Monday, July 21, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.60: Falsifying Conventional Wisdom with Fact

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
yad-apy-avocaḥ paripālyatāṁ jarā navaṁ vayo gacchati vikriyām-iti |
a-niścayo 'yaṁ capalaṁ hi dśyate jarāpy-adhīrā dhtimac-ca yauvanam || 11.60

Again, as for you saying, “Wait for old age,

For youth tends to loss of strength of mind,”

That is no sure thing; its precariousness is demonstrable –

Old age also can be irresolute and youth possessed of constancy.

Today's verse is the first of four devoted to falsifying an idea about old age to which King Bimbisāra alluded in the previous Canto:
Therefore, before the beauty that befits your noble line is overpowered by the onset of ageing, / Enjoy desires, O desirer of the beggar's stage, and in due time, O devotee of dharma, dharma you will practice.//SN10.33// One who is old, assuredly, is able to realize dharma; in old age the drive is absent for enjoyment of sensual pleasures. /And so pleasures, they say, belong to the young; acquisition of substance to one in the middle; dharma to a mature elder. //SN10.34// For, in the world of the living, youthful indiscretions are the enemy of dharma and of wealth./ However well we guard against those immature acts, to get a grip on them is hard, for which reason desires duly prevail. //SN10.35// The old are contemplative, steady, intent on stability; / They become peaceful with little bother – through sheer helplessness, and humbleness. //SN10.36// And so, having outgrown the fickle years whose main concern is objects, having got over heedless, impatient, short-sighted immaturity, / Having passed beyond pretense-filled adolescence, they breathe again, as if having crossed a wasteland.//SN10.37// Just let pass, therefore, this irresolute phase, this fickle and heedless phase of juvenility; /For the first flush is the target of Desire and cannot be protected from the power of the senses. //SN10.38//

King Bimbisāra thus expressed the conventional wisdom that prevailed at that time in Brahmanical circles about old age. But the bodhisattva, like a good scientist, falsified that general idea with reference to particular facts – a black swan like one irresolute old man, or a black swan like one young woman possessed of constancy.

Read like this, today's verse provides me with an opportunity to write at length on (1) conventional wisdom about good posture; (2) how that conventional wisdom is falsified in Alexander work; and (3) the relation with Nāgārjuna's words on ignorance and doing, and wisdom and non-doing.

Or not.

The conventional wisdom is that pratītya-samutpāda is a doctrine of dependent/interdependent/conditional origination/arising. But, going against this conventional wisdom, I understand pratītya-samutpāda to be the Buddha's description of what he experienced and practised under the bodhi tree -- a spontaneous springing up against the gravitational pull of mother Earth, not as an act of doing but as an act of knowing. 

In this understanding, "an act of knowing" does not mean knowing a doctrine. An act of knowing means an act of consciousness. And an act of consciousness means an act of inhibiting unconscious behaviour. 

An act of knowing means an act that stands (or sits) opposed to ignorance. 

yad (acc. sg. n.): what
api: even, also
avocaḥ = 2nd pers. sg. aorist vac: to say
paripālyatām = 3rd pers. sg. causative passive imperative pari- √ pā: to protect or defend on every side , to guard , maintain

jarā (nom. sg.): f. ageing
navaṁ vayaḥ (nom. sg. m.): young age, youth
gacchati = 3rd pers. sg. gam: to go to
vikriyām (acc. sg.): f. transformation , change , modification , altered or unnatural condition ; change for the worse , deterioration , disfigurement , deformity
iti: “..,” thus

a-niścayaḥ (nom. sg. m.): a non-certainty
niścaya: m. m. inquiry , ascertainment , fixed opinion , conviction , certainty , positiveness (iti niścayaḥ , " this is a fixed opinion ") ; resolution , resolve , fixed intention , design , purpose , aim
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this
capalam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. moving to and fro , shaking , trembling , unsteady , wavering; inconstant ; momentary , instantaneous
hi: for
dṛśyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive dṛś: to be seen , become visible , appear ; to be shown or manifested , appear as (iva) , prove

jarā (nom. sg.): f. old age
api: even, also
adhīrā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. imprudent ; not fixed ; deficient in calm self-command ; excitable
dhṛtimat (nom. sg. n.): mfn. steadfast , calm , resolute
dhṛti: f. holding , seizing , keeping , supporting (cf. carṣaṇī- , vi-) , firmness , constancy , resolution , will , command
ca: and
yauvanam (nom. sg.): n. youth

汝言少輕躁 老則應出家
我見年耆者 力劣無所堪
不如盛壯時 志猛心決定

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