Monday, October 13, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.70: How Pregnant Can a Concept Be?

vikāra-praktibhyo hi kṣetra-jñaṁ muktam apy aham |
manye prasava-dharmāṇaṁ bīja-dharmāṇam eva ca || 12.70

For, I consider 'the Knower of the Field,'

Even freed from 'the Transformed and the Primary,'

To be engendering in nature

And to be, in its very nature, a seed.

Arāḍa's conception of the knower of the field, in the final analysis, is of a spiritual something which, like a bird entering and leaving a cage, can be either embodied or disembodied. And on the surface the bodhisattva is discussing the knower of the field in these terms, as if he thought there might be such a thing as a soul that can be either embodied or disembodied. But below the surface, as usual, it is a different story. Below the surface the bodhisattva is giving an ironic description of a concept, a bit of ignorance, something which -- though metaphorically called a bit of dust on Arāḍa's eye -- does not exist. 

And yet, even though it does not exist, the false conception is pregnant with all sorts of wrong doing. 

EBC translated today's verse: 
For I consider that the embodied soul, though freed from the evolutes and the evolvents, is still subject to the condition of birth and has the condition of a seed.

EHJ translated: 
For I am of opinion that the field-knower, although liberated from the primary and secondary constituents, still possesses the quality of giving birth and also of being a seed.

For although the Knower of the field is freed from Primal nature and Transformations, / Yet I think it still has the quality of giving birth and serving as a seed. 

From these translations one would think that the bodhisattva was talking of "the embodied soul" or the "field-knower" in such a way that he believed in the existence of such a thing. And Aśvaghoṣa's intention may have been to invite the unwary reader to go for such a reading. 

But the meaning concealed below the surface, again, must be that the Knower of the Field, aka the spiritual soul, is a seminal falsehood, an idea which contains within it the seed of all kinds of foolishness. 

That EHJ and PO missed this irony is doubly evident from their footnotes, which refer back again to sāṁkhya texts and sāṁkhya philosophy. Hence, EHJ:

For prasava-dharmāṇam, cp. prasava-dharmin in Sāṁkhyakārikā, 11, where it is explained as the capacity to give birth, as buddhi gives birth to ahaṁkāraBīja-dharman is practically co-extensive in meaning; so MBh., xii, 11662,of avyakta...

And PO: 
In the Sankhya system the eight prakṛtis act as a seed, giving birth to other entitities within the evolutionary  process. When such qualities are present, someone cannot be said to be fully liberated. 

Not for the first time, each of the three professors seems to have missed the irony which Aśvaghoṣa concealed below the surface.  

Professors of Sanskrit are prone to see the Buddha's teaching as belonging within the bigger basket of Indian religion. That view itself is like a seed, one of whose fruits is that, in Buddhist studies departments around the world, Aśvaghoṣa is liable to be confused with somebody who might have been even slightly interested in encouraging us to study Sāṁkhya philosophy. 

The bodhisattva in today's verse seems to be speaking on the basis of acceptance of Sāṁkhya concepts. But that appearance, if we understand Aśvaghoṣa's true intention in writing Buddhacarita, might be deceptive. 

What was Aśvaghoṣa's true intention in writing Buddhacarita? I think it might have been the same as Bodhidharma's intention in coming to China in the east from India in the west. 

At the same time, Aśvaghoṣa's intention in writing Buddhacarita might have been the same as Nāgārjuna's intention in writing MMK. Hence:

sarva-dṛṣṭi-prahāṇāya yaḥ saddharmam adeśayat |
anukampām upādāya taṁ namasyāmi gautamam || MMK27.30
In the direction of abandoning all views,
He taught the true dharma,
Taking pity.
I bow to him, Gautama.  

The most troublesome seed in the world, pregnant with all kinds of dire possibilities, might be a view that has yet to be abandoned. 

vikāra-prakṛtibhyaḥ (abl. pl.): from transformed and primary constituents
hi: for

kṣetra-jñam (acc. sg.): m. the Knower of the Field (MW: " knowing the body " i.e. the soul , the conscious principle in the corporeal frame)
muktam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. freed, liberated
api: even, though
aham (nom. sg.): I

manye = 1st pers. sg. man: to deem, consider, think of
prasava-dharmāṇam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. subject to the condition of birth, Bcar.
prasava: m. setting or being set in motion; m. begetting , procreation , generation , conception , parturition , delivery , birth , origin ; birthplace
√su 2: (= √1. sū) (only in 3. sg. pr. sauti and 2. sg. Impv. suhi) to urge , impel , incite
√su 4 (= √2. sū): (only in 3. sg. sauti » pra- √sū) to beget , bring forth
prasava-dharmin: mfn. characterized by production , productive , prolific ib
prasava-māsa: m. the last month of pregnancy
dharman: n. (esp. ifc.) nature , quality , characteristic mark or attribute

bīja-dharmāṇam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. having the condition of a seed, Bcar.
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and

性轉變知因 説言解脱者
我觀是生法 亦爲種子法 

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