Sunday, February 15, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.1: Towards the Ultimate (Leaving Māra Behind)

¦⏑−−−¦¦−−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑−    pathyā Śloka 
tato māra-balaṁ jitvā dhairyeṇa ca śamena ca |
paramārthaṁ vijijñāsuḥ sa dadhyau dhyāna-kovidaḥ || 14.1

And so, having conquered Māra's army

By the means of constancy and quietness,

Wanting to know the ultimate,

He who was skilled in meditation meditated.

Again the point is emphasized that the bodhisattva has attained victory over Māra not by doing something born of ignorance, not by reacting, not by fighting, but on the contrary by the means of sticking to the principle of non-violent non-doing.

Before translating BC Canto 13, I wrote of looking forward to descriptions in Canto 13 of the bodhisattva “kicking Māra's ass.” Looking back now, having translated the Canto, I see that wording as, ahem, somewhat misguided. The real point is rather that the bodhisattva left Māra to kick his own ass – hence the juxtaposition of dviṣatā and dviṣat in BC13.71, suggesting a situation in which a hostile force is done in by its own hostility.

The bodhisattva has conquered Māra's army, in short, simply by the peacable act of sitting. But this defeat of Māra, evidently, he did not regard as accomplishment of the task. Rather, having conquered Māra's army, the bodhisattva wanted to know paramārtham, highest meaning, the supreme truth, the ultimate thing  (EBC: the supreme end; EHJ: the ultimate reality) – in short, the ultimate.

In the 4th pāda I have translated sa... dhyāna-kovidaḥ as “he who was skilled in meditation.” The same words could equally literally be translated “he the Zen master” (EBC: he the great master of meditation; EHJ: he, the master of trance).

Any way up, whether we translate  sa... dhyāna-kovidaḥ  as "he, being skilled in meditation," or as "he, being a Zen master," the implication of today's verse is that being those things is not the ultimate. What the ultimate is Aśvagahoṣa revealed to us in the latter part of the present Canto. But since the Sanskrit for that part is lost, probably thanks to zealous invaders from the west, we will have to do our best to work it out for ourselves, using Nāgārjuna as a close point of reference. Let us hope it proves to be a case of being given lemons and making lemonade. 

tataḥ: ind. then
māra-balam (acc. sg. m.): Māra's army
jitvā = abs. ji: to conquer

dhairyeṇa (inst. sg.): firmness, steadfastness, constancy
ca: and
śamena (inst. sg.): calmness, tranquillity
ca: and

paramārtham (acc. sg.): m. the highest or whole truth
parama: mfn. chief , highest , primary , most prominent or conspicuous ; best , most excellent
artha: mn. cause, purpose ; thing, object ; sense , meaning
vijijñāsuḥ (nom. sg. m.): being desirous of knowing
vi- √ jñā: to distinguish , discern , observe , investigate , recognize , ascertain , know , understand

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
dadhyau = 3rd pers. sg. perf. dhyā / dhyai: to think of , imagine , contemplate , meditate on , call to mind , recollect ; (alone) to be thoughtful or meditative
dhyāna-kovidaḥ (nom. sg. m.): being skilled in meditating
kovida: mfn. ( √vid, to know, understand) experienced , skilled , learned in (loc. gen. , or ifc. e.g. aśva-kovida , "skilled in horses")

菩薩降魔已 志固心安隱
求盡第一義 入於深妙禪

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