Thursday, February 11, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.30: Meeting Buddha

ku-dRShTi-jaalena sa viprayukto
lokaM tathaa-bhuutam avekShamaaNaH
jNaan'-aashrayaaM priitim upaajagaama
bhuuyaH prasaadaM ca guraav iyaaya

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

Released from the net of shabby views,

Seeing the world as it really is,

He attained a joy pregnant with knowing

And his quiet certainty in the guru
deepened all the more.

The five verses 17.30 to 17.34 seem to form a section which illustrate what it means, in the true sense, to meet -- or at least to begin to meet -- Buddha.

Meeting Buddha is an important phrase in the teaching of Zen Master Dogen. It is the title of Shobogenzo chap. 61, Kenbutsu.

In Dogen's teaching, there is no meeting Buddha without the physical practice of sitting on a zafu.

Conversely, there is no true practice of sitting on a zafu without meeting Buddha.

In Dogen's teaching, then, what does it mean to meet Buddha?

One way to research it might be to read for yourself chap. 61, Kenbutsu. But speaking for myself, when, in an hour of need (July 2008), I wished to reflect on the meaning of serving and meeting Buddha, the chapter I went back to was not Shobogenzo chap. 61. Rather it was Shobogenzo chap. 87.

In line 4 prasaada, "quiet certainty" is the same word translated in line 1 of the previous verse as "stillness." Either translation can be understood as a description of what in physiological terms might be described as absence of undue excitement of the fear reflexes -- or, to put it another way, balance of the autonomic nervous system.

Such explanations, however, all too easily turn into shabby views on stillness which, when we clutch onto them for security, or when we take selfish pride in them as our own possession, just keep us, paradoxically, in Mara's fearful grip.

When attachment to a shabby view causes the fear reflexes to become unduly excited, the knock-on effect through the vestibular system tends to cause the top and bottom of ourselves to become disconnected from each other.

Keenly aware of this problem, FM Alexander formulated a set of preventive verbal directions which are designed to bring about "stillness without fixity" in a process which is self-checking. Those directions are:

to let the neck be free,

to let the head go forward and up,

to let the back lengthen and widen,

while sending the knees forwards and away.

The first direction is all-important in terms of the fear reflexes, because truly to let the neck be free means to give in neither to the floppiness of fear paralysis nor to the hyper-tonus of panic. At the same time, without the fourth direction, to send the knees forwards and away, some wretched theory is always liable to cause a widening disconnect between top and bottom -- in which circumstance there is no chance of the neck and other parts being truly free to meet Buddha.

A couple of evenings ago, I spent half an hour or so on the floor pretending to be a sleepy caterpillar, hungry caterpillar, curious caterpillar, wriggly caterpillar, crocodile, rabbit, cat, dog, lion and horse, all in the interests of encouraging a 3-year old girl who has never crawled properly (only bum-shuffling and bunny-hopping instead) to have fun while getting her tummy, hands, and knees, on the floor.

At the same time, because this toddler has a strong habit of putting her knees together, I have got her playing at horse-riding, sitting on Dad's shoulders with legs straddling Dad's neck, et cetera. The other day I got Mum to interlock legs with her daughter so that the knees were not being pulled in, while they held hands and rocked back and forward singing....

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream,
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily...
Life is but a dream.

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream,
And if you see a...

(shaven-headed fool belly-down on the carpet imitating a ....)


(then never mind about meeting Buddha)

Don't forget to SCREAM!

There was a kind of joy in that session which was pregnant with true knowing. Quite apart from views and opinions, and intellectual knowledge, that I might have about the importance of the vestibular system in general, and the importance of four vestibular reflexes in particular as the corner-stones of all growth, I knew in a different way that what was taking place in that session was something really good and genuinely constructive.

Work like that, and especially work on hands and knees, can be very good for re-connecting top and bottom. And work like that, equally, can be very good for deepening a quiet certainty in one's guru or gurus.

EH Johnston:
Released from the net of wrong views and seeing the world as it actually is, he experienced the ecstacy that has its base in knowledge and felt still further faith in the Guru.

Linda Covill:
Loosed from the net of wrong views and discerning the world as it really is, he experienced joy founded on knowledge, and felt still greater gratitude toward his guru.

ku-dRShTi-jaalena = inst. sg. ku-dRShTi-jaala: the net of wrong views
ku-: prefix implying deterioration , depreciation , deficiency , want , littleness , hindrance , reproach , contempt , guilt
dRShTi: f. view; (with Buddhists) wrong view ; theory , doctrine , system
jaala: n. a net (for catching birds , fish &c ); a net (fig.) , snare ; a cob-web
saH (nom. sg. m.): he
viprayuktaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. separated or removed or absent from , destitute of , free from , without (instr. or comp.)

lokam (acc. sg.): m. the world
tathaa-bhuutam (acc. sg. m.): as is, as it actually is
avekShamaaNaH = nom. sg. m. pres. part. avekS: to look towards , look at , behold; to perceive , observe , experience

jNaan'aashrayaam (acc. sg. f.): endowed with the higher knowledge
jNaana: n. knowing, (esp.) the higher knowledge
aashraya: mfn. ifc. depending on , resting on , endowed or furnished with
priitim (acc. sg.): f. joy
upaajagaama = 3rd pers. perfect upa-√gam: to go near to , come towards , approach , arrive at , reach , attain

bhuuyas: ind. still more, once again, anew
prasaadam (acc. sg.): m. clearness , brightness; calmness , tranquillity , absence of excitement ; graciousness , kindness
pra- √sad: to fall into the power of ; to settle down , grow clear and bright , become placid or tranquil (as the sea or sky , met. applied to the mind) ; to become clear or distinct ; to become satisfied or pleased or glad , be gracious or kind ; to make serene , gladden (the heart); to render calm , soothe
ca: and
gurau (loc. sg.): in the guru
iyaaya = 3rd per. sg. perfect i: to go, to arrive at, to appear, be

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