Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mindfulness/Awareness (2) : Textual Evidence

The word smṛti appears in Saundara-nanda in the following verses or series of verses -- the most notable series being the Buddha's description of mindful everyday action in canto 14, and Aśvaghoṣa's description of Nanda's experience of four stages of sitting-meditation in canto 17.

Hitherto I have usually translated smṛti as "mindfulness," except in 9.33 where old-age is described as a robber of smṛti ("memory"), and in the description of sitting-meditation in which smṛti-mat seems to express the presence of "full awareness."

In the following verses smṛti has been translated in every case as mindfulness, highlighted in bold.


9.33
Robber of mindfulness; destroyer of looks;
Ender of pleasure; seizer of speech, hearing and sight;
Birthplace of fatigue; slayer of strength and manly vigour:
For those with a body, there is no enemy to rival aging.


13.30
On this basis, standing grounded in mindfulness,
The naturally impetuous senses
From the objects of those senses
You should hold back.


13.35-37
For smeared with the poison of ideas,
Are those arrows, produced from five senses,
Whose tails are anxiety, whose tips are thrills,
And whose range is the vast emptiness of objects.

They strike human fawns in the heart
Fired off by Desire, the hunter;
Unless they are warded away,
Men wounded by them duly fall.

Standing firm in the arena of restraint,
And bearing the bow of resolve,
The mighty man, as they rain down, must fend them away,
Wearing the armour of mindfulness.


14.1
And so using the floodgate of mindfulness
To close a dam on the power of the senses,
Be aware, in eating food, of the measure
That conduces to meditation and to health.


14.35-45
And so upon acts like sitting, moving, standing,
Looking, speaking and so on --
Being fully aware of every action --
You should bring mindfulness to bear.

When a man is like a gatekeeper at his gate,
His mindfulness directed,
The faults do not venture to attack him,
Any more than enemies do a guarded city.

No affliction arises in him
For whom mindfulness pervades the body --
Guarding the mind in all situations,
As a nurse protects a child.

But he is a target for the faults
Who lacks the armour of mindfulness:
As for enemies is he who stands in battle
With no suit of armour.

Know to be vulnerable that mind
Which mindfulness does not guard --
Like a blind man without a guide
Groping after objects.

When men attach to meaningless aims
And turn away from their proper aims,
Failing to shudder at the danger,
Loss of mindfulness is the cause.

When, each standing on its own patch,
The virtues which begin with integrity are engaged,
Then as a herdsman follows his scattered cows,
Mindfulness follows after those virtues.

The deathless nectar is lost to him
Whose mindfulness dissipates;
The nectar exists in the hands of him
Whose mindfulness pervades his body.

Where is the noble principle of him
To whom mindfulness is alien?
And for whom no noble principle exists,
To him a true path has been lost.

He who has lost the right track
Has lost the deathless step.
Having lost that nectar of deathlessness,
He is not exempt from suffering.

Therefore walking like this: "Walking, I am";
And standing like this: "Standing, I am" --
Upon moments such as these
You should bring mindfulness to bear.


15.1-15.2
"In whatever solitary place you are,
Crossing the legs in the supreme manner,
Aligning the body,
And thus being attended by mindfulness
that is directed...

... towards the tip of the nose
or towards the forehead,
Or right in between the eyebrows,
You may make the inconstant mind
Wholly engaged with the fundamental.


15.64
So for the giving up,
In short, of all these ideas,
Mindfulness of inward and outward breathing, my friend,
You should make into your own possession.


16.33
True mindfulness, properly harnessed
So as to bring one close to the truths; and true balance:
These two, pertaining to practice,
Are for mastery, based on tranquillity, of the mind.


17.3-17.4
Having washed his feet in that water, 
He then, by a clean, auspicious, and splendid tree-root, 
Girded on the intention to come undone, 
And sat with legs fully crossed.

By first directing the whole body up, 
And thus keeping mindfulness turned towards the body, 
And thus integrating in his person all the senses, 
There he threw himself all-out into practice.


17.23-17.25
As a bow of true knowledge, clad in the armour of mindfulness,
Standing up in a chariot of pure practice of integrity,
While his enemies, the afflictions, stood up in the battlefield of the mind,
He took his stance for victory, ready to engage them in battle.

Then, unsheathing a sword that the limbs of awakening had honed,
Standing in the supreme chariot of true motivation,
With an army containing the elephants of the branches of the path,
He gradually penetrated the ranks of the afflictions.

With arrows made from the presence of mindfulness,
Instantly he shot those enemies whose substance is upside-down-ness:
He split apart four enemies, four causes of suffering,
With four arrows, each having its own range.


17.50 - 17.55
And so experiencing the ease enjoyed by the noble ones, from non-attachment to joy,
Knowing it totally, with his body,
He remained indifferent, fully mindful,
And, having realised the third stage of meditation, steady.

Since the ease here is beyond any ease,
And there is no progression of ease beyond it,
Therefore, as a knower of higher and lower,
he realised it as a condition of resplendent wholeness
Which he deemed superlative -- in a friendly way.

Then, even in that stage of meditation, he found a fault:
He saw it as better to be quiet, not excited,
Whereas his mind was fluctuating tirelessly
Because of ease circulating.

In excitement there is interference,
And where there is interference there is suffering,
Which is why, insofar as ease is excitatory,
Devotees who are desirous of quiet give up that ease.

Then, having already transcended ease and suffering,
And emotional reactivity,
He realised the lucidity in which there is indifference and full mindfulness:
Thus, beyond suffering and ease, is the fourth stage of meditation.

Since in this there is neither ease nor suffering,
And the act of knowing abides here, being its own object,
Therefore utter lucidity through indifference and mindfulness
Is specified in the protocol for the fourth stage of meditation.


=========================================================================================


Here is the same series of verses with smṛti translated in every case as "awareness." It would be interesting to know which word, if either, people find more helpful.


9.33
Robber of awareness; destroyer of looks;
Ender of pleasure; seizer of speech, hearing and sight;
Birthplace of fatigue; slayer of strength and manly vigour:
For those with a body, there is no enemy to rival aging.


13.30
On this basis, standing grounded in awareness,
The naturally impetuous senses
From the objects of those senses
You should hold back.


13.35-37
For smeared with the poison of ideas,
Are those arrows, produced from five senses,
Whose tails are anxiety, whose tips are thrills,
And whose range is the vast emptiness of objects.

They strike human fawns in the heart
Fired off by Desire, the hunter;
Unless they are warded away,
Men wounded by them duly fall.

Standing firm in the arena of restraint,
And bearing the bow of resolve,
The mighty man, as they rain down, must fend them away,
Wearing the armour of awareness.


14.1
And so using the floodgate of awareness
To close a dam on the power of the senses,
Be aware, in eating food, of the measure
That conduces to meditation and to health.


14.35-45
And so upon acts like sitting, moving, standing,
Looking, speaking and so on --
Being fully conscious of every action --
You should bring awareness to bear.

When a man is like a gatekeeper at his gate,
His awareness directed,
The faults do not venture to attack him,
Any more than enemies do a guarded city.

No affliction arises in him
For whom awareness pervades the body --
Guarding the mind in all situations,
As a nurse protects a child.

But he is a target for the faults
Who lacks the armour of awareness:
As for enemies is he who stands in battle
With no suit of armour.

Know to be vulnerable that mind
Which awareness does not guard --
Like a blind man without a guide
Groping after objects.

When men attach to meaningless aims
And turn away from their proper aims,
Failing to shudder at the danger,
Lack of awareness is the cause.

When, each standing on its own patch,
The virtues which begin with integrity are engaged,
Then as a herdsman follows his scattered cows,
Awareness follows after those virtues.

The deathless nectar is lost to him
Whose awareness dissipates;
The nectar exists in the hands of him
Whose awareness pervades his body.

Where is the noble principle of him
To whom awareness is alien?
And for whom no noble principle exists,
To him a true path has been lost.

He who has lost the right track
Has lost the deathless step.
Having lost that nectar of deathlessness,
He is not exempt from suffering.

Therefore walking like this: "Walking, I am";
And standing like this: "Standing, I am" --
Upon moments such as these
You should bring awareness to bear.


15.1-15.2
"In whatever solitary place you are,
Crossing the legs in the supreme manner,
Aligning the body,
And thus being attended by awareness
that is directed...

... towards the tip of the nose
or towards the forehead,
Or right in between the eyebrows,
You may make the inconstant mind
Wholly engaged with the fundamental.


15.64
So for the giving up,
In short, of all these ideas,
Awareness of inward and outward breathing, my friend,
You should make into your own possession.


16.33
True awareness, properly harnessed
So as to bring one close to the truths; and true balance:
These two, pertaining to practice,
Are for mastery, based on tranquillity, of the mind.


17.3-17.4
Having washed his feet in that water, 
He then, by a clean, auspicious, and splendid tree-root, 
Girded on the intention to come undone, 
And sat with legs fully crossed.

By first directing the whole body up, 
And thus keeping awareness turned towards the body, 
And thus integrating in his person all the senses, 
There he threw himself all-out into practice.


17.23-17.25
As a bow of true knowledge, clad in the armour of awareness,
Standing up in a chariot of pure practice of integrity,
While his enemies, the afflictions, stood up in the battlefield of the mind,
He took his stance for victory, ready to engage them in battle.

Then, unsheathing a sword that the limbs of awakening had honed,
Standing in the supreme chariot of true motivation,
With an army containing the elephants of the branches of the path,
He gradually penetrated the ranks of the afflictions.

With arrows made from the presence of awareness,
Instantly he shot those enemies whose substance is upside-down-ness:
He split apart four enemies, four causes of suffering,
With four arrows, each having its own range.


17.50 - 17.55
And so experiencing the ease enjoyed by the noble ones, from non-attachment to joy,
Knowing it totally, with his body,
He remained indifferent, fully aware,
And, having realised the third stage of meditation, steady.

Since the ease here is beyond any ease,
And there is no progression of ease beyond it,
Therefore, as a knower of higher and lower,
he realised it as a condition of resplendent wholeness
Which he deemed superlative -- in a friendly way.

Then, even in that stage of meditation, he found a fault:
He saw it as better to be quiet, not excited,
Whereas his mind was fluctuating tirelessly
Because of ease circulating.

In excitement there is interference,
And where there is interference there is suffering,
Which is why, insofar as ease is excitatory,
Devotees who are desirous of quiet give up that ease.

Then, having already transcended ease and suffering,
And emotional reactivity,
He realised the lucidity in which there is indifference and full awareness:
Thus, beyond suffering and ease, is the fourth stage of meditation.

Since in this there is neither ease nor suffering,
And the act of knowing abides here, being its own object,
Therefore utter lucidity through indifference and awareness
Is specified in the protocol for the fourth stage of meditation.

15 comments:

jiblet said...

Perhaps were it not for certain focussed meditative practices described as "mindfulness practice" being considered by some not to be the real deal
, and a particular kind of self-monitoring awareness being considered by some not to be useful, "mindfulness" as a translation of smRti might not be a problem? The word does have an everyday meaning, confirmed by dictionary definitions, which I don't find inherently controversial.

There again, reading through the two versions, “awareness” often sounds just right to me. But in other places it sounds too ambiguous, too general/non-specific. “Mindfulness” – as long as I remind myself that not all mentions of mindfulness refer to mindfulness practice or self-conscious monitoring – rarely sounds wrong, although it does sometimes sound a little awkward, inappropriate.

Mix and match according to context? Could you?

Malcolm

jiblet said...

To answer your question, Mike: I find “awareness” as a translation of smRti in these verses more often conveys something meaningful, and so more helpful to me, than "mindfulness".

Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Malcolm.

Yes, "mindfulness" has the advantage of challenging a certain just-fucking-do-it Zen prejudice against "mindfulness practice" -- a prejudice that I have readily embraced in the past.

But "awareness" has somehow got a more universal ring to it.

Using helpfulness as the criterion perhaps points more towards awareness (and out of the area of Zen vs mindfulness, in which it might not be helpful to get stuck).

But what is helpful to one individual is not necessarily helpful to another.

So your vote is duly noted.

Would be interesting to know what others think about it.

warby said...

I like 'awakeness' inserted in there. It is a word not used much and has a ringing zinging sound effect compared to the worn out mindfulness or awareness. Maybe it is the hard K sound that is attractive.

Mike Cross said...

Thanks for the contribution.

"Awakeness" is not on the shortlist, because it suggests the opposite of sleepiness. Whereas smṛṭi is from the root smṛ, to remember, so it suggests the opposite of forgetfulness.

There are some verses in Saundarananda where Aśvaghośa/the Buddha talk about being awake:

3.7
Sitting there, mind made up,

As unmovingly stable as the king of mountains,

He overcame the grim army of Māra

And awoke (bubudhe) to the step which is happy, irremovable, and irreducible.


16.6
For by failing to wake up (abodhato) and come round

To this four, whose substance is what is,

Humankind goes from existence to existence without finding peace,

Hoisted in the swing of saṁsāra.

16.43
Though your head and clothes be on fire

Direct your mind so as to be awake (avabodhāya)to the truths.

For in failing to see the purport of the truths, the world has burned,

It is burning now, and it will burn.


18.46
For just as a fool, having made it to a jewel mine,

Might leave the jewels and carry off inferior crystals,

So would one reject the highest happiness of full awakening (saṃbodhi)

And struggle to gain sensual gratification.


In these verses, the root is budh, to wake up or be awake.

If I think about the difference between smṛ and budh on the basis of my own experience, for 13 years I was pulling my head back and down like anything without being aware that I was doing it. Then Alexander work made me aware of what my habit was. Then I woke up, or at least began to wake up, to what the truth of cessation is all about -- not trying to do the right thing, but becoming increasingly aware of the wrong thing, and not doing it.

I haven't experienced full awakening, so what I am describing here, from my own experience, is not full awakening -- but something more akin to a great big kick up the backside.

warby said...

Thanks for the clarification Mike and digging out the examples.
I do love this poem -mostly I enjoy reading it aloud. Your trans has lots of nice articulates that bring up solid images for oral interp. I find Covill is rather murky in that way. thanks again
Warren

Ray said...

Hi Mike,

From my cursory readings of Theravadan sutta and commentary, it appears that mindfulness is presented as a multi-dimensonal construct with a few adjunct terms connected to it. (Perhaps you're already aware of this.) I'm in no position to name them, much less comment, but here is a link to a short article that summarises what I've come across before:

http://www.wildmind.org/mindfulness/four/dimensions

Also, I've recently begun Ven. Analayo's commentary on the Satipatthana Sutta, which is a fun read so far. Highly recommended. In addition, at dharmaseed.org you can find 46 one hour talks by Joseph Goldstein on the Satipatthana Sutta based on Analayo's commentary. I know there's a talk in there about Sati and Sampajjana. (Appamada is my favorite word.)

Thanks for your work! Hope your tooth is ok.

Take Care,
Ray

Mike Cross said...

Thanks, Warren.

Of course the poem was originally crafted so as to be read aloud.

I did have an idea before embarking on the Aśvaghoṣa translation that I might make audio files of Shobogenzo, and started experimenting with a more-audio friendly version of the Shobogenzo translation for that purpose. I got as far as consulting with my friend Trevor Allan Davies who made a recording of Marjory Barlow reading out Alexander's books.

There is also Ānandajoti Bhikkhu's example of creating and publishing audio files on his website. Ānandajoti has in fact been encouraging me to make audio files of Saundarananda -- both in English and in Sanskrit! The latter might be a very long-term project.

Anyway, I think my efforts to preserve the 4-line structure of each verse has often resulted in somewhat stilted English, and so I am currently working on a 2-line version that I hope will be easier on the ear when read aloud.

I hope it will meet with your approval. Watch this space...

Mike Cross said...

Thanks Ray,

One of my hopes for this translation (it is not a hope that I started out with, but one that has gradually emerged) is that it can help form bridges between the various traditions like Zen, Theravada, and Tibetan all of which, let's be honest, are peripheral -- thanks in no small part to the role played by the Islaamic crusades in destroying the centre in India.

Aśvaghoṣa's teaching is truly seminal.

So whereas iron men of Zen, in general, are prone to scoff at such wimpish practices as "mindfulness of breathing" and "metta-bhāvanā," reading the words of the 12th Zen Patriarch might cause us to reconsider our cherished Zen prejudices!

gniz said...

Hi Mike,

I vowed to leave you alone probably a year or more ago when we argued about this subject, and in particular, mindfulness of breathing.

But Jiblet brought me back when he quoted a few things you'd written on Brad Warner's blog.

Coming back and reading this, my vote is teetering but falls on mindfulness, mostly because it seems to have a better ring to it for me. But either word seems to work to an extent...

I can see why some folks have taken issue with the term "mindfulness" just as others have taken issue with "enlightenment," both words having become overused and abused to the point of being almost pointless nowadays.

And yet there are not too many words which can accurately point to what we (I) am trying to do when I undertake this process. My own teacher likes to use the term being "conscious" but this has an equally strange connotation. However, when I am with him, his choice of words becomes instantly clear to me. He is doing it, he is being that of which he speaks, and in doing so, makes the term plain.

Anyway, thank you for your efforts here, despite the fact that I've annoyed you in the past (and vice versa) I've always been amazed at the discipline and rigor you bring to these translations, and your quest to leave no stone unturned in understanding "this", whatever "this" might really be.

Γιώργος Ασκούνης said...

Mike
For me the word mindfulness triggers a lot of doing! The world awareness seems to point to another direction, at least at the moment!
Many thanks for your efforts!
George

Mike Cross said...

Hi Aaron,

A stout person, when they vow not to do something, sticks to their decision. Maybe you should ask your teacher about it.

If your teacher can do being conscious, then he is a very remarkable human being indeed, and I suggest you devote yourself single-mindedly to him, and don't waste time with a lesser teacher like Aśvaghoṣa, for whom consciousness is not something to be done. Still less need you bother with an irritable old bugger like me.

Mike Cross said...

Thanks George.

gniz said...

Hi Mike,

Well, perhaps I should have stuck to my decision (vow) to leave you alone, but then I always felt a little badly about how I interacted with you here.

The truth is I have a lot of admiration for what you do here.

Best.

Mike Cross said...

The greater the gap between stimulus and response, it seems to me, the more like armour awareness is.