Saturday, February 21, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.7: Seeing Karma Absolutely Clearly

dvitīye tv āgate yāme so 'dvitīya-parākramaḥ |
divyaṁ lebhe paraṁ cakṣuḥ sarva-cakṣuṣmatāṁ varaḥ || 14.7

But with the coming of the second watch,

He who in valiant effort was second to none

Realized the divine act of seeing, the ultimate eye –

He being most excellent among all possessed of eyes.

In today's verse as I read it, the tu (but) in the 1st pāda signals a shift from
  • the first phase in which was described the bodhisattva's motivation, into
  • the second phase in which the bodhisatva is going to observe in the phenomenal world the operation of the law of karma, or cause and effect.

The teaching of pratītya-samutpāda is usually described as being about causality, in which case it would belong to the second of the four phases in the four-phased system that my teacher identified as underlying Zen Master Dogen's thought in Shobogenzo. 

In the present Canto as I read it, however, and in general, pratītya-samutpāda expresses practice at the third phase (action liberated, by going back, from ignorance) and a real happening (a complete springing up) at the fourth phase. 

The reading that today's verse introduces the second phase, is supported by the double occurrence in the first two pādas of dvitīya (second); but it is somehow challenged in the 3rd pāda by the adjectives divyam (divine) and param (highest, supreme, ultimate). 

These adjectives would not normally be associated with use of the organ of sight to observe cause and effect operating in the world; they would be more likely to be associated with fundamentalist or absolutist religion. 

Was it Aśvaghoṣa's intention to stimulate us to reflect how different the Buddha's teaching is from the various strains of religious fundamentalism practised from ancient times till today by people who wish to feel right? 

The implicit point might be that in the Buddha's teachings there are no absolute laws -- except the law of cause and effect, which is totally and utterly absolute. 

Read like this, then, Aśvaghoṣa's description of the act of seeing as divine and ultimate, or heavenly and highest, might contain a hint of irony. 

dvitīye (loc. abs.): second
tu: but
āgate (loc. abs.): mfn. arrived, came
yāme (loc. abs.): watch
yāmā: f. a night-watch , period or watch of 3 hours , the 8th part of a day

saḥ (nom. sg. m.): he
a-dvitīya-parākramaḥ (nom. sg. m.): being without a second in valiant effort
a-dvitīya: mfn. without a second , sole , unique ; matchless
parākrama: m. bold advance , attack , heroism , courage , power , strength , energy , exertion , enterprise
parā- √ kram: to march forward , advance ; to show courage or zeal , excel , distinguish one's self ; to turn back
parā: ind. away , off , aside , along , on , ( as a prefix to nouns and verbs ; it is prob. akin to para , paras , pra.)

divyam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. divine , heavenly , celestial ; supernatural , wonderful , magical (aṅgāra  RV.  x , 34 , 9 ; auṣadha  Bhartr2.  ii , 18 ; vāsas  Nal.  xiv , 24 ; cf. -cakṣus , -jñāna  &c  below)
divya-cakṣus: n. a divine eye , supernatural vision
lebhe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. labh: to gain, obtain, win
param (acc. sg. n.): mfn. highest, supreme
cakṣuḥ (acc. sg.): n. the act of seeing ; sight ; eye

sarva-cakṣuṣmatām (gen. pl.): all who possessed sight
cakṣuṣ-mat: mfn. endowed with the faculty of sight , furnished with eyes , seeing
varaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. " select " , choicest , valuable , precious , best , most excellent or eminent among (gen. loc. abl. , or comp.)

即於中夜時 逮得淨天眼 

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