Wednesday, August 6, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.2: A Sense of Perspective, and of Touch

sa kālāma-sa-gotreṇa tenālokyaiva dūrataḥ |
uccaiḥ svāgatam-ity-uktaḥ samīpam-upajagmivān || 12.2

Seen from afar

By that distant kinsman of Kālāma

And greeted immediately
with a welcome that resounded up on high,

He drew near.

The MW dictionary gives “a distant kinsman” as one definition of sa-gotra. Still, I have used a bit of poetic license in translating sa-gotra in the 1st pāda of today's verse as “distant kinsman,” and equally in translating the emphatic eva in the 2nd pāda as “immediately.”

There are three or four words in today's verse, however, which even without the exercise of poetic license, seem to want to speak to our sense of spatial awareness, or perspective.

Those words are
  • dūrataḥ, “from afar”;
  • uccaiḥ, which ostenisbly means “loudly” (EBC/PO: in a loud voice; EHJ: aloud) but which originally means aloft, on high, upwards, from above.
  • samīpam, “nearness”; and
  • upajagmivān, “he approached.”

Literally, then, the 4th pāda means “he approached nearness” or “he approached presence” or “he approached imminence.”

Quoting from memory, I think Master Tendo Nyojo says something somewhere in Shobogenzo to the effect that the banana plants and bamboos have all entered into a picture.

That ability to see all things as part of one bigger picture is I think what Aśvaghoṣa is drawing on in today's verse. Since it has to do with spatial awareness, it is an ability centred on vestibular functioning.

At the same time, samīpam in the sense of nearness, presence, or imminence might be more analagous to touching something.

Apropos of which I am caused to reflect that the various kinds of Buddhism to which people adhere, might be said to help people approach the teaching of the Buddha. But ultimately those approaches are liable to become an obstacle to actually touching the teaching.

When a teacher's effort becomes part of the problem he would like to solve – as when an Alexander teacher who wishes to take a pupil up, actually takes him down; or as when a Zen teacher who wishes to teach freedom from ignorance actually promotes ignorance – then the means the teacher is employing to get off the merry-go-round of saṁsāra, are not working.

Hence, again, the wisdom of Nāgārjuna's words:

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.

Reality making itself known,” I venture to submit, is an expression of the practice of non-doing (Skt: nivṛtti) wherein the real solution might lie.

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
kālāma-sa-gotreṇa (inst. sg. m.): by the kinsman of Kālāma
kālāma = kālāpa: m. (fr. kalāpa) , a serpent's hood ; N. of ārāḍa (a teacher of śākya-muni)
sa-gotra: mfn. being of the same family or kin , related to (gen. or comp.); m. a kinsman of the same family (one sprung from a common ancestor or one connected by funeral oblations of food and water) ; m. a distant kinsman

tena (inst. sg. m.): by him
ālokya = abs. ā- √ lok : to look at, behold
eva: (in its most frequent use of strengthening the idea expressed by any word , eva must be variously rendered by such adverbs as) just , exactly , very , same , only , even , alone , merely , immediately on , still , already , &c
dūrataḥ: ind. from afar

uccaiḥ: ind. (sometimes used adjectively) aloft , high , above , upwards , from above; loud , accentuated ; intensely , much , powerfully
svāgatam (nom. sg.): n. welcome
iti: “...,” thus
uktaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. spoken

samīpam (acc. sg.): n. nearness , proximity , vicinity , presence , imminence (with gen. or ifc. , am , " to , towards”)
upajagmivān = nom. sg. m. past. part. upa- √ gam: to go near

迦藍玄族子 遠見菩薩來
高聲遙讃歎 安慰言善來

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