Wednesday, February 25, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.11: Being Present Here in Hell

¦⏑⏑⏑−¦¦⏑⏑−⏑¦⏑−⏑−    navipulā
upapannāḥ pratibhaye narake bhśa-dāruṇe |
¦⏑⏑⏑−¦¦−−−⏑¦⏑−⏑−    navipulā
amī duḥkhaibahu-vidhaiḥ pīḍyante kpaṇaṁ bata || 14.11

Deservedly finding themselves in a horrible

And terribly harsh hell,

The former individuals are with many kinds of sufferings

Miserably oppressed – alas!

The next ten verses are given over to a description of hell. From 14.21 the description passes to the realm of animals. The bodhisattva is thus in the process of describing five realms of saṁsāra, viz. hell, animals, hungry ghosts, human beings, and heaven.

On the surface, we are being invited to be afraid of hell.

I think of the Cathedral in Plaza Grande in Quito where I taught English for a month or two when I was 18. On opposing walls are depicted heaven and hell, the latter adorned with demons mutilating the bodies of sinners. What a load of old rubbish.

The opening word of today's verse, upapannāḥ, ostensibly means “born” or “reborn”; hence:
The one, being born in a dreadful hell full of terrors, are miserably tortured, alas! by many kinds of suffering; (EBC)
The former are reborn in the very dreadful fearsome hell and, alas, are woefully tormented with sufferings of many kinds. (EHJ)

Upapanna, however, is the past participle of upa-√pad, whose meanings include “to be present” and “to be fit for (with loc.).”

Below the surface, then, I think there is a suggestion that while the sanctimonious are up there abiding in their triple heaven, any of us who have the wherewithal to be present in hell, duly find ourselves in hell, and are challenged to deal with it.

For a conspicuous example of a person of such wherewithal, I admire George Soros, and his appetite for dealing with what he calls “harsh reality.”

Today's verse as I read it thus brings out the point that a bodhisattva should not be afraid of going to hell. But when I find myself in hell, I should truly find myself in hell, being absolutely clear that I got here by my own actions, by karma, by cause and effect.

That is the serious point. But I think the point is made in such a way as to stimulate a wry smile -- Aśvaghoṣa may have intended the final word of the verse bata, “alas!”, to convey an undertone of irony.

After all, who would choose to be one of the ones who finds himself or herself in hell, as opposed to being one of the ones who are different -- the self-styled "good guys," who abide in triple heaven? 

upapannāḥ (nom. pl. m.): happened , fallen to one's share , produced , effected , existing , being near at hand
upa- √ pad: to go towards; to approach , come to , arrive at , enter ; to enter into any state ; to take place , come forth , be produced , appear , occur , happen ; to be present , exist ; to be possible , be fit for or adequate to (with loc.)
pratibhaye (loc. sg.): mfn. exciting fear , formidable , terrible , dangerous ; n. fear, danger

narake (loc. sg.): mn. hell , place of torment
bhṛśa-dāruṇe (loc. sg.): mfn. very terrible or cruel
bhṛśa: ibc. and ( am ind. ) strongly , violently , vehemently , excessively , greatly , very much; harshly, severely
dāruṇa: mfn. hard , harsh ; rough , sharp , severe , cruel , pitiless ; dreadful

amī = nom. pl. m. amu: (a pronom. base , used in the declension of the pronom. adas) that
duḥkhaiḥ (inst. pl.): n. sufferings
bahu-vidhaiḥ (inst. pl.): mfn. of many kinds

pīḍyante = 3rd pers. pl. passive pīḍ: to be pressed or pained or afflicted
kṛpaṇam: ind. miserably , pitiably
bata: ind. an interjection expressing astonishment or regret , generally = ah! oh! alas!

若生地獄者 受無量種苦

No comments: