Thursday, July 31, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.70: 'Aving Us On?

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
avendravad-divy-ava śaśvad-arkavad-guṇair-ava śreya ihāva gām-ava |
avāyur-āryair-ava sat-sutān ava śriyaś-ca rājann-ava dharmam-ātmanaḥ || 11.70

Keep rejoicing like Indra in heaven.
Keep shining forever like the sun.

Keep on, by way of virtues.
Keep, here in this world, to the higher good.
Keep watch over the earth.

Keep your good health.
Keep company with noble ones.
Keep safe the sons and daughters of the good.

Keep your royal power, O King, and your own dharma.

According to the grammarians, EHJ notes, the root √av has eighteen senses, many of them probably assumed for etymological purposes, and, though T translates it throughout by bsruṅs, to protect, there can be no doubt that Aśvaghoṣa intends it to be understood in nine different ways here.... The translation is therefore necessarily tentative.

Some of the eighteen senses of √av are given in the MW dictionary as follows:
  • to drive , impel , animate (as a car or horse) ;
  • to promote , favour , (chiefly Ved.) to satisfy , refresh ;
  • to offer (as a hymn to the gods) ;
  • to lead or bring to ;
  • (said of the gods) to be pleased with , like , accept favourably (as sacrifices , prayers or hymns) RV. ;
  • (chiefly said of kings or princes) to guard , defend , protect , govern .

If we ask, as people who sit, what the word-play in today's verse has got to do with the one great matter which is sitting, the answer might be contained in EHJ's protestation that The translation is therefore necessarily tentative.

Dogen finishes the penultimate paragraph of Shobogenzo chap. 3, Genjo-koan, by asserting:
Realization is 何必 (KA-HITSU).
Realization is: 'How necessarily?'
In other words, realization might be indefinable.

Even though yesterday we discussed it as “harsh reality,” as if it had jagged edges, it might be ambiguity itself.

Today's verse, then, in conclusion, might be intended to remind us that the truth that we are excavating by sitting-Zen, and at the same time by studying the words of Zen ancestors like Dogen and Aśvaghoṣa, is not always susceptible to being expressed literally in words.

atha: ind. and so...
ava [EHJ] (2nd pers. sg. imperative av): (EHJ: “be happy”)
indravat: ind. like Indra
divi (loc. sg.): in heaven
ava (2nd pers. sg. imperative av):  (EHJ: shine)
śaśvat: ind. perpetually , continually , repeatedly , always , ever
arkavat: like the sun
arka: m. ( √ arc) , Ved. a ray , flash of lightning; the sun
arkavat: mfn. possessing or holding the thunderbolt

guṇaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. good quality , virtue , merit , excellence
ava (2nd pers. sg. imperative av): (EHJ: flourish)
śreya (acc. sg.): n. the better state , the better fortune or condition (sometimes used when the subject of a sentence would seem to require the masc. form)
iha: ind. in this world, here
ava (2nd pers. sg. imperative av): (EHJ: understand)
gām (acc. sg.): f. the earth (as milk-cow of kings)
ava (2nd pers. sg. imperative av):(EHJ: rule)

ava (2nd pers. sg. imperative av): (EHJ: obtain)
āyus: n. life , vital power , vigour , health , duration of life , long life
āryaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): by the noble
ava (2nd pers. sg. imperative av): (EHJ: protect)
sat-sutān (acc. pl. m.): good sons, sons of the good
suta: a son , child , offspring;
sutā: f. daughter
ava (2nd pers. sg. imperative av): (EHJ: enter into )

śriyaḥ (acc. sg.): f. royal power, sovereignty; Śrī = N. of lakṣmī (as goddess of prosperity or beauty)
ca: and
rājan (voc. sg.): O king!
ava (2nd pers. sg. imperative av): (EHJ: observe)
dharmam (gen. sg.): m. dharma
ātmanaḥ (gen. sg. m.): one's own

願汝國安隱 善護如帝釋
慧明照天下 猶如盛日光
殊勝大地主 端心護其命
正化護其子 以法王天下

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.69: Strong Subject, Clear Object, Sincere Action, Harsh Reality

⏑−¦⏑−¦¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
ihāgataś-cāham-ito didkṣayā muner-arāḍasya vimokṣa-vādinaḥ |
prayāmi cādyaiva npāstu te śivaṁ vacaḥ kṣamethāḥ mama-tattva-niṣṭhuram || 11.69

And so here I am, having come desiring to see

The sage Arāḍa, who speaks of liberation,

And there I shall go this very day.
O protector of men, may you be well!

Bear with words of mine which were harsh as reality.

In SN Canto 3, Aśvaghoṣa tells us:

atha mokṣa-vādinam-arāḍam-upaśama-matiṁ tathoḍrakaṁ /
Then Ārāḍa, who spoke of freedom,
and likewise Uḍraka, who inclined towards quietness,
tattva-kṛta-matir-upāsya jahāv-ayam-apy-amārga iti mārga-kovidhaḥ // 3.3 //
He sat beside, his heart set on truth, and he left.
He who intuited the path intuited: "This also is not it."

Recent research by Ānandajoti Bhikkhu indicates that, whereas the Buddha is generally regarded as having had two teachers, Arāḍa and Uḍraka, the Buddha's own words in the Noble Search Sutta (MN26) indicate that he regarded only Arāḍa (Pali: Āḷāra) as having been his teacher. While the Buddha refers to Arāḍa in Pali as ācariyo me (Sanskrit: ācāryo me), “my teacher,” he refers to Uḍraka as sa-brahmacārī, “a fellow-student.”

The bodhisattva's meeting with Arāḍa is thus an important element in the Buddha's life story, and today's verse forms a segue from the present Canto to the next Canto whose title is Meeting with Arāḍa.

As well as performing this narrative function, however, today's verse shows a readily discernible progression through four phases:

1. The 1st pāda as I read it contains a strong expression of a self-confident subject, following on from the bodhisattva's clear rejection of end-gaining in yesterday's verse. Ihāgataś-cāham can be read as akin to Abraham's “Here I am, Lord” – everyday words which some Jewish, Christian, and Islaamic mystics see as imbued with the most profound meaning.
2. In the 2nd pāda the bodhisattva is very clear about his object.
3. The 3rd pāda has two halves. In the first half the bodhisattva boldly asserts that subject and object are going to be joined by his action here and now. Prayāmi cādyaiva means “I shall go this very day” or “I am going right now.” In the second half of the pāda the bodhisattva expresses his sincere wish for the well-being of the other.
4. The allusion in 4th pāda as I read it to harsh reality brings to mind the conclusion of the famous opening paragraph of Shobogenzo chap. 3, Genjo-koan, in which Dogen observes that, even though they are loved, beautiful flowers wither and fall, and even though they are a pain, pesky weeds keep pushing up.

EHJ translated the 4th pāda “and bear patiently with my words, which sound harsh in their truth.” PO translated: “and bear with my words speaking a harsh truth.” (EBC's translation is different due to a textual discrepancy: “forgive my words which may seem harsh through their absolute freedom from passion.”)

Literally, however, I think the bodhisattva described his words as “reality-harsh,” and this phrase not only says something about how harsh his words may have seeemed to King Bimbisāra's ears; tattva-niṣṭhuram also says something about reality, which is namely that reality is harsh.

George Soros favours the phrase "harsh reality," which in Sanskrit would be tattvam tiṣṭhuram. But I would like to claim for the Buddha and Aśvaghoṣa the descriptive compound phrase "harsh as reality" or "reality-harsh" -- tattva-tiṣṭhuram. 

iha: ind. here
āgataḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. come, arrived
ca: and
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
itaḥ: from here; now ; from this, therefore
ataḥ: from this; from this or that cause or reason
didṛkṣayā (inst. sg.): f. the desire to see

muneḥ (gen. sg.): m. sage
arāḍasya (gen. sg.): m. Arāḍa
vimokṣa-vādinaḥ (gen. sg. m.): speaking of liberation
vi- √ muc: to unloose ; to release , set free , liberate ; to leave , abandon , quit , desert , give up , relinquish
vādin: mfn. saying , discoursing , speaking , talking , speaking or talking about (often ifc. or sometimes with acc. of object) , declaring , proclaiming ,

prayāmi = 1st pers. sg. pra- √ yā: to go forth, set out
ca: and
adya: ind. today, now
eva: (emphatic)
nṛpa (voc. sg.): m. O protector of men!
astu: let there be!
te (gen. sg.): of/for you
śivam (acc. sg.): n. welfare , prosperity , bliss

vacaḥ (acc. sg.): n. speech, voice, word; advice
kṣamethāḥ = 2nd pers. opt. sg. kṣam: to bear patiently , endure , put up with (acc.) , suffer ; to pardon , forgive anything (acc.) to (gen. or dat.)
mama (gen. sg.): my, of me
tattva-niṣṭhuram (acc. sg. n.): reality-harsh, speaking harsh truth
niṣṭhura: mfn. hard , rough , harsh , severe , cruel (said of persons and things , esp. words)

是故我遠來 爲求眞解脱
聞有阿羅善 善説解脱道
今當往詣彼 大仙牟尼所
誠言苦抑斷 我今誨謝汝

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.68: Constant Direction vs Haphazard End-gaining

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
na ca pratāryo 'smi phala-pravttaye bhaveṣu rājan ramate na me manaḥ |
latā ivāmbho-dhara-vṣṭi-tāḍitāḥ pravttayaḥ sarva-gatā hi cañcalāḥ || 11.68

I am not to be swayed in the direction of going for results.

My mind, O king!, does not delight in continuities of becoming.

For, like creepers beaten down under a cloudburst,

End-gaining actions waver haphazardly in every direction. 

Today's verse highlights the link between an undue orientation towards results and inconstancy of direction. 

In general creepers are symbols of what is fragile and inconstant. The counter-example, of constancy of direction, is water flower constantly -- whether in a trickle or in a torrent -- in one channel. Hence: 

A man obtains water if he digs the ground with unflagging exertion,
And produces fire from fire-sticks by continuous twirling. /
But those are sure to reap the fruit of their effort whose energies are harnessed to practice,
For rivers that flow swiftly and constantly cut through even a mountain. // SN16.97 //

In the metaphor on which today's verse centres, the fragile inconstancy of creepers is shown up when rain beats down on their leaves, which waver to and fro haphazardly and inconstantly, going all over the place. In this the creepers stand for our end-gaining actions, by which our energy becomes dispersed every which way. 

Reflecting further on the metaphor, in terms of direction, clouds are up in the sky and the rain they release travels down towards the earth. The creepers, conversely, are growing up out of the earth and spiralling up towards the sky.  When the rain beats down on the creepers' leaves, it is true, those leaves are battered this way and that in a wavering, haphazard fashion. But even fragile creepers, so long as they keep growing, maintain a constant direction. And that direction is up

My seeing the metaphor in this light -- in terms not only of the downward direction of the rain, and not only of the haphazard directions which are produced when rain beats down on creepers, but in terms also of the constant upward direction of the creepers' growth -- is very much influenced by the teaching of FM Alexander. 

In Alexander work the central aim is to allow oneself to be directed up. Alexander clearly saw, however, the irony that if one (a) sees the aim as going up, and (b) goes for that result directly, relying on unconscious guidance, the result is invariably that one pulls oneself down, with all kinds of unwanted side-effects manifesting themselves all over the place -- in stiff neck, tight shoulders, poor circulation and digestion, headaches, back pain, et ceter, et cetera -- in every direction. 

Hence the importance of understanding, not only in theory but in practice, why Dogen spoke of sitting-Zen as a backward step; and, equally, why the awakened Buddha took pains to draw a line between pravṛtti (progressive/endgaining action; going for it; doing) and nivṛtti (non-doing). 
Comprehend, therefore, that suffering is doing (pravṛtti); witness the faults impelling it forward; / Realise its stopping as non-doing  (nivṛtti); and know the path as a turning back. // 16.42 //
It is evident from today's verse that the bodhisattva already had no lack of insight into this distinction even before he became the fully awakened sambuddha. 

na: not
ca: and
pratāryaḥ = nom. sg. m. gerundive causative pra- √tṛṛ: to mislead , take in , deceive; to lead astray , seduce , persuade to (dat. or loc.)
asmi = 1st per. sg. as: to be
phala-pravṛttaye = dat. sg. phala-pravṛtti = phala-prayukta: mfn. connected with or producing consequences , yielding fruit

bhaveṣu (loc. pl.): m. birth; becoming ; being , state of being , existence , life ; worldly existence , the world (= saṁsāra); (with Buddhists) continuity of becoming (a link in the twelvefold chain of causation)
rājan (voc. sg.) : O king!
ramate = 3rd pers. sg. ram: to delight in
na: not
me (gen. sg.): my
manaḥ (nom. sg.): n. mind

latāḥ (nom. pl.): f. a creeper , any creeping or winding plant or twining tendril
iva: like
ambho-dhara-vṛṣṭi-tāḍitāḥ (nom. pl. f.): beaten by rain from water-bearers
taḍ: to beat , strike , knock , strike (with arrows) , wound , punish ; (in astron.) to obscure or eclipse partially

pravṛttayaḥ (nom. pl.): f. moving onwards; coming forth ; activity , exertion , efficacy , function ; active life, doing
sarva-gatāḥ (nom. pl. f.): mfn. all-pervading
hi: for
cañcalāḥ (nom. pl. f.): mfn. (fr. Intens. √cal) moving to and fro , movable , unsteady , shaking , quivering , flickering ; unsteady , inconstant , inconsiderate

三界有爲果 悉非我所樂
諸趣流動法 如風水

Monday, July 28, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.67: Should We Make Sacrifices Now for Happiness Where Bluebirds Fly?

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
ihāpi tāvat-puruṣasya tiṣṭhataḥ pravartate yat-para-hiṁsayā sukham |
tad-apy-aniṣṭaṁ saghṇasya dhīmato bhavāntare kiṁ bata yan-na dśyate || 11.67

So long as a person is continuing to be present right here in this world,

If any happiness accrues to him through harm inflicted on others,

That happiness, for one who is compassionate and wise, is unwanted:

How much more unwanted is unseen happiness in another existence?

Today's verse, as we would expect from the fourth in a series of four verses, may have more to it than initially meets the eye.

Ostensibly, again, the bodhisattva is talking about animal sacrifice, and so harm inflicted on others (para-himsā) ostensibly means deliberate harm wilfully and directly inflicted on the sacrificial animal. But a deeper reading of the verse is as a caution against the accidental and unintended harmful side-effects of well-meant end-gaining.

Trying to cause others to be happy, even with the best intentions, is nothing other than end-gaining. 

End-gaining means going directly for any target without due consideration of appropriate means, and without due attention given to those means.

Thus we saw in Aśvaghoṣa's saundarananda-mahā-kāvya, an epic tale of Beautiful Happiness, that before the Buddha caused Nanda to go wandering about spreading happiness to others, the Buddha caused Nanda to experience ultimate happiness himself. And in so doing the Buddha took remarkably indirect steps. These indirect steps of the Buddha, involving an ascent to gaze upon celestial nymphs whose sexual attractiveness was truly out of this world, were conspicuously distinct from the more direct methods of the striver.

In the superficial reading, then, ihāpi tāvat tiṣṭhataḥ simply means “as long as he is alive in the world.” Hence EBC: while he stays in this world; EHJ: while still existing in the world.

In the deeper reading “continuing to be present right here in this world” might mean “remaining awake to the problem of end-gaining” or, in short, “being mindful.” 

EBC's translation of the whole verse was as follows:
Even that happiness which comes to a man, while he stays in this world, through the injury of another, is hateful to the wise compassionate heart; how much more if it be something beyond our sight in another life?

That happiness even, which accrues to a man, while still existing in the world, through hurt to another, is not agreeable to a wise compassionate man; how much more so that which is beyond his sight in another existence?

PO's translation brings out more explicitly the ostensible meaning of an animal sacrifice (and in so doing obscures the deeper meaning):
Now, even the pleasure that a man living here derives from his harming another being,/ Is unwelcome to a wise compassionate man; how much more in the hereafter, regarding an unseen pleasure?

But when we are awake to the problem of end-gaining, the problem is not only, as PO explicitly frames it, that people derive pleasure directly from harming another being -- as in a bull-fight, or a fox-hunting jaunt. The deeper problem is that, in our ignorance, even with the most altruistic of intentions, our pursuit of happiness is such that our seeking indirectly produces countless unintended and harmful side-effects. 

So the 3rd pāda, as I read it, describes a person who is not so ignorant, but is rather compassionate and wise. 

With reference to saghṛṇasya in the 3rd pāda, EHJ notes: 'Compassionate' is an incomplete rendering of saghṛṇa, which also implies nirveda [complete indifference, disregard of worldly objects; loathing, disgust].

EHJ cites for comparison the following three verses from Saundara-nanda:
What man who was capable of disgust (kaḥ sa-ghṛṇaḥwould touch a woman, leaking and unclean like an old bucket, / If she were not scantily clad in skin as thin as a flying insect's wing? // SN8.52 //
On seeing one and the same form this man is enamoured, that man is disgusted; / Somebody else remains in the middle; while yet another feels thereto a human warmth (ghṛṇāyate). // SN13.52 //
Upon mortal beings who are pained by sickness, dying, aging, and the rest, / What noble person with human warmth (kaḥ... sa-ghṛṇaḥ) would lay the utmost pain?// SN15.15 //

Whether sa-ghṛnaḥ means compassionate or detached, or both, the point seems to be that for a person who has that virtue, along with wisdom, two kinds of happiness are not sought, namely:
(1) happiness that involves harming others, and
(2) abstract happiness that is imagined to exist somewhere over the rainbow. 

The 4th pāda as I read it is thus emphasizing that happiness is not an abstract matter somewhere out there relating to other people in a separate reality. On the contrary, happiness might better be sought, and happiness might better be found, here and now, by learning a backward step of turning one's own light and letting it shine.

I think that Aśvaghoṣa was acutely aware how all too easily we – in our idealistic immaturity, as would-be true Buddhists – are liable to seek the two kinds of happiness we should not seek. I, for one, was too ready as a young bloke to sacrifice a more modest happiness closer to home in favour of grander ambitions.

If we were wiser and more equipped with ghṛṇā, I think Aśvaghoṣa is suggesting in today's verse, we would not seek at all any happiness that is not close to home. We would seek instead truly harmless happiness and truly real happiness – the kind of happiness whose realization, because it is only the emergence of our original features, does not need to bring with it side-effects that are harmful to self or to others.

iha: ind. here, in this world
api: even, also (emphatic)
tāvat: ind. so long as
puruṣasya (gen. sg.): m. a man, human being
tiṣṭhataḥ = gen. sg. m. pres. part. sthā: to stand , stand firmly; to stay , remain , continue in any condition or action ; to continue to be or exist (as opp. to " perish ") , endure , last ; to be, exist, be present

pravartate = 3rd pers. sg. pra- √ vṛt : to roll onwards ; to come forth , issue , originate , arise , be produced , result , occur , happen , take place ; to hold good, prevail
yat (nom. sg. n.): [that] which
para-hiṁsayā = inst. sg. para-hiṁsā: f. hurting/harming/injuring another
sukham (nom. sg.): n. pleasure, happiness
hiṁsayā: f. injury , harm (to life or property) , hurt , mischief , wrong (said to be of three kinds , 1. mental as " bearing malice " ; 2. verbal , as " abusive language " ; 3. personal , as " acts of violence ")

tad (nom. sg. n.): that
api: and , also , moreover , besides , assuredly , surely; (emphatic)
aniṣṭam (nom. sg. n.): unwished , undesirable , disadvantageous , unfavourable
saghṛṇasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. full of pity , compassionate ; tender of feeling , delicate , scrupulous ; disliking , abhorring (loc.)
ghṛṇā: f. a warm feeling towards others , compassion , tenderness ; f. aversion , contempt (with loc.) ; horror, disgust
dhīmataḥ (gen. sg. m.): mfn. intelligent , wise , learned , sensible

bhavāntare (loc. sg.): n. another existence (a former existence ; a later existence )
kiṁ bata: how much more?
yad (nom. sg. n.): [that] which
na: not
dṛśyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive dṛś: to be seen, to be found

殺生得現樂 慧者不應殺
況復殺衆生 而求後世福

Sunday, July 27, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.66: Gentle Assertion of an Absolute

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
bhavec-ca dharmo yadi nāparo vidhir-vratena śīlena manaḥ-śamena vā |
tathāpi naivārhati sevituṁ kratuṁ viśasya yasmin param-ucyate phalam || 11.66

And even without dharma
as an alternative code of conduct

Involving a vow of practice, moral discipline,
or calming of the mind,

Still it would never be right to carry out a sacrifice

In which a reward is said to follow
from slaughtering another creature.

When it comes to the philosophy of thesis, anti-thesis, and synthesis, where the synthesis goes on to form a new thesis, and so on, it may be true to say that there are no absolutes, but all is but a woven web of guesses. Again, when science is understood as a method in which propositions are at best accepted as "not falsified, yet,"  then when it comes to scientific progress also, it may be true to say that there are no absolutes, but all is but a woven web of guesses. Still, today's verse as I read it reminds us, in the realm of actual practice, or in reality, there are absolutes of a sort.

Absolutes, of course, reside easily in the realm of religious moral certainty. But, the bodhisattva seems to be saying in today's verse, even without that kind of moral certainty associated with observance of vows, morality and contemplative practice, still there are absolutes.

The bodhisattva tells us in the 1st pāda that he sees dharmaḥ (EBC: “true religion;” EHJ: “the true dharma”; PO: “dharma”) as aparo vidhiḥ (EBC: “quite another rule of conduct;” EHJ: “a different rule of life”; PO: “a different process.”

Aparaḥ can mean (when derived from the prefix apa, “away”) other, another, different. Following this meaning, dharma might be a rule for human conduct / life which is different from blind following of animal instincts -- as an already well-fed cat follows its instinct when it kills birds and mice seemingly for no particular reason.

Aparaḥ can also mean (as para prefixed by a-) “having nothing above it.” Following this meaning, dharma might be a law above which there is no higher authority, the rule of the Universe.

But the 2nd pāda seems to confirm that what the bodhisattva has in mind is dharma as an alternative or countervailing code – a code or set or rules which causes the conduct of human life to be something other than blind following of animal instincts.

Even leaving aside this higher rule for living which stands opposed to instinctive blood lust, the bodhisattva seems to be appealing to an a priori criterion, a criterion that precedes anybody's conception of dharma – a criterion akin to 2 + 2 = 4. In these terms, to equate animal sacrifice with future reward might be to act on the basis that 2 + 2 = 5 .

Beyond moral judgements of right and wrong, in other words, some actions are just plain wrong – like killing a cat for no good reason, or like wearing shoes on one's head.

In terms of four phases, this interpretation puts today's verse, as the third verse in a series of four verses about sacrifices, in the 3rd phase – because at the first phase, right and wrong is affirmed; at the second phase, there is nothing right or wrong, but thinking makes it so; and at the third phase the whole point is simply NOT TO DO wrong. In other words the first two phases are thesis and anti-thesis, but the third phase is just practical. To do or not to do – that is the question.

And at the fourth phase, as indicated by the verses of Nāgārjuna's that I have been quoting a lot recently, there is a very intimate relationship between not doing and reality:

saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ |
avidvān kārakas tasmān na vidvāṁs tattva-darśanāt ||MMK26.10||

The doings which are the root of saṁsāra

Thus does the ignorant one do.

The ignorant one therefore is the doer;

The wise one is not,
because of reality making itself known.

avidyāyāṁ niruddhāyāṁ saṁskārāṇām asaṁbhavaḥ |
avidyāyā nirodhas tu jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt ||MMK26.11

In the ceasing of ignorance,

There is the non-coming-into-being of doings.

The cessation of ignorance, however,

Is because of the bringing-into-being of just this act of knowing.

In the 4th pāda, incidentally, EBC took param with phalam (“the highest reward”). EHJ, following Gawronski, took param to mean “another” i.e. another living creature, as in yesterday's verse. The latter reading does indeed seem on first glance to be the obvious one and, EHJ informs us, it accords with the Tibetan translation. Still, in the same way that apara in the 1st pāda could be taken to mean “having nothing above it,” param in the 4th pāda could be taken to mean “highest” so that paraṁ phalam meant “the highest reward.” So even in a verse like today's verse, whether Aśvaghoṣa intended it or not, words with their multiple meanings make for ambiguity and uncertainty.

Such is poetry; and Aśvaghoṣa is regarded as a poet, a crafter of high poetry. But the ultimate point of Aśvaghoṣa's poetry, as was also the case with Dogen, is always to point us towards just this act of knowing.

Just this act of knowing might be a kind of absolute certainty.

Sometimes I like to watch Mike Tyson's early fights, when he would use to devastating effect a right hook to the body followed by an unseen right uppercut to the chin. His reign as heavyweight supremo was impermanent, of course, but while it lasted there was something absolute about it. He knew he was going to win, and win he certainly did.

My paternal grandfather, a steelworker, would have loved it if I had been a champion boxer. In the 1960s his big hero was Howard Winston – I think he took me when I was very young to watch Howard Winston train. “Got to be tough, see?” he would frequently remind me. I'm not sure if dogged perseverance in translating difficult poetry would necessarily have met his criterion for toughness. I suspect it wouldn't.

Again a martial artist friend of mine from 30 years ago, who persisted in devotion to many kata (forms) after I decided to devote myself to only one, told me of sparring with some great bruiser and knowing, with utter calmness, that he could do anything he wanted to the big bruiser, but the big bruiser could not touch him at all. For him, he told me, that inner quietness was the closest he had come to anything that might be called enlightenment. 

I think that is the kind of knowing that Nāgārjuna is talking about. 

If I relate it to the sitting that I have just been practising this morning, what it means to let the neck be free, I do not know. But I know it is nothing specific. What it means to let the head go forward and up, I do not know. But I know it is not any kind of arrangement of the head on top of the spine, and especially not by “tucking in the chin slightly.” What it means to let the back lengthen and widen, I do not know. But I know it is not to worry about symmetry. What it means to send the knees forwards and away, I do not know. But I know it does not mean to create extra tension in the lower abdominal region (the hara or tanden) such that abdominal breathing has to be practised as more of a conscious effort.

Tucking the chin in makes sense for a sumo wrestler whose opponent would like to slap it; and tensing the abdominal obliques makes a lot of sense for a martial artist who is liable to be kicked or punched in that area, but those arenas are arenas of great muscular effort, great physical doing. When it comes to just sitting upright in the lotus posture, as the practice of non-doing, the main task is knowing, absolutely, what not to do.

bhavet = 3rd pers. sg. opt. bhū: to be
ca: and
dharmaḥ (nom. sg.): m. dharma
yadi: if
na: not
aparaḥ ( m.): 1. (a-para) mfn. having nothing beyond or after , having no rival or superior; 2.(fr. apa) , posterior other, another ; different ; distant, opposite

vidhiḥ (nom. sg.): m. a rule , formula , injunction , ordinance , statute , precept , law , direction ; method , manner or way of acting , mode of life , conduct , behaviour
vratena (inst. sg.): n. a religious vow or practice , any pious observance , meritorious act of devotion or austerity , solemn vow , rule , holy practice
śīlena (inst. sg.): habit , custom , usage , natural or acquired way of living or acting , practice , conduct ; with Buddhists śīla , " moral conduct " , is one of the 6 or 10 perfections or pāramitās [q.v.]
manaḥ-śamena (inst. sg.): m. tranquillity of mind
vā: or

tathā: ind. likewise, so
api: even
na: not
eva: (emphatic)
arhati = 3rd pers. sg. arh: to ought
sevitum = infinitive sev: to resort to (acc.): to devote or apply one's self to , cultivate , study , practise , use , employ , perform , do
kratum (acc. sg.): m. a sacrificial rite or ceremony , sacrifice (as the aśva-medha sacrifice) , offering , worship (also personified R.

viśasya = abs. vi- √ śas: to cut up , dissect , cut down , slaughter , immolate , kill , destroy
yasmin (loc. sg.): in which, wherein
param [EBC] (nom. sg. n.): mfn. superior , best , highest , supreme , chief
param [EHJ] (acc. sg.): m. the other [EHJ: another; PO: another being]
ucyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive vac: to say
phalam (nom. sg.): n. fruit, result

若無戒聞慧 修禪寂靜者
不應從世間 祠祀設大會

Saturday, July 26, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.65: What Kind of Reward Is Got from Animal Sacrifice?

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
paraṁ hi hantuṁ vi-vaśaṁ phalepsayā na yukta-rūpaṁ karuṇātmanaḥ sataḥ |
kratoḥ phalaṁ yady-api śāśvataṁ bhavet tathāpi ktvā kim-u-yat-kṣayātmakam || 11.65

For, to kill the helpless other 
in the desire to gain a reward

Would be ill becoming 
of a good man who was compassionate at heart,

Even if the result of the sacrifice 
were an everlasting reward -- 

How much less is acting like that becoming 
when the essence of it is destructiveness?

In today's verse as I read it Aśvaghoṣa is using ambiguity, under-statement and ostensible relativism, as a rhetorical device to stimulate our outrage in regard to what is an absolutely barbaric principle.

That principle, today's verse, reminds us, involves, for example, slitting the throat of a living creature for a putative spiritual benefit. Thus, if yesterday's verse was a kind of meditation on the meaning of sacrifice in general terms, or more abstract philosophical terms, today's verse can be read as belonging to the concrete phase. The 1st pāda leaves us in no doubt that what is being discussed is the killing of another living being in the desire to reap some imagined reward. What is being discussed is, for example, the horse sacrifice (aśva-medha) which MW gives as an example to illustrate the meaning of kratu.

In a footnote to his translation of today's verse, EHJ notes: The sense is obvious enough and for once clearly expressed by C [the Chinese translation], but the construction of the second line is difficult.

In the end, EHJ translated the 4th pāda, “how much less should one act thus, when the fruit is transitory?”, but added in his footnote: The above translation is dubious as not giving tathāpi its proper sense of 'nevertheless', as in the next verse.

Also finding the construction of the 4th pāda  difficult, I have followed EHJ's reading of tathāpi kṛtvā ("acting thus," "acting like that"), for want of a better option, but I do not necessarily agree with EHJ that the Chinese translation, even on this occasion, succeeded in nailing the real meaning.

The Chinese translation renders śāśvataṁ as 有常 (having constancy, eternal) and kṣayātmakam as the opposite, i.e.,  無常 (being without constancy, fleeting, transitory, ephemeral). And EHJ agrees that this opposition was originally intended; he translates śāśvatam as “permanent” and kṣayātmakam as “transitory.” PO follows EHJ with “everlasting” and “ephemeral.”

But when one reflects on what the bodhisattva is actually talking about in today's verse, and when one allows oneself to be touched by the simplicity of 1st pāda, in which every simple word seems to count, how can any kind of good result be affirmed from animal sacrifice – even a transitory one?

hantum: to kill
param vi-vaśam: another living creature who is helpless, defenceless
phalepsayā: because of the desire to gain a result/reward

Are EHJ and PO saying, along with the Chinese translator, that the bodhisattva considers animal sacrifice sometimes to be productive of a good result, albeit a transitory one?

EBC's translation of kṣayātmakam as “subject to decay” may be more literally accurate, and more suggestive of a meaning other than impermanence. Kṣayātmakam, in other words, might have connotations not only of perishability but also of destructiveness and moral decadence.

So the real contrast might not be between (a) everlasting reward and (b) transitory reward. The real contrast might be between (a) what is constructive and true for all time, and (b) what is destructive and absolutely false for all time.

If the second line as we have it is as Aśvaghoṣa constructed it, then the reason the construction is difficult may have been that Aśvaghoṣa wished us to consider the problem like this. I think he wished us to ask ourselves: what kind of result is got from animal sacrifice? A good result, a reward, whether that reward be everlasting or transitory? Or no kind of good result at all, ever, since animal sacrifice is based on an utterly non-constructive principle?

If we understand Aśvaghoṣa's intention like this, kṣayātmakam  becomes difficult indeed to translate. Recourse to square brackets might be one solution, but I have attempted somehow to find a translation that seeks to preserve in English (a) the ostensible sense of mindfulness of impermanence, and (b) the underlying agenda which might be to stimulate outrage about mindless and pointless destruction of life. 

param (acc. sg.): m. the other
hi: for
hantum = infinitive han: to kill, slay
vi-vaśam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. helpless
phalepsayā = inst. sg. phalepsā: f. desire to gain a result, desire of future reward

na: not
yukta-rūpam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. suitably formed , fit , proper (with loc. or gen.)
karuṇātmanaḥ (gen. sg. m.): mfn. miserable , mournful ; compassionate
sataḥ (gen. sg.): m. a good man

kratoḥ (gen. sg.): m. plan ; a sacrificial rite or ceremony , sacrifice (as the aśva-medha sacrifice) , offering , worship
aśva-medha: m. the horse-sacrifice (a celebrated ceremony , the antiquity of which reaches back to the Vedic period ; the hymns RV. i , 162 and 163 [= VS. xxii seqq.] , referring to it , are however of comparatively late origin ; in later times its efficacy was so exaggerated , that a hundred such sacrifices entitled the sacrificer to displace indra from the dominion of svarga ; kings who engaged in it spent enormous sums in gifts to the Brahmans ; it is said that the horse was sometimes not immolated , but kept bound during the ceremony)
phalam (nom. sg.): n. fruit, result
yadi: ind. if
api: even
śāśvatam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. eternal, everlasting
bhavet = 3rd pers. sg. opt. bhū: to be, become

tathāpi: even so, nevertheless
tathā: ind. so, like that
api: even
kṛtvā = abs. kṛ: to do, make
kim-u: how much more? how much less?
yat (acc. sg. n.): [that] which
kṣayātmakam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. being subject to decay; perishable 
kṣaya: loss , waste , wane , diminution , destruction , decay , wasting or wearing away

害生果有常 猶尚不應殺
況復求無常 而害生祠祀