Tuesday, December 8, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.45: No Refuge Out There

kva cic chiitaM kva cid gharmaH
kva cid rogo bhayam kva cit
baadhate 'bhyadhikaM loke
tasmaad a-sharaNaM jagat

- = = = - = = =
- = = = - = - -
= - = - - = = =
= = - - - = - -

Here cold, there heat,

Here disease, there danger

Oppresses humanity in the extreme.

The world, therefore, has no place of refuge.

I can find refuge in the practice of integrity, for example, by jogging up and down the football pitch in the very mundane surroundings of my local recreation ground. And the more completely I give up any idea of getting somewhere by running, the better my practice of integrity is liable to be.

Refuge, again, is to be found in learning the backward step of turning one's light and letting it shine.

And refuge, for me, exists in this translation work.

In describing Nanda's progress (or regress) through four dhyaanas, or four stages of sitting-meditation, in Canto 17, Ashvaghosha describes (1) the joy of sitting under the influence of a true idea, and then (2) the joy of leaving behind attachment to ideas, and then (3) the ease of leaving behind attachment to joy, and finally (4) a condition of uncaring awareness beyond ease and hardship.

Refuge, for me, exists in endeavouring to understand this progression (or regression), and in endeavouring to practice it. Refuge is not a place at the end of this endeavour. Refuge is the endeavour itself.

In 13.28 the Buddha tells Nanda:
shiilaM hi sharaNaM, saumya
"For the practice of integrity, my friend, is the refuge."

So the Buddha is not out to deny the possibility of finding refuge. What the Buddha is denying is the idea that refuge might be found out there at some place -- somewhere over the rainbow.

Right now on top of a zafu
Here, here and now, am I.
But somewhere over the rainbow
I, sure as hell, will die.

EH Johnston:
In one place cold, in another heat, in one place disease, in another danger afflicts men excessively. Therefore the world is without refuge.

Linda Covill:
Somewhere, cold brings keen distress to man, somewhere heat, somewhere sickness, somewhere danger. The world is therefore shelterless.

kva cit: somewhere
shiitam (nom. sg.) n. cold , coldness , cold weather
kva cit: somewhere
kvacid-kvacid: here - there , here and there , in various places
gharmaH (nom. sg.): m. heat, hot season

kva cit: somewhere
rogaH (nom. sg.) m. (from √ruj) " breaking up of strength " , disease , infirmity , sickness
ruj: to break , break open , dash to pieces , shatter , destroy
bhayam (nom. sg.): n. fear; sg. and pl. terror , dismay , danger , peril , distress
kva cit: somewhere
baadhate = 3rd pers. sg. baadh: to press , force ; to harass , pain , trouble , grieve , vex
abhyadhikam: ind. exceedingly
abhi: ind. over
adhikam: ind. exceedingly , too much
adhika: n. surplus , abundance , redundancy , hyperbole
loke = loc. loka: n. the earth or world of human beings; mankind

tasmaat: from that, therefore
a-sharaNam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. destitute of refuge , defenceless
sharaNa: n. shelter , place of shelter or refuge or rest , hut , house , habitation , abode , lair (of an animal) , home , asylum;
jagat (nom. sg.): n. the world


Anonymous said...

Hi Mike -

This Canto is immensely beautiful and wise, but, at that same time, I hope this Canto is nearing it's end. Ashvaghosha's Gold has been one of my teachers through a series of recent decisions regarding life and my practice and in the course of this Canto I have given up so many Ideas!

The old Ideas, however, have been replaced by a new one, which is likely equally flawed with faulty sensory appreciation: In the next couple of months I will begin a journey to learn more about the Buddha-Dharma, or at least to pass through the learning. So you can imagine my dismay reading yesterday's post!

Today's post puts me more at ease. "Refuge is the endeavour itself" or the path is the goal. I am sure that you learned much during your own journey: for one thing, it taught you that "out there at some place" is not the refuge.

During my journey I hope to have a bit more time to read through the Nishijima-Cross translation of the Shobogenzo. I am only through Chapter 9 so far. Without time to devote to these efforts, I would not finish the reading until another lifetime! As I read, I have been writing some *very humble* haiku for each Chapter. They may end up being a life's work, or not. (I often want to go back and throw them out or re-write them. Some do not feel elegant enough to represent Dogen's work.) But I invite you to take a look and comment. I am likely to post what I have written so far this coming weekend.

Regardless, I hope to someday have the chance to meet you and your family, perhaps on my way to or from a more distant place. Maybe I will have a chance to share more of my story. More likely, it would be nice to share a cup of tea and sit.

Although the day is almost over for you, I wish you a Happy Rohatsu.

In boldness and humility, just another beginning Zen student,


Mike Cross said...

Hi Gisela,

Out beyond ideas of right and wrong, is there a field? If so, maybe we could meet there. But I suspect you may get there before me, so you may need patience!

In the meantime, all the best for your journey, and if you are passing this way, do come and see us.


Anonymous said...

Mike -

I can not imagine a better response than Rumi's quote. You may get there before me, as destinations have never been my goal in practice. Perhaps to a fault.

Thank you for your efforts. I'll be sure to let you know when my travel plans firm up,