Saturday, November 1, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.89: Why I Don't Believe in Better


¦⏑−−−¦¦−−−⏑¦⏑−⏑−
tato hitvāśramaṁ tasya śreyo 'rthī kta-niścayaḥ |
¦⏑−−−¦¦⏑⏑−−¦⏑−⏑−
bheje gayasya rājarṣer nagarī-saṁjñam āśramam || 12.89  

12.89
Thus having abandoned the ashram of that sage,

Seeking better, with determination,

He betook himself to the hermitage of the royal seer Gaya –

To the ashram known as Nagarī.


COMMENT:
In today's verse śreyaḥ was traslated by EBC “final bliss,” by EHJ “the supreme good” and by PO simply “bliss.” In her translation of Saundarananda Linda Covill rendered śreyaḥ throughout as “excellence.”

The word śreyas is thought to be derived from the comparative of śrī, which means splendid or beautiful. So used as an adjective, śreyas can mean more splendid or better; and used as a (neuter) noun śreyas can mean “the better state." At the same time as a noun (generally masculine) śreyas can indicate “the bliss of final emancipation.”

Śreyas, then, can be understood to express something relative or comparative and at the same time something ultimate or final.

In this śreyas is like param, which featured in three of the previous four verses, where I translated it as “beyond” (BC12.85, 86) and as “the ultimate” (BC12.88).

In this, again, the Sanskrit words param and śreyas are like the Chinese word (tao; Jap: DO), which the Chinese used to represent both the Sanskrit word for the goal (bodhi, awakening), and for the means, (mārga, path).

Some Zen teachers opine that there is no goal in Zen, but only the way. The way is the goal. The goal is the way. 

This sounds good. And there may be some truth in it. 

But when we go back to how things were expressed by the Zen ancestors in India, the goal is anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi, the supreme, integral, full awakening; and the practical way there is the noble eightfold path (āryāṣṭāṅgamārgawith its three divisions of śila (integrity), samādhi (integration) and prajñā (integral wisdom).

And yet in today's verse as I read it, it is an open question whether śreyas primarily expresses the direction or the destination. Maybe by his use of param in three of the four previous verses, and śreyas in today's verse, Aśvaghoṣa wished to stimulate us to ask the question.

Thus stimulated, I reflected this morning, as I sat, what “seeking better” might actually mean, to a bloke who sits.

As a bloke who sits, I retreat to the forest in the summer, or I head for the round black cushion in the quiet of the early morning, with the idea in my head of allowing into being more completely the act of knowing.  I don't have the idea of cultivating wisdom.

Maybe this sounds too abstract to you. If so, fucking well wake up and pay attention!

Last week I took the trouble, out of the kindness to my heart, to endeavour to convey some sense of what inhibition is to a person who knew a little bit, from the Alexander Technique, and Pilates, about “core stability.” 

The Alexander Technique, FM Alexander said, is the most mental thing there is. But people don't see it like that. They see it as all about “core stability,” or curing back pain.

So as I lay on the floor with my knees bent, demonstrating the meaning of NOT moving a leg, of totally abandoning all idea of moving a leg, to a customer steeped in the wisdom of AT/Pilates, it all sounded too far removed to her from practical matters like moving a leg. So she insulted my teaching as being “abstract.” 

And I bit my lip. But now my repressed rage is exploding onto the computer screen! 

What śreyas, better, means to me is allowing into being more completely the act of knowing. This is not effort in the direction of doing something; on the contrary, it is effort in the direction of stopping off doing at source.

Thus when I read Nāgārjuna's words jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt I don't read them and don't translate them as “because of cultivating just this wisdom.” I understand them and translate them as “because of bringing-into-being just this act of knowing” or “because of allowing-into-being just this act of knowing.”

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 dopey one do.
The dopey one therefore is the doer;
The wise one is not, because of reality making itself known.

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

Thus, I don't believe in EBC's “final bliss” and don't believe in EHJ's “supreme good.” I don't believe in MW's good (as opposed to 'evil')”. I don't believe either in MW's “bliss of final emancipation.” I don't believe in śreyas. Despite the exhortations to which Sky TV subjects me, I don't believe in better. 

Rather, I submit to you the idea – call my teaching too abstract if you like – that śreyas, better, lies in the direction of more complete abandonment of the ignorance which leads to doing.

As such, śreyas is nothing to be believed in, but it might be something for each individual to look into for himself or herself, in his or her own practice of non-doing.

Apropos of which I will sign off by quoting some excellent words of the Alexander Teacher Walter Carrington:

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


VOCABULARY
tataḥ: ind. then, thence ; from that , in consequence of that
hitva = abs. hā: to leave, quit
āśramam (acc. sg.): mn. ashram, hermitage
tasya (gen. sg.): his

śreyaḥ (acc. sg.): n. the better state , the better fortune or condition (sometimes used when the subject of a sentence would seem to require the masc. form) ; m. good (as opp. to " evil ") , welfare , bliss , fortune , happiness ; m. the bliss of final emancipation , felicity ; mfn. (either compar. of śrī , or rather accord. to native authorities of śrī-mat or praśasya) more splendid or beautiful , more excellent or distinguished , superior , preferable , better
arthī (nom. sg. m.): mfn. active, industrious; one who wants or desires anything; longing for, libidinous
kṛta-niścayaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. determined, resolved, resolute

bheje = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bhaj: to go, betake oneself to
gayasya (gen. sg.): m. (fr. √ji) "what has been conquered or acquired" , a house , household , family , goods and chattels , contents of a house , property , wealth ; N. of a rājarṣi (performer of a celebrated sacrifice MBh. i , iii , iv , ix , xiii R. ii ; he was conquered by māndhātṛ )
rājarṣeḥ (gen. sg. m.): royal seer

nagarī-saṁjñam (acc. sg.): called “Nagarī”; called “the Town”
nagarī: f. = nagara: a town , city , N. of sev. cities
saṁjñā: f. consciousness ; a name , appellation , title , technical term (ifc. = " called , named")
āśramam (acc. sg.): mn. ashram, hermitage

更求勝妙道 進登伽闍山
城名苦行林 五比丘先住 

[There is no mention in the Sanskrit of  5 bhikṣus , 五比丘, until BC12.91; so there is some confusion of order in the Chinese.]  

Friday, October 31, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.88: The End of the Beginning?


¦⏑−−−¦¦⏑⏑−−¦⏑−⏑−
yasmāc ca tad api prāpya punar āvartate jagat |
¦⏑−−−¦¦−−−⏑¦⏑−⏑−
bodhi-sattvaḥ paraṁ prepsus tasmād udrakam atyajat || 12.88

12.88
But since, again, even having reached that state,

[The mind] returns to the jostling world,

Therefore, desiring to reach the ultimate,

The bodhisattva left Udraka.

COMMENT:
In today's verse as I read it Aśvaghoṣa advisedly calls the bodhisattva the bodhisattva, i.e. one who has established the bodhi-mind.

In Shobogenzo, Dogen often summarizes four stages as
  1. 発心 (HOSSHIN), establishment of the mind;
  2. 修行 (SHUGYO), practice, training;
  3. 菩提 (BODAI), bodhi, awakening; and
  4. 涅槃 (NEHAN), nirvāṇa, the serene and peaceful state.
In the present epic story of awakened action, the parts that cover 3. the Buddha's awakening and 4. his living and dying in the serene and peaceful state of nirvāṇa, are missing in the original Sanskrit. But the first twelve cantos up to around here can be read as covering 1. the establishment of the bodhi-mind. And from here until Aśvaghoṣa's Sanskrit runs out, we are set to enjoy Aśvaghoṣa's description of 2. the bodhisattva's practice – ascetic and otherwise.

Today's verse, then, as I ventured yesterday, can be read as representing the end of the beginning.

Dogen called the beginning, for short, 発心 (HOSSHIN), establishment of the mind. This stands for 発菩提心 (HOTSU-BODAI-SHIN), establishment of the bodhi-mind, or alternatively 無上 (HOTSU-MUJO-SHIN), establishment of the will to the supreme. 

 (MUJO), "the supreme,"  represents the Sanskrit an-uttara (lit. “without upper," "having nothing above it”), the best or most excellent – as in the phrase anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, the supreme integral full awakening.

In Chinese anuttara-samyak-sambodhi is 正等菩提 (Jap: MUJO-SHOTO-BODAI), the supreme integral bodhi, or 正等覚 (MUJO-SHOTO-KAKU), the supreme integral awakening.

In today's verse, then, param points beyond the jostling world of the living (saṁsāra) to the supreme integral awakening as, in EBC's translation “something beyond” and in EHJ's translation “the highest stage.”

Whereas EBC, EHJ and I have translated tasmād in the 4th pāda as “therefore,” PO may have taken tasmād as the ablative of tad, and so translated param...tasmād,  “[aiming to attain] a state beyond that.”

In any event, what is clear is that the bodhi-mind is not satisfied with what is anaiṣṭhikam (short of the ultimate; BC12.69), or akṛtsnam (incomplete; BC12.83). The bodhi-mind desires to reach beyond what is anaiṣṭhikam, short of the ultimate, and akṛtsnam, incomplete.

That being so, the best expression of the bodhi-mind might be to sit with shaved head, wearing a kaṣāya, with one's legs fully crossed, one's sitting bones on a firm cushion, one's knees on a thick mat, and one's whole being directed upward relative to the gravitational pull of the whole of mother earth.

The reason I regard my own teacher's teaching as having been incomplete has to do with this meaning of “being directed upward.” For my teacher this “being directed upward” seemed to be something one did, by tensing the lower back, pulling in the chin, and keeping the neck bones straight.

The doings which are the root of saṁsāra thus does the dopey one do.


VOCABULARY
yasmāt: ind. since, wherefore
ca: and
tad (acc. sg. n): it, that
api: even
prāpya = abs. pra- √āp: reach, realize

punaḥ: ind. back , home , in an opposite direction (with √ 1. gam , yā , to go back or away ; with √ dā , to give back , restore ; with √ bhū , to turn round ; with √ as and dat. , to fall back upon)again , once more; further , moreover , besides
āvartate = 3rd pers. sg. ā- √ vṛt: to turn or draw round or back or near ; to return, revolve
jagat (nom./acc. sg.): n. that which moves or is alive , men and animals , animals as opposed to men , men ; the world , esp. this world , earth

bodhi-sattvaḥ (nom. sg.): m. the bodhisattva, the one whose very being was awakening
param (acc. sg. n.): mfn. further, beyond ; better or worse than , superior or inferior to , best or worst , highest , supreme , chief (in the compar. meanings [where also -tara] , with abl.): ind. beyond
prepsuḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (fr. desid. pra- √āp) wishing to attain , desirous of obtaining , seeking , longing for , aiming at (acc. or comp.)

tasmāt: 1. ind. therefore, for that reason ; 2. (abl. sg.): [beyond] that state
udrakam (acc. sg.): m. Udraka
atyajat = 3rd pers. sg. imperf. tyaj: to leave, abandon, quit ; shun


菩薩求出故 復捨鬱陀仙 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.87: The Iron Zen of Being There (3rd-Hand)



¦−−−−¦¦⏑−−−¦⏑−⏑−   mavipulā
yataś ca buddhis tatraiva sthitānyatrāpracāriṇī |
¦⏑−−−¦¦−−−−¦⏑−⏑−
sūkṣmāpaṭvī tatas tatra nāsaṁjñitvaṁ na saṁjñitā || 12.87

12.87
Again, because the mind, being right there,

Stood still, not wandering elsewhere,

Therefore in that state
– that subtle, not intellectual, state of the mind –

There was neither unconsciousness nor consciousness.

COMMENT:
Today's verse can be read as a description – albeit a third-hand description – of the fourth dhyāna as experienced by Udraka's teacher Rāma.

The sense of stillness, motionless, or lack of any undue excitement, is thus common to today's verse and to Aśvaghoṣa's own description of the fourth dhyāna in SN Canto 17:
Then, even in that stage of meditation, he found a fault: he saw it as better to be quiet, not excited, / Whereas his mind was fluctuating tirelessly because of ease circulating. // SN17.52 // In excitement there is interference, and where there is interference there is suffering, / Which is why, insofar as ease is excitatory, devotees who are desirous of quiet give up that ease. // SN17.53 // Then, having already transcended ease and suffering, and emotional reactivity, / He realised the lucidity in which there is indifference and full awareness: thus, beyond suffering and ease, is the fourth stage of meditation. // SN17.54 //

Given that the Buddha, contrary to general opinion, did not regard Udraka as having been his teacher, it would be easy to judge Udraka harshly and to call into question whether Udraka's declaration of the fourth-dhyāna realm beyond consciousness and unconsciousness, was genuine or not.

But the Buddha did not judge Udraka in that way. The Buddha rather praised Udraka as having had only a bit of dust on his eye. 

Neither did Aśvaghoṣa judge Udraka harshly. Rather, by avoiding the use of direct speech to represent Udraka's view, Aśvaghoṣa allowed us to give the benefit of the doubt to Rāma and Udraka, accepting that (a) Rāma might have realized, as claimed, the highest of the 31 Realms of Existence, and (b) the modest Udraka, without necessarily claiming to have made the 31st Realm his own, still transmitted Rāma's teaching as faithfully as he could.

As a technique of translation to allow this sense to be conveyed of Udraka being Rāma's faithful mouthpiece (as opposed to declaring his own realization of the fourth dhyāna),
(a) yesterday I translated gata-spṛḥaḥ as “one was free of aspiring,” rather than “he [Udraka] was free of aspiring”; and
(b) in today's verse I have emphasized the sense of indirectly reported speech by using the past tense (“stood still”; “there was neither...”).

A conclusion we can tentatively draw, then, is that Arāḍa ostensibly realized the 30th of 31 Realms of Existence, known in Pali as ākiñcaññāyatanaṁ, The Sphere of Nothingness. And Udraka's teacher Rāma ostensibly realized the 31st of the 31 Realms of Existence, known in Pali as nevasaññānāsaññāyatanaṁ, The Sphere of Neither-Perception-nor-Non-Perception.

These are the top two of the four Formless Worlds said to be experienced by a practitioner in the highest stage of meditation, the fourth dhyāna.

Reading between the lines, however, Arāḍa's words point beyond the fourth dhyāna to the ending of ignorance itself, via the teaching and practice of pratītya-samutpāda, and we can revere the words of Arāḍa as such – at least up until his conclusion about the soul escaping the body like a bird from a cage. 

We cannot revere Udraka in a similar way, since Udraka is not quoted in his own words, and Udraka's doctrine is Rāma's teaching and not his own.

Nevertheless, the present series of five verses, describing what the bodhisattva made of Udraka, serves as a further reminder of what the fourth dhyāna is... and, more importantly, what it is not. 

It is not the end of ignorance. It is not even the beginning of the end. But maybe, in an epic story of the struggle against ignorance, it is the end of the beginning.

This epic story of the awakening of action (buddha-carita-mahā-kāvya) is, in other words, a dope's biography. It is the story of the dopey one's struggle to defeat his own ignorance, by the means – beyond the fourth dhyāna – of an act of knowing. Hence,
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. //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.//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//

For a bloke who sits, then, today's verse can be read as encouragement to realize the fourth dhyāna. But more than that, today's verse, in context, serves as a reminder that for the bodhisattva the fourth dhyāna was never the end. The end, as expressed in the teaching of the four noble truths, was the total demolition of the whole edifice of suffering.

The total demolition of the whole edifice of suffering sounds like one hell of a big ask. But it can be accomplished here and now, Nāgārjuna seems to suggest, simply by an act of knowing. 

The difficulty, as FM Alexander demonstrated with unrivalled clarity, is that human beings have not evolved to realize the simple act of knowing. We have rather evolved to react unconsciously, to be the dopey one, the doer. 

And so, with the dollar price of gold heavily down again overnight, I cannot help but concluding... 

QUAD ERAT DEMONSTRANDUM



VOCABULARY
yataḥ: ind. since
ca: and
buddhiḥ (nom. sg.): f. judgement, mind
tatraiva: ind. right there, in that very state

sthitā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. standing firm, remaining
anyatra: ind. elsewehere
apracāriṇī (nom. sg. f.): not appearing
pracārin: mfn. coming forth , appearing ; proceeding with , acting , behaving ; going about , wandering

sūkṣmā (nom. sg. f): mfn. subtle
apaṭvī = nom. sg. f. apaṭu: mfn. not clever , awkward , uncouth ; ineloquent ; sick , diseased ; EHJ: inert : PO: static
paṭu: sharp , pungent , acrid , harsh , shrill , keen , strong , intense , violent ; smart , clever , skilful , crafty , cunning ; eloquent ; clear , manifest
tataḥ: ind. therefore, from that, thence
tatra: ind. there, in that state

na: not
asaṁjñitvam (nom. sg.): n. unconsciousness
saṁjñitva n. >> saṁjñin: mfn. having consciousness , conscious of (comp.) ; having a name , named
na: not
saṁjñitā (nom. sg.): f. consciousness
saṁjñita: mfn. made known , communicated ; called , named , termed (generally ifc.)

以衆生至彼 必當還退轉

[Relation with Sanskrit tenuous]

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.86: Pity Udraka the Aspirer? Or Honour Udraka the Unambitious?


¦⏑−−−¦¦−−−−¦⏑−⏑−
yasmāc cālaṁbane sūkṣme saṁjñāsaṁjñe tataḥ param |
¦⏑−−−¦¦−−−⏑¦⏑−⏑−
nāsaṁjñī naiva saṁjñeti tasmāt tatra gata-sphaḥ || 12.86

12.86
Again, since there are subtle dual underpinnings

In consciousness and in unconsciousness,
[Udraka understood] that beyond that duality

There was neither the unconscious nor consciousness,

On which grounds, being there, one was free of aspiring.

COMMENT:
The difficulties posed by today's verse are demonstrated by the contrasting translations of EBC and EHJ, together with EHJ's footnote.

EBC:
And since even a name and a non-name were substrata, however subtil, he went even further still and found his restlessness set at rest in the idea that there is no named and no un-named;

EHJ:
And since the conscious and unconscious states have each an object in a subtile condition, therefore he thought that beyond them was the state of neither unconsciousness nor consciousness and fixed his desires thereon.

EHJ's footnote:
The verse is too compressed for clear construction. Ālambane I take to be dual, in the technical sense of the object of mental or psychical action, as opposed to the subject. 'Though ’ should be supplied with sukṣme. Saṁjñāsaṁjñe, presumably locative singular of a neuter dvandva compound. If it were not for iti in c, it would have been better to take ālambane as locative, understanding sati and to treat yasmāt as governing a, b and c. Co. and T’s division in c involves taking tatra as applying to consciousness and unconsciousness, not to the state that is neither. But tatraiva in the next verse implies division as in the text, and spṛh is always used in these poems with the dative, so that the text should have run tasmai gataspṛhaḥ.

Some difficulties, then, are more technical – for example, whether to take saṁjñāsaṁjñe as locative singular or as nominative dual – but the central question is how to read tatra gata-spṛhaḥ.

Does the gata (“gone”) in gata-spṛhaḥ mean that the aspiration had gone from Udraka (as per EBC)? Or does the gata mean that Udraka had gone to the aspiration (as per EHJ)? 

The MW dictionary gives gata-spṛha only with the former meaning, hence: “having no desire" and "not finding any pleasure in (loc. or gen.)." (Note that tatra is equivalent to loc., so that tatra gata-spṛhaḥ could literally -- if not so meaningfully -- be translated "he did not find any pleasure in that realm.")

EBC goes with this sense of "having no desire";  hence: “he found his restlessness set at rest.” 

The fact that the text has the locative tatra instead of the dative tasmai (as EHJ thought the text should read) also points to the former reading -- i.e. he was free of aspiration in that realm, as opposed to being full of aspiration towards that realm. 

Nevertheless, EHJ opts for the latter reading, in which Udraka has gone to (i.e. fallen into the state of) desiring/aspiring towards, hence: “he fixed his desires thereon.” PO also went with the latter reading; hence, “he longed for that.”

Was Aśvaghoṣa being deliberately ambiguous?

I think he very probably was.

So one way of reading today's verse is like this:
Again, since there are subtle dual underpinnings in consciousness and in unconsciousness, [Udraka thought] that beyond that duality, / [the highest realm] was neither unconscious nor conscious, and therefore he aspired to that realm. //

In this reading iti expresses what Udraka supposed or imagined (based on what Rāma had told him), in which case (a) gata-spṛhaḥ, “aspiring,” might praise Udraka for aspiring towards the transcendent unknown; or, more likely, given the negative connotations of eager attachment which are generally attached to spṛha, (b) gata-spṛhaḥ, “being full of eager desire,” might call into question the quality of Udraka's motivation.

But another way of reading today's verse is like this:
Again, since there are subtle dual underpinnings in consciousness and in unconsciousness, [Udraka realized] that beyond that duality, / [reality] is neither unconscious nor conscious, on which grounds, being already there in that state of realization, he was free of eager desire. //

In this reading, iti expresses what Udraka realized or experienced for himself, in which case gata-spṛhaḥ, “aspiring / ambition/ eager desire being absent,” praises Udraka for the absence in him of any vaulting spiritual ambition.

When we read the Buddha's account in Bodhirājakumārasuttaṁ (MN 85; The Discourse to Prince Bodhi) of the bodhisattva's meeting with Udraka, Udraka comes across as a man of modesty and humility rather than of ambition and arrogance. Hence Udraka's request that the bodhisattva should take over as leader of the group. This points to the latter reading -- taking iti to express what Udraka realized (or understood from Rāma) , tatra as that state/realm of realization, and gata-spṛhaḥ, as freedom from aspiring. 

At the same time, the way the Buddha tells it, Udraka did not so much express his own realization as what he had heard from Rāma. This in itself points to the former reading -- taking iti to express what Udraka thought rather than what he realized, tatra as the realm aspired to, and gata-spṛhaḥ, as the aspiring.

Again, the Buddha relates how, rather than accepting Udraka's offer, he was disgusted with Udraka's teaching and so he went away.

Not too much should be read into this expression of disgust, however, since the Buddha uses the same words at the end of his account of meetings with both Arāḍa and Udraka:

So kho ahaṁ, Rājakumāra, taṁ Dhammaṁ analaṅkaritvā,
Then, Prince, having not found satisfaction in that Dhamma,
tasmā Dhammā nibbijja apakkamiṁ.
I was therefore disgusted with that Dhamma and went away.

The clinching factor may be tomorrow's verse which seems to praise Udraka (or, more accurately, the mind, as realized by Rāma and as considered by Udraka) for being tatraiva, right there.

Even though I have thus in the end leant towards one reading of gata-spṛha in preference to another, today's verse may better be read as posing a practical question about aspiring – in which case never mind about Udraka being right there, what about me sitting right here?

Just in the moment of sitting, what is this sitting?

Is it aspiring to something? Is it aspiring to nothing? Is it aspiring to freedom from aspiring? Is it aspiring to the nirvāna of small desire? Is it the total absence of any aspiration towards anything?

How should it be?

And how actually is it?

And is there any gap between how it should be and how it actually is?

Again, just in the moment of sitting, what is this sitting? 

Is it a somersault? Is it a state of vigorous activity? Is it thinking? Is it not thinking? Is it doing? Is it free of doing?

There should be, Dogen wrote, thousands and tens of thousands of questions like these.



VOCABULARY
yasmāt: ind. since
ca: and
ālambane (nom. dual [or loc. sg.]): n. depending on or resting upon ; supporting , sustaining ; foundation, base ; reason, cause ; n. (with Buddhists) the five attributes of things (apprehended by or connected with the five senses , viz. form , sound , smell , taste , and touch ; also dharma or law belonging to manas).
ā- √ lamb: to hang from ; to lay hold of , seize , cling to ; to rest or lean upon ; to support , hold ; to depend
sūkṣme (nom. dual n. [or loc. sg. n.]): mfn. fine, subtle ; m. or n. an atom , intangible matter ; m. the subtle all-pervading spirit , Supreme Soul ; subtle , atomic , intangible

saṁjñāsaṁjñe (nom. dual [or loc. sg.]): consciousness and unconsciousness
saṁjñā: f. consciousness
a-saṁjña: mfn. senseless; not having full consciousness
a-saṁjñā: f. disunion , discord
tataḥ param: ind. besides that , further

na: not
asaṁjñī (nom. sg. m.): the unconscious
saṁjñin: mfn. having consciousness , conscious of (comp.)
na: not
eva: (emphatic)
saṁjñā: f. consciousness
iti: “....,” thus

tasmāt: ind. therefore
tatra: ind. there, in that state, at that level, in that realm
gata-spṛhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having no desire , not finding any pleasure in (loc. or gen.)
gata: mfn. gone
spṛhā: f. eager desire , desire , covetousness , envy , longing for , pleasure or delight in
spṛh: to be eager , desire eagerly , long for ; to envy, be jealous of

離想非想住 更無有出塗 

[Relation with Sanskrit tenuous] 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.85: Ultimate (& Penultimate) Irony


−−−−¦⏑−−−¦¦−−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑−
saṁjñāsaṁjñitvayor doṣaṁ jñātvā hi munir udrakaḥ |
−−−−¦⏑−−−¦¦−−−−¦⏑−⏑−
ākiṁcanyāt paraṁ lebhe saṁjñāsaṁjñātmikāṁ gatim || 12.85 

12.85
For, knowing the fault 
in the duality of consciousness and unconsciousness,

The sage Udraka had glimpsed,

Beyond being without anything,

The realm made up of [neither] consciousness [nor] unconsciousness.

COMMENT:
In BC12.63 Arāḍa spoke of one who, realizing that there is nothing there, is known as ākiṁcanyaḥ, a man of being without anything.

adhyātma-kuśalas tv anyo nivartyātmānam ātmanā
kiṁ-cin nāstīti saṁpaśyann ākiṁcanya iti smṛtaḥ
But one who is different, being skilful in regard to his own self – having dropped off the self, using the self – / Realizing that there is nothing there, is known as a man of being without anything.//BC12.63//

We considered at that time that Arāḍa's words seem on the surface to be expressing a teaching different from what the Buddha taught, but the same words can be read as pointing below the surface to the very teaching that the Buddha did later teach. 

Superficially, Arāḍa's description in BC12.63 of being without anything (ākiṁcanya) is a description of the 30th of the 31st Realms of Existence, i.e. the penultimate state in the Formless Realm; and what Udraka glimpsed was a higher state, the ultimate state, the fourth in the four sub-realms in the Formless Realm (Skt: ārūpya dhātu; Pāli: arūpa-dhātu)

A Dictonary of  Buddhism, courtesy of the Oxford Index, has the following entry on ārūpya dhātu:
The Formless Realm; the most subtle of the three levels of existence (triloka) according to Buddhist cosmology. This realm is totally devoid of all materiality and suffering. It comprises four states: boundless space (ākāśa-anantya), boundless consciousness (vijñāna-anantya), nothingness (ākiṁcanya), and neither-ideation nor non-ideation (naivasaṃjñā-nāsaṃjñā). Birth in these states is achieved through mastery of one of the four corresponding attainments (samāpatti) but despite the extremely tenuous nature of existence in this realm, it still forms part of saṃsāra and beings residing there will eventually return to lower states of existence when the force of their merit (puṇya) or good karma is exhausted.

So, on the face of it, Udraka in today's verse is being described as having realized or conceived or caught sight of (lebhe) the 31st and highest realm in the hierarchy of 31 realms, in which being without anything is the 30th realm.

I am not entirely sure about the grammar of saṁjñāsaṁjñātmikāṁ, which literally seems to mean "made up of consciousness and unconsciousness." The sense of a realm made up of [neither] consciousness [nor] unconsciousness, however, is confirmed by tomorrow's verse. And in the Pali suttas Udraka (Pali: Uddaka) is recorded as having declared nevasaññānāsaññāyatanaṁ, the Sphere of Neither-Perception-nor-Non-Perception. 
Hence,
Uddako Rāmaputto Nevasaññānāsaññāyatanaṁ pavedesi.                            Uddaka Rāmaputta declared the Sphere of Neither-Perception-nor-Non-Perception.
On the face of it, then, by glimpsing the ultimate Sphere, Udraka went one better than Arāḍa (Pali: Āḷāra), who only regarded himself as having realized ākiñcaññāyatanaṁ, the Sphere of Nothingness, the penultimate level in the thirty-one Realms of Existence. 
Hence
Evaṁ vutte, Rājakumāra, Āḷāro Kālāmo Ākiñcaññāyatanaṁ pavedesi.            When this was said, Prince, Āḷāra Kālāma declared the Sphere of Nothingness.


As discussed yesterday, however, there is much evidence to support the conclusion that the Buddha did not in fact regard Udraka's realization as having surpassed Arāḍa's realization. All the evidence is that, on the contrary, the Buddha regarded only Arāḍa as having been his teacher. 

The greater number of verses that Aśvaghoṣa devotes to Arāḍa seems to be a reflection of Arāḍa's singular importance. Arāḍa is quoted directly in three speeches (BC12.5-10; BC12.16-42; BC12.46-67) covering 6 + 27 + 22 = 55 verses. Udraka is seen off in only 5 verses (BC12.84 – 88). Moreover Aśvaghoṣa does not allow Udraka to express himself in direct speech; instead, he dismisses Udraka's doctrine in cursory fashion.

We need to dig below the surface, then, to understand the ironic meaning of the 3rd pāda of today's verse.

The irony might be that when ākiṁcanya, being without anything, is understood to be an expression of the buddha-nature, then there is nothing higher than it and nothing deeper than it: in short, there is nothing beyond it. That being so, the realm that Udraka realized (or at least glimpsed) beyond being without anything might not be anything to write home about. And probably because what Udraka realized (or glimpsed, or conceived), was nothing to write home about, the bodhisattva's stay in Udraka's ashram is described from beginning to end in no more than 5 verses.

When today's verse is read like this, then, with due appreciation of its irony, what might have most power to lift the spirits of a bloke who sits is the reference in the 3rd pāda to being without anything. Being without anything, ākiṁcanya, though it is the name of the penultimate realm in the 31 Realms of Existence, might also be the ultimate goal of sitting practice. 


Yesterday I briefly watched an instructional video on “Zazen” (Japanese word = sitting-dhyāna) in which the teacher spoke of having no goal and the importance of sitting up straight.

This doesn't accord with the “Zazen” teaching of the Japanese Zazen Master Dogen. It doesn't accord either with the teaching of Dogen's Indian ancestor Aśvaghoṣa, who wrote as follows of Nanda's attainment of the goal:
Having attained to the seat of arhathood, he was worthy of being served. Without ambition, without partiality, without expectation; / Without fear, sorrow, pride, or passion; while being nothing but himself, he seemed in his constancy to be different. // SN17.61 //

The truth of the matter, ironically, might be that the true goal is to be without anything. The goal, in particular, if we are talking about sitting practice itself, might be to sit without any faulty conception about upright posture.

Ha! 

Heard any good jokes recently? 


VOCABULARY
saṁjñāsaṁjñitvayoḥ (gen. dual): of consciousness and unconsciousness
saṁjñā: f. consciousness , clear knowledge or understanding or notion or conception; a name , appellation , title , technical term
a-: negative prefix
saṁjñitva = saṁjñin: mfn. having consciousness , conscious of (comp.) ; having a name , named , termed , that which receives a name or has a term given to it in grammar ( °jñi-tva n. )
doṣam (acc. sg.): m. fault

jñātvā = abs. jñā: to know , have knowledge , become acquainted with (acc. ; rarely gen.) , perceive , apprehend , understand
hi: for
muniḥ (nom. sg.): m. the sage
udrakaḥ (nom. sg.): m. Udraka

ākiṁcanyāt (abl. sg.): n. (fr. a-kiṁcana) want of any possession , utter destitution ; m. a nihilist, Bcar. xii, 63
param: ind. (with abl.) beyond , after
lebhe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. labh: to take , seize , catch ; catch sight of , meet with , find ; to gain possession of , obtain , receive , conceive

saṁjñāsaṁjñātmikām (acc. sg. f.): EBC: which maintained a name and a non-name ; EHJ: characterised by neither consciousness nor unconsciousness
saṁjñā: f. consciousness
asaṁjñā: f. unconsciousness
ātmaka: mf(ikā)n. belonging to or forming the nature of (gen.) ; having or consisting of the nature or character of (in comp.) ; consisting or composed of
gatim (acc. sg.): f. manner or power of going; path , way , course ; state , condition , situation , proportion , mode of existence

雖觀細微境 見想不想過