Thursday, July 10, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.49: Towards Nothing Special

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Vāṇī)
tuṣṭy-artham-etac-ca phalaṁ yadīṣṭam-te 'pi rājyān-mama tuṣṭir-asti |
tuṣṭau ca satyāṁ puruṣasya loke sarve viśeṣā nanu nir-viśeṣāḥ || 11.49

Again, if this fruit of which you speak
is approved on account of contentment,

Even without kingship there is contentment for me.

And when contentment exists for a human being in this world,

Are not all special things nothing special?

In the 1st pāda of today's verse, etat phalam (“this here fruit,” “this fruit of which you speak”) seems to refer back to what King Bimbisāra said in BC10.30-31:
Therefore by devotion to the triple set, let this splendid frame of yours bear fruit (saphalaṁ kuruṣva). / For the integral attainment of dharma, wealth and pleasure, is for mankind, they say, the whole meaning of a human life.//BC10.30// So do not render fruitless (niṣphalau nārhasi kartum) these muscular arms that were meant to draw a bow; / For, like Māndhātṛ, these two arms are capable of conquering even the three worlds here and now, let alone the earth.//BC10.31//

So “this fruit [of which you speak]” seems to refer to enjoyment in the round of dharma, wealth and pleasure, as the fruit of having conquered the earth. 

Hence EHJ translates etat phalam as “this enjoyment” and contrasts it to BC11.51 in which the bodhisattva speaks of not being eager for phalādhikebhyaḥ (EHJ: “loftier enjoyments”).

In any event, on the surface, the bodhisattva is expressing homespun proverbial wisdom about contentment or satisfaction. As the Irish proverb goes, “A dog owns nothing, yet is seldom dissatisfied.” Or as they say in France, “Qui se contente de peu est assez riche” – one who contents himself with little is rich enough.

On the surface, again, sarve viśeṣāḥ, “all special things” (EBC: all distinctions; EHJ/PO: all luxuries), means the kind of fancy clothing, fancy food, fancy furniture, sumptuous accommodation, and so on, that sovereignty affords to a conquerer of the earth.

So on the surface the bodhisattva is simply stating that he can be content without luxuries of that sort.

The deeper or hidden meaning of today's verse, as I read it, relates to the eightfold awakening of a great human being (beginning with alpecchu-saṁtuṣṭi, wanting little and being content). Equally, it relates to the words made famous in China by the Zen Master Baso Do-itsu who said:
The ordinary mind is the tao.
The balanced and constant mind is enlightenment itself.
Being in possession of oneself is just the Buddha's truth.

The irony in Baso's famous words is that being ordinary is the most special state a human being can practise and experience.

The irony in today's verse, as I read it, is stated the other way around – that all things in that most special state are nothing special.

In general, I think Aśvaghoṣa's writing can work as a kind of bridge between the Pali Suttas and Chinese and Japanese Zen. Much more than “high poetry," I see Aśvaghoṣa's writing as potentially having this more practical function of a bridge.  

Today's verse, for example, provides a good vantage point from which (a) to look back on what the Buddha tells Rāhula in the Pali Suttas like the Rāhula Sutta, and (b) to look forward to what Dogen writes about the merits of sitting-Zen in Fukan-zazengi.

Paṭhavīsamaṁ Rāhula bhāvanaṁ bhāvehi
Develop the meditation, Rāhula, as balanced and constant as the earth.

Shika areba sunawachi jôchi kagu o ronzezu,
Therefore, we do not discuss intelligence as superior and stupidity as inferior.
rijin donsha o erabu koto nakare,
Let us not choose between clever persons and dull ones.
sen'itsu ni kufû seba, masani kore bendô nari.
If we make effort devotedly, that is just wholehearted pursuit of the truth.
Shushô onozukara zenna sezu,
Practice-and-experience is naturally untainted.
shukô sarani kore byôjô (平常) naru mono nari.
The direction of effort becomes more balanced and constant.

tuṣṭy-artham: ind. for the sake of satisfaction
etat (nom. sg. n.): this ; this , this here , here (especially as pointing to what is nearest to the speaker
ca: and
phalam (nom. sg.): n. fruit, result ; benefit , enjoyment
yadi: if
iṣṭam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. sought, wished, desired ; regarded as good , approved

ṛte: ind. under pain of , with the exclusion of , excepting , besides , without , unless (with abl. or acc.)
api: even
rājyāt (abl. sg.): n. kingdom, kingship
mama (gen. sg.): of/for me
tuṣṭiḥ (nom. sg.): f. satisfaction
asti: there is

tuṣṭau (loc. sg.): f. satisfaction
ca: and
satyām = loc. sg. f. pres. part. as: to be
puruṣasya (gen. sg. m.): for a human being
loke (loc. sg.): in the world

sarve (nom. pl. m.): mfn. all
viśeṣāḥ (nom. pl.): m. distinctions, luxuries
nanu: ind. are they not?
nir-viśeṣāḥ (nom. pl. n.): mfn. showing or making no difference , undiscriminating , without distinction

汝勿作方便 導我於五欲
[Relation with Sanskrit tenuous]

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