Wednesday, October 31, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.35: A Developmental Sequence

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
niḥśvasya dīrghaṁ sva-śiraḥ prakampya tasmiṁś-ca jīrṇe viniveśya cakṣuḥ |
tāṁ caiva dṛṣṭvā janatāṁ saharṣāṁ vākyaṁ sa saṁvigna idaṁ jagāda || 3.35

He took an audible deep breath, then shook his head,

Then fixed his eye upon the old man,

And then he took in the joyful throng;

After that, still in a state of alarm, he uttered these words:

I have commented before that when Aśvaghoṣa uses a series of absolutive (“... and then”) forms, as he does in today's verse, there may be meaning to be found in examining the order of elements.

Thus when Nanda is described as first directing the whole body up, and thus keeping his awareness turned towards the body, and thus integrating in his person all the senses, and thereby throwing himself all-out into practice (SN17.4), our attention is indirectly drawn to the all-important first step in the sequence, namely directing the whole body up.

Similarly Aśvaghoṣa tells us in today's verse that 
(1) first the prince breathed emotionally, and then 
(2) he moved his head relative to his body, and then 
(3) he fixated his eye upon a target, and then 
(4) he mentally registered what was going on, and finally, after all that, 
(5) he expressed himself.

What today's verse suggests to me (whose view of course is inevitably jaundiced by obsessive interest in the link between immature primitive reflexes and faulty sensory appreciation) is actions that have to do with 
(1) the Moro, or “baby panic” reflex; 
(2) the asymmetric tonic neck reflex (ATNR) and tonic labyrinthine reflex (TLR), which are stimulated by movement of the head relative to the body; 
(3) that fixation of the eyes which becomes possible with the inhibition of the three aforementioned primitive reflexes – fixation of the eyes being not so much a function of the visual system as a more primitive ocular-motor (eye movement) function, involving a very ancient circuit of neurones called the vestibular oculomotor reflex arc; 
(4) cognitive function involving the top two inches and the visual system and at the same time the function of the vestibular system at brainstem level as integrator of vestibular, auditory, visual and other senses; 
(5) a psycho-physical response, expressed using the voice.

Digging deeper, what is particularly interesting, especially in view of the title of the present canto, is the reappearance of saṁvigna (“being flustered” / “being [still] in a state of alarm”) in the 4th pāda. The title of this canto is saṁvignotpattiḥ (= saṁvigna + utpatti, arising). So how should we understand saṁvigna, in today's verse and in the canto title?

Saṁvigna is from saṁ-√vij whose first definition in the dictionary is to tremble or start with fear. That Aśvaghoṣa had this original meaning in mind is indicated by his use in yesterday's verse of the verb saṁvivije, also from saṁ-√vij, which I translated as “recoiled" -- like a startled bull. 

Simply thinking, the Moro reflex is personified in Aśvaghoṣa's writings by Māra, “the Destroyer, the Evil One” -- the Buddha's great enemy. But upon deeper investigation sometimes fear is not the enemy; sometimes fear is a great motivating and awakening force.

Again, simply thinking, fear or being flustered might be a starting point in establishing the will to leave home and pursue the truth, like a mighty bull frightened by a thunderbolt; but in a buddha who is sitting immovably like the king of mountains, nothing fearful or flustered is operative.

Today's verse, then, as I read it, with saṁvigna making its reappearance in the 4th pāda, at the end of a developmental sequence, indirectly suggests a real situation which is more real, more integral, than our a priori thoughts about enlightenment.

niḥśvasya = abs. niḥ- √ śvas: , to hiss (said of a serpent) ; to snort (said of an elephant) ; to breathe , exhale, inhale; to sigh
dīrgham: ind. long
sva-śiraḥ (acc. sg. n.): his head
prakampya = abs. pra- √ kamp: to tremble, shake

tasmin (loc. sg. m.): on him
ca: and
jīrṇe (loc. sg. m.): mfn. old , worn out , withered , wasted , decayed; m. an old man
viniveśya = abs. vi-ni- √ viś: set down or place in , put on ; to apply ; to fix (the eyes or thoughts) upon (loc.)
cakṣuḥ (acc. sg.): n. faculty of seeing , sight ; the eye

tām (acc. sg. f): that
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
dṛṣṭvā = abs. drś: to see , behold , look at , regard , consider
janatām (acc. sg.): f. a number of men , assemblage of people , community ,
saharṣām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. joyful , glad

vākyam (acc. sg.): n. speech , saying , assertion , statement , command , words (
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
saṁvignaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. agitated , flurried , terrified , shy
saṁ- √ vij: to tremble or start with fear , start up , run away ; to fall to pieces , burst asunder
idam (acc. sg. n. ): this
jagāda = 3rd pers. perf. gad: to speak articulately , speak , say , relate , tell

菩薩亦如是 震怖長嘘息 
繋心於老苦 頷頭而瞪矚

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.34: Immaturity

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Ārdrā)
tataḥ sa pūrvāśaya-śuddha-buddhir-vistīrṇa-kalpācita-puṇya-karmā |
śrutvā jarāṁ saṁvivije mahātmā mahāśaner-ghoṣam-ivāntike gauḥ || 3.34

And so he whose mind had been cleansed by good intentions, 
before the fact,

He who had heaped up piles of good karma, through long kalpas, 
by his acts,

When he heard about growing old, recoiled mightily,

Like a bull hearing the crash of a nearby thunderbolt.

Apologies for the late posting of today's verse. I have been without electricity for the past 24 hours and this afternoon had to cycle 20 miles to get a replacement part for the fusebox. In the event I must have cycled more than 30 miles due to having the bright idea of avoiding the long straight road to La Ferte Mace. I thought I would pick my way through the forest instead. Needless to say I got lost on the way there. On the way back, more confident that I had understood the route, and paying due attention to the position of the sun in the sky, moss on the north side of trees, et cetera, I got lost again. In the end I swallowed my pride, joined the fast main road and got home just before dusk. On the bright side, I did manage to restore the electricity.

The four phases of today's verse are, in short, (1) mind, (2) karma, (3) a momentary action, or reaction, of the whole body-mind, and (4) an evocative metaphor that brings said reaction vividly to life.

As I was cycling along forest tracks (and getting off and pushing my bike up muddy uphill parts of them) I found myself reflecting in particular on the first pāda, and pondering the process whereby intentions can cause the mind to become pure. From an Alexander point of view, simply thinking, the intention to allow is pure, whereas the intention to achieve is tainted. In the Buddha's teaching, simply thinking, the intention to serve buddhas is pure, whereas the intention to become buddha is liable to be tainted. 

In Marjory Barlow's game of moving the leg, two kinds of intention are investigated together – (1) the intention to be free from what habitually governs me, and (2) the intention to move the leg, without which the leg would never move. The essence of the game is to ensure that (1) remains stronger than (2), both before the fact and during the act.

In playing Marjory's game under Marjory's eagle eye, however I explain it in theory, I did experience an unusual degree of clarity in fact. While being clear in my decision not to move  the leg but rather to allow the spine to lengthen and the back to widen, I heard the birds singing outside and had the sense that it was the first time I had ever heard birds sing that clearly. (I seem to hear the sound of readers of this blog turning from their computer screens and asking their nearest and dearest to pass them the sick bucket.)

I might add that while I was experiencing this 'auditory opening' in pseuds' corner, I didn't get any praise from Marjory. Marjory invariably reserved her praise until after the end of moving the leg was gained, i.e. until the movement was achieved, until the act was realized.

So there is a kind of paradox inherent in Marjory's game. The intention to be free has to be stronger than the intention to move the leg. And yet the leg must be moved – otherwise the work is not real, it is just a variety of faffing about.

This paradox is reflected in the first two lines of today's verse, as I read them, which describe (1) the effect of intentions upon the prince's mind, and (2) the effect of actual actions  as concrete causes. 

The paradox, to express it in terms of famous aphorisms of FM Alexander, is:

(1) This work is the most mental thing there is.
This work is an exercise in finding out what thinking is.
The secret is in the preparation

(2) We get it in movement.

The first practical taste I had of this paradox was in the context of tournament karate more than 30 years ago. I remember in particular one fight that I should easily have won but in fact lost because I was upstairs eating a meat pie when my name was called, and so was totally mentally unprepared for the contest. When I took the floor, I was all aggressive movement and no inhibitory intention and so, even though I should have scored easily against the bloke I was up against, I just couldn't get a score in. I mention this because, as I pedalled along, the memory of this fight came back to me very vividly.

The secret is in the preparation. I should know that by now. And yet, more often than not, I demonstrate that I still haven't learned the lesson well enough. I rush in like a fool. 

The 3rd and 4th pādas, as I read them, stand in opposition to what has been alluded to about the real meaning of “growing old.”

The Buddha grew old while sitting as immovably stable as the king of mountains. The prince, mighty bull-like self that he was, shows himself to be still immature, not yet grown old in the true sense, by his fearful response.

tataḥ: ind. then
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
pūrvāśaya-śuddha-buddhiḥ (nom. sg. m.): with mind cleansed through preceding intentions
pūrva: mfn. former , prior , preceding
āśaya: m. resting-place , bed; seat ; an asylum , abode or retreat ; a receptacle ; the seat of feelings and thoughts , the mind , heart , soul ; thought , meaning , intention ; (in yoga phil.) " stock " or " the balance of the fruits of previous works , which lie stored up in the mind in the form of mental deposits of merit or demerit , until they ripen in the individual soul's own experience into rank , years , and enjoyment "(Cowell's translation of Sarvad. 168 , 16 ff.)
śuddha: mfn. cleansed , cleared , clean , pure , clear ; cleared , acquitted , free from error , faultless ,
buddhi: f. the power of forming and retaining conceptions and general notions , intelligence , reason , intellect , mind , discernment , judgement

vistīrṇa-kalpācita-puṇya-karmā (nom. sg. m.): of good karma accumulated through long kalpas
vistīrṇa: mfn. strewn or covered or studded with (instr. or comp.) ; spread out , expanded , broad , large , great , copious , numerous; extensive, long
kalpa: m. a fabulous period of time
ācita: mfn. collected, accumulated, heaped
puṇya-karman: mfn. acting right , virtuous , pious
puṇya: n. the good or right , virtue , purity , good work , meritorious act , moral or religious merit
karman: n. act , action ; former act as leading to inevitable results

śrutvā = abs. śru: to hear, listen
jarām (acc. sg.): f. aging, old age
saṁvivije = 3rd pers. sg. perf. saṁ- √ vij: to tremble or start with fear , start up , run away
√ vij: to move with a quick darting motion , speed , heave (said of waves) ; to start back , recoil , flee from (abl.)
mahātmā (nom. sg. m.): mfn. " high-souled " , magnanimous , having a great or noble nature , high-minded , noble ; eminent , mighty , powerful , distinguished

mahāśaneḥ (gen. sg.): of a great thunderbolt
aśani: f. the thunderbolt , a flash of lightning
ghoṣam (acc. sg.): m. indistinct noise , tumult , confused cries of a multitude , battle-cry , cries of victory , cries of woe or distress , any cry or sound , roar of animals ; the roaring of a storm , of thunder , of water
iva: like
antike ind. (with gen. or ifc.) near , close by , in the proximity or presence o
gauḥ (nom. sg.): m. a bull

菩薩久修習 清淨智慧業
廣殖諸徳本 願果華於今
聞説衰老苦 戰慄身毛竪
雷霆霹靂聲 群獸怖奔走

Monday, October 29, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.33: Growing Old

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
āyuṣmato 'py-eṣa vayaḥ-prakarṣo niḥsaṁśayaṁ kāla-vaśena bhāvī |
evaṁ jarāṁ rūpa-vināśayitrīṁ jānāti caivecchati caiva lokaḥ || 3.33

The present span of life of you who are so full of life

Will also in future, through the power of time, surely run its course.

The world knows that growing old thus destroys beautiful appearances,

And yet the world desires it.”

Today's verse is a consideration of what jarā “growing old” might really mean. As such the verse – beautiful though it appeared on first reading of others' translations of it – turns out in reality not to have been what it seemed.

The gist of the ostensible meaning is that the charioteer is (1) telling the prince a simple, undeniable fact, and (2) describing a situational irony. The simple fact (1) is that you too will inevitably grow old and die. The irony (2) is that all the world knows that old age destroys beauty and yet all the world desires it.

Hence EBC:
"It [old age] will come without doubt by the force of time through multitude of years even to my long-lived lord; all the world knows thus that old age will destroy their comeliness and they are content to have it so."

“Inevitably by force of time my long-lived lord will know this length of his days. Men are aware that old age thus destroys beauty and yet they seek it.”

And PO: 
“Though you're blessed with long life, without a doubt, by force of time, you too will become old; In this manner old age destroys beauty; people know this and still they desire it.”

The above translations of the first two pādas, in their attempt to bring out the ostensible meaning, on closer investigation, seem to me to stray from being literal translations. If I attempt a more literal translation of the first two pādas that brings out the ostensible meaning, I need to use square brackets, thus: 
“Even for one who is so full of life, this your present lifespan, through the force of time, will inevitably be [of limited duration].”

If we forget about the ostensible meaning and just translate literally, the result is something like this: 
 “This present lifetime of you who are so full of life also, through the power of time, is bound to exist in future.”

Ah hah!

Understood like this eṣa vayaḥ-prakarṣaḥ, “this present lifetime,” in the 1st pāda is an expression in the 1st phase of the eternity of “the Tathāgata's Lifetime.” "The Tathāgata's Lifetime" is the title of the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, 如来寿量 (Jap: NYORAI-JURYO). The chapter is quoted at length in Shobogenzo, including in Shobogenzo chap. 71 Nyorai-zenshin, The Whole Body of the Tathāgata. The Lotus Sutra records the enlightened Buddha proclaiming, for example:
“It is very far in the distant past since I became buddha. [My] lifetime is countless asaṁkheya kalpas, eternally existing and not perishing. Good sons! The lifetime which I have realized by my original practice of the bodhisattva-way is not even yet exhausted but will still be twice the previous [astronomically large] number [of kalpas].”
And again in verse:
In order to save living beings,
As an expedient method I manifest nirvāṇa,
Yet really I have not passed away,
Constantly abiding here preaching the Dharma,
I am always living at this place....
If this all sounds a bit much for those of us who fucking love science, the 2nd pāda, antithetically, expresses another side to “growing old” – namely, the maturation of cause and effect in the concrete reality of space-time. This is the kind of movement through the infinite ocean of time that has been considered in depth by the likes of Albert Einstein.

In the interests of preserving the irony which I am sure Aśvaghoṣa intended, I have translated bhavī in the 2nd pāda as “it will run its course in future,” but the more literal meaning is simply, as per the Lotus Sutra, “it is bound to exist.”

So when we rip away the surface appearance of the 2nd pāda, the charioteer can be seen to be predicting that in 2,500 years time, through the reality of that space-time which is governed absolutely by the law cause and effect, the whole body of the Tathāgata will still be visible in grass and trees and clouds, and audible in the sounds of sparrows and smoke alarms.

The central irony of today's verse, then, is contained in the 3rd pāda, which ostensibly expresses what the world knows – that old age destroys beauty – but which really expresses what the world does not know – that becoming more mature in one's understanding of the human condition, and developing more fully as a human being, involves ripping away surface appearances and seeing things as they really are. That is basically what every verse of Aśvaghoṣa's writing is encouraging us and training us to do – not to be fooled by the surface appearance, but by each taking hold of his or her own metaphorical spade, to get to the bottom of everything.

And so wearily, having got up in the middle of the night to grapple with today's verse, I arrive at the final irony expressed in the 4th pāda, which is namely that even though people see growing old only as a terrifying prospect and remain ignorant about the possibility of growing truly old, everybody tends to aspire nonetheless to live to a ripe old age. In short, we are all prone to fear old age, but that doesn't stop us from being greedy for it.

Instead of aspiring to live to a ripe old age, in view of the Buddha's teaching in the Lotus Sutra, might it be wiser to aspire to meet what Chinese Zen masters called (Jap: KOBUTSU), an old/eternal buddha?

Speaking from bitter experience, I would say:  No, definitely not. Aspiring to drink a quiet cup of tea might be a wiser course, or aspiring to sweep up leaves, or aspiring to have a refreshing nap.

āyuṣmataḥ (gen. sg. m.): mfn. possessed of vital power , healthy , long-lived ; m. " life-possessing " , often applied as a kind of honorific title (especially to royal personages and Buddhist monks)
āyus: n. life , vital power , vigour , health , duration of life , long life
api: ind. and , also , moreover , besides , assuredly , surely (often used to express emphasis , in the sense of even , also , very)
eṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): this , this here , here (especially as pointing to what is nearest to the speaker e.g. eṣa bāṇaḥ , this arrow here in my hand ; eṣa yāti panthāḥ , here passes the way ; eṣa kālaḥ , here i.e. now , is the time ; etad , this here i.e. this world here below)
vayaḥ-prakarṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): duration of life
vayas: n. energy (both bodily and mental) , strength , health , vigour , power , might ; vigorous age , youth , prime of life , any period of life , age
prakarṣa: m. pre-eminence , excellence , superiority , excess , intensity , high degree (often ifc. e.g. adhva-pr° , a great distance R. ; kāla-pr° , a long time); length of time , duration
vayaḥ-pramāṇa: n. measure or duration of life , age

niḥsaṁśayam: ind. undoubtedly , certainly , surely
kāla-vaśena (inst. sg.): through the force/power of time
vaśa: m. authority , power , control; -ena " by command of , by force of , on account of , by means of , according to ")
bhāvī = nom. sg. m. bhāvin: mfn. about to be , future , imminent , predestined , inevitable (often used as fut. tense of √ bhū)

evam: ind. thus , in this way , in such a manner , such; (it is also often used like an adjective [e.g. evaṁ te vacane rataḥ , rejoicing in such words of thine ; where evam = evaṁ-vidhe]); sometimes evam is merely an expletive ; according to lexicographers evam may imply likeness (so), sameness of manner (thus), assent (yes , verily), affirmation (certainly , indeed , assuredly), and be used as an expletive.
jarām (acc. sg.): f. aging, old age
rūpa-vināśayitrīm (acc. sg. f.): beauty-destroying
rūpa: n. form , shape , figure ; handsome form , loveliness , grace , beauty ,
vi-nāśayitṛ: mfn. one who destroys , a destroyer

jānāti = 3rd pers. sg. jñā: to know
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
icchati = 3rd pers. sg. iṣ: , to endeavour to obtain , strive , seek for ; to desire, wish, long for
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
lokaḥ (nom. sg.): m. the world, mankind

御者又答言 尊亦有此分
時移形自變 必至無所疑
少壯無不老 擧世知而求 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.32: Would-Be Balancing Acts

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Sālā)
ity-evam-ukte calitaḥ sa kiṁ-cid-rājātmajaḥ sūtam-idaṁ babhāṣe |
kim-eṣa doṣo bhavitā mamāpīty-asmai tataḥ sārathir-abhyuvāca || 3.32

Thrown somewhat off balance on being thus informed,

He the fruit of a king's loins said to the charioteer:

“Will I also have this fault in the future?”

Then the driver of the chariot in which the two were riding said to him:

To catch the irony in today's verse, the following verse from Saundara-nanda Canto 3 is instructive. It is the verse in which Aśvaghoṣa says, in so many words, “Sarvārtha-siddha fulfilled everything” i.e. he became the enlightened Buddha:
Sitting there, mind made up, as unmovingly stable (acala-dhṛtiḥ) as the king of mountains, / He overcame the grim army of Māra and awoke to the step which is happy, irremovable, and irreducible. // SN3.7 //
In SN3.7 "unmovingly" is a-cala, which as an adjective means not moving or immovable and as a noun means a mountain. In the 1st pāda of today's verse "thrown off balance" is calitaḥ – also from the root √cal, to be moved.

So the faultless step which is happy, irremovable and irreducible is characterized by immovability (acala) and stability or constancy (dhṛti). And the prince in today's verse, in contrast, is described as exhibiting the fault which is to be wobbly, disturbed, thrown off balance (calitaḥ).

Therefore, whereas the ostensible meaning of the 3rd pāda is “What! will this evil [old age] come to me also?” (EBC) or “Will this evil [old age] come upon me also?” (EHJ) or “Will this evil [old age] affect me too?” (PO), the real meaning cannot be like that – because old age may be a terror, but ageing is not necessarily an evil, or a fault. 

As a matter of historical fact, was the ageing of Gautama Buddha an evil or a fault? No, it was neither an evil or a fault. It was a fact. And as such, in the particular case of Gautama Buddha, "the terror of ageing" might not even have been a terror. 

No, what is really happening in the 3rd pāda, as I read it, is that the prince who will be Buddha is asking, “Will I, in the future also, have this fault [this fault here in me (eṣa doṣaḥ) of being thrown off balance]?” – to which question in SN3.7 Aśvaghoṣa has already pointed us to a kind of answer, that answer being, simply thinking, "No, after you have become an enlightened buddha, you will no longer have that fault of being thrown off balance." 

But that is not the end of today's verse. Simply thinking, ordinary people are subject to being thrown off balance, whereas a buddha who sits with the immovable constancy of the king of mountains is not subject to being thrown off balance. If we dig deeper into the 4th pāda, however, it might suggest another meaning, which is related with a favourite saying of Marjory Barlow (and me too in my Alexander teaching) that “we are all in the same boat.”

I will let Marjory speak for herself by quoting the words with which she closed her F.M. Alexander memorial lecture given on 9 November 1965 at The Medical Society of London
Before the war I had a pupil who was home on leave from Army service in India. He had a course of lessons and went back to his unit. Two or more years later he returned to London for a refresher course of lessons. I congratulated him on the change in himself which he had brought about. "Yes," he said. "I have been working hard. One thing has helped me more than anything else. I keep Alexander's books on my bedside table and read a chapter every night." 
The following day I told Alexander this story while we were having a training class. He was silent for a long moment and then said thoughtfully, "Yes, and I would be a better man if I did the same." 
These then are the two aspects of Alexander's teaching. 
First as a means of allowing the natural laws of the organism to work without interference -- a means of giving back the birth-right of good use, which, as children, we all possessed. Alexander said, "When an investigation comes to be made it will be found that every single thing we do in the work is exactly what is done in Nature, where the conditions are right, the difference being that we are learning to do it consciously." 
Ideally, the teacher has to be a craftsman in the use of his hands, a scientist in his adherence to principles which are subject to 'operational verification' and an artist in conveying his knowledge to others. 
The teacher's responsibility for the continued existence of the work is heavy, especially if he trains other teachers, to ensure that none of the essential elements of the teaching is lost. 
In the second aspect -- the application of the work to the deeper spheres of our experience, the division into teacher and pupil vanishes. 
There is no end to work on oneself -- here we are all in the same boat. 
When Alexander was nearly 80 years old he said to me, "I never stop working on myself -- I dare not." He knew that the only limits to this kind of development are those which we impose on ourselves. 
He continued to teach to within five days of the end, at the age of 86 and then, having refused all drugs which might deprive him of it, he achieved the rare distinction of being present at his own death. 
Tonight we have remembered him -- but the memorial that would please him best is that we should do his work. 

ity-evam-ukte (loc. sg. m.): addressed thus
calitaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. shaking , tremulous , unfixed ; moved from one's usual course , disturbed , disordered (the mind , senses , fortune , &c )
cal: to be moved , stir , tremble , shake , quiver , be agitated , palpitate ; to be moved from one's usual course , be disturbed , become confused or disordered , go astray
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
kiṁ-cid: ind. somewhat, a little

rājātmajaḥ (nom. sg.): m. “the self-begotten of the king,” the prince
sūtam (acc. sg.): m. the charioteer
idam (acc. sg. n.): this
babhāṣe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bhāṣ: to speak , talk , say , tell

kim: (interrogative particle)
eṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): this , this here , here (especially as pointing to what is nearest to the speaker e.g. eṣa bāṇaḥ , this arrow here in my hand
doṣaḥ (nom. sg.): m. fault , vice , deficiency , want , inconvenience , disadvantage ; damage , harm , bad consequence , detrimental effect
bhavitā = nom. sg. m. bhavitṛ: mfn. what is or ought to become or be , future , imminent (bhavitā́ , also used as future tense with or without √ as)
mama (gen. sg.): of/to me
api: also
iti: “...,” thus

asmai (loc. sg. m.): to him
tataḥ: then
sārathiḥ (nom. sg.): m. (fr. sa-ratha) a charioteer , driver of a car ; any leader or guide
sa-ratham: ind. on the same chariot with , (or simply) together with , accompanied by
abhyuvāca = 3rd pers. sg. perf. abhi- √ vac: to say to, tell

太子長歎息 而問御者言
但彼獨衰老 吾等亦當然

Saturday, October 27, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.31: Developmental Milestones

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Rāmā)
pītaṁ hy-anenāpi payaḥ śiśutve kālena bhūyaḥ parisarpam-urvyām |
krameṇa bhūtvā ca yuvā vapuṣmān krameṇa tenaiva jarām-upetaḥ || 3.31

For even such a man sucked milk in infancy

And, in the course of time, again
he went on hands and knees upon the earth;

Having thus become, step by step, an adult in possession of his body,

By that same process, step by step, he has realized old age.”

EHJ noted that kālena bhūyaḥ (“in the course of time, again”) is clumsy and there is much to be said for following Gawronski's suggested amendment from kālena (“in the course of time”) to bālena (“during childhood”), so as to balance śiśutve (“in infancy”) and yuvā (“as a young man/adult”).

I disagree with EHJ and Gawronski on this point, because whereas the 2nd pāda ostensibly describes something happening during childhood, I think the real meaning relates to going on hands and knees as a movement with developmental significance that can be beneficially performed not only by children but also by adults.

If kālena needed to be amended, I would think that another krameṇa (“step by step”) would be a better option, because Aśvaghoṣa is clearly intending to emphasize a process of growth that precedes in gradual stages, step by step. 

More serious textual uncertainty attaches to the word I have taken in the 2nd pāda to be parisarpam, which the MW dictionary gives as an indeclinable participle (i.e. an -am form gerund) from pari-√sṛp, to crawl. The old Nepalese manuscript has the impossible parisṛṣṭam, which Amṛtananda presumably amended to parimṛṣṭam (hence, EBC has parimṛṣṭam, “groped” – “and in course of time he learned to grope on the ground”). EHJ amended to parisṛpṭam (“crawled”) based on Bohtlingk's conjecture. I cannot understand the grammar of EHJ's amendment – which is not to say that the grammar is wrong, only that I cannot understand it. (EHJ's amendment to parisṛpṭam seems to me to require a kṛtam, indicating that crawling was done by him, in the same way that milk was sucked by him.) CSL has parisṛṭam, which does not fit the Upajāti metre, but PO translated as “crawled” (parisṛpṭam).

Taking parisarpam as a gerund/absolutive fits with my reading of the hidden meaning of the verse, which is that going on hands and knees, whether as a crawling child or as a bowing adult, is a natural developmental precursor to assuming a mature adult form – a mature adult form being a fully upright condition which is not impeded by the action of immature primitive reflexes like the STNR (symmetrical tonic neck reflex).

In this reading, jarā, “old age,” suggests not so much a condition of decrepitude or demented senility as a condition of true maturity like a ripe fruit or a withered tree.

The real point of today's verse, then, as I read it, is to test our ability to drop off a one-sided view of the terror of aging.

When Marjory Barlow got too old to live on her own, she went quietly to live with her son and daughter-in-law, at whose house I visited her just the once. During this visit I asked Marjory if she was happy in her old age. “Oh yes!” she replied feistily, “Happier than I have ever been!” This was despite the fact that her short-term memory had become very poor, and she was, in her own words, “as deaf as a post.” “When you get old,” Marjory expanded, “you don't worry any more about the things you used to worry about.”

The existence of people like Marjory, who seem to falsify the “old age is a disaster” hypothesis, was surely not lost on Aśvaghoṣa. But not everybody is like Marjory. Marjory in her old age had become Marjory in her old age step by step, as a result of a very gradual developmental process.

And when I think of the human developmental process (I sense readers of this blog rolling their eyes and thinking “here he goes again”), I cannot help coming back to the importance of primitive reflexes, among the earliest of which are the sucking and rooting reflexes, which, all being well, are fully present at a baby's birth. At somewhere between 6 and 9 months the baby, all being well, starts to go on its hands and knees in the gradual, step by step process of inhibition of primitive reflexes and stimulation of postural reflexes. This process, by the way, can be recapitulated at any age – for example, by going on hands and knees and bowing, and by practising what in Alexander work is called “standing in monkey.” By such means, step by step, reflexes may become fully mature (or may not as the case may be – as evidenced by my own example), and a human being may truly come into possession of his or her own body. And by such means, today's verse seems to me to suggest, step by step, such a human being can go on developing, onward and upward, into his old age.

So the hidden meaning of today's verse, as I read it, is related with what in Chinese Zen was celebrated as 仏 向上 事 (Jap: BUTSU KOJO NO JI), “the matter of a buddha keeping going on up.”

pītam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. drunk , sucked , sipped , quaffed , imbibed
hi: for
anena (inst. sg.): this , this here , referring to something near the speaker
api: also
payaḥ (acc. sg.): n. ( √pī, to drink) any fluid or juice , (esp.) milk , water , rain
śiśutve (loc. sg.): n. childhood , childishness
śiśu: m. (fr. śū, to swell , grow , increase) a child , infant

kālena: ind (inst. sg.) in the course of time
bālena (inst. sg.): m. a child , boy (esp. one under 5 years)
bhūyaḥ: ind. more , most , very much , exceedingly; still more , moreover , besides , further on ; once more, again, anew
parisṛptam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. crawling
parisarpam = ind. p. pari- √ sṛp: to move round about or to and fro , hover ; to creep or crawl upon
pari- √ mṛś: to touch , grasp , seize ; to examine , consider , inquire into
urvyām (loc. sg.): f. the earth

krameṇa: ind. (inst. sg.) in regular course , gradually , by degrees , step by step
bhūtvā = abs. bhū: to be, become (with nom.)
ca: and
yuvā (nom. sg.): m. a youth , young man ; young , youthful , adult (applied to men and animals) , strong , good , healthy
vapuṣ-mān (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having a body ; having a beautiful form , handsome
vapus: n. form , figure , (esp.) a beautiful form or figure , wonderful appearance , beauty; n. the body

krameṇa: ind. (inst. sg.) in regular course , gradually , by degrees , step by step
tena: ind. (inst. sg.) in that manner, by that process
eva: (emphatic)
jarām (acc. sg.): f. old age
upetaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. arrived at, reached

此本爲嬰兒 長養於母乳
及童子嬉遊 端正恣五欲

年逝形枯朽 今爲老所壞 

Friday, October 26, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.30: Coming Undone

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
rūpasya hantrī vyasanaṁ balasya śokasya yonir-nidhanaṁ ratīnām |
nāśaḥ smṛtīnāṁ ripur-indriyāṇām-eṣā jarā nāma yayaiṣa bhagnaḥ || 3.30

“Ripping away of beautiful form, defeat of force,

Beginning of sorrow, ending of joys of passion,

And fading out of things remembered:
An adversary of the senses

Is this process, called 'ageing,' 
by which the one here is being undone.

Another adversary of the senses, and one that needn't take so long to cause a person to come undone, is what FM Alexander called “thinking.”

The slower you go, the more you see.

My first attempt at translating today's verse demonstrates its ostensible meaning:

“The slayer of beauty and sapper of strength,

The birthplace of sorrow and a death knell for joys,

The ender of memories,
the enemy of the organs of sense:

By this process named ageing this man is being dismantled.

The earlier version somehow sounds better does it not? Whether or not you agree that the earlier version is closer to poetry, what I can say for sure is that I put a lot of effort into trying to make it sound good, at least on the surface. Then it took me even more time to rip away the surface meaning I had striven to present so beautifully, and understood what the verse was really saying. 

When I was the age my sons are now, I was mad keen on books on Zen & the martial arts, written by the likes of Eugene Herrigel (Zen & the Art of Archery), Trevor Legget (Zen & the Ways) and Joe Hyams (Zen & the Martial Arts). Thus it was that thirty years ago I went to Japan and searched out Gudo Nishijima, who had written a book in English called “How to Practise Zazen.” From him I heard that Zen was not, as I had been led to believe, a late East Asian flowering of an original Indian root; rather, sitting-Zen was just the essence of the teaching transmitted from the time of the Buddha through many Zen patriarchs in India, China and Japan.

Thirty years ago, however, at least as far as I knew, no reliable translation of any written record of the teaching of any of these Zen patriarchs was available. Gudo Nishjima had very strong confidence in his ability to transmit the whole of the Buddha's teaching in his own English, and that confidence won me over, but in retrospect I think the confidence was misplaced. Gudo had misplaced confidence in his ability to say what he meant in English. Besides that he had misplaced confidence in his understanding of how to practise Zazen. In Gudo's Zazen there was no true opposing of the senses. One was rather a slave to the senses. 

Notwithstanding this fundamental objection to his teaching, I cannot deny that Gudo directed my energy broadly in a constructive direction, by encouraging me to sit upright, concentrating on posture, and to study his English translation of the words of the 1st Japanese Zen patriarch in his lineage, namely, Eihei Dogen. Later, he helped me study those words in their original Japanese and encouraged me further to learn Sanskrit and study the words of the 14th Indian patriarch, Nāgārjuna.

I was caused to reflect like this by asking myself what today's verse really means, and being more or less content to fail to answer my own question. Even though on first reading today's verse appeared to me to be nothing more than a cliched description of old age, I was happy enough just to learn the words and recite them to myself -- sort of like enjoying being around a person one reveres without being eager to get something out of them. 

The background to me being able to enjoy Aśvaghoṣa's writing like this, now that I am here by the forest, is those years that I spent groping around painfully in the dark without being able to read what I would like to have been able to read. I really appreciate now, when I stop and reflect on it, being able to read and study for myself any words -- even if it is only one verse of four lines that I can't understand -- so long as those words were really written by the 12th Zen patriarch in India, named Aśvaghoṣa. I appreciate it like a bloke who has known acute thirst appreciates water. 

In a similar way, because of  years of darkness spent concentrating on my Zazen posture, I really appreciate now, when I stop and reflect on it, how great is the teaching of FM Alexander which points us in sitting in the direction of un-concentrating.

Reflecting further on what I actually mean by un-concentrating, I mean, for example, letting the legs release, and letting the head release, out of a lengthening and widening torso in which two big sheets of spiral musculature are being as if torn apart from each other. 

Digging deeper, then, I finally asked myself last night as the darkness deepened, might there any connection between what I have described as un-concentrating and any hidden meaning in the word bhagnaḥ, “being dismantled”?

If we take bhagnaḥ to mean “coming undone,” it finally struck me, after several hours of failing to get the point, and of writing the gist of the above comment, this "coming undone" might be a key to unlock a hidden meaning of today's verse along the following lines:

Ripping away of outward appearances and defeating of oppressive force,

The font of [true] sorrow and a receptacle for [true] joys,

The obsolescence of whole bodies of sacred learning and codes of law, 
and the fading out of irksome memories: 
the opponent of being ruled by the senses

Is this process of maturing, called “ageing,” 
by which a person here and now comes undone.

You might think that after more than a thousand verses and counting, I would be on the lookout for the hidden meaning in a verse like today's from the outset, rather than taking all day about it. Even after 30 years, evidently, certain bitter old fruits are not fully mature.

rūpasya (gen. sg.): n. any outward appearance or phenomenon or colour (often pl.) , form , shape , figure ; handsome form , loveliness , grace , beauty
hantrī (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (the former with gen. , the latter with acc.) slaying , killing , a slayer , killer , murderer , robber , disturber , destroyer
vyasanam (nom. sg.): n. moving to and fro , wagging (of a tail); evil predicament or plight , disaster , accident , evil result , calamity , misfortune (vyasanāni pl. misfortunes) , ill-luck , distress , destruction , defeat , fall , ruin
balasya (gen. sg.): n. power , strength , might , vigour, force ; military force , troops , an army

śokasya (gen. sg.): m. sorrow , affliction , anguish , pain , trouble , grief
yoniḥ (nom. sg.): m. womb ; place of birth , source , origin , spring , fountain
nidhanam (nom. sg.): n. settling down , residence or place of residence , domicile , receptacle; n. conclusion , end , death , destruction , loss , annihilation
ratīnām (gen. pl.): f. rest, repose; pleasure , enjoyment ; the pleasure of love , sexual passion or union , amorous enjoyment

nāśaḥ (nom. sg.): m. the being lost , loss , disappearance , destruction , annihilation , ruin , death
smṛtīnām (gen. pl.): f. remembrance , reminiscence; memory ; the whole body of sacred tradition or what is remembered by human teachers (in contradistinction to śruti or what is directly heard or revealed) ; the whole body of codes of law as handed down memoriter or by tradition (esp. the codes of manu
ripuḥ (nom. sg.): m. an enemy , adversary , foe
indriyāṇām (gen. pl.): n. bodily power , power of the senses ; faculty of sense, sense organ

eṣā (nom. sg. f.): this
jarā (nom. sg.): f. aging, old age; digestion; dicrepitude
nāma: ind. by name
yayā (inst. sg. f.): by which
eṣa (nom. sg. m.): this , this here , here (especially as pointing to what is nearest to the speaker
bhagnaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. broken (lit. and fig.) , shattered , split , torn , defeated ; bent, curved

色變氣虚微 多憂少歡樂
喜忘諸根羸 是名衰老相