Tuesday, November 25, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.113: One Bodhisattva in the Name of Integrity

paryāptāpyāna-mūrtiś ca sārdhaṁ sva-yaśasā muniḥ |
kānti-dhairye babhāraikaḥ śaśāṅkārṇavayor dvayoḥ || 12.113  

His physical body having realized fullness,

Along with the glory of his person,

The sage, as one, bore the radiant charm
and the deep, constant calm

Of the moon and the ocean.

“...before we can unravel the horribly tangled skein of our present existence, we must come to a full STOP, and return to conscious, simple living, believing in the unity underlying all things, and acting in a practical way in accordance with the...principles involved."
– FM Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual

Running through today's verse is a sense of this unity underlying all things.

In the 1st pāda Aśvaghoṣa begins with the important historical fact that, by eating the milkmaid's porridge, the bodhisattva replenished his physical energy.

The 2nd pāda as I read it is antithetical to the 1st pāda in the sense of proceeding from the recognition that nobody is a physical body. Each of us, for better or for worse, is a psycho-physical unity, a whole unit of human existence, a human being, a person.

Then the 3rd and 4th pādas bring together not only the 1st and 2nd pāda of today's verse, but also the metaphors of the moon and the sea from BC12.98 and BC12.99:
Pared down as he was, yet with his glory and majesty unimpaired, he gladdened other eyes, / As the hairy moon-lilies are gladdened, at the beginning of the bright fortnight, by the autumn moon. //BC12.98// Reduced to skin and bone, with no reserves remaining of fat or flesh or blood, / Diminished, and yet undiminished in his inner depths, like the sea, he sparkled.//BC12.99//

Today's verse as I read it is thus not about fame. I read yaśas (glory) in the 2nd pāda as more or less synonymous with kānti (radiant charm) in the 3rd pāda. And the point is that the bodhisattva as a whole person was much more than a mechanical engine for converting food into words of wisdom. He had his own human radiance, which was a cut above the light produced from a halogen or LED light bulb. So today's verse as I read it, again, is not about fame.

The reason I mention fame is that each of the three professors translated yaśas as fame. Hence,
EBC: together with his glorious fame
EHJ: together with his fame
PO: along with his fame.

And these translations strike me as odd, probably because of the teaching around fame of Zen Master Dogen. In Dogen's teaching as I understand it, fame is neither good nor bad but just a fact. What Dogen cautioned against – in the strongest possible terms – was twisting and corrupting the original teaching of the Buddha out of a personal desire for one's own fame and profit. So Dogen revered Zen masters like Bodhidharma who were very famous, and he also revered nameless  Zen hermits who spent their lives practising anonymously in remote temples in Chinese mountains. But he was thoroughly disgusted by so-called Buddhist monks who, out of a personal desire for fame and profit, told punters not what was true but what they wished to hear.

In the final analsysis, judging from the reports of people whose work has had the side-effect of making them famous – I write as an avid listener to Desert Island Discs – fame is generally a burden, a pain in the backside. So even if fame is just a fact, it tends to be a painful fact, and not something to be celebrated in a verse like today's verse.

As a PS to this comment, I noticed after writing it that EHJ wrote, as a footnote to his translation of today's verse:
The verse illustrates T's [the Tibetan translators] faithfulness to his text; he found śaśākā- in d and refused to make the obvious amendment to śaśāṅkā-.

It seems evident from this footnote that the Tibetan translation must be a vastly more reliable guide to Aśvaghoṣa's original  Sanskrit than the Chinese translation is. 

paryāptāpyāna-mūrtiḥ (nom. sg. m.): his physical body having realized fullness
paryāpta: mfn. obtained , gained
pary- √ āp: to reach , obtain , attain , gain ; to make an end of , be content
āpyāna: n. increasing ; stoutness ; gladness ; mfn. stout , robust , increased ; glad
ā- √ pyai : to swell , increase ; to grow larger or fat or comfortable ; to thrive ; to become full or strong
mūrti: f. any solid body or material form , (pl. material elements , solid particles ; ifc. = consisting or formed of)
ca: and

sārdham: ind. jointly , together , along with , with (instr.
sva-yaśasā (inst. sg. n.): his own glory; mfn. glorious or illustrious through one's own (acts) , self-sufficient
yaśas: n. beautiful appearance , beauty , splendour , worth ; honour , glory , fame , renown
muniḥ (nom. sg.): m. the sage

kānti-dhairye (acc. dual): the lovely brightness and enduring steadfastness
kānti: f. desire , wish; loveliness , beauty , splendour , female beauty , personal decoration or embellishment ; a lovely colour , brightness (especially of the moon)
dhairya: n. firmness , constancy , calmness , patience , gravity , fortitude , courage
babhāra to bear , carry , convey , hold ; to balance , hold in equipoise (as a pair of scales) ; to bear i.e. contain , possess , have , keep
ekaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. alone , solitary , single , happening only once , that one only

śaśāṅkārṇavayoḥ (gen. dual): of the moon and the sea
śaśāṅka: m. " hare-marked " , the moon
arṇava: m. the foaming sea
dvayoḥ (gen. dual): mfn. two, both

身體蒙光澤 徳問轉崇高
如百川増海 初月日増明 

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