Wednesday, September 3, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.30: Wrong Means, Or No Means At All

namas-kāra-vaṣaṭ-kārau prokṣaṇābhyukṣaṇādayaḥ |
an-upāya iti prājñair-upāya-jña praveditaḥ || 12.30

Calling out namas, “Homage!,”
calling out vaṣat,  “Into the flame!,”

Sacrificial pre-sprinkling,
over-sprinkling, and the rest,

Are declared by the wise,

O knower of means!,
to be wrong means.

Namas is a Sanskrit word which was rendered phonetically into Chinese characters as 南無, pronounced in Japanese NAMU.

The word is preserved in Japan today in such chants as
Homage to the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Dharma.

Dogen compared such repetitive chanting to frogs croaking all day long in the paddy fields. He did not regard it as an effective means of pursuing the truth that the Buddha realized. The essential means for making the Buddha's truth one's own, for Dogen, was nothing but sitting. 

In today's verse Arāḍa is describing the use of this word namas in a context he describes as an-upāya, which EBC translates as “false means,” EHJ as “wrong means” and PO as “wrongful means.” The MW dictionary defines  an-upāya as “bad means” but adds that in the instrumental (an-upāyena) the meaning is “to no purpose.

So an-upāya means “wrong means," but equally -- as suggested by "to no purpose" -- it can also be read as meaning “the absence of any means.” Both elements in the duality expressed in BC12.24 as aviśeṣānupāyābhyām, then, can be understood as expressing a lack or an absence, viz: 
1. a-viśeṣa: a lack of power to distinguish between the Awake and the Not Awake, and between constituent parts of the Primary Matter, and
2. an-upāya: a lack of the means by which to gain an end.

Speaking of means which are either wrong or practically non-existent in their ineffectuality, I would like to complain about the amount of praying that still goes on, here in the 21st century, on BBC Radio 4 Long Wave. Radio 4 for the most part is a bastian of rationality. But there is Prayer for the Day at the beginning of the day; Thought for the Day during the Today programme, usually delivered by some religious believer or other; then, on Long Wave, a Christian morning service in which prayers are usually directed towards some place or person currently in the news. Yesterday, along with the usual prayers for sufferers in Syria and Iraq, Radio 4 LW listeners were asked to pray for the 5-year old boy who has been in the news in Britain since his parents took him from Southampton to Spain in search of better medical treatment. We were asked to pray for him, and for his family.

But what kind of a practical means for helping others is such prayer?

Isn't it just the totally ineffectual expression of a kind of superstituous ignorance? 

In respose to whatever is making the news, politicians and vicars alike clearly believe "something needs to be done." So politicians announce this and that, and vicars for their part, like children on the top deck of a bus turning a plastic steering wheel, seriously intone prayers requesting God's help. 

That kind of prayer seems to me, since I don't believe in divine intervention that contravenes the law of cause-and-effect , to be not so much a false means, or a wrong means, or a wrongful means as a totally non-existent or empty means. 

In conclusion, then, for saying what deserves to be said, namo arāda! Homage to Arāḍa!

Ironically enough, in view of the above rant, much as I generally close my ears to "Thought for the Day," or turn the radio off for five minutes while the religious thinker is blathering on, a couple of days ago a "religious commentator" named Clifford Longley spurred my interest greatly when he spoke on the theme of irony. He related how the horrors of the First World War nurtured and sharpened the British sense of irony -- so that the myth of divine intervention on Britain's side through the Angels of Mons was initially welcomed by a gullible public, but such religious optimism -- the sense that God is on our side -- gradually gave way in the face of the real horrors of the War to a greater taste for irony. For further investigation along these lines Longley recommended the book The Great War & Modern Memory. 

I decided to go ahead and order the book. Maybe investigating in detail how the harsh realites of war so devastated people's easy expectations will help me to understand more clearly why Aśvaghoṣa was so devoted to describing the harsh realities of aging, sickness and death; and at the same time so evidently fond of playing with various kinds of irony, including not only verbal irony but also situational or dramatic irony, as when a speaker does not understand the profound truth of his own words. 

Clifford Longley ended his Radio 4 talk by expressing a hankering for an age more grounded, after all, in religious faith. 

But how could anybody, having understood how the harsh realities of the First World War confounded the optimistic expectations of religious believers, carry on seeing religious faith as an effective means-whereby for dealing with harsh reality? 

Longley sounded to me like a punter wishing to place money on a horse that already lost a race, or on a boxer that had already been knocked out. 

Religious faith might be a second-rate means for countering the enemy which is fear. But if the original enemy is ignorance, religious faith is a wrong means for defeating that enemy, or is no means at all. 

From the standpoint of an animal rights activist, then, Arāḍa in today's verse can be heard to assert that animal sacrifice is morally wrong, or evil. And I would not disagree with that perception. But an even more fundamental objection to religious behaviour like prayer and ritual sacrifice is that it is impractical. It fails to meet the pragmatic criterion of truth -- it doesn't work

namas-kāra-vaṣaṭ-kārau (nom. dual): the exclamations namas and vaṣaṭ
namas-kāra: m. the exclamation " namas " , adoration , homage
namas: n. bow , obeisance , reverential salutation , adoration (by gesture or word)
kāra: m. (ifc.) ( √1. kṛ) an act , action ; m. or f. act of worship , song of praise ; m. ( √2. kṛ) a song or hymn of praise
√2. kṛ: to make mention of , praise , speak highly of
vaṣaṭ-kāra: m. the exclamation vaṣaṭ (also personified as a deity)
vaṣaṭ: ind. (accord. to some fr. √1. vah ; cf. 2. vaṭ and vauṣaṭ) an exclamation uttered by the hotṛ priest at the end of the sacrificial verse (on hearing which the adhvaryu priest casts the oblation offered to the deity into the fire ; it is joined with a dat. e.g. pūṣṇe vaṣaṭ ; with √ kṛ , " to utter the exclamation vaṣaṭ ") RV. VS. Br. S3rS. Mn. MBh. Pur.

prokṣaṇābhyukṣaṇādayaḥ (nom. pl.) consecration by pre-sprinkling, over-sprinkling, and the like
prokṣaṇa: n. consecration by sprinkling (of a sacrificial animal or of a dead body before burial)
pra- √ukṣ: to sprinkle upon , besprinkle , consecrate (for sacrifice) ; to sacrifice , kill , slaughter (a sacrificial victim)
ukṣ: to sprinkle , moisten , wet ; to sprinkle or scatter in small drops
abhyukṣaṇa: n. sprinkling over , wetting
abhy- √ ukṣ: to sprinkle over , besprinkle
ādi: et cetera

an-upāyaḥ (nom. sg.): m. bad means (an-upāyena, to no purpose)
an-: a prefix corresponding to Gk. ἀ , ἀν , Lat. in , Goth. and Germ. un , Eng. in or un , and having a negative or privative or contrary sense (an-eka not one ; an-anta endless ; a-sat not good ; a-paśyat not seeing)
upāya: m. coming near , approach , arrival ; that by which one reaches one's aim , a means or expedient (of any kind) , way , stratagem , craft , artifice ; (esp.) a means of success against an enemy (four are usually enumerated , sowing dissension , negotiation , bribery , and open assault)
iti: “...,” thus
prājñaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): by the wise

upāya-jña (voc. sg.): O knower of proper means!
praveditaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. EBC/EHJ/PO declared
pra- √ vid : to know , understand ; Caus. -vedayati , °te , to make known , communicate , relate

禮拜誦諸典 殺生祀天祠
水火等爲淨 而作解脱想
如是種種見 是名無方便 

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