Thursday, December 18, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 13.14: Thirst & Pride Come Into the Foreground

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Sālā)
ity evam ukto 'pi yadā nir-āstho naivāsanaṁ śākyamunir bibheda |
śaraṁ tato 'smai visasarja māraḥ kanyāś ca ktvā purataḥ sutāṁś ca || 13.14

Not interested, even when spoken to like this,

Śākyamuni, the Śākya sage,
never broke his sitting posture at all,

And so Māra shot the arrow at him,

Having put to the fore his daughters and sons.

If we consider today's verse in four phases
  1. the 1st pāda describes the bodhisattva's unmoved mind
  2. the 2nd pāda his unbudging body
  3. the 3rd pāda Māra's action of shooting,
  4. ? ...
the 4th pāda seems to call for deeper investigation.

On first reading I might have expected the action of shooting to be the punch line. So what was so real, befitting the fourth phase, about Māra sending forward his daughters and sons?

I considered this question at length yesterday, Wednesday. The question rumbled within me as I sat; and in the endeavour to clarify my thoughts I wrote a few paragraphs which, on re-reading them this morning, were frankly rubbish. I even looked on google images at girls in discos with their hair flying about as they danced, in the category of “having fun.”

In the background, I realized as soon as my backside touched the zafu this morning, my conception of what this series of verses is about has been rather superficial. I have tended to think of Māra in this part as being equivalent to Cupid and Eros in Roman and Greek legends, as portrayed on Valentine cards, with their golden arrows.

When I think of Love in these terms, as a great big elephant trap for romantically-inclined thrill-seekers, then I fancy myself as an elephant who is already out of the woods. Since I will be 55 next week, I am fairly confident that roller-coasters and discos are for me a thing of the past.

But then, it occurred to me, a matter of seconds into my sitting this morning, What about Thirst? And what about Pride?

Māra's daughters, let us remember, are not only Fun and Pleasure, but Fun, Pleasure and Thirst. And his sons are not only Hurry and Thrill, but Hurry, Thrill and Pride.

That being so, not only in discos and gaudy funfairs but even in minimalistic Zazen dojos, Māra's offspring are liable to be lurking. And when we just sit, without any particular agenda, that may be just the time when they enter the foreground.

Understood like that, the entry of Māra's daughters and sons into the foreground does indeed make sense at the fourth phase.

ity evam uktaḥ (nom. sg. m.): addressed like this
api: though
yadā: ind. at which time, whee
nir-āsthaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. not interested in anything , not intent upon (comp.)
ā-sthā: f. consideration , regard , care

na: not
eva: emphatic
āsanam (acc. sg.): n. sitting, sitting posture
śākyamunih (nom. sg.): m. Śākyamuni ; the Sage of the Śākyas
bibheda bhid: to break

śaram (acc. sg.): m. arrow
tatah: then, from that
asmai (dat. sg.): in his direction
visasarja = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi- √ sṛj: to send or pour forth , let go or run or flow , discharge , emit , shoot , cast , hurl
māraḥ (nom. sg.): m. Māra

kanyāḥ (acc. pl. f.): daughters, girls
ca: and
kṛtvā = abs. kṛ: to do, make
purataḥ: ind. before (in place or time) , in front or in presence of
sutān (acc. pl. m.): sons
ca: and

計力堪箭者 自安猶尚難
況汝不堪箭 云何能不驚
魔説如斯事 迫脅於菩薩
菩薩心怡然 不疑亦不怖
魔王即放箭 兼進三玉女

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