Wednesday, October 22, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.79: A Good Basis for Getting Bound

prāg dehān na bhaved dehī prāg guṇebhyas tathā guṇī |
tasmād ādau vimuktaḥ san śarīrī badhyate punaḥ || 12.79

Prior to the body, no owner of a body can exist;

Prior to defining features, likewise,
nothing defined by features can exist.

On this basis does the possessor of a body,
having been free from the beginning,

Become bound again.

EBC and EHJ took śarīrī in the 3rd pāda to mean the embodied spirit, i.e. the soul. Hence EBC simply translated  as "the soul" and EHJ translated "the soul, as possessor of the body." 

EBC then found meaning in today's verse by changing tasmād (therefore, on this basis) at the beginning of the 3rd pāda to kasmād (wherefore?, on what basis?) and thus making the second half of the verse into a rhetorical question.

The rhetorical question makes sense insofar as Arāḍa concluded that liberation is realized by a soul escaping from a body, and the rhetorical question negates that conclusion. If we read today's verse like that, the fourteen verses of the bodhisattva's speech would fit into a 2-6-2-4 formation, with today's verse being part of the bodhisattva's statement of his own conclusive rejection of Arāḍa's conclusion.

In EBC's text, the second half is:
kasmāḍ ādau vimuktaḥ san śarīrī badhyate punaḥ
I would translate this text like this:
On what basis does the embodied [soul], having been in the beginning free, become bound again?
EBC himself translated:
how, if it was originally free, could the soul ever become bound?

EHJ noted that EBC's conjecture in c is negatived by both [Chinese and Tibetan translations] as well as by [the old Nepalese manuscript], and is not too easy in sense either.

EHJ is correct insofar as the Chinese translation has 是故, “for this reason,” which does indeed represent tasmāt rather than kasmāt.

In EBC's defence, however, his translation makes a lot more sense to me than does EHJ's own translation, which once again seems to fall into the trap of assuming that the bodhisattva recognized the existence of “the soul” as something other than a figment of the imagination. Hence, EHJ: 

Before a conglomerate mass exists, there cannot be a possessor of the mass; so, before attributes exist, there cannot be a possessor of the attributes. Therefore the soul, as possessor of the body, being first released, is subsequently bound to it again.

I have taken śarīrī not to mean an embodied [soul] but rather to mean the possessor of a body, i.e. a real flesh-and-bones practitioner in possession of himself.

In that case, what the bodhisattva is saying is something not at all philosophical or intellectual, but something totally practical and real, presaging the buddha's setting forth of the noble truth of cessation. Today's verse thus fits into the third of the four phases -- as no.11 in the 2-6-3-3 formation discussed yesterday. 

The possessor of a body, having been free from the beginning, becomes bound again.

An analogous statement from Chinese Zen might be that an old master worries, when a spring breeze blows, about plum blossoms falling down.

In that case, again, the basis implied by tasmād might be that what does not exist, even though people think and talk as if it does exist, in fact does not exist. Still, as FM Alexander observed, “The most difficult things to get rid of are the ones that don't exist.”

The basis might be the basis for what Buddha tells Nanda about non-existence of causes and non-existence of effects:
So my friend, with regard to the many forms of becoming, know their causes to be [the faults] that start with thirsting / And cut out those [faults], if you wish to be freed from suffering; for ending of the effect follows from eradication of the cause. // SN16.25 // Again, the ending of suffering follows from the disappearance of its cause. Experience that reality for yourself as peace and well-being, / A place of rest, a cessation, an absence of the red taint of thirsting, a primeval refuge which is irremovable and noble, // SN16.26 //In which there is no becoming, no aging, no dying, no illness, no being touched by unpleasantness, / No disappointment, and no separation from what is pleasant: It is an ultimate and indestructible step, in which to dwell at ease. // 16.27 // A lamp that has gone out reaches neither to the earth nor to the sky, / Nor to any cardinal nor to any intermediate point: Because its oil is spent it reaches nothing but extinction. // 16.28 // In the same way, a man of action who has come to quiet reaches neither to the earth nor to the sky, / Nor to any cardinal nor to any intermediate point: From the ending of his afflictions he attains nothing but extinction. // SN16.29 //
Ironically, this might also be the basis for what Arāḍa himself has told the bodhisattva earlier in the present Canto:
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//

Equally this might be the basis for the teaching recorded by Nāgārjuna, at the end of MMK Canto 26, as follows:
The doings which are the root of saṁsāra thus does the dopey one do. / The dopey one therefore is the doer; the wise one is not, because of reality making itself known. //MMK26.10// 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.//MMK26.11// By the destruction of each, each is discontinued. / This whole edifice of suffering is thus well and truly demolished.//MMK26.12//

Finally, lest any skeptical reader is unconvinced by the above reference to a Zen master worrying about plum blossoms, another example to illustrate the 4th pāda might be Nanda himself at the end of SN Canto 18. After the Buddha has affirmed Nanda's realization of the freedom that was his from the beginning, the Buddha then proceeds to lumber Nanda with mission impossible, a never-ending task:
O possessor of dharma! Since, because of abiding by dharma, you have skill in making it your own and quiet confidence in me, / I have something else to say to you. For you are surrendered and devoted, and up to the task. // SN18.53 // Walking the transcendent walk, you have done the work that needed to be done: in you, there is not the slightest thing left to work on. / From now on, my friend, go with compassion, freeing up others who are pulled down into their troubles. // SN18.54 //

Again, for the past six years I have allowed myself to be bound by a decision I made six years ago to continue this translation effort at a rate of one verse per day. Isn't a real human life bound to be bound by such decisions and commitments, however decisively a person is in possession of himself or herself?

In the final analysis, when we make the decision to sit for half an hour, or 45-minutes, or an hour, or until the bell goes, or until the stick of incense burns down, are we not then in a sense, though without rope, binding ourselves?

prāk: ind. before (in place or in order or time ; as prep. with abl.)
dehāt (abl. sg.): m. the body
na: not
bhavet = 3rd pers. sg. opt. bhū: to be
dehī (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having a body , corporeal; m. a living creature , man

prāk: ind. before (in place or in order or time ; as prep. with abl.)
guṇebhyaḥ (abl. .pl.): m. qualities, attributes, defining features
tathā: ind. likewise
guṇī (nom. sg. m.): possessor of attributes; thing defined by features

tasmāt: ind. therefore
kasmāt [EBC]: ind. where from? whence? why? wherefore?
ādau: ind. ind. in the beginning , at first.
vimuktaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. unloosed , unharnessed &c ; set free, liberated
san = nom. sg. m. pres. part. as: to be

śarīrī (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having a body , embodied , corporeal ; m. an embodied being , creature , (esp.) a man ; m. the soul; an embodied spirit
badhyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive bandh: to be bound &c &c ; (esp.) to be bound by the fetters of existence or evil , sin again
punaḥ: ind. again, once more.

譬如身之前 則無有身者
如是求那前 亦無有求尼
是故先解脱 然後爲身縛 

No comments: