Tuesday, November 1, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.36: Prajñā-Packed Seeing Power

unmīlitasyāpi janasya madhye
nimīlitasyāpi tathaiva cakṣuḥ /
prajñā-mayaṃ yasya hi nāsti cakṣuś-
cakṣur-na tasyāsti sacakṣuṣo 'pi //

= = - = / = - - / = - = = // - = - = / = - - / = - = =
= = - = / = - - / = - = = // = = - = / = - - / = - = -
Upajāti (Vāṇī)

So it is with seeing,

Among people with eyes open and with eyes closed.

For when a man lacks sight packed with intuition,

Though he has eyes, the Eye is not present in him.

EHJ seems to have understood that "a man whose eyes are closed" might mean one whose eyes are closed in meditation, but I don't understand Aśvaghoṣa's intention like that.

The point, as I take it, is this: Just as being highly educated is no guarantee of having the real wisdom by which to know what to do (or not to do), so having eyes -- whether those eyes are open or closed -- is no guarantee of having prajñā, or intuitive insight into which way the wind is blowing.

I think Aśvaghoṣa had incredibly strong intuition of which way the wind was blowing, so that this poem written two thousand years ago is, even today, still way ahead of its time.

Some highly educated people take the view that Aśvaghoṣa was a seminal figure in the historical evolution of Mahāyāna Buddhism. I don't subscribe to that view. I wonder what Daikan Eno (Dajian Huineng in Chinese), a woodcutter who had never read a Buddhist book, would have made of that view.

The kind of seeing Aśvaghoṣa is talking about in this verse, as I hear him, does not depend on whether the eyes are open or closed -- in the same way that the real wisdom by which to know how to work on the self does not depend on being educated or uneducated. (Hence FM Alexander: "A child of three can understand this work, but give me a man who has been educated, and God help me!")

As I wrote already, I think Aśvaghoṣa had incredibly strong prajñā-packed seeing power. And this power was rooted primarily, I venture to suppose, not so much in Aśvaghoṣa's eyes and his visual system as in Aśvaghoṣa's ears and his vestibular system.

At the end of sitting in the morning, depending on whether I feel there was any merit in the sitting to be directed, and on whether it is late enough in the morning not to disturb the neighbours' sleep, I recite some lines to direct any merit in the practice to three parties, namely:
1. all buddhas in all directions in the three times
2. All venerable bodhisattvas and mahasattvas
3. mahā-prajñā-pāramitā
The great transcendental virtue which is prajñā, intuitive wisdom

In this traditional recitation some sense is transmitted that, even among the six transcendent virtues, prajñā is something especially transcendent.

When we stop and think about it, aren't all the worst things in life -- for example, fields of activity in which box-ticking predominates -- characterized by an absence of prajñā? And aren't all the best things in life intuitive? Sitting-dhyāna is just intuitive. Good cooking is intuitive. Translation work, after the donkey work of checking the dictionary for possible options, is just intuitive. Good teaching is intuitive. Sport is intuitive. Sport, indeed, can be the greatest of stages on which great players can be observed exercising great prajñā.

A real example of such exercise, and the lack of it, that stands out in my mind is Welsh flanker Sam Warburton's tackle in the Rugby World Cup which, the referee decided, deserved a red-card.

As I saw it, Warburton's prajñā hit the target almost perfectly, whereas the referee, instead of allowing his own prajñā a few moments to operate, reacted too quickly and reached for his red card, when he might at least have consulted a linesman.

EH Johnston:
Similarly a man's eyes may be closed and yet he alone have sight among people, though their eyes are open ; for though a man have eyes, yet he has not sight, unless he have the eye of intuitive wisdom.

Linda Covill:
Likewise among the open-eyed, it is the man with closed eyes who may have sight, for a man whose sight does not consist of insight has no sight, though he have good eyes.

unmiilitasya = gen. sg. unmiilita: mfn. opened (as an eye or a flower)
ud-: (prefix) over , above. (As implying separation and disjunction) out , out of , from , off , away from
miilita: mfn. one who has closed his eyes , sleepy
api: also
janasya = gen. sg. jana: m. person, people
madhye: ind. (loc. madhya). in the middle , in the midst , within , between , among , in the presence of (with gen)

nimiilitasya = gen. sg. nimiilita: mfn. having closed the eyes ; closed (as eyes , flowers)
api: also, as well as
tath" aiva: exactly so, likewise
tathaa: so
eva: (emphatic)
cakShuH (nom. sg.): n. the eye; faculty of seeing, sight

prajNaa-mayam (nom. sg. n.): being made of intuitive wisdom
pra-jNaa: f. 'pre-knowing' ; intuitive wisdom, wisdom
-maya: an affix used to indicate 'made of', 'consisting or composed of', 'full of'
yasya (gen. sg.): in whose
hi: for
n' aasti: there is not
cakShuH (nom. sg.): n. the eye; faculty of seeing, sight

cakShuH (nom. sg.): n. the eye; faculty of seeing, sight
na: not
tasya (gen. sg.): of him
asti: there is
sa-cakShuShaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having eyes , seeing
api: also, even, though

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