−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Vāṇī)
vāgbhiḥ kalābhir-lalitaiś-ca hāvair-madaiḥ sakhelair-madhuraiś-ca hāsaiḥ
taṁ tatra nāryo ramayāṁ-babhūvur-bhrūvañcitair-ardha-nirīkṣitaiś-ca || 2.31
Using sweet nothings and playful gestures
Accompanied by tipsy movements and charming chuckles,
The women there caressed him
With secretly arched eyebrows, and sidelong glances.
Even in a verse like today's verse a certain progression can be discerned that parallels the progression through the four noble truths.
In the 1st pāda the low moans and teasing gestures are intended to communicate meaning – though admittedly in this instance the meaning is far from intellectual and not necessarily reliant upon words.
In the 2nd pāda, movements that exhibit the tell-tale signs of intoxication, and chuckles, can be understood to involve unintentional or involuntary reactions of arms, hips, diaphragm, et cetera. (This sense of the unintentional, the automatic, the unconscious, the not done, seems to be picked up by the otherwise typically errant Chinese translation, in the Chinese translator's use of his favourite phrase 自然, "naturally, spontaneously, of themselves.")
The 3rd pāda describes an action (an act of caressing), there and then – tatra.
And in the 4th pāda Aśvaghoṣa, gifted wordsmith that he was, delivers the punch line, which is so vividly suggestive that the reality he is pointing to almost seems to hit us, even though we were not there.
The four pādas of today's verse, then, fit well enough into the SOAR (Subject, Object, Action, Reality) scheme outlined by Gudo Nishijima.
The reason I am awake to this kind of progression is that in my 20s I spent hours and hours under the guidance of Gudo Nishijima analysing chapters of Shobogenzo, not to mention paragraphs, verses, sentences, and lists of four things within sentences, into four phases. And a fat lot of good it did me, the cynical reader might add, with some justification.
To be fair, Gudo Nishijima's teaching of the four noble truths was by no means only theoretical. As a devoted sitter, he took pains to relate the 3rd and 4th phases (the A and R of SOAR) to the practise of Zazen.
Again, after nearly 20 years now of exploring the connection, or identity, between the 3rd and 4th noble truths and the utterly practical truths that Alexander called inhibition and direction, I have got nobody but myself to blame for being so slow on the uptake when it comes to showing what the Buddha really meant by satyāvabodhāya, being awake to the four noble truths, viz:
So with regard to the truth of suffering, see suffering as an illness; with regard to the faults, see the faults as the cause of the illness; / With regard to the truth of stopping, see stopping as freedom from disease; and with regard to the truth of a path, see a path as a remedy. // SN16.41 // Comprehend, therefore, that suffering is doing; witness the faults impelling it forward; / Realise its stopping as non-doing; and know the path as a turning back. // SN16.42 // Though your head and clothes be on fire direct your mind so as to be awake 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. // SN16.43 //
First thing yesterday I received an email from a person whose judgement I value, saying that he found this blog very valuable. Like the fusspot referred to in a recent post , like the big girl's blouse, like the moaning minnie I easily tend to be (for the mirror principle never fails), I have recently been suffering from a feeling of my efforts not being appreciated. And so this note of appreciation seemed to make me greedy for more appreciation -- like one sip of water received by a very thirsty bloke.
Later in the morning I left the following comment on Dosho Mike Port's Wildfox Zen Blog, which I would like anyway to post on this blog for the record, since the main part of it relates to the oft-revisited topic of nimitta and bhāvana:
I happened on this post from a facebook share (by Catherine Spaeth) and your description of your long-term chewing on the subject of the withered tree resonated with me — though the metaphor that I favour, rather than chewing, is digging.So far so good. But then I could not resist what is called in sumo, the dame-oshi, which means pushing an opponent unnecessarily out of the ring, after the fight has officially ended. So venting my righteous indignation that nobody to date in America has built a statue of me, I signed off like this:
The post stimulated me to revisit the word nimitta, which is a key concept in Aśvaghoṣa’s Saundara-nanda.
A problem like the withered tree can be both an object and a subject [for meditation/chewing/digging]; again, it can be a stimulus for mental development, and thus a cause of growth.
All these meanings — subject, object, stimulus and cause — are possible translations of the Sanskrit word nimitta, which is used in various meanings in Aśvaghoṣa’s Saundara-nanda, especially in Canto 16 in connection with bhāvana, which means bringing into being, development, cultivation.
Looking at your facebook friends, by the way, it looks like a roll call of the great and the good of American Zen. I wonder how many of them have benefited from the years of digging that I put into the Nishijima/Cross Shobogenzo translation. And I wonder how many of the Roshis and Abbots and Dharma Teachers would give me the steam of their piss…Later on, in replying to my original correspondent (the appreciative one), I confessed thus:
I do tend to suffer sometimes from feeling unappreciated, and the cause of this feeling is an old idea or expectation that I would be appreciated, or indeed recognized as a kind of hero. So the business of feeling unappreciated is a nice demonstration of the four noble truths -- or at least the first two of them. I really did expect that Gudo Nishijima, at least, would appreciate what I was doing for him. Possibly he felt the same in reverse -- though I was the one living a rather lonely life in a foreign country, not him, who enjoyed many privileges as a graduate of Tokyo University Law Dept, and old boy of the Japanese Ministry of Finance. Anyway, if you look up the Nishijima/Cross translation of Shobogenzo on Amazon, you will see that Nishijima is nowadays listed as "author" and Cross as "contributor," which is absurd -- but useful as a factor or stimulus (nimitta?) to respond to, and thereby grow, or fail to grow, as the case may be! Perhaps an even stronger stimulus is the Shinji-Shobogenzo translation, which was actually conceived and initiated by me in the mid-80s. By the time the thing actually came to be published in the late 90s, Gudo had forgotten who used to come to his office to take his dictations in English, and then carry his bag to the Yanagi-bashi-kaikan in Asakusabashi where he gave his lectures on Shinji-Shobogenzo in Japanese. So my work wasn't credited in the acknowledgements. Apparently Gudo confused me with Jeremy Pearson and I heard later that he in fact tried to persuade Jeremy that Jeremy's name should appear together with Gudo's on the front cover. So there was no conscious plan to "erase my efforts"; it just worked out that way. "Erase my efforts," by the way, is Gudo's own phrase. He accused me of being out to erase his efforts. It is almost comical, really. You couldn't make it up. The irony would not have been lost on Aśvaghoṣa.In the aforementioned lectures, incidentally, Gudo explained each of the 301 koans in Shinji-Shobogenzo according to the system of 苦 (KU; suffering); 集 (SHU; accumulation); 滅 (METSU; cessation) and 道 (DO; a path). So that was also a part of my intial grounding in the four noble truths.
Anyway, after I had sent this last email, while observing the truly sincere behaviour of my wife's dog in hot pursuit of a ball, I found myself reflecting on the comedy of it. I thought maybe if I get to the end of the Buddha-carita translation, I could work out a stand-up (or sit-down) comedy routine titled “The Four Noble Truths” and go to the Edinburgh fringe festival and tell my story to audiences who might see the funny side of it. I would start off by describing my dream-hero vision of myself in the early days, puffed up by Gudo's hopes and expectations for me, and juxtapose this by reading out the satirical piece written by Gudo's eventual successor, Brad Warner, devoted to “Mr Angry.” If I could trace it, I could also read out the email Brad sent around to Gudo's Dharma-heirs asserting his opinion (later retracted, in fairness) that Gudo, and not me, was the translator of the Nishijima/Cross Shobogenzo translation. “Thank you for your beautiful words,” replied Gudo to Brad. You could not make it up. Yep, reading out those emails might raise a few chuckles, for those who can see the funny side of a bloke slipping on a banana skin.
So with regard to the truth of suffering, see suffering as an illness; with regard to the faults, see the faults as the cause of the illness; / With regard to the truth of stopping, see stopping as freedom from disease; and with regard to the truth of a path, see a path as a remedy. // SN16.41 // Comprehend, therefore, that suffering is doing; witness the faults impelling it forward; / Realise its stopping as non-doing; and know the path as a turning back. // SN16.42 // Though your head and clothes be on fire direct your mind so as to be awake 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. // SN16.43 //The canto from which the above quote is drawn, Saundara-nanda Canto 16, titled “Exposition of the Noble Truths,” finishes with these words:
So direct your energy in pursuit of peace, for in directed energy, undoubtedly, lies all growth." // 16.98 //vīrye hi sarva-rddhayaḥ, “for in directed energy lies all growth.”
This is the conclusion that this long and winding comment has been leading to: that the noble truths are all about growth. To grow or not to grow, that is the question. The ultimate criterion for being awake to the four noble truths is growth. A person who is stuck – who might be me -- is not truly awake to the four noble truths.
What the 3rd noble truth proclaims, at the most practical level, is that in order for a sitting practitioner to grow it is generally necessary for him or her to stop doing or thinking something, to give up an old habit or idea or expectation. What the 4th noble truth proclaims, at that same practical level, is that direction is the truest form of inhibition. The best way of preventing energy from flowing down the pathways of destructive old habit, is to direct energy into new, constructive pathways.
In the cold light of Friday morning, Thursday, though it was reasonably full of sitting, was also full of mistakes. Such a long and self-indulgent comment was a mistake. And yet I don't feel inclined to delete it. Please see it – or rather take no notice of it -- like a heap of spoil left behind by a disgruntled miner.
Today's verse is a poem in four phases and at the same time, in the bigger picture it belongs to the 2nd phase, the phase of objective consideration, of exploration of objective facts without the self butting in. Thus, in the 2nd phase of the four noble truths, originally, there was the Buddha's consideration of causation.
In the 2nd phase, when a person suffers from the feeling of not having been appreciated, the cause, objectively thinking, is nothing other than his own thirst for appreciation.
vāgbhiḥ (inst. pl.): f. speech , voice , talk , language (also of animals) , sound (also of inanimate objects as of the stones used for pressing , of a drum &c )
kalābhiḥ (inst. pl. f.): mfn. indistinct, dumb; low , soft (as a tone) , emitting a soft tone , melodious (as a voice or throat)
lalitaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. sported , played , playing , wanton , amorous , voluptuous ; artless , innocent , soft , gentle , charming , lovely
lal: to play , sport , dally , frolic , behave loosely or freely
hāvaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. calling , alluring , dalliance , blandishment (collective N. of ten coquettish gestures of women , beginning with līlā -- [in rhet.] a maiden's playful imitation of her lover.)
madaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. hilarity , rapture , excitement , inspiration , intoxication
sa-khelaiḥ (inst. pl.): gentle, playful
sa: (possessive prefix)
khela: moving , shaking , trembling
sa-khelam: ind. with a gentle motion
madhuraiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. sweet , pleasant , charming , delightful ; sounding sweetly or uttering sweet cries , melodious , mellifluous
hāsaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. laughing ; mocking, derision; jest, joke, fun
tam (acc. sg. m.): him
tatra: ind. there
nāryaḥ (nom. pl.): f. women
ramayām babhūvur = 3rd pers. pl. periphrastic causative perfect ram: to gladden , delight , please , caress , enjoy carnally
bhrū-vañcitaiḥ (inst. pl.): with secret archings of eyebrows
bhrū: f. eyebrow , the brow
vañcita: mfn. deceived , tricked , imposed upon
vañc: to move to and fro , go crookedly , totter , stagger , waver ; to go slyly or secretly , sneak along ; to pass over , wander over , go astray
ardha-nirīkṣitaiḥ (inst. pl.): with sidelong glances
ardha: m. side, part; half
nirīkṣita: looking, glancing
nir- √ īkṣ: to look at or towards , behold , regard