Friday, October 17, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.74: No Smoke Without Fire?

¦⏑⏑⏑−¦¦⏑−−−¦⏑−⏑−   navipulā
hitvā hitvā trayam idaṁ viśeṣas tūpalabhyate |
ātmanas tu sthitir yatra tatra sūkṣmam idaṁ trayam || 12. 74 

By progressive abandoning of these three,

Higher distinction is obtained,

But where the soul prevails,

There – subtly – these three are.

“There is no smoke without fire,” the saying goes.

But it is not always clear what constitutes smoke and what constitutes fire. A false accusation may seem like smoke, but if the accusation was false – though it may have serious repercussions for the accused  the accusation and surrounding publicity were not in fact fairly comparable to smoke and were not indicative of fire.

If we follow the ostensible meaning of today's verse, the soul is like fire, and ignorance, karma, and thirsting are like smoke.

Again, however, as in yesterday's verse, the grammatical construction leaves unspecified the exact causal relation that the bodhisattva intended to express, between (a) the soul and (b) the three causes of saṁsāra under discussion.

Yesterday (as again in BC12.76) the construction was the locative absolute saty ātmani, “the soul being there,” or “the soul continuing to be there,” which I followed EHJ in translating “as long as the soul persists.” Today the construction is the analagous yatra... tatra, “where [the soul is], there [the three are].”

So Aśvaghoṣa has framed the grammar in such a way that -- ironically -- (b) ignorance etc., could be like fire; and (a) the soul, could be smoke.

Such might have been the case  in recent years in places in Ireland where the soul prevailed -- in Catholic churches where children were sexually abused by priests hiding behind a religious smokescreen.  That may have been an example of people not being able to see the fire for the smoke. 

EBC translated the second half of today's verse:
as long as the soul itself continues, there this triad continues in a subtil form.

EBC thus seemed to understand the second tu as having expletive force: he translated ātmanas tu as “the soul itself.” The effect is to strengthen the impression that the bodhisattva is talking of the soul as something that really exists. So this might be in accordance with the ostensible meaning in which the soul is comparable to fire. But it is not in accordance with the alternative meaning in which ignorance is analagous to causal fire and the delusory concept of the soul is analagous to symptomatic smoke.

EHJ's translates:
but where the soul still remains, there these three remain in a subtile state.

EHJ notes further: “The argument recalls the Buddhist theory of the anuśayas.”

An anuśaya means a latent tendency. The word is derived from anu-√śī, to sleep alongside, and Aśvaghoṣa uses it in SN Canto 15:

yady api pratisaṃkhyānāt kāmān utsṛṣṭavān asi /
Even if, as a result of calm consideration, you have let go of desires,
tamāṃsīva prakāśena pratipakṣeṇa tāñ jahi // SN15.4
You must, as if shining light into darkness, 
abolish them by means of their opposite.

tiṣṭhaty anuśayas teṣāṃ channo 'gnir iva bhasmanā /
What lies behind those desires sleeps on, like a fire covered with ashes;
sa te bhāvanayā saumya praśāmyo 'gnir ivāmbunā // SN15.5
You are to extinguish it, my friend, by the means of mental developing, 
as if using water to put out a fire.

So what is EHJ suggesting about the relationship between the soul and the threesome of ignorance, karma and thirsting? EHJ is suggesting that what sleeps alongside what?

Is EHJ suggesting that ignorance is a latent tendency that can -- albeit in subtle form -- sleep alongside the soul? I think he is suggesting that. 

In that case, I would like to ask EHJ: how can ignorance, karma and thirsting, as latent tendencies, sleep alongside what has never existed?

I think, that EHJ, not for the first time, along with EBC, totally failed to notice Aśvaghoṣa's irony.

What EBC failed to notice in the 19th century, EHJ failed to notice in the 20th century. And in the 21st century Patrick Olivelle has only compounded the error by writing that Aśvaghoṣa presents Buddhism as the crowning and consummation of the Brahmanical religion.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Aśvaghoṣa, when we really get to know him, is so irreligious you could put him in a biscuit tin as a means of keeping moisture out.

hitvā = abs. hā: to leave , abandon , desert , quit , forsake , relinquish
idam (acc. sg. n.): this
idam (acc. sg. n.): this

viśeṣaḥ (nom. sg.): m. distinction
tu: but (sometimes used as a mere expletive)
upalabhyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive upa- √ labh: to seize , get possession of , acquire , receive , obtain , find ; to perceive , behold , hear , to understand , learn , know , ascertain

ātmanaḥ (gen. sg.): m. the soul
tu: but (sometimes used as a mere expletive)
sthitiḥ (nom .sg.): f. standing upright or firmly , not falling ; continuance in being , maintenance of life , continued existence
yatra: ind. wherein

tatra: ind. therein
sūkṣmam (acc. sg. n.): finely, feebly, subtly
idam (nom. sg. n.): this
trayam (nom. sg.): n. three

處處捨三種 而復得三勝
以我常有故 彼則微細隨 

No comments: