Friday, September 5, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.32: Pulling Down – To Be Understood as a Psychological, or as a Psychophysical, Phenomenon?

mamedam-aham-asyeti yad-duḥkham-abhimanyate |
vijñeyo 'bhyavapātaḥ sa saṁsāre yena pātyate || 12.32

The suffering of “This is mine,” “I belong to this,”

The suffering which one invents –

Know, as that suffering, the pulling down

By which one is flung back into saṁsāra.

In my first stab at translating abhyavapāta in BC12.24, I went with “falling on down” as the opposite conception to 仏向上事 BUTSU-KOJO-JI, “The Matter of a Buddha Going On Up” (as per the title of Shobogenzo chap. 28).

The MW dictionary, interestingly, gives as its definition of abhyavapāta, “gravitation,” and this is how EBC translates abhyavapātaḥ in today's verse. EHJ goes with “falling away” and PO also “falling away.”

Taking abhyavapātaḥ as gravitation leads EBC to translate today's verse as follows:
The misery which a man imagines by the ideas "This is mine," "I am connected with this," is to be recognised as "gravitation," — by this a man is borne downwards into new births.

Strictly speaking, Arāḍa is indicating abhyavapātaḥ (nom. sg. m.) as the thing to be known or recognised or investigated or understood (vijñeyaḥ; nom. sg. m.), rather than duḥkham (acc. sg. n.). Hence, as is generally the case, EHJ's translation most accurately mirrors the grammar of the Sanskrit:
Falling away is to be understood as wrong imagination about suffering that “this is mine,” “I belong to this,” and thereby a man is caused to fall away in the cycle of transmigration.

To know gravitation as the suffering of “This is mine,” somehow does not make sense. Gravitation is a universal force, whereas the suffering of “This is mine” is a psychological phenomenon.

And yet EBC's effort to connect the physical with the psychological may have something to be said for it.

The translation of abhyavapātaḥ that I have opted for in the end is a term that is used in Alexander work to describe a phenomenon which has both a psychological aspect and a gravitational aspect, and that is “pulling down.”

Thus, translated as I have translated them above, Arāḍa's words can be read in (at least) two ways.

One reading is that Arāḍa understood the pulling down by which one is flung back into saṁsāra as a psychological phenomenon – namely, the suffering of “This is mine;” “I belong to this.” (I note in passing that idam [this; nom. neuter] and asya [this; genitive neuter] are officially neither feminine or masculine, but when pulling down is investigated in practice by a bloke, as vividly demonstrated by Nanda's example, idam and asya are very liable to be feminine.) 

Another reading, which credits Arāḍa with deeper understanding, is that the pulling down by which one is flung back into saṁsāra is a psycho-physical phenomenon; therefore Arāḍa is guiding the bodhisattva to investigate physical pulling down (failing to respond as skillfully as one might to the downward pull of gravity) not only as a physical fact but also as a psychological phenomenon, and not only as a psychological phenomena but also as a neuro-muscular fact. 

When a bloke investigates in practice pulling down as a neuro-muscular fact, sooner or later, dull-witted though that bloke may have demonstrated himself to be in the psychological area of thinking up suffering, the bloke cannot fail to notice the importance of the vestibular system as the central apparatus human beings have for dealing with the earth's gravitational pull. 

Thus, as a shaven-headed bloke totters outside in the dimness of early dawn, and heads for a meditation hut 60 yards away, he deeply appreciates  -- more deelpy than he would have done if he had never heard of the vestibular reflexes -- the hazel thumb-stick he holds in his right hand. 

mama (gen. sg.): mine
idam (nom. sg. n.): this
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
asya (gen. sg.): of this, of it
iti: “....,” thus

yad (nom. sg. n.): that which
duḥkham (acc. sg.): n. suffering, misery
abhimanyate = 3rd pers. sg. abhi- √ man: to think of , long for , desire ; to intend to injure , be insidious , threaten , injure ; to allow , agree ; to think of self , be proud of ; to think , suppose , imagine , take for (acc.)

vijñeyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): to be known, to be understood
vi- √ jñā: to distinguish , discern , observe , investigate , recognize , ascertain , know , understand
abhyavapāta: m. gravitation, Bcar. xii, 24
-taḥ: (ablative sufix)
abhy-ava- √ pat: to fly near
ava- √ pat: to fly down
ava-pāta: m. falling down ; descent , descending upon; flying down ; a hole or pit for catching game in
√ pat: to fly , soar , rush on ; to fall down or off , alight , descend (with acc. or loc.) , fall or sink (with or without adhas or narake , " to go down to hell " ; with caraṇau or °ṇayoḥ , " to fall at a person's feet ") ; to fall (in a moral sense)
pāta: flying , mode of flying , flight; throwing one's self or falling into (loc.) or from (abl.) , fall , downfall (also ifc. after what would be a gen. or abl. &c e.g. , gṛha- , fall of a house ; parvata- , fall from a mountain ; bhū- , fall on the earth) ; alighting , descending or causing to descend , casting or throwing upon , cast , fall (of a thunderbolt) , throw , shot ; a fault , error , mistake
saḥ (nom. sg. m.): that, it

saṁsāre (loc. sg.): saṁsāra, the cycle of wandering
yena (inst. sg.): by which
pātyate = 3rd pers. sg. causative passive pat: to let fly or cause to fall , to fling , hurl , throw ; to lay low , bring down (lit. and fig.) , overthrow , ruin , destroy ; to throw upon or in , lay on (loc.) ; to knock out (teeth) ; to cast (dice) ; to turn , direct , fix (eyes) ; to seduce to , betray into (loc.)

諸物悉我所 是名爲攝受
如此八種惑 彌淪於生死

No comments: