Saturday, December 13, 2008

BUDDHACARITA 5.8-11; Going Back to the Origin of Sitting-Zen

manasaa ca viviktataam abhiipsuH
suhRdas taan anuyaayino nivaarya
abhitash cala caaru parNavatyaa
vijane muulam upeyivaan sa jambvaaH

And desiring to reach,
by mental means, unclutteredness,

He warded off the friends
who had been following him.

With leaves rustling agreeably all around,

He found a solitary spot
at the foot of a rose-apple tree.

niSHasaada sa yatra shaucavatyaam
bhuvi vaiDuurya nikaasha shaadvalaayaam
jagataH prabhava vyayau vicinvan
manasash ca sthiti maargam aalalambe

Sitting at that place of purity,

On verdant ground
-- grass shimmering like cat's-eye --

He contemplated the origin and demise of living things,

And hit upon the path of stillness of the mind.

samavaapta manaH sthitish ca sadyo
vishay'ecch"aadibhir aadhibhish ca muktaH
sa-vitarka-vicaaram aapa shaantaM
prathamaM dhyaanam an-aasrava-prakaaram

As instantly his mind was able to right itself,

So also he was set free from physical liabilities,
such as desire for objects of the senses.

He experienced, alongside intellectual doubt
and hesitation, a state of calm:

This is the first level of Zen,
a freedom of sorts from energetic leaks.

adhigamya tato viveka-jam tu
parama-priiti-sukhaM manaH-samaadhim
idam eva tataH paraM pradadhyau
manasaa loka-gatim nishaamya samyak

What he realized next, however,
springing out from discrimination,

Was the balanced state of mind,
which is the deepest joy and happiness.

Upon this very state, from that time onward,
his mind was set --

And with this mind he observed
the course of the world, plainly.

Johnston says he stopped his friends. Olivelle says he got rid of them. I think Olivelle is nearer the mark. Ashvaghosha says he warded his friends off -- as if they were not friends but enemies. It is almost as if Ashvaghosha is hinting that the people you think of as your best friends, the ones you are liable to rely on, the ones you regard as belonging to the same group as you, the ones you think are on your side: they are the ones really to beware of. They are the ones, not your worst enemies, who pose the greatest threat to your independent existence in space and time.

The young Gautama separated himself from other people, even his friends, in order to find a solitary spot to sit and contemplate. And in that solitude he found a deep happiness, the experience of which guided him from that time onwards. That happiness was not conferred on him through belonging to a group; on the contrary, the young Gautama stumbled on that deep happiness as a result of giving himself, as a solitary individual, space and time to think things out for himself. People today who do not give themselves that kind of SPACE and TIME, but instead willingly subscribe to the views of some supposedly enlightened guru, and in adherence to the guru's view consider themselves to belong to some group, such as the Soto Sect worshipping at the altar of Dogen, or AZI idolizing Taisen, or Dogen Sangha accepting Gudo's "true Buddhism," or Soka Gakkai, or the Ordinary Mind School, or the Big Mind whatever it is -- are they following the Buddha's original non-sectarian way, or are they following another kind of way?

Does the true work of Dharma require us to join a group and adhere to a view, or set of views? Or does this work require us to think things out for ourselves, challenging all views?

I think Ashvaghosha, in his usual indirect way, as if he were more interested in telling a great story than in preaching a stern message, is telling us to observe keenly the way things are going, not looking through partisan eyes, not seeing through rose-coloured spectacles, but observing the course of the world plainly.

manasaa = instrumental of manas: mind
ca: and
vivikta: solitude, lonely place
viviktataam: distinction, isolation, purity, clarity
abhiipsuH: desiring to reach

suhRdaH: friends (accusative)
taan: those (accusative), the [friends]
anuyaayin: following
nivaarya: warding off

abhitash: (with accusative) before and behind, round about, all around
cala: moving, rustling
caaru: agreeable, pleasing, lovely
parNavat: abounding in leaves

vijane: seclusion (locative)
muulam: root, foot (accusative)
upeyivaan: approching
sa: he
jambvaaH: rose-apple tree (genitive)

niSHasaada: sat, sitting
sa: he
yatra: [relative pronoun] in that/which place
shaucavatyaam: purity, cleanness

bhuvi: ground (locative)
vaiDuurya: cat's eye gem, beryl
nikaasha: sight, appearance ( = like)
shaadvalaayaam: covered with grass, verdant

jagataH: creatures, living things
prabhava: origin, coming into being
vyaya: destruction, demise
vicinvan: reflecting, contemplating

manasah: mind (genitive)
ca: and
sthiti: stillness, standing, staying, upright position, stability
maarga: path
aalalambe: took, embarked on

samavaapta: obtained, attained
manah: mind
sthiti: stillness, righting, balancing
ca....[ca]: both.... [and]
sadyo: at once, instantly

vishaya: sense object
icchaa: wish, desire
aadi: et cetera, beginning with
aadhibhih = instrumental case of aadhi: pledge, deposit, pawn, mortgage
ca: and
muktaH: (with instrumental case) set free from. released

sa: with, along with
vitarka: intellectual thought, conjecture, supposition, doubt, speculation
vicaaram: intellectual consideration, reflection, hesitation
aapa: reach, obtain
shaantaM: calmness

prathamaM: first
dhyaanam: level of meditation, Zen
an: without
aasrava = from the verb root aasru: flow, spring a leak
prakaaram: kind, sort

adhigamya: attainable, knowable; to be experienced
tata: thereupon
viveka: discrimination
jan: be born, arise
tu: but, however

parama: paramount, supreme, at the limit; highest, strongest, deepest
priiti: enjoyment, satisfaction
sukha: happiness (opposite of dukha)
manaH: mind
samaadhim: the balanced state (accusative)

idam eva: this very one, this very state
tataH paraM: from then on, thereafter
pradadhre: (with manas) to set the mind upon anything

manasaa: mind (instrumental)
loka-gatim: course of the world (accusative)
nishaamya: observe, perceive
samyak: out & out, no nonsense, straight, straightforward, frank, plain; rightly, properly, well & truly

And desiring to reach perfect clearness with his mind, he stopped his friends who were following him, and proceeded himself to a solitary spot at the root of a jambu-tree, whose beautiful leaves were waving in all directions.

And there he sat down on the clean ground, with grass bright like beryl; and reflecting on the origin and destruction of creation he took the path of mental stillness.

And his mind at once came to a stand and at the same time he was freed from mental troubles such as desire for the objects of sense etc. And he entered into the first trance of calmness which is accompanied by gross and subtle cogitation and which is supermundane in quality.

Then he obtained possession of concentration of mind, which springs from discernment and yields extreme ecstasy and bliss, and thereafter, rightly perceiving in his mind the course of the world, he meditated on this same matter.

Getting rid of those friends who accompanied him,
wishing to reach some clarity in his own mind,
he reached the foot of a rose apple tree in a
lonely spot with charming leaves rustling all around.

On that pure ground with grass the colour of beryl,
he sat down, and as he began to contemplate
the origin and destruction of all creatures,
he embarked upon the path of mental stillness.

Achieving at once the state of mental stillness,
and freedom from worries, such as sensual desire,
he attained the first trance --
with thought and reflection,
tranquil, uninfluenced by the evil inflows.

Thereupon he attained absorption of the mind,
Born of discernment, with the joy of supreme bliss,
knowing rightly in his mind the course of the world,
thereafter he pondered over this very thing:


lxg said...

It's interesting Mike that in the third section you have described 'desire for the objects of sense' as a kind of 'energetic leak', something going from inside-out whereas Olivelle describes 'sensual desire' as an 'evil inflow', a harmful external influence.

Those words 'evil inflow' rang alarm bells with me because as Ashvaghosa says we cannot blame the sense objects for our own disturbed reactions to them. It is my reaction to the stimulus which is always the problem, is it not?

lxg said...

I was reflecting on your post this morning Mike and I was reminded of when I was teenager and how I became quite inward looking, isolated at school and would find myself hanging around on the periphery of groups of mates trying to fit myself in, trying desperately to belong. When I got home from school everday for 2-3 hours I would play my drums. Those were without doubt my happiest moments as a teenager, when I was on my own, throwing myself into action and being myself.

Society, at all levels, seems to reject the 'loner' or 'lone nut' but the Buddha actively encouraged people to be like that. Well that's a bloody relief, maybe I was headed on the right path all along. That's the teaching for me!

I'm approaching 30 and I'm still a loner really, but with my sitting cushion, 3 years Alexander training under my belt and your teaching and translations for guidance, I wouldn't swap places with anybody.

Thanks for all your efforts!

Mike Cross said...

I don't know, Alex. My impression has rather been that you have barely listened to a bloody word I have said. If you appreciate my teaching so much, I wonder, how come you haven't after what must be around 5 years now, finished sewing your kesa? Is it maybe that some evil inflow has intervened to prevent you getting on with it?

I am tempted to say that I wouldn't swap you for any other student. But I stop... give my Alexander directions... and think again...

Are there any offers?

Mike Cross said...

Still no takers?

How about if I offer two penniless, robeless Zen musicians for the price of one?

(Note to the general reader: please don't be concerned -- the Zen musicians in question know I am only pulling their legs!)

lxg said...

One of them laughs nervously!

lxg said...

As you know Mike I have recently been in the habit of retracting arse-kissing messages and I see no reason to stop now.

Anyway point taken,


Mike Cross said...

From both reliable sources of the final teaching of the Buddha, I think that the crooked, arse-kissing ways of the world are just what the Buddha despised, with his final breaths just as much as in the vigour of his youth -- viz. the account in Buddhacarita...

"Since deceitfulness and the practice of the Law are incompatible, do not resort to crooked ways. Deceitfulness and false pretences are for the sake of cheating, but for those who are given to the Law, there is no such thing as cheating."....

And the account in Shobogenzo chap. 95 HACHI-DAININ-GAKU...

"Small desire, wanting little, you should practise just for itself. Still more, wanting little can produce all kinds of benefits: People of small desire and few wants have no tendency to curry favour and bend in order to gain the minds of others"

But don't worry, Alex, because as far as I am concerned there is no arse-kissing tendency in you, at least not towards me. And I would not swap one or two robeless, scrounging, non-arse-kissing students, for any number of the other variety.