Thursday, October 6, 2011


kṣayaṃ gataṃ janma nirastajanman
saddharmacaryāmuṣito 'smi samyak/
kṛtsnaṃ kṛtaṃ me kṛtakārya kāryaṃ
lokeṣu bhūto 'smi na lokadharmā // 18.10 //

- = - = / = - - / = - = = // = = - = / = - - / = - = -
= = - = / = - - / = - = = // = = - = / = - - / = - = =

Rebirth is over, O Refuter of Rebirth!

I am dwelling as one with observance of true dharma.

What was for me to do,
O Doer of the Necessary! is totally done.

I am present in the world without being of the world.

In a reversal of the pattern of yesterday's verse, the last three pādas of today's verse are Indravajrā (I), and the first pāda is Upendravajrā (U). This UIII scheme for a verse written in the 11-syllable Upajāti metre, Ānandajoti Bhikku informs us, is called Kīrti (good mention, fame, renown, glory).

In Buddhism, so they say, belief in reincarnation is central. But I don't believe in Buddhism and don't believe in that kind of rebirth. What rebirth means to me is, for example, that in a past life I translated Shobogenzo and in this life I am translating Saundara-nanda. Or in a past life I had some Alexander lessons from Marjory Barlow and in this life I am endeavoring, in a small way, to transmit what she taught -- which has a lot to do with being present, which in turn has a lot to do with not pulling one's head back and down into the past.

My attitude towards reincarnation corresponds to what is called here (in this generally excellent article on the Buddha's teaching as true science) "sceptical doubt." In general I see the doctrine of reincarnation as being very much tied up with the way that people have attempted to confer political legitimacy in societies like Tibet, without recourse to the principle of one person one vote. But this is somewhat beside the point of today's verse, in the first line of which, as I read it, Nanda is simply declaring that he is living consciously, rather than in the unconscious whirl of samsāra.

The 2nd line, as I read it, is a declaration that Nanda is now simply allowing the right thing to do itself. It brings to mind the words of the ancient Chinese master Enchi Dai-an, quoted in Shobogenzo chap. 64, Kajo, who spoke of the castrated water buffalo that turned into a white ox on open ground, existing all day long in a state of conspicuous brightness, not leaving even when driven away.

The 3rd line, similarly, is an expression of non-doing; Nanda is saying that he, Nanda, is through with doing.

Today's verse is thus suffused with the 1st person singular -- with me ("of me") in line 3 and asmi ("I am") in lines 2 and 4.

The essence of self-doubt might be the nagging sense that here I am (sort of), not really living my own life; here I am (sort of) with a body, but not really inhabiting it; here I am (sort of), being of the world but not really being in it. What good am I for anything anyway? At the end of Canto 7 Nanda seemed to be expressing this kind of self-doubt when he lamented:

Therefore as soon my guru has gone from here to beg for alms, I will give up the ochre robe and go from here to my home; / Because, for a man who bears the honoured insignia with stammering mind, impaired judgement and weakened resolve, there might exist no ulterior purpose nor even this present world of living beings." //7.52//

But here in Canto 18, evidently, all such doubt has evaporated and Nanda seems to be declaring "HERE I REALLY AM, in the world but not of the world."

"I AM, in the world but not of the world." Notice that the person to whom Nanda is addressing this phrase is not a female follower whom Nanda is hoping later to fuck; the person to whom Nanda is addressing this phrase is one who is truly able to discern whether Nanda is telling him the truth or talking through his backside.

"I AM, in the world but not of the world." It is a phrase that could be used to express the mysterious enlightened essence which is transcendence of the mundane, the secular, the profane. Or it could be just how a deluded spiritual ego expresses itself.

Googling the phrase "in the world but not of the world" leads to a lot of links to spiritual writings, mainly Christian, but with links also to the Enneagram, with connections to the teachings of Gurdjieff, as well as teachings in the Jewish and Sufi traditions.

An article titled "In the World, But Not of It"—Using the Enneagram for Inner Work, states that Learning to be "in the world, but not of it" is a goal of many ancient wisdom traditions.... "To be in the world, but not of it" is a difficult and constantly challenging invitation to "hold the tension" between forgetting ourselves in our worldly affairs versus imagining that we are somehow beyond the world in some kind of transcendent way that leaves the world and others behind. The tension of "being in the world, but not of it" is only resolved by learning to be present in the moment.

Nice words. The danger of this line of thought, though, is that it tends to lead to end-gaining to be present (generally manifested in an overly careful state of ponderous movement -- zombie-mindfulness); whereas my continuing task, as I see it, is to remain present to my end-gaining.

Not me end-gaining to be present.
Being present to my end-gaining....

.... and then, Marjory would say, going into movement, without a care in the world. "Let it come out in the wash!"

As opposed to end-gaining, Dogen speaks of learning the backward step of turning one's light and letting it shine...

A backward step
Turning the light
Of, in, by, for, on

Speaking for myself, I would not have Nanda's confidence, or what might rather be a compelling sense of gratitude, to look the Buddha in the eye and declare the big I AM. If I declared so, it might only be the wishful thinking of a deluded ego with latent spiritual ambitions. I think I would have more confidence saying that I am still working on a work in progress -- a work in progress which, I was told yesterday after an MRI scan, is suffering from a small tear along the posterior horn of the medial meniscus in the left knee. I suppose the knee might have healed by now if I hadn't keep insisting on twisting the knee in order to sit in full lotus, bloody self-doubting, end-gaining fool that I am.

EH Johnston:
O Conquerer of birth, birth for me is destroyed ; I dwell rightly in the practice of the good Law. O Accomplisher of the task, I have done all that is required ; I exist in the world and am yet free from its elements.

Linda Covill:
Bith has been destroyed for me, O remover of birth, and I live entirely in the practice of the good dharma. I have completely finished what was to be done, O task-accomplisher; I exist in the world but am free of its phenomena.

kShayam (acc. sg.): m. loss , waste , wane , diminution , destruction, end
gatam (nom. sg. n.): gone to any state or condition , fallen into (acc.)
janma (nom. sg.): n. birth; re-birth
nirasta-janman (voc. sg. m.): O refuter of re-birth!
nirasta: mfn. cast out or off , expelled , banished , rejected , removed , refuted , destroyed

sad-dharma-caryaam (acc. sg. f.): observance of true dharma
sat: mfn. true, real, good
dharma-caryaa: f. observance of the law , performance of duty
caryaa: f. going about , wandering , walking or roaming about , visiting , driving (in a carriage);
uShitaH = nom. sg. m. past participle of vas: to dwell , live , stop (at a place); abide with or in (with loc. of pers. ; loc. or acc. of place)
asmi: I am
samyak (nom. sg. m.): going along with or together , turned together or in one direction , combined , united ; entire , whole , complete , all; turned towards each other , facing one another ; correct , accurate , proper , true , right

kRtsnam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. all , whole , entire
kRtam (acc. sg. n.) : mfn. done, accomplished
me (gen. sg.): of me, my
kRta-kaarya (voc. sg. m.): O doer of what is to be done!
kRta: mfn. done, accomplished
kaarya: n. work or business to be done , duty , affair
kaaryam (acc. sg.): n. work to be done

lokeShu = loc. pl. loka: m. the wide space or world (either " the universe " or , " any division of it " , esp. " the sky or heaven " ; 3 lokas are commonly enumerated , viz. heaven , earth , and the atmosphere or lower regions ; sometimes only the first two ; but a fuller classification gives 7 worlds...); (also pl.) the inhabitants of the world , mankind , folk , people
bhuutaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. existing , present
asmi: I am
na: not
loka-dharmaa (nom. sg. m.): m. a worldly matter ; worldly condition (eight with Buddhists)
loka: m. the world
dharman: n. (esp. ifc.) nature , quality , characteristic mark or attribute

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