Friday, November 23, 2012


⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Kīrti)
iti praṇetuḥ sa niśamya vākyaṁ saṁcukṣubhe kiṁ-cid-uvāca cainam |
kiṁ kevalo' syaiva janasya dharmaḥ sarva-prajānām-ayam-īdṛśo 'ntaḥ || 3.58

On hearing the words of a guide

He was somewhat agitated, and said to him:

“Is this a condition unique to this person here?

Is such the end for all creatures?”

Today's verse can be read as describing in a nutshell what happens when a person establishes the bodhi-mind – i.e. the will to gain the end of Buddhist enlightenment. One hears or reads some words, gets unduly excited, and starts asking questions about oneself and about the meaning of life.

In the 1st pāda the prince is thus described as hearing the words of a guide or leader, who in this case is the charioteer. Such words are liable to be words like “Zen master” or “enlightenment,” which cause the innocent mind and body to be inspired, or excited, or agitated. An example from ancient China is the woodcutter who heard the Diamond Sutra being recited in a marketplace and went to work as a labourer in a temple run by the 5th patriarch in China (Jap: Daiman Konin).

The agitation or excitement described in the 2nd pāda, on the face of it, expresses the kind of undue excitation of the fear reflexes that we would all be better off not experiencing. But Aśvaghoṣa's real intention in the present canto, as reflected the canto title saṁvegotpattiḥ, “Nervous Excitement,” may be to remind us that arising of the bodhi-mind even for the Buddha was no bed of roses.

In the 3rd pāda the prince is ostensibly referring, with the words dharmaḥ (dharma, condition) to the law of being, or condition, which was the death manifested by a dead man, a corpse. That being so, asyaiva janasya, “this person here,” refers to the corpse. Hence EBC: “Is this an accident peculiar to him alone?”; EHJ: “Is this law of being peculiar to this man?”; PO: “Is this dharma peculiar to this man?”

The alternative reading is to understand the dharma in question to be the somewhat agitated or excited condition of the prince himself. In that case, asyaiva janasya, “this person here,” mirrors asyaiva “the one here” in BC3.43, where the prince asks, “[Is] this fault arisen specifically in the one here [?]. [Is] fear of breaking down common to all creatures [?].” Again, the ambiguity of the prince's questions in today's verse mirrors the ambiguity of the question he asks the charioteer in BC3.32, “Will I also have this fault in the future?”

In the 4th pāda, similarly, antaḥ "the end" seems to mean “death,” but what antaḥ might really point to is the enlightenment of a sitting-buddha who is being deliberately left alone, by self and by others.

FM Alexander took pains to clarify that when he spoke of conscious control, he meant primarily “a plane to be reached,” i.e. an end to be gained – as opposed to a method of reaching it. This emphasis, it seems to me, was reflected in Marjory Barlow's teaching of how to work on the self, which always began with the stimulus of an end to be gained, e.g. to move a leg.

The important thing, in the final analysis, is working on the self. But for such work on the self to be real work, it is vital that some end has to be gained.

When I heard an Alexander teacher who used to live near me woffle on about conscious control, I had the sense that he did not know what he was talking about, a suspicion that tended to be confirmed when he ended his life by jumping in front of a train. I think that a person who had truly reached the plane of conscious control might have had more consideration for the train driver. Deciding that he wished to end his own life, a person who had reached the plane of conscious control might have found a less violent way of going about it. The examples that Dogen celebrated in his rules of sitting-zen for everybody were the masters of the past who let go of everything while sitting or standing up – which is by no means the end for all creatures. I very much doubt whether this creature here will be one of the few that is able to die like that. Regardless, having that end in view makes my work on the self more real, which I think is why Dogen pointed us toward that end in his instructions for how to sit.

The stimulus of an end to be gained is the very thing that puts us wrong, exciting our fear reflexes. But just because the stimulus puts us wrong does not mean that it is our enemy. It is the very thing that introduces us to our best friend, which is being wrong. This, as I am gradually coming to understand it, is the teaching of FM Alexander's niece Marjory Barlow. It is a teaching that seems to me to be mirrored in today's verse.

iti: thus
praṇetuḥ = gen. sg. pranetṛ: m. a leader , guide; charioteer
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
niśamya = abs. ni- √ śam: to observe , perceive , hear , learn
vākyam: n. speech , saying , assertion , statement , command , words

saṁcukṣubhe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. saṁ- √ kṣubh: (Caus. -kṣobhayati) to shake about violently , agitate , toss , excite
sam: (used as a preposition or prefix to verbs and verbal derivatives, expressing " conjunction " , " union " , " thoroughness " , " intensity " , " completeness ")
√ kṣubh: to shake , tremble , be agitated or disturbed , be unsteady , stumble (literally and metaphorically)
saṁ-kṣubdha: mfn. tossed together , violently shaken or agitated
saṁ-kṣobha:m. a violent shock or jolt , jerk , overturning , upsetting ; commotion , disturbance , agitation , excitement
kiṁ-cid: ind. somewhat
uvāca = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vac: to speak, say
ca: and
enam (acc. sg. m.): him
kim: (interrogative particle)
kevalah (nom. sg. m.): mfn. exclusively one's own (not common to others); alone , only , mere , sole , one , excluding others
asya = gen. sg. m. ayam: this , this here , referring to something near the speaker
eva: (emphatic)
janasya (gen. sg.): m. man, person
dharmaḥ (nom. sg.): m. dharma; thing; nature , character , peculiar condition or essential quality , property , mark , peculiarity

sarva-prajānām (gen. pl. f.): all creatures, all living beings
ayam (nom. sg.): m. this
īdṛśaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. endowed with such qualities , such
antaḥ (nom. sg.): m. end , limit , boundary , term ; end, conclusion ; end of life , death , destruction ; pause , settlement , definite ascertainment , certainty ; condition , nature

太子聞死聲 悲痛心交結
問唯此人死 天下亦倶然 

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