Saturday, April 19, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.10: The Human Transmission of a Cornerstone of Direction

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Rāmā)
śreṇyo 'tha bhartā magadhājirasya bāhyād-vimānād-vipulaṁ janaugham |
dadarśa papraccha ca tasya hetuṁ tatas-tam-asmai puruṣaḥ śaśaṁsa || 10.10

And so Śreṇya, master of the Magadha domain,

From an outer palace turret, saw the great throng,

And inquired into the motive behind it.

Then a man conveyed that [motive] to him.

Today's verse on the surface means:
And so Śreṇya, master of the Magadha domain, from an outer palace turret, saw the great throng, / And asked the reason for it. Then a man told him the reason. //

Read like this, today's verse is important for the narrative; but for a bloke who sits it does not offer any teaching point in its own right.

So, proceeding from the prejudice that every verse Aśvaghoṣa wrote offers something for a bloke who sits to dig for, let us do some digging, word by word.

On the surface, papraccha ca tasya hetum simply means “and asked the reason of it” [EBC] or “and enquired the reason thereof” [EHJ] or “and inquired about the reason for it” [PO]. But,
  • prach with an accusative can mean not only to ask or to enquire but also (as per PO) to inquire about, or inquire into. 
  • tasya is genitive rather than locative. “The reason for it” would (the dictionary indicates) more normally be tasmin hetum. This would not scan. But I suspect that considerations of metre were not the only reason Aśvaghoṣa went for the genitive tasya hetum. I think Aśvaghoṣa might have been inviting us to ask into the general problem of human motivation. Therefore not so much "the reason for it" as "the motive of/in it." 
  • hetu indeed, according to the dictionary, before it means cause or reason, means motive.
On the surface tatas-tam-asmai puruṣaḥ śaśaṁsa simply means “and thus did a man recount it to him” [EBC] or “Then an officer explained it to him” [EHJ] or “then, an official of his informed him” [PO]. But,
  • tataḥ sometimes carries a stronger meaning than “and so” or “and thus” or “then”; tataḥ sometimes means “on those grounds.” Here, taken with papraccha, it might mean “on the grounds of inquiry.” And in that case “on the grounds of inquiry” might mean not only intellectual asking; “on the grounds of inquiry” might mean on the grounds of independent investigation, for oneself, with one's whole body and mind.
  • puruṣaḥ can mean not only a man, not only a bloke, but a human being – a man or a woman as distinct, for example, from an animal or from a god.
  • śaṁs has a variety of meanings including not only to tell or to relate but also to praise or to commend.
  • tam could refer to the motive (that [motive]) or to King Śreṇya (to him).
  • asmai, equally, as the dative of ayam (this), could refer to this motive (in its direction) or to this king (in the direction of this [king]).
If tam refers to the motive and asmai refers to the king:
“On those grounds, a human being conveyed that [motive] to him.”
But if tam refers to the king and asmai to the motive:
“On those grounds, a human being commended him in the direction of this [motive].”

If we dig below the surface, then, today's verse can be read as inviting reflection on what human motivation is, and what in the way of motivation is communicated in the one-to-one transmission between teacher and student.

Read like this, today's verse doesn't so much provide unequivocal answers as it equivocally raises questions.

But one thing that I would venture to assert with some certainty, on this Easter weekend when BBC Radio 4 is full of utter horseshit about Jesus's resurrection, is that puruṣaḥ means nothing more or nothing less than a man, a bloke, a human being.

Though puruṣaḥ is a masculine form, and in context it suggests a man, so that to translate it as “a human being” would sound odd, I think Aśvaghoṣa's intention is to emphasize that this conveyer of motive was nothing more or nothing less than a human being.

In Judaism, in Christianity, and in Islaam, what is believed in was originally revealed to a human being by some superhuman agency called, for example, God. But in this tradition that we are studying with Aśvaghoṣa, no such spurious claim is made for divine revelation.

Rather, a human student is requried to make the inquiry for himself or for herself. That is the condition, today's verse as I read it suggests, for a human teacher to convey what can be conveyed.

The motive, again, has been transmitted from seven ancient buddhas who were all human beings, from Śākaymuni who was a human being, through Aśvaghoṣa who was a human being, through Nāgārjuna who was a human being, through Dogen who was a human being, et cetera.

The first of the four cornerstones of direction, according to Nāgārjuna, is hetu, motive, or the motivational. So if I ask myself what hetu in today's verse means, I think hetu is a name that Nāgārjuna gave to the first cornerstone of direction, which is related with being in or out of the grip of the Moro reflex, and equally is related with FM Alexander's direction “to let the neck be free.” It is related in traditional Zen terminology with trying to make a mirror or being content to polish a tile. The corresponding Alexander jargon is end-gaining vs means-whereby.

But what is vital in the end is not discussion of four cornerstones. The vital thing, ultimately, is direction itself – in which matter motive is primary. Various blokes have conveyed this to me, not only in theory but in practice, via their own conscious direction. Foremost among them was a bloke named Marjory Barlow.

In conclusion, today's verse on the surface does not have anything to do with sitting-meditation, but if we dig below the surface it leads us in the end to ask:

Which way is up?

śreṇyaḥ (nom. sg.): m. N. of a king (= śreṇika); = bimbi-sāra
atha: and then
bhartā (nom. sg.): m. a preserver , protector , maintainer , chief , lord , master
magadhājirasya (gen. sg.): the lord of the land of the Magadhas
magadha: m. the country of the magadhas , South Behar (pl. the people of that country)
ajira: n. place to run or fight in , area , court [EHJ note: the exact meaning of ajira here is uncertain)

bāhyāt (abl. sg. m.); mfn. being outside (a door , house , &c ) , situated without (abl. or comp.) , outer , exterior ; not belonging to the family or country , strange , foreign
vimānāt (abl. sg.): m. the palace of an emperor or supreme monarch (esp. one with 7 stories)
vipulam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. large , extensive , wide , great
janaugham (acc. sg.): m. a multitude of people , crowd

dadarśa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. dṛś: to see
papraccha = 3rd pers. sg. perf. prach: to ask , question , interrogate (acc.); to ask after, inquire about (acc.)
ca: and
tasya (gen. sg): of it
hetum (acc. sg.): m. " impulse " , motive , cause , cause of , reason for (loc. , rarely dat. or gen.)

tataḥ: ind. then
tam (acc. sg. m): that [cause]
asmai (dat. sg.): to him, for that
ayam: this , this here , referring to something near the speaker
puruṣaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a man, a person, a human being
śaśaṁsa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. śaṁs: to recite , repeat (esp. applied to the recitation of texts in the invocations addressed by the hotṛ to the adhvaryu , when śaṁs is written śoṁs and the formulas śoṁsāmas , śoṁsāvas , śoṁsāva are used) ; to praise , extol ; to praise , commend , approve ; to wish anything (acc.) to (dat.) ; to relate , say , tell , report

爾時瓶沙王 處於高觀上
見彼諸士女 惶惶異常儀
勅召一外人 備問何因縁

恭跪王樓下 具白所見聞 

Friday, April 18, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.9: Royal Feathers Get Ruffled

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Vāṇī)
dṣṭvā ca sorṇa-bhruvam-āyatākṣaṁ jvalac-charīraṁ śubha-jāla-hastam |
taṁ bhikṣu-veṣaṁ kṣiti-pālanārhaṁ saṁcukṣubhe rājaghasya lakṣmīḥ || 10.9

On seeing him, moreover,
with the circle of hair between his eyebrows
and with his widely extending eyes,

With his shining body and beautiful webbed hands,

On seeing in a beggar's garb him who was fit to rule the earth,

The Royal Grace of Rājagṛha was ruffled.

The suggestion in today's verse, as I read it, is that the combination of a prince's god-like virtues and his wearing of a beggar's robe caused feathers to be ruffled. Something or someone was perturbed.

Aśvaghoṣa called that something or someone rājagṛhasya lakṣmīḥ, translated by EBC as “the Goddess of Rājagṛha,” by EHJ as “Rājagṛha's Goddess of Fortune,” and by PO as “The Royal fortune of Raja-griha.”

Among the dictionary definitions of lakṣmi which seem significant are: 
1. grace , and 
2. the Good Genius or Fortune of a king personified (and often regarded as a rival of his queen). 

The former definition, grace, suggests a state   something before perturbation. The latter suggests a female entity  – someone to whom a king attaches, the personification of feminine virtues such as beauty, loveliness and grace, and at the same time the female personification of kingly power, dominion and majesty.

What, then, was ruffled? And what has it got to do with me, as a bloke who sits?

I think Aśvaghoṣa might be intending to suggest that what was ruffled was the value system that prevailed in Rājagṛha at that time. 

The bodhisattva's attitude challenged prevailing values in the way that science challenged religion. Science was dangerous to kings because it challenged the religious assumptions – like direct descent from God – upon which royal legitimacy used to be based.

Neither of these challenges was a direct challenge; neither involved so-called “direct action” or forming of revolutionary groups bearing guillotines. Neither was even motivated by a desire to challenge the powers that be. The motivation, in each case, was rather a desire simply to go in the direction of knowing whatever truth can be known. 

I think that what today's verse has got to do with, then, again, is the anya (being different) of anya-kriya (different work). Being different sometimes means not conforming to convention. And when individuals do not conform to social convention, the feathers of people in authority are prone to be ruffled, especially in countries which are less tolerant of individual differences.

Speaking of the desire to know, and not conforming, I was reflecting as I cycled this morning to the bread shop on my own chequered career.

At primary school I used to like doing, and was good at doing, problems that started off sounding complicated but which ended up having a simple solution. If it takes twelve men with twenty-four sandwiches six hours to dig two holes... that kind of problem. The answer was invariably a nice round number, like four, or like one. If the answer came out to a clumsy fraction, the answer was generally wrong. Somehow I got it into my head at an early age that there must be a big simple answer out there somewhere, and the aim of my life was to find it. 

A veteran Alexander teacher once cautioned me, to the contrary, against getting Zen and Alexander work muddled up with each other. For her they were in parallel, but not the same. I eventually gave up having lessons with her, which in any case were a strain on the finances. Two truths in parallel with each other was never the solution I was looking for. 

The Zen Patriarch Nāgārjuna wrote of four pratyaya, which I call the cornerstones of direction. The fourth cornerstone is adhipateyam, “this present state of being the adhipa.” The adhipa means the commander, the king, the bloke who calls the shots. 

I come to the forest here in France to be that bloke – the king of the universe. Having travelled down the canal, and got lost in the city, and then kept pedalling forward, even though the going was somewhat hard, I have arrived at the forest, where I now am. 

Here by the forest, most of the time, it is very quiet. That helps me a lot, since noise tends to stimulate my auditory Moro reflex. Quiet surroundings, for me, are very conducive to the neck releasing. Since the Moro reflex, and equally a stiffened neck, are all tied up with end-gaining, or thirsting for a result, all this relates to the first of Nāgārjuna's four cornerstones of direction, the first cornerstone being the motivational. 

At the same time, my ear is helped by the singing of songbirds, cooing of pigeons, and of cuckoos, in many directions. The ear is the organ not only of hearing but also of spatial orientation, or listening to oneself in the gravitational field. Standing on the earth with a hazel thumbstick in hand, touching the earth through my feet and through the stick, and being aware through peripheral vision of mighty trees towering up into the vast sky... this also helps me a lot. In more cramped spaces, I tend easily to pull my head back and down. But here my head seems easily to remember where it wants to go, which is in a direction Alexander called “forward and up.” This description relates to the second of Nāgārjuna's four cornerstones of direction, the second cornerstone being the gravitational.

The third cornerstone of direction, as I understand it, relates to proper coordination of the two sides of the self, such that there is no gap. It is a direction which Alexander called widening of the back.

And the fourth cornerstone, as mentioned already, relates to a momentary sense of being in command. In Rājagṛha the person who was nominally in command was King Śreṇya. But truly being in command, as king of one's own universe, might ultimately be a function of the direction that Alexander called sending the knees “forwards and away.” When life becomes complicated I tend to fail to send my knees forwards and away. Conversely, when I fail to send my knees forwards and away, life tends to become complicated. So life in the city, where I am not the king, easily descends into a vicious spiral. But life alone by the forest, where presently I am the king, tends to ascend in a virtuous spiral.

I am making this record, as usual, mainly for my own benefit. I don't expect anybody will be able to understand what I am going on about.

When I discussed my understanding of Nāgārjuna's four cornerstones of direction with my wife, she understood well enough where I was coming from. But, she told me, she would never have begun to understand without her years of Alexander experience.

I submit that there are four cornerstones which exist a priori – prior to Zen and prior to the Alexander Technique. They are four cornerstones of the human neuro-physiology which we all share. To paraphrase one of Sting's better lyrics, “We share the same neuro-physiology, regardless of ideology.” Proceeding from these grounds, it seems to me, makes for simplicity.

Finally, speaking of simplicity, I remember a story from Shobogenzo that strikes me as relevant to today's verse. It is the story of how Dogen's teacher Tendo Nyojo gave a dharma-talk as a memorial to a wealthy supporter's relative, after which the grateful supporter offered Master Tendo a substantial donation of gold pieces. The Master very politely but insistently refused the gift. 

“Why did he refuse the gift?” I asked my teacher at the time. 
“Couldn't he have accepted the gold and used it for some constructive purpose?”

The answer that came back was this:
“Master Tendo was just enjoying his simple life.”

That, I think, is what Nāgārjuna meant by adhipateyam, “this present state of being in overall command.” It is not an intellectual realization but is a function of simply sitting in lotus and not-doing what Alexander called allowing the knees to go forwards and away. This direction, in turn, is a function of the fourth of four vestibular reflexes whose development and inhibition cause a baby, at aged around 6 months, to come up from its tummy into the cat-sit position. As long as this reflex holds sway, a person is not in overall control of himself or herself. Rather, the reflex, is dictating that the upper body does one thing and the hips and legs do another (as in the cat-sit position, where the neck and arms are extended, and the hips and knees are flexed). 

Nāgārjuna, it needs to be said, finally, not only affirmed the existence of four cornerstones. He also wrote of the four cornerstones in very negative terms – somewhat similarly to Charles Sherrington who in his pioneering book on reflexes, “The Integrative Action of the Nervous System” [1906], wrote of “the convenient fiction of the simple reflex.”

dṛṣṭvā = abs. dṛś: to see, behold
śubhorṇabhruvam [EBC] (acc. sg. m.): with his beautiful circle of hair between the eyebrows
śubha: mfn. beautiful
ūrṇā: f, wool , a woollen thread , thread ; a cobweb ; a circle of hair between the eyebrows
bhrū: f. eyebrow
ca: and
sorṇa-bhruvam = acc. sg. sorṇa-bhrū: mfn. having a circle of hair between the eye-brows Bcar. i , 65 (conj.)

āyatākṣam (acc. sg. m.): having longish eyes
āyata: mfn. stretched , lengthened , extending

jvalac-charīram (acc. sg. m.): having a glowing body
jvalat = pres. part. jval: to burn brightly , blaze , glow , shine
śubha-jāla-hastam (acc. sg. m.): having hands with a beautiful webbing
jāla: n. a net ; any reticulated or woven texture ; " the web or membrane on the feet of water-birds " » -pāda the finger- and toe-membrane of divine beings and godlike personages

tam (acc. sg. m.): him
bhikṣu-veṣam (acc. sg. m.): with beggar's garb
kṣiti-pālanārham (acc. sg. m.):
kṣiti: f. earth
pālana: n. the act of guarding , protecting , nourishing , defending
pāl: to watch , guard , protect , defend , rule , govern
arha: mfn. meriting , deserving ; becoming , proper , fit (with gen. or ifc.)

saṁcukṣubhe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. saṁ- √ kṣubh: to shake about violently , agitate , toss , excite
kṣubh: to shake , tremble , be agitated or disturbed , be unsteady , stumble (literally and metaphorically)
rājagṛhasya (gen. sg.): of Rāja-gṛha
lakṣmīḥ (nom. sg.): f. beauty , loveliness , grace , charm , splendour , lustre ; N. of the goddess of fortune and beauty ; the Good Genius or Fortune of a king personified (and often regarded as a rival of his queen) , royal power , dominion , majesty

眉間白毫相 脩廣紺青目
擧體金光曜 清淨網縵手
雖爲出家形 有應聖王相
王舍城士女 長幼悉不安
此人尚出家 我等何俗歡

Thursday, April 17, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.8: Undiluted Mindfulness

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Upendravajrā)
bhruvau lalāṭaṁ mukham-īkṣaṇe vā vapuḥ karau vā caraṇau gatiṁ vā |
yad-eva yas-tasya dadarśa tatra tad-eva tasyātha babandha cakṣuḥ || 10.8

Eyebrows, forehead, mouth, or organs of seeing;

Body or hands; feet or manner of going –

Whatever aspect of him any of them looked at,

To that very target her or his eye was bound.

The first two or three hours of my day are generally devoted to sitting and then this blog. After publishing a post, I generally do some kind of practical work – preferably in the garden – and then sit again.

Today, however, has been different. Last night I woke up in the middle of the night with a headache and feeling my heart pounding. Were the fingers of my left hand tingling, or was I imagining it? I sat up for a while in lotus, memorized today's verse, and lay down again. I hope, I thought to myself before going back to sleep, I am not going to be found lying dead between these mildewed sheets in a house that is in need of some serious cleaning – since I left it in a hurry at the end of last summer after my wife's dog had to be put to sleep, and the house could have done with a clean then, seven and a half months ago, let alone now.

So the first thing I did this morning was to load the washing machine, and while it was churning I started cleaning the kitchen. By the time the first load of washing was ready to hang out to dry, I was still cleaning the kitchen, so I put another load in, and carried on cleaning the kitchen some more. 

One good thing about this place in France is that over the years I have planted loads of lavender, mainly from cuttings, and so the lavender plants provide a good base, on a sunny day, for drying and airing sheets and pillow-cases. Plus the somewhat tattered old kaṣāya, sewn twenty-five years ago, that I leave here in France.

So it was getting on for noon before finally, out in the garden, I crossed my legs under the shade of a hedge and looked out on the weed-strewn garden landscape and listened to the birds singing. Towering to my right, reminding me of that element of direction which is the gravitational, a big ash tree was already in bloom. I can see it now, through the upstairs window, as I write.

Pretty much as soon as I sat down, it occurred to me that today's verse is really about what the Buddha called samyak smṛtiḥ, true mindfulness. And the agents of that true mindfulness are the women and men described in yesterday's verse as being devoted to different work.

If today's verse were really all about the bodhisattva, if it were really all about his eye-catching beauty, then it might gladden the heart of a religious, bodhisattva-worshipping Buddhist, but it wouldn't mean much to me.

On the surface, today's verse is indeed a description, befitting a kāvya poem, of how the people's eyes couldn't help be riveted on any part of the bodhisattva upon which they happened to alight, so strikingly beautiful was he. Hence EHJ cross-references today's verse to Rām, 5.22.15.

But it occurred to me when I sat that what Aśvaghoṣa might actually have had in mind was the kind of experience one sometimes has when one starts on some practical job – like sewing a kaṣāya, for example, or cleaning the kitchen – and finds it difficult to stop.

That might be one criteria for the difference in different work. Ordinary work is like cycling whose main motivation is a stiff-necked desire to get to a destination – or worse, still, cycling whose motivation is stiff-necked fear, the desire to get quickly away from a dangerous situation. Ordinary work is hard work, work that is hard to carry on doing. Different work is work that, when one gets in the zone, is difficult to stop doing.

To put it another way, in ordinary work one's attention is more or less focused on an end to be gained, whereas in different work attention can't help but be bound to the immediate task in hand. 

The first definition in the dictionary of the samyak of samyak smṛtiḥ is: going along with or together, turned together or in one direction, combined, united.

I think it was Chogyam Trungpa who said that the samyak of samyak smṛtiḥ means straight in the sense that whisky without ice or water added is straight – undiluted, in other words.

nyāyena satyābhigamāya yuktā samyak smṛtiḥ samyag-atho samādhiḥ /
True mindfulness, properly harnessed 
so as to bring one close to the truths; and true balance:
idaṃ dvayaṃ yoga-vidhau pravṛttaṃ śamāśrayaṃ citta-parigrahāya // SN16.33 //
These two, pertaining to practice, 
are for mastery, based on tranquillity, of the mind.

bhruvau (acc. dual): f. an eyebrow , the brow
lalāṭam (acc. sg.): n. the forehead , brow
mukham (acc. sg.): n. the mouth, face
īkṣaṇe (acc. dual): n. a look , view , aspect;regarding , looking after , caring for ; sight ; eye
īkṣ: to see , look , view , behold , look at , gaze at
vā: or

vapuḥ (acc. sg.): n. form, body
karau (acc. dual): m. " the doer " , the hand
vā: or
caraṇau (acc. dual): mn. foot
gatim (acc. sg.): f. going , moving , gait , deportment , motion in general ; manner or power of going ; procession , march , passage , procedure , progress , movement
vā: or

yad (acc. sg. n.): which, to whatever
eva: (emphatic)
yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): who
tasya (gen. sg.): of him
dadarśa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. dṛś
tatra: ind. there, on that, to that place

tad (acc. sg. n.): that
eva: (emphatic)
tasya (gen. sg.): of him
atha: then, and then
babandha = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bandh: to bind ; to catch , take or hold captive
cakṣuḥ (acc. sg.): n. n. faculty of seeing , sight; eye

士女公私業 一時悉休廢
敬形宗其徳 隨觀盡忘歸 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.7: A Whole Other Direction

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Rāmā)
anya-kriyāṇām-api rāja-mārge strīṇāṁ nṇāṁ vā bahu-māna-pūrvam |
taṁ deva-kalpaṁ nara-deva-sūnuṁ nirīkṣamāṇā na tatarpa dṣṭiḥ || 10.7

Though on the royal road they were engaged in different work,

Adoring women and men beheld him,

The god-like sun of a man-god,

But satisfaction was not realized by their admiring gaze.

There are some textual uncertainties in today's verse, the main one surrounding the two syllables (and one missing syllable) that EHJ read in his text as tatarpa. EBC read the same three syllables as tu tasya and translated the 4th pāda, “but his eyes never looked upon them.”

Assuming that EHJ's reading is correct, I think the suggestion, below the surface, might be another irreligious one – namely that what realizes satisfaction in the end is not an admiring gaze, or any other kind of view (dṛṣṭi). Ultimate satisfaction might rather lie in the direction of abandoning all views (sarva-dṛṣṭi-prahaṇāya).

That is not to say that criticism is necessarily implied of the women and men who adoringly beheld the bodhisattva. On the contrary, the api in the 1st pāda can be read as suggesting that the gazing was the momentary lapse of men and women who were sincerely devoted to practice on the royal road – the royal road meaning, for example, the way of ones who have given up habitual preoccupations and thrown themselves into work that his different, other, alternative (anya).

EBC tranlated anya-kriyāṇām api as “even though they were intent on other business,” EHJ as “busied though they were with other affairs,” and PO as “although they were busy with other tasks.” These translations are in line with the surface meaning, but as we saw numerous times in Saundara-nanda, Aśvaghoṣa often seems to use the word anya to mean different, other, alternative, individual, not conforming to generic stereotype or unexamined expectation.

Today I cycled from Caen to the Foret Des Andaines in Southern Normandy. Hence the late posting, and hence I am too tired right now to write anything succinct and original on the subject of anya-kriya, or being engaged in work/action/practice that is different/other/alternative.

I can remember what I was thinking this morning, though, as I cycled on busy main roads leading out of Caen. Last night I cycled in the dark along the canal tow path that leads from the ferry port of Ouistreham to Caen city centre, where I soon got lost. Relying on the kindness of strangers, I was pointed in the right direction by a young couple. They asked me to follow them in their battered old Fiat punto. They drove to the road I was looking for, the D613 on which a cheap hotel I had booked into was located, on a big industrial estate. Typically enough I got lost again looking for the hotel itself. I blame a combination of inadequate preparation (too much optimism) and a congenitally terrible sense of direction. 

This morning as I cycled out of Caen I reflected on how cycling on a busy main road was affecting my internal direction, which, under the influence of adrenaline, was not at all consciously controlled. As big trucks rumbled close by me, I cycled along too fast, as if I had energy to spare, which in fact I didn't. But at least as it was happening, I knew it was happening, and I knew that what I wanted to happen, and what I hoped would happen as the roads became quieter, was that the habitual, unconscious direction would give way to something different, something other, something anya – like allowing of the neck to be free, allowing of the head to go forward and up, allowing of the back to lengthen and widen, and allowing of the knees to go forwards and away.

As it turned out, the whole thing was a struggle with stiffened neck from beginning to end. I was no kind of advertisement at any stage in the process for Zen polishing of a tile, or for application of Aleander's means-whereby principle. In one Bar Tabac where I stopped for a cup of hot chocolate, I happened to read an article in which a winning cyclist had described his victory as not pretty (jolie) but beautiful (belle). Well my trip was neither pretty nor beautiful. It was same old, same old. Same old ugly end-gaining on a common and profane road. Satisfaction was not realized.

The fact remains, however, though I am demonstrably not immune from making a pig's ear of allowing a true upward direction, the FM Alexander Technique, starting 20 years ago, caused me to be aware of a whole other possibility in the matter of allowing myself to be directed up.

In 1959 I emerged out of the birth canal. I had a congenitally dodgy vestibular system, but I was surrounded by benevolent people in 1960s Britain – especially my working-class grandparents – who lovingly pointed me in the right direction. Twenty-two years later I met Gudo Nishijima and for 13 years, I did my damnedest to sit upright for as many hours in the days as I could find. Then 20 years ago I first became aware that what I thought and felt was up was actually down. There was this whole other direction that Alexander teachers were able to put me in touch with, which was truly up.

My feeling is not reliable, but I don't feel in touch right now with this whole other direction, even though I am writing about it. I feel knackered out.

anya-kriyāṇām (gen. pl.): mfn. intent on other business, Bcar.
api: even, though
rāja-mārge (loc. sg.): m. the king's highway , a royal or main road , principal street (passable for horses and elephants) ; (met.) the great path Sarvad. ; the way or method of kings

strīṇām (gen. pl.): f. woman
nṛṇām (gen. pl.): m. men
vā: or (sometimes interchangeable with ca and api , and is frequently combined with other particles , esp. with atha , atho* , uta , kim , yad , yadi q.v. [e.g. atha vā , " or else "] ; it is also sometimes used as an expletive)
bahu-māna-pūrvam: with high esteem, with great regard
bahu-māna: m. high esteem or estimation , great respect or regard for (with loc. of pers. or thing , rarely with gen. of pers.)
pūrvam: ifc. in the sense of " with " e.g. prīti-pūrvam , with love

tam (acc. sg. m.): him
deva-kalpam (acc. sg. m.) resembling a god
kalpa: m. (ifc.) having the manner or form of anything , similar to , resembling , like but with a degree of inferiority , almost
nara-deva-sūnum (acc. sg. m.): the son of a man-god

nirīkṣamāṇā = nom. sg. f. pres. part. nir- √ īkṣ: to look at or towards , behold , regard , observe (also the stars) , perceive
na: not
tatarpa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. tṛp: to satisfy one's self , become satiated or satisfied , be pleased with (gen. instr. , or rarely loc.)
dṛṣṭiḥ (nom. sg.): f. seeing , viewing , beholding ; sight; view; eye , look , glance

政素輕躁儀 寂默加肅敬結恨心永解 慈和情頓増 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.6: Thinking Straight in the Physical Presence of Dharma

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bhadrā)
taṁ jihriyuḥ prekṣya vicitra-veṣāḥ prakīrṇa-vācaḥ pathi maunam-īyuḥ |
dharmasya sākṣād-iva saṁnikarṣe na kaś-cid-anyāya-matir-babhūva || 10.6

Fancy dressers when they saw him felt ashamed.

Random chatterers on the road fell silent.

As when in the physical presence of dharma,

Nobody had an irregular thought.

Recently I have been studying the first chapter of Nāgārjuna's mūla-madhyamaka-kārikā and have noticed that in Nāgārjuna's writing metaphor seems to be conspicuous by its absence. When compared with Aśvaghoṣa's writing, Nāgārjuna's writing seems drier than a dry bone. Unlike Nāgārjuna's writing, Aśvaghoṣa's writing is bursting with metaphor  like a florist's van on mother's day is bursting with flowers.

Thus today's verse as I read it, like yesterday's verse and the day before's, contains another metaphor for sitting itself.

Dharma closely makes its presence felt, in bodily form, when we are just sitting. And the essence of just sitting, in my book, and on my zafu (on a good day), is a kind of thinking straight.

Similarly the FM Alexander Technique, though people regard it – with some justification – as having to do with posture, was described by Alexander himself as “the most mental thing there is” and as “an exercise in learning how to think.”  

Springing up is a state of just sitting, dropping off body and mind and bells and whistles. At the same time, springing up includes thinking up. 

To think up is not to clothe oneself in something fancy, and is not to indulge in miscellaneous intellectual thoughts. 

It is easier to say what thinking up is not, than it is to say what thinking up is. 

Up is a direction. 

Even though a simple reflex is a convenient fiction, it nevertheless seems to me reasonable to speak of four primitive vestibular reflexes which can usefully be called the four cornerstones of direction.

Since a simple reflex is a fictitious construct, what I have just written should be assiduously negated, and should not be believed by a gullible mind for one moment. 

What use in any case is intellectual understanding of reflexes? Actions involving reflexes, by definition, have a strong involunary component. 

The cornerstones of direction, one might say, are made of the involuntary. 

One might say, in Sanskrit, pratyayāś-cāsvayaṁ-mayāḥ. 

... to be continued. 

tam (acc. sg. m.): him
jihriyuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. hrī: to feel shame , blush , be bashful or modest , be ashamed of any one (gen.) or anything (abl.)
prekṣya = abs. pra- √īkṣ: to look at, behold
vicitra-veṣāḥ (nom. pl. m.): those in many-coloured clothing
vicitra: mfn. variegated , many-coloured , motley , brilliant
veṣa: m. dress, apparel

prakīrṇa-vācaḥ (nom. pl. m.): those who spoke on miscellaneous subjects
prakīrṇa: mfn. scattered about ; mixed , containing various subjects , miscellaneous
vi-vācas: mfn. speaking in various ways
pathi (loc. sg.): m. road
maunam (acc. sg.): n. silence , taciturnity
īyuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. √i: to go

dharmasya (gen. sg.): m. dharma
sākṣāt: ind. (abl. of sākṣa ) with the eyes , with one's own eyes ; before one's eyes , evidently , clearly , openly , manifestly ; in person , in bodily form , personally , visibly , really , actually
sākṣa: (fr. sa + akṣa) having eyes
iva: like
saṁnikarṣe (loc. sg.): m. drawing near or together , approximation , close contact , nearness , neighbourhood , proximity , vicinity (e , " in the vicinity of , near " , with gen. or comp. ; āt , " from the neighbourhood or proximity of ")
 saṁ-ni- √ kṛṣ: to come into close or immediate contact with (instr.)

na: not
kaś-cid (nom. sg. m.): anybody
a-nyāya-matiḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having improper thoughts, Bcar.
a-nyāya: m. unjust or unlawful action ; impropriety , indecorum ; irregularity , disorder
mati: f. thought , design , intention , resolution , determination , inclination , wish , desire ; the mind , perception
babhūva = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bhū: to be, become

咸皆大歡喜 隨宜而供養
瞻仰尊勝顏 俯愧種種形

Monday, April 14, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.5: Showing Reverence (Or Not)

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
kaś-cit-tam-ānarca janaḥ karābhyāṁ sat-ktya kaś-cic-chirasā vavande |
snigdhena kaś-cid-vacasābhyananda-naivaṁ jagāmāpratipūjya kaś-cit || 10.5

Some people honoured him with joined hands;

Some properly paid homage, using their head;

Some sang his praises with devoted words.

Nobody, in this way, went without showing religious reverence.

Today's verse can be read, in parallel with yesterday's verse, as presenting a thesis in the 1st pāda, an antithesis in the 2nd pāda, a synthesis in the 3rd pāda – and an ironic suggestion of springing up in sitting in the 4th pāda.

In those terms, joining the palms together is habitual religious behaviour; in many cases, it might be a cursory gesture that expresses a person's devotional sentiment – without requiring much in the way of true devotion.

If such a perfunctory gesture is the thesis, then the antithesis might be something requiring more psycho-physical effort, like a full body prostration, or like a lesson in the FM Alexander Technique, learning in practice the principle that “the head leads and the body follows.”

But what we are dealing with here and now is a verse of Sanskrit kāvya poetry, devoted words, which an Indian Zen patriarch took pains to write.

In the 4th pāda, EHJ amended naivam (na + evam) to nainam (na + enam), and translated “none passed on without doing him reverence.” Keeping evam, however, as per the original text, seems to me to open up a hidden meaning which is once again suggestive of just sitting.

We saw in yesterday's verse how the 4th pāda on the surface meant that anybody who was sitting down, suddenly stood up. Below the surface, however, the 4th pāda was a punch-line suggesting that anybody who was sitting, sprang up in sitting – i.e. they dropped off body and mind.

Similarly in today's verse the 4th pāda means on the surface that everybody showed the bodhisattva religious reverence – e.g. by joining hands, bowing, reciting verses, burning incense, lighting candles, jingling bells, blowing whistles, and all the rest of it. But below the surface Aśvaghoṣa's ironic suggestion might be that there was nobody who sat as Aśvaghoṣa himself sat – hence evam, in this way.  There was nobody who just sat, without necessarily bothering about burning incense, bowing, contemplating, confessing, reading sutras, or doing any of the other practises that Tendo Nyojo called unnecessary...
Zen practice is body and mind dropping off, and just sitting has got it from the beginning. It is not necessary to burn incense, to perform prostrations, to contemplate the Buddha, to practise confession, or to read sutras.

kaś-cit (nom. sg. m.): someone
tam (acc. sg. m.): him
ānarca = 3rd pers. sg. perf. ṛc: to praise = arc: to praise; to honour or treat with respect
janaḥ (nom. sg.): m. person, people
karābhyām (inst. dual): m. 'doer', hand

sat-kṛtya: ind. (ind.p.) having treated with respect , having hospitably entertained ; devotedly , piously , zealously , eagerly
sat-√kṛ: to set right , put in order , arrange , prepare , adorn , garnish; to treat well or with respect , honour , treat or receive hospitably ; to pay the last honours to (acc.) , cremate
kaś-cit (nom. sg. m.): someone
śirasā (inst. sg.): n. the head
vavande = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vand: to praise , celebrate , laud , extol ; to show honour , do homage , salute respectfully or deferentially , venerate , worship , adore

snigdhena (inst. sg. n.): mfn. stickly, slippery, smooth ; adhesive , attached , affectionate , tender , friendly ; soft , mild , bland , gentle ; lovely , agreeable , charming
kaś-cit (nom. sg. m.): someone
vacasā (inst. sg.): n. speech, words
abhyananda = 3rd pers. sg. perf. abhi- √ nand: to rejoice at , salute , welcome , greet , hail ; to praise , applaud , approve

na: not
evam: ind. thus , in this way ; sometimes evam is merely an expletive
enam [EHJ] (acc. sg. m.): him
jagāma = 3rd pers. sg. perf. gam: to go
apratipūjya (a + abs. prati- √ pūj): without honouring
prati- √ pūj: to return a salutation , reverence , salute respectfully , honour , praise , commend , approve
prati: towards, in the direction of ; back , again , in return
√ pūj: to honour , worship , revere , respect , regard
kaś-cit (nom. sg. m.): anyone

四體諸相好 隨見目不移
恭敬來奉迎 合掌禮問訊