Friday, March 27, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.41: An Expression - Alas! - of Loss

[No Sanskrit text]

| kyi hud śiṅ rta sna tshogs rdziṅ | | kyi hud sdug pa gaṅ na źes |
| ñam thag pa rnams rnam zlos śiṅ | | lha la gnas rnams sa la lhuṅ | 

tshogs: group
kyi hud: sound of weeping, lamentation, expression of grief, alas, ah, expression of sorrow or loss (嗚呼)
shing rta: chariot (ratha)
sna: different sorts (citra)
tshogs: accumulation; endowed with
rdzing: pond, lake
sdug pa:  suffering, sad, depressed / beautiful; attractive
gang na: where; place of residence
zhes: thus; particle indicating quote (= Skt. iti)
nyam thag pa: destitute; stricken; exhausted [EHJ: distressed]
rnams: [plural marker]
rnam: (emphatic = Sanskrit vi-)
shlos: recite, repeat
shing: [connective particle indicating a participle]
lha: god
la gnas: abide in
rnams: [plural marker]
sa la lhung: fell to the earth

EHJ's translation from the Tibetan:
41. The dwellers in Paradise fall distressed to earth, lamenting, “ Alas, grove of Citraratha ! Alas, heavenly lake! Alas, Mandākinī ! Alas, beloved ! ”

嗚呼諸天人 脩短無差別
Alas, alas ! these Devas, too, alike deceived – no difference is there ! (SB) 
Alas! Gods and humans, tall or short, there is no difference! (CW)

The Tibetan kyi hud and the Chinese characters 嗚呼, translated in each case as “Alas!”, indicate a common Sanskrit antecedent – maybe aho, or possibly , as in SN11.50: 

hā caitraratha hā vāpi hā mandākini hā priye /
"Oh, the grove of Citra-ratha! Oh, the pond! 
Oh, the heavenly Ganges! Oh, my beloved!" --
ity-ārtā vilapanto 'pi gāṃ patanti divaukasaḥ // SN11.50 //
Thus lament the distressed denizens of heaven as they fall to earth.

Apart from translating the expression of dismay with 嗚呼, the Chinese translator again appears to have caused most of Aśvaghoṣa's Sanskrit to be lost in translation.

Such loss – Alas! – provides me with a pretext to highlight how something was lost in translation when the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda came to be transmitted from India in the west to China and Japan in the east.

This, of course, is not to deny that the essence of the teaching – as embodied in the backward step of turning light and letting it shine – was transmitted by Bodhidharma and the Zen patriarchs of China and Japan.

Having said that, when I was in Japan, while believing myself to be practising the backward step, I failed to appreciate
(a) how centrally important the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda was in the wider scheme of the Buddha's teaching, and
(b) how the first four of the twelve links, in particular, related to each other.
At the same time, as I have been confessing via the internet over the years,
(c) my approach to sitting while I was in Japan was characterized by a lot of over-doing. It was less a case of letting the light shine, and more a case of causing the light to be obscured under layers and layers of doing.

These three failures, I see in retrospect, must have been closely related with each other -- the lack of clarity in regard to pratītya-samutpāda being an obstacle to the practice of non-doing; and all the over-doing being a block to clarity in regard to pratītya-samutpāda. 

While working on Shobogenzo chap. 17, Hokke-ten-hokke, The Flower of Dharma Turns the Flower of Dharma, I spent the best part of one summer (1992?) trawling through Kumārajīva's rendering into Chinese of the Lotus Sutra. My task was to locate passages that were referenced in Shobogenzo and to translate those passages into English. More accurately, what I did was to revise the Weatherhill/Kosei version of the Lotus Sutra translated into English by Kato, Soothill et al. 

One such passage cited in the Sanskrit Glossary of Shobogenzo Book One as a reference for the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, comes from chap. 7 of the Lotus Sutra (Parable of the Magic City). The passage, the Chinese characters of which I have now retreived from the SAT Daizōkyō Text Database  (妙法蓮華經; No. 0262 鳩摩羅什譯), is reproduced below:

He said, “This is suffering; 
this the accumulation of suffering; 
this the cessation of suffering; 
this the way of cessation of suffering.”

And he expounded extensively the law of the twelve causal connections:

“Ignorance leads to action.
Action leads to consciousness.
Consciousness leads to name and form. 
Name and form lead to the six sense organs. 
The six sense organs lead to contact.
Contact leads to feeling.
Feeling leads to love. 
Love leads to taking. 
Taking leads to [new] existence.
 [New] existence leads to birth.
Birth leads to aging and death; grief, sorrow, suffering, and distress.

If ignorance ceases, then action ceases.
If action ceases, then consciousness ceases. 
If consciousness ceases, then name and form cease. 
If name and form cease, then the six sense organs cease.
If the six sense organs cease, then contact ceases.
If contact ceases, then feeling ceases.
If feeling ceases, then love ceases.
If love ceases, then taking ceases.
If taking ceases, then [new] existence ceases.
If [new] existence ceases, then birth ceases.
If birth ceases, then cease aging and death, grief, sorrow, suffering, and distress.”

I have rendered  now as I rendered it then, as “action.”   is also rendered as “action" in the Weatherhill/Kosei version,  In Sanskrit, however, the 2nd link is saṁskārāḥ and, as I have argued at length already, I think saṁskārāḥ is much better translated as “doings.”

I have also rendered 十二因縁法 as I rendered it then, as “the law of the twelve causal connections.” In the Weatherhill/Kosei version 十二因縁法 is similarly rendered as “the Law of the Twelve Causes.”  In the Sanskrit version of the Lotus Sutra upon which Kumārajīva is thought to have based his translation into Chinese, however, the original Sanskrit phrase seems to be pratītya-samutpāda-pravṛttim. 

And I think pratītya-samutpāda-pravṛttim can be literally and meaningfully translated – though this translation may prove not easy for Buddhist scholars to accept – “the active practice of complete springing up, by coming back. 

Thus, if we go back to chap. 7 of Lotus Sutra (Saddharmapuṇḍarīka) in the Sanskrit version reproduced in Oslo University's TLB:

yad idaṃ duḥkham, 
that “this is suffering;
ayaṃ duḥkha-samudayaḥ, 
this is the producing cause of suffering;
ayaṃ duḥkha-nirodhaḥ, 
this is the cessation of suffering;
iyaṃ duḥkha-nirodha-gāminī pratipad ārya-satyam iti | 
this is the noble truth of the path 
going in the direction of cessation of suffering.”

pratītya-samutpāda-pravṛttiṃ ca vistareṇa saṃprakāśayām āsa -
And he clarified in full detail
 the active practice of complete springing up, by coming back –
iti hi bhikṣavo ’vidyā-pratyayāḥ saṃskārāḥ
For, beggars!, with ignorance as grounds there are doings,
saṃskāra-pratyayaṃ vijñānam, 
with doings as grounds there is consciousness,
vijñāna-pratyayaṃ nāma-rūpam, 
with consciousness as grounds there is psycho-physicality,
nāma-rūpa-pratyayaṃ ṣaḍ-āyatanam, 
with psycho-physicality as grounds there are six senses,
ṣaḍ-āyatana-pratyayaḥ sparśaḥ, 
with six senses as grounds there is contact,
sparśa-pratyayā vedanā, 
with contact as grounds there is feeling,
vedanā-pratyayā tṛṣṇā, 
with feeling as grounds there is thirst,
tṛṣṇā-pratyayam upādānam, 
with thirst as grounds there is clinging,
upādāna-pratyayo bhavaḥ, 
with clinging as grounds there is becoming,
bhava-pratyayā jātiḥ, 
with becoming as grounds there is birth, 
jāti-pratyayā jarā-maraṇa-śoka-parideva-duḥkha-daurmanasyopāyāsāḥ saṃbhavanti |
with birth as grounds there come into being 
the grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow and despair of aging and death.        
evam asya kevalasya mahato duḥkha-skandhasya samudayo bhavati |  
In this way  comes about the producing cause 
of this whole great aggregate of suffering.

avidyā-nirodhāt saṃskāra-nirodhaḥ, 
From the cessation of ignorance, there is the cessation of doings;
saṃskāra-nirodhād vijñāna-nirodhaḥ, 
from the cessation of doings, the cessation of consciousness; 
vijñāna-nirodhān nāma-rūpa-nirodhaḥ, 
from the cessation of consciousness, the cessation of psycho-physicality;
nāma-rūpa-nirodhāt ṣaḍ-āyatana-nirodhaḥ, 
from the cessation of psycho-physicality, the cessation of six senses; 
ṣaḍ-āyatana-nirodhāt sparśa-nirodhaḥ, 
from the cessation of six senses, the cessation of contact; 
sparśa-nirodhād vedanā-nirodhaḥ, 
from the cessation of contact, the cessation of feeling;
vedanā-nirodhāt tṛṣṇā-nirodhaḥ, 
 from the cessation of feeling, the cessation of thirst;
tṛṣṇā-nirodhād upādāna-nirodhaḥ, 
 from the cessation of thirst, the cessation of clinging;
upādāna-nirodhād bhava-nirodhaḥ, 
 from the cessation of clinging, the cessation of becoming;
bhava-nirodhāj jāti-nirodhaḥ, 
from the cessation of becoming, the cessation of birth;
jarā-maraṇa-śoka-parideva-duḥkha-daurmanasyopāyāsā nirudhyante | 
from the cessation of birth, 
there cease the grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow and despair of aging and death.
evam asya kevalasya mahato duḥkha-skandhasya nirodho bhavati || 
Thus comes about the cessation of this whole great aggregate of suffering.”

Kumārajīva's translation of pratītya-samutpāda-pravṛttim as 十二因縁法, “the law of twelve causal connections,” thus seems to me to cause a number of important things to be lost in translation.

I will endeavor  in tomorrow's post, and in subsquent posts also, to clarify in more detail what some of those lost meanings might be, thereby laying the ground for Aśvaghoṣa's description of the Buddha's pratītya-samutpāda in the second half of BC Canto 14. 

But to state now the gist of my argument, I think that 
  • pratītya  can be read as meaning not only "dependent" or "conditional" but "coming back," in which case coming back might mean coming all the way back to the original root of suffering, i.e., the ignorance in which all our doings are grounded. 
  • samutpāda can be read as meaning not only "arising" or "origination" in the sense of the arising into being, based on causality, of the world; samutpāda can be read as indicating the arising, the going up, or more literally "the complete springing up" of the person who in sitting has got back and caused suffering to cease at source. 
  • pravṛttim in that case, though the Chinese translator neglected to translate it, points to pratītya-samutpāda not as a doctrine to be studied but as a practice actively to be practised.
Hence  "the active practice of complete springing up, by coming back" can be read as a description of sitting-zen itself, positively practised -- ironically enough -- as a backward step. 

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