Wednesday, December 17, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 13.13: More Talk of Up

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Sālā)
tat kṣipram uttiṣṭha labhasva saṁjñāṁ bāṇo hy ayaṁ tiṣṭhati lelihānaḥ |
priya-vidheyeṣu rati-priyeṣu yaṁ cakravākeṣv iva notsjāmi || 13.13

Up! Up!, therefore!
Quickly stand up! Come to consciousness!

For here stands ready, with darting tongue, this arrow

Which, at fun-loving lovers who are head over heels in love,

Any more than at cakravāka birds, I do not unleash!”

I have translated today's verse in such a way as to bring out the irony of Māra continuing to exhort the bodhisattva upward, while wanting to bring him down – a bit like FD Roosevelt conniving to draw America into WWII in the months leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, talking peace while planning war. 

A cakravāka bird is some kind of water bird. But what kind exactly? A goose? The greylag goose (genus: anser)? A duck? The Brahmini duck or ruddy sheldrake (anas casarca)? The MW dictionary and EHJ both seem to go with the latter.

EHJ notes that there is a double point in the simile of the Brahminy ducks; not only are they the type of true lovers, but it is generally considered improper to shoot them in India, and many castes, which will eat other wild duck, will not touch them.

I think I concluded before that cakravāka birds were greylag geese. But this video clip of a pair of Brahmini ducks (or ruddy sheldrakes) suggests that these birds also would fit the bill (no pun intended). I think that rather than trying to come again to a definitive conclusion, I will stick with cakravāka birds. The point is not so much scientific accuracy in determining the genus of the bird; the point is rather that the cakravāka bird in Sanskrit poetry symbolizes loving devotion to one mate. And this is why Māra would never need to shoot his arrow at cakravāka birds who have already immutably pair-bonded, or "fallen into love." 

The phrase “fallen into love” was one favoured by my Zen teacher. The "into" instead of "in" partly betrayed his Japanese English, but also betrayed his view of Love being one of the major pits into which we are liable to fall down, the other big pitfall being Hate. 

How much Love, and how much Hate, must have motivated those Taliban militants who went into a school yesterday and killed 132 children?  Devout Buddhists could never act out of such ignorance, could they? Not unless they really loved the Buddha, and hated the non-Buddhist other... thereby getting the Buddha's original teaching totally upside down. 

So we come back again to the irony in Māra's use of the imperative of ud-√sthā, to stand up, or rise up. The ud- of ud-√sthā means up, but Māra's real intention is to bring the bodhisattva down.

That up is truly the direction not of subjugation but of release is hinted at, at the end of today's verse as I read it, by Māra's unconscious use of the word notsṛjāmi, “I do not unleash.” This again includes the prefix ud-, this time used with the root √sṛj, to let go or let fly. So ut-√sṛj means to let loose or to unleash, but to reflect the prefix ud- more truly we would need a word in English like “to upleash.”

Still talking of up, “head over heels,” ironically, is not a bad direction for a person sitting in lotus to think. The expression “head over heels in love” means being madly or helplessly in love, and thus being in a perpetual spin, as if doing cartwheels. But as a direction while sitting still “head over heels” is not a bad preventive measure to safeguard against pulling the head backward – as so many of us are liable to do, if in our ignorance we try to do the up, like a baby pushing out of the birth canal. I know too well whereof I speak. 

An idiomatic but accurate translation of priya-vidheyeṣu in the 3rd pāda would be “at those under the thumb of their nearest and dearest.” A still more literal translation would be “at those put upon by their nearest and dearest”vi-dheya literally means “to be put upon” and hence to be compliant. EHJ translated “at those who... show compliance to their mistresses.” But priya in the original does not necessarily mock only men who are under the thumb. We can suppose that Māra had also been known to point his bow in the direction of women. In any event, the sense of priya-vidheyeṣu is of lovers who are helplessly in love with each other, like a pair of cakravāka birds.

In translating  priya-vidheyeṣu  “at lovers who are head over heels in love” I have used some poetic license but I think it helps to convey the essence of what Māra is all about. Māra's work is to cause us to get everything upside down.

Chapter Six of the eight chapters of Linda Covill's A Metaphorical Study of Saundaranada is titled “Nanda Uplifted.”

Other chapters are titled Nanda Tamed (which considers the recurring elephant metaphor); Nanda Healed (the medical metaphor); Nanda Refined (the gold metaphor); and Nanda Rerooted (the path metaphor).

Metaphors, as LC's work truly demonstrates, are a very effective way of preserving the Buddha's teaching. 

The point I would like to emphasize is that Nanda's going up was not a metaphor. Nanda actually did spring up, as a result of having gone back and stopped the doings which are the root of saṁsāra.

Similarly, in the present scene, Māra is a metaphor, Māra's bow is a metaphor, Māra's arrow is a metaphor, but the bodhisattva sitting is a historical fact which was not, is not, and never will be a metaphor.

So the irony of today's verse, as I read it, again, is that Māra is exhorting the bodhisattva upward. And in the part of the next Canto which is missing, Aśvaghoṣa will describe exactly how the bodhisattva does indeed spring upward, by going back. He springs up by going back to ignorance (avidyām) and to doings (saṁskārān) as the primary causal grounds for the suffering of ageing, death and so on.

tad: ind. so, therefore
kṣipram: ind. quickly
uttiṣṭha = 2nd pers. sg. imperative ud- √sthā: to stand up, spring up, rise ; to be active or brave
labhasva = 2nd pers. sg. imperative labh: to gain possession of , obtain , receive , conceive , get ; to possess, have
saṁjñām (acc. sg.): f. consciousness

bāṇaḥ (nom. sg.): m. arrow
hi: for
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this , this here , referring to something near the speaker
tiṣṭhati = 3rd pers. sg. sthā: to stand, stand ready
lelihānaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. frequently licking or darting out the tongue

priya-vidheyeṣu (loc. pl.): helplessly in love
priya: m. lover, husband ; priyā: f. mistress, wife
vi-dheya: to be bestowed ; docile , compliant , submissive , liable to be ruled or governed or influenced by , subject or obedient to (gen. or comp.)
vi- √ dhā: to bestow; to put in order ; to ordain, direct
rati-priyeṣu (loc. pl.): the fun-loving
priya: mfn. fond of attached or devoted to (in comp. , either ibc. e.g. priya-devana , " fond of playing " , or ifc. e.g. akṣa-priya , " fond of dice”)

yam (acc. sg. m.): which
cakravākeṣu (loc. pl.): m. the cakra bird (Anas Casarca ; the couples are supposed to be separated and to mourn during night)
iva: like, as
na: not
utsṛjāmi = 1st pers. sg. ut- √ sṛj: to let loose, discharge

況汝末世中 望脱我此箭
汝今速起者 幸可得安全
此箭毒熾盛 慷慨而戰掉

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