Tuesday, November 25, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.113: One Bodhisattva in the Name of Integrity

paryāptāpyāna-mūrtiś ca sārdhaṁ sva-yaśasā muniḥ |
kānti-dhairye babhāraikaḥ śaśāṅkārṇavayor dvayoḥ || 12.113  

His physical body having realized fullness,

Along with the glory of his person,

The sage, as one, bore the radiant charm
and the deep, constant calm

Of the moon and the ocean.

“...before we can unravel the horribly tangled skein of our present existence, we must come to a full STOP, and return to conscious, simple living, believing in the unity underlying all things, and acting in a practical way in accordance with the...principles involved."
– FM Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual

Running through today's verse is a sense of this unity underlying all things.

In the 1st pāda Aśvaghoṣa begins with the important historical fact that, by eating the milkmaid's porridge, the bodhisattva replenished his physical energy.

The 2nd pāda as I read it is antithetical to the 1st pāda in the sense of proceeding from the recognition that nobody is a physical body. Each of us, for better or for worse, is a psycho-physical unity, a whole unit of human existence, a human being, a person.

Then the 3rd and 4th pādas bring together not only the 1st and 2nd pāda of today's verse, but also the metaphors of the moon and the sea from BC12.98 and BC12.99:
Pared down as he was, yet with his glory and majesty unimpaired, he gladdened other eyes, / As the hairy moon-lilies are gladdened, at the beginning of the bright fortnight, by the autumn moon. //BC12.98// Reduced to skin and bone, with no reserves remaining of fat or flesh or blood, / Diminished, and yet undiminished in his inner depths, like the sea, he sparkled.//BC12.99//

Today's verse as I read it is thus not about fame. I read yaśas (glory) in the 2nd pāda as more or less synonymous with kānti (radiant charm) in the 3rd pāda. And the point is that the bodhisattva as a whole person was much more than a mechanical engine for converting food into words of wisdom. He had his own human radiance, which was a cut above the light produced from a halogen or LED light bulb. So today's verse as I read it, again, is not about fame.

The reason I mention fame is that each of the three professors translated yaśas as fame. Hence,
EBC: together with his glorious fame
EHJ: together with his fame
PO: along with his fame.

And these translations strike me as odd, probably because of the teaching around fame of Zen Master Dogen. In Dogen's teaching as I understand it, fame is neither good nor bad but just a fact. What Dogen cautioned against – in the strongest possible terms – was twisting and corrupting the original teaching of the Buddha out of a personal desire for one's own fame and profit. So Dogen revered Zen masters like Bodhidharma who were very famous, and he also revered nameless  Zen hermits who spent their lives practising anonymously in remote temples in Chinese mountains. But he was thoroughly disgusted by so-called Buddhist monks who, out of a personal desire for fame and profit, told punters not what was true but what they wished to hear.

In the final analsysis, judging from the reports of people whose work has had the side-effect of making them famous – I write as an avid listener to Desert Island Discs – fame is generally a burden, a pain in the backside. So even if fame is just a fact, it tends to be a painful fact, and not something to be celebrated in a verse like today's verse.

As a PS to this comment, I noticed after writing it that EHJ wrote, as a footnote to his translation of today's verse:
The verse illustrates T's [the Tibetan translators] faithfulness to his text; he found śaśākā- in d and refused to make the obvious amendment to śaśāṅkā-.

It seems evident from this footnote that the Tibetan translation must be a vastly more reliable guide to Aśvaghoṣa's original  Sanskrit than the Chinese translation is. 

paryāptāpyāna-mūrtiḥ (nom. sg. m.): his physical body having realized fullness
paryāpta: mfn. obtained , gained
pary- √ āp: to reach , obtain , attain , gain ; to make an end of , be content
āpyāna: n. increasing ; stoutness ; gladness ; mfn. stout , robust , increased ; glad
ā- √ pyai : to swell , increase ; to grow larger or fat or comfortable ; to thrive ; to become full or strong
mūrti: f. any solid body or material form , (pl. material elements , solid particles ; ifc. = consisting or formed of)
ca: and

sārdham: ind. jointly , together , along with , with (instr.
sva-yaśasā (inst. sg. n.): his own glory; mfn. glorious or illustrious through one's own (acts) , self-sufficient
yaśas: n. beautiful appearance , beauty , splendour , worth ; honour , glory , fame , renown
muniḥ (nom. sg.): m. the sage

kānti-dhairye (acc. dual): the lovely brightness and enduring steadfastness
kānti: f. desire , wish; loveliness , beauty , splendour , female beauty , personal decoration or embellishment ; a lovely colour , brightness (especially of the moon)
dhairya: n. firmness , constancy , calmness , patience , gravity , fortitude , courage
babhāra to bear , carry , convey , hold ; to balance , hold in equipoise (as a pair of scales) ; to bear i.e. contain , possess , have , keep
ekaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. alone , solitary , single , happening only once , that one only

śaśāṅkārṇavayoḥ (gen. dual): of the moon and the sea
śaśāṅka: m. " hare-marked " , the moon
arṇava: m. the foaming sea
dvayoḥ (gen. dual): mfn. two, both

身體蒙光澤 徳問轉崇高
如百川増海 初月日増明 

Monday, November 24, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.112: The Middle Way as Means-Whereby

ktvā tad-upabhogena prāpta-janma-phalāṁ sa tām |
bodhi-prāptau samartho 'bhūt saṁtarpita-ṣaḍ-indriyaḥ || 12.112 

He caused her, by eating that food,

To attain the fruit of her birth,

And he became capable of attainment of awakening,

His six senses now being fully appeased.

In today's verse saṁtarpita-ṣaḍ-indriyaḥ (“his six senses being fully appeased”) harks back to the saṁtarpitendriyatayā of BC12.104:
"Worn out by hunger, thirst and fatigue, with a mind that, from fatigue, is not well in itself, / How can one obtain the result which is to be realized by mental means – when one is not contented? //12.103//Contentment is properly obtained from keeping the senses constantly appeased; / By full appeasement of the senses, wellness of the mind is realized. //12.104// In one whose mind is well and tranquil, samādhi, balanced stillness, sets in. / In one whose mind is possessed of samādhi, dhyāna, meditative practice, progresses.//12.105// Through meditation's progress are obtained dharmas, timeless teachings, by which is realized the deathless – / That hard-won, quieted, unaging, ultimate immortal step.” //12.106//

These four verses linger in the mind as a concise summary, in the words of the bodhisattva, of what the Buddha's teaching is all about.

They remind us that wellness of the mind is not our ultimate end. Wellness of the mind is rather part of the means-whereby, a step in the middle way leading in the direction of the ultimate step. And a step in the direction of wellness of the mind is full appeasement of the senses.

So ascetic endeavor to negate the senses is no kind of M.W. and being in thrall to the senses is no kind of M.W. either. Those two approaches are not part of the means-whereby and are nowhere on the middle way.

Rather, appeasement of the senses is a middle path between those two extremes, leading to that wellness of the mind which is conducive to enjoyment of samādhi, which leads to progress in Zen practice, by which means are attained dharmas on the side of awakening.

In today's verse EBC translated the 4th pāda “all his six senses being now satisfied,” and EHJ as “through the satisfaction of the six sense faculties.” 

But as a translation of saṁtarpita in BC12.104, EHJ favoured the word “appeasement” (“from the full appeasement of the senses the mind becomes well-balanced”).

Origin of APPEASE

Middle English appesen, from Anglo-French apeser, apaiser, from a- (from Latin ad-) + pais peace 

EHJ's translation was first published in 1936, just before the word “appeasement” started to acquire some seriously negative barnacles.  In 1938 Neville Chamberlain famously claimed to have secured peace for our time, but history typically took an ironic turn and appeasement has been regarded since as a misguided policy. 

I am finding the history of the 20th century seriously interesting at the moment. Yesterday I finished reading a book titled Lords of Finance. It is the one book that the recently retired head of the US Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, recommended to anybody who wanted to understand the financial crisis that surfaced with the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. 

The Lords of Finance of the title were the central bankers of the UK (Montagu Norman), US (Benjamin Strong / George Harrison), France, and Germany. The narrative of their efforts is not a bad way of understanding the broad sweep of 20th century history --  from the Pax Britannica founded on the gold standard, through the First World War, the US stock market bubble, and crash of 1929, the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the ensuing period of post-war prosperity during the Pax Americana. 

The monetary authorities in the United States have evidently been at pains NOT to repeat the mistakes of the Lords of Finance that led to the Great Depression of the 1930s. In so endeavoring, many modern-day goldbugs believe, the monetary authorities have gone too far and caused to inflate a money bubble which could burst at any time. To mix metaphors, the money bubble, because of the exponential growth of financial derivatives (e.g. oil futures contracts, or “paper oil,” as opposed to oil itself), is now like an avalanche waiting to happen, when the final snowflake falls.

These reflections bring me back to something F.M. Alexander wrote very presciently, back in 1923, in his book Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual: 
"It is owing to this habit of rushing from one extreme to another -- a habit which, as I have pointed out, seems to go hand in hand with subconscious guidance and direction -- to this tendency, that is, to take the narrow and treacherous sidetracks instead of the great, broad, midway path, that our plan of civilization has proved a comparative failure."

The ultimate arbiter of the great, broad, midway path, as I see it, is the human sense of balance. Insofar as the sense organs responsible for balance are located in the inner ear, the sense of balance corresponds to the second of the five sense organs traditionally enumerated as GEN-NI-BI-ZETSU-SHIN, eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body. But in today's verse Aśvaghoṣa refers not as before to the five sense organs but to the six senses, i.e. GEN-NI-BI-ZETSU-SHIN-I, eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind.

The sixth of these six senses, in my understanding, is the compound sense of proprioception, or the overall sense of oneself in space. And this sense is very much centred on the vestibular system. In this context “the vestibular system” means not only the balance organs of the inner ear but also vestibular nuclei in the brainstem, plus the cranial nerve that joins the ear and the brainstem, plus also the cerebellum which forms another vital part of the inner-ear system.

I may seem to have digressed but the point might be that in this complex system in which we are living, everything is connected with everything else -- for better or for worse. 

Some say that to become enlightened is to see this interdependent connectedness (pratītya-samutpāda), in which case all the barriers of ego come tumbling down. 

For me the Buddha's teaching of pratītya-samutpāda was not originally the expression of such an enlightened view. It was rather, originally, an expression of the physical springing up in sitting-meditation which the Buddha realized by going back to the original root of deluded suffering. 

So I think the ut- in samutpāda  is vital. The  ut-  is up. And the ultimate arbiter of up, for a human being, is the vestibular system. 

My own Zen teacher, Gudo Nishijima, was an ineffably ignorant man who preached the virtues of upright sitting posture, but ultimately did not know the difference between up and down. 

Worse, my teacher did not know that he did not know. 

"World history," he observed, "is a kind of twirling flower."  

Or, thanks to leaders like him, a kind of slaughter-bench. 

kṛtvā = abs. kṛ: to make, cause, effect
tad-upabhogena (inst. sg.): by eating that
upabhoga: m. enjoyment , eating , consuming

prāpta-janma-phalām (acc. sg. f.): obtainment of the fruit of her birth
prāpta: gained ; accomplished , complete , mature , full-grown
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
tām (acc. sg. f.): her

bodhi-prāptau (loc. sg.): realization of awakening
samarthaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. very strong or powerful , competent , capable of , able to , a match for (gen. dat. loc. inf. , or comp.)
abhūt = 3rd pers. sg. aorist bhū: to be, become

saṁtarpita-ṣaḍ-indriyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): his six senses being fully appeased
saṁtarpita: mfn. (fr. Caus. saṁ- √ tṛp) satiated , satisfied
saṁ- √ tṛp: to satiate or refresh one's self with (gen.) : Caus. -tarpayati , to satiate , refresh , invigorate , gladden , delight

菩薩受而食 彼得現法果
食已諸根悦 堪受於菩提 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.111: Mind, Form, Action, Porridge

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

She with a gladness bolstered by trust,

With the lotuses of her eyes beaming,

Bowed her head respectfully to him

And made him accept milk rice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

信心増踴躍 稽首菩薩足
敬奉香乳糜 惟垂哀愍受 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.110: Exploring the Best of Rivers

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

She wore a dark-blue shawl,

And her arms were all lit up with white shells,

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

When its dark-blue waters are wreathed with foam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

難陀婆羅闍 歡喜到其所
手貫白珂釧 身服青染衣

青白相映發 如水淨沈漫 

Friday, November 21, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.109: The Gods Are On Our Side!

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

Just then a dairy farmer's daughter,

Impelled by the gods, came by,

With joy swelling up in her heart –

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

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

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

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

God? Who needs Him? 

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

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

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

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

時彼山林側 有一牧牛長
長女名難陀 淨居天來告
菩薩在林中 汝應往供養 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.108: The Secret Is in the Preparation

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

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

Ascending, in his wizened state, gradually,

While, lowering the tips of their branches in devotion,

The trees on the shore lent him a hand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

浴已欲出池 羸劣莫能起

天神按樹枝 擧手攀而出

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

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

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

Having therefore decided
that eating food is the foundation

Of this means to an end,

He, the firm and constant one,
whose resolve was beyond measure,

Resolving to take food...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With this in mind, it might be worth reflecting on exactly what the bodhisattva has just intuited to be the means whereby he is going to gain his end:
"Worn out by hunger, thirst and fatigue, with a mind that, from fatigue, is not well in itself, / How can one obtain the result which is to be realized by mental means – when one is not contented? //12.103// Contentment is properly obtained from constant appeasement of the senses; / By keeping the senses fully appeased, wellness of the mind is realized. //12.104// In one whose mind is well and tranquil, samādhi, balanced stillness, sets in. / In one whose mind is possessed of samādhi, dhyāna, meditative practice, progresses.//12.105// Through meditation's progress are obtained dharmas, timeless teachings, by which is realized the deathless – / That hard-won, quieted, unaging, ultimate immortal step.” //12.106//

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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