Friday, September 28, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.2: Making a Decision to Get Out

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Māyā)
śrutvā tataḥ strī-jana-vallabhānāṁ mano-jña-bhāvaṁ pura-kānanānām |
bahiḥ-prayāṇāya cakāra buddhim-antar-gṛhe nāga ivāvaruddhaḥ || 3.2

Thus having heard how agreeable

Were the city's forests,
which the women loved so dearly,

He made a decision to get out,

Like an elephant shut inside a house.

The essence of today's verse, as I read is, is that
 he learned (1) 
some objective information (2),
on which basis he made a decision (3), 
which was much more than an intellectual exercise, much more than a function of his top two-inches. Rather, this making of a decision was something energetic and powerful like a great big elephant deciding to break out of confining area (4).

Thirty-odd years ago when I was doing a degree in Accounting & Financial Management, I learned that the role of an accountant, from the perspective of information and systems theory, is to provide information to decision makers – primarily shareholders and managers.

For the past thirty-odd years that is the essence of what, like a good but extremely poorly remunerated accountant (at least in comparison with my peers at uni), I have been doing through translation work -- that is, 
working to present information (2) 
that other Zen practitioners can read or learn (1), 
as a basis for making decisions (3),
in their own individual practice (4).

A pretty bloody thankless task it has been, as well. 

For nearly twenty of those years I have been investigating in my own Zen practice, on and off, what FM Alexander meant by making a decision.

Making a decision in Alexander work, when the work is fully understood, has both a negative aspect (deciding “no,” or withholding consent, and giving preventive directions) and a positive aspect (giving consent to an action). Out of this apparent paradox, a non-habitual action is liable to be experienced – somewhat in the manner of an elephant breaking out of an old house.

Thus, at the end of the first chapter, titled Evolution of a Technique, in FM Alexander's book The Use of the Self, he writes about giving directions so that “the stimulus of a decision to gain a certain end would result in an activity differing from the old habitual activity.”

Before he worked out the means he called inhibiting and directing, “the stimulus of a decision to gain a certain end had always resulted in the same habitual activity.” But “by this new procedure, as long as the reasoned directions for the bringing about of new conditions of use were consciously maintained, the stimulus of a decision to gain a certain end would result in an activity differing from the old habitual activity.”

Thanks largely to a series of lessons received from FM Alexander's niece, Marjory Barlow, in which she guided me through the process of deciding to move a leg, primarily by deciding not to move the leg but to go on giving directions instead, I think I understand in practice, at least at a certain level, what FM was describing as “an activity differing from the old habitual activity.”

FM Alexander himself, mind you, thought that he had "barely scratched the surface of the egg." 

Nevertheless, I venture to assert that what FM called "an activity differing from the old habitual activity,” might be what Zen ancestors were pointing to in their writings. 

So this is how I understand Aśvaghoṣa's metaphor of an elephant getting itself on a road -- 
a road that Dogen called
“the vigorous road of getting the body out.”

śrutvā = abs. śru: to hear, listen, learn about
tataḥ: ind. from that, thence
strī-jana-vallabhānām (gen. pl.): beloved by the women
strī-jana: m. womankind, womenfolk
vallabha: mfn. beloved above all , desired , dear to (gen. loc. , or comp.)

mano-jña-bhāvam (acc. sg.): the being agreeable to the mind
mano-jña: mf(ā)n. agreeable to the mind , pleasing , lovely , beautiful , charming
bhāva: m. state of being anything , esp. ifc. e.g. bālabhāva , the state of being a child , childhood
pura-kānanānām (gen. pl.): the city's forests
pura: n. a fortress , castle , city , town
kānana: n. (said to be fr. √kan, to be pleased) a forest , grove

bahis: ind. out , forth , outwards , outside (a house , village , city , kingdom &c ; also with abl. or ifc. = out of , apart from , except , beside) (with √ kṛ , to place outside , expel , banish , exclude ; with √ bhū , to come forth ; with √ gam , or yā , to go out &c )
prayāṇāya (dat. sg.): n. setting out , starting , advancing , motion onwards
cakāra buddhim = 3rd pers. sg. perf. buddhim kṛ: to make up one's mind , resolve , decide

antar-gṛhe (loc. sg.): n. interior of the house, inner apartment
nāgaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a snake, a nāga or serpent-demon, an elephant
iva: like
avaruddhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. hindered , checked , stopped , kept back ; shut in , enclosed ; imprisoned secluded (as in the inner apartments)

伎女因奏樂 弦歌告太子
太子聞音樂 歎美彼園林
内懷甚踊悦 思樂出遊觀
猶如繋狂象 常慕閑曠野 

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