Thursday, November 27, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.115: To the Foot a Big Fig Tree, Towards the Ultimate Step

vyavasāya-dvitīyo 'tha śādvalāstīrṇa-bhūtalam |
¦−⏑⏑−¦¦−−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑−   bhavipulā
so 'śvattha-mūlaṁ prayayau bodhāya kta-niścayaḥ || 12.115 

And so with resolve as his companion,

To where the earth was covered with fresh green grass,

To the foot of a fig-tree
– an aśvattha, 'under which horses stand,' –
he went, 

Setting his heart firmly in the direction of awakening.

Today's verse is another verse that is readily memorized in four phases, so that
  1. the 1st pāda describes the bodhisattva's mental state;
  2. the 2nd pāda describes his earthly environment;
  3. the 3rd pāda, describing his action, contains the important element in the narrative; and
  4. the 4th pāda points to anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, the supreme integral truth of full awakening, as the complete realization of all phases.
The tree referred to in the 3rd pāda EBC translates as an Aśvattha tree, EHJ as a pipal tree. I have no objection to either of these translations. I do object to the MW dictionary's the holy fig tree, and do object to its Latin designation Ficus Religiosa.

I am also inclined to quibble with PO's translation of aśvatta as a bo-tree. The bo of bo-tree stands for bodhi, awakening, and so the objection is that the kind of fig-tree known as an aśvatta (lit. “under which horses stand”), to which the bodhisattva went, had not yet become a bodhi-tree.

This objection – minor quibble though it is – is lent some weight by the reserve Aśvaghoṣa has shown in using the word bodhi in the story so far.

I noted in a previous comment that I thought it was significant that Aśvaghoṣa held off calling the Śākya prince “the bodhisattva” until as late as Canto 9.

Though verbs from the root √ budh, to wake up, are encountered often enough – for example in the imperative nibodha, “Listen up!” – words derived from the noun bodhi, awakening, have only appeared ten times so far in Buddhacarita. And four out of these ten examples are in the compound bodhi-sattva, viz:

bodhāya BC1.15
bodhāya BC1.18
bodhāya BC1.57
bodhi-sattvāḥ BC2.56
bodhim BC2.56
bodhi-sattvaḥ BC9.30
bodhi-sattvam BC10.18
bodhi-sattvaḥ BC12.88
na bodhāya BC12.101
bodhi-prāptau BC12.112

bodhāya BC1.15
“For awakening I am born, for the welfare of the world.”
bodhāya BC1.18
Heaven-dwellers… sang their best wishes for his awakening. 
bodhāya BC1.57
“Your son has been born for the sake of awakening.”

bodhi-sattvāḥ ; bodhim BC2.56
To the forest, nonetheless, went all bodhisattvas, all matchless beings on the way to awakening, who had known the taste of sensuality and produced a son./ Thus did he who had heaped up ample karma, even while the cause [of his awakening] was a developing root, partake of sensual enjoyment in the period before he took possession of awakening.//

bodhi-sattvaḥ BC9.30
He the bodhisattva, the buddha-to-be,....

bodhi-sattvam BC10.18
Then he saw, up above that hill, being in the nature of a peak, the bodhisattva, the power of his senses quieted, / Coming back to sitting with legs fully crossed, and shining forth, like the moon rising out of a thicket of clouds.//

bodhi-sattvaḥ  BC12.88
The bodhisattva left Udraka.

na bodhāya BC12.101
“This dharma is good neither for detachment, nor for awakening, nor for liberation.”

bodhi-prāptau BC12.112
And he became capable of attainment of awakening, his six senses now being fully appeased.

Thus, except for one instance at the end of Canto 2, bodhi has so far been used either in compounds (bodhi-sattvaḥ, bodhi-praptau)  or, in five instances including today's verse, in the dative case (bodhāya). 

The bodhisattva's own first guiding conception of bodhi, expressed in BC12.101, is a negative one -- na bodhāya

The point here might be that, before we have realized the supreme integral truth of full awakening, we cannot know what it is. But we can know what it is not. 

Unconscious grasping for an end, before being in possession of a means, might be the essence of what it is not. And so the bodhisattva knew that an ascetic dharma was na bodhāya,  no good for awakening, not leading in the direction of awakening.  

This consideration brings me back again to the four-verse dialogue by the bodhisattva, from BC12.103 to 106, which strikes me as being of the most vital importance, because it summarizes the means whereby the bodhi-sattva is going in the direction of awakening.
And so the sage whose body was evidently being tormented, to no avail, by pernicious austerities, / Formed – while being wary of becoming – the following resolve, in his longing for buddhahood. //12.100//
“This dharma is good neither for detachment, nor for awakening, nor for liberation. / What I realized back then, at the foot of the rose-apple tree – that is a sure method. //12.101// But that cannot be realized by one who is weak.”
Thus did he reflect. / Still more, with a view to increasing his bodily strength, on this did he meditate further: //12.102//
"Worn out by hunger, thirst and fatigue, with a mind that, from fatigue, is not well in itself, / How can one obtain the result which is to be realized by mental means – when one is not contented? //12.103// Contentment is properly obtained through keeping the senses constantly appeased; /By full appeasement of the senses, wellness of the mind is realized. //12.104//In one whose mind is well and tranquil, samādhi, balanced stillness, sets in. / In one whose mind is possessed of samādhi, dhyāna, meditative practice, progresses. //12.105// Through meditation's progress are obtained dharmas, timeless teachings, by which is realized the deathless – /That hard-won, quieted, unaging, ultimate immortal step.” //12.106//
Having therefore decided that eating food is the foundation of this means to an end...

Bodhi, evidently, means Awakening (PO) or enlightenment (EHJ) or the attainment of perfect knowledge (EBC), as an end. And yet the Chinese rendered bodhi into Chinese as  (tao; Jap: DO), which means the way. So this was a bit of Chinese ignorance. Or maybe it was a bit of Chinese wisdom.

It is easy for us to be fooled by our intellects -- especially if we have a religious tendency to believe in the Buddha and bow down before Buddha images -- into believing there is such an end as Buddhist enlightenment. But this religious tendency to believe in an ultimate end, which we haven't experienced yet, might be a kind of ignorance. And ignorance is the grounds for unconscious doings which are the very antithesis of awakened action. 

To paraphrase FM Alexander, the truth may be that, for a bodhisattva, or for one who so far is a non-buddha, there may be no such end as awakening. But there is such a thing as going in the direction of awakening.  

That direction, I submit, has a mental component which is primarily backward, to the original root of suffering in ignorance; and a physical component which is primarily upward, in opposition to the downward pull of mother earth. 

Hence, pratītya-samutpāda, springing up by going back

vyavasāya-dvitīyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): with Resolution as his companion
vyavasāya: m. strenuous effort or exertion ; settled determination , resolve , purpose , intention to ; Resolution (personified) R. Pur.
vy-ava- √ so: to determine , resolve , decide ; to make strenuous effort , labour or seek after
dvitīya: m. companion, fellow ; ifc. doubled or accompanied by , furnished with
atha: then, and so

śādvalāstīrṇa-bhūtalam (acc. sg. n.): where the ground was covered with green grass
śādvala: mfn. abounding in fresh or green grass , grassy , verdant , green ; n. sg. and pl. a place abounding in young grass , grassy spot , turf
ā-stīrṇa: mfn. spread , strewed , scattered; covered
bhū-tala: n. the surface of the ground , the earth

saḥ (nom. sg. m.): he
aśvattha-mūlam (acc. sg. n.): the root of a fig tree
aśvattha: m. (ttha = stha " under which horses stand ") the holy fig tree , Ficus Religiosa
mūla: n. " firmly fixed " , a root (of any plant or tree ; but also fig. the foot or lowest part or bottom of anything)
prayayau = 3rd pers. sg. perf. pra- √ yā: to go to

bodhāya (dat. sg.): mf. (with Buddhists or jainas) perfect knowledge or wisdom (by which a man becomes a buddha or jina) , the illuminated or enlightened intellect (of a Buddha or jina)
kṛta-niścayaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. determined or resolved on (dat.)
niścaya: resolution , resolve, fixed intention , design , purpose , aim (°yaṁ- √kṛ , to resolve upon , determine to)
niś- √ ci: to ascertain , investigate , decide , settle , fix upon , determine , resolve

菩薩獨遊行 詣彼吉祥樹
當於彼樹下 成等正覺道
其地廣平正 柔澤軟草生 

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