Wednesday, December 31, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 13.28: Energetic Activity in the Dark

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bālā)
taṁ prekṣya mārasya ca pūrva-rātre śākyarṣabhasyaiva ca yuddha-kālam |
na dyauś cakāśe pthivī cakampe prajajvaluś caiva diśaḥ saśabdāḥ || 13.28

Beholding, in the beginning of the night,

That hour of the battle between Māra and the Śākya bull,

The sky did not shimmer but the earth did shake,

And the four quarters did blaze forth resoundingly.

The main point of today's verse, as I read it, as also picked up in tomorrow's verse, is that the battle with Māra took place mainly in the dark. Or, insofar as there was any light, that light emanated from blazing fires, and not from cool moonlight.

The point, in other words, might be that the battle was primarily a physical battle. It was a battle to be won not so much by intellectual brilliance or the power of cold reasoning, as by the sheer act of sitting in the traditional sitting posture.

Even in fighting off a flu virus, or recovering from a hangover, it could rightly be argued, a positive mental attitude can help the immune system or the liver to do their work. Still, those healing processes are primarily unconscious, and liable to be aided above all by nothing more mental than drinking water and sleeping. 

In Shobogenzo chap. 72, Zanmai-o-zanmai, Dogen said:

Sit in lotus with the body.
Sit in lotus with the mind.
Sit in lotus as body and mind dropping off.

In terms of that progression, today's verse can thus be read as corresponding to the first stage, of just physically sitting. The point is that the bodhisattva defeated Māra mainly just by keeping on sitting (āsana-stham, BC13.8; but see also BC1.52; 9.3). 

In the next Canto, BC Canto 14, EHJ's translation from the Tibetan indicates that there are thirty-four verses (from 14.50 to 14.83) in which Aśvaghoṣa covers the Buddha's realization of the dharma (do not call it a doctrine!) of pratītya-samutpāda. Having thus properly realized what was to be realized, the Buddha stands out before the world as Buddha. 

In the present Canto, the Buddha does not yet stand out before the world as Buddha. The big fig tree under which the bodhisattva is sitting still, still, still is not the Bodhi tree. 

The Bodhi tree becomes the Bodhi tree, as Aśvaghoṣa tells it, just at the moment when the Buddha realizes that, in the absence of ignorance (avidyā), doings (saṁskārāḥ) are not done. And when doings are not done, the whole edifice of suffering comes tumbling down. 

This realization  -- an Aha! moment -- is what my teacher called "the second enlightenment." My teacher called it "the second enlightenment," even though, ironically, the way he taught others to sit, doing this, that, and the other, represented the complete presence of ignorance, and the diligent maintenance of the whole edifice of suffering. 

But this is not to denigrate unduly my teacher's teaching of what he called "the first enlightenment," in which, sitting with the body, doing his very best just to keep on sitting, the bodhisattva sits as a bodhisattva, facing down Māra. 

On a textual note, Jens-Ewe Hartmann tracked down at Qyzyl or Kizil (site, on the ancient Silk Road, of the Kizil Caves) in Xinjiang province, a fragmentary manuscript consisting of a palm leaf written in Indian Gupta script of about the sixth century. The fragment contains parts of BC13.28-29, 58-59, 67-68, and 70-72. Hartmann's discoveries are documented in English by Richard Salomon in Aśvaghoṣa in Central Asia: Some Comments on the Recensional History of His Works in Light of Recent Manuscript Discoveries, one of a collection of essays published in Buddhism Across Boundaries (1999).

The parts of today's verse preserved in Hartmann's fragment all agree with the old Nepalese manuscript on which EHJ's Sanskrit text is based (and from which the copies were taken that EBC based his Sanskrit text upon) .

tam (acc. sg. m.): that
prekṣya = abs. prekṣ: to observe, behold
mārasya (gen. sg.): m. Māra
ca: and
pūrva-rātre (loc. sg.): in the beginning of the night

śākyarṣabhasya (gen. sg.): the bull of the Śākyas
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and
yuddha-kālam (acc. sg.): m. time of war

na: not
dyauḥ = nom. div: the sky
cakāśe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. kāś: to be visible , appear ; to shine , be brilliant , have an agreeable appearance
pṛthivī (nom. sg.): f. the earth or wide world (" the broad and extended One " , personified as devī and often invoked together with the sky )
cakampe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. kamp: to tremble , shake

prajajvaluḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. pra- √ jval : to begin to burn or blaze , be kindled (lit. and fig.) , flame or flash up , shine , gleam
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
diśaḥ (nom. pl.): f. quarter or region pointed at , direction , cardinal point
sa-śabdāḥ (nom. pl. f.): having sound or noise , full of cries , sounding

四面放火然 煙焔盛衝天
狂風四激起 山林普震動 

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