Saturday, December 27, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 13.24: Of Dishevelled Ascetics & Bodhisattva Works In Progress

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Haṁsī)
prakīrṇa-keśāḥ śikhino 'rdha-muṇḍā rajjvambarā vyākula-veṣṭanāś ca |
prahṣṭa-vaktrā bhkuṭī-mukhāś ca tejo-harāś caiva mano-harāś ca || 13.24

With hair strewn about, with topknots, with half-shaved heads;

Encompassed in lines of thread 
and with their headdresses lying in disorder;

With delighted faces, and with grimaces,

Carrying off vital energy and carrying off hearts and minds.

EHJ notes:
  • For ardha-muḍā [EHJ: “half-shaven polls”] cp. MBh vii. 3383.
  • Apte gives raktāmbara [EHJ: “clothed in red”] as the name of a kind of ascetic, presumably the raktapatas of Kād., 95, 1. I can make nothing out of [the old Nepalese manuscript]'s rajvambara, and the confusion of jva and kta might easily occur.
  • For tejohara I follow C [the Chinese]; its apparent reading, vayoharāś ca, may well be right.
Hence in the 2nd pāda EHJ amended the old Nepalese manuscript's rajvambara to raktāmbara, “clothed in red.” I have followed EBC in amending to rajjvambara [EBC: “with rope garments”]. Since rajju can mean a line, and ambara has connotations of what goes around or encompasses, the compound rajjvambara suggests to me the dotted lines of a kaṣāya which encompass the shaven-headed Zen practitioner who is wearing it.

If the ironic hidden meaning of today's verse is thus to describe a shaven-headed Zen practitioner, then why all the discussion of hair being anything but fully shaved? Hence:
With dishevelled hair, or with topknots, or half-bald, with rope-garments or with head-dress all in confusion, — with triumphant faces or frowning faces, — wasting the strength or fascinating the mind.
With dishevelled hair, or with topknots and half-shaven polls, clothed in red and with disordered headdresses, with bristling faces and frowning visages, suckers of the vital essence and suckers of the mind.

The answer, at least the answer that presents itself to me -- and it is an answer with philosophical implications -- is that having a head shaved as clean as a bird's egg is not a once-and-for-all event. It is an intermittently-renewed process. Thus even the Buddha himself, at the start of his process is described as having a top-knot and a royal headdress, of some description. We can suppose that once this headdress was cut off and thrown into the air (unless the gods stowed it away neatly) it ended up lying in disorder. Thereafter, Gautama's hair, when he was a bodhisattva and after he became the Buddha, would not have stopped growing. Therefore at regular intervals he would have shaved his head again, at which time (1) short strands of hair or stubble might naturally have been strewn about, and (2) in the process of the head being shaved, the head would inevitably go from being unshaved, through being a quarter shaved, a half shaved, three-quarters shaved and finally, for the moment, fully shaved.

If we read today's verse like this, as an ironic description of individual bodhisattvas as real works in progress -- that is, a description of non-bodhisattvas, of bodhisattvas who are anye (different from stereotypical abstractions) --  then the 3rd pāda's description of delighted faces and frowning features fits. If you think that in their real everyday lives Zen bodhisattvas never grimace, for example, try serving one for a few years.

Then the 4th pāda can be read as suggesting the influence of a bodhisattva at the fourth phase, aka the influence of a buddha. Such influence can be summarized as changing people's minds and causing people to re-direct their energy – but not necessarily in that order.

The Chinese translation to which EHJ refers is
或吸人精氣 或奪人生命
Some sucking people's vital spirit; some robbing people's life.

Both lines of the Chinese, however, are translations of tejo-hara (or, as EHJ conjectures vayo-hara). Aśvaghoṣa's original covers not only  tejo-hara (or vayo-hara), the re-direction of physical energy, but also mano-hara, the influence on immaterial matters like motivation and abandoning of misconceptions.

Apropos of which, since it has been a couple of days since I last mentioned the Buddha's teaching of complete springing up by coming back (pratītya-samutpāda), I owe a debt to my Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima who was very clear in his understanding that our fundamental direction in Zazen is backward, back to our original state, in which the autonomic nervous system is balanced.

Ironically, my teacher taught that the way to go in this direction was to do something – to sit upright in the correct posture, pulling in the chin a little to keep the neck bones straight, et cetera. This was his misconception. I have known for 20 years that this was just my teacher's misconception, and I have been endeavouring for 20 years to clarify this misconception.

Ironically, again, I have begun this year to see that the most effective route to clarifying this misconception might be to clarify the Buddha's teaching of pratītya-samutpāda as outlined in Nāgārjuna's mula-madhyamaka-kārikā. The irony here is that my teacher intuited more than 20 years ago what an important task it was to have a good translation of MMK, and I was the bloke who could have given him the translation he wanted – if he hadn't, as I saw it, broken the fundamental rule of our translation partnership, which was the mutual veto.

The point, anyway, is this: We don't go back to the origin by doing something. On the contrary, we go back to the origin by stopping off at source the doings which are the root of saṁsāra.

prakīrṇa-keśāḥ (nom. pl. m.): with dishevelled hair
prakīrṇa: mfn. scattered , thrown about , dispersed
pra- √ kṝ: to scatter forth , strew , throw about
śikhinaḥ (nom. pl. m.): with top-knots
śikhin: mfn. having a tuft or lock of hair on the top of the head ; one who has reached the summit of knowledge ; m. peacock
ardha-muṇḍāḥ (nom. pl. m.): half-bald
muṇḍa: shaved , bald , having the head shaved or the hair shorn
muṇḍ: " to cleanse " or " to sink " or " to shave "

rajjvambarāḥ [EBC] (nom. pl. m.): “with rope garments”; encompassed by lines of thread
rajju: f. a rope , cord , string , line ; N. of partic. sinews or tendons proceeding from the vertebral column ; a lock of braided hair , braid
raktāmbarāḥ [EHJ] (nom. pl. m.): “clothed in red”
ambara: n. circumference , compass; clothes , apparel , garment
vyākula-veṣṭanāḥ (nom. pl. m.): with disordered headresses
vyākula: mfn. bewildered , confounded , perplexed , troubled; confused , disordered
veṣṭana: n. anything that surrounds or wraps &c , a bandage , band , girdle ; a head-band , tiara , diadem
ca: and

prahṛṣṭa-vaktrāḥ (nom. pl. m.): with bristling faces
prahṛṣṭa: mfn. erect , bristling (as the hair of the body ; thrilled with delight , exceedingly pleased , delighted
pra- √ hṛṣ: to rejoice , be glad or cheerful , exult
bhṛkuṭī-mukhāḥ (nom. pl. m.): with frowning faces
bhṛkuṭī = bhrūkuṭī: f. contraction of the brows , a frown
ca: and

tejo-harāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. taking away or wasting strength, Bcar.
tejas: n. 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
hara: mfn. taking away , carrying off , removing , destroying ; ravishing , captivating
vayo-harāḥ (nom. pl. m.):
vayas: n. energy (both bodily and mental) , strength , health , vigour , power , might ; vigorous age , youth , prime of life , any period of life , age
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
mano-harāḥ (nom. pl. m.): " heart-stealing " , taking the fancy , fascinating , attractive , charming , beautiful
ca: and

或縈髮螺髻 或散髮被身 
或吸人精氣 或奪人生命


Jordan said...

So when do you start on the MMK?

Mike Cross said...

I started already. But how to proceed I'm not sure. Will probably carry on with BC Canto 14, looking at EHJ's translation from the Tibetan,comparing with MMK Chapter 26, and take it from there.