Monday, December 22, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 13.18: Māra Is Mindful - The Power of a Negative Thought

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bālā)
sasmāra māraś ca tataḥ sva-sainyaṁ vighnam śame śākya-muneś cikīrṣan |
nānāśrayāś cānucarāḥ parīyuḥ śala-druma-prāsa-gadāsi-hastāḥ || 13.18

No sooner then had Māra called to mind his personal army,

In his wish to form for the Śākya sage an impediment to peace,

Than multifarious followers surrounded him,

Carrying in their hands spears, trees, javelins, bludgeons and swords.

Today's verse begins with a euphonic play on sasmāra (from the root √smṛ, to call to mind, to be mindful of) and māra (from the root √mṛ, to die).

The play serves as a reminder that, although smṛti in the sense of “mindfulness” or “being aware” belongs to the eightfold path to peace as the Buddha taught that path, the wrong kind of mindfulness can make obstacles on that path. Hence the need, in the words of Alexander teacher Walter Carrington to “exercise control over your thinking processes”:
Non-doing is, above all, an attitude of mind. It's a wish. It's a decision to leave everything alone and see what goes on, see what happens. Your breathing and your circulation and your postural mechanisms are all working and taking over. The organism is functioning in its automatic way, and you are doing nothing. If you're going to succeed in doing nothing, you must exercise control over your thinking processes. You must really wish to do nothing. If you're thinking anxious, worried thoughts, if you're thinking exciting thoughts that are irrelevant to the situation at hand, you stir up responses in your body that are not consistent with doing nothing. It's not a matter of just not moving--that can lead to fixing or freezing--it's a matter of really leaving yourself alone and letting everything just happen and take over. This is what we're aiming at in an Alexander lesson, and if we're wise, and we understand, it's also what we aim at in our own practice of non-doing. It is something that requires practice. Like most other things in life, it isn't some-thing that you can achieve by simply wishing to do so, by just thinking, 'Well, I will now leave myself alone and not do anything.' Unfortunately, it doesn't work out like that. The whole process requires a lot of practice, and a lot of observation. Out of this process a tremendous lot of experience is to be gained...

EHJ notes that the two ca (in the 1st and 3rd pāda) here denote simultaneity, and that this is correctly rendered by the Chinese translator.

作此思惟時 魔軍忽然集
思惟 (thinking)
When he had this thought,

忽然 (at once)
Māra's army gathered at once.

EHJ translates nānāśrayāḥ in the 3rd pāda “in various forms” and notes further that āśraya in this sense is almost entirely restricted to Buddhism (but cp. Gauḍapāda in Sāṁkhyakārikā, 62)

MW for nānāśrayāḥ gives: wearing different forms (or, "resorting to various means").

Is nānāśrayāḥ pointing to symbolism variously hidden in the description of the miscellaneous fiends that Māra conjures up? Is there a sense of multiple allegiances, for example, to various spiritual religions and -- at the other extreme -- materialistic philosophies? 

If so, we may return to nānāśrayāḥ and reconsider how best to translate it. For the present I have gone with “multifarious.”

I do notice, looking ahead, that even among Māra's followers, one or two are described as being anya, other, different, individual. 

sasmāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. smṛ: to remember , recollect , bear in mind , call to mind , think of , be mindful of
māraḥ (nom. sg.): m. Māra
ca: and
tataḥ: ind. then
sva-sainyam (acc. sg.): n. one's own army

vighnam (acc. sg.): m. an obstacle , impediment , hindrance , opposition , prevention , interruption , any difficulty or trouble
śame (loc. sg.): m. tranquillity, peace
śākya-muneḥ (gen. sg. m.): of the Śākya sage
cikīrṣan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. desiderative √ kṛ: to do

nānāśrayāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. wearing different forms (or, "resorting to various means"), Bcar. xiii, 18.
nānā: ind. differently , variously , distinctly , separately
āśraya: m. that to which anything is annexed or with which anything is closely connected or on which anything depends or rests ; a recipient , the person or thing in which any quality or article is inherent or retained or received; mfn. ifc. depending on , resting on , endowed or furnished with
ca: and
anucarāḥ (nom. pl. m.): m. companion , follower , servant
anu- √ car: to walk or move after or along ; to follow, serve, attend
parīyuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. pari- √i: to go about , move in a circle ; (trans.) to go or flow round (acc.) , circumambulate , surround , include , grasp , span

śala-druma-prāsagad-āsi-hastāḥ (nom. pl. m.): having spears, trees, javelins, clubs and swords in their hands
śala: m. staff ; dart, spear
druma: m. a tree
prāsa: m. throwing ; a barbed missile or dart
gadā: f. a mace , club , bludgeon
asi: m. a sword , scimitar , knife
hasta: m. the hand

作此思惟時 魔軍忽然集
種種各異形 執戟持刀劍

戟樹捉金杵 種種戰鬥具

Sunday, December 21, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 13.17: Māra - Not Only God of Greed, But Also King of Fear

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Vāṇī)
tasmād ayaṁ nārhati puṣpa-bāṇaṁ na harṣaṇaṁ nāpi rater niyogam |
arhaty ayaṁ bhūta-gaṇair asaumyaiḥ saṁtrāsanātarjana-tāḍanāni || 13.17

Therefore this calls not for the flower-arrow,

Nor for a Thrilling, nor for the deployment of Fun;

This man merits,
at the non-too-gentle hands of demon throngs,

Frights, rebukes, and beatings.”

Māra, “The Destroyer,” personification of death and destruction to true dharma, is not only the God of Love, who works through greed, but also the King of Hate, who works through fear.

The Buddha tells Nanda in SN Canto 16:
When a man sees a separate bodily form as decrepit, that insight of his is accurate; / In seeing accurately he is disenchanted, and from the ending of exuberance ends the red taint of passion. // SN16.44 // By the ending of the duality which is exuberance and gloom, I submit, his mind is fully set free. / And when his mind is fully liberated from that duality, there is nothing further for him to do. // SN16.45 //
So the Buddha seems to encourage Nanda to have confidence in an ending of the duality of plus/minus which is a more complete liberation from suffering – and a more complete defeat of Māra – than, say, practice and experience of the fourth dhyāna.

Maybe the sam- in pratītya-samutpāda is relevant here – not only pratītyotpāda, springing up, by going back, but pratītya-samutpāda, a complete springing up, as a result of having gone back. The prefix sam-, according to the MW dictionary, expresses conjunction, union, thoroughness, intensity, completeness.

tasmāt: ind. therefore
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this one
na: not
arhati = 3rd pers. sg. arh: to deserve, be worthy (acc.)
puṣpa-bāṇam (acc. sg. m.): the flower arrow

na: not
harṣaṇam (acc. sg.): m. " gladdener " , N. of one of the five arrows of kāma-deva Bcar. ; n. bristling , erection ; n. erection of the sexual organ , sexual excitement ; n. the act of delighting , delight , joy , happiness
na: not
api: also, either
rateh (gen. sg.): f. Fun ; the pleasure of love , sexual passion or union , amorous enjoyment (often personified as one of the two wives of kāma-deva , together with prīti)
niyogam (acc. sg.): m. tying or fastening to ; employment , use , application ;injunction , order , command ( °gāt ind. , or °gena ind. by order of , ifc.) , commission , charge , appointed task or duty , business (esp. the appointing a brother or any near kinsman to raise up issue to a deceased husband by marrying his widow)

arhati = 3rd pers. sg. arh: to deserve
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this one
bhūta-gaṇaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. the host of living beings ; a multitude of spirits or ghosts
asaumyaiḥ (inst. pl.): mfn. unlovely , disagreeable , displeasing

saṁtrāsanātarjana-tāḍanāni (acc. pl. n.): acts of scaring, abusing, and striking
saṁ-trāsana: n. (fr. Caus.) the act of terrifying , alarming
ātarjana: n. the act of abusing
ā- √ tarj: Caus. (impf. ātarjayat) to scold , abuse
tāḍana: n. striking , beating , thumping , whipping , chastising , hammering (of gold &c ) (often ifc. with the instrument)

非復以此箭 及天三玉女
所能移其心 令起於愛恚

當更合軍衆 以力強逼迫

Saturday, December 20, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 13.16: Humans 1, Gods 0 - Māra Baffled

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Sālā)
śailendra-putrīṁ prati yena viddho devo 'pi śambhuś calito babhūva |
na cintayaty eṣa tam eva bāṇaṁ kiṁ syād acitto na śaraḥ sa eṣaḥ || 13.16

“When – god though he was – he was pierced by the arrow,

'The Beneficial' Śiva 
was toppled into the lap of the Mountain-King's daughter.

This man gives not a second thought to the very same arrow!

Does he maybe not have a heart? Or is it maybe not the same arrow?

Śambhu, rendered here as “The Beneficial,” and given in the dictionary as “ being or existing (bhu) for happiness or welfare (śam)” is a name of Śiva. And the Mountain-King's daughter means Pārvatī.

The story of Kāma-deva (aka Māra), Pārvatī and Śiva would later be turned by Kalidaśa into the epic poem Kumāra-saṁbhava (“Birth of the Prince [Kārttikeya]”).

According to the Wikipedia entry on Pārvatī, Kalidaśa's epic describes the story of the maiden Pārvatī who has made up her mind to marry Śiva and get him out of his recluse, intellectual, austere world of aloofness, the major elements of the story being:
  • her devotions aimed at gaining the favour of Śiva;
  • the subsequent annihilation of Kāma-deva (aka Māra);
  • the consequent fall of the universe into barren lifelessness;
  • regeneration of life;
  • the subsequent marriage of Pārvatī and Śiva;
  • the birth of Kārttikeya;
  • the eventual resurrection of Kāma-deva after Pārvatī intercedes for him to Śiva.

EHJ discusses in a footnote to today's verse, and also in his Introduction, how today's verse shows that Aśvaghoṣa knew a different version of the story. In the popular version of the story, Śiva annihilates Kāma-deva by opening the third eye in his forehead and burning Kāma-deva to ashes. But in the story to which Aśvaghoṣa is referring, it is evidently Kāma-deva (= Māra) who brings down Śiva.

EHJ notes further that the first half of today's verse implies the Buddha's superiority to Śiva. 

This would seem to be true whichever version of the story is followed – since even in the version in which the beam from Śiva's third eye frazzles Māra, Māra's arrow still ends up doing its work... resulting in due course in the birth of the prince Kārttikeya.

This causes us to ask: what was it about the human bodhisattva (who kept his vow all the way to Buddhahood), that made him superior to the god Śiva  (who allowed himself in the end to be won over by Pārvati)?

I think the answer, once again, is distilled in the four verses from BC12.103 – 106. In these verses the bodhisattva rejects asceticism and chooses instead, as his means-whereby, the more moderate and compromising middle way. Thus:
And so the sage whose body was evidently being tormented, to no avail, by pernicious austerities, /Formed – while being wary of becoming – the following resolve, in his longing for buddhahood. //12.100// “This dharma is good neither for detachment, nor for awakening, nor for liberation./ What I realized back then, at the foot of the rose-apple tree – that is a sure method. //12.101// But that cannot be realized by one who is weak.” Thus did he reflect./ Still more, with a view to increasing his bodily strength, on this did he meditate further: // 12.102// "Worn out by hunger, thirst and fatigue, with a mind that, from fatigue, is not well in itself, / How can one obtain the result which is to be realized by the mind – when one is not contented?//12.103// Contentment is properly obtained through keeping the senses constantly appeased; / By full appeasement of the senses, wellness of the mind is realized.//12.104// In one whose mind is well and tranquil, samādhi, balanced stillness, sets in. / In one whose mind is possessed of samādhi, dhyāna, meditative practice, progresses. //12.105// Through meditation's progress are obtained dharmas, timeless teachings, by which is realized the deathless – / That hard-won, quieted, unaging, ultimate immortal step.”//12.106// Having therefore decided that eating food is the foundation of this means to an end, / He, the firm and constant one, whose resolve was beyond measure, resolving to take food... //12.107// … had got out of the water –

In his effort to teach this means-whereby, I heard my teacher many times give an introductory talk on Zazen in which he would say: 
We need not think anything. 
We need not feel anything....
Our life is just action. 
Action is reality. 
In Zazen we can discover what action is.

What was missing from this talk was the sentence “We need not do anything.”

We can think what we like, and feel what we like... so long as we don't do anything.
We need not do anything. 
We need not do anything, because the right thing does itself.
In not doing anything, on a good day, we can witness the right thing doing itself.

This understanding belongs to what my teacher called “the second enlightenment.” 

When I look back on it now, the whole situation seems too bitterly ironic for words.

There again, doings take many and various forms, some very crude, and some more deep and subtle. 

Pulling in the chin is a very crude form of doing, rooted in that grossest of misconceptions which is "correct posture." I suppose I should be grateful to my teacher for giving me such a big target to hit. Even confronted with such a glaring target as that, it still took me so many years to hit it. But hitting that target, at least, has been a start. 

Hitting that target, like hitting a barn door with a banjo, has been a key to unlock Nāgārjuna's statement

saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ
The doings which are the root of saṁsāra thus does the dopey do.

śailendra-putrīm (acc. sg. f.): the daughter of the lord of mountains = Pārvatī
śailendra: m. the chief or lord of mountain (esp. as N. of the himālaya)
pārvatī: f. coming from the mountains ; a mountain stream; N. of the god śiva's wife (as daughter of hima-vat , king of the snowy mountains)
prati: ind. towards , down upon ; or as a prep. with usually preceding acc. , in the sense of towards , against , to , upon , in the direction of
yena (inst. sg.): by which
viddhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. pierced

devah (nom. sg.): m. god
api: even, though
śambhuḥ (nom. sg.): m. Śambhu; mfn. being or existing for happiness or welfare , granting or causing happiness , beneficent , benevolent , helpful , kind ; m. N. of śiva
śam: ind. auspiciously , fortunately , happily , well
bhu: if. becoming, bei
ng, existing , produced
calitaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. shaking , tremulous , unfixed ; moved from one's usual course , disturbed , disordered
babhūva = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bhū: to be, become

na: not
cintayati = 3rd pers. sg.: to think , have a thought or idea , reflect , consider ; to think about , reflect upon , direct the thoughts towards , care for ; to take into consideration
eṣah (nom. sg. m.): he
tam (acc. sg. m.): him
eva: (emphatic)
bāṇaṁ (acc. sg.): m. arrow

kim: (interrogative pronoun) what?
syāt (3rd pers. sg. as): it might be
acittaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. destitute of intellect or sense
na: not
śaraḥ (nom. sg.): m. arrow
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
eṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): this

曾爲雪山女 射魔醯首羅
能令其心變 而不動菩薩 

Friday, December 19, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 13.15: Down with Māra

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Vāṇī)
tasmiṁs tu bāṇe 'pi sa vipramukte cakāra nāsthāṁ na dhteś cacāla |
dṣṭvā tathainaṁ viṣasāda māraś cintā-parītaś ca śanair jagāda || 13.15

But even when the arrow was unleashed at him,

He thought nothing of it; from constancy, he did not budge.

Seeing him like this, Māra sank down into despondency

And, filled with anxious thought, he said in a low voice:

saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ
The doings which are the root of saṁsāra thus does the ignorant one do.

There are two kinds of essentially downward direction which the ignorant one, as exemplified by Māra, does do.

The first can be summarized as “puffed up.” When we are puffed up, we feel like we are really going up, but the feeling is delusory. Our sensory appreciation, to use FM Alexander's phrase, is not reliable. Our sensory appreciation, Alexander would sometimes say, is debauched.

Psychologically speaking, this puffed-up postural state tends to be associated with
(a) self-assertive statements like, “I shall go to destroy his vow, like the swollen torrent of a river breaking through a dike!” (BC13.6); and
(b) conceited views of past triumphs, as Māra has demonstrated in connection with his bringing down of Sūrpaka, the fishes' foe (BC13.11), of Purū-ravas and of Śan-tanu (BC13.12).

Since pride invariably comes before a fall, wrong direction of the first kind invariably leads to wrong direction of the second kind, which is expressed in the 3rd pāda of today's verse as viṣasāda, “he sank down.”

This depressed or slumping postural state (which Zazen practitioners are liable to try to disguise by an external mask of uptightness – uptightness masquerading as uprightness ) is associated psychologically with a heavy load of anxious thought.

At the same time, both kinds of downward direction – both the puffed-up state and the pulled-down state – are associated with a loss of vocal power.

Just such a loss of vocal power was the starting point in the investigations of FM Alexander -- without whose teaching this comment would not have been possible.

The task I see ahead in 2015 is to clarify in my own way, based on the discoveries of FM Alexander in the field of non-doing, what the Buddha meant by the teaching preserved in Sanskrit as pratītya-samutpāda.

We don't have Aśvaghoṣa's own account in Sanskrit of this teaching – though the relevant part from BC Canto 14 is preserved in the Tibetan, and we have EHJ's translation from the Tibetan. 

Fortunately, however, we do have the Sanskrit of Aśvaghoṣa's Dharma-grandson Nāgārjuna, whose MMK (mūla-madhyamaka-kakārikā) begins as follows:

a-nirodham an-utpādam an-ucchedam a-śāśvatam
an-ekārtham a-nānārtham an-āgamam a-nirgamam ||MMK1.1
Beyond closing down, beyond springing up,
Beyond discontinuity, beyond continuity,
Beyond identity, beyond distinctions,
Beyond coming near, beyond going away,

yaḥ pratītya-samutpādaṁ prapañcopaśamaṁ śivam |
deśayām āsa saṁbuddhas taṁ vande vadatāṁ varam ||MMK1.2
There is Springing Up, by going back ,
Which, as the wholesome cessation of spin,
He the Fully Awakened Sambuddha taught.
I praise him, the best of speakers.

Then, 25 chapters later, in the penultimate chapter of MMK, Nāgārjuna makes it crystal clear exactly what the Buddha meant by the pratītya (going back) of pratītya-samutpāda.

In the first verse of the chapter, Nāgārjuna states:
punar-bhavāya saṁskārān avidyā-nivṛtas tridhā |
abhisaṁskurute yāṁs tair gatiṁ gacchati karmabhiḥ ||MMK26.1||
The doings that lead to repeated becoming,
One veiled in ignorance, in three ways,
[With body, mouth, and mind] does do; and by these
Actions, he enters a sphere of existence.

Nāgārjuna then goes through the twelve links in the twelvefold chain linking ignorance (1), doings (2), consciousness (3), psychophysicality (4), six senses (5), contact (6), feeling (7), thirsting (8), clinging (9), becoming (10), birth (11), and the suffering of ageing, death et cetera (12), before coming back to his beautifully succinct conclusion. In this conclusion, Nāgārjuna comes back to the real root of saṁsāric suffering, in ignorant doing: 

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 destroying of ignorance,
There is the non-coming-into-being of doings.
The destroying of ignorance, however,
Is because of the allowing-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 this one and that one,
This one and that one are discontinued.
This whole edifice of suffering
Is thus well and truly demolished.

In MMK26.11 jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt is translated here “because of the allowing-into-being of just this act of knowing.” bhāvanāt could equally be translated as “because of the cultivation.” and jñānasyāsyaiva could equally be translated as “of just this wisdom.” Thus, for example:

avidyāyāṁ niruddhāyāṁ saṁskārāṇām asaṁbhavaḥ |
avidyāyā nirodhas tu jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt ||MMK26.11
In the cessation of ignorance,
There is the non-coming-into-being of doings.
The cessation of ignorance, however,
Is because of the cultivation of just this wisdom.

If you ask the Dalai Lama what MMK26.11 really means – and if you get the chance, please do ask – I imagine this is what he will tell you. Ignorance is caused to cease not by religious prayer, but by true education, which is the cultivation of wisdom.

I think that teaching is totally true, as far as it goes.

But the present series of verses as I read it points to a still truer understanding of jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt whereby the -na neuter action noun jñāna “knowing,”  expresses real wisdom as something less abstract than what tends to be conveyed with the word “wisdom.” That something is the simple non-doing act of sitting still.

My point is that Aśvaghoṣa does not describe the bodhisattva defeating Māra with wisdom; he describes the bodhisattva defeating Māra by a more concrete means. The bodhisatta just keeps on sitting still. Whatever Māra unleashes at him, the bodhisattva does not break his sitting posture, and does not budge.

This means, concrete action though it is, is not an act of doing. It is an act of knowing. 

tasmin (loc. sg.): at him
tu (but)
bāṇe (loc. sg.): m. an arrow
api: even
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
vipramukte (loc. sg.): mfn. loosened ; discharged , shot , hurled
vi-pra- √ muc: to loosen , unfasten , take off ; to liberate , set free ; to discharge , hurl , shoot

cakāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. kṛ: to do, make
na: not
āsthām (acc. sg.): f. consideration, care
na: not
dhṛteḥ (abl. sg.): f. holding , seizing , keeping , supporting (cf. carṣaṇī- , vi-) , firmness , constancy , resolution
dhṛ: to hold , bear ; to hold back , keep down , stop , restrain , suppress , resist
cacāla = 3rd pers. sg. perf. cal: to be moved from one's usual course , be disturbed , become confused or disordered , go astray ; to turn away from , swerve , deviate from (abl. e.g. dharmāt , to swerve from virtue)

dṛṣṭvā = abs. dṛś: to see
tathā: ind. thus, in this way
enam (acc. sg. m.): him
viṣasāda = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi-√sad: to be exhausted or dejected , despond , despair ; to sink down , be immersed in (loc.)
√sad: to sit down, to sink down , sink into despondency or distress
māraḥ (nom. sg.): m. Māra

cintā-parītaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. lost in thought, thoughtful, Bcar.
cintā: f. thought , care , anxiety , anxious thought about
parīta: mfn. surrounded , encompassed , filled , taken possession of , seized (with instr. or in comp.)
ca: and
śanaiḥ: ind. quietly , softly , gently , gradually , alternately
jagāda = 3rd pers. sg. perf. gad: to speak articulately , speak , say , relate

菩薩不視箭 亦不顧三女
魔王惕然疑 心口自相語

Thursday, December 18, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 13.14: Thirst & Pride Come Into the Foreground

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Sālā)
ity evam ukto 'pi yadā nir-āstho naivāsanaṁ śākyamunir bibheda |
śaraṁ tato 'smai visasarja māraḥ kanyāś ca ktvā purataḥ sutāṁś ca || 13.14

Not interested, even when spoken to like this,

Śākyamuni, the Śākya sage,
never broke his sitting posture at all,

And so Māra shot the arrow at him,

Having put to the fore his daughters and sons.

If we consider today's verse in four phases
  1. the 1st pāda describes the bodhisattva's unmoved mind
  2. the 2nd pāda his unbudging body
  3. the 3rd pāda Māra's action of shooting,
  4. ? ...
the 4th pāda seems to call for deeper investigation.

On first reading I might have expected the action of shooting to be the punch line. So what was so real, befitting the fourth phase, about Māra sending forward his daughters and sons?

I considered this question at length yesterday, Wednesday. The question rumbled within me as I sat; and in the endeavour to clarify my thoughts I wrote a few paragraphs which, on re-reading them this morning, were frankly rubbish. I even looked on google images at girls in discos with their hair flying about as they danced, in the category of “having fun.”

In the background, I realized as soon as my backside touched the zafu this morning, my conception of what this series of verses is about has been rather superficial. I have tended to think of Māra in this part as being equivalent to Cupid and Eros in Roman and Greek legends, as portrayed on Valentine cards, with their golden arrows.

When I think of Love in these terms, as a great big elephant trap for romantically-inclined thrill-seekers, then I fancy myself as an elephant who is already out of the woods. Since I will be 55 next week, I am fairly confident that roller-coasters and discos are for me a thing of the past.

But then, it occurred to me, a matter of seconds into my sitting this morning, What about Thirst? And what about Pride?

Māra's daughters, let us remember, are not only Fun and Pleasure, but Fun, Pleasure and Thirst. And his sons are not only Hurry and Thrill, but Hurry, Thrill and Pride.

That being so, not only in discos and gaudy funfairs but even in minimalistic Zazen dojos, Māra's offspring are liable to be lurking. And when we just sit, without any particular agenda, that may be just the time when they enter the foreground.

Understood like that, the entry of Māra's daughters and sons into the foreground does indeed make sense at the fourth phase.

ity evam uktaḥ (nom. sg. m.): addressed like this
api: though
yadā: ind. at which time, whee
nir-āsthaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. not interested in anything , not intent upon (comp.)
ā-sthā: f. consideration , regard , care

na: not
eva: emphatic
āsanam (acc. sg.): n. sitting, sitting posture
śākyamunih (nom. sg.): m. Śākyamuni ; the Sage of the Śākyas
bibheda bhid: to break

śaram (acc. sg.): m. arrow
tatah: then, from that
asmai (dat. sg.): in his direction
visasarja = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi- √ sṛj: to send or pour forth , let go or run or flow , discharge , emit , shoot , cast , hurl
māraḥ (nom. sg.): m. Māra

kanyāḥ (acc. pl. f.): daughters, girls
ca: and
kṛtvā = abs. kṛ: to do, make
purataḥ: ind. before (in place or time) , in front or in presence of
sutān (acc. pl. m.): sons
ca: and

計力堪箭者 自安猶尚難
況汝不堪箭 云何能不驚
魔説如斯事 迫脅於菩薩
菩薩心怡然 不疑亦不怖
魔王即放箭 兼進三玉女

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 13.13: More Talk of Up

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Sālā)
tat kṣipram uttiṣṭha labhasva saṁjñāṁ bāṇo hy ayaṁ tiṣṭhati lelihānaḥ |
priya-vidheyeṣu rati-priyeṣu yaṁ cakravākeṣv iva notsjāmi || 13.13

Up! Up!, therefore!
Quickly stand up! Come to consciousness!

For here stands ready, with darting tongue, this arrow

Which, at fun-loving lovers who are head over heels in love,

Any more than at cakravāka birds, I do not unleash!”

I have translated today's verse in such a way as to bring out the irony of Māra continuing to exhort the bodhisattva upward, while wanting to bring him down – a bit like FD Roosevelt conniving to draw America into WWII in the months leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, talking peace while planning war. 

A cakravāka bird is some kind of water bird. But what kind exactly? A goose? The greylag goose (genus: anser)? A duck? The Brahmini duck or ruddy sheldrake (anas casarca)? The MW dictionary and EHJ both seem to go with the latter.

EHJ notes that there is a double point in the simile of the Brahminy ducks; not only are they the type of true lovers, but it is generally considered improper to shoot them in India, and many castes, which will eat other wild duck, will not touch them.

I think I concluded before that cakravāka birds were greylag geese. But this video clip of a pair of Brahmini ducks (or ruddy sheldrakes) suggests that these birds also would fit the bill (no pun intended). I think that rather than trying to come again to a definitive conclusion, I will stick with cakravāka birds. The point is not so much scientific accuracy in determining the genus of the bird; the point is rather that the cakravāka bird in Sanskrit poetry symbolizes loving devotion to one mate. And this is why Māra would never need to shoot his arrow at cakravāka birds who have already immutably pair-bonded, or "fallen into love." 

The phrase “fallen into love” was one favoured by my Zen teacher. The "into" instead of "in" partly betrayed his Japanese English, but also betrayed his view of Love being one of the major pits into which we are liable to fall down, the other big pitfall being Hate. 

How much Love, and how much Hate, must have motivated those Taliban militants who went into a school yesterday and killed 132 children?  Devout Buddhists could never act out of such ignorance, could they? Not unless they really loved the Buddha, and hated the non-Buddhist other... thereby getting the Buddha's original teaching totally upside down. 

So we come back again to the irony in Māra's use of the imperative of ud-√sthā, to stand up, or rise up. The ud- of ud-√sthā means up, but Māra's real intention is to bring the bodhisattva down.

That up is truly the direction not of subjugation but of release is hinted at, at the end of today's verse as I read it, by Māra's unconscious use of the word notsṛjāmi, “I do not unleash.” This again includes the prefix ud-, this time used with the root √sṛj, to let go or let fly. So ut-√sṛj means to let loose or to unleash, but to reflect the prefix ud- more truly we would need a word in English like “to upleash.”

Still talking of up, “head over heels,” ironically, is not a bad direction for a person sitting in lotus to think. The expression “head over heels in love” means being madly or helplessly in love, and thus being in a perpetual spin, as if doing cartwheels. But as a direction while sitting still “head over heels” is not a bad preventive measure to safeguard against pulling the head backward – as so many of us are liable to do, if in our ignorance we try to do the up, like a baby pushing out of the birth canal. I know too well whereof I speak. 

An idiomatic but accurate translation of priya-vidheyeṣu in the 3rd pāda would be “at those under the thumb of their nearest and dearest.” A still more literal translation would be “at those put upon by their nearest and dearest”vi-dheya literally means “to be put upon” and hence to be compliant. EHJ translated “at those who... show compliance to their mistresses.” But priya in the original does not necessarily mock only men who are under the thumb. We can suppose that Māra had also been known to point his bow in the direction of women. In any event, the sense of priya-vidheyeṣu is of lovers who are helplessly in love with each other, like a pair of cakravāka birds.

In translating  priya-vidheyeṣu  “at lovers who are head over heels in love” I have used some poetic license but I think it helps to convey the essence of what Māra is all about. Māra's work is to cause us to get everything upside down.

Chapter Six of the eight chapters of Linda Covill's A Metaphorical Study of Saundaranada is titled “Nanda Uplifted.”

Other chapters are titled Nanda Tamed (which considers the recurring elephant metaphor); Nanda Healed (the medical metaphor); Nanda Refined (the gold metaphor); and Nanda Rerooted (the path metaphor).

Metaphors, as LC's work truly demonstrates, are a very effective way of preserving the Buddha's teaching. 

The point I would like to emphasize is that Nanda's going up was not a metaphor. Nanda actually did spring up, as a result of having gone back and stopped the doings which are the root of saṁsāra.

Similarly, in the present scene, Māra is a metaphor, Māra's bow is a metaphor, Māra's arrow is a metaphor, but the bodhisattva sitting is a historical fact which was not, is not, and never will be a metaphor.

So the irony of today's verse, as I read it, again, is that Māra is exhorting the bodhisattva upward. And in the part of the next Canto which is missing, Aśvaghoṣa will describe exactly how the bodhisattva does indeed spring upward, by going back. He springs up by going back to ignorance (avidyām) and to doings (saṁskārān) as the primary causal grounds for the suffering of ageing, death and so on.

tad: ind. so, therefore
kṣipram: ind. quickly
uttiṣṭha = 2nd pers. sg. imperative ud- √sthā: to stand up, spring up, rise ; to be active or brave
labhasva = 2nd pers. sg. imperative labh: to gain possession of , obtain , receive , conceive , get ; to possess, have
saṁjñām (acc. sg.): f. consciousness

bāṇaḥ (nom. sg.): m. arrow
hi: for
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this , this here , referring to something near the speaker
tiṣṭhati = 3rd pers. sg. sthā: to stand, stand ready
lelihānaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. frequently licking or darting out the tongue

priya-vidheyeṣu (loc. pl.): helplessly in love
priya: m. lover, husband ; priyā: f. mistress, wife
vi-dheya: to be bestowed ; docile , compliant , submissive , liable to be ruled or governed or influenced by , subject or obedient to (gen. or comp.)
vi- √ dhā: to bestow; to put in order ; to ordain, direct
rati-priyeṣu (loc. pl.): the fun-loving
priya: mfn. fond of attached or devoted to (in comp. , either ibc. e.g. priya-devana , " fond of playing " , or ifc. e.g. akṣa-priya , " fond of dice”)

yam (acc. sg. m.): which
cakravākeṣu (loc. pl.): m. the cakra bird (Anas Casarca ; the couples are supposed to be separated and to mourn during night)
iva: like, as
na: not
utsṛjāmi = 1st pers. sg. ut- √ sṛj: to let loose, discharge

況汝末世中 望脱我此箭
汝今速起者 幸可得安全
此箭毒熾盛 慷慨而戰掉