Tuesday, December 4, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 4.3: Stillness Without Fixity

tasthuś-ca parivāryainaṁ manmathākṣipta-cetasaḥ |
−⏑−−¦⏑⏑⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑−   navipulā
niścalaiḥ prīti-vikacaiḥ pibantya iva locanaiḥ || 4.3

And keeping him in their midst they stationed themselves,

Their minds caught fast by ardour;

While, with motionless eyes that sparkled with relish,

They seemed almost to be indulging in a feast.

A shorter and in some sense more natural translation of today's verse would be:

And stood surrounding him,
Minds seized by love,
Almost drinking him in,
With motionless eyes that shone with desire.

The reason I have translated today's verse as I have is that, having asked myself what hidden meaning today's verse might contain, and having asked myself in particular what today's verse might have to do with sitting-meditation, I concluded, in the manner of some lazy person who finds that, if he stares long enough at clouds he begins to see human faces in them, or animal shapes, that today's verse can be read as a description of individual followers of the Buddha's teaching very sincerely enjoying together the practice of just sitting in stillness.

One virtue of reading the verse in this way is that it brings out an underlying four-phased progression, in which
(1) keeping the Buddha in one's midst, or at one's centre, or in one's heart, is the subjective or idealistic or religious attitude of a group of followers of the Buddha's teaching (such followers commonly being referred to, though not by me, if I can help it, as “Buddhists”);
(2) sincerity is a function of balance of something quite irreligious, for example, the autonomic nervous system (and somewhere on a distant death-bed – or in a distant grave, for all I know – somebody born just over 93 years ago feels glad);
(3) keeping still is a vivacious action; and
(4) real enjoyment of sitting-meditation totally smashes shoddy views about religious asceticism.

This reading may strike others as off-beat, but for several hours yesterday, before I saw this reading, today's verse meant nothing to me, whereas after seeing this reading, I love today's verse. It seems to turn a favourite principle of Marjory Barlow's, “stillness without fixity,” almost into an instruction for use of the eyes during sitting-meditation, the point being that the eyes should not move, but should nevertheless, as an indirect result of enjoying the process, be lively. The eyes, in other words, while remaining still, should not be held fixed in the lifeless, glazed-over 10,000-yard stare of the self-denying ascetic.

tasthuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. sthā: to stand , stand firmly , station one's self , stand upon , get upon , take up a position on ; to stay, remain
ca: and
parivārya = abs. causative pari- √ vṛ : to cover , surround , conceal , keep back , hem in ; (causative) to cover , surround , encompass , embrace
enam (acc. sg. m.): this one, that one, him (grammarians assert that the substitution of enam &c for imam or etam &c takes place when something is referred to which has already been mentioned in a previous part of the sentence)

manmathākṣipta-cetasaḥ (nom. pl. f.): hearts seized by love ; mind struck dumb by desire
manmatha: love or the god of love , amorous passion or desire
ākṣipta: mfn. cast , thrown down; caught , seized , overcome (as the mind , citta , cetas or -hridaya) by beauty , curiosity , &c , charmed , transported
ā- √ kṣip: to throw down upon ; to strike with a bolt ; to convulse , cause to tremble
cetas: n. consciousness , intelligence , thinking soul , heart , mind

niścalaiḥ (inst. pl. n.): mfn. motionless , immovable , fixed , steady , invariable , unchangeable
prīti-vikacaiḥ (inst. pl. n.): shining with partiality, bright with gladness
prīti: f. any pleasurable sensation , pleasure , joy , gladness , satisfaction; friendly disposition , kindness , favour , grace , amity (with samam or ifc.) , affection , sexual desire
vikaca: hairless , bald ; opened , blown ; shining , resplendent , brilliant , radiant with (comp.)

pibantyaḥ = nom. pl. f. pres. part. pā: to drink , quaff , suck , sip , swallow ; (met.) to imbibe , draw in , appropriate , enjoy , feast upon (with the eyes , ears &c )
iva: like, as if
locanaiḥ (inst. pl.): n. " organ of sight " , the eye

或復對言笑 或現憂慼容
規以悦太子 令生愛樂心

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