Sunday, August 24, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.17: Primal Stuff, and Praising Steadfast Being

[Thursday, August 21st]

praktiś ca vikāraś ca janma mtyur jaraiva ca |
tat tāvat sattvam ity-uktaṁ sthira-sattva parehi tat || 12.17

Prakṛti, Primal Stuff, and Vikāra, its Transformation,

Birth, death, and old age:

All that is called Sattva, Being.

May you, O one whose being is steadfast, comprehend it!

On a point of vocabulary, EHJ notes that this use of parā with √i is not recorded outside this poem, where, in the first person singular, paraimi appears in four other verses, viz: BC4.99, 7.31, 9.14, and 11.4:

When a man knows the certainty of death
And yet the taint of red delight arises in his heart,
I venture (paraimi) that his consciousness must be made of steel,
Who does not weep but delights in the great terror.”

For whatever water has been touched by people steeped in good –
That is sacred bathing water, if such on earth is sought.
Therefore, virtues, yes, I do see (paraimi) as a sacred ford.
But water, without doubt, is water.”

I know your resolve with regard to dharma.
I realize (paraimi) that this will be your goal.
But at your going to the forest at the wrong time,
I am consumed with a fire of sorrow that burns like a fire.

Those in the world who, for the good-hearted in hard times
Are there as human beings, helping with work to be done –
Those friends I esteem (paraimi), advisedly, as friends indeed.
For who would not be present around one going well
in a period of vigorous prosperity?

The notes in EHJ's translation proceed from here to provide an exposition of the Saṁkhya doctrines, further elaborating on the discussion of Saṁkhya in the Introduction to Aśvaghoṣa which EHJ published along with Buddhacarita. This discussion 
of Saṁkhya appears in the 3rd part of the Introduction in which EHJ discusses Aśvaghoṣa the Scholar. 

In his footnote to today's verse, EHJ references sattva, Being (as opposed to kṣetra-jña, the Field-Knower) to early expositions of the Saṁkhya philosophy in the Mahā-bhārata.

On the surface, it is true, what Arāda is outlining in his present monologue, extending from 27 verses from BC12.16 through to BC12.42, is the elements of a philosophical system which formed the basis for an approach to liberation from the cycle of saṁsāra, that basis including religious belief in a god brahma. 

That the approach was thus Brahmanist is clear from BC12.42 itself, in which the word brahma, in the singular (=brahma or brahman) appears twice; and the word brāhman, in the nominative and accusative plural (= brahmins or brahmans) also appears twice.

In the Pali Suttas, the Buddha often seems to speak of a brahman or a brahmin as being synonymous with “a gentleman.” But when in BC12.42 Arāḍa speaks of brahmins parama-brahma-vādinaḥ, “preaching the supreme brahman,” it is difficult to avoid the impression that he is talking of a Hindu god, the object of religious devotion.

That being so, even if the gist of Arāḍa's efforts – to get free from saṁsāra – was true; and even though the Buddha evidently regarded Arāḍa as having been his teacher, Arāḍa's philosophy in the end was evidently a religious philosophy. That may be why the bodhisattva, in the end, saw fit to walk away from it.

The Canto title arāḍa-darśanaḥ, I was thus caused to reflect this morning, if we translate it literally as “The Seeing of Arāḍa,” ostensibly describes the bodhisattva's meeting with Arāḍa; but it could also mean Arāḍa's insight, what Arāḍa saw, the main purport of which had to do with liberation from saṁsāra; and, going further, it could also point to what we are required to do, following the bodhisattva's example, and really see Arāḍa, i.e. to see through him, and on that basis to reject his religious philosophy along with all religious philosophies, because they are all rooted in ignorance.

BBC Radio 4 does not tend to invite stupid people to air their views. So in such slots as “Prayer for the Day” we get to listen to intelligent people stating their case articulately. But the conclusion is always Let us pray. Let us pray for this, that, or the other.

It strikes me, every time, as the manifestation by intelligent people of sheer superstitious ignorance. It is pig ignorance dressed up for BBC Radio 4 in the golden brocade of theological brilliance.

Praying for divine intervention to sort out suffering in places like Syria, Iraq and Palestine can never be part of the solution, if one accepts the inviolable rule of cause and effect. But it might be part of the problem.

Radio 4 listeners listen with horror to how ignorant people in West Africa react to the Ebola outbreak as if its cause lay in the malevolence of witches, and especially les blancs, the white ones. But then we are expected to tolerate some Reverend or other appearing on the airwaves and asking us to pray for people suffering in war-torn Syria or in Iraq or in some zone of natural disaster or famine or disease -- as if our praying to God for His divine intervention could possibly make a blind bit of difference in the real world. 

And yet, below the surface, if we are able to suspend for a moment our prejudice against Arāḍa as a religious believer in brahma, his praising the bodhisattva as sthira-sattva, “O one whose being is steadfast!” might be a manifestation of Arāḍa's own will to the truth. Below the surface, in other words, it might not always be necessary to hate the sin of a teacher like Arāḍa who in the end remained guilty of the ignorance of religious belief. Below the surface it might only be that a true teacher with the will to the truth was recognizing a student with the will to the truth.

prakṛtiḥ (nom. sg.): f. " making or placing before or at first " , the original or natural form or condition of anything , original or primary substance (opp. to vi-kṛti) ; (in the sāṁkhya phil.) the original producer of (or rather passive power of creating) the material world (consisting of 3 constituent essences or guṇas called sattva , rajas and tamas) , Nature (distinguished from puruṣa , Spirit as māyā is distinguished from brahman in the vedāntas
ca: and
vikāraḥ (nom. sg.): m. change of form or nature , alteration or deviation from any natural state , transformation , modification , change (esp. for the worse) of bodily or mental condition , disease , sickness , hurt , injury , (or) perturbation , emotion , agitation , passion ; m. (in sāṁkhya) a production or derivative from prakṛti (there are 7 vikāras , viz. buddhi , " intellect " , ahaṁ-kāra , " the sense of individuality " , and the 5 tan-mātras q.v. ; these are also producers , inasmuch as from them come the 16 vikāras which are only productions , viz. the 5 mahā-bhūtāni q.v. , and the 11 organs , viz. the 5 buddhī*ndriyāṇi or organs of sense , the 5 karme*ndriyāṇi or organs of action , and manas , " the mind ")
ca: and

janma (nom. sg.): n. birth
mṛtyuḥ (nom. sg.): m. death
jarā (nom. sg.): f. ageing, old age
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and

tat (nom. sg. n.): that
tāvat: ind. so much; just; truly; really (= eva)
sattvam (nom. sg.): n. being ; the quality of purity or goodness (regarded in the sāṁkhya phil. as the highest of the three guṇas [q.v.] or constituents of prakṛti because it renders a person true , honest , wise &c , and a thing pure , clean &c )
iti: “...,” thus
uktam (nom. sg. n.): called

sthira-sattva (voc. sg. m.): O one whose being is steadfast!
parehi = 2nd pers. sg. imperative parā- √i: to go or run away , go along , go towards (acc.) ; to reach , attain , partake of (acc.)
tat (acc. sg. n.): that

性變生老死 此五爲衆生

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