Bodhisattvacharayvatara by Acharya Śāntideva

Chapter VI– verses 90-93

Transglomeration: [90] And as for praise and fame and status, these will not necessarily affect my life at all; they will not bring me virtue or recognition, they will not extend my life-span or give me strength or free me from sickness or even make me feel good. [91] If I truly knew what was of benefit and import to my life, what value would I hold in pursuing such things? If all I want is some nominal, transient mental entertainment, perhaps I should just indulgently devote myself to gaming and getting high and such. [92] And yet if, in pursuit of fame, I squander everything I have or even get myself killed for some point of honour, of what use would be the mere sound of words to anyone? Once I am dead, to whom, of all people the people I knew, would they bring satisfaction? Can you eat words as if they were flesh? When I am dead, what comes of my honour? [93] When their mud-houses (and sand-castles) collapse, children spontaneously burst out crying in despair and anguish; and, likewise, when my approbation and renown dry up, my own mind reacts just like a silly child.

~~~ “BCA” ~~~

V. 88-89 just wishing ill on others is self-detrimental
↑ Stitch ↓
V. 90-93 yearning for respect, honour and fame is self-defeating

Reflection: [90] (the rigmarole of) praise and fame (Padmakara) do not bring virtue, strength, pleasure or (lengthen) life; the iterations of what praise/fame/honour do not bring are, firstly, merit, but then the rest of the list is physical-based/related to the body and bodily feelings; which is tempting to read the verse, overall, as their not benefitting oneself physically (the ‘merit’ reference being to the merit that causes our physical states and circumstance – not all merit in general) … this then complements verse [91] which explores how ‘mental’ happiness is not met by praise/fame/honour either and the punchline which rather ironically observes that if all we are after is a little worldly happiness we might just as well indulge in drinking and gambling to get it rather than dedicate our lives to aiming for something higher: and I wonder if ‘drinking’ refers to physical pleasure and ‘gambling’ refers to mental … not sure about this discernment; it leaves unchallenged that praise/fame/honour don’t bring one physical or mental satisfaction

Reflection: [91] the inference being that getting some happiness and relief from drinking and gambling etc. is of a particular sort of happiness which is superficial, ephemeral and short-lived because (referring back to verse 90 which was the launch of this point) praise, fame, honour etc. are (again inferentially) superficial, ephemeral and short-lived; there is a flicker of satisfaction and pleasure comes from these things, but they are so dependent upon causes and conditions that they are evanescent and cannot be relied on; we should know what is of true benefit to ourselves (spiritually); the reference to ‘wanting only a little mental happiness’ infers that this type of pleasure is just ‘little’ – not much, and not important … on the plus side, as this type of happiness is just ‘surface’ happiness, there must be the correspondent of there being a deeper, more significant, less-subject-to-changing-causes-and-conditions happiness, if only we knew how to tap into it, distracted as we are with chasing quick-gain happiness and satisfaction … I wasn’t able to get any more closer to the words ‘madyadyūtādi’ (Sanskrit) and ‘rgyan’ (Tibetan) than ‘intoxication’ and ‘ornament’ – my deficiency in the languages – but this nonetheless detracts from the lean of the verse, and so I rendered them as ‘getting high and gaming’, not, of course, as literal translations, or even as transglomerations, but as words which indicate ephemeral and transient means of getting pleasure in the 21st century

Reflection: [92] praise and fame become a matter of life and death, but benefit neither life nor (after) death; Matics, ‘how are words to be eaten’; my uncle died in 2007, he wrote three books that were never published, David Bowie died in 2016 and left behind a whole body of work for which he was renowned and lauded – they’re both still just dead

Reflection: [93] this reference to ‘sandcastles’ I have always found anachronistic – I had thought that children building sandcastles was a fairly recent phenomena in the latter part of industrial societies when people started getting enough disposable income to be able to afford a trip to the seaside … which I find hard to fit into my image of what life in 8th century India was like; it makes no difference to the point being made, but I shall have to see what the source of translating ‘sandcastle’ is when I look at the Sanskrit and Tibetan: update: both the Sanskrit and Tibetan refer to houses made of ‘dust’ or ‘dirt’, I guess mixed with water to make mud-houses that only hold together when mixed with water, and when it dries the houses just ‘crumble’; I would guess that European translators from the outset had a ready-made, and easily referable and recognisable, translation in the concept of ‘sandcastle’, and this has stuck although it is not a literal translation, but nevertheless still works with the meaning intended – that ‘reputation’, ‘what others think of me’, is as ephemeral as a mud-house/sandcastle which is only temporarily held together with water and is never fit to live in no matter how well-crafted it may be, it starts to crumble and fall apart almost as soon as it is made // reputation, honour, fame are never fit to ‘inhabit’, no matter how glorious they may sound, and that even before the applause has died down, they have shifted and are no longer what they seemed even when the lauding began to be made (Berzin, ‘my mind shows the face of a child’); I wanted to include ‘the illusory edifice of’, the ‘changing waves of’ my ‘approbation and renown’, but this was stepping too far into addition, so I left it to the evanesce in my mind

Personal Reflection: if the school had recognised my work, I’d have been able to work longer before I retired, but then I would have become embroiled in the politics of trying to float something institution-wide and I would have ended up with similar reactions as those of not being recognised in the first place; however, being roundly ignored for a good decade or more beforehand, I came out of teaching earlier and managed to soak into this study which is achieving so much more meaning and benefit than if I had been able to noticeably influence the way things are taught in schools, and I will have done so for a good five years before I would have eventually retired, probably broken, and with accumulated bitterness …; my vulnerability to ‘being ignored’, to not being seen, not being valued, was the root of the problem all along, not especially the fact that the school should have taken notice and given nurture in line with all their propaganda: my yearning for ‘respect, honour and fame’ took this form, in the ‘field’ of working at school in the education system, and the pursuit of it involved me in frustration, anger, bitterness, arrogance, depression, cutting off my own empathy and inhibiting my own compassion, because I didn’t get it; it didn’t enhance my own virtue, it closed down my mental health, it stopped me sleeping (and plagued my dreams); I should have cut my losses and devoted myself to my practice all along, but I kept succumbing to ‘if I can do this, then they’ll notice’ and I made fantastic mark-books and structured together the psychology of learning and communication into lesson plans, and they still didn’t notice, and all the while my practice was put into crawling gear while I deludedly (and arrogantly) thought that achieving success at school would be a vindication of my practice … and it wasn’t, and it didn’t; and the occasional pats on the head and bits of recognition I did get should have alerted me to the fact that these were just words out of nowhere, forgotten almost immediately after they were uttered and as significant as winning a round in a card game – I’ve been ‘playing cards’, when I should have been growing, I was chasing institutional words from people within those institutions who occupied the corridors like drafts; I have been retired for three years now and don’t recognise most of the pupils I see in town, they don’t know who I am, and yet I worked in that school for 28 years … all just drafts; it’s not bad it’s just the way it is and always was; when I got a bit of recognition, I imagined I’d become a turreted castle built on the side of a rocky outcrop, eternal to behold … just drafts

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