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


jiblet said...

Hi Mike,

MW says that bhavitaa is "also used as a future tense with or without as," I'm not exactly sure what he means by that, but bhavitaa is (the usual) 3rd person periphrastic future of bhuu, and that's how I read it here, with doSaH.

Also, a small error: asmai is dative, not locative.


Mike Cross said...

Thanks Malcolm,
FM Alexander said "If you can show me where I am wrong, you have got a friend for life." And on this blog I would like to convey the impression of having the same attitude as FM. So thank you, again, for giving me the opportunity to create the beautiful appearance of not caring about being wrong.