Sunday, August 24, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.19: Vikāra – Physical Organs; Equally, the Mind

[Saturday, August 23rd]

vikāra iti budhyasva viṣayān indriyāṇi ca |
pāṇi-pādaṁ ca vādaṁ ca pāyūpasthaṁ tathā manaḥ || 12.19

See as Vikāra, Transformation,

The sense-objects and the senses,

The hands and feet, the [organ of] speech,

The anus and reproductive organs – equally the mind.

In the section on Aśvaghoṣa “the Scholar” in his Introduction to Aśvaghoṣa, EHJ touches on
  • Indian literature;
  • sciences including secular law, politics, the points of a horse, worldly conduct (etiquette, gallantry etc.), medicine;
  • art;
  • music;
  • religion;
  • philosophy;
  • poetry and prosody;
  • grammar and syntax.

EHJ ends the sub-section on Indian philosophy by stating: “I have kept to the last the most important case, the Sāṁkhya as set out by Arāḍa in canto 12 of the Buddhacarita.”

PO echoes EHJ with his note on the present series of four verses (12.17-20): “We are dealing here with a very ancient form of Sankhya philosophy.”

But who said that Arāḍa was setting out the Sāṁkhya? Arāḍa himself never said so. Neither did Aśvaghoṣa.

This causes me to reflect on how Buddhist scholars – employed in the pseudo-scientific field of Buddhist studies – have tended to approach the writings of the ancients, like 19th century botanists going into far-flung corners of the British empire and attaching names to species that were hitherto unknown to Western science. Those plants may have been very well known to local populations who were long accustomed to putting said plants in their pipes and smoking them, but until such time as a Western scientist appeared with a label, those plants were called undiscovered species.

It seems to me that we are dealing here with the teaching of Arāḍa, the teacher of the buddha-to-be who Aśvaghoṣa praised as the truest of sages. Of course, the Buddha ultimately found Arāḍa's teaching to be wanting, and so he left Arāḍa in pursuit of the ultimate truth. Still, we shouldn't be too quick to dismiss what Arāḍa is saying as “not it.”

That being so, I wonder what relation between body and mind is indicated in today's verse by the word tathā in the 4th pāda. EBC and EHJ both translated tathā as “and also the mind”; PO translated as “and the mind.”

Is Arāḍa suggesting that people are prone to see the physical and the material as subject to the 2nd law of thermodynamics, and to see mental phenomena as occupying a realm which is less energetic and therefore less ephemeral and transient? Is Arāḍa emphasizing that in reality all things which have energy, including mental phenomena, are subject to the 2nd law? If so, there might be more to study in Arāḍa's words than correspondence with what, many centuries later, was classed as “early Sāṁkhya philosophy.”

vikāraḥ (nom. sg.): m. transformation
iti: “...,” thus
budhyasva = 2nd pers. sg. imperative budh: to be awake ; to perceive , notice , learn , understand , become or be aware of or acquainted with; to know to be , recognize as (with two acc.)

viṣayān (acc. pl.): m. objects, objects of the senses
indriyāṇi (acc. pl.): n. the senses
ca: and

pāṇi-pādam (acc. sg.): n. the hands and feet
ca: and
vādam (acc. sg.): m. speech , discourse , talk , utterance , statement ; cry, song, note [of a bird]; EBC/EHJ: the voice; PO: the mouth
ca: and

pāyūpastham (acc. sg.): n. the anus and the organs of generation
pāyu: m. the anus
upastha: m. " the part which is under " , lap , middle or inner part of anything , a well-surrounded or sheltered place , secure place ; mn. the generative organs (esp. of a woman)
tathā: ind. likewise
manaḥ (acc. sg.): n. mind

色聲香味觸 是等名境界
手足語二道 是五名業根
眼耳鼻舌身 是名爲覺根 

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