Wednesday, October 29, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.86: Pity Udraka the Aspirer? Or Honour Udraka the Unambitious?

yasmāc cālaṁbane sūkṣme saṁjñāsaṁjñe tataḥ param |
nāsaṁjñī naiva saṁjñeti tasmāt tatra gata-sphaḥ || 12.86

Again, since there are subtle dual underpinnings

In consciousness and in unconsciousness,
[Udraka understood] that beyond that duality

There was neither the unconscious nor consciousness,

On which grounds, being there, one was free of aspiring.

The difficulties posed by today's verse are demonstrated by the contrasting translations of EBC and EHJ, together with EHJ's footnote.

And since even a name and a non-name were substrata, however subtil, he went even further still and found his restlessness set at rest in the idea that there is no named and no un-named;

And since the conscious and unconscious states have each an object in a subtile condition, therefore he thought that beyond them was the state of neither unconsciousness nor consciousness and fixed his desires thereon.

EHJ's footnote:
The verse is too compressed for clear construction. Ālambane I take to be dual, in the technical sense of the object of mental or psychical action, as opposed to the subject. 'Though ’ should be supplied with sukṣme. Saṁjñāsaṁjñe, presumably locative singular of a neuter dvandva compound. If it were not for iti in c, it would have been better to take ālambane as locative, understanding sati and to treat yasmāt as governing a, b and c. Co. and T’s division in c involves taking tatra as applying to consciousness and unconsciousness, not to the state that is neither. But tatraiva in the next verse implies division as in the text, and spṛh is always used in these poems with the dative, so that the text should have run tasmai gataspṛhaḥ.

Some difficulties, then, are more technical – for example, whether to take saṁjñāsaṁjñe as locative singular or as nominative dual – but the central question is how to read tatra gata-spṛhaḥ.

Does the gata (“gone”) in gata-spṛhaḥ mean that the aspiration had gone from Udraka (as per EBC)? Or does the gata mean that Udraka had gone to the aspiration (as per EHJ)? 

The MW dictionary gives gata-spṛha only with the former meaning, hence: “having no desire" and "not finding any pleasure in (loc. or gen.)." (Note that tatra is equivalent to loc., so that tatra gata-spṛhaḥ could literally -- if not so meaningfully -- be translated "he did not find any pleasure in that realm.")

EBC goes with this sense of "having no desire";  hence: “he found his restlessness set at rest.” 

The fact that the text has the locative tatra instead of the dative tasmai (as EHJ thought the text should read) also points to the former reading -- i.e. he was free of aspiration in that realm, as opposed to being full of aspiration towards that realm. 

Nevertheless, EHJ opts for the latter reading, in which Udraka has gone to (i.e. fallen into the state of) desiring/aspiring towards, hence: “he fixed his desires thereon.” PO also went with the latter reading; hence, “he longed for that.”

Was Aśvaghoṣa being deliberately ambiguous?

I think he very probably was.

So one way of reading today's verse is like this:
Again, since there are subtle dual underpinnings in consciousness and in unconsciousness, [Udraka thought] that beyond that duality, / [the highest realm] was neither unconscious nor conscious, and therefore he aspired to that realm. //

In this reading iti expresses what Udraka supposed or imagined (based on what Rāma had told him), in which case (a) gata-spṛhaḥ, “aspiring,” might praise Udraka for aspiring towards the transcendent unknown; or, more likely, given the negative connotations of eager attachment which are generally attached to spṛha, (b) gata-spṛhaḥ, “being full of eager desire,” might call into question the quality of Udraka's motivation.

But another way of reading today's verse is like this:
Again, since there are subtle dual underpinnings in consciousness and in unconsciousness, [Udraka realized] that beyond that duality, / [reality] is neither unconscious nor conscious, on which grounds, being already there in that state of realization, he was free of eager desire. //

In this reading, iti expresses what Udraka realized or experienced for himself, in which case gata-spṛhaḥ, “aspiring / ambition/ eager desire being absent,” praises Udraka for the absence in him of any vaulting spiritual ambition.

When we read the Buddha's account in Bodhirājakumārasuttaṁ (MN 85; The Discourse to Prince Bodhi) of the bodhisattva's meeting with Udraka, Udraka comes across as a man of modesty and humility rather than of ambition and arrogance. Hence Udraka's request that the bodhisattva should take over as leader of the group. This points to the latter reading -- taking iti to express what Udraka realized (or understood from Rāma) , tatra as that state/realm of realization, and gata-spṛhaḥ, as freedom from aspiring. 

At the same time, the way the Buddha tells it, Udraka did not so much express his own realization as what he had heard from Rāma. This in itself points to the former reading -- taking iti to express what Udraka thought rather than what he realized, tatra as the realm aspired to, and gata-spṛhaḥ, as the aspiring.

Again, the Buddha relates how, rather than accepting Udraka's offer, he was disgusted with Udraka's teaching and so he went away.

Not too much should be read into this expression of disgust, however, since the Buddha uses the same words at the end of his account of meetings with both Arāḍa and Udraka:

So kho ahaṁ, Rājakumāra, taṁ Dhammaṁ analaṅkaritvā,
Then, Prince, having not found satisfaction in that Dhamma,
tasmā Dhammā nibbijja apakkamiṁ.
I was therefore disgusted with that Dhamma and went away.

The clinching factor may be tomorrow's verse which seems to praise Udraka (or, more accurately, the mind, as realized by Rāma and as considered by Udraka) for being tatraiva, right there.

Even though I have thus in the end leant towards one reading of gata-spṛha in preference to another, today's verse may better be read as posing a practical question about aspiring – in which case never mind about Udraka being right there, what about me sitting right here?

Just in the moment of sitting, what is this sitting?

Is it aspiring to something? Is it aspiring to nothing? Is it aspiring to freedom from aspiring? Is it aspiring to the nirvāna of small desire? Is it the total absence of any aspiration towards anything?

How should it be?

And how actually is it?

And is there any gap between how it should be and how it actually is?

Again, just in the moment of sitting, what is this sitting? 

Is it a somersault? Is it a state of vigorous activity? Is it thinking? Is it not thinking? Is it doing? Is it free of doing?

There should be, Dogen wrote, thousands and tens of thousands of questions like these.

yasmāt: ind. since
ca: and
ālambane (nom. dual [or loc. sg.]): n. depending on or resting upon ; supporting , sustaining ; foundation, base ; reason, cause ; n. (with Buddhists) the five attributes of things (apprehended by or connected with the five senses , viz. form , sound , smell , taste , and touch ; also dharma or law belonging to manas).
ā- √ lamb: to hang from ; to lay hold of , seize , cling to ; to rest or lean upon ; to support , hold ; to depend
sūkṣme (nom. dual n. [or loc. sg. n.]): mfn. fine, subtle ; m. or n. an atom , intangible matter ; m. the subtle all-pervading spirit , Supreme Soul ; subtle , atomic , intangible

saṁjñāsaṁjñe (nom. dual [or loc. sg.]): consciousness and unconsciousness
saṁjñā: f. consciousness
a-saṁjña: mfn. senseless; not having full consciousness
a-saṁjñā: f. disunion , discord
tataḥ param: ind. besides that , further

na: not
asaṁjñī (nom. sg. m.): the unconscious
saṁjñin: mfn. having consciousness , conscious of (comp.)
na: not
eva: (emphatic)
saṁjñā: f. consciousness
iti: “....,” thus

tasmāt: ind. therefore
tatra: ind. there, in that state, at that level, in that realm
gata-spṛhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having no desire , not finding any pleasure in (loc. or gen.)
gata: mfn. gone
spṛhā: f. eager desire , desire , covetousness , envy , longing for , pleasure or delight in
spṛh: to be eager , desire eagerly , long for ; to envy, be jealous of

離想非想住 更無有出塗 

[Relation with Sanskrit tenuous] 

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