Friday, July 18, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.57: Desiring to Obtain Peace

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Premā)
ahaṁ hi saṁsāra-rasena viddho viniḥstaḥ śāntim avāptu-kāmaḥ |
neccheyam āptuṁ tri-dive 'pi rājyaṁ nir-āmayaṁ kiṁ bata mānuṣeṣu || 11.57

For I, stung by saṁsāra's sting,

Have gone forth desiring to obtain peace;

Not even infallible sovereignty in triple heaven would I wish to win:

How much less a kingdom among men?

If the gist of yesterday's verse was that it is fitting for me to be me and fitting for you to be you, then it sort of makes sense that today's verse, as an expression of what I am wishing for, should begin with ahaṁ hi, “For I....”

EHJ notes, however, that this verse is omitted by C [the Chinese translation] and comes in rather uncomfortably here; it would fit the run of the argument better if inserted after 51, but is not quite at home there either. The FP quotes it as a gātha, and possibly it is an interpolation.

The FP that EHJ refers to is 仏本行集経Fo-pen-hsing-chi-ching (Jap: Butsu-hongyo-jikkyo), The Sutra of the Collected Past Deeds of the Buddha.

This is one of the sutras from which Dogen drew in Shobogenzo – see for example chap. 87, Kuyo-shobutsu, Serving Offerings to Buddhas, and Ippyakuhachi-homyo-mon, The 108 Gates of Dharma-Illumination.

As an appendix to his Buddhacarita text and translation, EHJ provides a table showing the many verses from the Buddhacarita in Sanskrit which are rendered in Chinese characters in the Fo-pen-hsing-chi-ching. In the present Canto, for example, there are 13 such verses – BC11.9, 10, 12, 13, 17, 32, 34, 35, 57, 59 (first 3 pādas only), 67, 72, and 73.

In the old Nepalese manuscript, saṁsāra is compounded with rasa, which originally means sap or juice of plants, and somehow brings to mind the use of such sap or juice on the tips of poisoned darts.

According to Wikipedia:
Arrow poisons are used to poison arrow heads or darts for the purposes of hunting, warfare or murder. They have been used by pre-Colombian indigenous peoples worldwide and are still in use in areas of South America, Africa and Asia. Notable examples are the poisons secreted from the skin of the poison dart frog and curare (or 'ampi'), a general term for a range of plant-derived arrow poisons used by the indigenous peoples of South America.... Poisoned arrows are used widely in the jungle areas of Assam, Burma and Malaysia. The main plant sources for the poisons are members of the Antiaris, Strychnos and Strophanthusgenera. Antiaris toxicaria for example, a tree of the mulberry and breadfruit family, is commonly used on Java and its neighbouring islands. The sap or juice of the seeds is smeared on the arrowhead on its own or mixed with other plant extracts...
EHJ amended saṁsāra-rasena ("by saṁsāra's sap") to saṁsāra-śareṇa (“by saṁsāra's arrow”; EHJ: “by the arrow of the cycle of existence”). Whether we read -rasena or -śareṇa, the meaning would seem to be being stung or wounded by an arrow or dart, poisoned or otherwise. But rasa can also mean taste or fondness for, and hence pleasure or delight. This led EBC to translate saṁsāra-rasena “[wounded] by the enjoyment of the world” – which seems to fit less well. I have opted for "stung by saṁsāra's sting" to emphasize the sense of being goaded into action, rather than wounded. 

Finally, though peace may not be my specialist subject, I will venture a word on desiring to obtain it. 

Frederique the builder has been making one hell of a racket this week, building an extension to my neighbour's house. Last week was bad enough when he was cutting concrete blocks, but this week he has been cutting large chunks of natural stone. The noise is so loud that even Frederique himself and his assistant have been wearing ear defenders. Fortunately, however, one could set one's clock by Frederique's daily work routine, which is 8 till 12, 2 hours for lunch, then 2 till 6. So if I get up early enough I can sit for an hour (which I have just done) and prepare the day's blog post for publication before Frederique arrives (which I am doing right now). Then, unless I go for a fairly long walk, I can forget about peace and quiet until noon, when I have got a two-hour window to sit in. After that, if I prepare and make something to eat from around 2, and take a nap, I have got a couple of hours to prepare for sitting later on, in the cool and quiet of the evening.

Thus yesterday evening I was struck afresh, when I did start sitting just after 6 pm, that the secret of obtaining peace really is in the preparation. Aside from spending the afternoon looking forward in my mind to sitting, and in addition to eating food and resting up to supply the energy for sitting, shortly before sitting I had been lying down and practising inhibition and direction prior to moving a leg, as taught by Alexander teacher Marjory Barlow. As a result of all this desiring to obtain peace, when I finally ventured out under the treess again to sit, just after 6 pm, sitting was remarkably easy. My whole torso was more than usually in the condition that FM Alexander called “lengthened and widened."

I might add that out of this lengthened and widened torso tears were welling up and running down... but the reason for those tears is a story for another day. The point is that this lengthened and widened condition, whether or not tears are emanating from it, is the nearest thing that I know to peace. And the secret to obtaining it, it struck me afresh yesterday, is in the preparation. 

A very vital part of that preparation, again, is wanting it, desiring to go in that direction.

FM Alexander compared it to laying down tracks along which a train will later run. 

So in conclusion, again, I draw attention to the bodhisattva's use of the word kāma, desire. Ostensibly in this Canto the bodhisattva is out to put the blame on kāmeṣu pleasures, desires. But reading between the lines we can notice that Aśvaghoṣa implicitly recognized the vital utility of being desirous – hence the bodhisattva's description of himself asśāntim avāptu-kāmaḥ,  desirous of obtaining peace.

aham (nom. sg. m.): I
hi: for
saṁsāra-rasena (inst. sg.): by the sap of saṁsāra (EBC: by the enjoyment of the world)
saṁsāra-śareṇa [EHJ] (inst. sg.): by the arrow of saṁsāra (EHJ: by the arrow of the cycle of existence)
rasa: m. the sap or juice of plants , Juice of fruit , any liquid or fluid , the best or finest or prime part of anything , essence , marrow ; any mixture , draught , elixir , potion ; taste, flavour ; taste or inclination or fondness for (loc. with or scil. upari , or comp.) , love , affection , desire ; charm, pleasure , delight
śara: m. an arrow; mischief , injury , hurt , a wound
viddhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (p.p. of √ vyadh) pierced , perforated , penetrated , stabbed , struck , wounded , beaten , torn , hurt , injured ; stung, set in motion

viniḥsṛtaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. gone forth or out , issued forth , sprung from; escaped
śāntim (acc. sg.): f. peace
avāptu-kāmaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. desirous of attaining, Bcar.

na: not
iccheyam = 1st pers. sg. optative iṣ: to endeavour to obtain , strive , seek for ; to desire, wish, long for
āptum = inf. āp: to reach, obtain , gain
tri-dive (loc. sg.): n. triple heaven ; the 3rd or most sacred heaven , heaven (in general)
api: even

rājyam (acc. sg.): n. kingdom
nir-āmayam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. free from illness , healthy , well ; mfn. causing health , wholesome ; mfn. infallible , secure
kiṁ bata: ind. how much less?
mānuṣeṣu (loc. pl.): m. a man , human being (pl. the races of men , 5 in number)

[No corresponding Chinese]

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