Saturday, July 19, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.58: The Bodhisattva Tells It As He Sees It

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
tri-varga-sevāṁ npa yat-tu ktsnataḥ paro manuṣyārtha iti tvam-āttha mām |
an-artha ity-eva mamārtha-darśanaṁ kṣayī tri-vargo hi na cāpi tarpakaḥ || 11.58

As for you, O king!, for your part, saying to me
that devotion in the round to the three things

Is the highest human aim,

Those three, in my estimation of value, are an aim without value,

For the three things are subject to decay and are not satisfying at all.

Apologies for the late posting. Sitting in a hut by the forest with the doors open and the rain fizzing around as a thunderstorm broke was this morning a very atmospheric experience, but those atmospheric conditions were probably implicated in the loss of a connection to the internet.

The metre in today's verse switches to the 12-syllable per pāda vaṁśastha metre, signalling that the Canto is drawing to its conclusion – there are another 15 verses after this one.

As we thus approach the conclusion of a canto whose difficult title ostensibly means “Condemning Pleasures” or “Blaming Desires,” today's verse stimulates me to think that one way of handling the difficulty is to translate kāma-vigarhaṇaḥ as “The Maligning of Desire,” and to understand that the one doing the maligning is King Bimbisāra. Ostensibly, in other words, the bodhisattva is condemning the pursuit of sensual pleasures (as one of the triple set of dharma, wealth and pleasure). But an alternative reading is that King Bimbisāra is denigrating the bodhisattva's desire to obtain the peace of nirvāṇa. And so, in a verse like today's verse, the bodhisattva is responding to King Bimbisāra's maligning of a bodhisattva's desire.

In the first pāda, the tu (which I have translated as “for your part”), seems to underline the dichotomy whereby I am like this but you are like that.

So in today's verse as I read it the bodhisattva is not beating around the bush. The point he is clearly making is that the value system of a bodhisattva whose desire is to obtain the peace of nirvāṇa, and the value system of a king who is devoted to dharma, wealth and pleasure, are totally different.

The dichotomy is emphasized by the Buddha in a Pali Sutta titled Ariyapariyesanasuttaṁ, The Discourseabout the Noble Search [MN 26].

In that Sutta the Buddha says:

Dvemā, bhikkhave, pariyesanā:
There are these two searches, monks:
ariyā ca pariyesanā, anariyā ca pariyesanā.
a noble search, and an ignoble search.
Katamā ca, bhikkhave, anariyā pariyesanā? 
And what, monks, is an ignoble search?
Idha, bhikkhave, ekacco, 
Here, monks, someone,
attanā jātidhammo samāno, jātidhammañ-ñeva pariyesati....
being himself subject to birth, seeks out what is subject to birth....

Katamā ca, bhikkhave, ariyā pariyesanā? 
And what, monks, is a noble search?
Idha, bhikkhave, ekacco, 
Here, monks, someone,
attanā jātidhammo samāno, jātidhamme ādīnavaṁ viditvā,
being himself subject to birth, after understanding the danger in being subject to birth,
ajātaṁ anuttaraṁ yogakkhemaṁ Nibbānaṁ pariyesati....
seeks out the birthless, supreme, secure Nibbāna....

Nibbāna in this Pali Sutta may be taken as synonymous with śānti (peace) in yesterday's verse.

So when the Buddha sat under the bodhi tree and the earth shook, everything changed. But at the same time, some things did not change at all. And one of the things, evidently, that did not change at all was the perception that there are two kinds of seeking, motivated by two kinds of desire.

And, again, stimulated by today's verse, I am struck by the thought that Aśvaghoṣa's ironic intention in the present Canto might be to suggest how King Bimbisāra's offer is a kind of affront to the bodhisattva, whose desire is to obtain peace. Hence kāma-vigarhaṇaḥ: “The Denigration of Desire.”

In the final chapter of Shobogenzo the Buddha is quoted as asserting that a person of small desire already has nirvāṇa. Behind that assertion there may have been no denigration of desire but on the contrary true appreciation of desire.

tri-varga-sevām (acc. sg. f.): devotion to the three things
tri-varga: the three things
sevā: f. going or resorting to , visiting , frequenting; devotion to
nṛpa (voc. sg.): O protector of men!
yat (acc. sg. n.): what
tu: but
kṛtsnataḥ: ind. in its entirety
kṛtsna: mfn. all , whole , entire

paraḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. ultimate, best
manuṣyārthaḥ (nom. sg. m.): human aim, aim of man
iti: “...,” thus
tvam (nom. sg. m.): you
āttha = 2nd pers. sg. pf. √ah: to say
mām (acc. sg. m.): to me

an-arthaḥ (nom. sg.): m. non-value , a worthless or useless object
iti: “...,” thus
eva: (emphatic)
mama (gen. sg.): of/for me
artha-darśana: n. consideration of a case Ma1lav
artha-darśin: m. N. of one of the 14 mythical buddhas
darśanam (nom. sg.): n. seeing , observing , looking , noticing , observation , perception
atra [EHJ]: ind. in this matter

kṣayī (nom. sg. m.): mfn. wasting , decaying , waning; perishable
tri-vargaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the three things , the triple set
hi: for
na: not
ca: and
api: also, even
tarpakaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. ifc. satiating , satisfying

若習三品樂 是名世丈夫
[Relation with Sanskrit tenuous]

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