Sunday, January 11, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 13.39: Causing Troubles to Evaporate, by Doing Nothing

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Vāṇī)
kaiś cit samutpatya nabho vimuktāḥ śilāś ca vkṣāś ca paraśvadhāś ca |
tasthur nabhasy eva na cāvapetuḥ saṁdhyābhra-pādā iva naika-varṇāḥ || 13.39

Rocks and trees and axes unleashed by some

Who had sprang up into the clouds,

Stayed up there in the clouds and did not fall down,

Like the many-hued foot-beams of a twilight nimbus.

Integrity (śīla) no more propagates the shoots of affliction than a bygone spring propagates shoots from seeds. / The faults, as long as a man's integrity is untainted, venture only timidly to attack his mind. // SN16.34 // But balance (samādhi) casts off the afflictions like a mountain casts off the mighty torrents of rivers. / The faults do not attack a man who is standing firm in balanced stillness: like charmed snakes, they are spellbound. // 16.35 // And wisdom (prajñā) destroys the faults without trace, as a mountain stream in the monsoon destroys the trees on its banks. / Faults consumed by it do not stand a chance, like trees in the fiery wake of a thunderbolt. // SN16.36 //

Read, again, in this light, today's verse seeems to suggest something still more subtle or transcendent in the way that a bodhisattva's sitting can allow miscellaneous troublesome concerns to evaporate.

  • the angry subject of BC13.37 makes an effort to lift a heavy club and is left holding his club in the air;
  • the subjects of 13.38 also make an effort to lift up trees and rocks, and they too cannot let go, but the tension in their story is resolved somewhat when they fall down;
  • the subjects (or instrumental agents) of today's verse go up more easily, and they are able to let go, after which they remain suspended in a beautiful state.

The absolutive verb in the 1st pāda, incidentally, is sam-ut-√patthe noun from which is sam-utpatana (the act of flying up together). So it is not the sam-ut-√pad of pratītya-samutpādabut it is very close. For sam-ut-√patthe MW dictionary gives: to fly up together, spring upand for sam-ut-√pad: to spring up together, happen. (See Vocab. section below.)

So here already we have a kind of progression -- through painful sustained heavy lifting, through lifting and falling, to springing up. 

But in terms of the progression identified already, from Indra's club (religious artefact) through trees and rocks (natural features), the inclusion in today's verse of axes, along with trees and rocks, all symbolized by many-hued beams of light, must mean something.

Aśvaghoṣa may have reflected on the fact that a flint axe is made of rock and trees and flint axes have been used since time immemorial to cut down trees and reshape rocks. Axes cut down trees to make wooden axe handles and cut rocks to make stone axe-heads. 

So an axe is made of natural materials but at the same time it is an artefact of human design. An axe -- like sitting as the embodiment of śīla, samādhi, and prajñā -- is an instrument which is both natural and artful. 

If Indra's club is the thesis and rocks and trees are the anti-thesis, then, rocks and trees and axes might be intended somehow to represent some kind of synthesis.

And, as a final reflection along the same lines, "many-hued" must also signify something. 

The jihadist individual who targetted shoppers in a kosher supermarket in Paris the other day evidently hated Jews, but on what basis? Not all Jews are Israelis, and not all Israelis support the actions of the government of Israel. 

So one can argue that at the root of the atrocity was ignorance. And the best way to combat ignorance might not be, on the basis of ignorance, to do something. 

And yet, to come back again to Nāgārjuna's words...

The doings which are the root of saṁsāra, thus does the ignorant one do. 

kaiś cit (inst. pl. m.): by some
samutpatya = abs. sam-ut- √ pat: to fly up together , spring up , ascend , rise (as the sun , clouds &c ); to rush upon , attack , assail
sam-ut-√pat: to fly up together , spring up , ascend , rise
sam-ut-√pad: to spring up together , be brought forth or born of (loc.) , arise , appear , occur , take place , happen
ut- √ pat: to fly or jump up , fly upwards ; to ascend, rise
ut- √ pad: to arise , rise , originate , be born or produced ; to come forth , become visible , appear ; to take place
√ pat: to fly , soar , rush on ; to fall down or off ; to occur , come to pass , happen
√ pad: to fall , fall down or out , perish ; to go , resort or apply to , participate in (acc.)
nabhaḥ (acc. sg.): n. (rather fr. √ nabh denoting " bursting forth " or " expanding " than fr. √ nah " connecting " , scil. heaven and earth) mist , clouds , vapour (esp. of the soma); the sky or atmosphere ; (du. heaven and earth )
vimuktāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. let loose, hurled, flung

śilāḥ (nom. pl.): f. rocks
ca: and
vṛkṣāḥ (nom. pl.): m. trees
ca: and
paraśvadhāḥ (nom. pl.): m. a hatchet , axe
ca: and

tasthur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. sthā: to stand, remain
nabhasi (loc. sg.): n. the sky
eva: (emphatic)
na: not
ca: and
avapetuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. ava- √ pat: to fly down , jump down , fall down

saṁdhyābhra-pādāḥ: a beam of light from a twilight rain-cloud
saṁdhyābhra: m. a twilight rain-cloud
saṁdhyā: f. holding together , union , junction , juncture , (esp.) juncture of day and night , morning or evening twilight
abhra: n. cloud , thunder-cloud , rainy weather
pāda: m. a ray or beam of light (considered as the foot of a heavenly body)
iva: like
naika-varṇāḥ (nom. pl. m.): many-coloured

飛矛戟利槊 凝虚而不下 

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