Saturday, October 13, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.17: A Different Individual, Moving Non-Habitually

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Buddhi)
śīghraṁ samarthāpi tu gantum-anyā gatiṁ nijagrāha yayau na tūrṇam |
hriyāpragalbhā vinigūhamānā rahaḥ-prayuktāni vibhūṣaṇāni || 3.17

An individual who was different, meanwhile,
though she was capable of going quickly,

Restrained her movement and went slowly,

Not showing off, but modestly keeping secret

Splendid adornments connected to intimate practices.

The ostensible meaning of the second half of today's verse is conveyed by the translations of EHJ: “modestly shrinking as she covered up the ornaments worn in intimacy,” and PO:  “timid out of shame and covering up the ornaments worn for intimacy.” (EBC's translation is based on a suspect reading of the original Sanskrit).

The first clue that Aśvaghoṣa also intended to convey a meaning in today's verse which is totally different from this ostensible meaning, appears at the end of the 1st pāda with the word anyā. I have already written in several posts (plus an unpublished article written for the OCBS Journal), how in Saundara-nanda Canto 10 Aśvaghoṣa uses anye vṛkṣāḥ (different trees; SN10.19) and anye vihaṁgamāḥ (different birds; SN10.29) as here he uses anyā (a different/odd/other woman; see also SN10.36), to suggest a buddha who is different from any generic or abstract concept of buddha – a real, individual buddha, aka 非仏 (HI-BUTSU) a non-buddha.  

The Sanskrit anya thus corresponds to the Chinese character  非 in such phrases as 非仏 (HI-BUTSU), "non-buddha," and  非思量 (HI-SHIRYO), “non-thinking.” 

Non-thinking is what FM Alexander meant by thinking -- not, Alexander took pains to point out, what "thinking" is generally thought to mean. “Change," Alexander observed, "involves carrying out an activity against the habit of life.”  Non-thinking, practised by an individual, is an essential element in the carrying out of such activity, as is slow, non-habitual  movement. 

The 2nd pāda, then, suggests movement that is not done habitually but is rather practised slowly and mindfully, with full attention. In particular the 2nd pāda seems to suggests the kind of very slow walking called kinhin which is still practised in Japan (and in Zen lineages transmitted via Japan) during group practice of sitting-meditation. One of the merits of moving very slowly (śanair śanaiḥ) is that a very slow movement is a non-habitual movement, and is therefore conducive to constructive change. In developmental work aimed at the inhibition of immature primitive reflexes, it is recognized that very slow movement (in combination with non-movement) seems to create the best conditions for the formation of inhibitory circuits in the brain and nervous system.

The splendid adornments referred to in the 4th pāda, though ostensibly Aśvaghoṣa is describing items designed to titillate a male sexual partner, can also be understood as those adornments of slow, non-habitual practice which are the six “supra-mundane” powers described below, highest of which is the power of knowing how to eradicate the āsravas, influences that pollute the mind:
Just as gold, washed with water, is separated from dirt in this world, methodically, and just as the smith heats the gold in the fire and repeatedly turns it over, / Just so is the practitioner's mind, with delicacy and accuracy, separated from faults in this world, and just so, after cleansing it from afflictions, does the practitioner temper the mind and collect it. // SN15.68 // Again, just as the smith brings gold to a state where he can work it easily in as many ways as he likes into all kinds of ornaments, / So too a beggar of cleansed mind tempers his mind, and directs his yielding mind among the powers of knowing, as he wishes and wherever he wishes. // SN15.69 // Thus, by methodically taking possession of the mind, getting rid of something and gathering something together, / The practitioner makes the four dhyānas his own, and duly acquires the five powers of knowing: // SN16.1 // The principal transcendent power, taking many forms; then being awake to what others are thinking; / And remembering past lives from long ago; and divine lucidity of ear; and of eye. // SN16.2 // From then on, through investigation of what is, he applies his mind to eradicating the polluting influences, / For on this basis he fully understands suffering and the rest, the four true standpoints.... // SN16.3 //

śīghram (acc. sg. n.): mfn. quick , speedy , swift , rapid
samarthā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. very strong or powerful , competent , capable of , able to , a match for (gen. dat. loc. inf.)
api: even, though
tu: but
gantum = inf. gam: to go
anyā (nom. sg.): f. another woman, an odd/different woman

gatim (acc. sg.): f. going , moving , gait , deportment ; manner or power of going ; procession , march , passage , procedure , progress , movement
nijagrāha = 3rd pers. sg. perf. ni- √ grah: to hold down , lower , depress ; to keep or hold back , draw near , attract ; to seize , catch , hold , hold fast , stop , restrain , suppress , curb ,
yayau = 3rd pers. sg. perf. yā: to go , proceed , move , walk
na: not
tūrṇam: ind. quickly , speedily

hriyā (inst. sg.): f. shame , modesty , shyness , timidity
a-pragalbhā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. not arrogant , modest
pragalbha: mfn. bold , confident , resolute , brave , strong , able ; proud , arrogant , impudent
galbha: mfn. bold
vinigūhamānā = nom. sg. f. pres. part. (middle voice) vi-ni- √ guh: to cover, conceal, hide, keep secret

rahaḥ-prayuktāni (acc. pl. n.): employed in privacy / practised as mysteries / arising out of solitude
rahas: n. a lonely or deserted place , loneliness , solitude , privacy , secrecy , retirement ; a secret , mystery , mystical truth ; sexual intercourse , copulation
prayukta: mfn. yoked , harnessed ; directed , thrown , hurled ; used , employed , practised , performed , done ; suitable , appropriate ; resulting from (comp.); n. a cause
vibhūṣaṇāni (acc. pl.): n. decoration , ornament ; n. splendour , beauty

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