Sunday, November 23, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.111: Mind, Form, Action, Porridge

sā śraddhā-vardhita-prītir vikasal-locanotpalā |
śirasā praṇipatyainaṁ grāhayām āsa pāyasam || 12.111 

She with a gladness bolstered by trust,

With the lotuses of her eyes beaming,

Bowed her head respectfully to him

And made him accept milk rice.

For śraddhā the MW dictionary gives faith, trust, confidence...belief. And each of the three professors translates śraddhā in the 1st pāda of today's verse as “faith”:

EBC: She, having her joy increased by her faith...
EHJ: Her delight was enhanced by faith...
PO: Her joy enhanced by her faith...

My first impression of the scene is that what augmented the dairy maid's gladness when she came upon a young bloke practising yoga out in the middle of nowhere was not primarily religious faith but was rather the confidence that this particular human being inspired in her. So my first impression is that śraddhā in today's verse is better translated as trust – i.e. trust that this practitioner was not going to break his vow of celibacy and make sexual advances towards her.

The main gist of what the Buddha meant by śraddhā, as a thing on the side of awakening, is conveyed in SN Canto 12:
When a man has confidence that there is water under the ground / And has need of water, then, with an effort of will, here the earth he digs. // SN12.33 // If a man had no need of fire, nor confidence that fire was in a firestick, / He would never twirl the stick. Those conditions being met, he does twirl the stick. // 12.34 // Without the confidence that corn will grow in the soil he tills, / Or without the need for corn, the farmer would not sow seeds in the earth. // 12.35 // And so I call this confidence the Hand, because it is this confidence, above all, / That grasps true dharma, as a hand naturally takes a gift. // SN12.36 //

These examples of the pick-wielding seeker of water, the stick-twirling seeker of fire, and the seed-sowing farmer seem to convey a very practical meaning, and so in these contexts I think confidence works much better than faith, with all the religious connotations that faith has of belief in a hypothesis that is not open to being falsified by evidence.

In today's verse as I read it, however, there is some justification in taking śraddhā to express the milk-maid's religiouis faith. The justification, namely, is that the four lines of today's verse can be read as following four phases, so that
  1. the 1st pāda discusses something mental or spiritual, like human trust or, equally, like religious faith;
  2. the 2nd pāda is about the eyes which are the organs of sight, and which at the same time can be beautiful manifestations of beautiful emotions;
  3. the 3rd pāda describes sincere action;
  4. and the 4th pāda is the pāda that carries the really vital meaning, which is that the girl gave the bodhisattva the food that was going to fue his sitting under the bodhi tree.
If we think that the girl's joy was enhanced by religious faith, then the beaming lotuses of her eyes might have been expressing the kind of innocence of which so many sexual abusers in priest's clothing have taken advantage.

So I prefer to think that the girl's gladness was bolstered by human trust, so that the beaming lotuses of her eyes were real manifestations of the joy that swelled up in her heart.

Either way, the 1st pāda is describing something mental and the 2nd pāda is describing the physical manifestation in the sensory realm of that mental phenomena. Then the 3rd pāda relates to action. And the 4th pāda, again, has very real significance for those of us who, eschewing all religious belief, are nonetheless interested in the human story of how the human bodhisattva became the human Buddha, relying primarily on milk rice porridge. 

sā (nom. sg. f.): she
śraddhā-vardhita-prītiḥ (nom. sg. f.): her joy augmented by trust
śraddhā: f. faith , trust , confidence , trustfulness , faithfulness , belief in
prīti: f. any pleasurable sensation , pleasure , joy , gladness , satisfaction ; friendly disposition , kindness , favour , grace , amity (with samam or ifc.) , affection , love (with gen. loc. , or ifc.)

vikasal-locanotpalā (nom. sg. f.): with the blue lotuses of her beaming eyes
vi-kasat: mfn. opening , blown , expanding , shining , bright
vi- √ kas: to burst , become split or divided or rent asunder ; to open , expand , blossom , bloom ; to shine , be bright , beam (with joy &c )
locana: " organ of sight " , the eye
utpala: blue-lotus

śirasā (inst. sg.): n. head
praṇipatya = abs. pra-ṇi- √ pat: to throw one's self down before , bow respectfully to (acc. , rarely dat. or loc.)
enam (acc. sg. m.): him

grāhayām-āsa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. periphrastic causative grah: to grasp, take, accept
pāyasam (acc. sg.): m. n. food prepared with made , (esp.) rice boiled in made or an oblation of made and rice and sugar

信心増踴躍 稽首菩薩足
敬奉香乳糜 惟垂哀愍受 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.110: Exploring the Best of Rivers

¦⏑⏑⏑−¦¦−⏑−⏑¦⏑−⏑−   navipulā
sita-śaṅkhojjvala-bhujā nīla-kambala-vāsinī |
¦−−−−¦¦⏑⏑−⏑¦⏑−⏑−   mavipulā
sa-phena-mālā-nīlāmbur yamuneva sarid-varā || 12.110

She wore a dark-blue shawl,

And her arms were all lit up with white shells,

So that she seemed like the Yamunā, best of rivers,

When its dark-blue waters are wreathed with foam.

The New Yamuna Bridge at Allahabad
The Yamunā is the largest tributary of the Ganges. It rises in the Himālayas, flows south through New Delhi, then south and east to Allahabad where the Yamunā and the Ganges meet. This confluence, where the blue Yamunā meets the yellow Ganges, has since ancient times been the site for the so-called "greatest religious gathering on earth" held every 12 years  -- the Kumbh Melha.

Nowadays, however, the Yamunā is one of the most polluted rivers in the world, especially around India's capital city of New Delhi, which is reported to dump 58% of its waste into the river.

To obtain a picture of the Yamunā's deep blue waters as they originally were in ancient times, therefore, it is necessary to look upstream. This photo, for example, by Amit Shankar, shows the Western Yamuna Canal branching off from the Tajewala Barrage, providing water for irrigation to the state of Haryana. (The Yamunā flows along the eastern boundary of Haryana on its way south to New Delhi.)

And going back still further upstream, here is a photo of the blue Yamunā from a webpage titled Himālayan Rivers.

The Yamunā has its source at Yamunotri (“Mouth of Yamunā”) in the Himālayan state of Uttarakhand which shares its northern border with Tibet and its eastern border with Nepal.

At Yamunotri, I note with interest, there are hot springs where one can soak all tensions away.

Here, for the present, ends my internet exploration of the river that Aśvaghoṣa praised as the best of rivers. 

I am not much attracted to sacred religious sites, but I wouldn't mind visiting the Yamunā. And, as far as I can tell without actually going there, the closer to the source I could get, the better it might be.

We are prone to think that water closest to the source is purest, and totally pure water is the best water. But not for a hungry fish. A contrary view is that the closer we get to the source, the sharper the irony is. And an acute irony which Aśvaghoṣa himself might have appreciated, is that a river which Indians imbue with the highest religious significance, revering it as the best of rivers, they also cause to be the shittiest of rivers. 

At the first phase, then, rivers are pure and they have religious significance. At the second phase, rivers are full of shit. Never mind. The important thing in the Buddha's teaching, in practice, at the third phase, is for each to purify his or her own mind. And the Buddha's teaching at the fourth phase might be for human beings to work together to keep our rivers clean.

Maybe when Indian society becomes civilized and enlightened enough to have clean rivers, that will be the time when Indian society is civilized and enlightened enough to reclaim Aśvaghoṣa from the Buddhist Studies departments of Western universities where presently he is so grievously misunderstood as a religious poet. 

sita-śaṅkhojjvala-bhujā (nom. sg. f.): her arms shining with white shells
sita: mfn. white
śaṅkha: mn. .a shell , (esp.) the conch-shell (used for making libations of water or as an ornament for the arms or for the temples of an elephant)
ujjvala: mfn. blazing up , luminous , splendid , light ; lovely
ud- √jval: to blaze up , flame , shine ; Caus. P. : -jvalayati , to light up , cause to shine , illuminate
bhuja: arm

nīla-kambala-vāsinī (nom. sg. f.): wearing a dark-blue shawl
nīla: mfn. n. of a dark colour , (esp.) dark-blue or dark-green or black
kambala: m. a woollen blanket or cloth or upper garment
vāsin: mfn. having or wearing clothes , (esp. ifc.) clothed or dressed in , wearing

sa-phena-mālā-nīlāmbuḥ (nom. sg. f.): its dark-blue waters wreathed with foam
sa-phena: mfn. having foam , foamy , frothy
mālā: f. a wreath , garland , crown
nīla: mfn. dark-blue
ambu: n. water

yamunā (nom. sg.): f. N. of a river commonly called the Jumna (in Hariv. and Ma1rkP. identified with yamī q.v. ; it rises in the himālaya mountains among the Jumnotri peaks at an elevation of 10 ,849 feet , and flows for 860 miles before it joins the Ganges at Allahabad , its water being there clear as crystal , while that of the Ganges is yellowish ; the confluence of the two with the river sarasvatī , supposed to join them underground , is called tri-veṇī q.v.)
iva: like
sarid-varā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. best of rivers
sarit: f. a river , stream (saritāṁ varā , " best of rivers ") , the Ganges

難陀婆羅闍 歡喜到其所
手貫白珂釧 身服青染衣

青白相映發 如水淨沈漫 

Friday, November 21, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.109: The Gods Are On Our Side!

¦⏑⏑⏑−¦¦−⏑−⏑¦⏑−⏑−   navipulā
atha gopādhipa-sutā daivatair-abhicoditā |
udbhūta-hdayānandā tatra nandabalāgamat || 12.109 

Just then a dairy farmer's daughter,

Impelled by the gods, came by,

With joy swelling up in her heart –

There came Nanda-balā, 'Power of Joy.'

There is nothing I have encountered anywhere in Aśvaghoṣa's writing to support religious belief in the existence of what Jews, Christians and Muslims call “God.” 

There is plenty, however, to support ironic acceptance of the existence of what the ancient Greeks called “the gods.” 

And those gods, today's verse suggests, were firmly on the bodhisattva's side. 

God? Who needs Him? 

atha: now, then
gopādhipa-sutā (nom. sg. f.): the daughter of the chief herdsman
gopa: m. a cowherd , herdsman , milkman (considered as a man of mixed caste)
adhipa: m. ruler, commander

daivataiḥ (inst. pl. n.): the gods
abhicoditā (nom. sg. f.): impelled
abhi- √ cud: to impel , drive ; to inflame , animate , embolden

udbhūta-hṛdayānandā (nom. sg. f.): with an upsurge of joy in her heart
udbhūta: mfn. come forth , produced , born ; raised , elevated , increased
hṛdaya: n. the heart
ānanda: m. happiness , joy , enjoyment , sensual pleasure

tatra: ind. there
nanda-balā: f. N. of a girl connected with gautama buddha
nanda: m. joy, happiness
bala: m. power, strength
agamat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist gam: to go

時彼山林側 有一牧牛長
長女名難陀 淨居天來告
菩薩在林中 汝應往供養 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.108: The Secret Is in the Preparation

snāto nairañjanā-tīrād uttatāra śanaiḥ kśaḥ |
bhaktyāvanata-śākhāgrair datta-hastas taṭa-drumaiḥ || 12.108 

… had got out of the water –
Having bathed, he climbed up the bank of the Nairañjanā,

Ascending, in his wizened state, gradually,

While, lowering the tips of their branches in devotion,

The trees on the shore lent him a hand.

What a losing game it is to presume to translate poetry in which every word, with unfathomable layers of hidden meaning buried below the surface, is like a great big elephant trap.

The biggest elephant trap in today's verse, as I read it (there may be others that I failed to notice), is the word uttatāra. This word is given added emphasis by being the main verb not only of today's verse but also of yesterday's verse.

nairañjanā-tīrād uttatāra means “he came up the bank of the Nairañjanā” (EBC/EHJ) or “he climbed up the bank of the Nairañjanā” (PO). These translations are in accordance with the first definitions of ud- √tṝ listed in the MW dictionary: 1. to pass out of (especially jalāt, water, with abl.) ; to come out of.

ud-√tṝ has another meaning, however, along the lines discussed yesterday, which is 2. to escape from (a misfortune, affliction, &c). So there is a sense in which the bodhisattva, having arrived at a sure means-whereby, is already out of the water – or out of the woods, to use the more usual English idiom. Relevant in this reading of ud-√tṝ, is the definition of √tṝ as to cross over; to get through, attain an end or aim.

Another layer of meaning is suggested by the definition of ud-√tṝ as 3. to elevate, strengthen, increase. More relevant in this reading of ud-√tṝ, is the original meaning of the prefix ud-, which expresses the upward direction, in short, up. So this layer of meaning has to do not with being absolutely in trouble or absolutely out; what is rather evoked is a relative sense of being gradually on the up and up, without attaining any final end. 

To convey some sense of each of these three meanings of uttatāra, abandoning any pretense of elegance, I have translated the one word uttatāra no less than three times:
  1. climbed up” to convey the ostensible meaning, a simple description of the bodhisattva's action;
  2. had got out of the water” to convey the sense that, having arrived at a means-whereby, he was already saved;
  3. ascending [gradually]” to convey the contrary sense of a work endlessly in progress, as in the matter of a buddha continuing on up (Jap: BUTSU-KOJO-JI, title of Shobogenzo chap. 28).
Read in light of these multiple meanings of uttatāra, the word śanaiḥ also takes on at least two possible meanings. The ostensible meaning of śanaiḥ is that, because of being emaciated and enfeebled (kṛśaḥ), the bodhisattva was only able to move slowly (EBC/PO) or painfully (EHJ). But another meaning of śanaiḥ is gradually. So śanaiḥ, like krameṇa, can suggest a meaning along the lines of “gradually, by degrees" i.e."methodically." 

Read like that, the description of the bodhisattva's progress as śanaiḥ brings us back again to the principle discussed yesterday of a methodical path, in which the secret is in the preparation. And part of this preparation, for the bodhisattva in today's verse as for Nanda at the beginning of SN Canto 17, is washing one's physical body:
Having thus had pointed out to him the path of what is, Nanda took that path of liberation. / He bowed with his whole being before the Guru and, with a view to abandoning the afflictions, he made for the forest. // SN17.1 // There he saw a clearing, a quiet glade, of soft deep-green grass, / Kept secret by a silent stream bearing water blue as beryl. // 17.2 // Having washed his feet there, Nanda, by a clean, auspicious, and splendid tree-root, / Girded on the intention to come undone, and sat with legs fully crossed. // SN17.3 //

Finally, then, kṛśaḥ, while it ostensibly describes the bodhisattva as being underweight and weak (EBC: thin; EHJ: in his emaciation; PO: in his feeble state), can also mean lean, i.e. carrying no excess. As a translation of kṛśaḥ in today's verse, “lean” would not be good, because it would blot out the ostensible meaning. Using the thesaurus to look for a word that ostensibly means thin and weak but which below the surface, ironically, could be describing a lean, mean fighting machine, I alighted on wizened. Even though there is no etymological connection between wizened and wisdom, it is for the present – translation being a losing game – the best I can do.

A final reflection stimulated by today's verse is that when the trees lowered the tips of their branches in order to help the bodhisattva climb up, their lowering of their extremities was only possible because of the gravity of the whole of the earth and the energy of the whole of the sun springing up through their centre.

There are times, then, when it might be vital not to overlook the significance of the prefix ud- / ut-. The ut-tatāra of today's verse is one example. But the most important example might be in the sam-ut-pāda of pratītya-samutpāda.

snātaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. bathed
nairañjanā-tīrāt (abl. sg.): from the bank of the Nairañjanā

uttatāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. ud- √tṝ: to pass out of (especially jalāt , water , with abl.) to disembark ; to come out of ; to escape from (a misfortune , affliction , &c ); to elevate , strengthen , increase ;
ud-: a particle and prefix to verbs and nouns. (As implying superiority in place , rank , station , or power) up , upwards; upon, on ; over, above
√tṝ: to pass across or over , cross over (a river) , sail across RV. &c ; to float , swim ; to get through , attain an end or aim , live through (a definite period) , study to the end ; to fulfil , accomplish , perform ; to surpass , overcome , subdue , escape ; to acquire , gain ; caus. tārayati (p. °ráyat) to carry or lead over or across ; to rescue, save
śanaiḥ: ind. quietly , softly , gently , gradually , alternately
kṛśaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. lean , emaciated , thin , spare , weak , feeble

bhaktyā (inst. sg.): f. devotion
avanata-śākhāgraiḥ (inst. pl. m.): the tips of their branches bending down
avanata: mfn. bowed , bent down ; bending , stooping
śākhā: f. a branch
agra: n. tip

datta-hastaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. ifc. having a hand given for support , supported by ; shaking hands
taṭa-drumaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. a tree standing on the shore
taṭa: m. a slope , declivity , any part of the body which has (as it were) sloping , sides , a shore

浴已欲出池 羸劣莫能起

天神按樹枝 擧手攀而出

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.107: Food the Foundation, of a Means to an End

tasmād āhāra-mūlo 'yam upāya iti niścayaḥ |
āhārā-karaṇe dhīraḥ ktvāmita-matir matim || 12.107 

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...

The main verb of today's verse (kṛtvā in the 4th pāda being absolutive) does not appear until tomorrow's verse, in which uttatāra means “he came out of [the water].”

Aśvaghoṣa may have intended to convey an impression – enhanced by the euphonic play on amita and mati – of latitude, i.e. of not being in a desperate hurry to get to the end, not even of a sentence.

The bodhisattva, wasted away though he was almost to the point of starvation, was not in any kind of a hurry to stuff his face with food, as a means of realizing the ultimate step.

In a sense, having understood what he had understood, even in his emaciated state, the bodhisattva was already out of the water. He had arrived at a means to his ultimate end. And he was going to put that means into action step by step, gradually and methodically.

This is in accordance with what years later, as the enlightened Buddha, he will teach his brother Nanda:
Just as gold, washed with water, is separated from dirt in this world, methodically, and just as the smith heats the gold in the fire and repeatedly turns it over, / Just so is the practitioner's mind, with delicacy and accuracy, separated from faults in this world, and just so, after cleansing it from afflictions, does the practitioner temper the mind and collect it. // SN15.68 //Again, just as the smith brings gold to a state where he can work it easily in as many ways as he likes into all kinds of ornaments, / So too a beggar of cleansed mind tempers his mind, and directs his yielding mind among the powers of knowing, as he wishes and wherever he wishes. // 15.69 // Thus, by methodically taking possession of the mind, getting rid of something and gathering something together, / The practitioner makes the four dhyānas his own, and duly acquires the five powers of knowing: // 16.1 //The principal transcendent power, taking many forms; then being awake to what others are thinking; / And remembering past lives from long ago; and divine lucidity of ear; and of eye. // 16.2 // From then on, through investigation of what is, he applies his mind to eradicating the polluting influences, / For on this basis he fully understands suffering and the rest, the four true standpoints: // 16.3 // This is suffering, which is constant and akin to trouble; this is the cause of suffering, akin to starting it; / This is cessation of suffering, akin to walking away. And this, akin to a refuge, is a peaceable path. // SN16.4 //

Thus the bodhisattva speaks in today's verse of a means. He uses the words ayam upāyaḥ, this is a means. 

ayam upāyaḥ 
This is a means. 
Here is a means.

Here is a means to the ultimate end described in yesterday's verse.

This ayam upāyaḥ presages the Buddha's teaching as recorded in SN3.12:
"This is suffering; this is the tangled mass of causes producing it; this is cessation; and here is a means (ayam upāyaḥ)."

At the same time, this ayam upāyaḥ echoes the bodhisattva's words as recorded in BC12.94:
mṛtyu-janmānta-karaṇe syād upāyo 'yam
“Here might be a means to end death and birth.”

In whatever context it appears ayam upāyaḥ strikes me as being just about the most powerful two-word combination in all of Aśvaghoṣa's writing.

ayam upāyaḥ
Here is a means.
This is a means-wherby.
This is a means to an end.
Here is a means by which to gain the end.

With this in mind, it might be worth reflecting on exactly what the bodhisattva has just intuited to be the means whereby he is going to gain his end:
"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 mental means – when one is not contented? //12.103// Contentment is properly obtained from constant appeasement of the senses; / By keeping the senses fully appeased, 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//

As I noted in my comment to BC12.94, the means the bodhisattva was referring to then was ostensibly ascetic practice. But below the surface, I supposed, the bodhisattva might have been describing, as a means, a proper relationship between the bodhi-mind and the five senses. And so that supposition tends to be confirmed by BC12.103-106, which again discusses the proper relationship between a bodhisattva's mind and the senses.

An ascetic has one view of that relationship. At the other extreme is the viewpoint of the gross sensualist. The ascetic tries, in vain, to assert mind over matter. The sensualist leaves himself defenceless and is beleaguered by the senses.
saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ
The doings which are the root of saṁsāra thus does the dopey do.

In the middle way between those two extreme views, ayam upāyaḥ, here is a means, this is a means to an end.

Zen is the means, and the means is Zen, whose foundation is eating food. At the same time, the means is sitting. The means is sitting-Zen.

People think and say that Zen flowered in China after Bodhidharma went there. But long before Bodhidharma told Emperor Wu that he didn't know who he was, long before Bodhidharma sat facing the wall at the Shaolin temple, Aśvaghoṣa, it gradually turns out – as verse by verse we get to know him – was as Zen as anything.

Having written this long comment yesterday, and then slept on it, I asked myself this morning when I sat what the hell I mean in today's verse by translating upāyaḥ "a means to an end."

At a superificial level, rather pathetically, I answer my own question by resorting to the dictionary: the MW dictionary says that upāya means that by which one reaches one's aim.”

And has not the bodhisattva just identified the deathless (amṛtam) as the end he has in view?

Well, yes, sort of. But more accurately he has spoken of the ultimate immortal step. And padam in Sanskrit can mean a station, standpoint, or a state. But a step can also be something less stationary than a station, less fixed than a standpoint, and less static than a state. A step can be a movement in a certain direction – generally forward, but sometimes backward.

So I have translated upāyaḥ in today's verse as “a means to an end” advisedly – even if the consideration involved was mainly unconscious. At least it was unconscious till I made it conscious just now.

My conclusion this morning, then, with regard to a means to an end, or with regard to a means to a step, is this: 

There might not be any such step as an ultimate standpoint, but there might be such an ultimate step as movement in the right direction.

And in the background to this conclusion is investigation of three truths, as expressed by Gautama Buddha, Zen Master Dogen, and FM Alexander.
  • The Buddha taught a teaching that is preserved in Sanskrit as pratītya-samutpāda, which I translate as “springing up, by going back.”
  • Zen Master Dogen wrote of EKO-HENSHO no TAIHO, “the backward step of turning light and letting it shine.”
  • And FM Alexander emphasized that “There is no such thing as a right position, but there is such a thing as a right direction.”

The right direction, I submit, for those of us whose main business is the cessation of suffering, is primarily backward. Backward means in the direction of the real root of the problem. But less this all becomes too abstract and the danger arises of disappearing into contemplation of our own navel, the ultimate criterion might be, with the whole self, to spring up.

So I think that what it all comes down to, in the end, is the Buddha's most excellent teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, “springing up, by going back.”

Not for nothing did the Buddha say that to realize this teaching is to realize the Buddha-dharma.

tasmād: ind. therefore, on those grounds
āhāra-mūlaḥ (nom. sg. m.): rooted in food
āhāra: m. taking food, food
mūla: ifc. = rooted in , based upon , derived from
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this

upāyaḥ (nom. sg.): m. coming near , approach , arrival ; that by which one reaches one's aim , a means or expedient (of any kind) , way , stratagem , craft , artifice ; (esp.) a means of success against an enemy
iti: “...” thus
niścayaḥ (nom. sg.): m. inquiry , ascertainment , fixed opinion , conviction , certainty , positiveness (iti niścayaḥ , " this is a fixed opinion ")

āhārā-karaṇe (loc. sg.): the taking of food
karaṇa: mfn. doing , making , effecting , causing
dhīraḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. steady , constant , firm , resolute , brave , energetic , courageous , self-possessed , composed , calm , grave

kṛtvā = abs. kṛ: to do, make
amita-matiḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. of unbounded wisdom, Bcar.
a-mita: mfn. ( √3 mā) , unmeasured , boundless , infinite
mati: f. thought , design , intention , resolution , determination , inclination , wish , desire; the mind , perception , understanding , intelligence , sense , judgement
matim (acc. sg.): f. the mind (matiṁ kṛ: to set the heart on , make up one's mind , resolve , determine)


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.106: The Dissatisfied Bodhi-Mind

dhyāna-pravartanād-dharmāḥ prāpyante yair-avāpyate |
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durlabhaṁ śāntam ajaraṁ paraṁ tad amtaṁ padam || 12.106 

Through meditation's progress
are obtained dharmas, timeless teachings,

By which is realized the deathless –

That hard-won, quieted, unaging,

Ultimate immortal step.”

Today's verse, like BC12.103 and BC12.104, contains a verb from pra-√āp (prāpyante; 1st pāda) and from ava-√āp (avāpyate; 2nd pāda). So of the four verses in the bodhisattva's speech which ends with today's verse, three verses feature this juxtaposition of two verbs which ostensibly (at least according to the MW dictionary) mean much the same thing – to reach, to obtain, to realize.

For consistency, I have translated pra-√āp as obtain and ava-√āp as realize, hence:
"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 mental means – when one is not contented? //12.103// Contentment is properly obtained from constant appeasement of the senses; / By keeping the senses fully appeased, 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//
But the meaning might be little effected if, conversely, I had translated ava-√āp as realize and pra-√āp as obtain:
"Worn out by hunger, thirst and fatigue, with a mind that, from fatigue, is not well in itself, / How can one realize the result which is to be obtained by mental means – when one is not contented? //12.103// Contentment is properly realized from constant appeasement of the senses; / By keeping the senses fully appeased, wellness of the mind is obtained. //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 realized dharmas, timeless teachings, by which is obtained the deathless – / That hard-won, quieted, unaging, ultimate immortal step.” //12.106//

When I translated today's verse six years ago, I did in fact take pra-√āp as realize, and ava-√āp as gain:

Teachings, through zen practice,
realised; and by those means is gained
The hard-won state of peace and agelessness --
That supreme, deathless state."

What is the significance of this repeated juxtapositon, in three out of the four verses of one speech, of verbs from pra-√āp and ava-√āp?

One of Aśvaghoṣa's purposes might have been to draw the series of four verses together, causing us to ask ourselves exactly what the bodhisattva's thought processes were at this stage.

The overall context is that the bodhisattva has seen that trying to overpower the power of the senses through sheer ascetic determination, is not the way to obtain and to realize what he wants to obtain and to realize. So in a sense he is deciding to give in to the power of the senses, as if appeasing a powerful enemy. But this appeasement is a means, and most certainly not the end to be obtained. 

Again, this appeasement -- though the words used to express it (satatendriyatarpaṇa and saṁtarpitendriyatayā) carry the connotation of satisfing or satiating the senses -- is part of a means-whereby leading to the obtaining or realization of a goal which is far beyond the wildest imagination of a sensualist.

In today's verse, then, the bodhisattva is able to describe in such exact detail what he wants to obtain and wants to realize, not because he has obtained and realized it yet, but rather because he is very clear that what he wants to obtain and wants to realize is a cut above what the common man wants to obtain and wants to realize.

Again, the bodhisattva does not yet know and cannot yet know what he has not yet experienced, but he does know what he wants. And the essence of what he wants is “not that.” Hence SN3.3:
ayam apy amārga iti mārga-kovidhaḥ
He who intuited the path intuited: "This also is not it."

The bodhisattva has understood, after six hard years, that unsatisfied senses are not a means to obtain or to realize what he wants to obtain and to realize. But that most certainly does not mean that the bodhisattva is satisfied with satisfying the senses, in the way that the common man seeks satisfaction by satisfying the senses. What the bodhisattva wants to obtain – via senses that are appeased, or made content, or kept happy, or satisfied – is not temporary sensory satisfaction but rather those dharmas, or timeless teachings, which might be a means whereby to realize what is ageless and deathless.

In that case,
  • durlabham means hard-won in the sense of uncommon, rare -- the bodhisattva knew that what he was pursuing was a cut above what the common man pursues; 
  • śāntam means quieted because the bodhisattva knew that karma, ignorance, thirsting and the like must be completely abandoned (see e.g. BC12.73, 76, 82); 
  • ajaram and amṛtam mean not subject to aging and dying;
  • and param means what lies beyond the far shore of saṁsāra, the ultimate -- nothing less (see e.g. BC12.88).

dhyāna-pravartanāt (abl. sg.): because of progression through the dhyānas; by progress in meditating
pravartana: n. advance , forward movement , rolling or flowing forth ; n. going on , coming off , happening , occurrence ; n. causing to appear , bringing about , advancing , promoting , introducing , employing , using
dharmāḥ (nom. pl.): m. dharma, teaching ; that which is established or firm

prāpyante = 3rd pers. pl. passive pra- √āp: to attain to ; reach , arrive at , meet with , find ; to obtain , receive
yaiḥ (inst. pl.): by which
avāpyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive ava- √āp: to reach , attain , obtain , gain , get

durlabham (nom. sg. n.): mfn. hard to gain, rare ; extraordinary , eminent
śāntam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. appeased , pacified , tranquil , calm , free from passions , undisturbed
ajaram (nom. sg. n.): mfn. not subject to old age , undecaying , ever young

param (nom. sg. n.): mfn. beyond; highest, ultimate, best
tad (nom. sg. n.): mfn. that
amṛtam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. deathless, immortal, undying
padam (nom. sg.): n. step, state

如是等妙法 悉由飮食生 

Monday, November 17, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.105: Stillness & Progress – The Right Thing Does Itself

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svastha-prasanna-manasaḥ samādhir upapadyate |
samādhi-yukta-cittasya dhyāna-yogaḥ pravartate || 12.105 

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.

Translation is a losing game.

Because translation is a losing game, the temptation as a translator is often to over-egg the pudding, saying more in English than was there in the original Sanskrit. The temptation, in every sphere of human endeavour, is always to do too much.

Six years ago I was drawn to today's verse by Patrick Olivelle's striking translation of it.
PO: Mental concentration springs up when one's mind is well and serene, And practice of trance advances when concentration grips one's mind.
Concentration gripping one's mind resonates with Dogen's description of the Zen ancestors being gripped by stillness (GOCCHI NI SAERARU). And, probably because of my experience of pulling myself down for 13 years in Japan before Alexander work gave me the experience of springing up again, I am always drawn to descriptions of springing up. Thus six years ago when I first laid hands on the Clay Sanskrit Library edition of Buddhacarita, translated by PO, I see that I wrote next to today's verse the Chinese character for balance, , which represents the Sanskrit samādhi. I drew 定 surrounded by a circle with an arrow pointing upwards, like the male symbol. 
Somewhat disappointingly, however, on further investigation, the upa- of upa-√pad does not seem to mean “up.” The ut- of ut-√pad means “up.” Thus the MW dictionary defines ut-√pad as “to arise” and sam-ut-√pad as “to spring up together.” But for upa-√pad the dictionary seems to indicate not so much the sense of springing up as the sense of drawing near or setting in or simply taking place. The noun upapāda is given as “happening.”

As further confirmation that translation is a losing game, here for comparison are EBC's and EHJ's translations of today's verse:
EBC: True meditation is produced in him whose mind is self-possessed and at rest, — to him whose thoughts are engaged in meditation the exercise of perfect contemplation begins at once.
EHJ: The man whose mind is well-balanced and serene develops concentrated meditation when the mind is possessed of concentrated meditation; the practice of trance begins.

And here is my own effort of six years ago which strikes me, as I read it now, as another manifestation of doing too much. 

When the mind is well and serene,
Physical balance asserts itself;
And when balance is in the harness of intelligence,
Zen practice gets going.

There again, in six years time, if I am still around, I may well look back on how today I have translated today's verse, and shake my head again. The pendulum may swing back so that  I think the distinction was after all worth emphasizing that samādhi is primarily a state of physical balance (as opposed to mental concentration, as per PO), and citta means mind in the sense of the thinking mind, or the intelligence.

Six years ago, I would have been conscious, in translating today's verse as I did, of the Alexander teacher Walter Carrington's pamphlet titled "Balance as a Function of Intelligence." But today, for what reason exactly I don't know, I am content just to follow EHJ in taking citta as synonymous with manas, and simply translating "the mind." 

Translation never stops being a losing game. Maybe what changes over time is a bloke's desire to assert himself as a winner, or indeed as a champion loser. 

If the right thing is allowed to do itself, such ambition, one would think, ought to wane. On the other hand if such ambition is suppressed, rather than being dealt with skilfully, such ambition is liable to spring up again with explosive force! 

But in conclusion, what is it, if not samādhi, that we want to spring up. In the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, Springing Up, By Going Back, what is it that is supposed to spring up?

If we go back to Nāgārjuna's words in MMK, the closest thing to an answer to this question might be jñānasyāsyaiva, just that act of knowing which springs up into being not because I am so skilled in manipulating it, but rather tattva-darśanāt, because of reality making itself known, because of the right thing doing itself.

saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ |
avidvān kārakas tasmān na vidvāṁs tattva-darśanāt ||MMK26.10
avidyāyāṁ niruddhāyāṁ saṁskārāṇām asaṁbhavaḥ |
avidyāyā nirodhas tu jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt ||MMK26.11
tasya tasya nirodhena tat-tan nābhipravartate |
duḥkha-skandhaḥ kevalo 'yam evaṁ samyaṅ nirudhyate ||MMK26.12
The doings which are the root of saṁsāra thus does the dopey one do. / The dopey one therefore is the doer; the wise one is not, because of reality making itself known (tattva-darśanāt). //MMK26.10// In the destruction of ignorance, there is the non-coming-into-being of doings./ The destruction of ignorance, however, is because of the allowing-into-being of just this act of knowing (jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt). //MMK26.11// 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.//MMK26.12//

svastha-prasanna-manasaḥ (gen. sg. m.): whose mind is composed and tranquil
svastha: mfn. self-abiding , being in one's self (or " in the self " Sarvad. ), being in one's natural state , being one's self uninjured , unmolested , contented , doing well , sound, well , healthy ; composed
prasanna: mfn. clear , bright , pure (lit. and fig.) ; placid, tranquil

sam-ādhiḥ (nom. sg.): m. putting together ; union ; setting to rights , adjustment , settlement ; concentration of the thoughts ,
upapadyate = 3rd pers. sg. upa- √ pad: to go towards ; to approach , come to , arrive at , enter ; to reach , obtain , partake of ; to enter into any state ; to take place , come forth , be produced , appear , occur , happen ; to be present , exist
upa-: ind. (a preposition or prefix to verbs and nouns , expressing) towards , near to (opposed to apa , away) , by the side of , with , together with , under , down (e.g. upa- √gam , to go near , undergo); near to , at , on , upon ; at the time of , upon , up to , in , above
upapāda: m. happening

samādhi-yukta-cittasya (gen. sg. m.): whose mind is taken over by balanced stillness
yukta: mfn. set to work , made use of , employed , occupied with , engaged in , intent upon (instr. loc. or comp.); absorbed in abstract meditation , concentrated , attentive ; furnished or endowed or filled or supplied or provided with , accompanied by , possessed of (instr. or comp.)
citta:  n. attending , observing ; n. thinking , reflecting , imagining , thought ; heart, mind ; intelligence, reason 

dhyāna-yogaḥ (nom. sg.): m. profound meditation (or " meditation and abstraction ")
yoga: m. the act of yoking ; any junction , union , combination , contact with (instr. with or without saha , or comp.) ; a means , expedient , device , way , manner , method ; partaking of , possessing (instr. or comp.) ;
pravartate = 3rd pers. sg. pra- √ vṛt: to roll or go onwards (as a carriage) , be set in motion or going ; to come forth , issue , originate , arise , be produced , result , occur , happen , take place

寂靜離老死 第一離諸垢