iti buddhir-iyaṁ ca nī-rajaskā vavdhe tasya mahātmano viśuddhā |
puruṣair-aparair-adśyamānaḥ puruṣaś-copasasarpa bhikṣu-veṣaḥ || 5.16
Thus did this dustless mind, this mind which is cleansed,
Develop in him whose nature was great;
Whereupon, unseen by the other men,
Up crept a man who was dressed in beggar's garb.
This pure dustless mind (buddhi iyaṁ nī-rajaskā viśuddhā) means what Dogen called in Shobogenzo 菩提心 (Jap: BODAI-SHIN), “the bodhi-mind” or 道 心 (DO-SHIN), “the will to the truth,” or 無上 心 (MUJO-SHIN), “the will to the supreme.” I know all about it, having established this mind, in the form of a will to solve everybody's problem, when I was ten years old; and then having translated chapters of Shobogenzo devoted to it in my twenties and thirties.
Or do I in fact know all about it?
When I was studying Shobogenzo, I was clear in my knowledge that 菩提心 (BODAI-SHIN) represented the Sanskrit term bodhi-citta, but now that I come to study Aśvaghoṣa's writing, I cannot be so certain, since so far I haven't found any mention of the bodhi-citta.
An analogous situation might be the use of the term "semi-supine" in Alexander Technique circles. If you google “semi-supine” you will get a long list of results related to the FM Alexander Technique. But if you went along to a lesson with FM Alexander himself – or so his niece Marjory Barlow told me – and talked to him of practising semi-supine, he would not know what the hell you were talking about. “Semi-supine” is a bit of scientific-sounding jargon, probably originating with Raymond Dart, that has crept into Alexander work since the death of the man himself. Everybody talks of "semi-supine;" but how many really understand what Alexander meant by lying down work? How many really understand what it is, in other words, not just to lie down with one's knees bent, but to carry out an activity against the habit of life?
Alexander did teach his student teachers to do what he called “lying down work,” which involves getting a pupil to lie on his or her back with knees bent. But he never said anything about “semi-supine.”
Similarly, Aśvaghoṣa has been describing something real – albeit mental – developing in the prince. I am not denying that. I just find it interesting, and contrary to what I would have expected five years ago, that the mind being described is nowhere called bodhi-citta.
According to the Monier-Williams dictionary ca-ca may express immediate connection between two acts or their simultaneous occurrence. In today's verse as I read it ca-ca expresses immediate connection. EHJ read ca-ca as expressing a simultaneous occurrence, hence: “While this pure passionless state of mind grew within his lofty soul, there came up to him a man in mendicant's clothes, unseen of other men.” I think EHJ got this one wrong – it was not that the mind grew in the prince in however many seconds or minutes it took the man in mendicant's clothes to approach him. It was rather that the prince, by such means as moving slowly over the ground, and feeling compassion for the suffering of small creatures, and reflecting on impermanence, and accidentally entering the first dhyāna, and seeing through various faults (and, long before that, warding away the pernicious conceptions of Hurry-Up Udāyin, and so on) had been gradually creating the conditions for the mind to develop or grow.
Reflecting on all of the above, I thought twice about the meaning of viśuddhā – which is given extra prominence by its position at the end of the first yuga-pāda. My first stab at translating this line was “Thus did this pure, dustless mind grow up in him whose nature was great.” But viśuddha is originally a past participle meaning cleansed or purified or cleaned/cleared/emptied out. And the past participle suggests to me not necessarily something inherent (as I tend to assume the will to the truth is inherent in me) but rather the result of a process or an effort.
My tentative conclusion about today's verse, then, remains that, in whatever way the readiness is arrived at – suddenly or by a gradual process – in the background is the principle that the readiness is all. When our mind is ready to receive, what we ought to know will be revealed to us. A teacher will immediately appear, as if by magic. Not by magic, but as if by magic, when the mind has developed which is dustless and thorougly cleansed, in which case “dustless” might mean free not only of passions and personal agendae but also free of concepts like “bodhicitta;” and “cleansed” might mean not necessarily inherently totally pure, but cleaner than it was before, as the result of a constant effort.
Speaking of a constant effort, it occurred to me this morning while I was sitting that if I get to the end of the translation of Buddha-carita, I might like to write a non-sectarian non-Buddhist manifesto, to encourage independent individuals to carry on their own practice regardless of what political nonsense goes on in the name of Mahāyāna or Theravada or Soto Sect or this organization or that institution. As a working title of this manifesto, I thought of To Meet the True Tortoise.
buddhiḥ (nom. sg.): f. the power of forming and retaining conceptions and general notions , intelligence , reason , intellect , mind , discernment , judgement ; comprehension , apprehension , understanding ; thought about or meditation on (loc. or comp.) , intention , purpose , design
iyam (nom. sg. f.): this
nī-rajaskā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. free from dust
vavṛdhe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vṛdh: to grow , grow up , increase , be filled or extended , become longer or stronger , thrive , prosper , succeed
tasya (gen. sg. m.): in/of him
mahātmanaḥ (gen. sg. m.): mfn. " high-souled " , magnanimous , having a great or noble nature , high-minded , noble
viśuddhā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. completely cleansed or purified (also in a ritual sense) , clean , clear , pure (lit.and fig.); brilliantly white (as teeth); thoroughly settled or established or fixed or determined or ascertained ; cleared i .e. exhausted , empty (as a treasury)
puruṣaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. men
aparaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. other
adṛśyamānaḥ (nom. sg. m. pres. part. passive): not being seen
puruṣaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a man
ca: and (ca-ca may express immediate connection between two acts or their simultaneous occurrence)
upasasarpa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. upa- √ sṛp : to creep towards , approach stealthily or softly or gently ; to draw near
bhikṣu-veṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): in beggar's garb
bhikṣu: m. a beggar , mendicant , religious mendicant (esp. a Brahman in the fourth āśrama or period of his life , when he subsists entirely on alms)
veṣa: dress , apparel , ornament , artificial exterior , assumed appearance (often also = look , exterior , appearance in general)