Sunday, March 29, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.45: Suffering in Hell, or among Animals, Hungry Ghosts and Humans

[No Sanskrit text]

| dmyal ba rnams su sdug bsṅal drag | | dud ’gro rnams su phan tshun za |
| bkres skom sdug bsṅal yi dags su | | mi la tshol ba’i sdug bsṅal lo | 

dmyal ba rnams: hell beings (地獄)
su: [accusative, adverbial accusative, dative, and locative particle] 
sdug bsngal: suffering; pain ()
drag: fierce; violent; terrible

phan tshun: mutual, each other ()
za: to eat

bkres skom sdug bsngal: the suffering of hunger and thirst (飢渇逼)
yi dags: preta, hungry ghosts (餓鬼)

mi la: fierce, frightful
tshol: to seek
sdug bsngal lo: it is painful

EHJ's translation from the Tibetan:
45. In the hells is excessive torture, among animals eating each other, the suffering of hunger and thirst among the pretas, among men the suffering of longings,

地獄受衆苦 畜生相殘殺
餓鬼飢渇逼 人間疲渇愛
in hell enduring every kind of pain, as beasts tearing and killing one the other, As Pretas parched with direst thirst, as men worn out, seeking enjoyment ; (SB)
In hell one experiences various suffering, and animals kill each other. Hungry ghosts are forced to suffer hunger and thirst, and humans are exhausted from craving.(CW)

In today's verse the Tibetan and Chinese are back on track, corresponding with each other in  describing suffering among beings in hell, animals, hungry ghosts, and human beings. Mentioned again tomorrow will be heaven, the fifth of the five saṁsāric realms, as depicted in the bhava-cakra, or wheel of existence.

Around the rim of the wheel are depicted the 12 links in the chain which Kumārajīva's  Chinese version of the Lotus Sutra calls 十二因縁, or “twelve causal conditions/connections.”

As we saw in the last but one post, the Lotus Sutra in Sanskrit has
pratītya-samutpāda-pravṛttiṃ ca vistareṇa saṃprakāśayām āsa
And he clarified in full detail the active practice of dependent arising –

Whereas Kumārajīva's translation has
And he expounded extensively the law of the twelve causal connections 

I have promised to explore in more detail what I see as having been lost in this translation.

First of all, there is inherent in samutpāda the sense of upward direction – the ut in pratītya-samutpāda, or the arising in dependent/conditional arising. In Chinese and Japanese, also, the up is there in the translation of pratītya-samutpāda as 縁起 (Jap: ENGI), in which compound  means “conditional” and  means “arising.”

So Kumārajīva's 十二因縁法, “the law of twelve causal conditions/connections,” removes from pratītya-samutpāda-pravṛttim the original sense of springing up. Remember that the first definition of sam-ut-√pad in the MW dictionary is to spring up together.

Second, I think there is inherent in pratītya the sense of something coming back and resting on something, or being grounded in something. Hence the sense of dependence, when pratītya-samutpāda is understood to mean “dependent arising.” But remember, again, that the MW dictionary gives the verb prati- √i as to go towards or to come back to. I cannot help making the connection between this sense of pratītya, i.e, coming back, with Dogen's description of sitting-zen as a backward step.

Third, Kumārajīva's translation does not seem to take account of the word pravṛtti in the compound pratītya-samutpāda-pravṛttim. On its own pravṛtti means (1) progress or positive activity, and as a suffix it can mean (2) giving or devoting one's self to, prosecution of, course or tendency towards, inclination or predilection for, and also (3) news, tidings, intelligence of.

So the pravṛttim in pratītya-samutpāda-pravṛttim could mean:
(1) pratītya-samutpāda as a positive activity;
(2) a course towards pratītya-samutpāda;
(3) the gospel of pratītya-samutpāda.

My favoured reading among these three is (1) “dependent arising as a positive activity” or “the active practice of dependent arising.” Pratītya-samutpāda-pravṛttim suggests to me pratītya-samutpāda as not so much a doctrine to be understood as a practice to be practised.  

In that case, the suggestion seems to me to be that pratītya-samutpāda is better understood as residing at the third of the four phases in the four-phased philosophical system that my teacher saw as underlying all Dogen's thinking in Shobogenzo.

Alternatively, pratītya-samutpāda can be understood as residing at the second phase.

If we see pratītya-samutpāda as a doctrine or law at the first and second phases, what is vital in it is understanding, or selfless realization, of how the world arises dependent on causes and conditions.

If we see pratītya-samutpāda as a teaching and practice at the third and fourth phases, what is vital in it is what Dogen called the backward step of turning light and letting it shine.

In future comments in this Canto, as the description passes from the five saṁsāric realms to the twelve links in the twelvefold chain, I intend to consider these two alternatives -- and other possibilities as well, in light of Nāgārjuna's striking assertion, at the beginning of MMK, that what the Buddha taught was pratītya-samutpāda. 

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