Wednesday, October 15, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.72: Grounds for Growth of a Non-Existent Seed

¦⏑⏑⏑−¦¦⏑−−−¦⏑−⏑−    navipulā
tu-bhūmy-ambu-virahād yathā bījaṁ na rohati |
rohati pratyayais tais-tais tadvat so 'pi mato mama || 12.72

Just as, in the absence of season, soil and water,

A seed does not grow,

But does rise up when those various grounds are present,

So also, as I see it, does 'the soul.'

Arāḍa's conclusion was that liberation is realized when the kṣetra-jña, the knower of the field, slips away from the body like a bird escaping from a cage.

The bodhisattva in the present series of verses is objecting to Arāḍa's conclusion on the grounds that ultimate liberation requires the further step of total abandonment of the kṣetra-jña, aka the pure ātman, the pure or spiritual self – in short, the soul.

In today's verse the bodhisattva's argument is that just as a seed grows when various grounds, or causal conditions, are present, so too does the soul grow in the presence of various grounds – like an acorn growing into an oak tree.

The irony in today's verse, then, might be as follows:

The bodhisattva, on the face of it, accepts Arāḍa's view that such a thing exists as a separable soul, so that the aim is to eliminate the acorn.

But below the surface, of course, the bodhisattva is saying that he sees there is no such acorn, nor has there ever been any such real acorn, as a separable soul – except in the deluded imagination of religious believers.

The most difficult things to get rid of, FM Alexander observed, are the ones that don't exist.

For consistency and to mirror the original, I could have translated rohati as "does grow" in both the 2nd and 3rd pādas of today's verse. But if we understand that, below the surface, the bodhisattva is talking of 'the soul' as something which does not really exist, this sense would be better conveyed by a translation like “rises to the ascendancy” – as the soul rose to the ascendancy in Europe's Dark Ages, when fear of eternal damnation kept the peasant classes in our place.

When the soul was in the ascendancy...

... and just for balance. 

ṛtu-bhūmy-ambu-virahāt (abl. sg.): in the absence of season, soil or water
vi-raha: m. abandonment, desertion; lack , want (ifc. = lacking , with the exception of)

yathā: ind. as, just as
bījam (nom. sg.): n. seed
na: not
rohati = 3rd pers. sg. ruh: to ascend, rise , spring up , grow , develop ,

rohati = 3rd pers. sg. ruh: to ascend, grow ; to rise , spring up , grow , develop , increase , prosper , thrive
pratyayaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. belief ; ground , basis , motive or cause of anything (in med.) = nimitta , hetu &c ; (with Buddhists) a co-operating cause; the concurrent occasion of an event as distinguished from its approximate cause
tais-taiḥ (inst. pl.): this and that , various , different

tadvat: ind. like that , thus , so (correlative of yad-vat ; of yathā)
saḥ (nom. sg. m.): it [the ātman]
api: also
mataḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. thought , believed , imagined , supposed , understood ; regarded or considered as , taken or passing for (nom. or adv.)
mama (gen. sg.): of/by me

猶如彼種子 時地水火風
離散生理乖 遇縁種復生 

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