Tuesday, September 2, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.29: Meaningful Differences

aviśeṣaṁ viśeṣa-jña pratibuddhāprabuddhayoḥ |
praktīnāṁ ca yo veda so 'viśeṣa iti smtaḥ || 12.29

What knows no distinction,
O knower of distinctions!

Between the Awake and the Not Awake,

Or among the constituent parts of the Primary Matter,

Is known as “lack of discrimination.”

The distinctions Arāḍa refers to in today's verse are ostensibly those drawn in Sāṁkhya philosophy.

But considering that the fully awakened Buddha regarded Arāḍa as having but a little dust on his eye, Aśvaghoṣa might be expecting us to dig for deeper meaning than that. Aśvaghoṣa might be expecting us to understand what practical -- as opposed to philosophical -- purpose could be served by the distinctions Arāḍa sees.

To that end, the distinction referred to in the 2nd pāḍa between the Awake and the Not Awake can be read in light of FM Alexander's aphorism that "When an investigation comes to be made it will be found that every single thing we do in the work is exactly what is done in Nature, where the conditions are right, the difference being that we are learning to do it consciously."

In the 3rd pāda prakṛtīnām is genitive plural of prakṛti, hitherto translated and understood as the Primary Matter (singular) and explained in terms of the primacy of devoting oneself to a path or a means-whereby as opposed to the alternative approach of blindly striving for results (see comment to BC12.18).

In the plural, the MW dictionary gives prakṛti as (in the sāṁkhya phil.)... the 8 producers or primary essences which evolve the whole visible world (viz. a-vyakta, buddhi, ahaṁ-kāra, and the 5 tan-mātras or subtle elements).

Thus EBC translated prakṛtīnām in today's verse “between the different evolvents;” EHJ translated “between the primary constituents” and PO “among Primal nature's constituents.”

I know next to nothing about Sāmkhya philosophy, and I am not particularly interested in filling that gap in my knowledge. But a distinction which I know has value in practice concerns the primary importance, in sitting, of the pelvis. And the important distinction to make, with regard to the pelvis, might be this: The pelvis is part of the back, and not part of the legs.

Similarly one can say that when one is sitting well, the neck is part of the back, the neck is the top of an integrated back, so that a certain separation or freedom is allowed, at the atlanto-occipital joint, where the back (including pelvis and neck) and the head join. 

Again the shoulders sit easy on the back, the shoulders are part of the back, and are not bullied out of position by the doings of the arms and hands.

In conclusion, within the primary criterion which is the samādhi of accepting and using the self (Jap: JIJUYO-ZANMAI), what is truly primary? 

My Zen teacher taught his students that the primary thing was the action of keeping the spine straight vertically. 

FM Alexander spoke of recognizing that relativity in the use of the headneck, and other parts which proved to be a primary control of the general use of the self.

I would say that my Zen teacher's teaching about keeping the spine straight vertically was a crude approximation of a truth that FM Alexander, and teachers he taught, learned to demonstrate with great delicacy and accuracy. 

Both teachers were interested in what was primary, and made distinctions between what was of primary and secondary importance. Thus, for my Zen teacher, parts that were of primary importance were the spine and the autonomic nervous system. For FM Alexander the relation between the head and neck, and between the head and neck and other parts, was primary. Other relationships between body parts were secondary. 

My Zen teacher, Rev. Gudo Nishijima, made a clear philosophical distinction between thinkingfeeling, and action

FM Alexander made a clear distinction in practice between doing and not doing, the key to the cessation of the former and allowing of the latter being what Alexander called "thinking" -- not thinking as opposed to action, but thinking as opposed to doing, thinking as facilitator of action. 

For more than fifteen years after I  met him in the summer of 1982, my Zen teacher showed incredible generosity to me, who he saw as being his potential successor. But a spanner was thrown in the works of our relationship circa 1997, due partly to my own lack of diplomatic / political skills and partly to his prejudice against Alexandrian "thinking." 

It is a deep irony, it strikes me this morning, a deep irony that I cannot help expressing as the conclusion to the comment I prepared last night, that my way of repaying my teacher's generosity is to publicize as clearly as I can his supreme ignorance with regard to the teaching of Nāgārjuna which he admired so much. 

The point I am primarily here to clarify is that my Zen teacher and I, when we sat together in Japan stiffening our necks by pulling our chins in, were exactly who Nāgārjuna -- when he made his supremely meaningful distinction between the ignorant and the wise -- called the ignorant ones. 

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.

aviśeṣam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. without difference , uniform
viśeṣa-jña (voc.): O one who knows what is special!

pratibuddhāprabuddhayoḥ (gen. dual n.): the awake and the unawake; EBC: the illuminated and the unwise; EHJ: the intelligent and the unintelligent; PO: the Conscious and the Unconscious
pratibuddha: mfn. awakened , awake ; illuminated , enlightened
a-prabuddha: mfn. not awake
prabuddha: mfn. awakened , awake , roused , expanded , developed , opened , blown ; known , understood , recognised ; enlightened , clear-sighted , clever , wise

prakṛtīnām (gen. pl.): f. " making or placing before or at first " , the original or natural form or condition of anything , original or primary substance (opp. to vi-kṛti q.v.) ; pl. the 8 producers or primary essences which evolve the whole visible world (viz. a-vyakta , buddhi or mahat , ahaṁ-kāra , and the 5 tan-mātras or subtle elements ; rarely the 5 elements alone)
ca: and
yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): [that] which
veda = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vid: to know , understand , perceive , learn , become or be acquainted with , be conscious of , have a correct notion of ; (ya evam veda [in Br. ], " who knows thus " , " who has this knowledge ")

saḥ (nom. sg. m.): it
aviśeṣaḥ (nom. sg): m. non-distinction , non-difference , uniformity ;
iti: “..., thus
smṛtaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. remembered , recollected , called to mind , thought of ; handed down , taught , prescribed , (esp.) enjoined by smṛti or traditional law , declared or propounded in the law-books ; termed , styled , named (nom. with or without iti)

如是不分別 是説名總攬
愚黠性變等 不了名不別

Monday, September 1, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.28: The Blur (2) – I Am This Job, This Flock

ya evāhaṁ sa evedaṁ mano buddhiś ca karma ca |
yaś caivaiṣa gaṇaḥ so 'ham iti yaḥ so 'bhisaṁplavaḥ || 12.28

“What I am is just this –

This mind, this intelligence, this occupation.

Again, what this present group is, I am.”

That is blurring of boundaries.

Again, I read today's verse as the teaching of a teacher who has only a little dust on his eyes – the teaching of a teacher whose teaching deserves to be studied.

For the 3rd pāda of today's verse EBC's text has
yaś caivaṁ sa gaṇaḥ so 'ham,
which EBC translates all this aggregate is the same as "I". 

The old Nepalese manuscript has 
yaś caiveśa gaṇaḥ so 'ham.

EHJ noted that idam in the 1st pāda suggests that the old Nepalese manuscript's reading in the 3rd pāda derives from eṣa. He therefore amended the 3rd pāda to read:
yaś caivaiṣa gaṇaḥ so 'ham,
which EHJ translated this group is identical with the ego.

PO translates I'm truly the same as this group.

“This aggregate” or “this group” could mean the group formed from the three elements specified in the 2nd pāda – this group of mind, intelligence and karma. I suppose from EHJ's note that this is how he read it. 

At the same time, the first word that the MW dictionary gives in its definition of gaṇa is “flock.”

Taking gaṇa in this second sense, Arāḍa in today's verse can be read as describing our tendency to fail to be true to our selves because of mistakenly identifying ourselves 
1., on the inside, with partial aspects of ourself like our mind, our intelligence, and our karma (i.e. in this context our job or occupation); and 
2., on the outside, with a group to which we consider ourselves to belong.

When Emperor Wu asked Master Bodhidharma who he was, Bodhidharma famously replied “I don't know.”

Bodhidharma knew full well that he was not any specific or extrinsic things. He knew full well that Emperor Wu's question was the question of an ignorant person who had not transcended the blur.

In response, Master Bodhidharma didn't affirm the blurring of boundaries by saying, “I am an enlightened being.” Or “I am an Indian Zen Master.” Or even “I am a humble Buddhist monk.” Being true to himself from his head to his toes, he just said, in all clarity, "I don't know.”

So it may not be possible to draw the line between self and others, but that is no excuse for blurring it. 

yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): [that] which
eva: (emphatic)
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
sa (nom. sg. m.):
eva: (emphatic)
idam (nom. sg. n.): this

manaḥ (nom. sg.): n. mind
buddhiḥ (nom. sg.): f. intelligence
ca: and
karma (nom. sg.): n. karma, action ; office , special duty , occupation ; work, labour
ca: and

yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): [that] which
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
eṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): this , this here , here (especially as pointing to what is nearest to the speaker e.g. eṣa bāṇaḥ , this arrow here in my hand
gaṇaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a flock , troop , multitude , number , tribe , series , class ; a company , any assemblage or association of men formed for the attainment of the same aims ; a sect in philosophy or religion
saḥ (nom. sg. m.): it, this
aham (nom. sg.): m. the I

iti: “....,” thus
yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): [that] which
saḥ (nom. sg. m.): it, this
abhisaṁplavaḥ (nom. sg.):m. fluctuation, Bcar.
abhi-: ind. (a prefix to verbs and nouns , expressing) to , towards , into , over , upon. (As a prefix to verbs of motion) it expresses the notion or going towards , approaching , &c
samplava: m. flowing together , meeting or swelling (of waters) , flood , deluge ; a dense mass , heap , multitude ; conglomeration , taking a form or shape , rise , origin ; noise , tumult (esp. of battle) ;

若説法是我 説彼即是意亦説覺與業 諸數復説我 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.27: The Blur – Enemy of Aldous and Arāḍa Alike (But Not in Equal Measure)

yas-tu bhāvān a-saṁdigdhān-ekī-bhāvena paśyati |
mt-piṅḍavad-asaṁdeha saṁdehaḥ sa ihocyate || 12.27

But what sees not blurred things

As coalesced into one mass,

Like a ball of mud,
O one who is free of blur!

– Here that is called blurring of sight.

In today's verse saṁdeha could literally be translated “confusion,” as each of the three professors translated it (EBC/PO: confusion; EHJ: confusion of thought); and eki-bhāva could be translated accordingly as “fused into one,” so that “fuse” and “con-fuse” resonated with each other.

But as I wrote in the comment to BC12.24, I read saṁdeha in this context as “blurring of vision” – an impediment belonging to the 2nd phase, since it is related with how the devotee of saṁsāra is connected, through sensory perception, with the external world. And the word in today's verse that seems to support this reading is paśyati, “sees.”

On further reflection, and remembering the title of a booklet written by a colleague in developmental work titled "My Vision is Perfect, Why Don't I See?",  I think "blurring of sight" may be better than "blurring of vision." 

If we thus understand saṁdeha to mean blurring of sight, it is the elimination of this interference to which Aldous Huxley, author of The Doors of Perception and one-time pupil of FM Alexander, devoted much of his life.

Huxley's eyesight had been impaired in his youth by an illness; and learning Alexander's means-whereby principle under the tutelage of Alexander himself had evidently helped Huxley to see better, in more ways than one.

Later, however, Huxley resorted to study of the Bates method under a teacher in California, and with reference to Huxley's efforts to improve his eyesight by these means, FM Alexander apparently denigrated what he called Huxley's “beastly end-gaining exercises.”

For Alexander, any exercise which aims at specific improvements by a means which is not truly holistic, was a variation on the theme of beastly end-gaining. Alexander's only exception when it came to exercises was an exercise he called “the Whispered Ah” – which is an exercise in non-doing, or non-endgaining. 

For Alexander, then, whatever growth Huxley felt he had achieved from practising the Bates Method, from taking LSD in the attempt to open the Doors of Perception, and from his effort to see God through his association with Vedanta philosophy, Huxley had not been able to see what Alexander meant by application of the means-whereby principle. This in spite of the fact that Huxley titled one of his later books Ends and Means.

A similar irony may be noted with regard to Arāḍa himself, in that Arāḍa is in process of laying out a means-whereby the bodhisattva might liberate himself from saṁsāra. This means-whereby, Arāḍa is teaching in today's verse, involves overcoming the obstacle of blurred seeing. And yet, the bodhisattva ultimately realizes, Arāḍa himself still has dust in his eyes regarding such liberation.

In the case of Arāḍa, however, who was the truest of sages, the dust was not much.

Thus, in the Discourse to Prince Bodhi (Bodhirājakumārasuttaṁ; MN85), the Buddha relates, in the part about deciding who to teach after his awakening, that he thought first about Arāḍa, since Arāḍa for a long time had been one with little dust on his eyes (dīgharattaṁ apparajakkhajātiko).

Aldous Huxley, evidently, as FM Alexander saw him and his “beastly end-gaining” was still a man with a lot of dust on his eyes. But Arāḍa was the truest of sages, a man with only a little dust on his eyes.

That's why I think a certain sharpness of the critical faculties deserves to be brought to the present Canto. We are not dealing, as EHJ and PO have opined, with an early form of Sāmkhya philosophy, which would have brought with it a whole lot of eye-dust. Neither is Arāḍa as I hear him necessarily to be understood as representing the Brahmanist tradition -- though he does refer in the end to brahma. Rather, we are dealing with the truest of sages, a man with but a little dust on his eyes, expounding his own teaching (svasya śastrasya; 12.15). 

Equally, though for brevity I have translated iha in today's verse and in yesterday's verse as "here," I think Arāḍa means by iha "in this teaching of mine." 

yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): that which
tu: but
bhāvān (acc. pl.): m. that which is or exists , thing or substance , being or living creature (sarva-bhāvāḥ , all earthly objects)
a-saṁdigdhān (acc. pl. m.): mfn. not indistinct; undoubted , unsuspected , certain

ekī-bhāvena (inst. sg.): m. the becoming one , coalition
paśyati = 3rd pers. sg. paś: to see

mṛt-piṅḍavat: ind. like a lump of clay
mṛt-piṅḍa: m. a clod of earth , lump of clay
mṛḍ: f. earth , soil , clay , loam ; a piece of earth , lump of clay
piṅḍa: m. any round or roundish mass or heap , a ball , globe , knob , button , clod , lump , piece
asaṁdeha (voc. sg.): O one free of doubt!

saṁdehaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a conglomeration or conglutination (of material elements); doubt , uncertainty
saṁ- √ dih: to smear , besmear , cover ; to heap together ; to be doubtful or uncertain (said of persons and things
deha: ( √ dih , to plaster , mould , fashion) the body ; form , shape , mass , bulk (as of a cloud)
sa (nom. sg. m.): it
iha: ind. here, in this system
ucyate: is called

於諸性猶豫 是非不得實
如是不決定 是説名爲疑 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.26: Self-Consciousness – Primary Interference

bravīmy-aham-ahaṁ vedmi gacchāmy-aham-ahaṁ sthitaḥ |
itīhaivam-ahaṁ-kāras-tv-anahaṁ-kāra vartate || 12.26

I speak, I know,

I go, I stand firm –

It is thus that here, O unselfconscious one!, 

Self-consciousness carries on.

In his footnote to BC12.24 EHJ comments that ahaṁkāra as part of the eightfold prakṛti (as cited in BC12.18) should be understood differently from ahaṁkāra as cited in BC12.24 and as defined in today's verse.

Thus, whereas EBC had translated ahaṁkāra throughout as "egotism," EHJ translates ahaṁkāra as part of prakṛti (in BC12.18) as “the ego-principle” whereas in BC12.24 and today's verse EHJ translates ahaṁkāra as “wrong attribution of personality.”

On reflection, I agree with EHJ that ahaṁkāra should be understood differently in the two contexts – but not necessarily translated differently, since the original word in Sanskrit is the same.

Consistency is not always a terrorist. Sometimes, it occurs to me this morning, consistency is the translator's friend! 

If we accept Arāḍa's drawing of a distinction between what is primary (prakṛṭi) and what is secondary (vikāra) – which in general seems a wise enough distinction to make – then we need to choose a translation of ahaṁkāra in BC12.18 that conveys a sense of what is truly primary.

The MW dictionary defines ahaṁkāra as:
  • conception of one's individuality, self-consciousness;
  • the making of self, thinking of self, egotism;
  • pride, haughtiness ;
  • (in sāṁkhya phil.) the third of the eight producers or sources of creation , viz. the conceit or conception of individuality , individualization
Of these definitions, “self-consciousness” (or “sense of self”) might best fit the bill for a translation of ahaṁkāra in BC12.18, and also, it occurs to me just this morning, in today's verse. 

In BC12.24 and today's verse, where ahaṁkāra is being cited as a reason for failing to transcend, “egotism” would be the obvious choice, except that the word, since the 1890s when EBC chose it as a translation of ahaṁkāra, has acquired many unhelpful barnacles courtesy of Sigmund Freud and his English-speaking interpreters. 

PO translates ahaṁkāra in all three instances as “ego” (BC12.18, BC12.24: “ego”, BC12.26: “the ego”). 

PO's ego seems to me to be more problematic that EBC's egotism. Egotism expresses a view or a tendency, an -ism which, as such might be a useful word for expressing something that we are required to drop off. But in the English translations of Freud's writings which discuss the ego and the id, the impressionable reader (such as I was in the 1980s) is easily led to believe in the existence of something that Freud discovered called “the ego.” Nowadays it is commonplace to speak of a person having a big ego or a fragile ego or a strong ego. But talking in that way might generally be unhelpful, insofar as it reinforces belief in something called ego.

By translating ahaṁkāra in today's verse as “the ego,” PO in some sense brings the translation of Aśvaghoṣa up to date, in light of Freud's discoveries and their absorption into popular culture and language. “The ego” is concise and natural-sounding as a translation of ahaṁkāra in the 3rd pāda of today's verse, and “You who are free of ego!” is, to the modern ear, a natural-sounding translation of the vocative an-ahaṁkāra in the 4th pāda of today's verse. And yet those translations, in my book, are somehow dangerously misleading.

My Zen teacher liked Sigmund Freud's ideas; especially he liked the writings of a Freudian psychologist named Karl Menninger. “We have to cure the problem of ego,” I remember my teacher saying once, while we were having lunch in a restaurant near his office in Ichigaya. In writing this post thirty years later, it occurs to me, I am solving the problem right here and now. Though I doubt if anybody will notice! 

On another occasion I remember my teacher asserting that ego was another word for “deformed mind.” On still another occasion he attributed to Dogen the concept of “the true ego.” I am not sure what Japanese words he was translating when he came up with the latter assertion – maybe 真我

In any event, I have come to see it as unhelpful to think of wrongness in terms of a psychological entity such as the so-called “ego” has been supposed to be. I find it more constructive, when I am able to remember to think in this way, to think of wrongness in terms of wrong tendencies and wrong habits. This is how one is taught to think in Alexander work. 

In years gone by if people told me that I had a big ego or a fragile ego, I might have been inclined to believe them.

The way that nowadays I tend to understand – primarily in myself – what people call “a fragile ego” is in terms of what FM Alexander called “undue excitement of fear reflexes and emotions.” 

Again, one of the things I learned from Peter Blythe, whose teaching I praised yesterday, was that a strong secondary psychological symptom of an immature Moro reflex is a tendency to low self-esteem.

Peter Blythe's sagacity was to see vestibular matters as primary and psychological explanations as secondary. In this Peter Blythe's approach was similar to Gudo Nishijima's, which saw the autonomic nervous system as primary and psychological matters as secondary.

When it came to clear discrimination and a means-whereby for dealing with the problem of egotism, however, both of those modern-day sages, in my book, were behind FM Alexander.

Coming back to the translation of ahaṁkāra in today's verse, then, I think that “egotism,” fits the bill better than “ego.” But “self-consciousness” fits the bill best, as an expression of what is primary in our search for the truth as human beings, and at the same time as an expression of the first thing to be abandoned in that search. 

In conclusion, if we look for harbingers of the Buddha's truth in what Arāḍa is saying in the present Canto about ahaṁkāra, self-consciousness, firstly as a primary matter, and secondly as an obstacle or interference, the truth that Arāḍa is expressing may be closely related to the famous teaching of Zen Master Dogen about learning and forgetting the self:

To learn the Buddha's truth is to learn the self.

To learn the self is to forget the self.

To forget the self is to be experienced by the myriad things.

To be experienced by the myriad things is to let one's own body and mind, 
and the body and mind of the external world, fall away.

bravīmi = 1st pers. sg. brū: to say, speak
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
vedmi = 1st pers. sg. vid: to know

gacchāmi = 1st pers. sg. gam: to gp
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
sthitaḥ (nom. sg. m.): standing

iti: “...,” thus
iha: in this place, here; in this world; in this system
evam: ind. in this way
ahaṁ-kāraḥ (nom. sg.):m. conception of one's individuality , self-consciousness ; the making of self , thinking of self , egotism ; pride , haughtiness ; (in sāṁkhya phil.) the third of the eight producers or sources of creation , viz. the conceit or conception of individuality , individualization

tu: but
an-ahaṁ-kāra (voc. sg.): O one without ego!
vartate = 3rd pers. sg. vṛṭ: to turn ; to move or go on , get along , advance , proceed

如是等計我 是名我作轉

Friday, August 29, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.25: Wrong Grounding

tatra vipratyayo nāma viparītaṁ pravartate |
anyathā kurute kāryaṁ mantavyaṁ manyate 'nyathā || 12.25

Among those, “wrong grounding”

Keeps setting movement in the wrong direction –

It causes to be done wrongly what is to be done;

And causes to be thought wrongly what has to be thought.

“Grounding” in the context of Alexander work is a dangerous word to use. The word tends to stimulate as a reaction in the unenlightened listener an unconscious downward direction, which is the very opposite of what is desired – namely, a conscious upward direction.

Nevertheless it occurred to me in process of preparing today's post – or more accurately in process of forgetting about today's post and listening to the rain-filled stream gush by – that “wrong grounding” is a translation of vi-pratyayaḥ that fits well, covering or at least touching on various meanings of pratyaya, but especially the connotation of vestibular functioning which seems to me to be of primary importance.

Arāḍa, as befits a teacher who Aśvaghoṣa described as muni-sattamaḥ, the truest of sages, the best of sages, thus seems to be embarking on a very well-grounded analysis of what causes us to remain tied onto the swing of saṁṣāra.

I am still not sure what to make of the opening part of Arāḍa's present speech in which he discriminates between Primary Matter (prakṛti) and Transformation (vikāra). And I am aware that Arāḍa is going to conclude his present speech by talking about brahma, in what appears to be the way of a religious believer. But insight into the causes of saṁsāra, expressed in his own words, appears to be Arāḍa's strong suit. 

In the background I think Aśvaghoṣa's recognition is that a person does not have to be a fully awakened sambuddha in order to be clear in regard to the fundamental causes of unconscious human behaviour.

And this causes me to reflect that one of the people who taught me about these causes was a teacher who never made any claims in regard to Buddhist enlightenment but who was nevertheless, when it came to understanding unconscious human behaviour, among the sagest of sages. I am thinking of Peter Blythe, founder of the Institute of Neuro-Physiological Psychology (INPP) in Chester, who used to describe the vestibular system as “the foundation stone of living.” The four cornerstones of living, building on that metaphor, as I have described on this blog many times before, might be four vestibular reflexes.

Understanding how these primitive reflexes, when they are aberrant, influence what human beings do and what human beings think, helps to shed light on the discoveries of another man who was among the truest of sages, and that is FM Alexander.

FM himself was a premature baby who was not expected to live – except that his mother had the strong idea that her first-born was going to live. Since FM was premature, he is very likely, almost certain, to have been towards the far-end of the Bell curve in terms of aberrant primitive reflexes.

So, to cut a long story short – since it is a long story I have tried to tell before on this blog – FM evolved a technique whereby conscious guidance and control of the self might take over where, under the influence of “unduly excited fear reflexes and emotions,” unconscious guidance and control had become faulty. And this technique centred on what Alexander called not doing (or inhibiting) and called thinking (or directing). 

Thinking is important in Alexander work in view of the truth that one cannot do an undoing. Undoing of patterns of muscular tension is generally what we want, but such undoing cannot be done. It can be brought about, however, by learning to think in the right way. By learning to replace unconscious directions  (like the pulling back and down of the head under stress) with conscious directions, like thinking "head forward and up." 

This work, said FM Alexander of his own teaching, is an exercise in learning how to think.

As when learning anything, the student tends to learn by making mistakes, by doing in error and by thinking in error. 

So, for example, the student thinks "head forward and up" in the wrong way and the head actually pulls even more back and down. 

And sometimes this tendency to pull the head back and down, in students in whom the tendency is particularly strong, can be traced back to immature development of vestibular reflexes like the Moro reflex and the Tonic Labyrinthine reflex. 

So it is in this light -- in the light of discoveries made by modern day non-Buddhist sages like FM Alexander and Peter Blythe -- that I read today's verse.

tatra: ind. therein, in that group, among those
vi-pratyayaḥ (nom. sg.): m. mistrust
pratyaya: m. belief, firm conviction , trust , faith , assurance or certainty ; conception , assumption , notion , idea ; (with Buddhists and jainas) fundamental notion or idea); consciousness , understanding , intelligence , intellect (in sāṁkhya = buddhi); ground , basis , motive or cause of anything ; (with Buddhists) a co-operating cause
prati- √i: to go towards or against , go to meet (as friend or foe) ; to come back , return ; to trust or believe in
nāma: ind. by name i.e. named , called

viparītam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. turned around, reversed, inverted ; being the reverse of anything , acting in a contrary manner ; perverse , wrong , contrary to rule
pravartate = 3rd pers. sg. pra- √ vṛt: to roll or go onwards, be set in motion or going; proceed ; come forth

anyathā: ind. otherwise , in a different manner ; inaccurately , untruly , falsely , erroneously
kurute = 3rd pers. sg. kṛ: to do , make , perform , accomplish , cause , effect
kāryam (acc. sg.): n. what is to be done, task to be done

mantavyam (acc. sg.): n. what is to be thought
manyate = 3rd pers. sg. man: to think ; to set the heart or mind on
anyathā: ind. otherwise , in a different manner ; inaccurately , untruly , falsely , erroneously

不信顛倒轉 異作亦異解
我説我知覺 我去來我住

Thursday, August 28, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.24: The Reality of Falling On Down

vipratyayād-ahaṁ-kārāt-saṁdehād-abhisaṁplavāt |
aviśeṣānupāyābhyāṁ saṅgād-abhyavapātataḥ || 12.24

[It fails] because of wrong grounds,
because of ego-making,

Because of blurring of vision,
because of blurring of boundaries,

Because of lack of discrimination and wrong means,

Because of attachment, 
and because of falling on down.

EHJ notes This group of eight reasons, for which the soul fails to free itself, is
found elsewhere only in the Carakasaṁhitā Śarīrasthāna [an Aryuveda text], but there is some similarity of idea at M.Bh., xii. 7505-6. The first five apparently cause ajñāna, the sixth karman, and the last two tṛṣṇā.

Once again, however, I prefer to think that we are exempted from having to contrast and compare Arāḍa's teachings with Indian texts that went before or came after him, by Aśvaghoṣa's description of Arāḍa's teaching as svaysa śāstramhis own teaching (BC12.15).

So rather than look back in search of understanding of this group of eight reasons, we might be better off looking forward, to the next eight verses (BC12.25 to 12.32) in which Arāḍa considers each of these eight reasons in turn.

Since I haven't studied those eight verses in detail yet, the translation of today's verse is provisional.

That said, a priori, I am still thinking in four phases. So whereas EHJ sees a 5-1-2 formation, I see a 2-2-2-2 formation.

Read like this, in the 1st pāda vi-pratyaya and ahaṁ-kāra, relate to the self. The dictionary gives vi-pratyaya as “distrust”; EBC translated as “mistake,” EHJ “misunderstanding”, PO “wrong knowledge.” I am conscious that in the 1st chapter of MMK, Nāgārjuna discusses four pratyaya, which, from initial study of that chapter, I understand to be “the four cornerstones of direction.” So vi-pratyaya suggests to me, at the first phase, wrong grounds for directing the self. Those grounds are primarily related to the vestibular system, which is vital for inner listening to oneselfAhaṁ-kāra (EBC: egoism; EHJ: wrong attribution of personality; PO: ego) also, more obviously, is a function of the self.

In the 2nd pāda, I read saṁdeha (EBC: confusion; EHJ: confusion of thought; PO: confusion), at the 2nd phase, as a function of the external senses, through which we are connected to the external world. Hence not so much “confusion of thought” as blurring of vision. Abhisaṁplava is given in the MW dictionary as “fluctuation” but samplava shares with saṁdeha the definition “conglomeration,” and the sense of something originally distinct being lost in an amorphous mass. Thus I wonder if abhisaṁplava (EBC: fluctuation; EHJ: wrong conjunction; PO: wrong association), at the 2nd phase, can be understood to express our tendency to subsume ourselves into, or identify with, what – whether on the inside or on the outside – we ought not to subsume ourselves into or identify with. Taking this sense, and wishing to reflect the overlap in meaning between saṁdeha  and  abhisaṁplava, I have provisionally translated abhisaṁplava as "blurring of boundaries." 

The 2nd pāda thus emerges as in some sense anti-thetical to the 1st pāda, which is generally as it should be. In other words, if the thesis of the 1st pāda is that we, with our dodgy vestibular functioning, should not be selfish, then the anti-thesis of the 2nd pāda is that we should, distinctly, to our own selves be true.

The 3rd pāda, then, can be read as related to the essential elements of practice, those elements being, on the subjective side, discrimination, or thinking straight; and, on the objective side, a means-whereby that has been determined to work.

And the 4th pāda seems to sum up in two words what keeps up spinning on the merry-go-round of saṁsāra – namely saṅga, the whole gamut of attachments which ordinarily governs us, and abhyavapāta, the constant gravitational pull, the constant falling – in the absence in the world of the Buddha's original teaching of pratītya-samutpāda – back and down. 

I have thus provisionally translated abhyavapāta “falling on down” as the opposite conception to 仏向上事 BUTSU-KOJO-JI, “The Matter of a Buddha Going On Up,” which is my favoured translation of the title of Shobogenzo chap. 28.

Reading Aśvaghoṣa's poetry like this, in four phases – whether or not others regard the analysis as valid – at least has the merit, I can report with certainty from my own experience, of rendering the lines and verses easier to remember in order.

Since today's verse lays the groundwork for the emergence of the matter of a buddha going on up, today's verse as I read it fittingly comes as the fourth in the present series of four verses (BC12.21 - 24). 

vi-pratyayāt (abl. sg.): m. distrust
pratyaya: m. belief, firm conviction , trust , faith , assurance or certainty ; conception , assumption , notion , idea ; (with Buddhists and jainas) fundamental notion or idea); consciousness , understanding , intelligence , intellect (in sāṁkhya = buddhi); ground , basis , motive or cause of anything ; (with Buddhists) a co-operating cause
prati- √i: to go towards or against , go to meet (as friend or foe) ; to come back , return ; to trust or believe in
ahaṁ-kārāt (abl. sg.): m. the making of self , thinking of self , egotism

saṁdehāt (abl. sg.): m. a conglomeration or conglutination (of material elements); doubt , uncertainty
saṁ-dehá-gandha: m. a whiff or slight tinge of doubt
saṁ- √ dih: to smear , besmear , cover ; to heap together ; to be doubtful or uncertain (said of persons and things
deha: ( √ dih , to plaster , mould , fashion) the body ; form , shape , mass , bulk (as of a cloud)
abhisaṁplavāt (abl. sg.): m. fluctuation, Bcar.
abhi-: ind. (a prefix to verbs and nouns , expressing) to , towards , into , over , upon. (As a prefix to verbs of motion) it expresses the notion or going towards , approaching , &c
samplava: m. flowing together , meeting or swelling (of waters) , flood , deluge ; a dense mass , heap , multitude ; conglomeration , taking a form or shape , rise , origin ; noise , tumult (esp. of battle) ;

a-viśeṣānupāyābhyām (abl. dual): lack of discrimination and wrong means
a-viśeṣa (abl. sg.): m. non-distinction , non-difference
an-upāya: m. bad means (an-upāyena, "to no purpose")
upāya: m. coming near , approach , arrival ; that by which one reaches one's aim , a means or expedient (of any kind) , way , stratagem , craft , artifice

saṅgāt (abl. sg.): m. sticking, clinging to; addiction or devotion to , propensity for , (esp.) worldly or selfish attachment or affection , desire , wish , cupidity
abhyavapāta: m. gravitation, Bcar. xii, 24
-taḥ: (ablative sufix)
abhy-ava- √ pat: to fly near
ava- √ pat: to fly down
√ pat: to fly , soar , rush on ; to fall down or off , alight , descend (with acc. or loc.) , fall or sink (with or without adhas or narake , " to go down to hell " ; with caraṇau or °ṇayoḥ , " to fall at a person's feet ") ; to fall (in a moral sense)
pāta: flying , mode of flying , flight; throwing one's self or falling into (loc.) or from (abl.) , fall , downfall (also ifc. after what would be a gen. or abl. &c e.g. , gṛha- , fall of a house ; parvata- , fall from a mountain ; bhū- , fall on the earth) ; alighting , descending or causing to descend , casting or throwing upon , cast , fall (of a thunderbolt) , throw , shot ; a fault , error , mistake

不信我疑濫 不別無方便
境界深計著 纒綿於我所