Wednesday, July 23, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.62: Good Luck & Trouble

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
jarāyudho vyādhi-vikīrṇa-sāyako yadāntiko vyādha ivāśivaḥ sthitaḥ |
prajā-mgān bhāgya-vanāśritāṁs-tudan vayaḥ-prakarṣaṁ prati ko mano-rathaḥ || 11.62

When Death, with old age as his weapon
and diseases as his strewn projectiles,

Stands by like an implacable hunter,

Striking down the man-deer
that seek refuge in the forest of good fortune,

Who can relish the prospect of a ripe old age?

The metaphor in today's verse speaks for itself, except to say that the compound bhāgya-vana strikes me as expressing a certain irony, since bhāgya generally carries a connotation of good luck.

EBC translated the 3rd pāda as “smiting down living creatures who fly like deer to the forest of destiny, EHJ “as he strikes down like deer the people, who dwell in forests of fate,” and PO “striking down people as if they were deer entering the forest of doom.

But if we take bhāgya to mean good luck, the sense is of people who are as ignorant, in regard to cause and effect, as deer are ignorant.

Because, if we weren't so ignorant in regard to cause and effect, how would we go on thinking so often in terms of good and bad luck?

The golfer Gary Player was resisting this kind of ignorance when he famously said, "The more I practice, the luckier I get."

The question then arises: what kind of practice? For example, if we are talking about sitting, is it practice in which I try to arrange myself? Or is it practice in which I do not even think about arranging myself? 

"You cannot do an undoing," Marjory Barlow used to say. But that does not prevent the ignorant one from trying. 

This morning I got up way too early and pushed myself to keep on sitting in my tired and sleepy state. Pushing oneself to practice like this, Dogen said, is delusion. Enlightenment, conversely, is when practice spontaneously pushes us. 

To perk myself up, at the risk of disturbing sleeping birds with my droning, I recited out loud Fukan-zazengi, and my bleary attention alighted on one phrase in particular: 

Revere a person who is through with study and free of doing...

For not a few years I fancied myself to be such a person. But then six years ago, suffering from a nagging pain in the stomach, I decided that I had better return to study, channeling my energy into this translation effort -- willfully engaging in what Dogen denigrated as GON O TAZUNE GO O OU NO GEGYO, the intellectual work of pursuing sayings and chasing words. 

In translating the 4th pāda I have followed PO in using a bit of poetic license, since the literal translation --something like “what chariot/joy of the mind [is there] in the direction of prolongation of life?” -- seems to call for it. PO translated, "How can one dream about a ripe old age?" 

Ratha can mean either joy or chariot and so mano-ratha is an inherently ambiguous compound, but it generally suggests an inclination of the mind in a direction it rejoices to go in. On this occasion, however, EHJ translates, “what illusion can there be about the prolongation of one’s days?” and notes: The context makes it necessary to take manoratha in this very rare sense.

jarāyudhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): having old age as a weapon
āyudha: n. a weapon
vyādhi-vikīrṇa-sāyakaḥ (nom. sg. m.): having diseases as his scattered missiles
vyādhi: m. disorder , disease , ailment , sickness ,
vikīrṇa: mfn. scattered , thrown about , dispersed &c
sāyaka: mfn. intended or fitted to be discharged or hurled; m. a missile , arrow

yadā: ind. when
antikaḥ (nom. sg.): m. death; mfn. (fr. anta, end, death) , only ifc. reaching to the end
vyādhaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a hunter
iva: like
āśritaḥ (nom .sg. m.): mfn. attaching one's self to , joining; inhabiting , dwelling in , resting on , being anywhere , taking one's station at
aśivaḥ (EHJ) (nom. sg. m.): mfn. unkind , envious , pernicious , dangerous
sthitaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. standing, standing firm, remaining

prajā-mṛgān (acc. pl. m.): men-deer 
prajā: f. offspring; a creature , animal , man , mankind
mṛga: m. a forest animal or wild beast , game of any kind , (esp.) a deer
bhāgya-vanāśritān (acc. pl. m.): taking refuge in the forest of their destiny
bhāgya: n. fate , destiny (resulting from merit or demerit in former existences) , fortune , (esp.) good fortune , luck , happiness , welfare
āśrita: mfn. having recourse to , resorting to as a retreat or asylum , seeking refuge or shelter from
vana: n. forest
tudan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. tud: to push , strike , goad , bruise , sting , vex

vayaḥ-prakarṣam (nom. sg.): m. prolongation of life
prakarṣa: m. pre-eminence , excellence , superiority , excess , intensity , high degree; length of time , duration
prati: ind. towards
kaḥ (nom. sg. m.): who? which? what?
mano-rathaḥ (nom. sg. m.): " heart's joy " , a wish , desire (also = desired object) ; the heart compared to a car

無常爲獵師 老弓病利箭
於生死曠野 常伺衆生鹿

得便斷其命 孰聽終年壽 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.61: A Time to Seek Quiet

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
sva-karma-dakṣaś-ca yadāntiko jagad-vayaḥsu sarveṣv a-vaśaṁ-vikarṣati |
vināśa-kāle katham-avyavasthite jarā pratīkṣyā viduṣā śamepsunā || 11.61

And when Death who is so skilled at his work

Drags mankind, in all stages of life, helplessly to our end,

How, when the time of his demise is not subject to orderly arrangement,

Shall the wise man who seeks quiet look forward to old age?

According to the conventional wisdom, as represented by the view of King Bimbisāra, the time to seek quiet is old age. But the mind of the bodhisattva stands (or sits) opposed to the conventional view.

As an example of the working of one such mind, here again is what Marjory Barlow said in her FM Alexander Memorial Lecture in 1965: 

Alexander could not change anything by doing. He could not trust his feeling. He then saw that he had underestimated the strength of habit. What he observed in the mirror was the end-result of disordered patterns lying deep in the nervous system. And that these inner patterns of impulses, conveyed through the nervous system to the muscles acting on the bony structure and joints of the body, were operative perpetually, whether he was moving, speaking or sitting still.

In fact these inner patterns were him -- insofar as his body was the outer manifestation of them.

The next step in the journey was taken when Alexander realised that the only place where he could begin to control the wrong habitual patterns was at the moment when the idea came to him to speak or move.

The moment when, whatever state of misuse he was in, would be made worse as he went into action.

He had reached the only place, and the only moment in time, where change could begin, or where he could have any control over the habitual patterns of misuse, which were dominating everything he attempted to do.

This place, or this moment in time, was the instant that a stimulus to activity reached his consciousness. In the ordinary way, when a stimulus comes, we react to it in the only manner possible. The response is made without thought -- without any knowledge on our part of what we are putting into motion. The reaction is the immediate response of the whole self, according to habitual patterns of movement which we have developed from our earliest years. We have no choice in this, we can behave in no other way. We are bound in slavery to these unrecognised patterns just as surely as if we were automatons.

When Alexander reached understanding of this part of the problem he had found the key to all change. He understood at last in what way he must work.

One simple way of working, based on this understanding, is this:
  1. Say No to the desire to breathe more deeply, and instead of doing anything, think the Alexander directions for release and expansion of the whole self as a respiratory mechanism. 
  2. Be aware of the breathing. (Long is long. Short is short.) 
  3. Enjoy the calming effect on the mind.

As I publish this post Frederique the builder is making a racket next door, but this morning in search of quiet I got up early enough to sit for a couple of hours before Fredo could get going with his angle grinder. And very quiet it was. 

I reflected on Dogen's description of sitting-Zen, in the opening sentence of Shobogenzo as 無為 (Jap: MU-I), which the dictionary gives as "idle, inactive," but which my teacher originally translated as "natural." "Natural" is very good, except the original is a negative. 無為 stands for the Sanskrit a-saṁskṛta, and a-saṁskṛta, it occurs to me now, on the basis of 30-plus years of sitting, 20 years of Alexander work, and the last few years of studying Sanskrit, simply means "not done." 

Ironically, on this fine quiet morning I have a sense -- it may only be temporary -- of my own understanding of sitting-Zen being saṁskṛta, cooked. As cooked as it will ever be. The affirmation is there in the hitting of the target with a translation of a-saṁskṛta that now seems blindingly obvious.

saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ |
avidvān kārakas tasmān na vidvāṁs tattva-darśanāt ||MMK26.10||

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 reality making itself known.

People discuss Nāgārjuna as if he was some kind of great philosopher. But I hope, beginning in earnest next year, to clarify how, before he was a philosopher, Nāgārjuna was a practitioner and a teacher of non-doing. 

How, in the end, might we best describe the practice of just sitting? I think we might best describe it like this:

not done

sva-karma-dakṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): skilled in its own task
svakarman: n. one's own deed; one's own business or occupation
dakṣa: able , fit , adroit , expert , clever , dexterous , industrious , intelligent
ca: and
yadā: ind. since
antikaḥ [EHJ] (nom. sg. m.): Death
tu [EBC]: but
kaḥ [EBC] (nom. sg. m.): who? [= Fate]
jagat (acc. sg.): n. the world, living beings

vayaḥsu (loc. pl.): n. age
sarveṣu (loc. pl. n.): mfn. all
a-vaśam (acc. sg. n.): not having one's own free will , doing something against one's desire or unwillingly
vikarṣati = 3rd pers. sg. vi- √ kṛṣ: to draw apart or asunder , tear to pieces , destroy ; to draw along or after , to pull out

vināśa-kāle (loc. sg.): the time of utter loss
vināśa: m. utter loss , annihilation , perdition , destruction , decay , death , removal
katham: how?
avyavasthite (loc. sg. m.): mfn. not conformable to law or Practice; not in due order , unmethodical ; unsettled, uncertain, Bcar.

jarā (nom. sg.): f. old age
pratīkṣyā = nom. sg. f. gerundive pratīkṣ: to look at ; to look forward to , wait for , expect
viduṣā = inst. sg. vidvas: m. a wise man , sage , see ; mfn. one who knows , knowing , understanding , learned , intelligent , wise
śamepsunā (inst. sg. m.): mfn. desirous of a tranquil life
śama: m. tranquillity , calmness ; peace
īpsu: mfn. striving to obtain ; wishing to get or obtain , desirous of (with acc.)
īps: (Desid. of √āp) to wish to obtain.

死賊執劍隨 常伺求其便
豈聽至年老 遂志而出家

Monday, July 21, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.60: Falsifying Conventional Wisdom with Fact

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
yad-apy-avocaḥ paripālyatāṁ jarā navaṁ vayo gacchati vikriyām-iti |
a-niścayo 'yaṁ capalaṁ hi dśyate jarāpy-adhīrā dhtimac-ca yauvanam || 11.60

Again, as for you saying, “Wait for old age,

For youth tends to loss of strength of mind,”

That is no sure thing; its precariousness is demonstrable –

Old age also can be irresolute and youth possessed of constancy.

Today's verse is the first of four devoted to falsifying an idea about old age to which King Bimbisāra alluded in the previous Canto:
Therefore, before the beauty that befits your noble line is overpowered by the onset of ageing, / Enjoy desires, O desirer of the beggar's stage, and in due time, O devotee of dharma, dharma you will practice.//SN10.33// One who is old, assuredly, is able to realize dharma; in old age the drive is absent for enjoyment of sensual pleasures. /And so pleasures, they say, belong to the young; acquisition of substance to one in the middle; dharma to a mature elder. //SN10.34// For, in the world of the living, youthful indiscretions are the enemy of dharma and of wealth./ However well we guard against those immature acts, to get a grip on them is hard, for which reason desires duly prevail. //SN10.35// The old are contemplative, steady, intent on stability; / They become peaceful with little bother – through sheer helplessness, and humbleness. //SN10.36// And so, having outgrown the fickle years whose main concern is objects, having got over heedless, impatient, short-sighted immaturity, / Having passed beyond pretense-filled adolescence, they breathe again, as if having crossed a wasteland.//SN10.37// Just let pass, therefore, this irresolute phase, this fickle and heedless phase of juvenility; /For the first flush is the target of Desire and cannot be protected from the power of the senses. //SN10.38//

King Bimbisāra thus expressed the conventional wisdom that prevailed at that time in Brahmanical circles about old age. But the bodhisattva, like a good scientist, falsified that general idea with reference to particular facts – a black swan like one irresolute old man, or a black swan like one young woman possessed of constancy.

Read like this, today's verse provides me with an opportunity to write at length on (1) conventional wisdom about good posture; (2) how that conventional wisdom is falsified in Alexander work; and (3) the relation with Nāgārjuna's words on ignorance and doing, and wisdom and non-doing.

Or not.

The conventional wisdom is that pratītya-samutpāda is a doctrine of dependent/interdependent/conditional origination/arising. But, going against this conventional wisdom, I understand pratītya-samutpāda to be the Buddha's description of what he experienced and practised under the bodhi tree -- a spontaneous springing up against the gravitational pull of mother Earth, not as an act of doing but as an act of knowing. 

In this understanding, "an act of knowing" does not mean knowing a doctrine. An act of knowing means an act of consciousness. And an act of consciousness means an act of inhibiting unconscious behaviour. 

An act of knowing means an act that stands (or sits) opposed to ignorance. 

yad (acc. sg. n.): what
api: even, also
avocaḥ = 2nd pers. sg. aorist vac: to say
paripālyatām = 3rd pers. sg. causative passive imperative pari- √ pā: to protect or defend on every side , to guard , maintain

jarā (nom. sg.): f. ageing
navaṁ vayaḥ (nom. sg. m.): young age, youth
gacchati = 3rd pers. sg. gam: to go to
vikriyām (acc. sg.): f. transformation , change , modification , altered or unnatural condition ; change for the worse , deterioration , disfigurement , deformity
iti: “..,” thus

a-niścayaḥ (nom. sg. m.): a non-certainty
niścaya: m. m. inquiry , ascertainment , fixed opinion , conviction , certainty , positiveness (iti niścayaḥ , " this is a fixed opinion ") ; resolution , resolve , fixed intention , design , purpose , aim
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this
capalam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. moving to and fro , shaking , trembling , unsteady , wavering; inconstant ; momentary , instantaneous
hi: for
dṛśyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive dṛś: to be seen , become visible , appear ; to be shown or manifested , appear as (iva) , prove

jarā (nom. sg.): f. old age
api: even, also
adhīrā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. imprudent ; not fixed ; deficient in calm self-command ; excitable
dhṛtimat (nom. sg. n.): mfn. steadfast , calm , resolute
dhṛti: f. holding , seizing , keeping , supporting (cf. carṣaṇī- , vi-) , firmness , constancy , resolution , will , command
ca: and
yauvanam (nom. sg.): n. youth

汝言少輕躁 老則應出家
我見年耆者 力劣無所堪
不如盛壯時 志猛心決定

Sunday, July 20, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.59: Nirvāṇa as a Conscious Step, Out of the Monkey Trap

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
pade tu yasmin-na jarā na bhīr-na ruṇ na janma naivoparamo na cādhayaḥ |
tam-eva manye puruṣārtham-uttamaṁ na vidyate yatra punaḥ punaḥ kriyā || 11.59

Whereas that step in which there is no ageing, no fear, no disease,

No birth, no death, and no worries –

That alone I consider to be the highest human aim,

Wherein the same activity does not keep happening, again and again.

In today's verse Aśvaghoṣa does not use the words nirvāṇa and saṁsāra. But the step (pāda) he is describing is the same step described by the metaphor of the extinction of the flame of a lamp whose fuel has run out. Equally, the same activity being repeated over and over again (punaḥ punaḥ kriyā) would seem to be a kind of definition of the monkey trap of saṁsāra.

If the essence of what the bodhisattva aimed for and of what the Buddha taught is escape from the monkey trap, then Alexander work and bodhisattva practice are not two teachings in parallel with each other: they are essentially the same.

Hence in the first chapter of his book Freedom to Change, the Alexander teacher Frank Pierce Jones used escape from the monkey trap as a metaphor for Alexander work. The monkey trap as FPJ described it is nothing more than a peanut in a bottle whose neck is just wide enough to allow a monkey to reach in and grab the peanut, and just narrow enough to prevent the monkey from retrieving his clenched fist. Insofar as the monkey cannot let go, he is trapped. If the monkey were able to exercise reason, he would let go and take his unclenched fist out. But his strong desire for the peanut is liable to preclude the intervention of reason.
A lamp that has gone out reaches neither to the earth nor to the sky, / Nor to any cardinal nor to any intermediate point: Because its oil is spent (sneha-kṣayāt) it reaches nothing but extinction (śāntim).// SN16.28 // In the same way, a man of action who has come to quiet reaches neither to the earth nor to the sky, / Nor to any cardinal nor to any intermediate point: From the ending of his afflictions (kleśa-kṣayāt) he attains nothing but extinction (śāntim). // SN16.29 //

In this metaphor, extinction (śāntim) is synonymous with nirvāṇa. And in view of the teaching of the twelve links, perhaps we should understand that the original fuel, or the original affliction (kleśa), is ignorance.

The phrase activity repeated again and again (punaḥ punaḥ kriyā) brings to mind the famous quote that is often attributed, wrongly it turns out, to Einstein:
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

At the same time, what was it again that Nāgārjuna said about the relation between the cycle of saṁsāra and ignorance?

saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ |
avidvān kārakas tasmān na vidvāṁs tattva-darśanāt ||MMK26.10||

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 reality making itself known.

avidyāyāṁ niruddhāyāṁ saṁskārāṇām asaṁbhavaḥ |
avidyāyā nirodhas tu jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt ||MMK26.11

In the ceasing of ignorance,

There is the non-coming-into-being of doings.

The cessation of ignorance, however,

Is because of the bringing-into-being of just this act of knowing.

tasya tasya nirodhena tat-tan nābhipravartate |
duḥkha-skandhaḥ kevalo 'yam evaṁ samyaṅ nirudhyate ||MMK26.12

By the destruction of each,

Each is discontinued.

This whole edifice of suffering

Is thus totally demolished.

The 4th dhyāna is described by Aśvaghoṣa in SN Canto 17 as a step in which the act of knowing (jñānam) is its own object:

yasmāt-tu tasmin-na sukhaṃ na duḥkhaṃ jñānaṃ ca tatrāsti tad-artha-cāri /
Since in this there is neither ease nor suffering,
and the act of knowing abides here, being its own object,
tasmād-upekṣā-smṛti-pāriśuddhir-nirucyate dhyāna-vidhau caturthe // SN17.55 
Therefore utter lucidity through indifference and awareness
is specified in the protocol for the fourth stage of meditation.

And yet, as demonstrated by the cautionary tale of the monk who mistook the 4th dhyāna for the fourth fruit of the dharma --  i.e. mistook the 
 4th dhyāna for an arhat's attainment of nirvāṇa itself -- Nāgārjuna was evidently pointing to the bringing-into-being of something (or a bit of nothing) beyond the 4th dhyāna. Nāgārjuna was pointing to a bit of something, or a bit of nothing, beyond the  4th dhyāna, that causes the fuel of the afflictions, starting with ignorance, to run out. 

We will have further opportunity to investigate this point in BC Canto 12, when Arāḍa describes his own experience of attaining and going beyond the four dhyānas, but not in such a way that the bodhisattva can accept it as a true description of escape from the monkey trap of saṁsāra. For, as the bodhisattva himself says (in EHJ's translation):
“I have listened to this doctrine of yours, which grows more subtle and auspicious in its successive stages, but I consider it not to lead to final beatitude, since the field-knower is not abandoned. For I am of opinion that the field-knower, although liberated from the primary and secondary constituents, still possesses the quality of giving birth and also of being a seed....” (BC12.69-70)

When Nāgārjuna spoke of ignorance being ceased through the bringing-into-being of jñānasyāsyaiva, “just this knowing,” I do not think he was talking about knowing a doctrine of dependent origination, or a doctrine of interdependent arising. Knowing a doctrine does not offer a means of escape from the monkey trap. What keeps us stuck in the monkey trap is blind unconscious doing, and the only means of escape might be, even if it is all in a single moment, a conscious act.

For that reason I like to translate pāda , as in today's verse, not as “state” but as per its original meaning as “a step.” 

For a start, a step is an action. At the same time, the word step reminds me of Dogen's teaching of learning the backward step of turning the light and letting it shine. But above all, the word step fits the essence of what Marjory Barlow taught me, which was to take a decision to move a leg... and then move it, as a conscious step, a conscious act. Just this act of knowing, in my book, is that step in which there is no ageing, no fear, no disease, no birth, no death, and no worries.

If we see the practice of sitting-zen in this light, it is more than the realization by sitting of the dhyānas described by Arāḍa. Sitting-zen might be a standard for all acts of knowing, or for all conscious acts.

If there is any merit in this post, I dedicate it to my mother who was taken into hospital a couple of days ago with heart failure. For the time being, I am staying put, here by the forest, where the rain is now pelting down. The reason I choose to remain here, in solitude, is because here, even if only for one moment in the day, I find conditions much more conducive to sitting as a conscious act.

pade (loc. sg.): n. step, state
tu: but
yasmin (loc. sg.): wherein
na: not
jarā (nom. sg.): f. ageing
na: not
bhīḥ (nom. sg.): f. fear
na: not

ruk = nom. sg. ruj: pain , illness , disease
na: not
janma (nom. sg.): n. birth
na: not
eva: (empatic)
uparamaḥ (nom. sg.): m. cessation , stopping , expiration; death
na: not
ca: and
adhayaḥ (nom. pl.): m. anxiety

tam (acc. sg. m.): that
eva: (empatic)
manye = 1st pers. sg. man: to deem, consider, think
puruṣārtham (acc. sg. m.): aim of man, human aim
uttamam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. uppermost, highest

na: not
vidyate: is found
yatra: ind. wherein
punaḥ punaḥ: ind. now-now ; at one time - at another time
kriyā (nom. sg.): f. doing , performing , performance , occupation with (in comp.) , business , act , action , undertaking , activity , work , labour; bodily action , exercise of the limbs ;

此亦爲非義 常求無足故
若無生老死 乃名大丈夫

Saturday, July 19, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.58: The Bodhisattva Tells It As He Sees It

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
tri-varga-sevāṁ npa yat-tu ktsnataḥ paro manuṣyārtha iti tvam-āttha mām |
an-artha ity-eva mamārtha-darśanaṁ kṣayī tri-vargo hi na cāpi tarpakaḥ || 11.58

As for you, O king!, for your part, saying to me
that devotion in the round to the three things

Is the highest human aim,

Those three, in my estimation of value, are an aim without value,

For the three things are subject to decay and are not satisfying at all.

Apologies for the late posting. Sitting in a hut by the forest with the doors open and the rain fizzing around as a thunderstorm broke was this morning a very atmospheric experience, but those atmospheric conditions were probably implicated in the loss of a connection to the internet.

The metre in today's verse switches to the 12-syllable per pāda vaṁśastha metre, signalling that the Canto is drawing to its conclusion – there are another 15 verses after this one.

As we thus approach the conclusion of a canto whose difficult title ostensibly means “Condemning Pleasures” or “Blaming Desires,” today's verse stimulates me to think that one way of handling the difficulty is to translate kāma-vigarhaṇaḥ as “The Maligning of Desire,” and to understand that the one doing the maligning is King Bimbisāra. Ostensibly, in other words, the bodhisattva is condemning the pursuit of sensual pleasures (as one of the triple set of dharma, wealth and pleasure). But an alternative reading is that King Bimbisāra is denigrating the bodhisattva's desire to obtain the peace of nirvāṇa. And so, in a verse like today's verse, the bodhisattva is responding to King Bimbisāra's maligning of a bodhisattva's desire.

In the first pāda, the tu (which I have translated as “for your part”), seems to underline the dichotomy whereby I am like this but you are like that.

So in today's verse as I read it the bodhisattva is not beating around the bush. The point he is clearly making is that the value system of a bodhisattva whose desire is to obtain the peace of nirvāṇa, and the value system of a king who is devoted to dharma, wealth and pleasure, are totally different.

The dichotomy is emphasized by the Buddha in a Pali Sutta titled Ariyapariyesanasuttaṁ, The Discourseabout the Noble Search [MN 26].

In that Sutta the Buddha says:

Dvemā, bhikkhave, pariyesanā:
There are these two searches, monks:
ariyā ca pariyesanā, anariyā ca pariyesanā.
a noble search, and an ignoble search.
Katamā ca, bhikkhave, anariyā pariyesanā? 
And what, monks, is an ignoble search?
Idha, bhikkhave, ekacco, 
Here, monks, someone,
attanā jātidhammo samāno, jātidhammañ-ñeva pariyesati....
being himself subject to birth, seeks out what is subject to birth....

Katamā ca, bhikkhave, ariyā pariyesanā? 
And what, monks, is a noble search?
Idha, bhikkhave, ekacco, 
Here, monks, someone,
attanā jātidhammo samāno, jātidhamme ādīnavaṁ viditvā,
being himself subject to birth, after understanding the danger in being subject to birth,
ajātaṁ anuttaraṁ yogakkhemaṁ Nibbānaṁ pariyesati....
seeks out the birthless, supreme, secure Nibbāna....

Nibbāna in this Pali Sutta may be taken as synonymous with śānti (peace) in yesterday's verse.

So when the Buddha sat under the bodhi tree and the earth shook, everything changed. But at the same time, some things did not change at all. And one of the things, evidently, that did not change at all was the perception that there are two kinds of seeking, motivated by two kinds of desire.

And, again, stimulated by today's verse, I am struck by the thought that Aśvaghoṣa's ironic intention in the present Canto might be to suggest how King Bimbisāra's offer is a kind of affront to the bodhisattva, whose desire is to obtain peace. Hence kāma-vigarhaṇaḥ: “The Denigration of Desire.”

In the final chapter of Shobogenzo the Buddha is quoted as asserting that a person of small desire already has nirvāṇa. Behind that assertion there may have been no denigration of desire but on the contrary true appreciation of desire.

tri-varga-sevām (acc. sg. f.): devotion to the three things
tri-varga: the three things
sevā: f. going or resorting to , visiting , frequenting; devotion to
nṛpa (voc. sg.): O protector of men!
yat (acc. sg. n.): what
tu: but
kṛtsnataḥ: ind. in its entirety
kṛtsna: mfn. all , whole , entire

paraḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. ultimate, best
manuṣyārthaḥ (nom. sg. m.): human aim, aim of man
iti: “...,” thus
tvam (nom. sg. m.): you
āttha = 2nd pers. sg. pf. √ah: to say
mām (acc. sg. m.): to me

an-arthaḥ (nom. sg.): m. non-value , a worthless or useless object
iti: “...,” thus
eva: (emphatic)
mama (gen. sg.): of/for me
artha-darśana: n. consideration of a case Ma1lav
artha-darśin: m. N. of one of the 14 mythical buddhas
darśanam (nom. sg.): n. seeing , observing , looking , noticing , observation , perception
atra [EHJ]: ind. in this matter

kṣayī (nom. sg. m.): mfn. wasting , decaying , waning; perishable
tri-vargaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the three things , the triple set
hi: for
na: not
ca: and
api: also, even
tarpakaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. ifc. satiating , satisfying

若習三品樂 是名世丈夫
[Relation with Sanskrit tenuous]

Friday, July 18, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.57: Desiring to Obtain Peace

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Premā)
ahaṁ hi saṁsāra-rasena śareṇa viddho viniḥstaḥ śāntim avāptu-kāmaḥ |
neccheyam āptuṁ tri-dive 'pi rājyaṁ nir-āmayaṁ kiṁ bata mānuṣeṣu || 11.57

For I, stung by saṁsāra's sting,

Have gone forth desiring to obtain peace;

Not even infallible sovereignty in triple heaven would I wish to win:

How much less a kingdom among men?

If the gist of yesterday's verse was that it is fitting for me to be me and fitting for you to be you, then it sort of makes sense that today's verse, as an expression of what I am wishing for, should begin with ahaṁ hi, “For I....”

EHJ notes, however, that this verse is omitted by C [the Chinese translation] and comes in rather uncomfortably here; it would fit the run of the argument better if inserted after 51, but is not quite at home there either. The FP quotes it as a gātha, and possibly it is an interpolation.

The FP that EHJ refers to is 仏本行集経Fo-pen-hsing-chi-ching (Jap: Butsu-hongyo-jikkyo), The Sutra of the Collected Past Deeds of the Buddha.

This is one of the sutras from which Dogen drew in Shobogenzo – see for example chap. 87, Kuyo-shobutsu, Serving Offerings to Buddhas, and Ippyakuhachi-homyo-mon, The 108 Gates of Dharma-Illumination.

As an appendix to his Buddhacarita text and translation, EHJ provides a table showing the many verses from the Buddhacarita in Sanskrit which are rendered in Chinese characters in the Fo-pen-hsing-chi-ching. In the present Canto, for example, there are 13 such verses – BC11.9, 10, 12, 13, 17, 32, 34, 35, 57, 59 (first 3 pādas only), 67, 72, and 73.

In the old Nepalese manuscript, saṁsāra is compounded with rasa, which originally means sap or juice of plants, and somehow brings to mind the use of such sap or juice on the tips of poisoned darts.

According to Wikipedia:
Arrow poisons are used to poison arrow heads or darts for the purposes of hunting, warfare or murder. They have been used by pre-Colombian indigenous peoples worldwide and are still in use in areas of South America, Africa and Asia. Notable examples are the poisons secreted from the skin of the poison dart frog and curare (or 'ampi'), a general term for a range of plant-derived arrow poisons used by the indigenous peoples of South America.... Poisoned arrows are used widely in the jungle areas of Assam, Burma and Malaysia. The main plant sources for the poisons are members of the Antiaris, Strychnos and Strophanthusgenera. Antiaris toxicaria for example, a tree of the mulberry and breadfruit family, is commonly used on Java and its neighbouring islands. The sap or juice of the seeds is smeared on the arrowhead on its own or mixed with other plant extracts...
EHJ amended saṁsāra-rasena ("by saṁsāra's sap") to saṁsāra-śareṇa (“by saṁsāra's arrow”; EHJ: “by the arrow of the cycle of existence”). Whether we read -rasena or -śareṇa, the meaning would seem to be being stung or wounded by an arrow or dart, poisoned or otherwise. But rasa can also mean taste or fondness for, and hence pleasure or delight. This led EBC to translate saṁsāra-rasena “[wounded] by the enjoyment of the world” – which seems to fit less well. I have opted for "stung by saṁsāra's sting" to emphasize the sense of being goaded into action, rather than wounded. 

Finally, though peace may not be my specialist subject, I will venture a word on desiring to obtain it. 

Frederique the builder has been making one hell of a racket this week, building an extension to my neighbour's house. Last week was bad enough when he was cutting concrete blocks, but this week he has been cutting large chunks of natural stone. The noise is so loud that even Frederique himself and his assistant have been wearing ear defenders. Fortunately, however, one could set one's clock by Frederique's daily work routine, which is 8 till 12, 2 hours for lunch, then 2 till 6. So if I get up early enough I can sit for an hour (which I have just done) and prepare the day's blog post for publication before Frederique arrives (which I am doing right now). Then, unless I go for a fairly long walk, I can forget about peace and quiet until noon, when I have got a two-hour window to sit in. After that, if I prepare and make something to eat from around 2, and take a nap, I have got a couple of hours to prepare for sitting later on, in the cool and quiet of the evening.

Thus yesterday evening I was struck afresh, when I did start sitting just after 6 pm, that the secret of obtaining peace really is in the preparation. Aside from spending the afternoon looking forward in my mind to sitting, and in addition to eating food and resting up to supply the energy for sitting, shortly before sitting I had been lying down and practising inhibition and direction prior to moving a leg, as taught by Alexander teacher Marjory Barlow. As a result of all this desiring to obtain peace, when I finally ventured out under the treess again to sit, just after 6 pm, sitting was remarkably easy. My whole torso was more than usually in the condition that FM Alexander called “lengthened and widened."

I might add that out of this lengthened and widened torso tears were welling up and running down... but the reason for those tears is a story for another day. The point is that this lengthened and widened condition, whether or not tears are emanating from it, is the nearest thing that I know to peace. And the secret to obtaining it, it struck me afresh yesterday, is in the preparation. 

A very vital part of that preparation, again, is wanting it, desiring to go in that direction.

FM Alexander compared it to laying down tracks along which a train will later run. 

So in conclusion, again, I draw attention to the bodhisattva's use of the word kāma, desire. Ostensibly in this Canto the bodhisattva is out to put the blame on kāmeṣu pleasures, desires. But reading between the lines we can notice that Aśvaghoṣa implicitly recognized the vital utility of being desirous – hence the bodhisattva's description of himself asśāntim avāptu-kāmaḥ,  desirous of obtaining peace.

aham (nom. sg. m.): I
hi: for
saṁsāra-rasena (inst. sg.): by the sap of saṁsāra (EBC: by the enjoyment of the world)
saṁsāra-śareṇa [EHJ] (inst. sg.): by the arrow of saṁsāra (EHJ: by the arrow of the cycle of existence)
rasa: m. the sap or juice of plants , Juice of fruit , any liquid or fluid , the best or finest or prime part of anything , essence , marrow ; any mixture , draught , elixir , potion ; taste, flavour ; taste or inclination or fondness for (loc. with or scil. upari , or comp.) , love , affection , desire ; charm, pleasure , delight
śara: m. an arrow; mischief , injury , hurt , a wound
viddhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (p.p. of √ vyadh) pierced , perforated , penetrated , stabbed , struck , wounded , beaten , torn , hurt , injured ; stung, set in motion

viniḥsṛtaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. gone forth or out , issued forth , sprung from; escaped
śāntim (acc. sg.): f. peace
avāptu-kāmaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. desirous of attaining, Bcar.

na: not
iccheyam = 1st pers. sg. optative iṣ: to endeavour to obtain , strive , seek for ; to desire, wish, long for
āptum = inf. āp: to reach, obtain , gain
tri-dive (loc. sg.): n. triple heaven ; the 3rd or most sacred heaven , heaven (in general)
api: even

rājyam (acc. sg.): n. kingdom
nir-āmayam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. free from illness , healthy , well ; mfn. causing health , wholesome ; mfn. infallible , secure
kiṁ bata: ind. how much less?
mānuṣeṣu (loc. pl.): m. a man , human being (pl. the races of men , 5 in number)

[No corresponding Chinese]