Wednesday, October 21, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.50: Steering Clear of Others

kva cid bhuktvaa yat tad vasanam api yat tat parihito
vasann aatm'aaraamaH kva cana vijane yo 'bhiramate
kRt'aarthaH sa jneyaH shama-sukha-rasa-jnaH kRta-matiH
pareShaaM saMsargaM pariharati yaH kaNTakam iva

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14.50
One who eats anything at any place,
and wears any clothes,

Who dwells in enjoyment of his own being
and loves to be anywhere without people:

He is to be known as a success,
a knower of the taste of peace and ease,
whose mind is made up --

He avoids involvement with others like a thorn.


COMMENT:
This a longer verse, each line having 17 syllables.

Does enjoyment of one's own being (aatmaaraamaH) necessarily mean going to the forest and revering oneself as a six foot golden body? Might it include going to a crowded place in a city and accepting oneself as eight arms and three heads? Might it describe the action of a person who when washing his face, whether the face is golden or whether the face is red, enjoys the action of washing his face?

Involvement with others (pareShaam saMsargam), again, might be understood on more than one level. One way of understanding it is to go to sit in some isolated windswept cottage out in the boondocks. But if one maintains internet access with the world, a biological brother, or a Dharma-brother, might send an email that one feels one has to reply to. Does the email count as association or involvement? And do brothers count as others?

Another way of steering clear of 'others' might be to empathize with everybody that one meets, apologizing to anybody that one mistakenly saw in the past as one of them as opposed to one of us. Steering clear of others, in other words, might mean steering clear of duality -- not an easy task for a man brought up in an end-gaining world that delights in duality.

There can be solitude of the body.
There can be solitude of the mind.

Can there be solitude of body and mind dropping off?
Can there be solitude that drops off self and others?

Can there be, in total solitude, solitude dropping off?

If one stops doing the wrong thing, who knows what there might be?
-- if one truly stops doing, saying, and thinking the wrong thing.

Twenty-three years ago, I would sit opposite Gudo Nishijima in his office in Iidabashi, taking his dictation of Shinji-Shobogenzo, and then I would carry his bag on the train to Asukusabashi station in preparation for sitting-Zen at the Yanagi-bashi Kaikan, followed by a Japanese lecture on Shinji-Shobogenzo. At that time something in me knew that this was a good direction for me to be directing my energy in. The direction was basically towards the clarification of Master Dogen's teaching for self and others. At the same time, something in me knew that there was something wrong with our effort, his and mine. People who were around at the time know that my emotional criticism of Gudo Nishijima was not a phenomenon that appeared in recent years. It started with a vengeance in 1986, when I first shaved my head.

What was being reflected in the mirror that Gudo was holding up to me, I could not at that time see. There was nothing wrong with my eyes, but as I have come to understand from developmental work, some children with 20:20 vision cannot see. The reason for this is that seeing doesn't take place in the eye, just as listening doesn't take place in the ear. Seeing and hearing take place in the brain. And my brain was such that I could only see that there was a problem. I couldn't see what the problem was.

Nowadays I do see what the problem was and what the problem is. The problem is a wrong tendency to want to see oneself, and one's own side, as being in the right. It is a very pernicious kind of duality. Taken to its extreme, it leads a man to proclaim that his own idea is just true Buddhism, and that others who assert a different idea are just non-Buddhists. It leads a man to proclaim that his own version of an incident is true, whereas the other's version is a damn lie. Meanwhile so-called Dharma-brothers align themselves with the side they think is in the right, not seeing that both sides are just wrong. These phenomena are all just the flowers and fruits from that original seed which is trying to be right, trying to be on the side of Buddha.

Reflecting thus on what I have been an integral part of, takes me back to the starting point of this monologue by the Buddha in Saundarananda Canto 12, namely, shame.

EH Johnston:
That man is to be considered successful who rejoices in solitude and avoids contact with others like a thorn, eating in any place whatever there is and wearing any clothes whatsoever, living anywhere sufficient to himself; for his mind is made up and he knows the taste of bliss of tranquillity.

Linda Covill:
A man who eats anything at any place, wears any clothes, lives in self-sufficiency, who is happy to be anywhere without people and avoids the company of others like a thorn -- he is recognized as a determined man of achievement, and knows the taste of the bliss of peace.


VOCABULARY:
kva cid: anywhere
bhuktvaa = absolutive of bhuj: to enjoy , use , possess , (esp.) enjoy a meal , eat , eat and drink
yat tat: anything
vasanaM (accusative): clothing
api: also
yat tat: anything
parihitaH = nom. sg. parihita: mfn. put round or on , covered , invested , clothed

vasan = pr. part of vas: to dwell , live , stop (at a place) , stay (esp. " overnight "
aatman: m. the breath, self; one's own
aaraama: m. delight , pleasure ; place of pleasure , a garden , grove
aatmaaraamaH (nom. sg.): mfn. rejoicing in one's self, or in the supreme spirit
kva cana: anywhere
vijane = loc. sg. vijana: mfn. free from people , destitute of men , deserted , solitary , lonely
yaH: [relative pronoun] who
abhiramate = 3rd pers. sg. abhi-√ram: to dwell, repose, delight in

kRta: done
arthaH: purpose, aim
kRt'aarthaH (nom. sg.): one who has attained an end or object or has accomplished a purpose or desire , successful , satisfied , contented
sa (nom. sg.): he
jneyaH (nom. sg): is known, is to be known
shama: m. tranquillity , calmness , rest , equanimity ; peace
sukha: n. ease , easiness , comfort , prosperity , pleasure , happiness
rasa: m. taste
jnaH (nom. sg.): mfn knowing , familiar with (chiefly in comp.);
kRta-matiH (nom. sg.): mind made up, heart set, determined, resolute

pareSHaam = gen. pl. of para: m. another (different from one's self) , a foreigner , enemy , foe , adversary
saMsargam (acc.): m. mixture or union together , commixture , blending , conjunction , connection , contact , association , society
pariharati = 3rd pers. sg. pari-√hR: to leave, quit, desert; shun, avoid; beware of
yaH: [he is] one who
kaNTakam (acc.): m. a thorn
iva: like

10 comments:

Jordan said...

Hi Mike, it may sound redundant coming from me, but seeing your work day to day I am just filled with appreciation for your efforts.

Keep on keeping on,
Jordan

Mike Cross said...

Thanks Jordan. Your encouragement is never redundant.

Interesting that you should describe yourself as "filled" -- it points to a phrase from tomorrow's verse that I am working on now, tRpta-hRdayaH, "of sated heart" or "of filled-up heart." Maybe you are the man of action the Buddha is talking about, who drinks his essence of wisdom.

All the best,

Mike

Harry said...

Hi, Mike.

Hope you and yours are well.

Master Dogen seemed to have a 'non-buddhist' shitlist going on. Was he in the wrong?

Regards,

Harry.

Mike Cross said...

Hi Harry,

The question you ask I have asked myself.

To answer it, I turn to the mirror principle, which in my experience is valid 100 times out of a hundred when a person expresses emotional criticism of the other.

When Master Dogen accused so-called monks in China of being dogs with human faces, eager to grovel the shit and piss of laypeople to feast upon, I think what he was expressing was largely his own fear.

What was it that Master Dogen feared? He tells us somewhere what he feared: he feared losing the will to the truth, the bodhi-mind.

I think this is how the mirror principle works -- a person's emotional criticism of others doesn't actually reveal how the person is, but it reveals how he fears he might be.

Also, we know from Master Dogen's record how his master, Master Tendo Nyojo used to denounce monks of his time who had no will to the truth. So Dogen may also have been following his master's example.

But I wonder how reliable imitation is as a means of transmitting the Buddha-Dharma. From my reading of Saundarananda, the Buddha is laying the groundwork for Nanda to go back to basics and work the whole thing out for himself, to make the four noble truths his own.

If I stuck to the principle of always imitating my teacher, I would never utter one word that even hinted at criticism of Dogen. But I don't think that principle is true, so stuff it.

All the best,

Mike

Harry said...

Hi, Mike.

I don't know about the mirror principle really, but I know fear and, worse than that, I know not-really-knowing that I'm afraid and the miserable, automatonic existence that that can entail.

I think some fears might be realistic, or have a basis in obvious and real eventualities at least: a little bit of natural fear seems quite rational at times.

I think it may be rational to fear a world in which the little bit of reason we have is lost in a similar way as we might feed our kids for fear that they'll starve. This fear, I think, might justifiably be levelled as criticism when those who claim to be peddling reason and liberation instead pedal just an insidious form of ignorance. I agree that Master Dogen may not have been as well informed as he might have been, and that he may have been going on the opinions of his master; how lucky he would have been to have had the internet where he could have availed of 10,000 spurious points of view instead of just one or two!

I think, on balance, Master Dogen's views were not dominated by irrational fear. Come over to Old Ireland and I'll show you the aftermath of a religion that really was based in fear and ignorance!

All the best,

Harry.

Harry said...

p.s.

Applying the mirror principle: in criticising Dogen Zenji you realise I suppose that you may be projecting your own fear of our tendency towards being bound and dehumanised by very strong opinions?

Master Dogen may not have held his opinions in that way at all.

Regards,

Harry.

Mike Cross said...

The gold is always in the bold.

I suppose one of my fears is that with all my own conceited views and opinions, which are so much dust and fluff, I might detract from Ashvaghosha's true gold.

Harry said...

Hi, Mike.

I think, if 'the gold' is anything at all, it must be great efforts such as your own.

Regards,

Harry.

Mike Cross said...

When a miner makes a great effort to dig, according to Buddhist theory, there is value just in the digging itself.

But in the real world a gold miner has to extract gold.

And you, Harry, are a pest!

Harry said...

Hi, Mike.

Yes, I think I am a pest!

Surely, in the making of gold, dirty digging is the greater part of the effort, and the making of gold is just part of the overall process? And, while digging is digging, and making the gold is making the gold, surely any implied separation of 'digging' and 'making' in the overall process is artificial?

So making gold is prospecting, is digging in the 'wrong' place for 'not-gold', is digging in the right place for gold-gold, is extracting 'not-gold' ('no, it's not that'), extracting gold-gold ('yes, its not this')...?

Regards,

Pest.