Sunday, November 23, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.111: Mind, Form, Action, Porridge

sā śraddhā-vardhita-prītir vikasal-locanotpalā |
śirasā praṇipatyainaṁ grāhayām āsa pāyasam || 12.111 

She with a gladness bolstered by trust,

With the lotuses of her eyes beaming,

Bowed her head respectfully to him

And made him accept milk rice.

For śraddhā the MW dictionary gives faith, trust, confidence...belief. And each of the three professors translates śraddhā in the 1st pāda of today's verse as “faith”:

EBC: She, having her joy increased by her faith...
EHJ: Her delight was enhanced by faith...
PO: Her joy enhanced by her faith...

My first impression of the scene is that what augmented the dairy maid's gladness when she came upon a young bloke practising yoga out in the middle of nowhere was not primarily religious faith but was rather the confidence that this particular human being inspired in her. So my first impression is that śraddhā in today's verse is better translated as trust – i.e. trust that this practitioner was not going to break his vow of celibacy and make sexual advances towards her.

The main gist of what the Buddha meant by śraddhā, as a thing on the side of awakening, is conveyed in SN Canto 12:
When a man has confidence that there is water under the ground / And has need of water, then, with an effort of will, here the earth he digs. // SN12.33 // If a man had no need of fire, nor confidence that fire was in a firestick, / He would never twirl the stick. Those conditions being met, he does twirl the stick. // 12.34 // Without the confidence that corn will grow in the soil he tills, / Or without the need for corn, the farmer would not sow seeds in the earth. // 12.35 // And so I call this confidence the Hand, because it is this confidence, above all, / That grasps true dharma, as a hand naturally takes a gift. // SN12.36 //

These examples of the pick-wielding seeker of water, the stick-twirling seeker of fire, and the seed-sowing farmer seem to convey a very practical meaning, and so in these contexts I think confidence works much better than faith, with all the religious connotations that faith has of belief in a hypothesis that is not open to being falsified by evidence.

In today's verse as I read it, however, there is some justification in taking śraddhā to express the milk-maid's religiouis faith. The justification, namely, is that the four lines of today's verse can be read as following four phases, so that
  1. the 1st pāda discusses something mental or spiritual, like human trust or, equally, like religious faith;
  2. the 2nd pāda is about the eyes which are the organs of sight, and which at the same time can be beautiful manifestations of beautiful emotions;
  3. the 3rd pāda describes sincere action;
  4. and the 4th pāda is the pāda that carries the really vital meaning, which is that the girl gave the bodhisattva the food that was going to fue his sitting under the bodhi tree.
If we think that the girl's joy was enhanced by religious faith, then the beaming lotuses of her eyes might have been expressing the kind of innocence of which so many sexual abusers in priest's clothing have taken advantage.

So I prefer to think that the girl's gladness was bolstered by human trust, so that the beaming lotuses of her eyes were real manifestations of the joy that swelled up in her heart.

Either way, the 1st pāda is describing something mental and the 2nd pāda is describing the physical manifestation in the sensory realm of that mental phenomena. Then the 3rd pāda relates to action. And the 4th pāda, again, has very real significance for those of us who, eschewing all religious belief, are nonetheless interested in the human story of how the human bodhisattva became the human Buddha, relying primarily on milk rice porridge. 

sā (nom. sg. f.): she
śraddhā-vardhita-prītiḥ (nom. sg. f.): her joy augmented by trust
śraddhā: f. faith , trust , confidence , trustfulness , faithfulness , belief in
prīti: f. any pleasurable sensation , pleasure , joy , gladness , satisfaction ; friendly disposition , kindness , favour , grace , amity (with samam or ifc.) , affection , love (with gen. loc. , or ifc.)

vikasal-locanotpalā (nom. sg. f.): with the blue lotuses of her beaming eyes
vi-kasat: mfn. opening , blown , expanding , shining , bright
vi- √ kas: to burst , become split or divided or rent asunder ; to open , expand , blossom , bloom ; to shine , be bright , beam (with joy &c )
locana: " organ of sight " , the eye
utpala: blue-lotus

śirasā (inst. sg.): n. head
praṇipatya = abs. pra-ṇi- √ pat: to throw one's self down before , bow respectfully to (acc. , rarely dat. or loc.)
enam (acc. sg. m.): him

grāhayām-āsa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. periphrastic causative grah: to grasp, take, accept
pāyasam (acc. sg.): m. n. food prepared with made , (esp.) rice boiled in made or an oblation of made and rice and sugar

信心増踴躍 稽首菩薩足
敬奉香乳糜 惟垂哀愍受 

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