Sunday, November 9, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.97: Amazing Energy

dehād apacayas tena tapasā tasya yaḥ ktaḥ |
sa evopacayo bhūyas tejasāsya kto 'bhavat || 12.97 

Whatever was taken out of his body

By that ascetic practice,

Was made up for

By his amazing energy.

The tejasāsya in today's verse EBC translated as “through the splendour which invested him,” EHJ as “through his pyschic power,” and PO as “by the power of his inner energy.”

Translation is always a losing game. 

In going with "by his amazing energy," I have probably been swayed unduly by the link that somebody sent me yesterday to this video clip in which Anna Maria Hefele, a German polyphonic singer, demonstrates overtone singing.

What is going on here, energetically, is something truly amazing, mysterious and unfathomable.

But one aspect is that the ear, according to Alfred Tomatis, when it tunes in to overtones, works like a kind of battery for the brain. So here the singer, through the ear, is energizing and nourishing the brain of self and others. And she is not using much energy to do it – her effort seems to be more of a mental one than a physical one. Her overtone singing strikes me as an example not so much of doing something as allowing something. It might be an example, in other words, of non-doing.

There also seems to me to be an evolutionary aspect to this demonstration of conscious production of overtones. Anna Maria is evidently gifted. At the same time, she must have worked hard to develop the talent with which – as a result of the evolutionary ascent of man – she was born.

In terms of the recent discussion of the mind and the five senses, conscious production of a ladder of overtones evidently relies on the auditory sense. But in the feedback loop between voice and ear, it would seem to be the singer's mind that is playing the starring role, primarily by listening. 

In contrast to Anna Maria's production of an amazing ladder of overtones, the production of an English translation of the Sanskrit tejas is, again, a losing game. 

In SN Canto 2 Aśvaghoṣa uses the word tejas five times in painting a fiery portrait of King Śuddhodana:
He had a fine form without being stiff; was dexterous but not dishonest; / Was energetic (tejasvī) but not impatient; and active but never flustered. // SN2.4 // Challenged by his enemies in battle, and petitioned by friends, / He was not backward in responding with an intense energy (tejasā), and with a willingness to give.  // SN2.5 //.... By the conduct of a royal seer, he propagated through his house the fragrance of honour. / Like the son of Aditi shining light into darkness, he with the intensity of his energy (tejasā) caused the enemies to scatter. // SN2.29 //.... In the presence of gurus, and obeying the rule, he caused the soma to be measured out on time, as a cool, mild man of soma, / And yet, with intense ardour, with fiery energy (tejasā), he saw the enemy army cut down to size. // SN2.36 //.... With intense energy (tejasā) and with light he exposed to view his enemies, the conceited; / And with a blazing lantern of brightness, he caused the world to shine. // SN2.39 //
In Buddhacarita Aśvaghoṣa has so far used the word tejas twice – once, again, to refer to King Śuddhodana, and once to refer to the power of women:
And so this pious man of pure karma blazed with the majesty of a ruler of men, and with the glow of hot austerity./ Made brilliant by good family, conduct and sense, he was like the thousand-rayed sun, desiring to emit its brightness (tejaḥ). //BC2.50//... Though this man may prove to be, by his majestic light, a mighty steadfast man, / Mighty also is the efficacy of women (strīṇām api mahat-teja iti) – in which matter verification is to be carried out: //BC4.15//

These examples seem to confirm that Aśvaghoṣa saw tejas as something innate rather than something to be developed. Tejas comes across as a kind of gift, an energetic inheriticance, more than their fair share of which certain individuals inherit.

For a bloke who sits, so what?

I, with my genetic inheritance, am never going to be able to produce a ladder of overtones like Anna Maria Hefele. Nor am I ever going to be able to lie still in a noisy scanner and consciously produce gamma waves that are off the normal scale, like Matthieu Ricard.

Still, I am grateful for the inspiring example of those gifted outliers. By challenging our preconceptions of what is humanly possible, their example, like the moon, may be able to help us in the direction of abandoning all views.

With respect to EHJ's translation of tejas as “psychic power,” however, I will continue to hold on to a degree of skepticism.

dehāt (abl. sg.): m. the body
apa-cayaḥ (nom. sg.): m. diminution , decay , decrease , decline
tena (inst. sg. n.): that

tapasā (inst. sg.): ascetic practice
tasya (gen. sg.): of him
yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): [that] which
kṛtaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. done, made

sa (nom. sg. m.): that
eva: (emphatic) very
upa-cayaḥ (nom. sg.): m. accumulation , quantity , heap ; elevation ; increase , growth , prosperity
bhūyaḥ: ind. more , most , very much , exceedingly ; still more , moreover , besides , further on ; anew

tejasā (inst. sg.): n. the sharp edge (of a knife &c ) , point or top of a flame or ray , glow , glare , splendour , brilliance , light , fire ; the bright appearance of the human body (in health) , beauty ; fiery energy , ardour , vital power , spirit , efficacy , essence
asya (gen. sg.): of this one, of him
kṛtaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. done, made
abhavat = 3rd pers. sg. imperf. bhū: to be, become

道由慧解成 不食非其因
四體雖微劣 慧心轉増明 

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