Friday, July 13, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.74: The Incontestable Clout

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Sālā)
tṛṣṇārgalaṁ moha-tamaḥ-kapāṭaṁ dvāraṁ prajānām-apayāna-hetoḥ |
vipāṭayiṣyaty-ayam-uttamena saddharma-tāḍena dur-āsadena || 1.74

The door with panels of darkness and delusion
bolted shut by thirst

He will break open to let people out

By means of a thump of the highest order --

The incontestable clout of true dharma,
alongside which it is hard to sit.

The Buddha can be assumed in this metaphor to be standing, like a policeman with a battering ram, on the side of the door opposite to where it is bolted – otherwise the Buddha would surely have preferred the simpler and less violent action of unbolting the door.

Dur-āsada literally means “hard to sit near.”  I think Aśvaghoṣa had it in mind that the supreme incontestable blow of true dharma is generally delivered in the context of cross-legged sitting; and so, at the expense of elegance, I have translated accordingly.

The phrase "hard to sit near" brings to mind the phrase “matching shoulders” or “sitting alongside with,” which, in Shobogenzo chap. 72 Dogen used to praise the teacher he met in China, called in Japanese Tendo Nyojo:
My late Master, the Olden Buddha, said: "Zen practice is body and mind dropping off, and just sitting has got it from the beginning. It is not necessary to burn incense, to perform prostrations, to contemplate the Buddha, to practise confession, or to read sutras."

Clearly, the one who has gouged out the Eye of the Buddha-Ancestor and sat inside the Eye of the Buddha-Ancestor, for the past four or five hundred years, is my late Master alone. Few in China have sat shoulder-to-shoulder with him. Rarely has it been clarified that sitting is the Buddha-Dharma and that the Buddha-Dharma is sitting. Even if some understand with their bodies that sitting is the Buddha-Dharma, no-one has known sitting as sitting. How then can there be any who let the Buddha-Dharma be the Buddha-Dharma? So then, there is mental sitting as opposed to physical sitting. There is physical sitting as opposed to mental sitting. And there is sitting as body and mind dropping off, as opposed to sitting as body and mind dropping off. Actually to have got what sounds like this is the practice and the understanding of the buddha-ancestors, in mutual accord. Allow this awareness, this thinking, this reflection. Investigate this mind, this intention, this consciousness.
At the beginning of this chapter of Shobogenzo, Dogen writes that, aparat from sitting in full lotus, the buddha-ancestors had no other job/duty at all (SARANI YOMU ARAZARU).

Since I first read that sentence 30 years ago it has had a big impact on my life – for better or for worse I am not sure, but probably both, considering on the one hand the purity of Dogen's original intent in writing it, and on the other hand a sometimes selfish wish on my part to grasp Dogen's teaching with my own dirty paws and chew on it as top dog in my universe.

Is today's metaphor more aptly titled “The Doorway” or “The Thump”? The door when it is shut represents faults centred around ignorance or faulty sensory appreciation, and the doorway when it is open might represent freedom from habit or a way out of saṁsāra. But the thump of the Buddha's battering ram represents the Buddha's dharma itself, a vigorous means of breaking open the door. And so that is what today's verse, as I read it, is really about -- the Buddha-dharma as a vigorous means, as the action of a big strong bloke.

In Alexander work (as taught to me by a frail but feisty old grandmother) I generally think the vigorous means to be inhibition, direction, and movement.

I generally think the Buddha dharma as a vigorous means to be non-movement.

But the cliche is true that consciously directed movement stems from stillness; and at the same time in non-movement there is always movement, like breath passing in and out of the nostrils.

In any event, whereas in 1.72 Asita predicts for the Buddha a role as informant and guide, one who tells people a way out of saṁsāra, in today's verse the Buddha is predicted to break down the door himself. The Buddha's ulterior aim is to enable others to escape the terror of saṁsāra. But breaking down the door is just the Buddha's own action.

When today's verse is understood like this, then, what Dogen wrote in Shobogenzo about a buddha-ancestor's sole duty very much tallies with what Aśvaghoṣa wrote a thousand or so years earlier.

If there is even one big strong bloke out there who is encouraged in his or her solitary practice of sitting in lotus by my translation of today's verse, inelegant though it is, that would be great. 

tṛṣṇārgalam (acc. sg. n.): whose bolt is thirst, which is fastened by the bolt of thirst
tṛṣṇā: f. thirst
argala: mn. a wooden bolt or pin for fastening a door or the cover of a vessel
moha-tamaḥ-kapāṭam (acc. sg. n.): with doors of delusion and darkness
moha: m. loss of consciousness , bewilderment , perplexity , distraction , infatuation , delusion , error , folly
tamas: n. darkness, ignorance
kapāṭa: mn. a door , the leaf or panel of a door

dvāram (acc. sg.): n. door , gate , passage , entrance ; a way , means , medium
prajānām (gen. pl.): f. a creature , animal , man , mankind ; people
apayāna-hetoḥ (gen. sg.): for the purpose of getting away
apa-yāna: n. ('away-leading') retreat , flight
hetu: m. purpose, aim

vipāṭayiṣyati = 3rd pers. sg. causative future vi- √ paṭ : to split in two , tear open
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this one, he
uttamena (inst. sg.): mfn. uppermost, highest, supreme

saddharma-tāḍena (inst. sg. m.): with a thump of the true dharma
tāḍa: m. a blow
√taḍ: to beat , strike , knock , strike (with arrows) , wound , punish
dur-āsadena (inst. sg. m.): mfn. difficult or dangerous to be approached ; difficult to be found or met with , unheard of , unparalleled
ā-√sad: to sit near

癡闇門重扇 貪欲爲關鑰
閉塞諸群生 出要解脱門
金剛智慧鑷 拔恩愛逆鑚

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