Tuesday, February 3, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 13.62: Knowing as the Willing of a Path

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (ddhi)
hte ca loke bahubhiḥ ku-mārgaiḥ san-mārgam anvicchati yaḥ śrameṇa |
sa daiśikaḥ kṣobhayituṁ na yuktaṁ su-deśikaḥ sārtha iva pranaṣṭe || 13.62

And when, by many wrong byways, the world is being carried away,

He who, with effort, is willing the right path,

He who knows the terrain, should no more be harassed

Than should an experienced guide when a caravan has got lost.

One of the good things about translation work is that it throws up alternative translations that call upon the translator to clarify core conceptions. 

In the 2nd pāda of today's verse, for example, which combination of
might be most appropriate as a translation of san-mārgam?
  • a right path
  • the right path
  • a true path
  • the true path
  • a right way
  • the right way
  • a true way
  • the true way, etc. 

If we were travelling in a caravan and were not sure whether or not we were lost, we might say, “Are we on the right path?” or “Is this the right way?” We wouldn't normally say “Are we on the true way?” or “Is this the true way?”

So perhaps “right” is better in this context than “true” – in which case, mindful of the truth that “there is no such thing as a right position, but there is such a thing as a right direction,” we might be right in thinking that the criterion of rightness is the direction in which the path is leading.

Even though we would normally speak of the right path or the right way, the problem with such use of the definite article is that it implies the existence of only one right way. Exactly thinking, there is likely to be more than one way that leads in the right direction – a right way which, once we have taken it, becomes in our minds and in our speech the right way.

What also calls for comment in the 2nd pāda of today's verse is the use of the verb anvicchati, from anv-√iṣ (to desire, seek after), with its object san-mārgam, the right way, and its adverbial assistant śrameṇa (with effort; EBC: toilsomely; EHJ: laboriously). EBC translated anvicchati as “pursues” and EHJ as “is searching”; hence:
He who toilsomely pursues the one good path, when all the world is carried away in devious tracks, — he the guide should not be disturbed, like a right informant when the caravan has lost its way. (EBC)
And since the world is being carried away along wrong paths, it is no more proper to harass him, the guide who is laboriously searching for the right path, than it is to harass a good guide, when a caravan has lost its way. (EHJ)

A more literal translation like “He who, with effort, is willing the right way,” or “He who, with effort, is willing the right path,” sounds somewhat strange on first listening.

But on reflection this strangeness is entirely in accordance with the principles of that funny business which is non-doing.

The particular principle I refer to is the principle that a true direction (e.g. "spine to lengthen") is not something to be done. It is rather an undoing. As such, it is a direction to be thought, or wished for, or willed. 

"A direction to be wished for" sounds like the essence of wishy-washiness. But, to quote Alexander virtuoso Nelly Ben-Or, "It is wishing that won't take No for an answer!" 

One who knows these principles well, not in theory but in practice, is one who, in the words of gruff AT-teaching Yorkshireman Patrick Macdonald (teacher of Nelly Ben-Or), “knows the score.”

Knowing the score in the 3rd pāda of today's verse is called daiśikaḥ (“knowing the terrain”; MW: knowing a place).

Yesterday's verse, then, was related with the metaphor that in her book A Metaphorical Study of Saundarananda, Linda Covill discusses as “the medical metaphor.” And today's verse is related with the metaphor of a path, as LC discusses in her final chapter titled “Nanda Rerouted.”

I am convinced as I can be that Buddhacarita preceded Saundarananda. It only makes sense that way. If Saundarananda had come first, for a start, Aśvaghoṣa would have devoted more than a passing reference to the core teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, via the 12 links, which comes into centre stage in BC Canto 14. So the present series of similes can be read as the forerunner for Aśvaghoṣa's extensive development of metaphors in Saundarananda.

hṛte (loc. sg. m.): being carried
ca: and
loke (loc. sg.): m. the world
bahubhiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. much , many , frequent , abundant , numerous , great or considerable in quantity
ku-mārgaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. a bad way (lit. and fig.)

san-mārgam (acc. sg.): m. the right path (fig.)
anvicchati = 3rd pers. sg. anv- √ iṣ : to desire , seek , seek after , search , aim at
yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): who
śrameṇa (inst. sg.): m. exertion , labour , toil , exercise , effort either bodily or mental , hard work of any kind

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
daiśikaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (fr. deśa) relating to space or to any place or country ; knowing a place , a guide
kṣobhayitum = inf. causative kṣubh: to agitate , cause to shake , disturb , stir up , excite
na: not
yuktam: (with yad or an inf.) = it is fit or suitable that or to

su-deśikaḥ (nom. sg. m.): a good guide
deśika: mfn. familiar with a place , a guide (lit. and fig.) ; m. traveller
sārthaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a travelling company of traders or pilgrims , caravan
iva: like
pranaṣṭe (loc. abs.); mfn. lost , disappeared , vanished , ceased , gone , perished , destroyed , annihilated

世間諸癡惑 悉皆著邪徑
菩薩習正路 欲引導衆生
惱亂世尊師 是則大不可
如大曠野中 欺誑商人導 

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