Tuesday, February 5, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.66: Presumption

tad-bravīmi suhd-bhūtvā taruṇasya vapuṣmataḥ |
idaṁ na pratirūpaṁ te strīṣv-adākṣiṇyam-īdśam || 4.66

Speaking, therefore, as a friend,

I must say that for a handsome young man

It does not become you

To be so unchivalrous towards women.

In today's verse Udāyin, speaking as the prince's friend, is telling the prince straight about what Udāyin perceives to be the prince's discourteous behaviour towards others.

But who decided that Udāyin was the prince's friend?

I think Udāyin by his own rude presumption is nicely manifesting the mirror principle.

What Udāyin is thus failing to manifest is the quality which in the work of an Alexander teacher is called “staying back in your own back” – i.e. not getting your knickers in a knot about other people's problems. To stay “back in one's own back” is not to suffer from a deficit of compassion; on the contrary, it is about needing to look after oneself in order to be of any use to anybody else. If “staying back in your own back” were expressed in Sanskrit, the word might be sva-stha, “remaining at ease in oneself”; hence:
Thus spoke the Worthy One, the instructor whose compassion was of the highest order, Whose words and equally whose feet Nanda had accepted, using his head; / Then, at ease in himself (sva-sthaḥ), his heart at peace, his task ended, He left the Sage's side like an elephant free of rut. // SN18.61 // When the occasion arose he entered the town for begging and attracted the citizens' gaze; Being impartial towards gain, loss, comfort, discomfort, and the like and with his senses composed, he was free of longing; / And being there, in the moment, he talked of liberation to people so inclined  – never putting down others on a wrong path or raising himself up. // SN18.62 //
Thinking on further what it means to be presumptuous, and not to be presumptuous, in the 4th canto of Saundara-nanda Aśvaghoṣa gives us the Buddha's own shining example...
While Nanda, inside the palace, in what almost amounted to a dishonour, was thus enjoying himself, / The Tathāgata, the One Thus Come, come begging time, had entered the palace, for the purpose of begging. // SN4.24 // With face turned down, he stood, in his brother's house as in any other house, not expecting anything; / And then, since due to the servants' oversight, he received no alms, he went again on his way. // 4.25 // For one woman was grinding fragrant body oils; another was perfuming clothes; / Another, likewise, was preparing a bath; while other women strung together sweet-smelling garlands. // 4.26 // The girls in that house were thus so busy doing work to promote their master's romantic play / That none of them had seen the Buddha -- or so the Buddha inevitably concluded. // 4.27 // One woman there, however, on glancing through a round side-window on the upper storey of the palace, / Had seen the Sugata, the One Gone Well, going away -- like the blazing sun emerging from a cloud. // 4.28 //
Yes, one can assert, the Buddha later intervened to get Nanda to shave his head almost against Nanda's own will. But the operative word in this assertion is almost. The Buddha did not come knocking on Nanda's door like a Jehova's Witness, and the Buddha did not go running after Nanda in the street like some despicable chugger; it was Nanda who came running after the Buddha.

Has this business of being or not being presumptuous got any relation with the one great matter which is sitting in lotus?

The answer as I see it is  – you guessed it   yes. Because sitting in lotus as the one great matter is non-doing, and non-doing has to be a very modest practice. Non-doing is an inherently modest practice because it involves the allowing of an undoing which I cannot do but which rather does itself, in accordance with the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

Doing is presumptuous, and being presumptuous is a kind of doing. For us who sit on a round black cushion investigating the truth of non-doing, therefore, there is something to be recognized and clearly understood in Udāyin's presumption.

tad: ind. therefore
bravīmi = 1st pers. sg. brū: to speak
suhṛt (nom. sg.): m. " good-hearted " , " kindhearted " , " well-disposed " , a friend , ally
bhūtvā = abs. bhū: to be

taruṇasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. " progressive " , young , tender , juvenile ; m. a youth
vapuṣmataḥ (gen. sg. m.): mfn. having a body ; having a beautiful form , handsome

idam (nom. sg. n.): this
na: not
prati-rūpam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. like , similar , corresponding , suitable , proper , fit
te (gen. sg.): of you

strīṣu (loc. pl.): f. women
adākṣiṇyam (nom. sg.): n. incivility
dākṣiṇya: mfn. belonging to or worthy of a sacrificial fee ; n. dexterity , skill , officiousness , gallantry , kindness , consideration , piety
īdṛśam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. endowed with such qualities , such

今故説眞言 以表我丹誠 
年在於盛時 容色得充備
不重於女人 斯非勝人體


gniz said...

Hi Mike. I love that you are a master of rooting out bullshit. When I endeavor to write a comment here, I realize that you may instantly see through it to the bullshit at the center, which oftentimes makes me decide not to even bother, or I try to word it as precisely and truthfully as possible--so as to escape the slap upside the head I may get.

And that is a rare gift, because many times people eat my bullshit up like it's chocolate cake.

Thanks for that and thanks for what you don't do as well.

Mike Cross said...

Thanks Aaron. I get plenty of practice seeing (and sometimes failing to see) through the bullshit of my own views and opinions.