⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Haṁsī)
anākulāny-abja-samudgatāni niṣpeṣavad-vyāyata-vikramāṇi |
tathaiva dhīrāṇi padāni sapta saptarṣi-tārā-sa-dśo jagāma || 1.14
With even footsteps,
his feet going up like water-born lotuses,
And coming down in long stamping strides:
Seven such firm steps he took,
Looking like the Seven Seer cluster of stars.
Uncertainty surrounds the text of the 1st pāda. The Sanskrit manuscript from which EHJ was working has ubja, with a correction on the manuscript to abja “water born.” EHJ ignored the correction, while noting that ubja does not occur elsewhere. I have gone with abja, understanding that the natural upward movement of the foot of a baby showing the stepping reflex seemed to Aśvaghoṣa to be as natural, light, effortless and beautiful as a lotus emerging out of a pond, its weight being lifted up by the water.
In the continuing spirit of endeavoring to demystify what translators hitherto have misconstrued as a description of unnatural miracles, I shall include a link to this clip of a baby exhibiting the steppingreflex.
The cluster of seven stars that we call the Plough (or Big Dipper) the ancient Indians called saptarṣi, the Seven Seers, or Seven Ṛṣi. This asterism is part of the larger constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear, the representation of which in this image is somehow similar to the form of the baby exhibiting the stepping reflex.
The stepping of a baby, as also of a bear, is the reality of action, which is totally different from thinking.
So also is the truth of Zazen the reality of action, which is totally different from thinking.
Hence, Dogen said the secret of Zazen was that it is 非思量 HI-SHIRYO, “Different from thinking.”
The fundamental teaching of Gautama Buddha has to do with the unbridgeable gulf that thus exists between thinking on one side and the reality of action on the other side.
Such was the fundamental teaching of my teacher, Gudo Nishijima, which I believed in religiously for a long time.
In this paradigm, which represents what George Soros calls the enlightenment fallacy, thinking corresponds to what Soros, in his consideration of the relation between thinking and reality, terms “the cognitive function.”
But Soros understood, from his work in the laboratory of the financial markets, that there is a kind of thinking which does interact with reality, in a manner that exhibits reflexivity. This Soros calls, somewhat unfortunately for my purposes, “the manipulative function of thinking.”
FM Alexander, from his work in the laboratory of accepting and using himself, also understood that there is a kind of thinking which is not separate from the reality of action. Alexander termed it “thinking in activity” and asserted that his work was an exercise in finding out what thinking is. From what I have learned of it, I would say that what Alexander meant by thinking does not have to do with manipulation, but has to do with allowing. Applied to a problem like breath control, for example, Alexander thinking does not involve direct manipulation; rather, the natural mechanisms of respiration are allowed to work. So the process of control is an indirect and not a manipulative one.
This thinking in activity is thinking, but not what people understand by thinking. It is, in other words, what Yakusan and Dogen called 非思量 HI-SHIRYO, “non-thinking.” As described in detail by Aśvaghoṣa in Saundarananda Canto 17, this kind of thinking is intimately related with the process of negative feedback by which a system returns to equilibrium.
“You pays your money and takes your choice,” as the old saying goes. On this blog, you pays no money, but I invite you – all three or four of you -- to take your choice.
I used to think that when it came to understanding of the meaning of 非思量 HI-SHIRYO, history would judge that Gudo Nishijima got it wrong and that I got it right. More recently I have thought that history might judge that Gudo Nishijima got it wrong and that I also got everything wrong. But another possibility, it begins to dawn on me, is that history might pass me by without even relegating me to so much as a footnote. And in that situation, happiness is to come back to the Buddha's ultimate teaching of wanting little and being content.
anākulāni (acc. pl. n.): mfn. not confused , unperplexed , calm , consistent , regular
ākula: confounded , confused , agitated , flurried ; disordered
ubja-samudgatāni (acc. pl. n.): rising up like lotuses
abja: mfn. born in water; m. the moon; n. a lotus
samudgata: mfn. risen up , come forth , appeared , begun
niṣpeṣa-vat: mfn. put down with a stamp
niṣ- √ piṣ: to stamp or beat
vyāyata-vikramāṇi (acc. pl. n.): far-striding, strong-striding
vyāyata: mfn. drawn asunder , separated ; opened , expanded; long , wide , distant , far ; hard , firm , strong
vikrama: m. a step , stride , pace; going , proceeding , walking
dhīrāṇi (acc. pl. n.): mfn. steady , constant , firm , resolute , brave , energetic , courageous , self-possessed , composed , calm , grave
padāni (acc. pl.): n. a step, pace, stride; a footstep
sapta = acc. sg./pl. n. saptan: seven
saptarṣi-tārā-sa-dṛśaḥ (nom. sg. m.): he who was like the constellation of the seven seers
saptarṣi: the 7 seers (seven ṛṣis are often mentioned in the brāhmaṇas and later works as typical representatives of the character and spirit of the pre-historic or mythical period); (in astron.) the 7 stars of the constellation Ursa Major
tārā: f. a fixed star , asterism
sa-dṛśa: mfn. like , resembling , similar to
jagāma = 3rd pers. sg. perf. gam: to go, move, set out