apaaM dravatvaM kaThinatvam urvyaa
vaayosh calatvam dhruvam auShNyam agneH
yathaa sva-bhaavo hi tathaa sva-bhaavo
duHkhaM shariirasya ca cetasash ca.
Fluidity of water, solidity of earth,
Motion of wind, and constant heat of fire,
Are innate in them; as also it is in the nature
Of both the body and the mind to suffer.
We live in an age of holistic hairdressing, where everyone from A to Z, from your local Aromatherapist to the stylist at the Zen Hairdressing Salon, is familiar with the principle of psycho-physical unity.
But nearly 800 years ago Dogen wrote of sitting with the mind, as opposed to sitting with the body, and of sitting with the body, as opposed to sitting with the mind.
In making this distinction, in setting up this opposition between body and mind, Dogen was evidently in the tradition of Ashvaghosha, about a thousand years before him.
The Soto Zen practitioners of today, by definition, are not in the tradition of either of these two great ancestors. They may delude themselves that they are, but truly they are not. Thinking and saying that "Zazen is a kind of physical gymnastics," and practising as such, they see only one side, and are blind to the other.
Gudo Nishijima, the Zen Master who introduced me to the teaching of the ancestors, had me understand that Master Dogen would be totally dissatisfied with all things and matters in the so-called Soto Zen Buddhism of today, and that our joint effort to translate Shobogenzo into English could be part of a solution.
But from where I sit now, Gudo’s understanding at a certain point itself became part of the problem, not part of the solution. When I began to investigate the area of sitting with the mind, which is sitting based on thinking as opposed to feeling, Gudo reacted to me as if I had become his enemy -- as if I had become a threat to his “true Buddhism,” at the centre of which is a philosophy of physical doing, as opposed to thinking, along with strong attachment to a physiological view about the autonomic nervous system.
Gudo’s reaction came as a terrible shock to me. A terrible, terrible shock. I knew from early on in our co-operation that Gudo was not perfect, and I did not expect him to be perfect. But certain things I did expect from him, and from his other disciples. When those expectations were spectacularly not met, I retreated into solitary sitting practice, and into denial. The denial prevented me from feeling the full force of my disappointed expectations. But recently I do feel that bitter disappointment, which all stems from the fact that, even though I lowered my expectations a lot, I failed to lower them enough.
I thought the teaching of pulling in the chin was a root cause of other problems. In fact, the teaching of pulling in the chin was merely symptomatic of views with deeper roots -- for example, in Japanese nationalism and even Japanese militarism.
Life has disappointed very severely expectations with regard to Japanese Zen that, even though I lowered them as low as they could go, still remained unrealistically high. In this way, life has forced me to understand not only in theory what Ashvaghosha meant by suffering of the mind, which in this verse and the following verse he separates from suffering of the body.
apaaM = genitive, plural of ap: water
dravatva: natural or artificial fluid condition of a substance , fluidity , wetness
kaThinatva: hardness , firmness , harshness , severity
urvyaaH = genitive, singular of urvii: the earth
vaayoH = genitive, singular of vaayu: wind
-tva: (suffix for abstract noun) -ness
calatva: motion, movement
dhruva: constant, permanent, eternal
auShNya: heat , warmth , burning
agneH = genitive, singular of agni: fire , sacrificial fire
yathaa: just as
sva-bhaavaH (nominative, singular): native place; own condition or state of being , natural state or constitution , innate or inherent disposition , nature , impulse , spontaneity
hi: for; surely [emphatic]
tathaa: so too, likewise,
sva-bhaavaH: own nature, inherent nature
shariirasya = genitive of shariira: the body
cetasaH = genitive of cetas: the mind; consciousness, intelligence, thinking soul, heart, mind
And as liquidity is the specific essence of water, solidity of the earth, movement of the wind, constant heat of fire, so is suffering the specific essence of the body and mind.
As fluidity inheres in water, solidity in earth, motion in wind, and constant heat in fire, so does suffering inhere in the mind and body.