Sunday, January 25, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 13.53: Born to Sing

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Premā)
mgā gajāś cārta-ravān sjanto vidudruvuś caiva nililyire ca |
rātrau ca tasyām ahanīva digbhyaḥ khagā ruvantaḥ paripetur ārtāḥ || 13.53

Wandering creatures of the forest, and elephants,
letting out calls of suffering,

Dispersed in all directions and hid themselves away.

Again, on that night, as if it were day, from every quarter

Singing sky-goers dropped down to earth, struck by suffering.

Today's verse ostensibly depicts an apocalyptic scene of deer, elephants and birds issuing cries and screams of pain and distress. Hence:
Deer and elephants uttering cries of pain ran about or lay down, — in that night as if it were day screaming birds flew around disturbed in all directions. (EBC)
The deer and the elephants, giving forth cries of distress, ran about and hid themselves, and on that night, as if it were day the birds on all sides fluttered about, screaming in distress. (EHJ)

Metaphorically, however, mṛgāḥ (rovers, forest creatures) might mean forest monks, gajāḥ (elephants) might mean the most excellent members of an order of such forest monks; and kha-gāḥ ('sky-goers' or 'those who go in emptiness'; i.e. birds) might mean all those who see it as their aim to NOT to do the doings which are the root of saṁsāra.

In that case, an example of an ārta-ravaḥ (a cry/call/song of suffering; EBC: cry of pain; EHJ: cry of distress) might be this speech of the Buddha's from SN Canto 15:
"That country is an easy place to live; that one is well-provisioned; that one is happy." / If there should arise any such idea in you, // SN15.42 //  You are to give it up, my friend, and not entertain it in any way, / Knowing the whole world to be ablaze with the manifold fires of the faults. // 15.43 // Again, from the turning of the circle of the seasons, and from hunger, thirst and fatigue, / Everywhere suffering is the rule. Not somewhere is happiness found. // 15.44 //  Here cold, there heat; here disease, there danger / Oppress humanity in the extreme. The world, therefore, has no place of refuge. // 15.45 // Aging, sickness and death are the great terror of this world. / There is no place where that terror does not arise. // 15.46 //  Where this body goes there suffering follows. / There is no way in the world going on which one is not afflicted. // 15.47 //  Even an area that is pleasant, abundant in provisions, and safe, / Should be regarded as a deprived area where burn the fires of affliction. // 15.48 //  In this world beset by hardships physical and mental, / There is no cosy place to which one might go and be at ease. // 15.49 // While suffering, everywhere and for everyone, continues at every moment, / You are not to enthuse, my friend, over the world's shimmering images. // 15.50 // When your enthusiasm is turned back from all that, / The whole living world you will deem to be, as it were, on fire. // 15.51 // 
Those of us who have listened to the gist of these words can be described, ironically, as ārtāḥ, "fallen into (misfortune)" or "afflicted" or "struck by suffering."

I am not sure what particular hidden meaning Aśvaghoṣa had in mind, in the 4th pāda, by ruvantaḥ (crying / calling / singing) and paripetuḥ (they flew about / moved to and fro / leaped down). Perhaps paripetuḥ was meant to suggest pacing up and down in walking meditation. And perhaps ruvantaḥ was meant to suggest the reciting of gathas or sutras. To convey those hidden meanings without obscuring the ostensible meaning,however, I could not see any way other than square brackets; e.g:

   Screaming birds flew to and fro, in pain.
   [Those who went in emptiness, singing / reciting, moved to and fro, struck by suffering].

Since, even with resort to square brackets, the hidden meaning is thus still not rendered at all elegantly, I decided as a compromise to translate paripetuḥ as "dropped down to earth," so as to ostensibly suggest dropping out of the sky having been hit by suffering, while conveying an ironic sub-text along the lines of dropping off body and mind.

In conclusion then, Aśvaghoṣa as I hear him, somewhat in the spirit of the person who when given lemons makes lemonade, is using the pretext of an apocalyptic vision to suggest a situation in which Zen practitioners everywhere are, on an individual basis, freely expressing their true Buddha-nature -- not only in silence but also in good voice. 

Such, I submit, is the true practice of non-doing. Stopping the doings which are the root of saṁsāra  does not always mean remaining tight-lipped. On the contrary, stopping the doings which are the root of saṁsāra might be synoymous with realizing that one is born to sing

mṛgāḥ (nom. pl.): m. (prob. " ranger " , " rover ") a forest animal or wild beast , game of any kind , (esp.) a deer , fawn , gazelle , antelope , stag , musk-deer
gajāḥ (nom. pl.): m. elephants
ca: and
ārta-ravān (acc. pl. m.): cries of distress
ārta: mfn. fallen into (misfortune) , struck by calamity , afflicted , pained , disturbed
rava: m. ( √1. ru) a roar , yell , cry , howl (of animals , wild beasts &c ); song, singing
√1. ru: to roar , bellow , howl , yelp , cry aloud ; to make any noise or sound , sing (as birds) , hum (as bees)
sṛjantaḥ = nom. pl. pres. part. sṛj: to let go or fly ; to utter (a sound); to let loose ; to release , set free

vidudruvuṛ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. vi- √ dru : to run apart or in different directions , disperse , run away , escape ; to part asunder , become divided , burst
dru: to run , hasten , flee
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
nililyire = 3rd pers. pl. perf. ni- √ lī: to settle down (esp. applied to the alighting of birds) , alight , descend ; to become settled or fixed ; to hide one's self , conceal one's self ; disappear  
ca: and

rātrau (loc. sg.): f. night , the darkness or stillness of night (often personified)
ca: and
tasyām (loc. sg. f.): that
ahani (loc. sg.): n. day
iva: like
digbhyaḥ (abl. pl. diś): from every quarter
diś: f. quarter or region pointed at , direction , cardinal point; quarter , region , direction , place , part (pl. , rarely sg. the whole world e.g. diśi , diśi , in all directions , everywhere Bhartr2. i , 86 ; digbhyas , from every quarter BhP. i , 15 , 8 ; diśo diśas , hither and thither Pan5c. ii , 116÷117 ; diśo'valokya , looking into the quarter of the sky i.e. into the air ; díso 'ntāt , from the extremities of the world ) ; space (beside kāla)

khagāḥ (nom. pl.): m. 'sky-goer'; bird
kha: n. a cavity , hollow , cave , cavern , aperture ; vacuity , empty space , air , ether , sky
ruvantaḥ = nom. pl. m. pres. part. ru: to roar , bellow , howl , yelp , cry aloud ; to make any noise or sound , sing (as birds) , hum (as bees)
paripetur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. pari- √ pat : to fly or run about , wheel or whirl round , rush to and fro , move hither and thither ; to leap down from (abl.) ; to throw one's self upon , attack (with loc.)
ārtāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. fallen into (misfortune) , struck by calamity , afflicted , pained , disturbed ; injured ; oppressed , suffering , sick , unhappy
ā- √ṛ: to insert , place in RV. ; to excite ; to bring near , fetch RV. ; to come ; to reach , obtain , fall into (misfortune) ; to inflict

[No corresponding Chinese translation]

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