Thursday, November 15, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.50: An Earth Possessor's Insecurity

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Māyā)
bhūyaś-ca tasmai vidadhe sutāya viśeṣa-yuktaṁ viṣaya-pracāram |
calendriyatvād-api nāma śakto nāsmān-vijahyād-iti nāthamānaḥ || 3.50

And once more he arranged for his son

A special playground of sensual enjoyments,

All the time praying:
“Though be it through the fickle power of the senses,

Would that he were unable to leave us!”

On a textual note, EHJ amended śaktaḥ (able) at the end of the 3rd pāda to saktaḥ (attached), but I have stuck for the present to the original reading.

The possessor of the earth possesses the earth through the power of the senses. At the same time, he knows this power to be cala, moving, unsteady, changeable, fickle, unreliable.

Marjory Barlow used to day, “We cannot control our feelings. Our feelings control us.”

Because our feelings control us, possession of the earth is inevitably a function of feeling. But because the power of the senses is unreliable, reliance on feeling is liable to cause us to lose possession of the earth.

In this situation, possession of the earth cannot be regained relying on feeling, any more than a ship can be navigated by a faulty compass.

But even with a broken compass, and no sat-nav, a sailor in the northern hemisphere who is heading south can keep heading south by observing where the sun is and where the stars are, and reasoning on that basis where south is.

“We cannot control what we feel,” Marjory Barlow used to say, “But we can control, at least to some extent, what we think.”

Marjory was talking about the use of reason, as opposed to reliance on what her uncle FM Alexander called “faulty sensory appreciation” or “unreliable sense of feeling.”

The irony in today's verse is that the mighty possessor of earthly power, though described as arranging things for his son, is not truly doing anything for the benefit of his son; he is acting for the sake of his own selfish self, on the basis of his fear and insecurity.

The moral to be drawn is that a possessor of the earth whose only recourse is to the physical, mighty though he may be for a while, is inherently insecure in his powerful possession of the earth. 

When I showed Marjory Barlow the way I had been taught to sit in Japan, pulling in the chin “slightly,” her observation was simply that “There is no freedom in it.”

“We should practise full lotus sitting with the body,” affirmed Dogen.
This sitting seems to me to have something to do with sheer muscle power, in the way that hard physical training can imbue a person with enhanced physical power, in an Arnold Schwarzenneger kind of way.

“We should practise full lotus sitting with the mind,” Dogen affirmed further.
This sitting has to do with using reason to circumvent the unreliable power of the senses, in a more nerdy 2 + 2 = 4 kind of way.

“We should practice full lotus sitting as body and mind dropping off.”

bhūyaḥ: ind. once more
ca: and
tasmai (dat. sg. m.): for him
vidadhe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi- √ dhā: to put in order , arrange , dispose , prepare , make ready
sutāya (dat. sg.): m. son

viśeṣa-yuktam (acc. sg.): possessed of distinction
viśeṣa: m. distinction
yukta: mfn. yoked ; furnished or endowed or filled or supplied or provided with , accompanied by , possessed of (instr. or comp.)
viṣaya-pracāram (acc. sg.): a playground of sensual enjoyments
viṣaya: m. anything perceptible by the senses , any object of affection or concern or attention , any special worldly object or aim or matter or business , (pl.) sensual enjoyments , sensuality
pracāra: m. roaming , wandering ; application , employment , use ; a playground , place of exercise ; a pasture-ground

calendriyatvāt (abl. sg.): because of the restlessness of his senses
cala: mfn. moving ; unsteady , fluctuating , perishable
indriya: n. faculty of sense , sense , organ of sense
-tva (abstract noun suffix)
api: though
nāma: (with opt. often = would that e.g. api nāmaīvaṁ syāt , would that it were so)
śaktaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. able , competent for , equal to , capable of
saktaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. clinging or adhering to , sticking in (loc.); fixed or intent upon , directed towards , addicted or devoted to , fond of , engaged in , occupied with (loc.)

na: not
asmān (acc. pl.): us
vijahyāt = 3rd pers. sg. opt. vi- √ hā: to leave behind , relinquish , quit , abandon
iti: “....,” thus
nāthamānaḥ = nom. sg. m. pres. part. nāth: to seek aid , approach with prayers or requests (loc.) ; to ask , solicit , beg

復増伎女衆 音樂倍勝前
以此悦視聽 樂俗不厭家


gniz said...

Hi Mike,

Still been reading and enjoying your translations each day, as well as your commentary. I've been trying to keep my mouth shut unless I truly have something to say which relates to the point you're driving at...

Today you speak to something which has been making more sense to me lately, which is my need to control everything, to stand in some kind of opposition to things in the world around me and also within me.

So if I am angry with my mother for something she did to me, or didn't do to me, or whatever--somehow I think she "owes" me something. I want to control her, force her to behave in the way that I place value on. Otherwise, I feel I won't be happy.

Recently, I've begun to give up (a little bit) on this notion. What does anybody owe me? They owe me absolutely NOTHING. They behave in ways that serve them and their needs and survival, as well they should. Being angry at that is the height of infantilism...

In the same way, there is a tactic I use in relationship to myself, in which I try to control and force my own thoughts and behavior and movements and everything--to be what my ideas about it say it should be.

This movement, this way of interacting with people in the world (people including me) is so aggressive and profoundly futile.

It seems to me that in taking something as basic as sitting or standing or reaching for a glass of water--to take a simple movement and allow myself to be who I am--this is drastically different than the way I live my life every moment of every day. Because all I do ever is try and control things.

To allow myself to be free is to also perhaps allow others to be free--and to take ultimate responsibility for my aggression, whether it be directed inward or outward.

I'd be curious as to your take on this (although I seem to see that in what you are writing already).

Mike Cross said...

Hi Aaron,

Take: (merriam-webster dictionary):

a distinct or personal point of view, outlook, or assessment

Heard any good jokes recently?

Mike Cross said...

A Zen master with white stubble and no teeth, whose almost blind eyes are sunk deeply beneath his deeply creased brow, is sitting crookedly on his round cushion, his walking stick down by his side, with a big contented smile on his face.

"Master!" a young Zen devotee asks him, "What is secret of being happy in old age?"

"I can't answer that question for you," the master replies. "But speaking for myself, for the last ten years I have been drinking six bottles of wine every day, smoking three packs of cigarettes, and sleeping with dozens of different women every week."

"At your age, that is incredible!" exclaimed the Zen devotee. "If you don't mind my asking, exactly how old are you?"

The master picked up his walking stick and rested his wrinkled hands on the handle. "Next week I'll be thirty-two."

gniz said...

Now there's a Zen master with some real wisdom to share. Thanks Mike.