ahaṁ-kāra-parityāgo yaś caiṣa parikalpyate |
saty ātmani parityāgo nāhaṁ-kārasya vidyate || 12.76
As for this abandonment of the self-consciousness of “I-doing”
Which, again, is posited –
So long as the soul persists
There has been no abandonment of “I-doing.”
I wrote a couple of days ago about how Aśvaghoṣa's use of the locative absolute saty ātmani (“so long as the soul persists”) in BC12.73, and the equivalent construction yatra.... tatra... (“where [the soul prevails]... there...”) in BC12.74, deliberately avoids identifying one of two elements as cause and the other as effect. The construction rather describes the two factors as being present together, like chicken and egg, and leaving it to the reader to decide which came first.
By repeating the locative absolute saty ātmani in today's verse, Aśvaghoṣa is giving us ample opportunity to get the point.
Neither EBC nor EHJ, by their translations, showed any evidence of having got the point. Hence,
EBC: But as for this supposed abandonment of the principle of egoism, — as long as the soul continues, there is no real abandonment of egoism.
EHJ: And as for this imagined abandonment of the ego-principle, so long as the soul persists, there is no abandonment of that principle.
PO, however, provides clear evidence of not having got the point:
This abandonment of ego that you imagine to take place – When there's a soul, the abandonment of the ego cannot take place.
PO's translation reflects the ostensible reading which Aśvaghoṣa, I suspect, was cynically inviting the unwary to fall for. But by implying that the soul is the impeding factor which prevents abandonment from taking place, PO's translation blots out the real meaning of the bodhisattva's words.
“When there's a soul, the abandonment of the ego cannot take place” makes it sound like (a) the continued real existence of the soul, is like fire; and (b) failure to abandon, is like smoke. Or like (a) is real root cause and (b) is symptomatic effect.
But what the bodhisattva actually says is only that where the soul persists, there abandonment is not found. So this could equally well mean that (a) the positing of “a soul” is a symptom, like smoke; and (b) the absence of abandonment is the real root cause, like a fire that has yet to be extinguished.
In order for it to convey the latter meaning, PO's translation should read:
“When there's a soul, the abandonment of the ego cannot have taken place”
If we follow PO in following the ostensible meaning in which continued real existence of the soul is a causal factor preventing abandonment of ego / self-consciousness / "I-doing", then the bodhisattva must reject the whole of Arāḍa's teaching as being founded on a faulty premise. But, as we explored seven or eight weeks ago, Aśvaghoṣa presented Arāḍa's teaching about the causes of saṁsāra, including ahaṁ-kāra self-consciousness, in such a way that Arāḍa's teaching about the causes of saṁsāra can be read as not diverging by a hair's breadth from the Buddha's teaching about the causes of saṁsāra. In other words, it is possible to understand that although Arāḍa's conclusion about the meaning of liberation was totally false, his analsysis of the causes of saṁṣāra was perfectly true. Thus,
Ignorance, karma, and thirsting are to be known as the causes of saṁsāra; / A creature set in these three ways fails to transcend the aforementioned Sattva, Being – //BC12.23// [It fails] because of wrong grounding, because of “I-doing” self-consciousness, because of blurring of sight, because of blurring of boundaries, / Because of lack of discrimination and wrong means, because of attachment, and because of pulling down.//12.24// Among those, “wrong grounding” keeps setting movement in the wrong direction – / It causes to be done wrongly what is to be done; and causes to be thought wrongly what has to be thought. //12.25// I speak, I know, I go, I stand firm – / It is thus that here, O unselfconscious one!, the self-consciousness of “I-doing” carries on.//12.26//.... “The seer, the hearer, the thinker, and the very act of doing of what is to be done – / All that is I.” Having fallen into such thoughts, around and round he goes in saṁsāra. //12.38// Thus, O perspicacious one!, in the presence of these causes the stream of births starts flowing. / In the absence of causes, there is no effect, as you are to investigate.//BC12.39//
If we take the alternative way of reading today's verse, then, the bodhisattva is not rejecting this part of Arāḍa's teaching. He is rather telling Arāḍa the truth that Arāḍa has not yet got to the end of his own teaching. And this failure of Arāḍa to realize the consummation of his own true teaching (but do not call it Brahmanism!) is evidenced by Arāḍa's irrational belief in the existence of a soul that can leave the body like a bird escaping from a cage.
In terms of the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda with its twelve links, the persistence of the so-called ghost in the machine -- or the view of people like the young Sting that “we are spirits in the material world” -- might be a symptom of ignorance (avidyā). And this ignorance might be the real causal grounds for all doings (saṁskārāḥ), including the self-consciousness of “I-doing.”
The challenge that lies before the bodhisattva, then, is true abandonment of the self-consciousness of “I-doing.” And this abandonment is never to be found in an act of doing. According to Nāgārjuna it is realized, on the contrary, in an act of knowing. Hence,
- ignorance avidyā
- doings saṁskārāḥ
- consciousness vijñānam
- psychophysicality nāmarūpam
- six senses ṣaḍ-āyatanam
- contact saṁsparśaḥ
- feeling vedanā
- thirsting tṛṣṇā
- grasping hold upādānam
- becoming bhavaḥ
- birth jātiḥ
- the suffering of aging and death, and so on, sorrows, lamentations... jarā-maraṇa-duḥkhādi śokāḥ saparidevanāḥ....
...saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ |
avidvān kārakas tasmān na vidvāṁs tattva-darśanāt ||MMK26.10
The doings which are the root of saṁsāra
Thus does the ignorant one do.
The ignorant one therefore is the doer;
The wise one is not, because of the act of reality making itself known.
avidyāyāṁ niruddhāyāṁ saṁskārāṇām asaṁbhavaḥ |
avidyāyā nirodhas tu jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt ||MMK26.11
In the ceasing of ignorance,
There is the non-coming-into-being of doings.
The cessation of ignorance, however,
Is because of the bringing-into-being of just this act of knowing.
tasya tasya nirodhena tat-tan nābhipravartate |
duḥkha-skandhaḥ kevalo 'yam evaṁ samyaṅ nirudhyate ||MMK26.12
By the destruction of each,
Each is discontinued.
This whole edifice of suffering
Is thus well and truly demolished.
ahaṁ-kāra-parityāgaḥ (nom. sg. m.): abandoning of self-consciousness
ahaṁ-kāra: m. conception of one's individuality , self-consciousness ; the making of self , thinking of self , egotism
yaḥ (relative pronoun): which
eṣa (nom. sg. m.): this
parikalpyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive pari- √ kḷp: to fix , settle , determine ; to perform , execute , accomplish , contrive , arrange , make ; to suppose
sati (loc. abs.): there being
ātmani (loc. abs.): the soul
parityāgaḥ (nom. sg.): m. abandoning
ahaṁ-kārasya (gen. sg. m.): self-consciousness
vidyate (3rd pers. sg. passive vid): is found, there is