Tuesday, December 9, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 13.5: Still Water, Dry Moon (After the Bubble Pops)

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Kīrti)
yadi hy asau mām abhibhūya yāti lokāya cākhyāty apavarga-mārgam |
śūnyas tato 'yaṁ viṣayo mamādya vttāc cyutasyeva videha-bhartuḥ || 13.5

For if he succeeds in overpowering me,

And expounds to the world the path of disentanglement,

Then today this realm of mine is empty,

Like the defunct domain of an errant lord.

Videha was the name of an ancient kingdom, so videha-bhartuḥ sounds like it is referring to “the Videha king, when he fell from good conduct” (EHJ).

EHJ noted that the Videha king is presumably Karāla-janaka, mentioned in BC Canto 4:
And 'the Dreadful Begetter' Karāla-janaka when he abducted a brahmin maiden, / Though he thus incurred ruin, never stopped attaching to his love. //BC4.80//

EBC had originally noted in connection with today's verse that:
This probably refers to the legend of Nimi-videha, see Viṣṇu Pur. IV, 5; it might be ‘the king of the Videhas’. There may be also a secondary allusion to the legend of Anaṅga and Śiva.

In a note to BC4.80, PO confirms that the Majjhiima Nikāya (11.82) and Jātaka (541) identify Karāla-janaka as the son of Nimi, the king of Mithila; and that Kalāra is said to have brought his royal line to an end.

PO concludes, in connection with todays' verse, that the identity of this king of Videha is uncertain, but he could be the Karāla-janaka alluded to in 4.80.

It is also possible that Aśvaghoṣa was making a play on the literal meaning of vi-deha as “without a body” i.e. without any substance, defunct, like a bubble that has popped. 

Thus EBC's original translation:
‘If he succeeds in overcoming me and proclaims to the world the path of final bliss, all this my realm will to-day become empty, as did that of the disembodied lord when he violated the rules of his station.

Aśvaghoṣa's intention may have been to highlight the point, as touched on yesterday, that defeat of Māra does not involve dropping bombs on Māra cities or torching Māra houses. Rather, to conquer a realm that Māra regards as rightly his, and to cause that realm to become a Buddha-land, might only require us to stop the doings that, as dopey ones, we habitually do. For by these means alone is Māra's whole great edifice of suffering well and truly demolished.

This demolition of Māra's edifice of suffering represents the total loss of Māra's empire. But when Māra's realm is thus rendered totally defunct, nothing in that realm has materially changed – in the same way that nothing materially changes in this story of awakened action, on the day when the fig tree called aśvatta in Sanskrit becomes the bodhi tree.

This is as per Dogen's metaphor of the moon reflected in water, wherein the water is not disturbed by the moon, and the moon is not made wet by the water.

So the turning word in today's verse, as I read it, is śūnyaḥ, empty. Today's verse causes us to reflect how Māra's realm, right now, today, can suddenly become empty. 

And the metaphor that mainly springs to mind, again, is the metaphor of  the great edifice of suffering all coming tumbling down when a misconception that gives rise to postural doings is given up. To anybody with experience of the FM Alexander Technique, this description will ring a bell -- a wrong conception about right posture can suddenly be seen through, at which time a bit of ignorance (avidyā) that was the causal grounds for doings (saṁskārāḥ) has suddenly been destroyed. 

It sounds easy, and yet, as Alexander truly observed, "The most difficult things to get rid of are the ones that don't exist." 

But another metaphor that comes to mind is of a bubble suddenly popping. 

There are bubbles formed of gas and liquid. And there are bubbles formed of confidence and the liquidity of fiat money. When this latter kind of fiat bubble bursts, and people suddenly lose confidence in paper promies, more people may start to value only the kind of financial asset -- like physical gold -- that one can drop on one's foot. 

At that time, the likes of Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, and Janet Yellen may come to be pilloried as having been errant lords of finance, just as the likes of Montagu Norman are taken to task in the book Lords of Finance. This book documents how the central bankers of the 1920s and 30s, out of the best of intentions, led the world into the Great Depression and the Second World War. Ben Bernanke himself recommended the book as the best guide to the crisis that surfaced in 2008 with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Bernanke was evidently at pains, during his tenure as head of the Fed, not to repeat the mistakes that central bankers made in the 1920s and 30s, when the likes of Montagu Norman were too slow to give up their attachment to the gold standard. 

We are inclined to blame human catastrophes on some great human embodiment of evil with an evil ideology, like Adolf Hitler and Nazism, or Osamu Bin Laden and the Islaamic State. Montagu Norman, however, seems to have been a very nice and charming, if somewhat neurotic, chap. So a real villain of the history of the 2oth century seems to have intended only the best for everybody. It is just the kind of irony for which the mind is prepared, metaphorically, by the mining of Aśvaghoṣa's gold. 

yadi: ind. if
hi: for
asau (nom. sg. m.): that one
mām (acc. sg. m.): me
abhibhūya = abs. [or “gerundive”] abhi- √ bhū: to overcome , overpower , predominate , conquer , surpass , overspread ; to defeat
yāti = 3rd pers. sg. yā: to go [EHJ: it seems to be purely an auxiliary to the gerundive]

lokāya (dat. sg. m.): to/for the world
ca: and
ākhyāti = 3rd pers. sg. ā- √ khyā: to tell , communicate , inform , declare , announce
apavarga-mārgam (acc. sg.): m. the path of emancipation, Bcar.
apavarga: m. completion , end (e.g. pañcāpavarga , coming to an end in five days) ; the emancipation of the soul from bodily existence , exemption from further transmigration
apa- √vṛj: to turn off , drive off ; to leave off , determine , fulfil ; Caus. -varjayati , to quit , get rid of ; to sever
√vṛj: to bend , turn

tataḥ: ind. then, thence
ayam (nom. sg. m.) this
viṣayaḥ (nom. sg.): m. realm
mama (gen. sg.): my
adya: ind. now, today

vṛttāt (abl. sg.): n. procedure , practice , action , mode of life , conduct , behaviour (esp. virtuous conduct , good behaviour)
cyutasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. moved , shaken ; gone away from (abl.) ; (with abl. or ifc.) deviated from
iva: like
videha-bhartuḥ (gen. sg. m.): the lord of Videha
vi-deha: mfn. bodiless , incorporeal ; deceased , dead
deha: mn. ( √ dih , to plaster , mould , fashion) the body ; form , shape , mass , bulk (as of a cloud) ; person , individual
videha: m. N. of a country (= the modern Tirhut) ; m. a king of vi-deha (esp. applied to janaka) ; m. pl. the people of vi-deha
bhartṛ: m. a bearer , one who bears or carries or maintains (with gen. or ifc.) ; a preserver , protector , maintainer , chief , lord , master

我一旦不如 衆生信於彼
悉歸解脱道 我土則空虚 
譬如人犯戒 其身則空虚


Rich said...

Some days you really hit the nail.
Also for the slow witted and memory challenged the repetition of the dopey doings verses is appreciated.

Mike Cross said...

Thanks Rich.
I've hammered my own thumb a few times. That's for damn sure.
The doings which are the root of saṁsāra thus does the dopey one do.