Saturday, November 29, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.117: Kāla - Smarter than the Average Cobra

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
yathā mune tvac-caraṇāvapīḍitā muhur-muhur niṣṭanatīva medinī |
yathā ca te rājati sūryavat prabhā dhruvaṁ tvam iṣṭaṁ phalam adya bhokṣyase || 12.117 

“Since, O sage!, pressed down under your footsteps,

The earth seems to roll like thunder,

And since the light of you shines forth like the sun,

Surely you will enjoy today the longed-for fruit.

The black cobra is said to be one of the most revered and highly worshipped snakes in Indian and Hindu mythology.

Though it is thus held in religious awe, and though we tend instinctually to fear it too, scientific observation confirms what a civilized sort of snake the black cobra really is. It tends to shy away from human contact and has the decency, in ninety percent of cases, even when it bites a human being who has intruded into its space, not to inject any venom. (Toward rats, however, it is less inclined to demonstrate reserve.)

Clever though the average cobra may be, this particular hissing Sid who is praising the Buddha-to-be is evidently smarter than the average cobra. He is evidently not only fluent in classical Sanskrit and conversant with the rules of vaṁśasta metre; he is also equipped with the power of reason, and is even able to weigh up the probabilities of future outcomes.

To express the future outcome he has in mind, Kāla uses the metaphor of enjoyment of a fruit. A more negative metaphor is the bringing down of the whole edifice of suffering. And because every reaction has an equal and opposite reaction, bringing something down is invariably a cause and an effect of something springing up -- hence pratītya-samutpāda, springing up by going back, in which compound the sam- of sam-utpāda means "together." So springing up together, by going back

Together might mean the whole body and mind, as an integrated unity, springs up. Or together might mean that not only the body and mind of the Buddha sprang up, but also four-legged friends like Kanthaka the horse sprang up together with the Buddha, and legless beings like Kāla the cobra also sprang up -- not to mention the denizens of heaven.

These meanings are suggested to me by the words that Kāla hisses, or growls, in the 1st pāda of today's verse in which he describes the fertile earth as tvac-caraṇāvapīḍitā, "pressed down by your feet," or "pressed down by your footsteps." The principle here might be the principle of wishing one's sitting bones to drill two holes in one's sitting cushion -- not out of any particular hatred for cushions, but based on the truth that every reaction has an equal and opposite reaction.  

So when my sitting bones are pressing down on the cushion, the cushion is pushing me up. And when the bodhisattva's feet pressed down on the earth, the earth pushed the bodhisattva in the direction of awakening, up. 

The flag counter on this blog indicates that the number of visitors has been falling off recently, not that it was ever very high. 

At the same time, the price of gold took another tumble yesterday. If the direction of the markets is anything to go by, US stocks and bonds continue to represent good value, whereas physical gold is still too expensive and so further correction is necessary. But I think the markets have been distorted by the effects of central bank money printing and bond buying. The distortion of markets causes misallocation of resources. This is something that has been observable in Japan since the time I lived there during the bubble years of the 1980s. During the bubble in equity and property prices, and the more fundamental bubble in capital investment, it was in vogue to talk of "Japan as Number One." The economic bubble was associated with the inflating of a bubble of Japanese confidence, or arrogance. Since the bursting of the bubble from around 1990, artificially low Japanese interest rates have allowed (a) the survival of, and misallocation of resources to, zombie companies in Japan, (b) a so-called "carry trade" in which investment banks and hedge funds have borrowed money cheaply in yen to make higher-yielding investments in other currencies, like US-dollar denominated stocks. 

So I come to the conclusion that there is an awful lot of distortion in the world, not a little of it originating in Japan. Markets are distorted and people's minds are distorted. 

Central banks all over the world, but especially the US Federal Reserve Bank, are concerned to prevent a loss of confidence. If we lose confidence in fiat currencies, and especially in the US dollar as the global reserve currency, then the conditions will be in place for a repeating of the history of the Stock Market Crash of 1929, followed by the Great Depression, and the Second World War. So the Fed does whatever it can do to keep inflated a bubble in which markets are distorted and people's minds are distorted. 

If people's minds were not so distorted, how could there not be less confidence in paper promises and more reliance on real money, which is physical gold? 

Again, if people's minds were not so distorted, how could there not be more interest in mining Aśvaghoṣa's gold? 

yathā: ind. in which manner or way , according as , as , like ; as, because, since
mune (voc. sg.): O sage!
tvac-caraṇāvapīḍitā (nom. sg. f.): pressed down by your feet
caraṇa: mn. foot ; n. going round or about , motion , course ; n. behaviour , conduct of life ; n. good or moral conduct
avapīḍita: mfn. pressed down

muhur-muhur: ind. now and again , at one moment and at another , again and again
niṣṭanati = 3rd pers. sg. niṣṭan: to roar , thunder , sound or cry loudly
stan: , to resound , reverberate , roar , thunder
iva: like
medinī (nom. sg.): f. " having fatness or fertility " , the earth , land , soil , ground

yathā: ind. as
ca: and
te (gen. sg.):
rājati = 3rd pers. sg. rāj: to reign , be king or chief , rule over (gen.) , direct , govern (acc.) ; to be illustrious or resplendent , shine , glitter; to appear as or like (iva)
sūryavat: ind. like the sun
prabhā (nom. sg.): f. light , splendour , radiance , beautiful appearance

dhruvam: ind. firmly , constantly , certainly , surely
tvam (nom. sg.): you
iṣṭam phalam (acc. sg. n.): the desired result
iṣ: to endeavour to obtain , strive , seek for ; to endeavour to make favourable ; to desire , wish , long for , request
adya: ind. today
bhokṣyase = 2nd pers. sg. future bhuj: to enjoy , use , possess

言曾見先佛 地動相如今
牟尼徳尊長 大地所不勝
歩歩足履地 轟轟震動聲

妙光照天下 猶若朝日明 

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