Friday, March 6, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.20: No Reason to Fear Being Wrong


¦⏑−−−¦¦−−−−¦⏑−⏑−
yady eva pāpa-karmāṇaḥ paśyeyuḥ karmaṇāṁ phalam |
¦⏑⏑⏑−¦¦−−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑−    navipulā
vameyur uṣṇaṁ rudhiraṁ marmasv abhihatā iva || 14.20


14.20
If only wrong-doers could see

The result of their actions,

They might vomit warm blood

As if they had been struck in a vital part.


COMMENT:
The old Nepalese manuscript and the Tibetan translation add the following spurious verse here:
śārīrebhyo 'pi duḥkhebhyo nārakebhyo manasvinaḥ |
anāryaiḥ saha saṁvāso mama kṛcchratamo mataḥ ||14.21 ||

In EBC's text the verse is BC14.21, and EBC translates it:
And worse still than all these bodily tortures in hell seems to me the association of an intelligent man with the base.

EHJ notes that this verse is so obviously out of place that there can be no doubt of the correctness of Luders' opinion rejecting it. 

EHJ notes further that the spurious verse is not in the Chinese translation.

Today's verse (BC14.20) is in the Chinese translation (see below), as well as in the Tibetan translation and in the old Nepalese manuscript, and nobody seems to have questioned its authenticity. The tone, however, seems different from the previous more nuanced descriptions of suffering in hell. And so the proximity of today's verse to the verse which EHJ conclusively rejects as spurious arouses some suspicion. 

But in conclusion, and on reflection, accepting today's verse as genuine, and following on from yesterday's comment, I read today's verse as inviting us, on the surface, to be afraid of being a wrong-doer. Whereas the point below the surface is that we are not here to try to change ourselves from sinners into saints; we are here to cultivate the wisdom, the knowing, by which ignorance is destroyed. 

Read like that, the bodhisattva's observations in today's verse are continuing to lay the ground for his practice and experience of pratītya-samutpāda....
The doings that lead to rebirth one veiled in ignorance, in the three ways, / Does do; and by these actions he enters a sphere of existence. //MMK26.1 // Consciousness seeps, with doings as causal grounds, into the sphere of existence./ And so, consciousness having seeped in, pychophysicality is infused. //26.2// There again, once psychophysicality is infused, there is the coming into existence of the six senses; / The six senses having arrived, contact arises; //26.3// And when the faculty of sight, going back, has met a physical form, and met indeed a meeting together, / – When sight has gone back, in this way, to psychophysicality – then consciousness arises. //26.4// The combination of the three – physical form, consciousness and faculty of seeing – / Is contact; and from that contact arises feeling. //26.5// On the grounds of feeling, there is thirst – because one thirsts for the object of feeling. / While the thirsting is going on, grasping hold takes hold in four ways.//26.6// While there is grasping hold, the becoming originates of the one who grasps – / Because becoming, in the absence of grasping hold, would be set free and would not become becoming. //26.7// The five aggregates, again, are the becoming. Out of the becoming rebirth is born. / The suffering of ageing and death, and all the rest of it – sorrows, along with lamentations; //26.8// Dejectedness, troubles – all this arises out of rebirth. / In this way there is the coming about of this whole mass of suffering. //26.9// 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. //26.10// In the destruction of ignorance, there is the non-coming-into-being of doings./ The destruction of ignorance, however, is because of the bringing-into-being of just this act of knowing.//26.11// By the destruction of this one and that one, this one and that one are discontinued. / This whole edifice of suffering is thus well and truly demolished.//MMK26.12//

David Cameron has described people fighting on the side of  Islaamic State as "the embodiment of evil." So in that view, those individuals really are bad guys, wicked-hearted wrong doers. 

But today's verse may  more truly be read, below the surface, as inviting us to be clear that the problem is never that human beings are inherently evil. The problem is that when we are coccooned in ignorance we cannot help but do the doings which are the root of saṁsāra. 

The tragedy highlighted by "If only..." is not the tragedy of original sin, or intrinsic evil. The real tragedy is the tragedy of extrinsic ignorance. 

So David Cameron might be closer to the truth if he described the cruddy deeds of Islaamic State jihadists as "manifestations of sectarian ignorance" -- in which case that might be another example of the mirror principle at work. 

When it comes to this problem of being afraid of being wrong, nobody I have met has been more clear than FM Alexander's niece Marjory Barlow. 

My Zen teacher, Gudo Nishijima, was in general not a worrier, and he encouraged his students not to be afraid of making mistakes. Hinayana Buddhist monks, he thought, generally tended to be too afraid of making mistakes. But my Zen teacher was not so clear about the relation, in practice, between fear of being wrong and pursuit of "right posture" in Zazen. So he, in his own ineffable ignorance, encouraged his students to strive in pursuit of right posture, doing this, that, and the other. 

"You are all perfect, apart from what you are doing." 

The problem, today's verse below the surface is making clear, is not the original sin into which wrong-doers are born. The terrible thing is the blindness, the failure to see, the ignorance, of us who are not originally wrong-doers. 

Only because we are veiled in ignorance do we do the doings that are the root of saṁsāra. 

Only because we are veiled in ignorance, to put it another way, are we afraid to be who we really are. 


VOCABULARY
yadi: if
eva [old Nepalese manuscript / EBC]: (emphatic – “if only...”)
evam [EHJ]: ind. thus
pāpa-karmāṇaḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. " wrong-doing " , wicked , sinful ; m. an ill-doer , criminal , sinner

paśyeyuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. optative paś: to see
karmaṇām (gen. pl.): n. acts, deeds
phalam (acc. sg.): n. fruit, result

vameyuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. optative to vomit , spit out , eject (lit. and fig.) , emit , send forth , give out
uṣṇam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. warm, hot
rudhiram (acc. sg.): n. blood

marmasu = loc. pl. n. marman: ( √ mṛ) mortal spot , vulnerable point , any open or exposed or weak or sensitive part of the body
abhihatāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. struck , smitten , killed
iva: like

惡業諸衆生 
Living beings of bad karma,
若見自報者
If they saw their own retribution,
氣脈則應斷
Would at once cut a vital blood vessel  –
恐怖崩血死
Fearing ruin, blood, death.






Thursday, March 5, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.19: Foul-Mindedness vs Crud-Encrustedness


¦⏑−−−¦¦⏑⏑−⏑¦⏑−⏑−
hasadbhir yat ktaṁ karma kaluṣaṁ kaluṣātmabhiḥ |
¦⏑−−−¦¦−−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑−
etat pariṇate kāle krośadbhir anubhūyate || 14.19

14.19
That cruddy deed that was done, while laughing,

By those whose nature was crud-encrusted,

Is in the fullness of time

Relived by them while lamenting.


COMMENT:
This verse, if we follow the translations of EBC and EHJ, is about wrongdoers who rightly belong in hell, as being wicked-hearted or foul-minded:
The wicked deed which was done by the wicked-hearted in glee, — its consequences are reaped by them in the fulness of time with cries. (EBC)
 The consequences of the foul act, mirthfully carried out by the foul-minded, are reaped by them with lamentations, when the hour of retribution has matured. (EHJ)
But the present Canto is leading to the bodhisattva's practice and experience of pratītya-samutpāda, which Nāgārjuna, again, describes like this:
The doings that lead to rebirth one veiled in ignorance (avidyā-nivṛtaḥ), in the three ways, / Does do; and by these actions he enters a sphere of existence. //MMK26.1 // Consciousness seeps, with doings as causal grounds, into the sphere of existence./ And so, consciousness having seeped in, pychophysicality is infused. //26.2// There again, once psychophysicality is infused, there is the coming into existence of the six senses; / The six senses having arrived, contact arises; //26.3// And when the faculty of sight, going back, has met a physical form, and met indeed a meeting together, / – When sight has gone back, in this way, to psychophysicality – then consciousness arises. //26.4// The combination of the three – physical form, consciousness and faculty of seeing – / Is contact; and from that contact arises feeling. //26.5// On the grounds of feeling, there is thirst – because one thirsts for the object of feeling. / While the thirsting is going on, grasping hold takes hold in four ways.//26.6// While there is grasping hold, the becoming originates of the one who grasps – / Because becoming, in the absence of grasping hold, would be set free and would not become becoming. //26.7// The five aggregates, again, are the becoming. Out of the becoming rebirth is born. / The suffering of ageing and death, and all the rest of it – sorrows, along with lamentations; //26.8// Dejectedness, troubles – all this arises out of rebirth. / In this way there is the coming about of this whole mass of suffering. //26.9// 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. //26.10// In the destruction of ignorance, there is the non-coming-into-being of doings./ The destruction of ignorance, however, is because of the bringing-into-being of just this act of knowing.//26.11// By the destruction of this one and that one, this one and that one are discontinued. / This whole edifice of suffering is thus well and truly demolished.//MMK26.12//

Nāgārjuna's avidyā-nivṛtaḥ “one veiled in ignorance” or “one surrounded in ignorance” might be one of those whom the bodhisattva describes in today's verse as having their nature begrimed, or crud-encrusted (kaluṣātman).

The point is whether the bodhisattva (a) saw people who were inherently evil (or originally sinful) being eternally condemned to suffer in hell, as per the usual religious conception; or (b) saw people whose true human nature was veiled in ignorance doing the doings which are the root of the whole cycle of saṁsāra – including the temporary stages of hell; the realms of animals, hungry ghosts, and human beings; and heaven.

Read like this, the translation of today's verse poses a philosophical question along the lines of Does a dog have the Buddha-nature? 

At the same time, there are practical implications. For example, the cruddy actions I have done, with body, speech and mind -- have they all been expressions of my original foul-mindedness and wicked-heartedness? Or have they all stemmed, since times without beginning, from the greed, anger and delusion that have been begriming a nature that is originally not grimy at all? 

Dogen's answer to this question is expressed unequivocally in his instructions for sitting-meditation. Even though I learned these instructions off by heart in their original Japanese and translated them several times, I didn't necessarily get the fundamental point. 

Then about 20 years ago I heard Marjory Barlow affirming, "You are all perfect! Apart from what you do." And even though I went on to receive one-to-one instruction from Marjory in Alexander lessons as her pupil, I didn't necessarily get the fundamental point under her either. 

I sincerely hope my failure to get the point has been because of my true nature being encrusted in crud, rather than the more worrying alternative.

If the former is indeed the case, then I needn't try to change what feels wrong into something else that feels right. If the former is the case, it provides a philosophical foundation for not trying, in practice, to be right. In fact "Let it..." as Marjory said... "all be wrong." 



VOCABULARY
hasadbhiḥ (inst. pl.): mfn. (pr. p. of √ has) laughing , smiling &c
yat (nom. sg. n.): [that] which
kṛtam (nom. sg. n.): done
karma (nom. sg.): n. act, deed

kaluṣam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. turbid , foul , muddy , impure , dirty (lit. and fig.)
kaluṣātmabhiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. of impure mind , bad , wicked

etat (nom. sg. n.): this
pariṇate (loc. sg. m.): mfn. bent down (is an elephant stooping to strike with its tusks) ; developed , ripened , mature , full-grown , perfect ; elapsed (as time)
kāle (loc. sg.): m. hour, time

krośadbhiḥ (inst. pl.): mfn. crying or calling at (acc.) ; lamenting , weeping ; calling out
kruś:  to cry out , shriek , yell , bawl , call out , halloo  ; to lament , weep
anubhūyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive: anu- √ bhū: to enclose , embrace ; to experience

戲笑種禍因 號泣而受罪


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.18: A Question of Impurity



¦⏑−−−¦¦⏑−−⏑¦⏑−⏑−
sukhārtham aśubhaṁ ktvā ya ete bhśa-duḥkhitāḥ |
¦⏑−−−¦¦⏑−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑−
āsvādaḥ sa kim eteṣāṁ karoti sukham anv api || 14.18

14.18
As for these who, with a view to happiness,

Have acted impurely and are greatly pained:

Does that enjoyment do anything for them, 

Even slightly, in the way of happiness?


COMMENT:
These who did something evil for the sake of pleasure and are now grievously pained, — does that old taste produce even an atom of pleasure to them now? (EBC)
Those did evil for the sake of pleasure and are now exceedingly tormented. What pleasure, even the slightest, does that enjoyment of theirs cause? (EHJ)

Again, as with yesterday's verse, the kind of irony the bodhisattva ostensibly has in mind is the irony that pursuit of sensual pleasure easily results in painful outcomes like heart disease, diabetes, lung cancer, alcoholism, drug addiction, sexually transmitted diseases, messy divorces, et cetera. 

Ostensibly then, the bodhisattva's question is a rhetorical question: has doing an evil deed that they relished doing brought them any lasting happiness? And the expected answer is: No, of course it has not.

The dictionary definition of aśubham as “a shameful deed, a sin,” tends to support such a reading.

At the same time, aśubham means not beautiful or impure. And so, in a deeper reading of today's verse, the ugliness or impurity in question might be down to nothing other than the sukhārtham, i.e., the view to happiness. The impurity of the act, in other words, might reside in happiness itself, as an agenda. 

Such a reading of today's verse brings to mind the teaching of the teacher of Zen Master Dogen, who emphasized that breaking the precepts was the kind of mistake from which one can recover, whereas to allow the truth of the Buddha's teaching to be distorted by a view to one's own gratification (i.e. with a view to one's own fame and profit, with a personal agenda) is a much more serious hindrance to realizing the truth. See especially Shobogenzo chap. 73, Sanjushibon-bodai-bunpo (The 37 Things on the Side of Awakening). At the same time, the view which tends to negate cause and effect -- irresponsibility -- is also a distortion, as described in the four Shobogenzo chapters on cause and effect. 

Ostensibly, then, the bodhisattva has in his sights in today's verse the doing of a specific “evil” (as per EBC and EHJ) of the kind proscribed by the bodhisattva precepts -- like an act of needless killing, or an act of theft, or an act of sexual misconduct.

But at a deeper level impure action that produces painful side effects, or collateral damage, might be the act of an ignorant do-gooder who is trying to be right -- lighting a stick of incense, or doggedly translating a Buddhist magnum opus, with one's mind still being influenced by a trace, albeit a homeopathic dose, of "what's in it for me?". 

True, in the 3rd pāda āsvādaḥ (MW: “eating with a relish”) does primarily suggest sensual gratification. At the same time, it is also true that self-righteous religious types feel a certain smug gratification in the doing of their religious thing. I could name names, but might only be demonstrating the mirror principle.

FM Alexander wrote of the end-gainer's desire to feel right in the gaining of his end. 

Does such indulging in feeling right in the gaining of an end -- whether sensual or spiritual -- bring to the doer even a bit of lasting happiness?

In light of the Buddha's teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, one would tend to think that the answer, below the surface just as on the surface, is a resounding No! Because one cannot do an undoing. Rather, doings -- whether their intention is good, bad or indifferent --  are the very root of saṁsāra....
The doings that lead to rebirth one veiled in ignorance, in the three ways, / Does do; and by these actions he enters a sphere of existence. //MMK26.1 // Consciousness seeps, with doings as causal grounds, into the sphere of existence./ And so, consciousness having seeped in, pychophysicality is infused. //26.2// There again, once psychophysicality is infused, there is the coming into existence of the six senses; / The six senses having arrived, contact arises; //26.3// And when the faculty of sight, going back, has met a physical form, and met indeed a meeting together, / – When sight has gone back, in this way, to psychophysicality – then consciousness arises. //26.4// The combination of the three – physical form, consciousness and faculty of seeing – / Is contact; and from that contact arises feeling. //26.5// On the grounds of feeling, there is thirst – because one thirsts for the object of feeling. / While the thirsting is going on, grasping hold takes hold in four ways.//26.6// While there is grasping hold, the becoming originates of the one who grasps – / Because becoming, in the absence of grasping hold, would be set free and would not become becoming. //26.7// The five aggregates, again, are the becoming. Out of the becoming rebirth is born. / The suffering of ageing and death, and all the rest of it – sorrows, along with lamentations; //26.8// Dejectedness, troubles – all this arises out of rebirth. / In this way there is the coming about of this whole mass of suffering. //26.9// 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. //26.10// In the destruction of ignorance, there is the non-coming-into-being of doings./ The destruction of ignorance, however, is because of the bringing-into-being of just this act of knowing.//26.11// By the destruction of this one and that one, this one and that one are discontinued. / This whole edifice of suffering is thus well and truly demolished.//MMK26.12//

Going further, however, if the impure action of one veiled in ignorance can never open a way out of saṁsāra, how in hell are we ever going to get out of saṁsāra?

A clue, I think, might be contained in Shobogenzo chap. 87, Kuyo-shobutsu (Serving Buddhas).

That chapter tells the story of a practitioner who, when he served buddhas, did so not with a totally pure mind but rather with an agenda. As a result he didn't receive affirmation that he would become buddha, but only received suffering in life after life of sacrificing himself to serve buddhas. Eventually, though, he did see the light, and did receive affirmation.

So, in the end, did the indulging in agenda-based doing bring this bodhisattva any happiness?

Well, yes, it took many lifetimes but eventually it did.

Finally, then, I come back again to Marjory Barlow's prescription for working on an impure self. 

When you feel you are wrong, Marjory said, 
  • Say No! (to the ignorance of trying to be right)
  • Give your directions (spine to lengthen, back to widen, et cetera)
  • And go into movement, without a care in the world – let it come out in the wash! 



VOCABULARY
sukhārtham: ind. (acc. sg. n.) for the sake of pleasure
aśubham (acc. sg.): n. a shameful deed , sin
śubha: mfn. splendid , bright , beautiful ; pleasant , agreeable , suitable , fit , capable , useful , good (applied to persons and things); good (in moral sense) , righteous , virtuous , honest ; pure (as an action)
kṛtvā = abs. kṛ: to do

ye (nom. pl. m.): [these] who
ete (nom. pl. m.): these, these here (especially as pointing to what is nearest to the speaker)
bhṛśa-duḥkhitāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. very much afflicted , very unfortunate or unhappy
bhṛśa: (ibc.): strongly , violently , vehemently , excessively , greatly , very much
duḥkhita: mfn. pained , distressed ; afflicted , unhappy

āsvādaḥ (nom. sg.): m. eating with a relish , tasting , enjoying (also metaphorically) ; flavour , taste
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
kim: (interrogative pronoun)
eteṣām (gen. pl.): of these ones

karoti = 3rd pers. sg. kṛ: to make , cause
sukham (nom. sg.): n. pleasure, happiness
anu = aṇu: ind. minutely
api: even


味著須臾頃 苦報甚久長

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.17: Karmic Irony, On Many Levels


¦⏑−−−¦¦⏑−−⏑¦⏑−⏑−
sukhaṁ syād iti yat karma ktaṁ duḥkha-nivttaye |
¦⏑⏑⏑−¦¦−⏑−−¦⏑−⏑−    navipulā
phalaṁ tasyedam avaśair duḥkham evopabhujyate || 14.17

14.17
The action taken with the thought that it might bring happiness,

The deed that was done with a view to cessation of suffering,

Now has as its result, this, 

Suffering itself, experienced by the helpless. 


COMMENT:
To think too heavily or pessimistically about karma is to have a wrong view. Conversely to think too lightly or optimistically about karma is also to have a wrong view.

From bang in the middle of these two views, what the bodhisattva is expressing in today's verse, as I read it, is just an irony that is all too true. It is an irony that is too true on many levels – whether we translate sukham, for example, as pleasure or happiness or comfort; and duḥkham, for example, as pain or unhappiness or suffering or discomfort.
Whatever deed was done only to hinder pain with the hope that it might bring pleasure, its result is now experienced by these helpless victims as simple pain. (EBC)
The retribution of the act which was committed by them for the cessation of suffering in the hope of obtaining pleasure, is experienced by them against their will in the shape of this suffering. (EHJ)

These translations capture the irony well enough, at the ostensible level. At the ostensible level the bodhisattva seems to have in his sights the ignorance of the sensualist who seeks the antidote to suffering in sensual pleasure. The irony, at this level, is for example the irony that pleasurable over-indulgence in food and drink results in the discomfort of heart disease; or the irony that illicit sexual relations, though forbidden fruit is said to taste sweetest, cause the emotional pain of family break ups.

A deeper irony, though, is observed when a religious community hits the rocks, despite the best of professed intentions in the way of promoting the happiness of all beings. It is usually because the leader of the congregation has strayed from the broad sunlit uplands of the middle way onto the treacherous side roads of errant behaviour. What follows is invariably disillusionment – all those sticks of incense burned in vain!

Tomorrow's posting, incidentally, will be late because I will be on the road, literally, pedalling to the local train station, and then along the canal tow path from Caen to the ferry port of Ouistreham. But today's posting is late because I have just spent 45 minutes listening to an interview on the radio with former al-Qaeda member Aimen Dean. There is no doubt that the deeper irony in today's verse would not be lost on him. Shining through his testimony, as I heard it, was the suffering of somebody who is truly devoted to Islaam, the real meaning of which word might be helplessness. 

Thus emerges the deeper meaning of the second half of today's verse.

On the surface, avaśaiḥ (by the helpless) refers to people who, for their sins, are unable to stop themselves from suffering in hell, even though they would like to stop this suffering (hence EHJ's "against their will"). 

Below the surface the description of helplessness seems to me to find its echo in Marjory Barlow's “Let it all be wrong.” 

Being truly helpless in Marjory's teaching, as I understood it, if I understood it, was an excellent state of affairs – because when we are truly helpless (as opposed to trying to be right, or trying to do the directions), then the right thing has got a chance to do itself. Then the real truth, in other words, is given the chance of making itself known. 

Not my will be done, then, but Thy will be done. 

In Nāgārjuna's teaching, Thy is tattva, which means thatness, the truth, reality. 

So let's return again to Nāgārjuna's conclusion about the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, in which direction these observations of the bodhisattva are leading:
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 (tattva-darśanāt). //26.10// In the destruction of ignorance, there is the non-coming-into-being of doings./ The destruction of ignorance, however, is because of the bringing-into-being of just this act of knowing.//26.11// By the destruction of this one and that one, this one and that one are discontinued. / This whole edifice of suffering is thus well and truly demolished.//MMK26.12//

I think the point that Aśvaghoṣa is alluding to, below the surface, is that ignorance is invariably manifested in the doing (kṛtam) of a deed (karman).

The teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, then, does not encourage the doer to go forth, like an overly zealous holy warrior, doing brave deeds with the thought that good doing will bring happiness and put a stop to suffering.

There is no need for me to spell it out any further. The whole thing has already been spelled out as clearly as could be by Nāgārjuna:
The doings that lead to rebirth one veiled in ignorance, in the three ways, / Does do; and by these actions he enters a sphere of existence. //MMK26.1 // Consciousness seeps, with doings as causal grounds, into the sphere of existence./ And so, consciousness having seeped in, pychophysicality is infused. //26.2// There again, once psychophysicality is infused, there is the coming into existence of the six senses; / The six senses having arrived, contact arises; //26.3// And when the faculty of sight, going back, has met a physical form, and met indeed a meeting together, / – When sight has gone back, in this way, to psychophysicality – then consciousness arises. //26.4// The combination of the three – physical form, consciousness and faculty of seeing – / Is contact; and from that contact arises feeling. //26.5// On the grounds of feeling, there is thirst – because one thirsts for the object of feeling. / While the thirsting is going on, grasping hold takes hold in four ways.//26.6// While there is grasping hold, the becoming originates of the one who grasps – / Because becoming, in the absence of grasping hold, would be set free and would not become becoming. //26.7// The five aggregates, again, are the becoming. Out of the becoming rebirth is born. / The suffering of ageing and death, and all the rest of it – sorrows, along with lamentations; //26.8// Dejectedness, troubles – all this arises out of rebirth. / In this way there is the coming about of this whole mass of suffering. //26.9// 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. //26.10// In the destruction of ignorance, there is the non-coming-into-being of doings./ The destruction of ignorance, however, is because of the bringing-into-being of just this act of knowing.//26.11// By the destruction of this one and that one, this one and that one are discontinued. / This whole edifice of suffering is thus well and truly demolished.//MMK26.12//


VOCABULARY
sukham (nom. sg.): n. happiness, pleasure
syāt = 3rd pers. sg. opt. as: to be
iti: “...,” thus
yat (nom. sg. n.): which
karma (nom. sg.): n. act, deed

kṛtam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. done
duḥkha-nivṛttaye (dat. sg.): for the cessation of suffering
nivṛtti: f. returning , return ; ceasing , cessation , disappearance ; ceasing from worldly acts , inactivity , rest , repose (opp. to pra-vṛtti)
ni- √ vṛt : to turn back , stop (trans. and intrans.)

phalam (nom. sg.): n. fruit, result
tasya (gen. sg.): of that
idam (nom. sg. n.): this
avaśaiḥ (inst. pl.): mfn. unsubmissive to another's will , independent , unrestrained , free ; not having one's own free will , doing something against one's desire or unwillingly

duḥkham (nom. sg.): n. suffering
eva: (emphatic)
upabhujyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive upa- √ bhuj: to enjoy , eat , eat up , consume ; to experience (happiness or misfortune &c )


樂修不淨業 極苦受其報 

Monday, March 2, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.16: Karma In Hell - Not Always What You Think


¦⏑−−−¦¦⏑−−⏑¦⏑−⏑−
pāṭyante dāruvat ke cit kuṭhārair baddha-bāhavaḥ |
¦⏑−−−¦¦−⏑−−¦⏑−⏑−
duḥkhe 'pi na vipacyante karmabhir dhāritāsavaḥ || 14.16

14.16
Some, their arms in chains,

Are split, like wood by axes.

Even in such hardship the ripening of their karma is not completed;

By dint of their actions, their life-breath is preserved.

COMMENT:
The task before us now – as the story develops of the bodhisattva's practice and experience of pratītya-samutpāda – is, in the first instance, not to have a wrong view on karma and saṁsāra.

To that end, a good starting point is to understand a wrong view on karma and saṁsāra. And Aśvaghoṣa, as a skillful means, is always inviting us unquestioningly to go along with a wrong view.

This picture in today's verse is somewhat obscured by textual uncertainty.

In the 3rd pāda, the Old Nepalese manuscript has a tear, leaving it one syllable short with duḥkhe nipipadya. EBC's text has duḥkhe' pi na vipadyaṁte. EHJ noted:
vipacyante seems better than vipadyante [as per EBC's text]; it refers to vipāka, the retribution of the act, but primarily it means 'come to an end,' by transition from the idea of completion on maturity. The passive of paripac is recorded in this sense.

If the Chinese translation is anything to go by – and generally it is not – the original verb may have been from ni-√pā, to drink in or absorb. The Chinese has:
受斯極苦毒
They accept thus the poison of extreme suffering;
業行不令死
the conduct of karma does not let them die.

Any way up, let us assume that Aśvaghoṣa wrote today's verse in such a way as to invite the irony-blind reader to take a wrong view on karma and saṁsāra. What would the wrong view be?
Others having many arms [bahu-bāhavaḥ] are split like timber with axes, but even in that agony they do not die, being supported in their vital powers by their previous actions. (EBC) 
Some have their arms bound and like wood are chopped up with axes ; even in this suffering they do not cease to exist; the power of their acts holding back their vital breaths. (EHJ)

The wrong view, to which the ostensible meaning thus lends support, might be that hell is a place of eternal damnation, a place where men of bad karma are condemned by their sins to endure suffering until such time when, if they are lucky, they finally perish or cease to exist.

In this conception, then, hell is an absolute sort of place, as pictured by religious fundamentalists, and at the same time karma is a deterministic sort of conception. 

An alternative reading of today's verse is that there are people in hell who are not (as in yesterday's verse) as if bound (baddhā iva); some of us actually find ourselves, in our ignorance, in such an emotional, financial, or physical bind that we lack the power to do what we ought to do. With our arms thus bound (baddha-bāhavaḥ), we are split, pulled haplessly in different directions, like wood by an axe. That might be about as bad as it gets.

Personal experience of both experiencing and being propelled out of this kind of misery leads me to an alternative reading of today's verse whereby the actions referred to in the 4th pada are NOT those past WRONG doings that led the sufferer into hell.

Rather, those actions might be
(a) long-forgotten GOOD actions which have somehow retained the power to propel the person in saṁsāra out of hell; and even maybe also
(b) GOOD actions done – if not with body and speech then at least with mind – inside hell.

As an example of the latter – again speaking from personal experience – not being unclear about cause and effect is one big thing that, as followers of the Buddha's teaching, we have got on our side.

For more along these lines, I recommend Shobogenzo chap. 84, Sanji-no-go, whose title means “Karma in the Three Times.”


VOCABULARY 
pāṭyante = 3rd pers. pl. passive paṭ: to split , burst , open (intr.)
dāruvat: ind. like wood
dāru: mfn. breaking , splitting ; mn. a piece of wood , wood , timber
ke cit (nom. pl. m.): some

kuṭhāraiḥ (inst. pl.): m. an axe
baddha-bāhavaḥ (nom. pl. m.): with arms bound
baddha: mfn. bound , tied , fixed , fastened , chained , fettered ; bound by the fetters of existence or evil ; clenched (as the fist) ; folded (as the hands);

duḥkhe (loc. sg.): n. suffering
api: even
na: not
vipacyante = 3rd pers. pl. passive vi- √ pac: to be cooked or baked or roasted ; to be digested ; to be completely matured or ripened or developed ; to bear fruit , develop consequences
pari- √ pac: to be cooked ; to be burnt (in hell) Hariv. ; to become ripe , (fig.) have results or consequences
vipadyante = 3rd pers. pl. vi- √ pad: to fall or burst asunder MBh. xi , 95 ; to come between , intervene , prevent , hinder Kaus3. ; to go wrongly , fail , miscarry , come to nought , perish, die
ni- √ pā: to drink or suck in , kiss Ka1v. ; to absorb , dry up

karmabhiḥ (inst. pl. n.): acts
dhāritāsavaḥ (nom. pl. m.): their breath being held ; their lives being preserved
dhārita: mfn. borne (also in the womb) , held , supported &c
dhṛ: to hold , bear (also bring forth) , carry , maintain , preserve , keep ; to hold back , keep down , stop , restrain , suppress , resist
asu: m. breath , life
duḥkha-nivarttaye [old Nepalese manuscript] = duḥkha-nivṛttaye [?] (dat. sg. f.): in the direction of cessation of suffering

利刀解其身 或利斧斫剉 
受斯極苦毒 業行不令死

Sunday, March 1, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.15: Being LIKE a Slave - A Different Conception of Hell



¦⏑−−−¦¦−−−−¦⏑−⏑−
ke cid dāha-pariśrāntāḥ śīta-cchāyābhikāṅkṣiṇaḥ |
¦⏑−−−¦¦−−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑−
asi-pattra-vanaṁ nīlaṁ baddhā iva viśanty amī || 14.15

14.15
Some, tired of burning,

Go hankering after cool shade;

The dark forest, where leaves are swords,

Like slaves in chains these enter.


COMMENT:
Some, wearied of being burned, long for cold shade; these enter like bound captives into a dark blue wood with swords for leaves. (EBC)
Some, exhausted with the burning, long for cool shade and enter like captives the dark sword-leaved forest. (EHJ)

EHJ notes:
The asi-pattra-vana [the sword-leaved forest] figures also in Brahmanical literature, MBh, xii, 12075, Manu, iv. R, xiv. 48 ; see also Kirfel, Kosmographie der Inder, Index s.v. The point of baddhā iva ["like captives"] escapes me; should it be vadhyā iva ["like men sentenced to death"?

Ostensibly, then, the asi-pattra-vana is a forest in hell –  in hell as conceived by brahmins before the time of the Buddha – where sinners go to be punished.

Under that conception of hell, the logical thing is to aspire never to go to hell.

Below the surface of the bodhisattva's present description of hell, as I read it, is an altogether different conception, whereby hell is a stage to be passed through in a cycle of saṁsāra. This saṁsāra is rooted in doings. And the coming-into-being of these doings is contingent on continuing ignorance. Hence:
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. //26.10// In the destruction of ignorance, there is the non-coming-into-being of doings./ The destruction of ignorance, however, is because of the bringing-into-being of just this act of knowing.//MMK26.11//

The challenge, then, is to understand today's verse in light of this alternative conception, whereby hell is not a place of eternal damnation but is rather a stage in a saṁsāra which is no more unbreakable than is the fragile pseudostem of a banana plant.

In the former conception, a sword in a sword-leaved forest is an object to be feared, an instrument for chopping off body parts and inflicting pain.

In the latter conception, a sword – like the sword of Mañjuśrī – might represent that act of knowing by which ignorance is destroyed. Again, millions of swords in a sword-leaved forest might represent those countless momentary decisions which determine the course of our life.

Into such a forest do we wish to enter when – like a drug addict who is fed up with drugs, or like an alcoholic who is tired of drinking – we are thoroughly fed up with burning in hell.

When we go like this from a hot place in hell to a cooler place in hell, we go freely, of our own accord, because we have had enough of burning. In that case, the important word in the 4th pāda is iva, like, as if – since a person who is like a captive, or as if bound, is not a captive and is not bound

The implicit suggestion might be, then, that even in hell we can exercise some degree of freewill. And this might be very different indeed from the ancient conception of hell fostered by brahmins before the time of the Buddha.

As a concrete, practical example of being like a captive in hell, and yet still having the opportunity to make a decision, think of sitting in a Zazen hall with very painful legs. 

Here in hell, what are you going to do? Bow and change legs. Or keep still and endure the pain? 

Go, on Monji-bosatsu, make a decision! 








Having prepared this post already, I happened to hear on the radio first thing this morning (on "Something Understood") a discussion of how idols are worshipped in the Hindu religion. The Hindu interviewee, exactly but with no little humour, observed that in Judaism, Islaam and Christian Protestantism, worship of idols is a great evil, whereas this Hindu devotee really loved to worship his lovely idols -- and particularly  the monkey-god Hanuman. 

Intuitively I wanted to be on the side of this humorous priest, the twinkle in whose eye shone through the radio waves. But rationally thinking, I asked myself, what is the Buddha's teaching on this subject? 

What I think, for what it is worth, is that in glum religions idol worship is banished and only God with a capital G is worshipped; whereas in cheerier approaches like Hinduism, and like Tibetan and Chinese Buddhism, miscellaneous gods and bodhisattvas are worshipped (om mane padme hum). 

But in the Buddha's teaching as I endeavour to practise it -- most of the time I confess, spectacularly badly -- neither God nor idols are worshipped. Rather, effort is made to get to the bottom of ignorance. 

Having said that, while I was making coffee and a pancake, the hymn "Guide Me O Thy Great Redeemer" came on the radio, and I made no effort to stop myself joining in. 



VOCABULARY
ke cit (nom. pl. m.): some
dāha-pariśrāntāḥ (nom. pl. m.): tired of burning, fed up with burning 
dāha: m. (fr. √ dah) burning , combustion , conflagration , heat ; internal heat , fever
pariśrānta: mfn. thoroughly fatigued or worn out , (ifc.) tired of , disgusted with

śīta-cchāyābhikāṅkṣiṇaḥ (nom. pl. m.): longing for cool shade
śīta: mfn. cool, chilly
chāyā: shade , shadow , a shady place (" a covered place , house "
abhikāṅkṣin: mfn. longing for , desiring (with acc. or ifc.)
abhi- √ kāṅkṣ: to long for , desire  ;  to strive.
asi-pattra-vanam (acc. sg. n.): the forest where leaves are swords
nīlam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. of a dark colour , (esp.) dark-blue or dark-green or black

baddhāḥ (nom. pl.): m. captives, prisoners
vadhyāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. to be slain or killed , to be capitally punished , to be corporally chastised (cf. under vadha) , sentenced , a criminal; to be destroyed or annihilated
iva: like
viśanti = 3rd pers. pl. viś: to enter
amī (nom. pl. m.): those


畏火赴叢林 劍葉截其體