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

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