tām /
Again, when the avatar Saunandakin took away his 'Wide Dawn' Urvaśī,
the wife whom, like the wide earth, Soma-varman had made his own,
sad-vṛtta-varmā kila somavarmā babhrāma cittodbhava-bhinna-varmā // SN7.42
'Moon-Armoured' Soma-varman whose armour, 
so they say, had been virtuous conduct,
roamed about grieving, his armour pierced by mind-existent Love.

The Wikipedia entry on the Kālidāsa play suggests that in Kālidāsa's telling of the story the lovers eventually live happily ever after, whereas the above references in Saundarananda suggest otherwise.

In any event, today's verse carries on the theme of describing an ancient hero who despite having considerable success in consummating his desires (two out of three, in today's verse as in yesterday's verse, is not bad), was ultimately not satisfied.

Moreover, the 4th pāda of today's verse invites me to carry on nit-picking about the use of atṛptaḥ with the locative plural.

EBC translates viṣayeṣv-atṛptaḥ as “being unsatisfied with pleasures,” EHJ as “unsatisfied with the objects of sense,” and PO as “while his craving for sense objects remained unappeased.”

But the bodhisattva's style of expression as I read, as also in yesterday's verse, is more indirect in describing the relationship between (a) the agent of satisfaction or dissatisfaction and (b) objects/desires surrounding him in the sensory realm. Again, the bodhisattva is not describing Purū-ravas as unsatisfied with viṣayaiḥ or with viṣayāṇām; he is describing Purū-ravas as unsatisfied in viṣayeṣu or among viṣayeṣu.

This may seem like small potatoes, but I think that Aśvaghoṣa was drawing our attention to just such a fine point by the particular phrasing of the 4th pāda of BC11.13 which reads māndhātur-āsīd-viṣayeṣv-atṛptiḥ
lit. “For Māndhātṛ there was, in/among objects, dissatisfaction.”

The phrasing somehow suggests another possibility, e.g.:
“For a non-Māndhātṛ there can be, among objects, satisfaction.”

It somehow relates to Nanda's pointer in SN Canto 18 to the possibility of being present in the world (lokeṣu) without being of the world (na loka-dharmā).

kṣayaṃ gataṃ janma nirasta-janman saddharma-caryām-uṣito 'smi samyak /
Rebirth is over, O Refuter of Rebirth!
I am dwelling as one with observance of true dharma.
kṛtsnaṃ kṛtaṃ me kṛta-kārya kāryaṃ lokeṣu bhūto 'smi na loka-dharmā //18.10 
What was for me to do, O Doer of the Necessary! is totally done.
I am present in the world without being of the world.

In other words, the bodhisattva in the present series of verses is ostensibly discussing whether or not there can be satisfaction with desires/objects, and he is citing historical examples of unenlightened men who were not satisfied with desires/objects, attained and unattained.

But what the bodhisattva is actually expressing might be a more subtle and profound perception, which is that all of us who are in the world are inevitably living among many desires in the realm of the senses.

And in this situation, in attaining and failing to attain those many and various desires/objects, we who are unenlightened are sometimes satisfied with desires/objects but are generally dissatisfied with desires/objects.

But the hope remains that, even in this very situation of living in the world among many desires in the realm of the senses, we might be able, even while living among desires/objects, to find satisfaction – for example, by really understanding the four noble truths and, equally, by devotedly following the noble eightfold path.

If, in contrast, we seek to put the blame on desires and sensual objects and look forward to a day when those external enemies will all be defeated, our situation in following that approach might be fairly hopeless.

In an attempt to allow some such inkling to be conveyed by today's verse, the one Sanskrit word viṣayeṣu which EBC translated with two English words (“with pleasures”) and EHJ translated with five English words (“with the objects of sense”), I have translated with no less than seven English words (“among all his possessions in sensory realms”) – which might be some kind of record for lack of pithiness.

In light of all of the above, the title of the present Canto is interesting. Kāma-vigarhaṇaḥ means Blaming/Condemning Desires. But the main gist of the Canto is the question (repeated in every verse from BC11.22 through BC11.33) 
kāmeṣu kasyātmavato ratiḥ syāt...?
lit. “For what man in possession of himself would there be enjoyment of desires [which are like....]?”

So implicit in the bodhisattva's oft-repeated question is not the blaming or condemning of desires; implicit in the bodhisattva's question is rather the blaming or condemning of not being in possession of oneself.

Desires out there are not to blame for this lack of satisfaction in here. The fault is rather in faults in here.

Why then did Aśvgahoṣa choose the title  kāma-vigarhaṇaḥ,  Blaming / Condemning Desires?

One possible answer is that Aśvgahoṣa did not choose the title, but some later editor did. This conjecture is supported by EBC's texts, which do not have a title, and by the Chinese translation which has an altogether different title, viz 答瓶沙 (Reply to King Bim[bi]sā[ra]).

The Poem 'What the Buddha Did', Chapter 11, Reply to King Bimbisāra.

Another possible answer, and one which I somehow favour, is that Aśvaghoṣa deliberately chose an ironic title, so as to encourage us to engage our grey matter and think accurately about the relation between an agent of satisfaction or dissatisfaction, and desires.

Having written the above comment yesterday and, having had my grey matter thus stimulated, slept on it and sat, the image came to me this morning of a mountain among clouds, birds, rain, snow, sunshine et cetera. Which is to say that an agent of dissatisfaction among desires/objects is inevitably dissatisfied. But an agent of satisfaction among desires/objects might be like a mountain just sitting there, jubilant, among clouds, birds, rain, wind, snow, sunshine et cetera. This mountain, moreover, might be the stronghold of a tiger. And in its secret forests and foothills there may be places where dragons find water.

aiḍaḥ (nom. sg.): m. 'containing anything that refreshes or strengthens'; descended from Iḍā; N. of purūravas RV. x , 95 , 18
iḍā: f. refreshing draught , refreshment , animation , recreation , comfort , vital spirit ; the goddess iḍā or iḷā (daughter of manu or of man thinking on and worshipping the gods ; she is the wife of budha and mother of purū-ravas ; in another aspect she is called maitrāvaruṇi as daughter of mitra-varuṇa , two gods who were objects of the highest and most spiritual devotion)
ca: and
rājā (nom. sg.): m. king
tri-divam (acc. sg.): n. the 3rd or most sacred heaven , heaven (in general)
vigāhya = abs. vi- √ gāh: to plunge or dive into , bathe in , enter , penetrate , pervade , betake one's self into (acc. or loc.)

nītvā = abs. nī: lead, guide ; to bring into any state or condition (with acc. e.g. with vaśam , to bring into subjection , subdue)
api: even, though
devīm (acc. sg.): f. goddess
vaśam (acc. sg.): m. will ; authority , power , control , dominion
urvaśīm (acc. sg.): f. " widely extending " , N. of the dawn (personified as an apsaras or heavenly nymph who became the wife of purū-ravas)
tām (acc. sg. f.): her

lobhāt (abl. sg.): m. impatience , eager desire for or longing after ; covetousness , cupidity , avarice
ṛṣibhyaḥ (abl. pl.): m. seers
kanakam (acc. sg.): n. gold
jihīrṣuḥ (nom. sg.): mfn. (fr. desid. of hṛ) wishing to carry off or rob or appropriate

jagāma = 3rd pers. sg. perf. gam: to go
nāśam (acc. sg.): ) m. the being lost , loss , disappearance , destruction , annihilation , ruin , death
viṣayeṣu (loc. pl.): m. realm (pl. = lands , possessions), objects, sensual pleasures, ends to be gained
atṛptaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. unsatisfied

罣羅轉輪王 遊於忉利天
取天女爲后 賦歛仙人金

仙人忿如咒 國滅而命終

No comments: