Sunday, August 24, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.11: Further Investigation, Emphasizing the Up

[Friday, August 15th]
Apologies for the delayed posting, which was due to lack of internet connection.

iti vākyam arāḍasya vijñāya sa nararṣabhaḥ |
babhūva parama-prītaḥ provācottaram eva ca || 12.11

As Arāḍa said these words,

That bull among men,
investigating his words,

Was highly delighted

And in response, emphatically, up he spoke:

Today's verse looks as straightforward as could be.

EBC: The prince, having heard these words of Arāḍa, was filled with great pleasure and thus made reply.

EHJ: The bull of men, on hearing this speech of Arada, was highly gratified and said to him in reply.

PO: Hearing these words of Arada, that bull among men was filled with great joy and made this reply.

There are a couple of points, however, that are lost in these translations.

The first point, as mentioned yesterday, is that today's verse is the third in a row with a verb from vi-√jñā, to investigate. Rather than follow the principle of elegant variation, Aśvaghoṣa persisted with the same verb three times. Was it heedless inelegance on Aśvaghoṣa's part? No, you can bet your bottom dollar it wasn't. So what was he up to?

Here again I think a philosophical progression was in progress, one of the virtues of such a progression being that it makes the verses easier to memorize in sequence. Thus BC12.9 is remembered by vi-√jñā (1) used in statement of a thesis (student investigates dharma); BC12.10 is remembered by vi-√jñā (2) used in an antithesis (teacher investigates student); and today's verse, BC12.11 is remembered by vi-√jñā (3) expressing an act of investigating which has been going on right in the moment of the present, even as Arāḍa spoke.

The second point is that uttaram has a double-meaning. Ostensibly it simply means an answer or reply. But the words of Indian Zen ancestors which contain the prefix -ut, like the words of Chinese Zen ancestors which contain the character , often have a sub-text which is to point in the direction of 仏向上事 (Jap: BUTSU-KOJO-JI), the matter of buddha going on up.

One notable example of such a word in Sanskrit is pratītya-samutpāda; hence my preferred translation of Springing Up, by going back – in preference to the conventional “Dependent/Conditional Origination.”

In today's verse the word is uttaram, whose etymology is ut (up) + tara (comparative suffix), so that as an adjective uttara means “more up” or “superior”; and as a neuter noun uttara is given first in the dictionary as “the upper surface.” Uttara also means “north” – as in Uttar Pradesh, Indian's “Northern Province” bordering on Nepal.

You may think I am guilty of reading too much into a verse that was never intended to have any such deeper hidden meaning. In my defence, I have two rhetorical questions to ask:

1. Where are other examples of verses written by Aśvaghoṣa that do not, upon further investigation, have deeper layers of hidden meaning?

2. How else do you understand the use, after uttaram, of the emphatic eva?

In the background, or below the surface, I think Aśvaghoṣa was conscious of, and was suggesting, the fact that Arāḍa's teaching was going in the right direction. And the right direction is, primarily, up. But the bodhisattva-prince, as a veritable bull among men, was destined to go even further in the right direction. And that meant going even more uputtaram eva ca!

iti: “....,” thus
vākyam (acc. sg.): n. speech, saying, words
arāḍasya (gen. sg.): of Arāḍa

vijñāya = abs. vi- √ jñā: to distinguish , discern , observe , investigate , recognize , ascertain , know , understand
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
nararṣabhaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a bull among men; prince
ṛṣabha: m. bull; the best or most excellent of any kind or race

babhūva = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bhū: to be, become, have, experience
parama-prītaḥ (nom. sg. m.): delight of the highest order
prīta: mfn. pleased , delighted , satisfied , joyful , glad ; n. pleasure, delight

provāca = 3rd pers. sg. perf. pra- √ vac : to proclaim ; to speak, say, tell
uttaram (acc. sg.): n. the upper surface; n. answer , reply ; mfn. (compar. fr. ud ; opposed to adhara) , upper , higher , superior
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and

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