Thursday, September 18, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.45: Sitting by Numbers 1-2-3

ity-arāḍo yathā-śāstraṁ vispaṣṭārthaṁ samāsataḥ |
tam-evānyena kalpena dharmam-asmai vyabhāṣata || 12.45

And so Arāḍa, by the book,

Succinctly, making his meaning plain,

Tried again, in a different way,

To explain to him that same dharma.

In his upcoming speech, Arāḍa is going to discuss the four dhyānas one by one. The phrase yathā-śāstram, "by the book," (EBC: according to his doctrine; EHJ: according to the śāstra; PO: in accordance with sacred texts) might be alluding to this approach.

In his first speech Arāḍa's approach was freer and more philosophical; Aśvaghoṣa introduces that speech with the words svasya śāstrasya niścayam, the gist of his own teaching (BC12.15).

In introducing this second attempt, Aśvaghoṣa describes Arāḍa as going yathā-śāstram, by the book.

So the approach is different, but the truth is the same.

Can a parallel usefully be drawn, then, between
  • the approach represented by the Pali Suttas and early Pali/Sanskrit abhidhamma/abhidharma works in which numbered lists are prevalent; e.g. thirty-seven things on the side of awakening (Pali: sattatiṁsā bodhipakkhiyadhammā); four ways of attending to mindfulness (Pali: cattāro satipaṭṭhānā), etc. etc.; and 
  • the approach represented by a Chinese Zen text like Keitoku-dento-roku, which contains the koan stories of interchanges between Chinese Zen masters whose tone is freer and more philosophical?

Perhaps we can understand in this light my teacher's observation, in his introduction to Shobogenzo chap. 73, that it was very rare for Buddhist monks in Japan to discuss, as Dogen discussed in that chapter, teachings like the 37 things which -- among so-called Mahāyāna Buddhists -- tended to be disdained as teachings of the small vehicle.

And again in this light, we can appreciate that, though he preceded by two generations Nāgārjuna's famous elucidation of the philosophy of the middle way, Aśvaghoṣa himself stood very sure-footedly in that tradition of the middle, seeing both sides. 

iti: thus
arāḍaḥ (nom. sg. m.): Arāḍa
yathā-śāstram: ind. according to precept or rule , according to the codes of law
n. an order , command , precept , rule ; teaching , instruction , direction , advice , good counsel ; any instrument of teaching , any manual or compendium of rules , any bock or treatise

vispaṣṭārtham (acc. sg. n.): mfn. having a very clear or obvious sense
vispaṣṭa: mfn. ( √ spaś ; cf. viṣpáś) very clear or apparent , manifest , evident, plain , intelligible
samāsataḥ: ind. in a summary manner , succinctly , concisely

tam (acc. sg. m.): that
eva (emphatic)
anyena (inst. sg. m.): another
kalpena (inst. sg.): m. a sacred precept , law , rule , ordinance (= vidhi , nyāya) , manner of acting , proceeding , practice (esp. that prescribed by the vedas); m. a rule to be observed before any other rule , first duty; etena kalpena , in this way

dharmam (acc. sg.): m. dharma
asmai (dat. sg. m.): to him
vyabhāṣata = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect vi- √ bhāṣ: to speak variously , speak against , abuse , revile MBh. ; (in gram.) to admit an alternative , be optional

時彼阿羅藍 如其經論説
自以慧方便 更爲略分別 

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