Saturday, October 25, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.82: Towards Springing Up, By Going Back

parataḥ paratas tyāgo yasmāt tu guṇavān smtaḥ |
tasmāt sarva-parityāgān manye ktsnāṁ ktārthatām || 12.82 

But since abandonment that goes further and further back,

Is known, according to tradition, to be excellent,

Therefore I suppose that from abandoning all

Follows complete accomplishment of the task.”

The 14-verse speech which ends with today's verse, I have been memorizing in a 2-6-3-3 formation. Hence,
  • BC12.69-70 is the bodhisattva's subjective view (memorable words: avaimi, manye);
  • BC12.71-76 is objective consideration grounded in causality (memorable words: pratyaya; saty ātmani);
  • BC12.77-79 presages the third noble truth (memorable word: nairguṇya); and
  • BC12.80-82, in representing the bodhisattva's conclusion, also presages the complete accomplishment of his task (memorable words: kalpitena kim ātmanāmanye kṛtsnāṁ kṛtārthatām).
Just as the fourth line in a 4-line Chinese poem traditionally brings together the themes developed in the previous three lines, the manye (“I suppose”) of the 4th pāda of today's verse completes a circle by echoing the manye of BC12.70. Similarly, the parataḥ parataḥ of today's verse echoes the same phrase in BC12.69, bringing the whole of the bodhisattva's speech together.

The effect is to give added force to the conclusion of the concluding verse in the speech:
sarva-parityāgān manye kṛtsnāṁ kṛtārthatām,  
"I suppose that from abandoning all follows complete accomplishment of the task."

In MMK chap. 26, Nāgārjuna outlines in brief the twelvefold chain whereby ignorance (1. avidyā) leads to doings (2. saṁskārāḥ), leading to consciousness (3. vijñānam), leading to psychophysicality (4. nāmarūpam), leading to six senses (5. ṣaḍ-āyatanam), leading to contact (6. saṁsparśaḥ), leading to feeling (7. vedanā), leading to thirsting (8. tṛṣṇā), leading to grasping hold (9. upādānam), leading to becoming (10. bhavaḥ), leading to birth (11. jātiḥ), leading to the suffering of aging and death, and so on (12. jarā-maraṇa-duḥkhādi).

But this twelvefold chain, working backwards -- going further and further back -- is also the means whereby the task of stopping suffering is completely accomplished. Hence, having outlined the twelvefold chain whereby ignorance feeds through to the suffering of aging, death and the rest, Nāgārjuna concludes MMK chapter 26 by stating:
The doings which are the root of saṁsāra thus does the ignorant one do. / The ignorant one therefore is the doer; the wise one is not, because of reality making itself known. //MMK26.10// In the ceasing of ignorance, there is the non-coming-into-being of doings./ The cessation of ignorance, however, is because of the allowing-into-being of just this act of knowing.//MMK26.11// By the cessation of this one and that one, this one no longer advances and that one no longer advances. / This whole edifice of suffering is thus well and truly demolished.//MMK26.12//
This is the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, generally rendered into English as conditional / dependenent / interdependent / co-dependent (pratītya) origination / arising (samutpāda).

But the translation of pratītya-samutpāda that I am proposing is “springing up, by going back.”

I understand pratītya-samutpāda not as it is generally understood to be a doctrine, or a way of seeing the world. I understand pratītya-samutpāda to be something much more practical and (in its indirect manifestations) much more physical than that.

I think the samutpāda describes not only the arising or origination of the world, but also the arising of my whole being whenever I am able, primarily in sitting, to prevent my ignorance manifesting itself in the form of the doings that I habitually do. Thus, samutpāda = springing up.

I think the pratītya describes the practical process whereby a practitioner understands that true cessation / inhibition is always further back than I had previously realized. I think this is what is hinted at in today's verse by parataḥ parataḥ,  and I know that this is what Marjory Barlow took pains to teach me in the context of Alexander lessons.

Nowadays it is what my Alexander pupils teach me in the context of Alexander lessons -- that true inhibition is always further back than they thought, and further back than I thought too. 

There is no better way for me to be taught the real meaning of pratītya-samutpāda than to endeavor to teach (which generally means to fail to teach) the FM Alexander Technique as Marjory Barlow taught it to me.

What I am required to clarify in practice is that when I ask a pupil to meet the stimulus of my request that they perform a movement, inhibition does not mean stopping the movement, and does not mean stopping the wrong inner patterns which are the habitual doing. Inhibition does not mean stopping the doing itself, because habitual reaction – so long as it is being triggered – cannot be inhibited directly. What has to be inhibited is further back. What has to be inhibited is whatever it is that triggers the doing in the first place – a wrong idea, an erroneous assumption, a deluded desire, a bit of ignorance. 

This is why Marjory never tired of reminding her pupil that Alexander described his work as “the most mental thing there is.”

At the same time, Marjory very often reminded me that "Being wrong is the best friend you have got in this work." 

I think that was because a very pernicious bit of ignorance is trying to be right. As Nāgārjuna so truly observed, "The doings which are the root of saṁsāra thus does the dopey one do."

Here in trying to be right, for sure, is dopiness itself, ignorance itself. It is a kind of dopiness to which religious people are very prone. Again, it is a kind of dopiness to which academics, in their own more intellectual way, are also prone. So when Aśvaghoṣa is interpreted by academics who think that Buddhism is some kind of religion, what chance has he got? 

In today's verse as I read it endeavour -- primarily on a round black cushion -- to get back to and to abandon such buried roots of suffering, is suggested in the 1st pāda by parataḥ paratas tyāgaḥ, “abandonment that goes further and further back.”

And success in this endeavour is expressed in the 4th pāda as kṛtsnāṁ kṛtārthatām, “complete accomplishment of the task.”

parataḥ parataḥ: ind. further and further, progressively, further and further back
parataḥ: ind. farther , far off , afterwards , behind
tyāgaḥ (nom. sg.): m. abandoning

yasmāt: ind. since
tu: but
guṇavān (nom. sg. m.): mfn. " furnished with a thread or string " and " endowed with good qualities " ; excellent
smṛtaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. remembered ; handed down , taught , prescribed , (esp.) enjoined by smṛti or traditional law , declared or propounded in the law-books; declared as , passing for (nom. loc. , or dat.) ; termed , styled , named (nom. with or without iti)

tasmāt: ind. therefore
sarva-parityāgāt (abl. sg.): from the abandoning of everything

manye = 1st pers. sg. man: to think , believe , imagine , suppose , conjecture
kṛtsnām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. all , whole , entire
kṛtārthatām (acc. sg.): f. accomplishment of an object , success

具知其精麁 背麁而崇微

Friday, October 24, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.81: The Ghost Busting Bodhisattva, Not Knowing and Realization of Logs & Walls

athājña iti siddho vaḥ kalpitena kim ātmanā |
vināpi hy ātmanājñānaṁ prasiddhaṁ kāṣṭha-kuḍyavat || 12.81

Or else, if it's your conclusion that he is unknowing,

Then what is the point of inventing a soul?

For even without a soul, not knowing is well established,
For even without a soul, the act of knowing is accomplished,
For when the self is truly absent, realization is realized,

As in the case of a log or a wall.

The ghost-busting gist of the bodhisattva's words is conveyed so clearly in the 2nd pāda of today's verse that it comes through the translations of each of the four professors:
EBC: then of what use to you is this imagined soul?
EHJ: what then is the use of inventing the existence of a soul?
JB: what then is the use of inventing the existence of a soul?
PO: then why do you invent a soul?

What the bodhisattva meant by knowing or not knowing or realizing (jñānam/ajñānam/ājñānam) in the 3rd pāda, however, and by being like a log or a wall (kāṣṭha-kuḍyavat) in the 4th pāda, is open to investigation.

In the paper by Johaness Bronkhurst discussed in earlier posts, JB states his case for understanding that the bodhisattva in yesterday's verse and today's verse is directing criticism specifically against Vaiśeṣika teaching:
Once again, this criticism has not much force if directed against something like classical Sāṁkhya, which conceives of the consciousness of the soul as being essentially without object. Vaiśeṣika, on the other hand, thinks of consciousness as essentially object-oriented. What is more, consciousness or knowledge (buddhi) is, in Vaiśeṣika, a quality (guṇa) of the soul which does not remain in the state of liberation. The liberated soul, and consequently the soul in and by itself, is unconscious, and therefore like a log or like a wall.

If JB's speculation is well-founded, then, the true meaning of today's verse cannot fully be understood without some knowledge of Vaiśeṣika philosophy.

In that case modern-day professors in Buddhist studies departments around the world are able to understand today's verse, thanks to what “Bronkhurst has shown” (PO's words). 

But in that case the 6th Zen patriarch in China – the one who, as mentioned yesterday, said that the Flower of Dharma turns the Flower of Dharma – would not have had a cat in hell's chance of understanding today's verse, because he was, before becoming a monk, an illiterate wood-cutter. One suspects that he never ceased being more interested in logs than in ideas about “the liberated soul.” Even after entering the monastery, the story goes, Hui-neng liked the non-intellectual work of pounding rice with a big wooden pestle. The niceties of Vaiśeṣika philosophy would have been totally wasted on him.

At the same time, as the 6th Zen patriarch in China, Hui-neng (Japanese: Daikan Eno) was celebrated in China for his excellent understanding of the intention in coming from India of Bodhidharma, who famously spent the best part of nine years facing a wall. Moreover, Hui-neng's student, known in China as “the National Master,” because he was the Emperor's teacher, when he was asked, “What is the mind of eternal buddhas?,” famously replied “Fences, walls, tiles and pebbles.”

So much for logs and walls. What about knowing and not knowing?

In the 3rd pāda ātmanājñānam can be read as the compound ātmanā + ajñānam (not knowing), but also as the two words ātmanā and jñānam (knowing), or even as the compound ātmanā + ājñānam (realizing).

The Chinese translator seems to have read jñānam (; knowing) in the 3rd pāda; hence his translation
[When] the I is absent and knowing  exists,
The I is just the same as wood and stone.

Evidently the Tibetan translator also read jñānam, leading EHJ to note:
I have not thought it necessary to follow [the Chinese and Tibetan translations] in the second line, as it is a question, not of reading, but of division of words, and the first line makes ajñānam certain in the second.

Thus EHJ followed EBC in reading ajñānam, and JB and PO also followed suit.
EBC translated ajñānam “the absence of knowledge”; EHJ as “the quality of not-knowing”; JB as “the feature of not knowing”; and PO as “non-knowing.”

So EHJ asserted that ajñānam (not knowing) – as opposed to jñānam (knowing), or ājñānam (realizing) – was certain. But I am not so sure.

In the final analysis, under whom should we study knowing and not knowing? Under the Chinese and Tibetan translators? Under EHJ? Or under Bodhidharma, who, when the Emperor asked him who the hell he thought he was, is said to have replied, pithily, “Dunno!”

vināpi hy ātmanājñānaṁ prasiddhaṁ kāṣṭha-kuḍyavat
For even without a soul, not knowing (ajñānam
is well established, as in the state of a log or a wall.

vināpi hy ātmanā jñānaṁ prasiddhaṁ kāṣṭha-kuḍyavat
For even without a soul, the act of knowing (jñānam)
 is accomplished, as in [knowing] a log or a wall.

vināpi hy ātmanājñānaṁ prasiddhaṁ kāṣṭha-kuḍyavat
For in the true absence of self, the act of realizing (ājñānam
is realized, as in the case of a log or a wall.

Which translation is best?

I honestly do not know.

Either that, or I have established beyond all reasonable doubt that Aśvaghoṣa was a master of irony.

Just as a log or a wall is , “not knowing,” so ultimately does Aśvaghoṣa leave the reader – in more ways than one.

atha: ind. or else
ajñaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. unknowing
iti: “....,” thus
siddhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. accomplished ; admitted to be true or right , established , settled , proved
vaḥ (gen. pl.): your

kalpitena (inst. sg. m.) mfn. made , fabricated , artificial ; composed , invented ; assumed, supposed
kim: [with inst.] what is the use of?
ātmanā (inst. sg.): m. the soul

vinā: ind. without (followed by inst.)
api: even; (emphatic) indeed, truly
hi: for
ātmanā (inst. sg.): m. the soul
jñānam: (nom. sg.): n. the act of knowing
ajñānam (nom. sg.): n. not knowing, ignorance
ā-jñānam (nom. sg.): n. noticing , perceiving ; the act of realizing
ā- √ jñā: to mind , perceive , notice , understand

prasiddham (nom. sg. n.): mfn. brought about , accomplished ; well known , notorious , celebrated
kāṣṭha-kuḍyavat: ind. like
kāṣṭha: n. a piece of wood or timber , stick
kuḍya: n. a wall

若言無知者 我則無所用
離我而有知 我即同木石 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.80: The Right Thing Knows Itself

kṣetra-jño vi-śarīraś ca jño vā syād ajña eva vā |
yadi jño jñeyam asyāsti jñeye sati na mucyate || 12.80 

Again, a disembodied knower of the field

Must be either a knower or else unknowing.

If he is a knower, something remains that he should know,

And in something remaining that he should know,
he is not liberated.

There is nothing wrong, in the teaching of Aśvaghoṣa and Nāgārjuna as I understand it, in being the knower of a field.

If we go to a dentist, or take the car to be serviced, or ask for a plumber's help, we are grateful for their expertise in their given field. In an academic field like Buddhist studies, needless to say, being a knower is the most important thing. Ph.D.s are not given out for solitary practice of intuitive wisdom. 

But when Nāgārjuna writes of ignorance being eliminated by allowing just this act of knowing (jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt; MMK12.), the act of knowing to which he refers might not depend on the knowledge of a knower.

The point, in other words, might be that for a knower of any field, there is always more to know, in which case a knower of a field, so long as he fails to drop off his body and mind as a dentist, or a car mechanic, or a plumber, or a professor, is not yet liberated.

And yet if, dropping off the body and mind of the knower, and sitting, for example, on a round black cushion, he or she is able to allow into being just this act of knowing, then ignorance might be eliminated at once, in which case the whole edifice of suffering might come tumbling down.

This being so, I submit that to understand today's verse, we don't need to know anything at all about Sāmkhya or Vaiśeṣika. All we need is true understanding of the Buddha's four noble truths. 

For an expression of the fourth of those truths, we have the words of the 6th Zen patriarch in China (34th counting from the Buddha) that the Flower of Dharma turns the Flower of Dharma. In my book those words are on the same page as FM Alexander's  "The right thing does itself." 

Johaness Bronkhurst argues that the “curious line of argument which the Bodhisattva presents in stanzas 12.80-81,” tends to confirm that “what Aśvaghoṣa is criticising here shares some essential features with early Vaiśeṣika.”

I don't think Aśvaghoṣa at this point is concerned with criticising anything specific in any particular philosophy. What JB calls a curious line of argument is simply an ancient form of ghost busting. Aśvaghoṣa is recording how the bodhisattva utterly rejected Arāḍa's irrational and ungrounded belief in the existence of a disembodied knower, a separate spiritual soul. The belief the bodhisattva is blowing out of the water thus shares its essential feature not only with early Vaiśeṣika but also with Judaism, with Christianity, with Islaam, and with Aum Shinrikyo.

In conclusion, today's verse as I read it serves as a reminder that the fourth noble truth, the way of cessation of suffering, is not so much the way of a knower as it is the way of a practitioner devoted to an act of knowing. 

This act is not something that I do. It might rather be a bit of nothing in which the right thing is allowed to know itself.  

The wise one, therefore, is not the wise one because of doing something or because of knowing something. The wise one is the wise one because of the Lotus Universe turning itself. Because of the right thing doing itself. Because of reality making itself known. Hence, 

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 ceasing of idiocy,
There is the non-coming-into-being of doings.
The cessation of idiocy, however,
Is because of the allowing-into-being of just this act of knowing.

tasya tasya nirodhena tat-tan nābhipravartate |
duḥkha-skandhaḥ kevalo 'yam evaṁ samyaṅ nirudhyate ||MMK26.12
By the destruction of each,
Each is discontinued.
This whole edifice of suffering
Is thus well and truly demolished.

Since I have five minutes before I can publish today's post at 8.00am UK time, I will mention apropos of nothing that the flag counter on this blog indicates that the blog attracts an average of about 15 new visitors per day. But I have observed that on most days recently the flag counter records one new visitor a day from Iceland. This means either that I have got a disproportionately dense concentration of readers following this blog in Iceland;  or else there is one loyal reader in Iceland whose every visit is recorded by the flag counter as a new one. 

As my son laughingly pointed out last night, it is hard to avoid the implication that, rather than attracting 15 new visitors per day, this blog is more likely to be amassing 15 global hits per day. 

kṣetra-jñaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the knower of the field; the soul
vi-śarīraḥ (nom. sg. m.): without a body
vi: ind. apart , asunder , in different directions , to and fro , about , away , away from , off , without
ca: and

jñaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. knowing ; intelligent , having a soul , wise
vā: or
syāt = 3rd pers. sg. optative as: to be
ajñaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. not knowing ; ignorant , inexperienced ; unconscious ; unwise
eva: (emphatic)
vā: or

yadi: if
jñaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. knowing ; intelligent , having a soul , wise
jñeyam (nom. sg. n.): [something] to be known
asya (gen. sg.): of / for it
asti: there is

jñeye (loc. abs.): [something] to be known
sati (loc. abs.): there being
na: not
mucyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive muc: to be loosed , to be set free or released ; to deliver one's self from , to get rid of , escape (esp. from sin or the bonds of existence)

又知因離身 或知或無知
若言有知者 則應有所知
若有所知者 則非爲解脱 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.79: A Good Basis for Getting Bound

prāg dehān na bhaved dehī prāg guṇebhyas tathā guṇī |
tasmād ādau vimuktaḥ san śarīrī badhyate punaḥ || 12.79

Prior to the body, no owner of a body can exist;

Prior to defining features, likewise,
nothing defined by features can exist.

On this basis does the possessor of a body,
having been free from the beginning,

Become bound again.

EBC and EHJ took śarīrī in the 3rd pāda to mean the embodied spirit, i.e. the soul. Hence EBC simply translated  as "the soul" and EHJ translated "the soul, as possessor of the body." 

EBC then found meaning in today's verse by changing tasmād (therefore, on this basis) at the beginning of the 3rd pāda to kasmād (wherefore?, on what basis?) and thus making the second half of the verse into a rhetorical question.

The rhetorical question makes sense insofar as Arāḍa concluded that liberation is realized by a soul escaping from a body, and the rhetorical question negates that conclusion. If we read today's verse like that, the fourteen verses of the bodhisattva's speech would fit into a 2-6-2-4 formation, with today's verse being part of the bodhisattva's statement of his own conclusive rejection of Arāḍa's conclusion.

In EBC's text, the second half is:
kasmāḍ ādau vimuktaḥ san śarīrī badhyate punaḥ
I would translate this text like this:
On what basis does the embodied [soul], having been in the beginning free, become bound again?
EBC himself translated:
how, if it was originally free, could the soul ever become bound?

EHJ noted that EBC's conjecture in c is negatived by both [Chinese and Tibetan translations] as well as by [the old Nepalese manuscript], and is not too easy in sense either.

EHJ is correct insofar as the Chinese translation has 是故, “for this reason,” which does indeed represent tasmāt rather than kasmāt.

In EBC's defence, however, his translation makes a lot more sense to me than does EHJ's own translation, which once again seems to fall into the trap of assuming that the bodhisattva recognized the existence of “the soul” as something other than a figment of the imagination. Hence, EHJ: 

Before a conglomerate mass exists, there cannot be a possessor of the mass; so, before attributes exist, there cannot be a possessor of the attributes. Therefore the soul, as possessor of the body, being first released, is subsequently bound to it again.

I have taken śarīrī not to mean an embodied [soul] but rather to mean the possessor of a body, i.e. a real flesh-and-bones practitioner in possession of himself.

In that case, what the bodhisattva is saying is something not at all philosophical or intellectual, but something totally practical and real, presaging the buddha's setting forth of the noble truth of cessation. Today's verse thus fits into the third of the four phases -- as no.11 in the 2-6-3-3 formation discussed yesterday. 

The possessor of a body, having been free from the beginning, becomes bound again.

An analogous statement from Chinese Zen might be that an old master worries, when a spring breeze blows, about plum blossoms falling down.

In that case, again, the basis implied by tasmād might be that what does not exist, even though people think and talk as if it does exist, in fact does not exist. Still, as FM Alexander observed, “The most difficult things to get rid of are the ones that don't exist.”

The basis might be the basis for what Buddha tells Nanda about non-existence of causes and non-existence of effects:
So my friend, with regard to the many forms of becoming, know their causes to be [the faults] that start with thirsting / And cut out those [faults], if you wish to be freed from suffering; for ending of the effect follows from eradication of the cause. // SN16.25 // Again, the ending of suffering follows from the disappearance of its cause. Experience that reality for yourself as peace and well-being, / A place of rest, a cessation, an absence of the red taint of thirsting, a primeval refuge which is irremovable and noble, // SN16.26 //In which there is no becoming, no aging, no dying, no illness, no being touched by unpleasantness, / No disappointment, and no separation from what is pleasant: It is an ultimate and indestructible step, in which to dwell at ease. // 16.27 // A lamp that has gone out reaches neither to the earth nor to the sky, / Nor to any cardinal nor to any intermediate point: Because its oil is spent it reaches nothing but extinction. // 16.28 // In the same way, a man of action who has come to quiet reaches neither to the earth nor to the sky, / Nor to any cardinal nor to any intermediate point: From the ending of his afflictions he attains nothing but extinction. // SN16.29 //
Ironically, this might also be the basis for what Arāḍa himself has told the bodhisattva earlier in the present Canto:
Thus, O perspicacious one!, in the presence of these causes the stream of births starts flowing. / In the absence of causes, there is no effect, as you are to investigate. //BC12.39//

Equally this might be the basis for the teaching recorded by Nāgārjuna, at the end of MMK Canto 26, as follows:
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 ceasing of ignorance, there is the non-coming-into-being of doings./ The cessation of ignorance, however, is because of the bringing-into-being of just this act of knowing.//MMK26.11// By the destruction of each, each is discontinued. / This whole edifice of suffering is thus well and truly demolished.//MMK26.12//

Finally, lest any skeptical reader is unconvinced by the above reference to a Zen master worrying about plum blossoms, another example to illustrate the 4th pāda might be Nanda himself at the end of SN Canto 18. After the Buddha has affirmed Nanda's realization of the freedom that was his from the beginning, the Buddha then proceeds to lumber Nanda with mission impossible, a never-ending task:
O possessor of dharma! Since, because of abiding by dharma, you have skill in making it your own and quiet confidence in me, / I have something else to say to you. For you are surrendered and devoted, and up to the task. // SN18.53 // Walking the transcendent walk, you have done the work that needed to be done: in you, there is not the slightest thing left to work on. / From now on, my friend, go with compassion, freeing up others who are pulled down into their troubles. // SN18.54 //

Again, for the past six years I have allowed myself to be bound by a decision I made six years ago to continue this translation effort at a rate of one verse per day. Isn't a real human life bound to be bound by such decisions and commitments, however decisively a person is in possession of himself or herself?

In the final analysis, when we make the decision to sit for half an hour, or 45-minutes, or an hour, or until the bell goes, or until the stick of incense burns down, are we not then in a sense, though without rope, binding ourselves?

prāk: ind. before (in place or in order or time ; as prep. with abl.)
dehāt (abl. sg.): m. the body
na: not
bhavet = 3rd pers. sg. opt. bhū: to be
dehī (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having a body , corporeal; m. a living creature , man

prāk: ind. before (in place or in order or time ; as prep. with abl.)
guṇebhyaḥ (abl. .pl.): m. qualities, attributes, defining features
tathā: ind. likewise
guṇī (nom. sg. m.): possessor of attributes; thing defined by features

tasmāt: ind. therefore
kasmāt [EBC]: ind. where from? whence? why? wherefore?
ādau: ind. ind. in the beginning , at first.
vimuktaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. unloosed , unharnessed &c ; set free, liberated
san = nom. sg. m. pres. part. as: to be

śarīrī (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having a body , embodied , corporeal ; m. an embodied being , creature , (esp.) a man ; m. the soul; an embodied spirit
badhyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive bandh: to be bound &c &c ; (esp.) to be bound by the fetters of existence or evil , sin again
punaḥ: ind. again, once more.

譬如身之前 則無有身者
如是求那前 亦無有求尼
是故先解脱 然後爲身縛 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.78: No Fire, No Smoke, No Chicken, No Egg

guṇino hi guṇānāṁ ca vyatireko na vidyate |
¦⏑⏑⏑−¦¦−−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑−   navipulā
rūpoṣṇābhyāṁ virahito na hy agnir upalabhyate || 12.78

For between things defined by features 
and the defining features

There is no gap –

Bereft of form and heat,

No fire, for example, is realized.

I think our task in today's verse is neither to read it in light of Sāṁkhya philosophy nor to read it in light of Vaiśeṣika philosophy, but rather to read it in light of the Buddha's noble truth of cessation.

The bodhisattva's present speech covers fourteen verses, which can, as usual, usefully be divided into four phases that broadly correspond to the progression of the four noble truths which have to do with 
  • 1. subjective experience (in particular suffering), 
  • 2. objective causality, 
  • 3. the principle of cessation or inhibition, and 
  • 4. practical application of that principle.
In memorizing the bodhisattva's speech so far, I have thus used as a memory-aid
  • 1. for the first two verses, BC12.69-70, ahaṁ manye (I think);
  • 2. for the next six verses, BC12.71-76, pratyaya (causality); and 
  • 3. for the series of three verses that started yesterday, BC12.77-79, nairguṇya (the being-without virtue).
In the concluding series of three verses, looking ahead to BC12.80-82, the bodhisattva will express, naturally enough, his conclusion.

So the 14 verses in the present speech I am memorizing in a 2-6-3-3 formation.

And seeing this progression helps me to be clear that whereas ostensibly today's verse seems to be about something – fire – which has its conspicuous defining features, what today's verse might really be all about is the absence of fire, in which case there are no defining features of fire.

The bodhisattva's point, below the surface, might be that freedom also is like that – a bit of nothing.

In the paper referred to yesterday, Johannes Bronkhorst writes:
The possibility that stanza 12.77 does not deal with, and therefore does not criticise Sāṁkhya ideas is strengthened by the immediately following stanza... Johnston's translation, in which I [JB] have substituted ‘qualities’ for ‘attributes’, reads:
For no distinction exists between the qualities and the possessor of the qualities; for instance, fire is not perceived, when devoid of outward appearance (rūpa) and heat (uṣṇa).
Outward appearance (rūpa) and touch (sparśa), of which hot touch is but a variety, are qualities of fire both in Sāṁkhya and in Vaiśeṣika. The mention of these two does not therefore allow us to determine what position is criticised here. However, the denial of a distinction between qualities and the possessor of qualities makes no sense if Sāṁkhya is criticised. The Sāṁkhya of the Ṣaṣṭitantra — as testified by various early authors, among them Bhartṛhari, Mallavādin, and Dharmapāla (Bronkhorst, 1994) — maintained that objects are nothing but collections of qualities. Aśvaghoṣa's own description of Sāṁkhya (Buddhacarita 12.18 f.) includes the qualities as final evolutes among its fundamental tattvas, which seems to indicate that this form of Sāṁkhya, too, saw material objects as collections of qualities. Vaiśeṣika, on the other hand, has always distinguished between the two.

So JB's assumption, tentatively expressed though his views wisely are, seems to be that Aśvaghoṣa devoted a large section of the present Canto to his own description of Sāṁkhya. Whereas my point has been that Arāḍa's whole speech, right up to its wrong conclusion, can be read as an excellent formulation of the Buddha's teaching which owes nothing whatsoever to Sāṁkhya sand-counting.

True, Arāḍa's formulation has been presented in words that sound like words used in Sāṁkhya philosophy. But that in itself might be intended as a reminder to us that we should look behind words and not react stupidly to what they sound like.

The bodhisattva in today's verse, though he may sound like he is still discussing ātman, the soul, is really still discussing ahaṁ-kāra-parityāgaḥ, dropping off the self-consciousness of “I-doing.”

For true freedom to exist in this practice of dropping off, yesterday's verse seems to say, the practice has to be nair-guṇye. Nair-guṇye means in a state which is free of the guṇas, defining features or qualites. At the same time, as touched on yesterday, nairguṇya can suggest the condition in which prevails the guṇa of naiḥ, the quality of being free, the virtue of being without.

Chandaka uses nairguṇya with this ironic meaning in two verses in BC Canto 6:

api nairguṇyam asmākaṁ vācyaṁ nara-patau tvayā |
nairguṇyāt tyajyate snehaḥ sneha-tyāgān na śocyate || 6.24
Indeed, speak to the king of our being-without virtue. / Because of the being-without virtue, attachment is abandoned. Because of abandoning attachment, one does not suffer grief."// 

yad apy ātthāpi nairguṇyaṁ vācyaṁ nara-patāv iti |
kiṁ tad vakṣyāmy abhūtaṁ te nir-doṣasya muner iva || 6.38
Though you have said that the being-without virtue is to be communicated to a ruler of men,/ How am I to communicate what in you is absent – as is absent in a faultless sage?//

Ostensibly then, at least according to the translations of the four professors, the bodhisattva is comparing something that continues to exist – the soul – to something else that conspicuously exists together with its defining features of heat and light – a fire.

But below the surface the bodhisattva seems to be considering what a bit of nothing, a bit of absence, a state of freedom, might be.

And the particular freedom in view is freedom from the self-consciousness of “I-doing.”

So the analogy might be this: just as the absence of fire is synonymous with absence of heat and light, so freedom from the self-consciousness of “I-doing” might be synonymous with absence of the defining features of self-consciousness of “I-doing.”

And what that might mean, to put it in concrete terms, might be the sound of a stone pinging against a big bamboo, as in the case of the Chinese Zen master known in Japanese as Kyogen Chikan. Or it might be the sight of peach blossoms blooming in the valleys below, as in the case of Rei-un Shigon.

“The right thing,” FM Alexander emphasized, “does itself.”

Or, as Nāgārjuna put it:
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 reality makes itself known.//

This morning as I sat I remembered the motto of The Japan Times -- 

All the News Without Fear or Favour.

The New York Times' famous slogan is --

All the News That’s Fit to Print. 

It occured to me that Nāgārjuna's words would make an excellent slogan for a newspaper. Or maybe a good title for a blog -- 

avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ
Thus Does the Dopey One Do. 

There again, a fitting title for most people's autobiography, and certainly for my own, might be -- 
avidvān saṁcaskārātaḥ
Thus Did the Dopey One Do. 

It must have been thirty years ago now that I expressed to Gudo Nishijima disbelief in regard to how stupid I had been in a certain matter. “Human life is stupid,” he said in reply. Many things he got wrong, but he certainly got that one right.

guṇinaḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. " furnished with a string or rope (as a hunter) " and " endowed with good qualities " ; containing parts , consisting of parts ; " possessing qualities " or (m.) " quality-possessor " , object , thing , noun , substantive ; m. " furnished with a string " , a bow
hi: for
guṇānām (gen. pl.): m. string or thread ; a quality , peculiarity , attribute or property ;
ca: and

vy-atirekaḥ (nom. sg.): m. distinction , difference , separateness , separation , exclusion
ati-reka: m. surplus, excess; redundancy; difference
na vidyate: is not found, there is not

rūpoṣṇābhyām (inst. dual): form and heat
rūpa: n. any outward appearance or phenomenon or colour (often pl.) , form , shape , figure
uṣṇa: mn. heat , warmth
virahitaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. abandoned , deserted , solitary , lonely , separated or free from , deprived of (instr. gen. , or comp.)

na: not
hi: for
agniḥ (nom. sg.): m. fire
upalabhyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive upa- √ labh: to seize , get possession of , acquire , receive , obtain , find ; to perceive , behold , hear , to understand , learn , know , ascertain

若言相離者 終無有是處
暖色離於火 別火不可得