Sunday, January 4, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 13.32: In Praise of Whispered “Hā!”s

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bālā)
tad bodhi-mūlaṁ samavekṣya kīrṇaṁ hiṁsātmanā māra-balena tena |
dharmātmabhir loka-vimokṣa-kāmair babhūva hāhā-ktam antarīkṣe || 13.32

When they beheld that root of bodhi beset

By that army of Māra whose essence was desire to do harm,

Those whose essence was dharma, desiring the liberation of the world,

Whispered “Hā!... Hā!..” 
into the middle space between heaven and earth.

For BC13.27 the old Nepalese manuscript has taṁ bodhi-mūlam, which literally means “him, the root of bodhi.” This is in fact how the Tibetan translator seems to have understood the wording of BC13.27 – the  Tibetan byaṅ-chub sems-dpaḥ de-la, EHJ informs us, equates to the Sanskrit taṁ bodhisattvam. Neverthless, EHJ followed EBC in amending  taṁ bodhi-mūlam to tad bodhi-mūlam and translated “the root of the bodhi tree.”

For today's verse the old Nepalese manuscript originally has tad bodhi-mūlaṁ, which EBC and EHJ again translate “the root of the bodhi tree.”

Strictly speaking, however, as I argued in connection with BC13.27, the bodhi tree has still to become the bodhi tree. So even in today's verse I prefer to read tad bodhi-mūlam as “that root of bodhi,” in which case the root of bodhi might possibly have meant the bodhisattva himself. Looking ahead to tomorrow's verse, however, the object that Māra is out to disturb is described as dharma-vidhe, the method of dharma.

So ostensibly in today's verse as I read it, the meaning of tad bodhi-mūlam is “that root of the bodhi tree” or “that foot of the bodhi tree”; but what Aśvaghoṣa may really have had in mind was the practice itself of sitting in lotus. Going further, if we accept the original readings of taṁ bodhi-mūlam in BC13.27 and  tad bodhi-mūlam in today's verse, then the suggestion might be that the bodhisattva (tam) and his method of sitting  (tadamounted to one and the same thing.

In connnection with 3rd pāda of today's verse, EHJ notes that dharmātman [lit. “having dharma as essence”; MW: “religious-minded”] is applied to the deities of the Buddhist heavens again at SN2.47. 
Now at that time dharma-loving denizens of the heavens (dharma-kāmā divaukasaḥ) / Moved into the orbit of the human world, wishing to investigate dharma movements.// SN2.46 // Those essences of dharma, moving (dharmātmānaś carantas te), with the desire to know dharma, over the earth, / Saw that leader of men whose essence was particularly given over to dharma (viśeṣeṇa dharmātmānaṁ). // SN2.47 //

EHJ translates dharmātmabhiḥ in SN2.47 as “those whose very natures were informed with righteousness" and in today's verse as “those who were given to dharma.” 

In connection with SN2.47, EHJ noted:
Dharmātman as applied to the gods may have some special doctrinal meaning; but if so, I have failed to trace it in the sources.

As pre-empted by the end of yesterday's comment, I would like to argue that those who essence is dharma, in today's verse as in SN2.47, are practical beings in movement in the middle way.

  • the nāgas of BC13.30 are the bearers of the Earth;
  • the divine sages of BC13.31 inhabit pure abodes in the heavens; but
  • essences of dharma, desiring liberation of this human world, act in the middle space between Earth and the heavens.

Thus, again,
  • those on the side of the divine sages are liable to view anger as bad and compassion as good; but, conversely,
  • those on the side of the nāga's are liable to see the expression of anger as natural and healthy, and to see professed compassion by religious types as suspect.

Is one view right and the opposing view wrong?

That is how my stupid human brain seems instinctively to work. Confronted with two views, I want to take sides, and stand up for good (my side) against evil (the other). 

Thus, if we are thinking about markets, on one side, Rick Rule has reminded us in an interview this weekend that markets work, so that the cure for low prices is low prices, and the cure for high prices is high prices. But on the other side George Soros has demonstrated why, due to human fallibility and reflexivity, negative feedback sometimes fails to operate, so that markets for unreasonably long periods may tend to disequilibrium.

Again, talking geopolitics, on one side, George Soros sees Vladimir Putin as the leader of a mafia state, as if Putin were an archetypal bad guy. But on the other side Paul Craig Roberts sees Putin being backed into a corner by an insane policy which seeks to maintain US hegemony over the rest of the world.

What was it that Nāgārjuna said in the concluding verse of MMK?

sarva-dṛṣṭi-prahāṇāya yaḥ saddharmam adeśayat |
anukampām upādāya taṁ namasyāmi gautamam || MMK27.30

In the direction of abandoning all views,
He taught the true dharma,
Taking pity.
I bow to him, Gautama.

In this light I read the letting out of Hā!... Hā! not so much as an exclamation of any particular emotion (like pain, anger, astonishment, satisfaction, as per MW), and more as a vocalization akin to the exercise that FM Alexander called “the whispered ah!” – an exercise in non-doing.

Marjory Barlow said:
I think of doing nothing. 
Then I ask myself: 
"What kind of nothing am I doing?"

If, in spite of Nāgārjuna's conclusion, there is any such thing as a true view, that might be it. 

tad (acc. sg.): that
bodhi-mūlam (acc. sg.): root of [the] bodhi [tree]
samavekṣya = abs. sam-ava-√īkṣ: to look at , behold , observe , perceive , notice

kīrṇam: mfn. ( √1. kṝ) scattered , thrown , cast ; filled with , full of ; covered ; mfn. ( √2. kṝ) injured , hurt
hiṁsātmanā (inst. sg.): mfn. intent on doing harm
hiṁsa: mfn. injuring , injurious , mischievous , hostile
māra-balena (inst. sg. n.): Māra's army
bala: n. military force , troops , an army
tena (inst. sg.): that

dharmātmabhiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. religious-minded , just , virtuous , dutiful ; devoted to dharma
loka-vimokṣa-kāmaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): desiring the liberation of the world
loka: m. the world ; the earth or world of human beings
kāma: wish , desire , longing; n. (ifc.) desirous of , desiring , having a desire or intention

babhūva = 3rd pers. sg. bhū: to be, become
hāhā-kṛtam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. filled with cries Bcar.
hā: ind. an exclamation expressive of pain , anger , astonishment , satisfaction &c (= ah! alas! oh! ha! often before or after a voc. case , also repeated hā-hā
antarīkṣe (loc. sg.): n. the intermediate space between heaven and earth ; the sky

悉來見菩薩 端坐不傾動
無量魔圍繞 惡聲動天地

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