Thursday, January 31, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.61: The Non-Emotional Preaches Dharma

¦−⏑⏑−¦¦−−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑−   bhavipulā
viyujyamāne hi tarau puṣpair-api phalair-api |
patati cchidyamāne vā tarur-anyo na śocate || 4.61

For at a tree's shedding

Of its flowers and fruits,

And at its falling, or at its felling,

No other tree mourns.”

Ostensibly today's verse, following on from yesterday's verse, provides with the example of a tree an illustration of an organism which, though living, does not depend for its existence on the exercise of reason.

Ostensibly, then, the prince in today's verse is still criticizing those others who, like trees, fail to exercise their reason in establishing the will to the truth.

The alternative or contrary way of reading today's verse, which is the concluding verse in a series of six verses containing the prince's reflections, is to read it as a suggestion of the ultimate truth of a buddha – which might be just to stand, or just to sit, like a tree.

There is a chapter of Shobogenzo titled 無情説法 (Jap: MUJO-SEPPO) , “The Non-Emotional Preaches Dharma.” Today's verse, as I read it, relates to that teaching.

If you want to look at an actual example of a human being who lives his or her life undisturbed by emotion then I honestly wouldn't bother looking at me. I am, in the words of Marjory Barlow, “an inveterate worrier.”

When I sit and look out of my bedroom window, however, and see white clouds floating west to east in a blue sky, and a bare apple tree glinting in the winter sunshine, the clouds and the tree are immaculate exemplars of the one golden dharma that physicists suspect the universe will never be found to disobey – namely, the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

Though I have described it as an immaculate exemplar, as it stands there, totally undisturbed by thoughts and feelings, temporarily obstructing the 2nd law with its upward and outward direction of energy, the apple tree in my garden has individual peculiarities. It is by no means symmetrical. It has twists and bumps and scars like no other apple tree. It belongs to that genus of tree that Aśvaghoṣa describes in Saundara-nanda Canto 10, as anyāḥ vṛkṣāḥ – trees which are different, individual, other.

In conclusion then, to understand what Aśvaghoṣa really means in today's verse by tarur anyaḥ, “another tree,” it may be necessary to understand what he means in SN10.19 by anye vṛkṣāḥ, “other/odd/different trees.” Again, in order to understand the real meaning of anye vṛkṣāḥ, it might be necessary to understand what the likes of Dogen and his Chinese ancestors meant by 非仏 (HI-BUTSU), “a non-buddha.” And ultimately, in order to understand the real meaning of 非仏 (HI-BUTSU), “a non-buddha,” it might be necessary to understand what the likes of Dogen and his Chinese ancestors meant by 非思量 (HI-SHIRYO), “non-thinking.”

In a comment to yesterday's post, some bloke called Rich seemed to opine that top rugby players exercise reason in training but when they are actually playing in a match, reason goes out of the window and everything is pure action. What a totally fucking stupid and baseless opinion! I may not know much, I may know almost nothing, but I know a groundless view when I see one.

One senses that Rich is familiar with the Buddhist theory of the likes of my teacher, Gudo Nishijima, but one wonders if Rich has ever actually played rugby, or any challenging sport.

My confidence in this matter comes out of real experience. For several years playing rugby was at the centre of my universe, and so I know from real experience that excellent practice of non-thinking on a rugby pitch invariably arises out of thinking, out of exercise of the faculty of reason, out of what ex-Welsh international rugby player and BBC rugby commentator Jonathan Davies frequently refers to as using the top two inches, and out of what FM Alexander called "thinking in activity." 

I knew this well enough as a teenager, but then in my twenties I temporarily set aside what I knew from experience in favour of what Gudo Nishijima taught me in the way of “true Buddhist theory.” Because I can be incredibly slow on the uptake, it took me many years to work out that Gudo Nishijima, in the primary matter of using or negating reason in Zazen, and pursuing or negating right posture in Zazen, was talking through his arse. But as a result of such painfully slow progress, nowadays I know pretty well when would-be experts on Zen, and on right posture, and on the Alexander Technique, are talking through their arse, expressing their own stupid views which have no basis in reality.

So when Rich says in his comment that he knows nothing, and neither do I, I find something to be applauded in his fighting spirit. At the same time, I would like to say to Rich that, in the matter under discussion, I dare say that I know a fucking sight more than you do, mate.

And if I sound angry, the person I mainly feel anger towards is not Rich, and not even that other great talker through his arse Gudo Nishijima. I feel anger towards the gullible sap in me who bought into a baseless view. At least Jack in Jack & The Beanstalk got some beans for his trouble. All I got was the "true Buddhist theory" of a Zen master who – in the primary matter of sitting  did not know what he was talking about. 

viyujyamāne = loc. sg. m. pres. part. passive vi- √ yuj: to be separated from or deprived of , lose (instr.);
hi: for
tarau (loc. sg.): m. a tree

puṣpaiḥ (inst. pl.): n. a flower , blossom
api: and, also
phalaiḥ (inst. pl.): n. fruit
api: and, also

patati = loc. sg. m. pres. part. pat: to fall down
chidyamāne = loc. sg. m. pres. part. passive chid: to be cut down, hewn, chopped
vā: or

taruḥ (nom. sg.): m. a tree
anyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. another
na: not
śocate = 3rd pers. sg. śuc: to suffer violent heat or pain , be sorrowful or afflicted , grieve , mourn at or for (loc.)

如空野雙樹 華葉倶茂盛
一已被斬伐 第二不知怖
此等諸人輩 無心亦如是

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.60: Acting As If Reason Were Absent

yas-tu dṣṭvā paraṁ jīrṇaṁ vyādhitaṁ mtam-eva ca |
svastho bhavati nodvigno yathācetās-tathaiva saḥ || 4.60

Rather, when one man sees another

Who is worn out and riddled with sickness,
not to mention dead,

And he remains at ease in himself, unstirred,

He acts as though his reason were absent.

In today's verse the prince sounds as if he is complaining about the irrational or unreasonable behaviour of those who remain smugly self-assured, even when confronted with the triple terror, instead of awakening the bodhi-mind. But what the prince might really be doing – without realizing it himself – is describing the reality of action which is beyond thinking, as practised and experienced in a one-to-one face-to-face transmission.

The relation that Aśvaghoṣa is picturing in today's verse, then, between one man and another, might be the relation described in the Lotus Sutra as a buddha alone, together with a buddha (唯仏与仏 Jap: YUI-BUTSU YO-BUTSU).

Understood like this, param, "another" (in the singular), and mṛtam-eva ca, rather than mṛtam-eva vā, makes sense. The prince's words, taken literally, are not describing three others, but one pitiful other, who is (1) knackered out from hard exertion over many years, and (2) shot through with faulty sensory appreciation, not to mention (3) busted, defunct, extinct, dead – like a broken wooden dipper.

According to the Lotus Sutra, one such individual, a buddha alone, together with a buddha, is perfectly able to realize that all dharmas are real form.

What Aśvaghoṣa as I hear him is emphasizing in today's verse  albeit in his usual indirect and ironic style – is that this perfect realization is not only a function of the reasoning mind, or the intellect. This perfect realization might be more akin to water flowing downhill, naturally, unconsciously, spontaneously, automatically, the right thing having been allowed to do itself.

This principle of perfect realization, however, since ancient times, has been misunderstood in China and Japan by people prejudiced against the use of reason.

What FM Alexander understood with unparalleled clarity, like a torch shining light after 700 years of Zen darkness, was how human beings might use the supreme inheritance of our conscious, reasoning mind to guide and control that flow which is natural, unconscious, spontaneous. Thus was it suggested that FM Alexander “re-discovered the secret of Zen for our time.”

“Think that which is beyond thinking,” exhorted Dogen. This exhortation, as anybody knows who has ever dabbled in Zen, points to the realm beyond thinking. What tends to be overlooked, including by my own teacher Gudo Nishijima, is that Dogen's imperative includes, in the first instance, the imperative: Think!

Think! Use reason in order to enter and experience the reality of action in which reason may appear to have become obsolete!

In the above sentence, appear is the operative word.

The generally unreliable Chinese translator translated the 4th pāda as 是則泥木人 "he is just a person of clay and wood.” Insofar as “a person of clay and wood,” suggests a non-emotional practitioner who is not particularly bothered by thoughts and feelings, the phrase conveys something of the original sense; it is like those descriptions in Chinese Zen of old drills with black beads for eyes and bamboo pipes for nostrils. But the Chinese translator would have been closer to Aśvaghoṣa's original if he had written not 是則, which expresses identity, but rather , which expresses likeness.

What Aśvaghoṣa as I hear him is suggesting is that the buddha who remains at ease in himself and unstirred acts as though his reason were absent. Aśvaghoṣa is not saying that in buddha-action reason has ceased to operate; still less is he saying that buddha-action is irrational or unreasonable.

When England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003, in England's final attack of the match against Australia, Matt Dawson could easily have passed the ball out to Johnny Wilkinson for a longer range drop goal attempt. But instead of that Dawson gained an extra few yards by making the seemingly instinctive dart practised thousands of times in his career as a scrum half. Then Martin Johnson, apparently without needing to pause for thought, picked up the ball and set up another ruck so that Dawson could get back to his scrum half position. Dawson then safely passed the ball out to Wilkinson who duly put the ball between the posts for the World Cup-winning score.

A spectator watching the well-practised actions of Dawson and Johnson might say that those actions looked instinctive, natural, spontaneous – in short, those actions looked as if reason was absent from them. But when Matt Dawson and Martin Johnson spoke about the World Cup after the event, it transpired that one of the guiding principles in the training sessions had been the practise of T-CUP, standing for Thinking Clearly Under Pressure.

The first stage of sitting-meditation, as Aśvaghoṣa describes it, is a state characterized by thoughts and ideas – a state, in short, in which reason is manifestly operating. In the second of the four stages of sitting-meditation which Aśvaghoṣa enumerates, thoughts and ideas have subsided like waves which were previously causing disturbance in a body of calmly-moving water, and the practitioner enjoys a profound sense of joy. In the third stage, however, even this joy is recognized as a fault, because of the tendency that joy has to turn into its opposite. Joy thus gives way to a still deeper sense of ease. But in the fourth stage, even this ease is recognized as a subtle interference and consequently dropped off.

Now in this description, as I read it, reason is operating not only in the first stage of sitting-meditation. Reason is also operating in the recognition of faults at successive stages of sitting-meditation. This recognition of faults belongs to what FM Alexander called “thinking in activity” and it is akin to what the 2003 England rugby team called Thinking Clearly Under Pressure.

Learning to sit in such a way as to allow spontaneous flow means learning to sit as though reason were absent (yathācetās-tathaiva). This, ironically, means learning how to use reason, learning how to think.

It is a very different process from the way I was taught to sit by my teacher.

Dogen asked us to ask ourselves: Just in the moment of sitting, what is sitting?... Is it thinking?

Gudo's answer was a resounding: NO!

And as a word, Gudo's answer was correct.

Sadly, however, Gudo failed to understand the question.

Should I have done a better job in helping him to understand the question? Of course I should have, if only I had been less emotionally reactive and more in touch with my own reason, not to mention stronger and braver and quicker on the uptake.

If you have followed my argument this far, you will be able to see why I regard today's verse as a particularly meaningful one.

Otherwise, it may be natural for you to understand today's verse as it has been understood hitherto, by scholars who are not particularly interested in what role reason might have to play in sitting-meditation. In that case, today's verse is simply the whinging of a prince who is criticizing others for their lack of rationality.

yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): (correlative of saḥ) [he] who
tu: but
dṛṣṭvā = abs. dṛś: to see, behold
param (acc. sg.): m. another (different from one's self) , a foreigner , enemy , foe , adversary

jīrṇam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. old , worn out , withered , wasted , decayed
vyādhitam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. afflicted with disease , diseased , sick
mṛtam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. dead , deceased , death-like , torpid , rigid ; departed , vanished (as consciousness) ; vain , useless ; calcined , reduced (said of metals)
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and

svasthaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. self-abiding , being in one's self (or " in the self " Sarvad. ), being in one's natural state , being one's self uninjured , unmolested , contented , doing well , sound well , healthy (in body and mind) , comfortable , at ease
bhavati = 3rd pers. sg. bhū: to become, be ; exist , be found , live , stay , abide , happen , occur
na: not
udvignaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. shuddering , starting , frightened , terrified ; sorrowful , anxious , grieving for (an absent lover)

yathā: ind. (correlative of táthā) in which manner or way , according as , as , like
acetāh (nom. sg. m.): mfn. imprudent, unconscious , insensible.
táthaiva: ind. exactly so , in like manner
saḥ (nom. sg. m.): he

是則泥木人 當有何心慮
[Relation to Sanskrit tenuous] 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.59: No Laughing Matter?

jarāṁ vyādhiṁ ca mtyuṁ ca ko hi jānan sa-cetanaḥ |
svasthas-tiṣṭhen niṣīded-vā suped-vā kiṁ punar-haset || 4.59

For what man in touch with his reason,

Who knows aging, sickness and death,

Could stand or sit at ease,

Or lie down – far less laugh?

In the 4th pāda I have followed EBC in retaining suped-vā as per the original manuscripts, taking supet as an irregular form of svap, to sleep or lie down. EHJ considered amending either to śayed or to svaped, both of which are irregular too, and in the end preferred śayed, from śī, to lie down.

After preparing the translation of today's verse yesterday morning, I sat for half an hour and went for a cycle ride during which I pondered the whole business of how seriously to take things, and composed a ditty by which I actually caused myself to laugh as I was cycling along...

Aspiring buddhas I have seen
Reflected in the silver screen.
Gaylord Focker's who I mean.
Basil Fawlty. Mr. Bean.

Work on the self  in the direction of (1) mature development, or aging, (2) understanding the problem of faulty sensory appreciation, or sickness, and (3) forgetting oneself, or dying – may be the most important thing in the world, but it is not to be taken seriously.

Yesterday afternoon, however, I received the following email titled: "Shobogenzo access?"

I have been hoping to access your and Nishijima-roshi's Shobogenzo, but
the links I have are not working, I was wondering if there's a new link
or some other way to access them:

This email left me with that old sinking feeling that tends to be stimulated by anything that has to do with the Shobogenzo translation and its publication....

A delusion to be countered by coming back to appreciation of cause and effect? 
A manifestation of anger whose antidote might be an act of kindness? 
An unconscious reaction whose opposite is a conscious act of waking up – like moving a leg as Marjory Barlow taught me to do, or like swaying from side to side at the beginning of sitting?

Yes, probably all of the above. 

But while I was pondering these various possibilities in a po-faced manner, what had happened to the latitude by which earlier in the day I had fancied myself able to chuckle at the Basil Fawlty in me?

Therein, truly, might be the joke. The real humour is to be found, always, in the gap between how we aspire to be and how we actually are.

Thus Basil, who fancies himself as a distinguished hotelier catering to a superior class of guests, is reduced to giving his recalcitrant Mini a good thrashing with a windfallen branch.

And thus the po-faced prince in today's verse, burdened by a serious will to enlightenment, is asking a rhetorical question which seems to criticize those who know aging, sickness and death and who in all their daily actions remain at ease in themselves, with the latitude to laugh at all things and matters. While aspiring to buddhahood, in short, the prince might be criticizing buddhas. Aśvaghoṣa's joke might be on him.

Understanding today's verse like this, if we try to see the funny side, and force a smile, the joke is on us. By the means of such trying, we turn ourselves into the fake elephants at whom buddhas laugh. It may be better, like Basil thrashing his Mini, or like Kodo Sawaki describing himself as Masu-O, the King of Masturbation, to be as miserable and deluded as we really are, having given up every kind of lofty pretension.

jarām (acc. sg.): f. old age, aging, growing old
vyādhim (acc. sg.): m. disorder , disease , ailment , sickness , plague
ca: and
mṛtyum (acc. sg.): m. death, dying
ca: and

kaḥ (nom. sg. m.): who?
hi: for
jānat = nom. sg. m. pres. part. jñā: to know
sa-cetanaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having reason or consciousness or feeling , sentient , sensible , animate , rational

svasthaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. self-abiding , being in one's self (or " in the self " Sarvad. ), being in one's natural state , being one's self uninjured , unmolested , contented , doing well , sound well , healthy (in body and mind) , comfortable , at ease
tiṣṭhet = 3rd pers. sg. optative sthā: to stand , stand firmly
niṣīdet = 3rd pers. sg. optative niṣad: to sit or lie down or rest upon
vā: or
supet = (irregular form) 3rd pers. sg. optative svap: to sleep, fall asleep ; to lie down
śayet = (irregular form) 3rd pers. sg. optative śī: to lie , lie down , recline , rest , repose ; to lie down to sleep , fall asleep , sleep

vā: or
kiṁ punar: ind. how much more? how much less?
haset = 3rd pers. sg. optative has: to laugh

見他老病死 不知自觀察
[Relation to Sanskrit tenuous] 

Monday, January 28, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.58: Ambiguity, in Play & Laughter

anabhijñāś-ca su-vyaktaṁ mtyoḥ sarvāpahāriṇaḥ |
tathā svasthā nirudvignāḥ krīḍanti ca hasanti ca || 4.58

Evidently, again, they are ignorant

Of the death that sweeps all away,

So easy in themselves are they, as, unstirred,

They play and laugh.

Today's verse invites analysis along exactly the same lines as yesterday's verse.

In reading (1) mṛtyoḥ sarvāpahāriṇaḥ means what we should fear – all-plundering death, robber of life itself – and so sva-stha describes how only a fool would be in the face of all-plundering death – smugly self-assured.

In reading (2) mṛtyoḥ sarvāpahāriṇaḥ means what we are working towards in working on the self – the dropping off of body and mind and the losing of our own body and life. In that case,  sva-stha might describe how a buddha is when sitting in full lotus – totally at ease in his or her own skin.

Again, therefore, if we follow the latter reading, the prince in accusing the girls of ignorance is acting according to the mirror principle, trying to externalize the struggle that is going on in his own agitated mind.

This morning on the radio I heard a discussion of Price & Prejudice which Jane Austen apparently wrote as a romantic youth and then revised in her late 30s, with a certain detached irony. As a result, fans of the book, it was reported (I have never read the book), love it for the ambiguity that runs through it.

That kind of ambiguity has so far largely been missed, or totally been missed, by scholars in the west who have studied Aśvaghoṣa's writing, because they approach the Buddha's teaching as if it were an idealistic path, rather than wisdom born of real experience. 

In the 4th pāda of today's verse, for example, what did Aśvaghoṣa have in mind with the words krīḍanti “they play” and hasanti “they laugh”? 

By krīḍ, to play, I think he had in mind being released from the grim determination of the striver and having fun with gravity (dhīra-līlayā) – as per 4.38. 

By has, to laugh or smile, I think Aśvaghoṣa might have had in mind the action of anybody who sees in his writing the gap between the ostensible meaning and his subversive hidden meaning.

Buddhist scholars opine that Aśvaghoṣa was particularly interested in the problem of religious conversion. I beg strongly to differ. 

When so-called Buddhists speak of kindness and compassion with bitter minds, when self-styled Zen masters and eminent Buddhist scholars offer to others words that they think are wise, but which are just full of lying and conceit, these people in their efforts to be right are manifesting the very essence of wrongness, the acme of falsity. 

In order to understand the ambiguity that runs through Aśvaghoṣa's writing, I venture, it might be necessary to appreciate this irony whereby trying to be right makes deluded people wrong. Only then does the original teaching of the Buddha, and the order in which he set it out, start to make sense. 

Not to do anything wrong or false,
To allow all that is true or good or real, 
Each purifying his or her own mind -- 
This is the teaching of the buddhas. 

an-abhijñāḥ (nom. pl. f.): mfn. unacquainted with , ignorant
abhijña: mfn. knowing , skilful , clever ; understanding , conversant with (gen. or ifc.)
ca: and
su-vyaktam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. very clear or bright ; very plain or distinct or manifest

mṛtyoḥ (gen. sg.): m. death , dying
sarvāpahāriṇaḥ (gen. sg. m.): all-plundering
sarva: all
apa-hārin: mfn. one who takes away , seizes , steals , &c ; a plunderer, thief
apa- √ hṛ: to snatch away , carry off , plunder ; to remove , throw away

tathā: ind. like this, like that
svasthāḥ (nom. pl. f.): mfn. self-abiding , being in one's self (or " in the self " Sarvad. ), being in one's natural state , being one's self uninjured , unmolested , contented , doing well , sound well , healthy (in body and mind) , comfortable , at ease
nirudvignāḥ (nom. pl. f.): mfn. unexcited , sedate , calm

krīḍanti = 3rd pers. pl. krīḍ: to play , sport , amuse one's self , frolic , gambol , dally ; to jest, joke with
ca: and
hasanti = 3rd pers. pl. has: to smile, laugh
ca: and

鋒刃臨其頸 如何猶嬉笑

Sunday, January 27, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.57: A Spoonful of Mirror Medicine

nūnam-etā na paśyanti kasya-cid roga-saṁplavam |
tathā hṣṭā bhayaṁ tyaktvā jagati vyādhi-dharmiṇi || 4.57

Surely they fail to foresee

Anybody finishing with dis-ease,

So joyful are they, having set fear aside,

In a world that is subject to disease.

Again, there are broadly two ways of reading today's verse – (1) as the sincere thought of a young man whose mind is resolutely set on gaining enlightenment, as opposed to having fun; and (2) as the mistaken thinking of an agitated mind.

A translation that invites both readings is rendered more difficult by the ambiguity of roga-saṁplavam. Firstly, the roga in roga-saṁplavam could mean illness in the usual sense of the kind of infirmity that is inevitably part of human life, or could mean the kind of dis-ease or dis-order from which sitting-zen may liberate us, or could even mean the kind of momentous reverse to which BC3.42 seems to refer:
Then spoke the leader who was in the same chariot as him: “O gentle moon-like man! Stemming originally from excitement of primitive elements and now far advanced / Is the momentous reverse, known as a breakdown (roga), that has rendered even this strong man helpless.”//BC3.42//
In the latter meaning, a breakdown suggests a crisis or shock that causes us to give up views and attachments that were previously obstructing us from seeing the truth as it is. (I suffered one of those in 1997, but when it comes to giving up views and attachments, nobody could call me a quick worker! All the evidence points to me being an exceptionally stubborn and bloody-minded person, who is fond of repeating the same mistakes over and over again.) 

Secondly, the saṁplavam in roga-saṁplavam could mean “submersion in” (hence EBC: “any one's plunge into disease”; EHJ: “anyone overwhelmed by illness”; PO: “a man by sickness oppressed”), and could mean “the ending of.”

So what is it that the prince thinks the women fail to see? What is he accusing them of being blind to?

In reading (1) the girls just want to have fun, and so they idle their time away in frivolous play, disregarding danger, as if they were blithely unaware of the problem of sickness. In that case, the prince is accurately reflecting on the ostensible truth that these sensual playgirls are blind to anybody's submersion in sickness.

In reading (2) the mirror principle is operating, so that the prince is accusing the girls of not seeing that which he himself is unable to see, namely, how the problem of dis-order or dis-ease might be solved. The prince is accusing the girls, in other words, of not foreseeing the ending of dis-ease. For the present, the prince does not know, but he is of the as-yet unexamined view that the solution might lie in ascetic practice.

I think reading (2) is the reading Aśvaghoṣa really intended us to dig for, in which case, working backwards from the 4th pāda, a world that is subject to disease means this real world in which we all are living;
in the 3rd pāda, girls who are truly joyful, having set aside or sloughed off fear, might be ones who are truly awake, or truly free from the unconscious pull of fear reflexes, i.e. buddhas;
in the 2nd pāda, “finishing with dis-ease” does not necessarily mean dying of a terminal illness, but might rather mean attaining nirvāna or realizing enlightenment; and so,
in the 1st pāda, when the prince exclaims that the girls surely do not foresee any such eventuality, the prince might be dead wrong. On the contrary, from the girls in 4.31 and 4.32 who said “Let the secret be revealed!” and “Perform the act of devotion here!” through the girl in 4.37 who said “You are cheating yourself!” to the girl with her nose in a blue lotus who had the last word on men who think themselves wise, it may be that most or all of the girls had their eyes on the prize of somebody's nirvāna, to be realized in the first instance by the breaking down or dismantling of conceited and deluded views, beginning with asceticism.

nūnam: ind. now, just ; (esp. in later lang.) certainly , assuredly , indeed
etāḥ (nom. pl. f.): these [women]
na: not
paśyanti = 3rd pers. pl. paś: to see (with na " to be blind ") , behold , look at , observe , perceive , notice ; to be a spectator , look on ; (also with sādhu) to have insight or discernment ; to consider , think over , examine ; to foresee
kasya-cid (gen. sg.): of anybody
roga-saṁplavam (acc. sg. m.): inundation by disease; origin/end of disease ;
roga: m. ( √ruj) " breaking up of strength " , disease , infirmity , sickness
saṁplava: m. flowing together , meeting or swelling (of waters) , flood , deluge ; a dense mass , heap , multitude; conglomeration , taking a form or shape , rise , origin ; submersion by water , destruction , ruin ; end , close of (comp.)

tathā: ind. like that, in such a manner, so
hṛṣṭāḥ (nom. pl. f.): mfn. thrilling with rapture , rejoiced , pleased , glad , merry
bhayam (acc. sg.): n. fear , alarm dread apprehension ; sg. and pl. terror , dismay , danger , peril , distress ; m. sickness , disease
tyaktvā = abs. tyaj: to leave , abandon , quit ; to set aside , leave unnoticed , disregard

jagati (loc. sg.): n. the world , esp. this world , earth
vyādhi-dharmiṇi (loc. sg. n.): subject to disease
vyādhi: m. disorder , disease , ailment , sickness , plague (esp. leprosy)
dharmin: mfn. knowing or obeying the law ; endowed with any characteristic mark or peculiar property ; (ifc.) following the laws or duties of , having the rights or attributes or peculiarities of, having anything as a characteristic mark , subject to any state or condition

當思老病死 晝夜勤勗勵

Saturday, January 26, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.56: Sincere Views on Youthfulness & Beauty

kiṁ vinā nāvagacchanti capalaṁ yauvanaṁ striyaḥ |
yato rūpeṇa saṁpannaṁ jarā yan nāśayiṣyati || 4.56

“What is missing in these women

That they do not understand youthfulness to be fleeting?

Because, whatever is possessed of beauty

Aging will destroy.

Following on from yesterday's verse in which the prince's mind is described as both resolute and agitated, I think today's verse can be read as both the sincere thoughts of a resolute mind and as the mistaken thoughts of an agitated mind.

On the surface, the spiritual prince stands for truth and the sensual women represent obstacles to the truth, in which case the women are lacking in understanding of impermanence, whereas the prince's words show that he is not lacking in such understanding.

Below the surface, another, quite different meaning emerges, if we dig for it. Which is to say that “youthfulness is fleeting” is a view like “swans are white.” Just as it only takes one black swan to falsify the general proposition that swans are white, it only takes one practitioner in his 70s who,  for forty or fifty years, has retained his youthful enthusiasm for practice, to falsify the general proposition that youthfulness is fleeting – especially if that septuagenarian practitioner succeeds in transmitting his youthful enthusiasm to the next generation of practitioners, who succeed in their turn in passing their youthful enthusiasm on to the next generation, and so on. In such a case, what is missing – to answer the prince's question – is closed-minded adherence to a musty old view.

Again, in the second half of today's verse, “aging will destroy beauty” might be nothing more than the thinking of an agitated mind. “Aging will destroy whatever is possessed of beauty” might be a view that is readily falsified whenever an individual practitioner rips away superficial appearances of beauty (i.e. grows old in the sense suggested in BC3.30, 3.33, and 3.36) and sees real beauty in such indestructible teachings as the Buddha's four noble truths, in the process of elucidating which for Nanda the Buddha tells him: 
So my friend, with regard to the many forms of becoming, know their causes to be [the faults] that start with thirsting / And cut out those [faults], if you wish to be freed from suffering; for ending of the effect follows from eradication of the cause. // SN16.25 // Again, the ending of suffering follows from the disappearance of its cause. Experience that reality for yourself as peace and well-being, / A place of rest, a cessation, an absence of the red taint of thirsting, a primeval refuge which is irremovable and noble, // SN16.26 // In which there is no becoming, no aging, no dying, no illness, no being touched by unpleasantness, / No disappointment, and no separation from what is pleasant: It is an ultimate and indestructible step, in which to dwell at ease. // SN16.27 //
Speaking of indestructible beauty, though I do not understand the deeper statistical and mathematical aspects of the 2nd law of thermodynamics, I know of nothing more elegant and beautiful, as an explanation of beautiful natural phenomena, than the rule that energy tends to spread out, unless prevented from doing so. For those of us who, on our round black cushions, are inquiring into the reality of spontaneous flow, that rule may be one to rely upon forever. 

If you think I am talking, as Marjory Barlow used to say "out of my hat," then good for you. Check it out for yourself, on your own round black cushion. 

Over Christmas 1987 and into the New Year of 1988 when I was struggling to hold the fort at the Zazen Dojo that Gudo Nishijima had just established on the outstkirts of Tokyo, Gudo told me: "This dojo will become the centre of true Buddhism in the world, thanks to your efforts." At that time, he was sincere in his view, and I was sincere in my hope that his view was true. In other words, he was sincerely deluded, and so was I.

Twenty-five years on, my response to Gudo is that this round black cushion, and this computer, are centres here and now of skeptical inquiry into the views of thinking men and women everywhere who think that they are wise.

To state my conclusion bluntly, the prince in today's verse is sincerely and resolutely talking through his arse, having so far failed to notice the truth that has just been expressed to him as follows, in the form of a rhetorical question:

Can spring deliver exuberant joy, to birds that fly the skies, but not the mind of a thinking man who thinks that he is wise?

kim u: ind. how much more? how much less?
imāḥ (nom. pl. f.): these, these here
kiṁ vinā: what do they lack?
kim: (interrogative particle)
vinā: ind. without , except , short or exclusive of (preceded or followed by an acc. instr. , rarely abl.)
na: not
avagacchanti = 3rd pers. pl. ava- √ gam: to hit upon , think of , conceive , learn , know , understand , anticipate , assure one's self , be convinced ; recognize

capalam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. moving to and fro , shaking , trembling , unsteady , wavering ; wanton , fickle , inconstant; momentary, instantaneous
yauvanam (acc. sg.): n. (fr. yuvan) youth , youthfulness , adolescence
striyaḥ (nom. pl.): f. women

yataḥ: ind. (often used as abl. or instr. of the relative pron.) from which or what , whence , whereof , wherefrom ; wherefore , for which reason , in consequence where of ; as , because , for , since (often connecting with a previous statement) ; in order that (with Pot.)
rūpeṇa (inst. sg.): n. beauty, outward appearance
saṁpannam (acc. sg. n.): endowed or furnished with , possessed of (instr.)
saṁmattam (acc. sg. n. [?]): mfn. completely intoxicated (lit. and fig.) , exhilarated , enraptured , enamoured

jarā (nom. sg.): f. aging, old age, growing old
iyam (nom. sg. f): this
yad (acc. sg. n.): which
nāśayiṣyati = 3rd pers. sg. future causative naś: to cause to be lost or disappear , drive away , expel , remove , destroy , efface

不知少壯色 俄頃老死壞
哀哉此大惑 愚癡覆其心

Friday, January 25, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.55: Agitated Calm Resolve

tāsāṁ tattve 'navasthānaṁ dṣṭvā sa puruṣottamaḥ |
samaṁ-vignena dhīreṇa cintayām-āsa cetasā || 4.55

He, an excellent man,

Considering those girls to have a loose foothold in reality,


With a mind that was agitated and at the same time resolute:

The title of the present canto is strī-vighātanaḥ. At first blush strī-vighātanaḥ, as a description of the response of the prince to those particular women in the park, means Warding Away the Women. At the same time, as an expression of Udāyin's viewpoint strī-vighātanaḥ might mean Being Dismissive of Women – as so many expendable female pawns in a male king's master-plan. Conversely, as an expression of the Buddha's teaching strī-vighātanaḥ might mean Rebutting 'Women' – i.e. refusing to countenance any sexist prejudice. I think the attitude of the prince is being portrayed as residing somewhere between these two latter positions, i.e., somewhere between the viewpoint of an ignorant young brahmin and the standpoint of an enlightened transmitter of the torch.

That being so, puruṣottamaḥ, which ostensibly means “the best of men,” might be intended to carry an ironic connotation. As a boy, Aśvaghoṣa has established, the prince was clearly already an excellent sort, a cut above ordinary boys. But at the present stage of his development, having established the will to the truth but not yet realized the truth, he is not yet the best of men. 

I think the reason Aśvaghoṣa calls him puruṣottamaḥ is to make us think in what sense the prince was excellent, in what sense he was superior to other men, and in what sense he was superior to or more excellent than those girls, or women in general. 

For example, is the prince, as a man, innately superior to, or more excellent than, these girls, and women in general? Or is the truth in fact that the true excellence of the girls' teaching has already put the prince to shame – though the prince himself may not yet realize it.

I think the truth may be that the girl with agile eyes and her nose in a blue lotus put to shame thinking men everywhere, who believe themselves to be wise, when she asked: 

Can spring deliver exuberant joy, to those that fly the skies, but not the mind of a thinking man, who thinks that he is wise? 

The girl that asked that question, I think Aśvaghoṣa intends us to understand, was a girl who had her feet very squarely planted on the ground, and her eyes and nose very much attuned to reality. 

In the 3rd pāda the original Sanskrit manuscripts used by both EBC and EHJ have sasaṁvignena. EBC read this as asaṁvignena, which he translated as undisturbed (EBC: that best of men pondered with an undisturbed, and stedfast mind) EHJ amended to samaṁ-vignena so that samaṁ-vignena dhīreṇa means agitated and at the same time resolute (EHJ:  with mind that was at the same time both perturbed and steadfast he thus meditated).

On this occasion I think EHJ's amendment was on target, the point being that establishing the bodhi-mind includes something disturbing and exciting (hence the title of Canto 3, “Arising of Nervous Excitement”) and at the same time something steadying and calming.

Read like that, today's verse can be understood to be a heads-up, encouraging us to examine the following thoughts of the prince on at least two levels. On one level, insofar as establishing the will to the truth is associated with a calm and steely resolve, the prince's thoughts might be true. On another level, insofar as establishing the will to the truth causes the mind to become agitated, as former certainties are thrown up in the air, the thoughts of the prince  superior man though he is  might be all upside down. 

bhāṣām (acc. sg.): f. speech , language (esp. common or vernacular speech , as opp. to Vedic or in later times to Sanskrit)
tāsām (gen. pl. f.): their
tattvena: ind. (inst. sg.) according to the true state or nature of anything , in truth , truly , really , accurately
tattve (loc. sg.): n. true or real state , truth , reality
vasthānam (acc. sg.): n. condition (?) [EBC note: For vasthānam cf. Maitri Upan. (Comm.) VI, 1.]
an-avasthānam (acc. sg.): n. instability , unsteadiness or looseness of conduct ; mfn. unstable , fickle
avasthāna: n. standing , taking up one's place ; residing , abiding , dwelling; stability

dṛṣṭvā = abs. dṛś: to see , behold , look at , regard , consider ; to see with the mind , learn , understand ; realize
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
puruṣottamaḥ (nom. sg.): m. the best of men , an excellent or superior man
puruṣa: m. a man , male , human being (pl. people , mankind)
uttama: mfn. uppermost

samam: ind. in like manner , alike , equally , similarly; at the same time
vignena (inst. sg. n.): mfn. shaken , agitated , terrified , alarmed
vij: to move with a quick darting motion , speed , heave (said of waves) ; to start back , recoil , flee from
a-saṁvignena (inst. sg. n.): not agitated, calm
saṁvigna: mfn. agitated , flurried , terrified , shy
dhīreṇa (inst. sg. n.): mfn. steady , constant , firm , resolute , brave , energetic , courageous , self-possessed , composed , calm , grave

cintayām-āsa = 3rd pers. sg. periphrastic perf. cint: to think , have a thought or idea , reflect , consider ; to think about , reflect upon , direct the thoughts towards , care for
cetasā (inst. sg.): n. consciousness, mind

倍生厭思惟 嘆此爲奇怪
始知諸女人 欲心盛如是