Wednesday, December 30, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.67: How the Ready-Minded Go for Release

vimokSha-hetor api yukta-maanaso
vihaaya doShaan bRhatas tath" aaditaH
jahaati suukShmaan api tad-vishuddhaye
vishodhya dharm'-aavayavaan niyacchati

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

So one whose mind is ready,
having the motive of release,

Lets go first of the gross faults,

Then of the subtler ones, so that his mind is cleansed,

And by the cleansing
he retains the rudiments of Dharma.

This verse seems to suggest that the raw material for ultimate realisation of the Dharma is a ready mind, and that a mind is ready when it is motivated by the desire for release.

A further implication of the verse is that the rudiments of Dharma -- for example, integrity (shiila), balance (samaadhi), and intuitive wisdom (prajNaa) -- are not constructs but are already present in a ready mind, like gold dust in dirt.

Why did Bodhidharma go to China? Chinese Zen masters of later generations pointed to a tree in the garden; at the same time, Bodhidharma must have intuited that the raw material of mental readiness existed in China (though not in the shape of stupid Emperor Wu).

In the past day or two, diplomatic relations between Britain and China have abruptly chilled due to the execution of a British citizen in China, for drug smuggling. The issue caused me to ask again: Why did Bodhidharma go to China?

The verse to unwrap the bowl which I sometimes chant at mealtimes goes:

The Buddha was born in Kapilavastu,
He realised the truth in Magadha,
Preached the Dharma in Varanasi,
And entered Nirvana in Kusinagara...

Kapilavastu, Magadha, Varanasi and Kusinagara are all sites in ancient India, whose lingua franca was Sanskrit. Ashvaghosha was the 12th ancestor in the Buddha’s lineage in India, and Bodhidharma was the 28th ancestor, again in India, where the lingua franca was Sanskrit.

Sanskrit, according to Wikipedia is a historical Indo-Aryan language which is one of the earliest attested members of the Indo-European language family -- the family which includes English and most European languages. So why did Bodhidharma go to China? Why didn’t he join his Aryan cousins by going west?

We will never know all the circumstances that fed into Bodhidharma’s decision. Why did FM Alexander leave his native Australia and come to London? Probably because at the turn of the 19th century London was the centre of the then mighty British Empire, and FM wanted to be at the centre of the action. But also because a £5 double came in at long odds and enabled FM to pay off his debts and book his passage.

Why did Bodhidharma go to China? I don’t know. But what is not in doubt is that Bodhidharma neither travelled west, towards Europe, nor south to Sri Lanka, nor even north, to Tibet. Bodhidharma travelled east, to China. Bodhidharma went to China.

If China executes a British citizen, and people in Britain get angry about it, the anger falls into the category of reactions that are called in this verse “gross faults.” Anger is a gross fault associated with a certain pattern of misuse of the self -- a stiffening of the neck and a tightening up of the chest, a reaction rooted in other words in an infantile panic reflex.

What do I know of letting go of a fault like that? Not much. The evidence of everyday life proves that I am well versed in anger, but not such an expert at letting go of it.

Still, if I truly give up the idea of being right, or becoming something, or doing something, then what is there to trigger the many-tentacled monster of my misuse?

Just for that moment, there might not be anything. And in there not being anything the tree in the garden might be.

When Bodhidharma went to China, he didn’t take a preachy message of human rights and democracy. I don’t think he even took the rudiments of Dharma. It may rather have been that, knowing the rudiments of Dharma to exist in China already, Bodhidharma went without anything.

EH Johnston:
So the man, who has concentrated his mind for the sake of emancipation, first eliminates the grosser vices and then the subtler ones to cleanse his mind and, having cleansed it, retains the constituents of the Law.

Linda Covill:
To obtain liberation, a man of focused mind will likewise abandon first gross faults, and then, to further refine his mind, he abandons also subtle faults. After this cleansing, he retains the constituents of dharma.

vimokSha: m. the being loosened or undone ; release
hetoH = gen./abl. sg. hetu: m. " impulse " , motive , cause
api: even, also
yukta-maanasaH (nom. sg. m.): a man ready in mind
yukta: mfn. yoked, harnessed, set to work, engaged, ready to, prepared for ; fit, suitable
maanasa: mfn. belonging to the mind or spirit , mental ; n. the mental powers , mind , spirit , heart , soul (= manas)

vihaaya = abs. vi- √ haa: to leave behind , relinquish , quit , abandon ; to give up , cast off , renounce , resign ; to be deprived of , lose ; to get rid of or free from (acc.)
doShan (acc. pl. m.): faults
bRhataH = acc. pl. m. bRhat: great , large , wide , compact , solid , massy tathaa: [correlative of yathaa in 66b] so, likewise
aaditaH: ind. from the beginning , from the first , at first

jahaati = 3rd pers. sg. haa: to leave , abandon , desert , quit , forsake , relinquish ; to discharge , emit ; to put away , take off , remove , lay aside , give up , renounce , resign , avoid , shun
suukShmaan = acc. pl. m. suukShma: mfn. minute , small , fine
api: also
tad: it, that, them
vishuddhaye = dative vishuddhi: f. complete purification , purity

vishodhya = abs. vi-√shudh: to become perfectly pure (esp. in ritual sense) ; to become clear (said of the senses)
dhaarma = vRddhi form in comp. of dharma: the law, the teaching
avayavaan = acc. pl. avayava: m. a limb , member , part , portion
niyacchati = 3rd pers. sg. ni-√yam: to stop (trans.) , hold back , detain with (loc.) ; to stop (intrans.) , stay , remain

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