Sunday, November 4, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.39: Same Old Procedure

    ⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Upendravajrā)
yadā tu tatraiva na śarma lebhe jarā jareti praparīkṣamāṇaḥ |
tato narendrānumataḥ sa bhūyaḥ krameṇa tenaiva bahi
r-jagāma || 3.39

When actually there, however, he found no happiness,

Looking deeper and deeper into aging,
and thinking, “growing old..., growing old...,”

Whereupon, with the king's approval, again,

By the exact same procedure, he went outside.

The 1st pāda can be read as an expression of the essence of suffering which is actually to be present at some place at some time, as opposed to thinking about being there when one is on the way there, but at the same not actually being there because one is not there in one's heart. Aśvaghoṣa often uses tatra and, with added emphasis, tatraiva, to express the state of being present in the here and now. So the use of tatraiva in the 1st pāda of today's verse is somewhat ironic.

If I personalize this part, before I went to Japan a couple of weeks past my 22nd birthday, I had fantasized about what it might be like, searching for the essence of Zen in the martial arts. Then when I got off the plane and started training in karate dojos in Tokyo and Okinawa, and subsequently sitting in Zen temples, there was a sense of “Wow! I am actually here, doing this.” But in the background there was very often another sense, a deeper, nagging sense, of me having forced myself to be there. This sense became increasingly pronounced in later years as the tendency to lift my chest in the effort to sit more and more upright ossified into a deeply ingrained habit, so that I did not even know that I was thus breaking my back into two of three parts, disconnecting head, heart, and hara. 

Nowadays, in contrast, sometimes when I am sitting in the open air here by the Norman forest  there is a different sense of really belonging, which has less to do with me and more to do with the trees.

Yesterday, for example, after a rainy morning, I was sitting on a south-facing platform witnessing the afternoon sun making its way towards a big ash tree 40 yards in front of me and to my right. Behind me and on my left the stream that runs along the edge of the forest was gushing loudly, filling the air with negative ions and high frequency sounds. For a monent or two I was there in a sense in which I was never there for a moment during my 13 years in Japan.

I am not saying that I really know what it means to be right there, tatra, or tatraiva, in a “true” non-ironic sense. If I did, maybe I could make a lot of money writing books or selling CDs with titles like “The Power of Now.” But when Aśvaghoṣa's writes of actually being there (tatraiva in an ironic sense), but finding no happiness, that irony I do get, on the basis of having suffered long and hard, through nobody else's fault but my own.

Or again, in blaming myself, am I doing what Jimmy Savile's victims, and what other victims of abuse, are wont to do  -- blaming themselves for their naivety in allowing themselves to be abused? Yes, there may be a bit of that too. Because the way that Gudo Nishijima taught me to sit, forcibly, was a kind of physical abuse. And if it were not for the FM Alexander Technique, and enlightened witnesses like Marjory Barlow, I would probably now be perpetuating the cycle of abuse upon a new generation of victims. 

If the 1st pāda expresses suffering, the 2nd pāda expresses its cause, which is either the terror of aging, or the concept of enlightenment, depending on how one reads this whole series of verses on growing old.

The 3rd pāda describes the prince's response. At this stage of his development the prince has not matured to the point where he is ready and able to do what he has to do, which is to follow his own heart, with or without his father's approval. Therefore his response involves, as before, seeking the king's approval.

In the 4th pāda the words krameṇa tenaiva “by the exact same procedure,” point to a tried and test means-whereby – a procedure one has found, in the laboratory of work on the self, to work.

"By the exact same procedure,” means for example by riding in the same chariot as a chariot-driver who is a complete man and a skilled tamer of horses.

“Going outside,” (bahir √gam) might be what Dogen was alluding to when he wrote of 出身の活路 (SHUSSHIN NO KATSU-RO), “the vigorous road of getting the body out.”

“When you feel you are wrong,” Marjory Barlow used to say, “say No [to the idea that triggers those wrong inner patterns which are the doing that has to be stopped], give your directions ['let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, while sending the knees forwards and away'], and go into movement without a care in the world. Let it come out in the wash.”

[I wrote this part of this comment, by the way, around noon yesterday, while thinking of practising what I was preaching in process of typing the words, and shortly before going outside to practise it further.] 

An old friend of Marjory's and the last surviving “first-generation” of Alexander teachers who was taught to teach by FM Alexander himself, is Elizabeth Walker, still teaching now at the age of 97. A couple of years ago I met my brother in Oxford where he had gone to have a lesson with Elizabeth. I asked him how the lesson was. “Same old. Same old,” was his reassuring reply.

In going outside there is always something fresh and invigorating, something different from the stuffy congestion of habit, but once one has found a method that works for getting from here to there, the point is not to be creative and innovative in changing the method. “Boredom does not come into it!” Marjory asserted. When she said “head FORWARD and UP,” it was always fresh, like she was saying it for the first time. But she was using, as she had used hundreds of thousands of times before, the exact same words and the exact same procedure that her uncle FM Alexander had used with her. Same old. Same old.

yadā: ind. when
tu: but
tatra: ind. therein, in that place, in that state
eva: (emphatic)
na: not
śarma = acc. sg. śarman: n. shelter , protection , refuge , safety ; joy , bliss , comfort , delight , happiness
lebhe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. labh: to get, win, obtain

jarā (nom. sg.): f. old age
jarā (nom. sg.): f. old age
iti: “...,” thus
praparīkṣamāṇaḥ = nom. sg. m. pres. part. pra-pari-√īkṣ: to reflect further
pari-√īkṣ: to look round , inspect carefully , try , examine , find out , observe , perceive

tataḥ: ind. then
narendrānumataḥ (nom. sg. m.): with the king's approval
narendra: “man-lord,” king
anumata: mfn. approved , assented to , permitted , allowed , agreeable ; n. consent , permission , approbation
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
bhūyaḥ: ind. once more, again

krameṇa (inst. sg.): m. a step; going , proceeding , course ; uninterrupted or regular progress , order , series , regular arrangement , succession
tena (inst. sg. m.): that
eva: (emphatic)
bahis: ind. out , forth , outwards , outside
jagāma = 3rd pers. sg. perf. gam: to go

觸事不留情 所居無暫安
王聞子不悦 勸令重出遊
即勅諸群臣 莊嚴復勝前 

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