Friday, February 8, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.69: Exhortation to Submit

tad-arhasi viśālākṣa hdaye 'pi parāṅ-mukhe |
rūpasyāsyānurūpeṇa dākṣiṇyenānuvartitum || 4.69

Therefore, O large-eyed one,

Though your heart be otherwise inclined,

With a gallantry that befits such a handsome form,

You should submit!

In the world today, as I see it, Islaam is not a problem. True Islaam – insofar as it means submission – is never a problem. Islaamists, however, are a bloody nuisance, just like evangelical Christians, orthodox Jews, and true Buddhists.

The “One True Buddhism” that my teacher taught, and which I used to believe in as The Solution, I have come in recent years to regard as the essence of the problem.

The essence of the problem is the view that I am right – in which case you should (and I may not always say this but in the background I am thinking it) submit to my view.

The solution to the problem might lie with people who are not part of the problem – possibly as a result of having totally submitted to something other than their own, or anybody else's, view. Don't look at me! In general I am very much part of the problem.... except maybe in rare moments when an old Alexander teacher has got his hand on me, or on an exceptionally quiet day by the forest in France.

When Udāyin in today's verse says arhasi anuvartitum, “you should submit,” ostensibly he is telling the prince that he should do the women's bidding, that he should “seek to please them” (EBC), or “gratify them” (EHJ) or “deign to pander” (PO).

But the real truth that Udāyin is unknowingly expressing in today's verse, as I read it, is that we who have been fortunate enough temporarily to inherit a human body, should consciously practise submission. However set against submission our hearts and minds may be, we should submit.

Submit to what?

I don't know. To a practice, maybe – a practice like sitting in lotus. To a process, maybe – a process like this translation work. To women, maybe – insofar as female human beings are more real than anybody's views and opinions. Yes, to something other than my own view – like, God, for those who believe in God; or like the 2nd law of thermodynamics, for those who see truth and beauty in the laws of physics. Submit to Nature?

How one might submit to God is none of my business. I am more interested in how to say to Nature, or to say to the 2nd law of thermodynamics: “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

After 30 years of fucking up, I don't know how to say it. But I might have learned a thing or two about how NOT to say it. These days I don't try to say it, for example, by hyper-extending my back and pulling my chin down onto my neck – at least I don't do that nearly as much as I used to do. I could be wrong, but I don't think I hold myself quite as tightly as I used to do, when sitting in lotus.

The 2nd law of thermodynamics is, to express it another way, the law of aging, sickness and death, and so it may be very natural for a human heart to be inclined otherwise than to submit to it.

The 2nd law is that energy spreads out, unless prevented from doing so. Submitting to the 2nd law in sitting practice, then, might mean letting energy dissipate that ought to dissipate, and being thankful that the energy necessary to maintain life is temporarily being prevented from dissipating. This life force is temporarily prevented from dissipating by what chemists call activation energy barriers – one of which, now that I reflect upon it, literally, is a round black cushion.

The word that Aśvaghoṣa chooses to express the principle of submission is, in the 4th pāda of today's verse, anuvartitum, from the root anu-√vṛt. The prefix anu- means after, alongside, under, subordinate to. And √vṛt means to roll, move, go along, act. So anu-√vṛt suggests submissive behaviour.

I think Aśvaghoṣa has been using words from the root anu-√vṛt in the past few verses to signal his intention that we bring our attention to the central problem that Islaam addresses – what submission is, and how to submit.

Hence in 4.64 hite cānupravartanam “urging one along in the good”; in 4.67 yuktaṁ samanuvartanam “obeying is appropriate”; and in 4.68 saṁnatiś-cānuvṛttiś-ca “humility and submissive behaviour,” all contain variations on the theme of anu-√vṛt, to follow submissively.

Good translation work, in my book, is a kind of submissive following. To do good translation work for a buddha-ancestor like Dogen or Aśvaghoṣa is to abandon one's own views and submit to the text. At the same time, it might help if the translator is, in his own everyday life, a submissive follower of the teaching the text contains – at least as a work in progress....

Last night in preparing this comment I posed the question: submit to what?

The answer that occurred to me as I got out of bed this morning was: submit to anything that is good and true and real – not to do any evil, but to submit to anything that is good and true and real, in accordance with the universal precept of the seven ancient buddhas.

When I actually came to sit, however, I found that this somewhat sanctimonious conclusion was associated with a certain holding, with an energy that needed to be allowed to dissipate.

In the phrase I used above “letting energy dissipate that ought to dissipate,” the operative word is letting. As Marjory Barlow used to say, “You cannot do an undoing.” To let is not to do. To let is to allow. And to allow is to submit.

The ultimate truth might be very far from “I am right.” Rather, what is demonstrably true in sitting practice is that I am wrong. In conclusion then, for the present, I submit to that truth – as an antidote to my usual habit of trying to be right.

tad: ind. therefore, then, so
arhasi (2nd pers. sg. arh): you should
viśālākṣa (voc. sg.): O large-eyed one!
viśāla: mfn. spacious , extensive , broad , wide , large
akṣa: n. [only ifc. for akṣi] , the eye.

hṛdaye (loc. sg.): n. heart
api: even
parāṅ-mukhe (loc. sg. n.): mfn. having the face turned away or averted ; averse from , hostile to , regardless of , shunning , avoiding

rūpasya (gen. sg.): n. any outward appearance or phenomenon or colour (often pl.) , form , shape , figure ; handsome form, beauty
asya (gen. sg. n.): that
anurūpeṇa (inst. sg. n.): mfn. following the form , conformable , corresponding , like , fit , suitable

dākṣiṇyena (inst. sg.): n. dexterity , skill , officiousness , gallantry , kindness , consideration , piety (with loc. gen. or ifc.)
anuvartitum = infinitive anu- √ vṛt: to go after ; to follow , pursue ; to attend ; to obey , respect , imitate

且今心雖背 法應方便隨
[Relation to Sanskrit tenuous]


Rich said...

Submission to doing the same shit everyday to stay alive so I can wonder about submission.

Submission to a higher power.

Submission to being clueless and not knowing anything.

Submission to just sitting.

Submission to letting go of my illusions of grandeur and control.

Submission to the lie of the I.

Submission to a moment that is too short to worry about.

Mike Cross said...

I am assuming from your comment, Rich, that you are not married.

Rich said...

Forgot that one.

Submission to my wife.

Mike Cross said...

Washington, D.C.

38.8946°N 77.0157°W