Tuesday, February 10, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 13.69: Coming Round Full Circle - Back to Quiet (& Back to Ignorance)

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bālā)
tan mā kthāḥ śokam upehi śāntiṁ mā bhūn mahimnā tava māra mānaḥ |
viśrambhituṁ na kṣamam adhruvā śrīś cale pade kiṁ madam abhyupaiṣi || 13.69

So do not grieve; come to quiet.

Don't be proud, Māra, of your greatness.

High rank is precarious and not apt to be relied upon.

On shaky footing, why get above yourself?”

I have to laugh at the 4th pāda of today's verse. The way I have  translated it, it sounds exactly like the question my wife asks me from time to time. 

Partly because of the school I went to, and partly because my Zen teacher seemed to envision great things for me, I am ever prone to over-ambitious thoughts, or delusions. But the mundane truth, which  my wife knows well, is that I can barely make it through to the afternoon without going back to bed for a nap. If I had to live the busy life of some Buddhist VIP, I wouldn't last two weeks. I am much better off keeping a low profile and continuing to plough a lonely furrow. 

That I have been able to translate the 4th pāda of today's verse like this, in such a way as to make myself chuckle, is thanks largely to the efforts of  Jens-Ewe Hartmann. 

The Old Nepalese manuscript, according to EHJ, has 
cale pade kiṁ padam at(?bh?)yupemi.

EBC's text has 
cale pade kiṁ padam abhyupaiṣi.
(EBC: why dost thou accept a position on a tottering base?

EHJ amended to 
cale pade vismayam abhyupaiṣi.
(EHJ: you display arrogance, when your very position is tottering)

Hartmann's fragment has: 
ca[l]e pade kiṁ [m]....

Weller in his edition of the Tibetan translation of BC had conjectured that the Tibetan ḥgro ci = kiṁ madam. EHJ noted Weller's conjecture but didn't follow it.

Salomon noted that EHJ's emending to vismayam can thus be seen (on the basis of Hartmann's fragment) to be one of the few places where EHJ's intuition failed him.

On the encouraging side, the above chain of events does tend to confirm that the Tibetan translation – upon which EHJ very often relied – is a reliable source. The same cannot be said for the Chinese translation which, as EHJ noted in connection with today's verse, “gives no help in determining the reading of d.”

This the last of the 13 verses of the speech of the being of distinction, who somewhat resembles the deus ex machina in Greek tragedy. 

A device that Aśvaghoṣa favours more often is the use of irony to allow a person who does not yet know the truth, to express the truth, in spite of his not knowing it. So we have encountered in very many verses a situation where ostensibly a character is not speaking the truth while below the surface he is speaking the truth profoundly. This being of distinction is not like that. He, she or it seems to have intervened in order to say to Māra exactly what a being of distinction, in an enlightened manner, ought to say.

As such, the speech of the being of distinction naturally falls into four phases:
  1. verses 57-60 emphasize that coming to quiet – non-doing matter though it is – requires iron resolve and persistence;
  2. verses 61-66 remind us via a series of similes and metaphors that there is way to come to quiet, a way to be realized as an act of knowing (NOT an act of doing);
  3. verses 67-68 bring the discussion back to the now, and to the here;
  4. and today's verse, verse 69, seems designed to remind us that coming to quiet is a function of the vestibular system, so that the quieted person is one who is grounded, as opposed to being top-heavy, or high and mighty, or overweening, or over-the-top in any way.

Truth though there may be in this admonition by the being of distinction, a counterargument is as follows: 

Being imbalanced in any of the ways suggested by the MW dictionary in its definition of māda – being given in one's uppity state to hilarity, rapture, excitement, inspiration, intoxication – is a kind of being wrong.

Which causes me to reflect that if Māra had gone to see, for example, Marjory Barlow, for an Alexander lesson, I think that Marjory would not have said to Māra, “Now Māra, stop your being wrong!” I think Marjory would rather have said, “Listen Māra. Being wrong is the best friend you have got in this work.”

So what?

So, “Let it all be wrong!”

Setting aside the doubt as to whether the being of distinction is quite on the level of a being of Marjory Barlow's distinction, the gist of what the being of distinction is saying is true -- namely, that the bodhisattva is on the way to realizing that act of knowing which – as good medicine, as a bright lantern, and as a tree that is growing – destroys ignorance.

An act of knowing what? 
The doings which are the root of saṁsāra thus does the ignorant one do. / The ignorant one therefore is the doer; the wise one is not, because of reality making itself known. //MMK26.10// In the destruction of ignorance, there is the non-coming-into-being of doings./ The destruction of ignorance, however, is because of the bringing-into-being of just this act of knowing.//MMK26.11//

If we thus refer again to Nāgārjuna, the act of knowing in question might be the act of knowing that reality makes itself known, or that the right thing does itself, naturally and spontaneously – like water flowing downhill, unless blocked from doing so, as described by the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

One of the main ways in which we do block the truth from being realized, evidently, is by – albeit ever so subtly – trying to be right.

So the words of the being of distinction ostensibly seem to be very true. But has the being of distinction truly got to the bottom of his own words yet, or not?

I think if the being of distinction had truly got to the bottom of his own words already, then – besides exhorting Māra to come to quiet and stop being wrong – the being of distinction might outline for Māra the teaching that puts an end to all spin. I refer to the teaching known in Sanskrit as pratītya-samutpāda, or Completely Springing Up, by Going Back. 

What I intend to keep on clarifying is that pratītya-samutpāda is not so much a doctrine as a map for sitting-meditation. By the outlining of the 12 links, we are pointed BACK, to the original root of saṁsāra, in the doings which the ignorant one does do. 

Probably, as a final reflection, what does the wordiness of these comments signify in the end? Why do I sit here, every morning, writing such long comments while my legs are getting cold? The effort, I am sure, is not totally untainted by the delusory desire of a bloke who wants to show himself, all along, to have been right. For the doings which are the root of saṁsāra thus, always, does the ignorant one do. 

tad: ind. therefore
mā: a particle of prohibition or negation = Gk. μή , most commonly joined with the Subjunctive i.e. the augmentless form of a past tense
mā kṛthāḥ: do not make
śokam (acc. sg.): m. sorrow , affliction , anguish , pain , trouble , grief
upehi = 2nd pers. sg. imperative upa- √i: to come near to , reach , obtain , enter into any state , fall into
śāntim (acc. sg.): f. tranquillity , peace , quiet , peace or calmness of mind

mā bhūn: do not have
mahimnā = inst. sg. mahiman: m. greatness , might , power , majesty , glory
tava (gen. sg.): your
māra (voc. sg.): Māra!
mānaḥ (nom. sg.): m. self-conceit , arrogance , pride

viśrambhitum = inf. vi- √ śrambh: to confide , be confident , trust in or rely on (loc.)
na: not
kṣamam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. fit , appropriate , becoming , suitable , proper for (gen. dat. , loc. inf. or in comp.) MBh. (e.g. na sa kṣamaḥ kopayitum , " he is not a fit object , for anger ")
adhruvā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. not fixed , not permanent; uncertain , doubtful
śrīḥ (nom. sg.): f. light ; prosperity , welfare , good fortune , success , auspiciousness , wealth , treasure , riches (śriyā , " according to fortune or wealth ") , high rank , power , might , majesty , royal dignity

cale (loc. sg.): mfn. moving , trembling , shaking , loose
pade (loc. sg.): n. step ; a footing , standpoint
kim: ind. how? why? (interrogative pronoun)
madam (acc. sg.): m. hilarity , rapture , excitement , inspiration , intoxication
madā: f. pride , arrogance , presumption , conceit of or about
mad: to rejoice , be glad , exult , delight or revel in (instr. gen. loc. , rarely acc.) , be drunk (also fig.) with (instr.) ; to enjoy heavenly bliss (said of gods and deceased ancestors) ; to boil , bubble (as water) ; to gladden , exhilarate , intoxicate , animate , inspire
abhyupaiṣi = 2nd pers. sg. abhy-upa-√i: to go near , approach , arrive at , enter ; to enter a state or condition , obtain , share

但當輕下心 除諸憍慢意
應修智識想 忍辱而奉事 

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