Sunday, July 13, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.52: Chalk & Cheese

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
yo dandaśūkaṁ kupitaṁ bhujaṅ-gaṁ muktvā vyavasyedd-hi punar-grahītum |
dāhātmikāṁ vā jvalitāṁ tṇolkāṁ saṁtyajya kāmān-sa punar-bhajeta || 11.52

For he who, having once let go, 
would resolve to grasp again,

An angry snake with avid fangs,

Or a fiery torch of burning hay –

He, having abandoned desires, 
would seek them out again.

In today's verse the bodhisattva is talking of letting go of desires as one who has in fact let go of desires. He is talking the talk as one who has walked the walk. 

Today's verse can be likened and contrasted with what the striver tells Nanda in SN Canto 8:
When he heard those words of Nanda who, with his mind on his beloved wife, was burning with pain, / The striver, softly, while allowing his head to shake, said to himself: // SN8.14 // "What a pity! In its longing for the herd, a rushing stag that has escaped the mortal danger of the hunter's arrow, / Is about to enter the hunter's trap, deceived by a call that the hunter sang. // 8.15 // Truly, a bird that was caught in a net and set free by a benevolent person, / Desires, as it flits about the fruiting and blossoming forest, to fly of its own volition into a cage. // 8.16 // A baby elephant, truly, after an adult elephant has pulled it up out of the deep mud of a dangerous riverbed, / Is wishing, in its thirst for water, to enter again that crocodile-infested creek. // 8.17 // In a shelter where slithers a snake, a sleeping boy, awoken by an elder who is already awake, / Has become agitated and, truly, he is about to grab the horrible reptile himself. // 8.18 // Truly, having flown up and away from a tree that is blazing in a great forest fire, /A chick in its longing for the nest is wishing to fly there again, its former alarm forgotten. // 8.19 // Truly, a pheasant separated from its mate through fear of a hawk, and so stupefied by desire as to be helpless, / Is lacking in resolve and lacking in reserve: the pathetic little beggar is living a pitiful life. // 8.20 // Greedy and untrained, devoid of decency and intelligence, / Truly, a wretched dog is wishing to eat again some food that he himself has vomited." // 8.21 // So saying, the striver contemplated Nanda for a while, beholding him tormented by the sorrows of love. / Then in his eagerness to be of benefit, the striver spoke fine words, which were unpleasant to hear. // SN8.22 //

The likeness is straightforward enough. The common principle is that it is perverse actively to seek out trouble from which one has been fortunate to escape. 

The contrast has to do with the different contexts in which the principle is expressed. 

In today's verse the bodhisattva is bearing witness; he is explaining how he, having abandoned desires – having lost interest in particular in sensual pleasures – has absolutely no intention of seeking out those desires again.

In SN Canto 8 the striver is preaching to Nanda; he is recommending that Nanda should abandon desires, even though, in fact, Nanda is still very far from abandoning desires – Nanda is still very much interested, in particular, in the pull of the sensual charms of his beautiful wife Sundarī. Therefore the striver's preaching proves ineffective. Therefore the Buddha uses a skillful means, which involves not the suppression of sexual desire but, on the contrary, the utilization of sexual desire, to help Nanda on the way to ultimate detachment.

So even though the words are more or less the same, in the case of the striving "voice-hearer" (śrāvaka) who preaches abandonment of desires, and in the case of the bodhisattva whose desire for liberation has already caused him completely to let go of other desires, 
when we compare and contrast the two speeches like this, the contrast seems to bring into sharper focus the truth to which the bodhisattva is bearing witness.

At the same time, if what the bodhisattva says in today's verse helps us recognize that cheese when we bite into it tastes like cheese, by the same recognition we can recognize that a cake of chalk that looks like cheese, when we bite into it, is evidently not cheese at all. 

yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
dandaśūkam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. mordacious ; malignant; m. snake
dandaśu: m. ( √ daṁś, to bite) a tooth
śūkā: f. the sting of an insect (cf. above ) , anything that stings or causes pain
kupitam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. provoked , incensed , offended , angry
bhujaṅgam (acc. sg.): m. a serpent , snake , serpent-demon

muktvā = abs. muc: to let go
vyavasyet = 3rd pers. sg. optative vy-ava-√so: to determine , resolve , decide , be willing to (acc. dat. , artham ifc. , or inf.); to make strenuous effort , labour or seek after , make an attempt upon (acc.)
hi: for
punar: ind. again
grahītum = inf. grah: to grasp, seize

dāhātmikām (acc. sg. f): mfn. of an inflammable nature , easily kindled or burning
vā: or
jvalitām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. lighted , blazing , flaming , shining
tṛṇolkām (acc. sg.): f. a torch of hay
tṛṇa: grass , herb , any gramineous plant , blade of grass , straw
ulkā: f. a fiery phenomenon in the sky , a meteor ; a firebrand , dry grass &c set on fire , a torch

saṁtyajya = abs. saṁ- √ tyaj: to relinquish altogether , abandon , leave , quit , desert
kāmān (acc. pl.): m. desires
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
punar: ind. again
bhajeta = 3rd pers. sg. bhaj: to turn or resort to , engage in

如免毒蛇口 豈復還執持
執炬而自燒 何能不速捨

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