Monday, July 28, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.67: Should We Make Sacrifices Now for Happiness Where Bluebirds Fly?

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
ihāpi tāvat-puruṣasya tiṣṭhataḥ pravartate yat-para-hiṁsayā sukham |
tad-apy-aniṣṭaṁ saghṇasya dhīmato bhavāntare kiṁ bata yan-na dśyate || 11.67

So long as a person is continuing to be present right here in this world,

If any happiness accrues to him through harm inflicted on others,

That happiness, for one who is compassionate and wise, is unwanted:

How much more unwanted is unseen happiness in another existence?

Today's verse, as we would expect from the fourth in a series of four verses, may have more to it than initially meets the eye.

Ostensibly, again, the bodhisattva is talking about animal sacrifice, and so harm inflicted on others (para-himsā) ostensibly means deliberate harm wilfully and directly inflicted on the sacrificial animal. But a deeper reading of the verse is as a caution against the accidental and unintended harmful side-effects of well-meant end-gaining.

Trying to cause others to be happy, even with the best intentions, is nothing other than end-gaining. 

End-gaining means going directly for any target without due consideration of appropriate means, and without due attention given to those means.

Thus we saw in Aśvaghoṣa's saundarananda-mahā-kāvya, an epic tale of Beautiful Happiness, that before the Buddha caused Nanda to go wandering about spreading happiness to others, the Buddha caused Nanda to experience ultimate happiness himself. And in so doing the Buddha took remarkably indirect steps. These indirect steps of the Buddha, involving an ascent to gaze upon celestial nymphs whose sexual attractiveness was truly out of this world, were conspicuously distinct from the more direct methods of the striver.

In the superficial reading, then, ihāpi tāvat tiṣṭhataḥ simply means “as long as he is alive in the world.” Hence EBC: while he stays in this world; EHJ: while still existing in the world.

In the deeper reading “continuing to be present right here in this world” might mean “remaining awake to the problem of end-gaining” or, in short, “being mindful.” 

EBC's translation of the whole verse was as follows:
Even that happiness which comes to a man, while he stays in this world, through the injury of another, is hateful to the wise compassionate heart; how much more if it be something beyond our sight in another life?

That happiness even, which accrues to a man, while still existing in the world, through hurt to another, is not agreeable to a wise compassionate man; how much more so that which is beyond his sight in another existence?

PO's translation brings out more explicitly the ostensible meaning of an animal sacrifice (and in so doing obscures the deeper meaning):
Now, even the pleasure that a man living here derives from his harming another being,/ Is unwelcome to a wise compassionate man; how much more in the hereafter, regarding an unseen pleasure?

But when we are awake to the problem of end-gaining, the problem is not only, as PO explicitly frames it, that people derive pleasure directly from harming another being -- as in a bull-fight, or a fox-hunting jaunt. The deeper problem is that, in our ignorance, even with the most altruistic of intentions, our pursuit of happiness is such that our seeking indirectly produces countless unintended and harmful side-effects. 

So the 3rd pāda, as I read it, describes a person who is not so ignorant, but is rather compassionate and wise. 

With reference to saghṛṇasya in the 3rd pāda, EHJ notes: 'Compassionate' is an incomplete rendering of saghṛṇa, which also implies nirveda [complete indifference, disregard of worldly objects; loathing, disgust].

EHJ cites for comparison the following three verses from Saundara-nanda:
What man who was capable of disgust (kaḥ sa-ghṛṇaḥwould touch a woman, leaking and unclean like an old bucket, / If she were not scantily clad in skin as thin as a flying insect's wing? // SN8.52 //
On seeing one and the same form this man is enamoured, that man is disgusted; / Somebody else remains in the middle; while yet another feels thereto a human warmth (ghṛṇāyate). // SN13.52 //
Upon mortal beings who are pained by sickness, dying, aging, and the rest, / What noble person with human warmth (kaḥ... sa-ghṛṇaḥ) would lay the utmost pain?// SN15.15 //

Whether sa-ghṛnaḥ means compassionate or detached, or both, the point seems to be that for a person who has that virtue, along with wisdom, two kinds of happiness are not sought, namely:
(1) happiness that involves harming others, and
(2) abstract happiness that is imagined to exist somewhere over the rainbow. 

The 4th pāda as I read it is thus emphasizing that happiness is not an abstract matter somewhere out there relating to other people in a separate reality. On the contrary, happiness might better be sought, and happiness might better be found, here and now, by learning a backward step of turning one's own light and letting it shine.

I think that Aśvaghoṣa was acutely aware how all too easily we – in our idealistic immaturity, as would-be true Buddhists – are liable to seek the two kinds of happiness we should not seek. I, for one, was too ready as a young bloke to sacrifice a more modest happiness closer to home in favour of grander ambitions.

If we were wiser and more equipped with ghṛṇā, I think Aśvaghoṣa is suggesting in today's verse, we would not seek at all any happiness that is not close to home. We would seek instead truly harmless happiness and truly real happiness – the kind of happiness whose realization, because it is only the emergence of our original features, does not need to bring with it side-effects that are harmful to self or to others.

iha: ind. here, in this world
api: even, also (emphatic)
tāvat: ind. so long as
puruṣasya (gen. sg.): m. a man, human being
tiṣṭhataḥ = gen. sg. m. pres. part. sthā: to stand , stand firmly; to stay , remain , continue in any condition or action ; to continue to be or exist (as opp. to " perish ") , endure , last ; to be, exist, be present

pravartate = 3rd pers. sg. pra- √ vṛt : to roll onwards ; to come forth , issue , originate , arise , be produced , result , occur , happen , take place ; to hold good, prevail
yat (nom. sg. n.): [that] which
para-hiṁsayā = inst. sg. para-hiṁsā: f. hurting/harming/injuring another
sukham (nom. sg.): n. pleasure, happiness
hiṁsayā: f. injury , harm (to life or property) , hurt , mischief , wrong (said to be of three kinds , 1. mental as " bearing malice " ; 2. verbal , as " abusive language " ; 3. personal , as " acts of violence ")

tad (nom. sg. n.): that
api: and , also , moreover , besides , assuredly , surely; (emphatic)
aniṣṭam (nom. sg. n.): unwished , undesirable , disadvantageous , unfavourable
saghṛṇasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. full of pity , compassionate ; tender of feeling , delicate , scrupulous ; disliking , abhorring (loc.)
ghṛṇā: f. a warm feeling towards others , compassion , tenderness ; f. aversion , contempt (with loc.) ; horror, disgust
dhīmataḥ (gen. sg. m.): mfn. intelligent , wise , learned , sensible

bhavāntare (loc. sg.): n. another existence (a former existence ; a later existence )
kiṁ bata: how much more?
yad (nom. sg. n.): [that] which
na: not
dṛśyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive dṛś: to be seen, to be found

殺生得現樂 慧者不應殺
況復殺衆生 而求後世福

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