Thursday, May 31, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.31: Brahmans Famed for Conduct

[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti
* * * * * * * * * * *  * * * * * * * * * * *  | 
* * * * * * * * * * *   * * * * * * * * * * *  || 1.31

In the Chinese text, there is no character indicating plurality, and so it was natural for Beal and Willemen to translate Brahman in the singular. But BC1.47, for which we have the Sanskrit dvi-jaiḥ (“by the twice-born men”), confirms that Aśvaghoṣa originally wrote of Brahmans in the plural.

On the surface, today's verse would seem to praise the Brahmans, not just for talking the talk but  for actually walking the walk: EHJ's translation  from the Tibetan says that they were famed for “conduct, learning, and experience.”

On further investigation, however, the operative words in EHJ's translation might be “famed for.” Similarly, the Chinese translation speaks of 高名稱 their lofty fame.

On further investigation, then, and in light of the principle that reputation and substance do not always tally with each other, I think that Aśvaghoṣa's real intention was not to praise the soothsaying Brahmans at all – any more than it was Shakespeare's intention to portray in a favourable light the soothsaying hags at the beginning of Macbeth.

In the end, does it matter?  All religions boil down to compassion, do they not? Brahmanism and Buddhism, in their aspiration to a truly spiritual life, are in essence the same are they not? In that sense, the teaching of Lord Buddha might be seen as the consummation of Brahmanism, might it not?

Might it fuck.

In the beginning there are ideas. I have my ideas, dreams, delusions, and so on. Others have their idea of me, which is my fame or reputation -- or notoriety more like. 

With the hard-won understanding that end-gaining ideas are makers of trouble, there is effort to abandon ideas, at the beginning of which there might be utility in the idea of abandoning ideas, of seeing an idea to be false and abandoning it. This attitude towards falsification, according to Karl Popper (if I remember rightly, not having read him for more than 30 years) is the criterion of science. 

So somebody expresses their crappy idea, for example, that the Buddha's teaching is the consummation of Brahmanism. And I chip in with "Is it fuck!" By which I mean, in other words, "that is only an idea, a view, to be abandoned." But seeing that, and actually abandoning an idea, are not the same. 

To become a Muslim, for example, one just has to declare oneself to be a believer. I think the sentence is along the lines of "I believe that God is not only an idea but He really exists, and  Mohammed was his prophet."   Simple as that. Speaking for myself, I reason that "God exists" is an unscientific idea, since it provides no falsifiable hypothesis, and therefore should be abandoned a priori. 

But some ideas, even after one has decided to abandon them, and has nailed one's colours to the mast,  yelling  out "Fuck that idea!", nevertheless persist. "I might be happy;" "I might be safe;" "There might be for me no suffering.... [if that fucking cockerel would shut up]." 

FM Alexander, and of course the Buddha long before him, saw that an idea was tied up with a person's habitual use of himself. Alexander realized that as soon as the idea came to him "I am going to speak," the idea mobilized a whole neuro-muscular army, at the vanguard of which was stiffening of the neck and arms and pulling back of the head. 

This being so, in the teaching of FM Alexander as in the teaching of the Buddha, both of which teachings, I repeat, have fuck all to do with religion, the idea of abandoning ideas is in itself totally insufficient. What is necessary is to perform some activity, like sitting upright for example, without  the idea of gaining that end. Let the action do itself without the idea of me doing it getting in the way. This kind of practice gives rise to instruction like  "Do the action without the idea of doing it." or "Let it do itself." 

What I am doing now is talking a fucking good talk. But the truth is that I am still somewhat hindered from walking the good walk, not only because my left knee hasn't yet fully recovered, but more fundamentally because some deeply ingrained ideas are very difficult to give up... "I might be famous. I might be useful to humankind. I might make a big mark on the world. I might be loved, adored, honoured. I might not have any aches and pains. And if the gold price goes up, as I still think it will, I might be financially secure."

Tibetan Text:
| de yi mtshan ñid dag kyaṅ śes śiṅ thos gyur nas | 
| spyod daṅ thos daṅ tshig la grags thob bram ze rnams |
| rnam rgyas źal ni ya mtshan dga’ ba yis gaṅ ste | 
| dga’ daṅ ’jigs par gyur pa’i mi yi lha la smras | 

EHJ's translation (from the Tibetan/Chinese):
31. When the Brahmans, famed for conduct, learning and eloquence, had heard about these omens and considered them, then with beaming faces full of wonder and exultation they said to the king, who was both fearful and joyfull:–

Chinese Text:
時彼林中有 知相婆羅門
威儀具多聞 才辯高名稱
見相心歡喜 踊躍未曾有
知王心驚怖 白王以眞實

S. Beal's translation (from the Chinese):
Now there was at this time in the grove, a certain soothsayer, a Brahman, 41. Of dignified mien and wide-spread renown, famed for his skill and scholarship: beholding the signs, his heart rejoiced, and he exulted at the miraculous event. 42. Knowing the king’s mind to be somewhat perplexed, he addressed him (thus) with truth and earnestness,

C. Willemen's translation (from the Chinese):
38. At that time there was a brahman in the grove, a discerner of signs.
He had a dignified demeanor and was endowed with learning. He was eloquent and had a lofty reputation. 39. He beheld the signs and rejoiced in his heart, overjoyed at the wonder. He knew that the king felt distress, and he informed the king of the truth:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.30: The Confusion of Old Fuss-pots

[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * |
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * || 1.30

EHJ notes that the original word translated into Tibetan as lhag ma spaṅs te, which EHJ translates as “pious,” was adhimuktāh or adhimucyamānāḥ.

adhimuktāh: (nom. pl. f.): mfn. inclined, believing
adhimucyamānāḥ = nom. pl. f. passive pres. part. adhi √muc: (not in dictionary)
adhi: over and above
√muc: freeing

In any event in today's verse it is evident both from EHJ's translation from the Tibetan, and from the Chinese translation from the original Sanskrit, that Aśvaghoṣa was describing the response of religious old women to the Buddha's miraculously beautiful birth. Why?

I think it is a kind of study of religious practice as a response to the unknown. The Buddha's birth was not a miracle in the religious sense of something that defies cause and effect via divine intervention, because there is no such thing as a miracle in this religious sense, except in the imaginations of “pious old women who fail in penetration,” or those who 互亂祈神明 "in mutual confusion pray to the divine intelligence.” But the Buddha's natural birth went so beautifully that it seemed like a miracle, as all natural births that go well seem like a miracle, and indeed are a miracle – but not in the sense of a religious miracle that negates cause and effect.

Confronted with a miracle that was a natural birth, and a profusion of extra-ordinarily auspicious signs, the old women were afraid/confused about what they could not understand, and they found a feeling of order and security in the performance of religious rites – much like Rafa Nadal arranging his water bottles.

The difference between a religious old fusspot, and a top sportsman, when each is performing his or her preferred ritual, might be to do with clarity of direction. In the former case, directions are confused, and so ritual fuss is fussing on the basis of fussing. In the latter case it may be that, as described in BC1.26,  directions have already become clear (diśaḥ praseduḥ).

It may be that, primarily because of this clarity of direction, the action of a top sportsman or martial artist, or indeed the work of an experienced Alexander teacher, can seem truly miraculous.

People used to go to FM Alexander totally confused in their directions, believing that down was up, and his hands would transform them, so that ailments and infirmities cleared up as if by magic. Grateful pupils would thus tell FM Alexander that he was a miracle-worker. Alexander's response was always that “There are many miracles in nature.”

In many respects the teaching of the Buddha and the teaching of FM Alexander are not only parallel but the same. One advantage that Alexander work has is that nobody conceives of the Alexander Technique as a religion; people generally understand that it is teaching, or work. In Alexander work to say "I believe in AT," or "I believe in FM Alexander" or "I left Alexander," would sound bizarre, because it is understood that Alexander work is not a religion, it is a teaching that the individual applies for himself or herself. Again, the thought of receiving the honorific "Ven." or "Rev." on qualification as an Alexander teacher is comical. 

How does one go about clarifying that the original teaching of the Buddha also is work, not religion? Yesterday I took a direct approach. Aśvaghośa's approach is invariably indirect. But it seems to me, from the viewpoint of the historical development of so-called "Buddhism," that Aśvaghośa's tactic hasn't worked, at least not yet, because everybody and his dog has continued to speak and act as if there were a religion called "Buddhism." 

Tibetan Text:
| lhag ma spaṅs te ’jigs pa ñid ni śes byas nas |
| yid ’oṅ ’dod pa’i ched du rtogs pa ma yin pa’i |
| bud med rgan mo rnams kyis bde legs gyur byas śiṅ |
| gtsaṅ mar byas te lha rnams dag la phyag ’tshal lo |

EHJ's translation (from the Tibetan/Chinese):
30. The pious old women failed in penetration, seeing only the reasons for alarm; so, purifying themselves and performing luck-bringing rites, they prayed to the gods for good fortune.

Chinese Text:
長宿諸母人 互亂祈神明
各請常所事 願令太子安

S. Beal's translation (from the Chinese):
39. and now the aged women of the world, (of the ’long night’) in a confused way supplicating heavenly guidance, 40. Implored the gods to whom their rites were paid, to bless the child; (cause peace to rest upon the royal child.)

C. Willemen's translation (from the Chinese):
37. The old women were confused and prayed to the spirits. Each one of them beseeched the spirit that they usually served, praying for the safety of the Crown Prince.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.29: Send Three-and-Fourpence

[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * |
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * || 1.29

If corroboration were needed of the principle that no translation is better than a half-arsed translation, the corroboration is here in the Rev. Samuel Beal's rendering of 不由常道生 into “born thus contrary to laws of nature.”

How did Samuel Beal get Aśvaghoṣa's teaching so totally arse over tit? How did “send reinforcements, we are going to advance,” turn so spectacularly into “send three-and-fourpence, we are going to a dance”?

There might be a clue in the name “the Rev. Samuel Beal.” It turns out that Beal went to China as a chaplain in the Royal Navy , at roughly around the time that Charles Darwin was publishing “The Origin of Species.”

The Rev. Beal presumably read the five Chinese characters 不由常道生, through the filter of Christian belief in miracles, as "birth not relying on the constant Tao," i.e. a miraculous birth in the religious [n0n-]sense of a miracle.  A better translation of those characters, as per Willemen's interpretation, would be “birth not relying on an ordinary way," i.e. an extra-ordinary birth. 

While I am particularly offended by a religious dimwit's negation of cause and effect, others might be equally offended by allusions to women as the weaker sex.

Exactly what it was that Aśvaghoṣa actually said, judging from past experience of Aśvaghoṣa's use of irony, was very probably ambiguous. It probably had a surface meaning which invited the kind of misunderstanding which translators – from Sanskrit into Tibetan and Chinese, and thence into English -- have exhibited who failed to sit on the same round cushion as Aśvaghoṣa. And below this surface meaning there was probably another completely different, or opposite, meaning.

The most important matter, in the transmission of the Buddha-dharma, my teacher taught me, is sitting. Other things are not so important.

The thing is, if you say that, you had better fucking well mean it. If I preach that, I had better fucking well practice it.

If sitting is the most important thing, what is sitting?

Is it a religious act?

Is it fuck.

Does it operate contrary to the laws of nature?

Does it fuck.

Did my teacher, the Reverend Gudo Nishijima, when he tried to show me how to sit in the right posture in Zazen, know what he was talking about?

No, did he fuck. That is why I came back to England to train as a teacher in the FM Alexander technique.

The pursuit of conscious direction in Alexander work is truly scientific in that it requires falsification of the beliefs that are unconsciously tied up with habit.

I believed that  Rev. Gudo Nishijima was a true master in the matter of how to sit. But upon further investigation, was he fuck. More fool me for religiously believing a Reverend So and So. 

FM Alexander himself said (quoting from memory), “When an investigation comes to be made, it will be found that every single thing we are doing in the work is what happens in nature when the conditions are right – the difference being that we are learning to do it consciously.”

Was the birth of the Buddha something extra-ordinarily beautiful and auspicious? I don't know. Aśvaghoṣa seems to be painting it as such, as the beginning of something beautiful.

But was the Buddha's birth, as per the translation of Reverend Samuel Beal, “contrary to the laws of nature”? The answer to that question, I do know. And my answer is: “No, was it fuck.”

Religious Buddhists -- doubtless via the mirror principle --  offend me, and I can't help wishing to offend them right back, by telling them to fuck off.

If, in the evolution vs creation debate, your Buddhist idea is to steer a middle way between the two sides, then you can fuck off as well, you red-necked American dimwit. If that is how you see things, a hundred and fifty years after Darwin published the Origin of Species, then you are even dumber than the Reverend Samuel Beal was.

Here endeth today's rant.

Tibetan Text:
| mi ma yin pa’i sras po ñid kyi nus pa daṅ |
| ma yi raṅ bźin kyaṅ ni stobs chuṅ ñid kyi phyir |
| graṅ daṅ dro ba’i chu dag ’dres pa’i chu kluṅ bźin |
| lha mo ’jigs pa (3)daṅ ni dga’ bas gaṅ bar ’gyur |

EHJ's translation (from the Tibetan/Chinese):
29. The queen was filled with fear and joy, like a stream of hot and cold water mixed, because the power of her son was other than human on the one hand, and because she had a mother’s natural weakness on the other.

Chinese Translation:
夫人見其子 不由常道生
女人性怯弱 㤹惕懷冰炭
不別吉凶相 反更生憂怖

S. Beal's translation (from the Chinese):
38. The queen-mother beholding her child, born thus contrary to laws of nature, her timorous woman’s heart was doubtful; her mind through fear, swayed between extremes: 39. Not distinguishing the happy from the sad portents, again and again she gave way to grief;  

C. Willemen's translation (from the Chinese):
36. When his wife saw that her son was not born in the usual way—a woman being timorous by nature—she felt contradictory emotions in her distress. She did not distinguish an auspicious mark from an inauspicious one but became even more fearful.

Monday, May 28, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.28: Wall of Silence

[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * |
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * || 1.28

The transmission of Aśvaghoṣa's teaching into China was not accomplished with the translation of Buddhacarita from Sanskrit into Chinese. The transmission of Aśvaghoṣa's teaching into China was accomplished years later when Bodhidharma sailed from India to China and, so the legend has it, spent nine years facing the wall.

Facing the wall sounds like a retreat into something austere, but it is not necessarily so. Even in facing the wall there are phases. The first phase is full of fun and of words. Although there are no words on the wall, there are words in the mind. If the first phase in facing the wall was not full of words, there might not be any such poem as Saundarananda or Buddhacarita. The second phase is even more fun but there are no words, either on the wall or in the mind – except maybe a lingering residue of the gist of “head forward and up, back to lengthen and widen, knees forwards and away, lengthening to the elbows and widening across the upper arms as you widen the back...”

Generally speaking when I sit, on a good day, I am wandering in the lower foothills of the first phase of sitting-meditation. I might, for example, do a bit of gardening and sit in lotus surveying my work while listening to birdsong and letting my mind wander. A verse like today's verse, a blank, might be taken as encouragement for a wastrel like me to seek out the deeper, thoughtless enjoyment of the second dhyāna – by literally facing a wall.

Tibetan Text:
| śin tu ṅo mtshar sras kyi skye pa mthoṅ gyur nas |
| mi bdag brtan pa yin yaṅ rnam par ’gyur nas soṅ |
| rab dga’ skyes pa ñid daṅ yid mi bde skyes te |
| brtse ba las ni mchi ma rnam pa gñis byuṅ ṅo |

EHJ's translation (from the Tibetan/Chinese):
28. On seeing the miraculous birth of his son, the king, steadfast though he was, was much disturbed, and from his affection a double stream of tears flowed, born of delight and apprehension.

Chinese Text:
父王見生子 奇特未曾有
素性雖安重 驚駭改常容

二息交胸起 一喜復一懼


S. Beal's translation (from the Chinese):
36. The Royal Father (Suddhodana) beholding his son, strange and miraculous, as to his birth,
37. Though self-possessed and assured in his soul, was yet moved with astonishment and his countenance changed,
whilst he alternately weighed with himself the meaning (of such an event), now rejoiced and now distressed.

C. Willemen's translation (from the Chinese):
35. When the king, his father, saw the birth of his son, he was amazed in wonder. Although ordinarily his disposition was serious, he was startled and his usual countenance changed. In his anxiety he had mixed feelings of both joy and distress.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.27: The Buddha's Original Purpose & the Unhappy King of Romance

[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * |
jagad-vimokṣāya guru-prasūtau * * * * * * * * * * * || 1.27

EHJ in a footnote records that his translation of the 3rd pāda (“as though, being in a state of disorder, it had obtained a ruler”) follows the Chinese translation (猶如荒難國 忽得賢明主). On the authority of the Chinese translation, EHJ revised the Tibetan translation, amending thar paḥi to thar-phyir. The result, EHJ conjectured, was equivalent to jagad-vimokṣāya guru-prasūtau (“the guru being born for the liberation of the world”).

As regards the philosophical content of today's verse, the gist would seem to be that the Buddha was born for the liberation of the world, and someone was not happy about this.

EHJ supposed, judging from the Tibetan, that the unhappy one was Kāma-deva, the disembodied god of love mentioned several times in Saundarananda. The Chinese translator went with 魔天王, the “Celestial King of Demons,” i.e. Māra, also mentioned in Saundarananda. The Chinese character is pronounced “Ma” (as in Māra), and at the same time it means “demon” or “devil.”

Whichever pesky being it was that Aśvaghoṣa referred to in the 4th pāda, his intention might have been to emphasize that the Buddha's primary purpose was the practical and mundane one of liberating living beings in the world.

If the unhappy party in today's verse is understood to be Māra, then the point might be that the Buddha was nothing like one of those red-necked American Christians who is obsessed with the Devil and his evil works, or like one of those superstitious black Africans who is afraid of witchcraft. Eventually the Buddha, sitting as still as the king of mountains, causes Māra to quake. But causing Māra to quake and crumble was not the Buddha's original purpose; it was rather, one could argue, an indirect side effect of what the Buddha was born to do, which was to liberate individual living beings in the world (jagad-vimokṣāya).

If the unhappy party in today's verse is understood to be Kāma-deva, then the point might be, similarly, to draw a contrast between, on the one side, the practical and mundane nature of the Buddha's primary task and on the other side the idealistic agenda of the disembodied King of Romance.

On the train yesterday I was seated next to a 27-year old drug addict travelling back from Paris to see his mother in Normandy. He mentioned something about the pain of his parents' divorce and his estrangement from his father. Presumably this was part of the pain which he hoped to blot out with alcohol and vallium. My advice to him was to face up and take his pain like a man. It seemed to me that he was exhibiting an almost total failure to inhabit his own body. He didn't have enough tone in his neck even to hold his own head up. A loyal subject of Kāma-deva, if ever there was one. After I advized him to man up and take ownership of his pain, he withdrew his invitation to get his mother to give me a lift home in her car, and stopped talking to me, which was fine with me on both counts. His talk was disordered, and I in any case like to pedal my own bike.

Sitting this morning I am aware of many jobs, large and small, that are inviting me to do them. An enormous amount of scything and weeding. Pumping waste water out of the sceptic tank. Dealing with the aftermath of the big tree that fell down last time I was here, which means chopping the sawn pieces of the trunk into firewood, and making a bonfire from the smaller branches and twigs. I can't do all these jobs all at once but am looking forward to doing them, one by one, at my own pace, interspersed with ample sitting practice, and practising Alexander work in the context of lying down on my back and investigating the action of (and thinking preparatory to) moving a leg. 

This sense of not being able to do everything at once informs and is informed by both yesterday's and today's verse. Jagad-vimokṣāya is in the dative case; it expresses a purpose or a direction. If the Buddha's end was to liberate all living beings in the world, he never achieved his end and nor will he ever achieve his end. But for him the directions were clear (diśaḥ praseduḥ). Not even the Buddha could accomplish all jobs at once. But he knew the direction he wanted to work in. This might be the best that any of us can hope for – at least those of us who are not in the sway of Kāma-deva, the King of Romance.

Finally, referring back to akāle' pi  in BC1.24on the train yesterday I listened to a podcast from the archives of BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, featuring the singer and artist (in the true sense) Tony Bennett. In passing Tony Bennett mentioned Zen, in the sense of the kind of transcendent ability in piano playing manifested by the likes of Art Tatum. But he said something else, in relation to jazz, that struck me as very much related to the meaning of  akāle' pi, “even out of season,” in BC1.24, and to what Aśvaghoṣa has been describing in the way of spontaneity. Tony Bennett said that he liked being accompanied by jazz musicians because of the possibility of something unexpected and spontaneous happening. So perhaps we can say that blossoms being caused to fall  akāle' pi,  “even out of season,” expresses something neither more nor less miraculous than a jazz band being caused to start swinging. If you can access the Desert IslandDiscs archive, I recommend the interview with Tony Bennett.

Tibetan Text:
| rgud par gyur la mgon ni ñe bar thob nas bźin |
| ’jig rten dag kyaṅ mchog tu rab źi thob gyur la |
| ’jig rten rnams kyi thar pa’i bla ma rab bltams tshe |
| ’dod pa’i lha ñid kho na dga’ ba med par gyur |

EHJ's translation (from the Tibetan/Chinese):
27. When the Guru was born for the salvation of all creatures, the world became exceeding peaceful, as though, being in a state of disorder, it had obtained a ruler. Kāmadeva alone did not rejoice.

Chinese Text:
一切諸世間 悉得安隱樂
猶如荒難國 忽得賢明主
菩薩所以生 爲濟世衆苦
唯彼魔天王 震動大憂惱

[震動大憂惱=獨憂而不悦 [三 ]

S. Beal's translation (from the Chinese):
the whole world of sentient creatures enjoyed peace and universal tranquillity. 35. Just as when a country visited by desolation, suddenly obtains an enlightened ruler, so when Bodhisattva was born, he came to remove the sorrows of all living things. Mâra, the heavenly monarch, alone was grieved and rejoiced not.

C. Willemen's translation (from the Chinese):
33. All the worldly beings were safe and happy, just as when a country in upheaval suddenly has obtained a wise and able ruler. 34. The Bodhisattva was born to save the world from suffering. Only the celestial king Māra was full of sorrow and did not rejoice.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.26: Clarity of Directions, Without Doing

[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * |
−⏑−  ¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−
diśaḥ praseduḥ * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * || 1.26

EHJ notes that in the 3rd line phyogs rnams rab snaṅ = diśaḥ praseduḥ (the quarters/directions became clear), and that dge-ba, the epithet of the sky, probably stands for śuci (“the white/clear one”), as in BC12.119.

The sense of spontaneous action is absent from EHJ's translation based on the Tibetan, but is once again conspicuously present in the Chinese translation, represented again by the character , used in today's verse in the adverbial compound自然, which means spontaneously or naturally.

Spontaneity, in the sense of something doing itself, is by definition not something that a practitioner can do. This being so, there might be times when the job of a sitting practitioner in pursuit of spontaneity, is simply to be clear what he wants, and firmly to decide not to do anything to muddy the waters.

Today's verse, I am guessing from the various translations of it that we have, relates to this principle of being clear in one's directions, without doing.

I am late posting this, by the way, having set off early this morning on a carbon-framed bike borrowed from my son, to get a train from Aylesbury to London, then to Paris by Eurostar, and then a dash across Paris brandishing a big bag with the dismantled bike in it to the Gare Montparnasse, and a train to Normandy, followed by 12-miles of pedalling. I might be getting a bit old for this kind of travel. There were huge queues at the ticket machine for the Metro at the Eurostar Gare du Nord and there was nobody at the gate provided for large items of luggage, like my bike bag. Intuiting that I was going to miss my connection, I pushed the bike bag through the gap provided for large items of luggage,  and followed through myself, thereby dodging a fare and making the connection. Whether it was bad behaviour, or the right thing doing itself, I honestly don't know. But having arrived by the forest, taken a cold shower, and sat outside just now listening to the bird's singing in the silence, the contrast between the noise and bustle of the journey through London and Paris, and the peace and quiet of the forest, could hardly be more marked.

The smaller Chinese characters shown below in square brackets, by the way, are a variant reading which the translations of Beal and Willemen always seem to follow. What the meaning of  <三> is, I haven't been able to ascertain yet. There must be two versions, one of which  the character   stands for.  If anybody can enlighten me as to what the two versions are, I would be grateful. 

Tibetan Text:
| mkha’ ’gro’i bya ni mtho min sgra sgrogs ri dag kyaṅ |
| chu kluṅ dag ni chu yaṅ źi bar bab gyur la |
| phyogs rnams rab snaṅ dge ba’i nam mkha’ rab mdzes śiṅ |
| lha yi rṅa rnams mkha’ la rab tu grags par gyur |

EHJ's translation (from the Tibetan):
26. The birds and deer did not call aloud and the rivers flowed with calm waters. The quarters became clear and the sky shone cloudless; the drums of the gods resounded in the air.

Chinese Text:
亂鳴諸禽獸 恬默寂無聲
萬川皆停流 濁水悉澄清
空中無雲翳 天鼓自然鳴


S. Beal's translation (from the Chinese):
33. The various cries and confused sounds of beasts were hushed and silence reigned; the stagnant water of the river-courses flowed apace, whilst the polluted streams became clear and pure. 34. No clouds gathered throughout the heavens, whilst angelic music, self-caused, was heard around

C. Willemen's translation (from the Chinese):
32. The birds and animals with their confused cries fell silent, not making any sound. The ten thousand rivers all stopped flowing and muddy waters all became clear. In the sky there were no clouds, and celestial drums sounded all by themselves.

Friday, May 25, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.25: Sifting for the Rudiments of Spontaneity

[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦[?]−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * |
* * * * * * * * * * * ayatnato * * * * * * * || 1.25

In the old Nepalese text from which EHJ was working, all verses are missing from 1.25 through to the last line of 1.40. Moreover, for these verses, unlike for the opening verses of the chapter, EHJ makes no effort to restore Aśvaghoṣa's original Sanskrit.

This leaves us in a situation akin to the dirt-washer described in Saundarananda Canto 15, looking out for grains of gold . . .

A dirt-washer in pursuit of gold washes away first the coarse grains of dirt, /
Then the finer granules, so that the material is cleansed; and by the cleansing he retains the rudiments of gold. // 15.66 //

In that spirit I am drawn again in the Chinese translation to the character , discussed at length already in connection with BC1.23 (SpontanousFlow Facilitates Practice).

In the translations of Beal and Willemen, is rendered as “of themselves” and “by themselves.” The context is discussion of how diseases cleared up. The point is that diseases cleared up (i.e. people were healed or restored to health), naturally, without end-gaining medical intervention.

In turning now to look at the Tibetan translation, I must first acknowledge a debt of gratitude to Prof. Harunaga Isaacson for drawing my attention to a Sanskrit-German-Tibetan glossary of Buddhacarita compiled by Roland Steiner and published in BAUDDHASĀHITYASTABAKĀVALĪ 
Essays and Studies on Buddhist Sanskrit Literature, 
Dedicated to Claus Vogel by Colleagues, Students, and Friends
(Marburg 2008; ISBN : 978-3-923776-36-8).

According to the Roland Steiner glossary, the Tibetan word that corresponds to svayam ("by itself, spontaneously") in the 2nd pāda of BC1.23 is raṅ, and reassuringly the word raṅ does indeed appear in the 2nd line of the Tibetan translation of BC1.23:

| śar daṅ byaṅ gi mtshams kyi khaṅ pa’i phyogs gcig na |
| bsil ba’i chu yi khron ba raṅ byuṅ gyur pa ste |
| pho braṅ btsun mo’i ’khor rnams ya mtshan gyur rnams kyis |
| gaṅ la bya ba rnams ni stegs bźin rab tu byas |

In the 4th line of the Tibetan translation of today's verse BC1.25, the Tibetan words that correspond to the Chinese character , and to EHJ's “without effort” appear to be dag rnams ... ’bad pa

According to the RS glossary, ’bad pa... rnams = prayatna: persevering effort, continued exertion or endeavour.

And according to the Tibetan-English dictionary, dag means “free of.”

The original Sanskrit word, then, corresponding to EHJ's “without effort” and to the Chinese translator's (“by itself”), is probably the antonym of prayatna, namely ayatna, “without effort.” The latter word appears twice in Saundarananda, in SN5.17 and SN9.39, both times in the ablative/adverbial form ayatna-tas, which in those verses I translated as “without even trying” and “readily.”

The one who is more strongly self-motivated loosens ties without even trying, on receipt of the slightest stimulus; /
Whereas the one whose mind is led by circumstances struggles to find freedom, because of his dependence on others. // 5.17 //

Just as in soil, grass sprouts readily but rice is grown through sustained effort, /
So too does sorrow arise readily whereas happiness is produced with effort, if at all. // 9.39 //

In today's verse, then, Aśvaghoṣa is continuing to assert the most fundamental of all principles in the Buddha's teaching, which is that when we stop doing the wrong thing, the right thing, perfectly reflecting the 2nd law of thermodynamics, tends to do itself, naturally, effortlessly, automatically, spontaneously.

There are times, even in translating a text as difficult to translate as this one, or as difficult to translate as Shobogenzo, when a good translation seems effortlessly to do itself. Such moments, however, are generally prefaced by a lot of preparatory dirt-sifting of the kind demonstrated in today's post. But I like this kind of dirt-sifting. Sift a bit of dirt. Sit for a bit. Then sift a bit more dirt. Then sit again, looking forward to a cup of tea and slice of toast. That is my idea of happiness.

Conversely, anxious striving to meet a deadline for the presentation of something like a precious golden ornament: that is my idea, and my experience, of unhappiness.

End-gaining is unhappiness. Steadily working to a means-whereby principle in which one has confidence, is happiness. And it is out of the latter kind of effort that a person spontaneously becomes whole, or healed.

This, I submit, is the gist of what Dogen called the secret of sitting-dhyāna:

自成 一片 
spontaneously/naturally/effortlessly become all of a piece.”

Tibetan Text:
| ’tshe bar byed pa’i sems can rnams kyaṅ de yi tshe |
| phan tshun dag tu phyin te gnod pa mi byed la |
| ’tsho ba’i ’jig rten dag na nad gaṅ ji sñed pa |
| de dag rnams kyaṅ ’bad pa med par de tshe bcom |

dag: free of
bad pa... rnams = prayatna: persevering effort , continued exertion or endeavour
tshe = āyus: life, health

EHJ's translation (from the Tibetan):
25. At that time the noxious creatures consorted together and did each other no hurt. Whatever diseases there were among mankind were cured too without effort.

Chinese Translation:
凶暴衆生類 一時生慈心
世間諸疾病 不療然除

S. Beal's translation (from the Chinese):
32. All cruel and malevolent kinds of beings, together conceived a loving heart; all diseases and afflictions among men without a cure applied, of themselves were healed.

C. Willemen's translation (from the Chinese):
31. The various kinds of fierce beings momentarily had friendly thoughts, and diseases in the world disappeared by themselves, without any cure applied.