Saturday, August 20, 2011

Work, Action, and Attribution

More on actions surrounding the Visuddhimagga... this is from Bhante Nyanamoli (the translator)'s introduction:

The Elder Buddhaghosa stayed near the port of Dvijaþhána in Sri Lanka.
While there he saw one woman water-carrier accidentally break another’s jar,
which led to a violent quarrel between them with foul abuse. Knowing that he
might be called as a witness, he wrote down what they said in a book. When the
case came before the king, the elder was cited as a witness. He sent his notebook,
which decided the case. The king then asked to see him—(Chapter V).

After this the elder went to pay homage to the Saògharája, the senior elder of
Sri Lanka. One day while the senior elder was teaching bhikkhus he came upon a
difficult point of Abhidhamma that he could not explain. The Elder Buddhaghosa
knew its meaning and wrote it on a board after the senior elder had left. Next day
it was discovered and then the senior elder suggested that he should teach the
Order of Bhikkhus. The reply was: “I have come to translate the Buddha’s
Dispensation into Magadhan.” The senior elder told him, “If so, then construe the
Three Pitakas upon the text beginning, ‘When a wise man, established well in
virtue...’” He began the work that day, the stars being favourable, and wrote very
quickly. When finished, he put it aside and went to sleep. Meanwhile Sakka, Ruler
of Gods, abstracted the book. The elder awoke, and missing it, he wrote another
copy very fast by lamplight then he put it aside and slept. Sakka abstracted that
too. The elder awoke, and not seeing his book, he wrote a third copy very fast by
lamplight and wrapped it in his robe. Then he slept again. While he was asleep
Sakka put the other two books beside him, and when he awoke he found all three
copies. He took them to the senior elder and told him what had happened. When
they were read over there was no difference even in a single letter. Thereupon the
senior elder gave permission for the translating of the Buddha’s Dispensation. From
then on the elder was known to the people of Sri Lanka by the name of
Buddhaghosa—(Chapter VI).

He was given apartments in the Brazen Palace, of whose seven floors he occupied
the lowest. He observed the ascetic practices and was expert in all the scriptures. It
was during his stay there that he translated the Buddha’s Dispensation. When on
his alms round he saw fallen palm leaves he would pick them up; this was a duty
undertaken by him. One day a man who had climbed a palm tree saw him. He left
some palm leaves on the ground, watched him pick them up, and then followed
him. Afterwards he brought him a gift of food. The elder concluded his writing of
the Dispensation in three months. When the rainy season was over and he had
completed the Paváraóá ceremony, he consigned the books to the senior elder, the
Saògharája. Then the Elder Buddhaghosa had the books written by Elder Mahinda
piled up and burnt near the Great Shrine; the pile was as high as seven elephants.
Now that this work was done, and wanting to see his parents, he took his leave
before going back to India. Before he left, however, his knowledge of Sanskrit was
queried by bhikkhus; but he silenced this by delivering a sermon in the language
by the Great Shrine. Then he departed—(Chapter VIII).

On his return he went to his preceptor and cleared himself of his penance. His
parents too forgave him his offences; and when they died they were reborn in the
Tusita heaven. He himself, knowing that he would not live much longer, paid
homage to his preceptor and went to the Great Enlightenment Tree. Foreseeing his
approaching death, he considered thus: “There are three kinds of death: death as
cutting off, momentary death, and conventional death. Death as cutting off belongs
to those whose cankers are exhausted (and are Arahants). Momentary death is
that of each consciousness of the cognitive series beginning with life-continuum
consciousness, which arise each immediately on the cessation of the one preceding.
Conventional death is that of all (so-called) living beings.16 Mine will be conventional
death.” After his death he was reborn in the Tusita heaven in a golden mansion
seven leagues broad surrounded with divine nymphs. When the Bodhisatta
Metteyya comes to this human world, he will be his disciple. After his cremation
his relics were deposited near the Enlightenment Tree and shrines erected over
them—(Chapter VIII).

Source: (the only legal source, anyway)

Unfortunately for us, Nyanamoli leaves out the part where Buddhaghosa reminds the senior elder of his copyright over the work, and how it should only be distributed in such and such a way, since of course, he "put years of work into this." Nyanamoli's own copyright notice is noticeably absent as well, for some reason. I should probably ask the BPS for a copy of it as well, just to be sure I cover all my bases when spreading their dhamma.

Here's Buddhaghosa's own conclusion, again for some reason omitting his attribution requirements:

What store of merit has been gained by me
Desiring establishment in this Good Dhamma
In doing this, accepting the suggestion
Of the venerable Saòghapála,
One born into the line of famous elders
Dwelling within the Great Monastery,
A true Vibhajjavádin, who is wise,
And lives in pure simplicity, devoted
To discipline’s observance, and to practice,
Whose mind the virtuous qualities of patience,
Mildness, loving kindness, and so on, grace—
By the power of that store of merit
May every being prosper happily.
And now just as the Path of Purification,
With eight and fifty recitation sections
In the text, has herewith been completed
Without impediment, so may all those
Who in the world depend on what is good
Glad-hearted soon succeed without delay.

Legal source: ibid.

Okay, I'm done now :)