Wednesday, February 6, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.67: All Is Fair in Love & War?

antenāpi nārīṇāṁ yuktaṁ samanuvartanam |
tad-vrīḍā-parihārārtham-ātma-raty-artham-eva ca || 4.67

For women, even if the means are insincere,

Indulging their minds is appropriate,

To sweep away their diffidence,

And purely for the purpose of enjoying oneself!

All is fair, so the saying goes, in love and war.

That being so, in a sexual relationship, if a woman asks a man for a reassuring answer, the end of not offending her might sometimes justify the means of a less-than-totally-honest answer. In English we would call such an answer “a white lie.” In Japanese the equivalent phrase is 方便 (Jap: HOBEN), “An Expedient Means,” as in the title of the 2nd chapter 方便 (Jap: HOBEN-BON), “Skillful Means.”

Understood in this context, what Udāyin is saying does not sound too shocking; his argument sounds reasonable enough.

Udāyin's words stand up to scrutiny less well if we examine them more analytically as a philosophical proposition along the lines of “A sexual end justifies deceitful means.”

A man's natural end (puruṣārtha; 4.65), as Udāyin sees it, is to enjoy sex with a woman, and that end justifies falsehood, lying or cheating – doing or saying what is not true.

If we want to know what the Buddha's teaching is, there is no more reliable source, in my book, than the words that Aśvaghoṣa quotes the Buddha as speaking to Nanda in Saundara-nanda. For example:
One set on abandoning the afflictions, then, should attend to timing and method; / For even practice itself, done at the wrong time and relying on wrong means, makes for disappointment and not for the desired end. // SN16.49 // If a cow is milked before her calf is born, milking at the wrong time will yield no milk. / Or even at the right time no milk will be got if, through ignorance, a cow is milked by the horn. // SN16.50 // Again, one who wants fire from damp wood, try as he might, will not get fire. / And even if he lays down dry wood, he won't get fire from that, with bad bushcraft. // 16.51 //
I think what Aśvaghoṣa is giving us in a verse like today's verse, in contrast, is an example of what the Buddha's teaching is not.

At least the above is one way of reading today's verse – as a contrasting example of what the Buddha's teaching is not. This way, on reflection, is a rather sanctimonious way, tied up with trying to be right and trying to sound right. Fuck that for a game of cards.

Another, contrary way is to read today's verse as a true statement of the Buddha's teaching, albeit a statement that Udāyin does not know that he is making as such.

Pompously attaching to the former view while preparing this comment yesterday, I had translated today's verse as follows:
Even if it means being untrue,
What is appropriate for women is to woo them,

To rid them of their bashfulness,

Not to mention for one's own pleasure!
But when I sat this morning, for a good many minutes I was not enjoying my sitting as heartily as I sometimes do, and so I asked myself what was getting in the way. And what was getting in the way, it turned out, was the kind of worrying and holding that arises from the end-gaining mind – as if I could not have guessed.

The first stage of sitting-meditation as Aśvaghoṣa describes it is a state of joyful pondering – nothing so stern as people are prone to think Zen meditation ought to be. The joy in this stage of joyful pondering comes from being free from desires that are tainted by the attitude of end-gaining. The pondering is a kind of fault, or a lack of sincerity. The joyful pondering is both a means which is true (in the sense that it is free from end-gaining) and at the same time a means which is anṛta, false, insincere, or not true (in the sense that it is a state in which the original sincerity of stillness is being disturbed by pondering).

For women who sit, then, the Buddha's teaching is, in the first instance, to use insincerity as a means, or as a stage to be passed through on the way to sincerity.

In this contrary reading, samanuvartanam does not express the action of a man who indulges or woos or panders women; it might rather express the attitude of a woman in the first stage of sitting-meditation who is enjoying thinking whatever the hell she likes.

In that case, the aim expressed as tad-vrīḍā-parihārārtham might be the aim of every bodhisattva, to free living beings from the suffering associated with being oppressed by one's own fear reflexes. And the enjoyment expressed as ātma-rati might be the enjoyment described by Ānanda in Saundara-nanda Canto 11:
A fire is not satisfied by dry brushwood, nor the salty ocean by water, / Nor a man of thirst by his desires. Desires, therefore, do not make for satisfaction. //SN11.32 // Without satisfaction, whence peace? Without peace, whence ease? / Without ease, whence joy? Without joy, whence enjoyment? // 11.33 // Therefore if you want enjoyment, let your mind be directed within. / Tranquil and impeccable is enjoyment of the inner self and there is no enjoyment to equal it. // 11.34 // In it, you have no need of musical instruments, or women, or ornaments; / On your own, wherever you are, you can indulge in that enjoyment. // SN11.35 //

Under Gudo Nishijima I saw my aim as to help him transmit to English-speaking people the true Buddhist view which he had gleaned by studying Shobogenzo and practising Zazen. That is how I saw my role, and that is basically how Gudo also saw my role. I didn't know any better and neither did he. What I began to understand with input from Alexander teachers is that this "true view" ethic was associated with an unconscious effort to hold myself in "the right posture."  As the evolution of today's comment may serve to demonstrate, the abandonment of the "true view" modus operandi [or modus figerandi (?), method of fixing], is a work in progress. 

anṛtena (inst. sg.): n. falsehood , lying , cheating ; not true , false
api: even
nārīṇām (gen. pl.): f. women

yuktam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. fit , suitable , appropriate , proper , right , established , proved , just , due , becoming to or suitable for (gen. loc. or comp. , e.g. āyati-yukta , suitable for the future ; yuktam with yad or an inf. = it is fit or suitable that or to ; na yuktam bhavatā , it is not seemly for you)
sam-anu-vartanam (nom. sg.): n. obliging; wooing [EBC]; gratification [EHJ]; pandering [PO]
anu-vartana: n. obliging , serving or gratifying another ; compliance , obedience ; following, attending
sam-anu-√vṛt: to follow after , obey , conform to (acc.)
sam-anu-vartin: mfn. obedient , willing , devoted to

tad-vrīḍā-parihārārtham (acc. sg. n.): in order to take away their bashfulness
tad: them
vrīḍā: f. shame , modesty , bashfulness
parihāra: m. avoiding ; taking away , removing , (esp.) removing by arguments , confutation
pari-√hṛ: to move or carry or take round ; to put aside ; to take away , remove
artha: n. aim, purpose

ātma-raty-artham (acc. sg. n.): for one's own pleasure ; for fun
ātman: m. the self ; one's own
rati: f. pleasure , enjoyment , delight
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and

正使無實心 宜應方便納
當生軟下心 隨順取其意


Rich said...

"In that case, the aim expressed as tad-vrīḍā-parihārārtham might be the aim of every bodhisattva, to free living beings from the suffering associated with being oppressed by one's own fear reflexes. "

I think so, can't do much good when wrapped up in that. While oppression from this still exists, sitting has helped the movement to non oppression but like you said its a work in progress.

"Under Gudo Nishijima I saw my aim as to help him transmit to English-speaking people the true Buddhist view which he had gleaned by studying Shobogenzo and practising Zazen. "

Reading your Shobogenzo was helpful to my practice. That's enough.
Regarding Gudo's posture and balanced state, it was helpful when I needed it.

When you say ' the abandonment of the "true view" modus operandi' that rings a bell.

Mike Cross said...

What you seem to be suggesting, Rich, is that it doesn't matter if the means are not totally true, or perfect, or sincere, so long as those means are helpful or constructive in terms of practice.

This might be one of the points that Aśvaghoṣa intended us to consider when he wrote today's verse.

If I have understood correctly what you are suggesting, Gudo would have agreed with it 100%. He really was a master at forging ahead without worrying about good and bad.

I, on the other hand, tend to be a nit-picking worrier.

So the Nishijima-Cross Shobogenzo translation was born out of these two tendencies -- Gudo painting with a big brush, me attending to dotting of i's and crossing of t's.

An irony is that Gudo was so unworried about good and bad that he was happy to spend his life in stupid, fixed pursuit of "the right posture."

Conversely, I with my perfectionist tendency could not be satisfied with Gudo's blind Japanese behaviour and so sought out the truth of the discoveries of FM Alexander, who so clearly and explictly understood and demonstrated that there is no such thing as right posture -- though there is such a thing as a right direction.

I am still working out the implications of what Alexander meant when he said, "There is no such things as a right posture, but there is a right direction."

On some deep level, Gudo understood Alexander's point intuitively, which is why his own direction in sitting, I suspect, was not at all bad.

But because Gudo did not understand Alexander's point clearly and explicitly, the direction he imparted with his hands when he attempted to use his hands to adjust his students posture, let me tell you, was Down with a capital D.

In his later years, he may have modified his approach, because he was not totally deaf to my criticisms. So the whole thing was very messy, very complicated, and very full of ironies -- and therefore, in the final analysis, not a bad basis from which to approach translating Aśvaghoṣa.