Saturday, January 3, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 13.31: Sympathy for the Devil

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bālā)
śuddhādhivāsā vibudharṣayas tu sad-dharma-siddhy-artham iva pravttāḥ |
māre 'nukaṁpāṁ manasā pracakrur virāga-bhāvāt tu na roṣam īyuḥ || 13.31

But the divine sages of the Pure Abodes who are devoted,

It seems, to the aim of perfectly attaining the True Dharma,

In their minds, out of dispassion, produced sympathy for Māra,

So that they, in contrast, did not become angry.

If I say that I sat in lotus for an hour just now, I am not aware of much in the way of a gap. Having the intention to sit as usual for an hour, I continued sitting – somewhat in the manner of the bodhisattva under the bodhi tree – for an hour.

In talking about sitting in full lotus, a practice which I continue to practice on a daily basis, I am on safer ground. Not being blessed with the highest emotional intelligence, however, if I start to talk about anger and compassion, I soon become aware of being on the edge of a yawning chasm.

For example, one way of reading yesterday's verse is as, below the surface, a kind of celebration of everything real, even anger. Such a celebration is, in other words, a kind of refusal to worry about anything. But if I follow that line of attack, a gap is liable to have opened up already. Because in fact I do worry about anger. I am always in my daily life becoming angry and worrying about it, before, during, and after.

One way of reading today's verse is as an affirmation of the principle of eradicating the pollutant of anger by means of developing the mind in the direction of compassion. But if I follow that line of attack, again, a gap is liable to have opened up already between preaching and practice, because I am not generally attracted to that kind of practice. Few things appeal to me less, for example, than sitting in a group of Buddhists and wishing ineffectually “May all beings be well." I am much more drawn to the idea of constructing a punching board (Jap: makiwara) in the back garden and punching that. 

In SN Canto 15 the Buddha tells Nanda:
He in whom wrongdoing has been given up and yet hatred carries on, / Hits himself with dust like an elephant after a good bath. // SN15.14 //

Ostensibly the Buddha is encouraging Nanda to train his mind, like training a great war elephant. But when I translated this verse a few years ago, I was attracted to another reading, which is that Aśvaghoṣa was just affirming the natural behaviour of a wild elephant.

So which reading, in the end, is true? Which one did Aśvaghoṣa intend to go for? Affirmation of the principle of training the mind in a certain direction? Or ironic affirmation of the natural state? 

In today's verse, is Aśvaghoṣa affirming the principle of training the mind in the direction of compassion for all beings, even including sympathy for the would-be destroyer of dharma, Māra?

Or is Aśvaghoṣa poking ironic fun at goody-two-shoes types who believe in the Buddha's teaching as some kind of ideology or some kind -ism, like One True Buddhism or like perfectionism?

When I ask myself these questions like this, I don't know the answer for sure. But what does seem certain is that yesterday's verse and today's verse are somehow antithetical to each other. In which case we would expect tomorrow's verse to offer some kind of resolution in the form of a synthesis in the middle way.

śuddhādhivāsāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. inhabiting pure abodes, Bcar. ; perching on what is pure
śuddha: n. anything pure
adhi- √ vas: to inhabit ; to settle or perch upon
vibudharṣayaḥ (nom. pl. m.): god-sages
vi-budha: m. a wise man, god
ṛṣi: a singer of sacred hymns , an inspired poet or sage
tu: but

sad-dharma-siddhy-artham: ind. with the aim of complete attainment of true dharma
siddhyartham: ind. for the sake of accomplishing or obtaining
siddhi: f. accomplishment , performance , fulfilment , complete attainment (of any object) , success
iva: like, as if
pravṛttāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. set out from (-tas) , going to , bound for (acc. loc. inf. , or artham ifc. with pathā , " proceeding on a path ") ; purposing or going to , bent upon (dat. loc. , or comp.) ; engaged in , occupied with , devoted to (loc. or comp.)
abhipravṛttāḥ [EHJ] (nom. pl. m.): mfn. being performed , advancing , proceeding ; occupied or engaged in
abhi-pra- √ vṛt: to advance up to (acc.); to disembogue into (acc.); to go forth , advance

māre (loc. sg.): towards Māra
anukaṁpām (acc. sg.): f. compassion
manasā (inst. sg.): n. mind
pracakrur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. pra- √ kṛ: to make , produce , accomplish , perform , achieve ; (with manas , or buddhim) to set the heart upon , make up the mind to (dat. or loc.) , resolve , determine

virāga-bhāvāt (abl. sg.): because of being dispassionate
virāga: mfn. passionless , without feeling , dispassionate , indifferent
bhāva: m. becoming , being ; state , condition , rank (state of being anything , esp. ifc. e.g. bāla-bhāva , the state of being a child , childhood = bālatā or -tva ; sometimes added pleonastically to an abstract noun e.g. tanutā-bhāva , the state of thinness)
tu: but
na: not
roṣam (acc. sg.): m. anger , rage , wrath , passion , fury
īyuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. i: to go to, enter a state

淨居諸天衆 見魔亂菩薩
欲無瞋心 哀愍而傷彼 

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