sa vicakrame divi bhuv' iiva
punar upavivesha tasthivaan
nishcala-matir ashayiSHTa punar
bahudh" aabhavat punar abhuut tath" aikadhaa
He went up into the sky
as freely as if roaming the earth:
Even while sitting, perfectly still;
Even while lying down,
an unmoving flow of direction.
He showed many changing forms
while thus remaining
all of a piece.
Going up into the sky as freely as if roaming the earth means, for example, allowing the spine to lengthen upwards in sitting, not in a rigid, self-arranging kind of way -- as if you knew what "correct posture" was -- but with the ease that there is in free movement. Gautama, Ashvaghosha is telling us, had this ease of free movement even when his body was sitting perfectly still, even when his body was lying down.
To convey the sense of freedom and ease, even in stillness, my Alexander head of training, Ray Evans, used to say: "Sit as if to stand."
FM Alexander's niece, Marjory Barlow, used to say to me, while I was lying on her teaching table: "That's what we want. The whole body informed with thought!" What Marjory meant by "thought" was not intellectual thought. She was talking about a flow of direction. This desired flow of direction, she used to emphasize, is always the same, irrespective of position or movement. The direction for openness of the hand, for example, is the same whether the hands are opening out or making fists, whether the fingers are still or playing the piano. The direction for release of eye muscles is the same whether the eyes are open or shut. The direction for a lengthening flow along the spine is the same whether you are walking upstairs or downstairs, whether you are bolt upright or in a foetal curl, whether you are 35 years old or 85, whether you are a model of symmetry or a wizened and twisted old drill.
Maybe I could have understood the above if -- perhaps inspired by a statue of an old and crooked Bodhidharma -- I had searched out and followed a master of Chinese chi-kung. In 1994, I seriously considered that option. But, wary of oriental ways, I opted instead for a route more in sympathy with Western scientific method and came back to England to train as an Alexander teacher.
So, if I have understood Ashvaghosha's intention in this verse, it is thanks to the efforts of FM Alexander and teachers in his line. Indeed, to my ears, Ashvaghosha could be just describing in this verse a good student on an Alexander teaching-training course, constantly going up while sitting and standing, while doing lying down work, while walking, talking, humming, squatting, going on hands and knees, running, swimming, et cetera, et cetera -- all the time maintaining that use of the head, neck and back which is optimal for the working of the organism as a whole.
Master Dogen wrote in the original edition of Fukan-zazengi of naturally becoming one piece. It is very difficult to say what it means to become one piece. But we can at least be clear in regard to what it is to be disconnected, so that the head, ribcage and pelvis are out of alignment with each other. In this article, Marjory Barlow describes the general pattern of disconnection, or misuse, which takes the same form for everybody, centred as it is around Mara's universal grip.
vicakrame = from vi + car: move in different directions, spread about, roam freely; to be situated in (locative, applied to heavenly bodies)
divi: (locative) in the sky, up into the sky, in the air
bhuvi: (locative) on the earth, over the earth
punar: while, but, and yet, and then, again
punar... punar: at one time.... at another time, now... now....
upavivesha: seated, sitting
tasthivaan: lit. 'in the state of having stopped'; perfectly still.
nishcala: not moving, motionless, steady, constant, invariable, unwavering, without a flicker
matiH: (nominal case) mind, thinking, mental tendency, intention, thought-direction, directing
ashayiSHta: lay down
punar... punar: at one time.... at another time
bahudhaa: in many ways, forms or directions; in many parts or places; variously
abhavat: (imperfect, from the root bhuu) became, brought into being, manifested, exhibited
punar: while, again, at the same time
abhuut: (aorist of root bhuu) became, was, realised
tathaa: thus, in that manner, in such a manner
ekadhaa: in one piece, singly, simply, at once, all together
He walked in the air as if on the earth, then He stopped and sat down, then He lay down unhesitatingly; He divided Himself into many forms and then became one again.
He walked in the air as though on the earth, and then stopped and sat down, then lay down, his mind immoveable. He multiplied himself into many forms and then became just one again.