Saturday, April 18, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.65: Feeling Produced by Three Factors Combined – Like Fire by Two Fire-sticks and Fuel

[No Sanskrit text]

| yul daṅ dbaṅ po blo rnams kyis | | ’dus pa reg par brjod bya ste |
| gtsub śiṅ las ni me bźin du | | gaṅ las tshor ba skye ba’o | 

yul: object (viṣaya)
dbang po: sense (indriya)
blo rnams: all concerns
kyis: [instrumental particle]

’reg pa: contact
brjod bya: object in question

gtsub shing: fire stick
las: action
me: fire
bzhin du: like

gang las: whence
tshor ba: feeling
skye: be produced

EHJ's translation from the Tibetan:
65. Contact is to be explained as the uniting of the object, the sense and the mind, whence sensation is produced, just as fire is produced from the uniting of the two rubbing sticks and fuel.

65. Contact is to be explained as the uniting of the object, the sense and consciousness, whence feeling is produced – just as fire is produced from the uniting of the two rubbing sticks and fuel.

 鑚燧加人功 則得火爲用
[then contact is the cause of all sensation] producing the three kinds of pain or pleasure, Even as by art of man the rubbing wood produces fire for any use or purpose; (SB)
Its three classes mean the production of suffering or of happiness. If one works at rubbing sticks, one may obtain fire and use it. (CW)

The translation from Aśvaghoṣa's Sanskrit into Chinese, and thence the translation into English (especially SB's translation, done without reference to the Sanskrit), offers another striking example of how easily “Send reinforcements, we are going to advance” can become “Send three and fourpence, we are going to a dance.”

Nevertheless, even the translations from the Chinese, like EHJ's translation from the Tibetan, do retain the metaphor of fire being produced by the rubbing together of fire-sticks.

As a general rule, it may be true that metaphors offer an inherent safeguard against meaning getting lost in translation. 

In the Tibetan as translated by EHJ, contact is the combination of three factors, namely: an object, a sense or sense organ, and consciousness. This is exactly as per Nāgārjuna:
Combination of the threesome of physical form, consciousness and eye, is contact; and from that contact there occurs feeling.

The Chinese summarizes these three as three factors (三等) producing () feeling (苦樂, “lit. pain and pleasure”).

In the metaphor, judging from the Tibetan, the three factors are two fire-sticks (representing sense and physical form) and fuel (representing the consciousness that arises dependent on doings).

Nāgārjuna uses the eye as a representative example of a sense organ, in which case the threefold combination of eye, visible form, and eye-consciousness is contact; and from that contact there occurs feeing in the visual channel, or visual perception. Such visual perception, however, is clinging-skandha-based seeing, which is not the same as the seeing/realizing reality of MMK26.10: 

punar-bhavāya saṁskārān avidyā-nivṛtas tridhā |
abhisaṁskurute yāṁs tair gatiṁ gacchati karmabhiḥ ||MMK26.1||
vijñānaṁ saṁniviśate saṁskāra-pratyayaṁ gatau |
saṁniviṣṭe 'tha vijñāne nāma-rūpaṁ niṣicyate ||2||
niṣikte nāma-rūpe tu ṣaḍāyatana-saṁbhavaḥ |
ṣaḍāyatanam āgamya saṁsparśaḥ saṁpravartate ||3||
cakṣuḥ pratītya rūpaṁ ca samanvāhāram eva ca |
nāma-rūpaṁ pratītyaivaṁ vijñānaṁ saṁpravartate ||4||
saṁnipātas trayāṇāṁ yo rūpa-vijñāna-cakṣuṣām |
sparśaḥ saḥ tasmāt sparśāc ca vedanā saṁpravartate ||5||
vedanā-pratyayā tṛṣṇā vedanārthaṁ hi tṛṣyate |
tṛṣyamāṇa upādānam upādatte catur-vidham ||6||
upādāne sati bhava upādātuḥ pravartate |
syād dhi yady anupādāno mucyeta na bhaved bhavaḥ ||7||
pañca skandhāḥ sa ca bhavaḥ bhavāj jātiḥ pravartate |
jarā-maraṇa-duḥkhādi śokāḥ sa-paridevanāḥ ||8||
daurmanasyam upāyāsā jāter etat pravartate |
kevalasyaivam etasya duḥkha-skandhasya saṁbhavaḥ ||9||
saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ |
avidvān kārakas tasmān na vidvāṁs tattva-darśanāt ||10||
avidyāyāṁ niruddhāyāṁ saṁskārāṇām asaṁbhavaḥ |
avidyāyā nirodhas tu jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt ||11||
tasya tasya nirodhena tat tan nābhipravartate |
duḥkha-skandhaḥ kevalo 'yam evaṁ samyaṅ nirudhyate ||12||
The doings that lead to yet further becoming, the one enclosed in ignorance, in three ways, does do; and by these actions he goes to a sphere of existence. Divided consciousness, with doings as its causal grounds, seeps into the sphere of existence. And so, divided consciousness having seeped in, psycho-physicality is instilled. 
Conversely, once psycho-physicality is instilled, there is the coming about of six senses; six senses having arrived, there occurs contact; and – depending upon an eye, upon physical form, and upon the two being brought together – depending thus upon psycho-physicality, there occurs divided consciousness. 
Combination of the threesome of physical form, consciousness and eye, is contact; and from that contact there occurs feeling. With feeling as its causal grounds, there is thirsting – because the object of feeling is thirsted after. While thirsting is going on, taking hold takes hold in the four ways. While there is taking hold, the becoming arises of the taker – because becoming, if it were free of taking, would be liberated and would not become becoming. The five aggregates, again, are becoming itself. Out of the becoming arises birth. The suffering and suchlike of aging and death; sorrows accompanied by lamentations; dejectedness, troubles: all this arises out of birth. In this way this whole aggregate of suffering comes into being. 
The doings which are the root of saṁsāra thus does the ignorant one do. The ignorant one therefore is the doer; the wise one is not, because of realizing reality. In the destruction of ignorance, there is the non-coming-into-being of doings. The destruction of ignorance, however, is because of the bringing-into-being of just this knowing. By the destruction of this one and that one, this one and that one no longer advance. This whole aggregate of suffering in this way is well and truly destroyed.

The turning words in MMK chap. 26 as I read it are thus the two ablative phrases tattva-darśanāt and jñanasyāsya bhāvanāt.

Tattva-darśanāt is I think intentionally ambiguous. Tattva-darśanāt could mean “because of seeing reality” (as opposed to clinging-skandha-based seeing of an object).  Tattva-darśanāt, again, could mean “because of reality making itself known.” 

“The realization of reality” does a better job of retaining this ambiguity. But “realizing reality” somehow seems closer to the original two word compound, while also allowing – at a stretch – some sense to be conveyed that reality does the realizing itself (taking realizing as an adjective, so that "realizing" is a description of reality). 

In the phrase jñanasyāsya bhāvanāt in the 2nd line of MMK26.11, bhāvana is opposed to asaṁbhavaḥ (non-coming-into-being, absence) in the 1st line. Hence I have translated it “bringing into being.” But as a phrase on its own jñanasyāsya bhāvanāt might sound better translated as “because of cultivating just this wisdom.” 

The latter translation would bring to mind more readily the 7th of the eight truths bequeathed by the Buddha on the night before he died. That truth is recorded in Chinese as 修智慧, “to cultivate wisdom."

What does it mean to cultivate wisdom?

Nāgārjuna's words seem to suggest that cultivating wisdom has to do with knowing the Buddha's teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, whereby ignorance is destroyed. 

Looking ahead to BC Canto 26 where Aśvaghoṣa gave his account of the eightfold awakening of a great human being, the Chinese has 
無明大闇冥 智慧爲明燈
In the great darkness of ignorance, wisdom is a bright lamp.  

The corresponding verse in EHJ's translation is BC26.67: 
Mystic wisdom is the boat on the great ocean of old age and death, a lamp, as it were, in the darkness of delusion, the medicine that smites all illnesses, the sharp axe that cuts down the trees of the sins.
The final chapter of Shobogenzo quotes the Buddha's words in like fashion, using the metaphors of boat/ship, lamp/torch, medicine, and sharp axe: 
Truly, wisdom is a sturdy ship in which to cross the ocean of aging, sickness and death. Again, it is a great bright torch for the darkness of ignorance; it is good medicine for all sick people; and it is a sharp axe to fell the trees of anguish.

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