Sunday, August 24, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.14: Seeing as an Object

[Monday, August 18th]

tasmād arhasi tad vaktuṁ vaktavyaṁ yadi manyase |
jarā-maraṇa-rogebhyo yathāyaṁ parimucyate || 12.14

So please explain it,

If you deem it apt to be explained,

So that, from ageing, dying and disease,

This being may be released."

In today's verse Arāḍa's darśanam is the object referred to in the 1st pāda as tat – that.

In recent days, unable to connect on a daily basis to the huge audience of contemporary Zen practitioners that, in my dreams, are hanging on my every word, I have been finding consolation in connecting with those countless anonymous heroes of olden times who would have learned Aśvaghoṣa's poetry off by heart.

To that end, each verse is much more easily summoned to mind when seen in connection with its predecessor. And that connection, between the first two verses in a series of four verses, is generally an antagonistic connection, or a connection between thesis and anti-thesis.

  • BC12.1 is poetic; BC12.2 is spatial.
  • BC12.5 praises the bodhisattva as wishing to break free; BC12.6 praises the bodhisattva's mind as steadfast and wise.
  • In BC12.9 a student is the subject who investigates; in BC12.10 a student is the object of investigation.

In a similar way, yesterday's verse, BC12.13, introduces Arāḍa's darśanam as a concept – his way of seeing, his view, his approach; or his doctrine, his system (EHJ), his philosophy (PO). But in today's verse, BC12.14, the bodhisattva refers to Arāḍa's darśanam as tat, “that” or “it” – as an object.

On one level, this serves to help me remember the progression from one verse to the next – BC12.13, at the first phase, discusses Arāḍa's view, doctrine, or philosophy; then BC12.14 asks for it in concrete, objectified form.

When we think, on a deeper level, along these lines, today's verse – and in particular the 2nd pāda of today's verse – can be read below the surface as already somewhat subversive.

The 2nd pāda can be read as subversive because it raises the question of what kind of darśanam (way of seeing, experiencing, realization) is vaktavyam (apt to be explained).
Aśvaghoṣa's intention may be to goad us into reflecting that the Eye of true Dharma (the SHOBOGEN of SHOBOGENZO) is a means of seeing that is not apt to be explained.

I have called it now “a means of seeing,” but the Eye of true Dharma might more exactly be praised as a means of allowing reality to make itself visible. Hence Nāgārjuna's observation that the wise man ceases to be the doer thanks to reality making itself known:

saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ |
avidvān kārakas tasmān na vidvāṁs tattva-darśanāt ||MMK26.10||

The doings which are the root of saṁsāra
Thus does the ignorant one do.
The ignorant one therefore is the doer;
The wise one is not, because of reality making itself known.

Today's verse as I read it, then, causes us to contemplate what might be the true meaning of tvad-darśanam in the Buddha's teaching. For example, might there be merit after all in EBC's reading “the sight of thee” or “meeting you”?

When Nanda truly meets Buddha in SN Canto 18, he explains himself primarily by prostrating himself at the Buddha's feet. But the Buddha tells him to get up, because the Buddha is honoured not so much by Nanda's prostration as by his own sure-footedness in the Buddha-dharma.

So today's verse can be read as affirming this kind of darśanam -- darśanam as realization. But more than that, the real point of today's verse might be to subvert the meaning of darśanam suggested by yesterday's verse -- darśanam as Arāḍa's doctrine, philosophy, view. For, to quote Nāgārjuna again:

sarva-dṛṣṭi-prahāṇāya yaḥ saddharmam-adeśayat |
anukampām upādāya taṁ namasyāmi gautamam ||MMK27.30||

In the direction of abandoning all views,
He taught the true dharma,
Taking pity.
I bow to him, Gautama.

tasmāt: ind. therefore
arhasi = 2nd pers. sg. arh: to ought
tad (acc. sg. n.): that, it
vaktum = inf. vac: to speak, say, tell

vaktavyam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. to be spoken, said, told
yadi: if
manyase = 2nd pers. sg. man: to think, consider as

jarā-maraṇa-rogebhyaḥ (abl. pl.): from old age, death and disease

yathā: ind. so that
ayam (nom. sg.): m. this [person]
parimucyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive pari- √ muc: to loosen or free one's self , get rid of (abl. gen. or instr.) ; to be liberated or emancipated (from the ties of the world)

今已蒙哀許 敢問心所疑
生老病死患 云何而可免

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