Sunday, September 9, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.40: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd) – Beating Expectancy & Pride

     −−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−    Upajāti (Bālā)
āśāvate cābhigatāya sadyo deyāmbubhis-tarṣam-acechidiṣṭa
yuddhād-te vtta-paraśvadhena dviḍ-darpam-udvttam-abebhidiṣṭa || 2.40

Again, when the expectant came up,

There and then, using the waters of giving,
he washed away thirst;

And without starting a war
but using the battleaxe of action,

The enemy's swollen pride he burst.

The -vat in the 1st pāda of today's verse mirrors the -vat in the 1st pāda of yesterday's verse. If kārya-vatsu (loc. pl.) is understood to mean “towards people requiring something to be done” or “towards people with an agenda,” or “towards litigants/petitioners,” then āśāvate (dat. sg.) is naturally understood to mean, in similar vein, “for a person with expectations.”

A first stab at translating the first two pādas, then, might be along the lines of:
“When somebody approached him expectantly, there and then, using the waters of giving, he washed away [that person's] thirst.”

I do not have any experience, however, that resonates with these words. Admittedly my own experience in the matter of dealing with expectant people is nothing to hold up as a good example, but if somebody approaches me with expectations my usual response is to wish to disappoint those expectations at the first convenient opportunity. For example, if somebody expects me to be polite and compassionate, I find it hard to resist the temptation to tell that person, in so many words, to get lost. (When people disappoint my own expectations, conversely, I must confess, I am not always such a tough guy. I sometimes incline more towards being a moaning minnie, and a hypocrite.)

When we listen closely to how the Buddha replied when Nanda asked him to set out his teaching in detail, the Buddha did not say much about how to deal with expectant others. But the Buddha did talk in detail about how a practitioner is to abandon his or her own ideas and expectations – most notably in Canto 15, titled “Abandoning Ideas.” E.g.:
As he drags about that field of misfortunes which is a body, / Expectations of well-being (svāsthy-āśā) or of continuing life do not arise in one who is observant. // 15.55 //
If today's verse, then, is really about dealing not with the expectations of others but with one's own stupid expectations, what does it mean in practice to deal with expectancy, when it comes into the picture, by washing thirst away, using the waters of giving?

What it means to me is to counter end-gaining by giving myself space, by giving myself time, and by giving these directions:
“I wish to allow the neck to be free, to allow the head to go forward and up, to allow the back to lengthen and widen, while allowing the limbs out of the expanding torso.”
A concrete illustration that springs to mind is a very useful half an hour spent lying down in the early summer of 1995, just after my wife and two young sons and I had upped sticks and moved back to England, when we were looking at getting a mortgage to buy a house. We had run into an obstacle in that I had no evidence of having received a regular income while I was in Japan, and I was on the point of deciding “Sod it. Let's carry on renting.” What happened then is that, rather than carrying on fretting about it, both my wife and I tried practising what Alexander called “inhibition” – which basically meant to us at that time lying on the back with knees bent and just being clear in the decision not to do or try to decide anything. On getting back up half an hour later, my wife phoned her father in Japan, told him where to look for our old bank statements, and within a matter of days they duly arrived in the post and the problem was solved – a memorable instance of the right thing seeming to do itself quite easily, once given the chance. The solution, in truth, was not that difficult to arrive at. But as long as were stressing about what to do, until we gave ourselves the space and time for the right decision to make itself, we were stuck.

So this is how I understand the word deya, giving, in the 2nd pāda. Deya means, in other words, allowing.

In the 4th pāda, the old Nepalese manuscript has dvi-darppam. EBC amended to dvi-darpam (“double-pride”) but added in a footnote that Professor Kielhorn suggesed dviḍ-darpam (“enemy-pride”). This amendment is very much in accord with the content of Saundara-nanda Canto 2, in which pride or arrogance is cited several times as being the king's enemy:

No special tribute did he cause the kingdom to pay him; / But with sustained endeavour, and using only regulars, he caused enemy pride (dviṣad-darpam) to be cut down. // 2.33 //
With intense energy and with light he exposed to view his enemies, the conceited (ripūn dṛptān) /And with a blazing lantern of brightness, he caused the world to shine. // 2.39 //
He did not shun one afflicted by suffering, even an enemy, who had taken refuge; /And having conquered his enemies, the conceited (jitvā dṛptān-api ripūn), he did not become proud on that account. // 2.41 //
Once again, then, today's verse is ostensibly about how well the king dealt with others, but the real intention is to describe how a paragon of universal virtue overcame faults within the self.

I have not succeeded in wording the last pāda so that this ambiguity is preserved for the reader. If the last line were listened to rather than read, however, there would be not necessarily be any way of knowing whether it was written:
“The enemy's swollen pride he burst.”
“The enemy – swollen pride – he burst.”

In practice, if a practitioner reflects on something he said or wrote, and notices (very possibly via the mirror principle) that he has, or at least fears, a tendency in himself towards pride, vanity, arrogance, conceit, just how might a practitioner go about defeating the feared enemy, swollen pride?

Should he declare, in the manner of George Bush II, a “War on Vanity,” and seek to build an alliance, for example, with a psychotherapist or a psychological counsellor, or "a spiritual friend"?

The Buddha's teaching, at least as it was transmitted to me in my 20s, when I collaborated face to face with Gudo Nishijima on a daily basis, was never a philosophy of pyschological counselling or of spiritual friendship. It was a philosophy of action, which he transmitted to me and I transmitted right back to him -- with knobs on (the knobs of pra-).

The action of the philosophy of action is expressed in the 3rd pāda of today's verse by vṛtta, from the root √vṛt, lit. to roll, to move along.

As an adjective vṛtta means turned. By describing enemy-pride in the 4th pāda as ud-vṛtta, lit. "turned up," Aśvaghoṣa seems somehow to be drawing attention or inviting consideration of the root √vṛt, which means to roll, to move along, to act.

Whether he is inviting it or not, I am going to consider it. Who is going to stop me?

In clarifying for Nanda the four noble truths, the Buddha speaks of pra-vṛtti, in which pra- can be understood as expressing forward movement, so that pra-vṛtti means progress, but which can also be understood as emphatically positive so that pra-vṛtti means "doing" – as in just fucking do it! Go on, don't think; just do it! 1-2-3 Go!

This is basically how I understood the philosophy of action in my 20s – at least in my head, though I couldn't help being deeply influenced at the same time by phrases of Dogen like "Learn the backward step of turning your light and letting it shine." So I had my understanding of what the philosophy of action was but at the same time had a doubt, which would later be answered by FM Alexander.

Since starting Alexander work in my mid-30s, nearly 20 years ago now, I have by no means given up doing, but at the same time have been investigating more consciously the intimately related but dialectically opposed principle of non-doing, ni-vṛtti, in which ni- can be understood as expressing a direction which is backward and inward. Digging deeper,   ni- might not necessarily express any direction, but just a total absence of the attitude of the progressive and emphatic pra-

Seeming to be in possession of a body and mind (even if that semblance is only an illusion), I reflected this morning as I sat, impermanent and full of suffering though a body and mind is/are, gives one a chance of investigating for oneself all these various aspects of what it is to √vṛt, forward, outward, backward, inward, positively, passively, with pra-! and without any pra- to speak of

If the enemy is the tendency towards arrogant ud- √vṛtedness, the solution lies, today's verse seems to say, not in fighting that enemy (for example by taking steps to sub-√vṛt it?), but in another kind of √vṛting altogether, namely ni-√vṛting....

Comprehend, therefore, that suffering is doing (pra-vṛtti); witness the faults impelling it forward (pravartakān; adjective from pra-√vṛt); / Realise its stopping as non-doing (ni-vṛtti); and know the path as a turning back (nivartakam; adjective from ni-√vṛt) // SN16.42 //
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// 


 "Learn the backward step of turning your light and letting it shine."

      nivartakaṃ cāpy-avagaccha mārgam 
     "Know the path, again, as a turning back."

nivartakam: turning back
cāpi: and again
avagaccha: know it
mārgam: path

      "As a turning back, again, know the path."

āśāvate (dat. sg. m.): mfn. hoping , having hope , trusting
āśā: f. wish , desire , hope , expectation
vat: (possessive suffix)
ca: and
abhigatāya (dat. sg. m.): mfn. approached , &c
abhi- √ gam: to go near to , approach ; to meet with , find
sadyaḥ: ind. on the same day , in the very moment (either " at once " , " immediately " or " just " , " recently ")

deyāmbubhiḥ (inst. pl.): with the waters of giving
deya: mfn. to be given ; n. giving , gift
ambu: n. water
tarṣam (acc. sg.): m. ( √ tṛṣ) thirst
acechidiṣṭa = 3rd pers. sg. aorist intensive chid: to cut off , amputate , cut through , hew , chop , split , pierce ; to destroy , annihilate , efface , blot out

yuddhāt (abl. sg.): n. battle , fight , war
ṛte: ind. under pain of , with the exclusion of , excepting , besides , without , unless (with abl.)
vṛtta-paraśvadhena (inst. sg.): with the battleaxe of good conduct
vṛtta: n. (also pl.) procedure , practice , action , mode of life , conduct , behaviour (esp. virtuous conduct , good behaviour)
paraśvadha: m. a hatchet , axe

dviḍ-darpam (acc. sg. m.): enemy pride
dviṣ: mf. foe , enemy
darpa: m. pride , arrogance , haughtiness , insolence , conceit
udvṛttam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. swollen up , swelling
abebhidiṣṭa = 3rd pers. sg. aorist intensive bhid: to cleave repeatedly

志存於寂默 平正止諍訟
不以祠天會 勝於斷事福
見彼多求衆 豐施過其望
心無戰爭想 以徳降怨敵  

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