Wednesday, October 1, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.58: Zen's Vast Rewards

¦⏑⏑⏑−¦¦⏑−−−¦⏑−⏑−   navipulā
asya dhyānasya tu phalaṁ samaṁ devair bhat-phalaiḥ |
kathayanti bhat-kālaṁ bhat-prajñā-parīkṣakāḥ || 12.58

Whereas, truly, the fruit of this act of meditating,

Like the abundant fruit of the Bṛhat-phala deities,
the Gods of Fat Profit,

Is immensely long-lasting,

Say those who investigate the vast real wisdom.

Yesterday's verse reminds us that to take the fourth dhyāna as ultimate liberation, is a mistake born of conceit. But, today's verse reminds us further, that is no reason to think light of Zen practice. On the contrary, Arāḍa is suggesting -- presaging Zen Master Dogen by many hundreds of years -- that not even the buddhas themselves can fathom the limitless fruits of everyday Zen practice. 

When the monk who mistook the fourth dhyāna put the blame on the Buddha and went to hell, the fault was not in the fourth dhyāna but was in the monk's conceit. The contrasting example is the monk in Upagupta's order who, having mistaken the fourth dhyāna, was able with all due humility to recognize his mistake, after which the fourth dhyāna did indeed for him, eventually, bring forth the fat fruit of arhathood, the fourth fruit of the noble dharma.

The turning word in today's verse, repeated three times in the original and rendered five times in translation, is bṛhat, which I have rendered as abundant, Bṛhat, Fat, immensely long, and vast. 

I considered translating  bṛhat as "abundant" in every instance, for the sake of conformity, but on further reflection decided to translate bṛhat differently according to the context set by a four-phased progression through today's verse. 

In four phases, today's verse can be read like this: 
  1. that Zen practice will produce its reward is sometimes a hopeful idea, a bit of idealism; 
  2. Fat Profit is redolent with materialism; 
  3. Time, as the immense stage upon which karma plays out, belongs to the third phase;
  4. and the vast real wisdom of prajñā is the object, and indeed the subject, of our dedication.
But on first reading today's verse does not easily give up such meaning. On first reading, one suspects that the gap between Arāḍa's teaching and the Buddha's teaching is beginning to open up. Hence, 

EBC: The fruit of this contemplation which is on an equality with the Vṛhatphala deities, those who investigate the great wisdom call the Vṛhatphala.

EHJ: But those who investigate the transic knowledge of the Absolute describe its fruit as enduring for many ages with the Bṛhatphala deities.

PO: Those who explore the knowledge of the Great, however, describe the fruit of this trance / As lasting over a great span of time together with the Brithat-phala gods. 

EHJ added in a footnote: I take bṛhat in d to be a synonym of brahman (neuter). 

Hence EHJ translated bṛhat-prajñā "knowledge of the Absolute" and PO followed suit with "knowledge of the Great." 

This is the kind of reading that leads PO to assert that Buddhacarita presents Buddhism as the crowning and consummation of the Brahmanical religion. 

I think that possibly Aśvaghoṣa may have been inviting us to read Arāḍa's words in that light. Aśvaghoṣa's wish may have been to save us from the sin of certainty.  In any event, bṛhat-prajñā, as I read the compound, more really points not to the God Brahma but rather to the unfathomable vastness of prajñā, real wisdom. And those who investigate this vastness of prajñā, I venture to submit, do so from the inside of sitting practice. 

Read in that light, the parīkṣakāḥ  in the 4th pāda of today's verse can be taken as contrasting with the upekṣakaḥ of BC12.56. Which is to say that in the context of the fourth dhyāna, upa-√īkṣ, to look on with indifference, is a virtue. But beyond the fourth dhyāna what is really profitable might be pari-√īkṣ, to investigate, to look into something and find out all about it, and not only from the outside looking in. 

In outlining the four dhyānas, Arāda has now mentioned gods at each of the four levels.
  1. In relation to the first dhyāna, he described how the immature person is liable to get stuck in a brahma-world, an abode of pious divinities (BC12.51).
  2. In relation to the second dhyāna, he pointed to the danger of becoming fixed among Ābhāsvara deities, the Shining Gods (BC12.53).
  3. In relation to the third dhyāna, he cautioned against wallowing in ease in the company of Śubha-kṛtsna deities, the Gods of Resplendent Wholeness (BC12.55).
  4. In today's verse, in relation to the fourth dhyāna, he discusses gods again in the form of  the Bṛhat-phalah deities, the Gods of Great Reward, or Abundant Fruit, or Fat Profit.
Again, I suspect that this progression might contain a kind of set-up for the unwary. The first three references to gods cause an association to form between gods and going astray or getting stuck. If a prejudice against gods has thus been formed, then today's verse, when we study it in depth, might be out to challenge or break the prejudice. 

Thus the gods in question in today's verse are known as  bṛhat-phalah, in which compound bṛhat is cognate with brahma, both words deriving from the root bṛh, to grow fat. Hence, ironically, in the 2nd pāda bṛhat is redolent with real reward or material fat, but  in the 4th pāda the derivation from the root bṛh led EHJ to translate bṛhat as the least material thing there is, namely the Absolute -- i.e. the Supreme, the Indefinable, Immutable, Eternal, of Whom there is None but Him and whose Ultimate Prophet, some vociferously assert, is nobody but Mohammed. 

I am finding it hard to get the register of this comment right. The difficulty may reflect the skill with which Aśvaghoṣa, using various means like the interlocution of Arāḍa, 1. wishes absolutely to smash religious views, 2. wishes that the smashing should take place in a manner in which the smasher himself or herself might be saved from any kind of sin of religious certainty. 

A couple of weeks ago on the radio, in an edition of Great Lives devoted to Dorothy L. Sayers, a letter was read out in which a listener complained to the BBC for broadcasting a play that Sayers (herself a Christian) had written about Our Lord Jesus Christ. In this play, which was broadcast around the time of WWII, Sayers had dared to portray Our Saviour as if he were a normal human being. The writer of the letter sounded very much like an Islaamic fundamentalist of the present era complaining about representation of the Prophet. 

So here was cause to reflect that, somehow, in some respects, we in Britain have been going in the right direction, away from religious fundamentalism. Away, in other words, from religion itself. 

This, I venture to submit, is one of the rewards of Zen practice, if one sticks with it and follows the principle of non-doing. At least in my experience, this practice tends to make a person less religious. And I hope the present translation, the first draft of which all being well I will complete in the spring of 2015, will reflect that progress, and thus find a receptive audience among the irreligious. There again,  I'm not good at making predictions, a wise man once said, especially about the future.

When I read Patrick Olivelle's translation six years ago, I loved it. I loved the translation and I loved the Clay Sanskrit Library book. It was such a useful resource for me starting out on the path of studying Aśvaghoṣa, and it has continued to be a useful resource. But the Buddha's teaching is studied among academics as if "Buddhist studies" belonged in a department similar to Christian studies or Islamic studies. Whereas I would argue that the Buddha's teaching as Aśvaghoṣa presents it is a cut above all religions. And the vast real wisdom to which Arāḍa alludes in today's verse is not the kind of knowledge that can be gleaned from the outside of sitting-Zen practice. 

asya (gen. sg.): n. this
dhyānasya (gen. sg.): n. dhyāna, act of meditating
tu: but
phalam (nom/acc. sg.): n. result, fruit

samam (nom/acc . sg. n.): same , equal , similar , like , equivalent , like to or identical or homogeneous with (instr.)
devaiḥ (nom. sg.): m. god
bṛhat-phalaiḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having large fruit bringing great profit or reward ; m. pl. N. of a class of Buddhist gods
bṛhat: mfn. lofty , high , tall , great , large , wide , vast , abundant , compact , solid , massy , strong , mighty ; full-grown , old
bṛh: to be thick , grow great or strong , increase

kathayanti = 3rd pers. pl. kath: to tell , relate , narrate , report , inform , speak about , declare , explain , describe (with acc. of the thing or person spoken about)
bṛhat-kālam (acc. sg. n.): for vast swathes of time
kālam: ind. for a certain time (e.g. mahāntaṁ kālam , for a long time)
bṛhat-kāla-jñāna: n. " the large kāla-jñāna or knowledge of times " , N. of wk.
bṛhat-prajñā-parīkṣakāḥ (nom. pl. m.):
parīkṣaka: m. a prover , examiner , judge
pari- √īkṣ: to look round , inspect carefully , try , examine , find out , observe , perceive

任彼四禪報 得生廣果天
以彼久壽故 名之爲廣果 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.57: Caution against Abhimāna, 増上慢, Conceit

tatra ke-cid vyavasyanti mokṣa ity abhimāninaḥ |
sukha-duḥkha-parityāgād avyāpārāc ca cetasaḥ || 12.57

Some settle for that stage

Thinking it, in their conceit, to be liberation –

Because of the giving up of ease and suffering

And because of the inactivity of the mind.

In today's verse also, as I read it, Arāḍa is still on the right track. No gap is discernible yet between Arāḍa's Zen teaching and the Buddha's Zen teaching. Both teachings caution us against conceitedly mistaking the fourth dhyāna for ultimate liberation.

In Nāgārjuna's parable of the monk who mistook the fourth dhyāna, as Dogen quotes the story in Shobogenzo chap. 90 Shizen-biku, it is conceit that causes the monk who mistook the fourth dhyāna vainly to live alone in solitude, instead of seeking to make further progress (in Arāḍa's words viśeṣāya, towards higher distinction) by visiting the Buddha and receiving instruction. It is also conceit that causes the monk who mistook the fourth dhyāna – on facing rebirth in an unexpectedly lowly realm – to blame the Buddha for having deceived him.

Despite a lifetime of practising sitting-meditation and keeping the precepts, the monk who mistook the fourth dhyāna thus ends up in avīci hell, much to the surprise of his fellow monks. “Everything” the Buddha tells them, “stems from his conceit.”

In the story as Dogen quotes it, translated into Chinese, the Buddha tells the monks
Jap: kare mina zo-jo-man ni yoru.
“Everything stems from his conceit.”

増上慢 (ZO-JO-MAN) are the Chinese characters which exactly represent the Sanskrit word abhimāna, conceit, the adjectival form of which Arāḍa uses in the 2nd pāda of today's verse.

増上 represents the prefix abhi-, over; and represents māna, conceit.

The second half of today's verse highlights the fact that transcendence of ease and suffering, and quietness of the mind, do not necessarily, in themselves, represent the ultimate step – even in Arāḍa's teaching. Those virtues of transcendence and quietness are characteristics of the fourth dhyāna. But, as illustrated by the example of the monk in Upagupta's order who mistook the fourth dhyāna, a monk who has attained only the fourth dhyāna (but not yet attained the fourth effect) is liable to lose his transcendence and quietness of mind when, for example, attacked by robbers or attracted by a beautiful woman. Whereas for an arhat who has conclusively realized the worthy state, I am guessing, the mind is not only unperturbed but imperturbable. Conclusive realization of the worthy state, I am guessing, involves what Nāgārjuna describes as the whole edifice of suffering being well and truly demolished:

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

avidyāyāṁ niruddhāyāṁ saṁskārāṇām asaṁbhavaḥ |
avidyāyā nirodhas tu jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt ||MMK26.11||

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.

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.

Today's verse, then, though it is spoken by the non-Buddhist Arāḍa, contains an important principle for us to reflect on as Zen practitioners who are hungry for the Buddha's teaching.

The fourth dhyāna is a vital step on the way to demolishing the whole edifice of suffering. But if we mistake the transcendence of ease and suffering in the fourth dhyāna for the fourth effect which is the demolition of the whole edifice of suffering, that is a mistake born of conceit.

tatra: ind. there
ke-cid (nom. pl. m.): some
vyavasyanti = 3rd pers. pl. vy-ava- √ so: to settle down or dwell separately ; to differ (in opinion) , contest , quarrel ; to separate, divide ; to determine , resolve , decide , be willing to (acc. dat. , artham ifc. , or inf.) ; to settle , ascertain , be convinced or persuaded of , take for (acc.) ; to reflect, consider

mokṣaḥ (nom. sg.): m. liberation, release
iti: “....,” thus
abhimāninaḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. thinking of one's self , proud , self-conceited; (ifc.) imagining one's self to be or to possess , laying claim to , arrogating to one's self
abhimāna: m. high opinion of one's self , self-conceit , pride , haughtiness; conception (especially an erroneous one regarding one's self)

sukha-duḥkha-parityāgāt (abl. sg.): because of the transcendence of ease and hardship
parityāga: m. ) the act of leaving , abandoning , deserting , quitting , giving up , neglecting , renouncing ; separation from

a-vyāpārāt (abl. sg.): m. cessation from work
vy-āpāra: m. (ifc. f(ā).) occupation , employment , business , profession , function; doing , performance , action , operation , transaction , exertion , concern
ca: and
cetasaḥ (gen. sg.): n. mind, consciousness

苦樂已倶息 或生解脱想 

Monday, September 29, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.56: 第四禪, The Fourth Dhyāna, By the Book

tādśaṁ sukham āsādya yo na rajyaty upekṣakaḥ |
caturthaṁ dhyānam āpnoti sukha-duḥkha-vivarjitam || 12.56

Only the one who, sitting in the presence of such ease,

Is not enamoured of it but is indifferent,

Reaches the fourth dhyāna

Beyond ease and suffering.

The passage from Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasuttaṁ (DN 22) quoted in the comments on BC12.49, 12.52, and 12.54, in connection with the first and second and third dhyānas, continues as follows:

Sukhassa ca pahānā, dukkhassa ca pahānā,
Having abandoned ease, abandoned suffering,
pubbeva somanassadomanassānaṁ atthaṅgamā,
and with the previous passing away of mental happiness and sorrow,
adukkham-asukhaṁ, upekkhāsatipārisuddhiṁ, 
[he dwells in the stage] beyond ease, beyond hardship,
with complete purity of mindfulness owing to equanimity –
catutthaṁ jhānaṁ upasampajja viharati.
he dwells having attained the fourth stage of meditation.

This verse completes the Buddha's elucidation in the Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasuttaṁ of sammāsamādhi, balanced stillness, or true balance and coordination. 
Hence the Buddha adds here:

Ayaṁ vuccati, bhikkhave, sammāsamādhi. 
This, monks, is called sammāsamādhi.

And sammāsamādhi, in turn, is the eighth branch of the noble eightfold path. 
Hence the Buddha adds further:

Idaṁ vuccati, bhikkhave, Dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā Ariyasaccaṁ.
This, monks, is called the Noble Truth of the Practice Leading to the Cessation of Suffering.

The corresponding verses in SN Canto 17 are SN17.52-55.

dhyāne 'pi tatrātha dadarśa doṣaṃ mene paraṃ śāntam aniñjam eva /
Then, even in that stage of meditation, he found a fault:
he saw it as better to be quiet, not excited,
ābhogato 'pīñjayati sma tasya cittaṃ pravṛttaṃ sukham ity asram // SN17.52
Whereas his mind was fluctuating tirelessly because of ease circulating.

yatreñjitaṃ spanditam asti tatra yatrāsti ca spanditam asti duḥkham /
In excitement there is interference,
and where there is interference there is suffering,
yasmād atas tat-sukham iñjakatvāt praśānti-kāmā yatayas tyajanti // 17.53
Which is why, insofar as ease is excitatory,
devotees who are desirous of quiet give up that ease.

atha prahāṇāt sukha-duḥkhayoś ca mano-vikārasya ca pūrvam eva /
Then, having already transcended ease and suffering, and emotional reactivity,
dadhyāv upekṣā-smṛtimad viśuddhaṃ dhyānaṃ tathāduḥkha-sukhaṃ caturtham // 17.54
He realised the lucidity in which there is equanimity and full awareness:
thus, beyond suffering and ease, is the fourth stage of meditation.

yasmāt tu tasmin na sukhaṃ na duḥkhaṃ jñānaṃ ca tatrāsti tad-artha-cāri /
Since in this there is neither ease nor suffering,
and the act of knowing abides here, being its own object,
tasmād upekṣā-smṛti-pāriśuddhir nirucyate dhyāna-vidhau caturthe // SN17.55
Therefore utter lucidity through equanimity and awareness
is specified in the protocol for the fourth dhyāna.

My tentative conclusion, then, about the four dhyānas, is that the four dhyānas are what Charles Sherrington called convenient fictions. There is no such thing as four dhyānas. But there is such a thing as a right direction.

Going in the right direction may sometimes mean going by the book, as one who knows the teaching (śāstra-vid). And going in the right direction may sometimes mean throwing away the book and acting, as a man or woman of action (kṛtin).

In reality, there are no false dichotomies, but there is such a thing as a right direction. And Arāḍa's teaching of the four dhyānas, as far as it goes, at least up to this point, at least as I read it, is going in the right direction.

Arāda's teaching will shortly veer off in a wrong direction. Nevertheless, I think Aśvaghoṣa wanted us to recognize that these first eleven verses of Arāḍa's second speech contain an excellent and helpful summary of what Zen practice is all about. The foundation is acting with integrity. From that starting point, the challenge is to keep going in the right direction -- KBO, as Winston Churchill called it --  not getting carried away in the direction of religious bliss in the company of gods, and not even getting stuck in the fourth dhyāna, wrongly thinking it to be the ultimate step.

tādṛśam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. such, such a one
sukham (acc. sg.): n. ease
āsādya = abs. ā- √ sad: to sit, sit near ; to preside over ; to go to , go towards , approach ; to meet with , reach , find

yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): [the one] who
na: not
rajyati = 3rd pers. sg. rañj: to be dyed or coloured , to redden , grow red , glow ; to be affected or moved , be excited or glad , be charmed or delighted by (instr.) , be attracted by or enamoured of , fall in love with (loc.
upekṣakaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. overlooking , disregarding , indifferent
upekṣā: f. overlooking , disregard , negligence , indifference , contempt , abandonment

caturthaṁ dhyānam (acc. sg n.): the fourth stage of meditation
āpnoti = 3rd pers. sg. ap: to reach , overtake , meet with , fall upon; to obtain , gain , take possession of ; to enter , pervade , occupy

sukha-duḥkha-vivarjitam (acc. sg. n.): in which ease and hardship are absent, from which ease and hardship are excluded; beyond the reach of ease and hardship
vivarjita: mfn. avoided , left , abandoned by , destitute or deprived of , free or exempt from (instr. or comp.) ; (ifc.) that from which anything is excluded , excepting , excluding

捨彼意樂者 逮得第四禪

Sunday, September 28, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.55: More Talk of Gods

yas-tu tasmin sukhe magno na viśeṣāya yatnavān |
śubha-ktsnaiḥ sa sāmānyaṁ sukhaṁ prāpnoti daivataiḥ || 12.55

He who, immersed in this ease,

Has no will to higher distinction,

Experiences ease as one with Śubha-kṛtsna deities,

The Gods of Resplendent Wholeness.

EHJ notes that the word sāmānyaṁ (in common with, as one with) is possibly significant, as the Śubhakṛtsna deities are all alike in body and mentality, according to Vasubandhu's Abhidharma-kośa (II.20).

Arāḍa's ironic reference to the Gods of Resplendent Wholeness is mirrored in the description of the four dhyānas which Aśvaghoṣa narrates in his own voice in SN17.51:

yasmāt paraṃ tatra sukhaṃ sukhebhyas-tataḥ paraṃ nāsti sukha-pravṛttiḥ /
Since the ease here is beyond any ease, 
and there is no progression of ease beyond it,
tasmād babhāṣe śubha-kṛtsna-bhūmiṁ parāpara-jñaḥ parameti maitryā // SN17.51
Therefore, as a knower of higher and lower,
he realised it as a condition of resplendent wholeness
which he deemed – in a friendly way – to be superlative.

Arāḍa is thus emerging as a Zen master with an ironic sense of humour. Not only that, he encourages the bodhisattva to make effort in the direction of higher distinction -- in the direction of the fourth dhyāna and in the direction of progress beyond the fourth dhyāna. The bodhisattva, however, is not about to recognize Arāḍa as a fully awakened Sambuddha.   

When it comes to describing the four dhyānas, it seems, there is not a hair's breadth between the teaching of Arāḍa and the teaching of Zen patriarchs in India who were buddhas in the line of Śākyamuni Buddha -- Zen patriarchs like Aśvaghoṣa (12), Nāgārjuna (14), Vasubandhu (21), and Bodhidharma (28). 

So this Canto can be read as an exercise in spotting where the crack begins to appear, such that the bodhisattva is able to intuit, "No. It is not that." 

yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
tu: but
tasmin (loc. sg. n.): that
sukhe (loc. sg.): n. ease
magnaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. sunk , plunged , immersed in (loc. or comp.)
majj: to sink (into) , (acc. or loc.) , go down , go to hell , perish , become ruined RV. &c ; to sink (in water) , dive , plunge or throw one's self into (loc.)

na: not
viśeṣāya (dat. sg.): m. distinction, superiority
yatnavān (nom. sg. m.): mfn. possessing energy
yatna: m. activity of will , volition , aspiring after ; effort , exertion , energy , zeal , trouble , pains , care , endeavour after (loc. or comp.)

śubha-kṛtsnaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. pl. (with Buddhists) N. of a class of gods
śubha: mfn. splendid , bright , beautiful , handsome ; pleasant , agreeable ; auspicious , fortunate , prosperous ; good (in moral sense) , righteous , virtuous , honest ; pure (as an action)
kṛtsna: mfn. all , whole , entire
saḥ (nom. sg. m.): he
sāmānyam: ind. after the same manner as , like

sukham (acc. sg.): n. ease
prāpnoti = 3rd pers. sg. pra- √āp: to attain to ; reach , arrive at , meet with , find; to obtain
daivataiḥ (inst. pl.): mfn. (fr. devatā) relating to the gods or to a partic. deity , divine ;
n. a god , a deity (often coll. " the deities "

安樂不求勝 生於遍淨天

Saturday, September 27, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.54: The Third Dhyāna, By the Book

yas tu prīti-sukhāt tasmād vivecayati mānasam |
ttīyaṁ labhate dhyānaṁ sukhaṁ prīti-vivarjitam || 12.54

The one, in contrast, who separates his mind

From this joy and ease,

Obtains the third dhyāna –

Which has the ease without the joy.

The passage from Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasuttaṁ (DN 22) quoted in the comments on BC12.49 and 12.52, in connection with the first and second dhyānas, continues as follows:

Pītiyā ca virāgā upekkhako ca viharati,
With the fading away of joy he dwells equanimous,
sato ca sampajāno, sukhañ-ca kāyena paṭisaṁvedeti,
mindful, fully aware, experiencing ease [AB: happiness] through the body,
yan-taṁ Ariyā ācikkhanti: “Upekkhako satimā sukhavihārī” ti,
about which the Noble Ones declare: “He dwells at ease [AB: pleasantly], mindful, and equanimous,”
tatiyaṁ jhānaṁ upasampajja viharati. 
he dwells having attained the third dhyāna [AB: absorption].

The corresponding verses in SN Canto 17 are SN17.48-50:

tad-dhyānam āgamya ca citta-maunaṃ lebhe parāṃ prītim alabdha-pūrvām /
And on reaching that stage, in which the mind is silent,
he experienced an intense joy that he had never experienced before.
prītau tu tatrāpi sa doṣa-darśī yathā vitarkeṣv abhavat tathaiva //SN17.48 
But here too he found a fault, in joy, just as he had in thoughts.

prītiḥ parā vastuni yatra yasya viparyayāt tasya hi tatra duḥkham /
For when a man finds intense joy in anything,
paradoxically, suffering for him is right there.
prītāv ataḥ prekṣya sa tatra doṣān prīti-kṣaye yogam upāruroha // 17.49 
Hence, seeing the faults there in joy, 
he kept going up, into practice that goes beyond joy.

prīter virāgāt sukham ārya-juṣṭaṃ kāyena vindann atha saṃprajānan /
And so experiencing the ease enjoyed by the noble ones, 
from non-attachment to joy,
knowing it totally, with his body,
upekṣakaḥ sa smṛti-mān vyahārṣid dhyānaṃ tṛtīyaṃ pratilabhya dhīraḥ // 17.50 
He remained indifferent, fully aware,
and, having realised the third dhyāna, steady.

Buddhism, according to Aśvaghoṣa's presentation as Patrick Olivelle understands it, is the crowning and consummation of the Brahmanical religion.

Japanese Zen Buddhism, again, others have asserted, represents the flowering of the Buddhism of India.

But Aśvaghoṣa as I hear him is indicating something which totally contradicts views like these.

The Buddha's teaching, whose direction is towards the abandoning of all -isms, was grounded in Zen practice.

So the facts as Aśvaghoṣa reported them, and as some of us are investigating them, from the inside, are totally different from the suppositions of scholars and commentators whose views are formed on the outside.

It is not that Japanese Zen is the flowering of an Indian root. The truth, if we trust Aśvaghoṣa as a reliable source, and I do, is rather that the Buddha's teaching was originally rooted in Zen practice. 

The length of the present Canto, which is longer than any other extant Canto, may be a reflection of how important it is for us to get this point. The teaching of the four dhyānas, as a Zen patriarch like Aśvaghoṣa described it in SN Canto 17, was originally taught to the bodhisattva Gautama by the non-Buddhist Arāḍa. 

If the Buddha's teaching was the crowning and consummation of anything, then, it was the crowning and consummation of a tradition of Zen practice that pre-dated the Buddha. 

yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
tu: but
prīti-sukhāt (abl. sg.): joy and ease; joyful ease
tasmāt (abl. sg.): from that

vivecayati = 3rd pers. sg. causative vi- √ vic: to separate
mānasam (acc. sg.): n. the mental powers , mind , spirit , heart , soul

tṛtīyam (acc. sg. n.): the third
labhate = 3rd pers. sg. labh: to obtain, gain, win
dhyānam (acc. sg.): n. Zen, stage of meditation

sukham (acc. sg. n.): mfn. (said to be fr. 5. su + 3. kha , and to mean originally " having a good axle-hole " ; possibly a Prakrit form of su-stha q.v. ; cf. duḥkha) running swiftly or easily (only applied to cars or chariots ; pleasant, comfortable, happy
prīti-vivarjitam (acc. sg. n.): without the joy

方便離喜樂 増修第三禪

Friday, September 26, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.53: Speaking of Gods . . .

hriyamāṇas-tayā prītyā yo viśeṣaṁ na paśyati |
sthānaṁ bhāsvaram-āpnoti deveṣv-ābhāsureṣu saḥ || 12.53

If, carried away by this joy,

He sees no higher distinction,

He occupies a resplendent station

Among the Shining Gods.

Reviewing Arāḍa's present speech, as I was doing on the ferry, in the context of memorizing the current series of verses from BC12.46, I reflected on the number of verbs from the root √āp, to reach, obtain, realize. Verses BC12.49, BC12.51, BC12.52 each have avāpnoti. In addition, BC12.50 has prāpya (absolutive from pra-√āp), and today's verse has āpnoti.

Especially the contrast between the youngster in BC12.51 and the wise one in BC12.52 seems to highlight that the same verb, ava-√āp, meaning to reach or to arrive or to gain a destination, can represent either a desirable step in the right direction or else a sticking point.

In today's verse, as I read it, the sense of getting stuck is emphasized by sthānam, which originally is an -na neuter action noun – “the act of standing” – but in this context means a station, a state of being stationary, or a place of fixity.

I come back again to FM Alexander's admonition: "You all fix. It's your worst evil!" 

I remember also the observation of Alexander's niece about religion. Religion, Marjory said, was mainly fixing. 

Apropos of which, again while I was on the ferry, my eyes alighted on the opening paragraph of Patrick Olivelle's introduction to his translation of Buddhacarita, in which he writes:
In addition to being an erudite theologian, Ashva-ghosha was a gifted poet. In “Life of the Buddha” (Buddhacarita), he melds the theological and the poetic into an epic poem that presents Buddhism as the crowning and consummation of the Brahmanical religion.

Never in the field of Buddhist studies has a more misleading or less helpful sentence been written.

Have we not learned, in the 100 years since Britain marched optimistically into the First World War, believing that God was on our side, that religion is nothing to be consummated. It might be something to be abandoned. 

Erudite theologian”?

"The crowning and consummation of the Brahmanical religion"?

Not if you ask me. 

In brahma-practice as Arāḍa is describing it, there is progress through four dhyānas, four Zens. The description of the four Zens by Zen Master Arāḍā seems to be the same as, or at least entirely consistent with, the description of the four Zens by Zen Master Aṣvgahoṣa in SN Canto 17. (The divergence emerges beyond the level of the fourth dhyāna.) And in this description of the four dhyānas, religious enjoyment of association with gods emerges as an option at the level of the 2nd dhyāṇa (deveṣv-ābhāsuraiḥamong the Shining Gods), then again at the level of the 3rd dhyāna (śubha-kṛtsnair daivataiḥ, with the All-Good Gods). But such association is a stage at which the immature person gets stuck, and consequently fails to develop. The wise one, having reached either of those stages, moves on to the next dhyāna, until reaching the fourth dhyāṇa, which then becomes a base for further development. 

Zen practice, then, even as it is being described by the Zen Master Arāḍa as part of brahma-practice, is coming across as being quite irreligious. Enjoyment of association with deities is not negated as a possibility. But neither is it described as a religious path to be crowned and consummated. It is rather identified as an obstacle to human development. 

hriyamāṇaḥ (nom. sg. m. pres. part. passive hṛ): being carried away
tayā (inst. sg. f.): by that
prītyā (inst. sg.): f. joy

yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
viśeṣam (acc. sg.): m. distinction; characteristic difference , peculiar mark , special property , speciality , peculiarity ; distinction , peculiar merit , excellence , superiority
na: not
paśyati = 3rd pers. sg. paś: to see

sthānam (acc. sg.): n. the act of standing , standing firmly , being fixed or stationary ; state, station
bhāsvaram (acc. sg. n.): mfn. shining , brilliant , bright , resplendent
āpnoti = 3rd pers. sg. ap: to reach , overtake , meet with , fall upon; to obtain , gain , take possession of ; to enter , pervade , occupy

deveṣu (loc. pl.): m. gods
ābhāsureṣu (loc. pl. m.): mfn. shining , bright ; m. N. of a class of deities
saḥ (nom. sg. m.): he

味著彼喜樂 得生光音天