Sunday, March 31, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.16: The Readiness Is All (No Bodhicitta)

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
iti buddhir-iyaṁ ca nī-rajaskā vavdhe tasya mahātmano viśuddhā |
puruṣair-aparair-adśyamānaḥ puruṣaś-copasasarpa bhikṣu-veṣaḥ || 5.16

Thus did this dustless mind, this mind which is cleansed,

Develop in him whose nature was great;

Whereupon, unseen by the other men,

Up crept a man who was dressed in beggar's garb.

This pure dustless mind (buddhi iyaṁ nī-rajaskā viśuddhā) means what Dogen called in Shobogenzo 菩提心 (Jap: BODAI-SHIN), “the bodhi-mind” or 道 心 (DO-SHIN), “the will to the truth,” or 無上 心 (MUJO-SHIN), “the will to the supreme.” I know all about it, having established this mind, in the form of a will to solve everybody's problem, when I was ten years old; and then having translated chapters of Shobogenzo devoted to it in my twenties and thirties.

Or do I in fact know all about it?

When I was studying Shobogenzo, I was clear in my knowledge that 菩提心 (BODAI-SHIN) represented the Sanskrit term bodhi-citta, but now that I come to study Aśvaghoṣa's writing, I cannot be so certain, since so far I haven't found any mention of the bodhi-citta.

An analogous situation might be the use of the term "semi-supine" in Alexander Technique circles. If you google “semi-supine” you will get a long list of results related to the FM Alexander Technique. But if you went along to a lesson with FM Alexander himself – or so his niece Marjory Barlow told me – and talked to him of practising semi-supine, he would not know what the hell you were talking about. “Semi-supine” is a bit of scientific-sounding jargon, probably originating with Raymond Dart, that has crept into Alexander work since the death of the man himself. Everybody talks of "semi-supine;" but how many really understand what Alexander meant by lying down work? How many really understand what it is, in other words, not just to lie down with one's knees bent, but to carry out an activity against the habit of life? 

Alexander did teach his student teachers to do what he called “lying down work,” which involves getting a pupil to lie on his or her back with knees bent. But he never said anything about “semi-supine.”

Similarly, Aśvaghoṣa has been describing something real – albeit mental – developing in the prince. I am not denying that. I just find it interesting, and contrary to what I would have expected five years ago, that the mind being described is nowhere called bodhi-citta.

According to the Monier-Williams dictionary ca-ca may express immediate connection between two acts or their simultaneous occurrence. In today's verse as I read it ca-ca expresses immediate connection. EHJ read ca-ca as expressing a simultaneous occurrence, hence: “While this pure passionless state of mind grew within his lofty soul, there came up to him a man in mendicant's clothes, unseen of other men.” I think EHJ got this one wrong – it was not that the mind grew in the prince in however many seconds or minutes it took the man in mendicant's clothes to approach him. It was rather that the prince, by such means as moving slowly over the ground, and feeling compassion for the suffering of small creatures, and reflecting on impermanence, and accidentally entering the first dhyāna, and seeing through various faults (and, long before that, warding away the pernicious conceptions of Hurry-Up Udāyin, and so on) had been gradually creating the conditions for the mind to develop or grow.

Reflecting on all of the above, I thought twice about the meaning of viśuddhā – which is given extra prominence by its position at the end of the first yuga-pāda. My first stab at translating this line was “Thus did this pure, dustless mind grow up in him whose nature was great.” But viśuddha is originally a past participle meaning cleansed or purified or cleaned/cleared/emptied out. And the past participle suggests to me not necessarily something inherent (as I tend to assume the will to the truth is inherent in me) but rather the result of a process or an effort.

My tentative conclusion about today's verse, then, remains that, in whatever way the readiness is arrived at – suddenly or by a gradual process –  in the background is the principle that the readiness is all. When our mind is ready to receive, what we ought to know will be revealed to us. A teacher will immediately appear, as if by magic. Not by magic, but as if by magic, when the mind has developed which is dustless and thorougly cleansed, in which case “dustless” might mean free not only of passions and personal agendae but also free of concepts like “bodhicitta;” and “cleansed” might mean not necessarily inherently totally pure, but cleaner than it was before, as the result of a constant effort.

Speaking of a constant effort, it occurred to me this morning while I was sitting that if I get to the end of the translation of Buddha-carita, I might like to write a non-sectarian non-Buddhist manifesto, to encourage independent individuals to carry on their own practice regardless of what political nonsense goes on in the name of Mahāyāna or Theravada or Soto Sect or this organization or that institution. As a working title of this manifesto, I thought of To Meet the True Tortoise.

iti: thus
buddhiḥ (nom. sg.): f. the power of forming and retaining conceptions and general notions , intelligence , reason , intellect , mind , discernment , judgement ; comprehension , apprehension , understanding ; thought about or meditation on (loc. or comp.) , intention , purpose , design
iyam (nom. sg. f.): this
ca: and
nī-rajaskā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. free from dust

vavṛdhe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vṛdh: to grow , grow up , increase , be filled or extended , become longer or stronger , thrive , prosper , succeed
tasya (gen. sg. m.): in/of him
mahātmanaḥ (gen. sg. m.): mfn. " high-souled " , magnanimous , having a great or noble nature , high-minded , noble
viśuddhā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. completely cleansed or purified (also in a ritual sense) , clean , clear , pure (lit.and fig.); brilliantly white (as teeth); thoroughly settled or established or fixed or determined or ascertained ; cleared i .e. exhausted , empty (as a treasury)

puruṣaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. men
aparaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. other
adṛśyamānaḥ (nom. sg. m. pres. part. passive): not being seen

puruṣaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a man
ca: and (ca-ca may express immediate connection between two acts or their simultaneous occurrence)
upasasarpa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. upa- √ sṛp : to creep towards , approach stealthily or softly or gently ; to draw near
bhikṣu-veṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): in beggar's garb
bhikṣu: m. a beggar , mendicant , religious mendicant (esp. a Brahman in the fourth āśrama or period of his life , when he subsists entirely on alms)
veṣa: dress , apparel , ornament , artificial exterior , assumed appearance (often also = look , exterior , appearance in general)

寂靜離諸蓋 慧光轉増明
爾時淨居天 化爲比丘形
來詣太子所 太子敬起迎

Saturday, March 30, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.15: Neither That Nor the Opposite of That

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
na jaharṣa na cāpi cānutepe vicikitsāṁ na yayau na tandri-nidre |
na ca kāma-guṇeṣu saṁrarañje na vididveṣa paraṁ na cāvamene || 5.15

He felt neither thrill nor pang;

Into intellectual striving, or lassitude and sleepiness, he did not fall;

He was not reddened by passion for sensual desires,

And neither did he hate, or look down upon, the other.

It is not controversial to assert that the 1st pāda expresses the negation of two opposite emotions, one being thrillingly positive and one being acutely negative. Hence EBC “He did not rejoice and did not feel remorse” ; EHJ “He did not rejoice nor yet was he downcast”; PO “He did not give in to dejection or delight.”

The 3rd and 4th pādas, similarly, explicitly express the negation of love and hate.

The difficulty lies in seeing what, if any, opposition is implied in the 2nd pāda, whose elements EBC identifies as hesitation, indolence, and sleep; EHJ as doubt, sloth and drowsiness, and PO as doubt, sloth and sleep.

In pondering during my sleep how vicikitsā (doubt/inquiry) might be opposed to tandri-nidra (lassitude and sleep) I woke up to find that something was pointing me towards the example of Professor John Dewey who, I read or heard somewhere, when he first came under the tutelage of FM Alexander, used to fall asleep almost as soon as Alexander put hands on him. The explanation, as I remember it, was that Dewey's habitual state was to be held very tautly in the grip of his intellectual inquiries, and when Alexander's hands released Dewey's musculature from this unduly tense grip the pendulum naturally swang the other way in the direction of relaxation and sleep. In light of that example, I have understood vicikitsā, which is from the same root (vi-√ci) as vicinvan (“reflecting”) in BC5.7 and BC5.9, to mean not so much doubt or hesitation as intellectual inquiry, or intellectual striving. In that case I think the opposition of intellectual striving (associated with dominance of the sympathetic nervous system) and lassitude and sleepiness (associated with dominance of the parasympathetic nervous system) makes sense.

As regards the overall gist of today's verse, the first question it causes me to ask myself is: what is the difference between the state of zero of the prince as described in today's verse, and the state of an arhat as described by the Buddha as follows in Saundara-nanda Canto 16?  
When a man sees a separate bodily form as decrepit, that insight of his is accurate; / In seeing accurately he is disenchanted, and from the ending of exuberance ends the red taint of passion. // SN16.44 // By the ending of the duality which is exuberance and gloom, I submit, his mind is fully set free. / And when his mind is fully liberated from that duality, there is nothing further for him to do. // SN16.45 //
The answer that came to me this morning, as I was sitting in my snow-covered meditation hut, relates to what FM Alexander called “learning to do it consciously”; hence:
"When an investigation comes to be made it will be found that every single thing we do in the work is exactly what is done in Nature, where the conditions are right, the difference being that we are learning to do it consciously."
In other words, the prince's awakening of the bodhi-mind is sometimes associated, as described in Buddha-carita Canto 3, with arising of undue nervous excitement; and it is sometimes associated, as described in today's verse, with balance, or freedom from love and hate. For a person who has just awakened the bodhi-mind, then, balance is hit and miss, because that person has not yet learned the means of allowing consciously what happens in Nature naturally.

This being so, in Saundara-nanda Canto 17, Aśvaghoṣa relates how, following the Buddha's plan, Nanda consciously directs his energy towards the conscious re-discovery of that peace which he might have already experienced unconsciously many times before – for example, in his mother's womb:
By the yoke of that very practice, he, firm in himself, minimised the duality of love and hate; /Being himself big across the chest, he made those two small, and so obtained the second fruit in the noble dharma. // 17.37 // A small vestige of the great enemy, red passion, whose straining bow is impatient desire and whose arrow is a fixed conception, / He destroyed using weapons procured from the body as it naturally is -- using the darts of unpleasantness, weapons from the armoury of practice. // 17.38 // That gestating love-rival, malice, whose weapon is hatred and whose errant arrow is anger, / He slayed with the arrows of kindness, which are contained in a quiver of constancy and released from the bow-string of patience. // 17.39 // And so the hero cut the three roots of shameful conduct using three seats of release, / As if three rival princes, bearing bows in the van of their armies, had been cut down by one prince using three iron points. // 17.40 //
As a result of such conscious effort, brought to ultimate fruition via passage through four stages of sitting-meditation, Nanda in the end consciously realizes the state of zero which today's verse describes the prince as realizing in the beginning more or less by accident. Thus:
Having attained to the seat of arhathood, he was worthy of being served. Without ambition, without partiality, without expectation; / Without fear, sorrow, pride, or passion; while being nothing but himself, he seemed in his constancy to be different. // SN17.61 //
The difference, then, is not in the state of zero. Zero is zero in the womb. Zero is zero at the beginning of awakening the bodhi-mind. And zero is zero at the end of arhathood. The difference is that the practice of a person who has just awakened the bodhi-mind is liable to be hit and miss, whereas a master who is in conscious possession of a proven means-whereby should be able to hit the target with more consistency, or constancy.

The second question today's verse caused me to ask myself (to tell the truth, chronologically, it was the first question – my provisional title for this post being The Readiness Is All), is where this verse fits into the progression of the story of how the prince awakens the bodhi-mind and resolves to leave home in favour of the life of a wandering mendicant. The answer to that question – which may relate to the principle that when a student is ready to be taught the teacher he needs tends to appear, as if by magic – is probably best considered in light of tomorrow's verse.

na: not
jaharṣa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. hṛṣ: to become erect or stiff or rigid , bristle (said of the hairs of the body &c ) , become on edge (like the teeth); to rejoice, be glad
na: not
ca: and
api: also
ca: and
anutepe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. anu- √ tap: to heat ; to vex, annoy ; (passive) to suffer afterwards , repent; (causative) to distress

vicikitsām (acc. sg.): f. (fr. Desid. vi- √ ci) doubt , uncertainty , question , inquiry ; error, mistake
vi- √ ci: to divide ; to discern, distinguish ; to investigate, examine ; to look for , long for , strive after
na: not
yayau = 3rd pers. sg. perf. yā: to go, set out ; to come within range of ; esp. with the acc. of an abstract noun = to go to any state or condition , become , be e.g. vināśaṁ yāti , he goes to destruction i.e. he is destroyed ; kāṭhinyaṁ yāti , it becomes hard ; dveṣyatāṁ yāti , he becomes hated ; similarly nidhanaṁ- √yā , to die ; nidrāṁ- √yā , to fall asleep
na: not
tandri-nidre (acc. dual f.): lassitude and slumber/sloth
tandrā: f. lassitude , exhaustion , laziness
tand: to become relaxed
tandr: to make languid ; Caus. to grow fatigued
nidrā: f. sleep , slumber , sleepiness , sloth
ni- √ drā: to fall asleep , sleep , slumber

na: not
ca: and
kāma-guṇeṣu (loc. pl. m.): m. " quality of desire " , affection , passion ; satiety , perfect enjoyment ; an object of sense ; m. pl. the objects of the five senses , sensual enjoyments
saṁrarañje = 3rd pers. sg. perf. saṁ- √ rañj: to be dyed or coloured , become red ; to be affected with any passion

na: not
vididveṣa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi- √ dviṣ: to dislike , hate , be hostile to (acc.)
param (acc. sg. m.): the other, another
na: not
ca: and
avamene = 3rd pers. sg. perf. ava- √ man: to despise , treat contemptuously

不喜亦不憂 不疑亦不亂
不眠不著欲 不壞不嫌彼

Friday, March 29, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.14: Seeing (Vipaśyata/Vipassanā) vs Thinking (Dhyāna)

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
iti tasya vipaśyato yathāvaj-jagato vyādhi-jarā-vipatti-doṣān |
bala-yauvana-jīvita-pravtto vijagāmātma-gato madaḥ kṣaṇena || 5.14

As thus he saw accurately into faults of the living

Associated with sickness, aging, and death,

The high spirits that had once intoxicated him,
arising from his strength, youth and life,

Instantly evaporated.

In the 1st pāda vipaśyataḥ (seeing) is from vi-√paś, as is vipaśyana (seeing/insight), whose Pali equivalent is vipassana, as in vipassana meditation or insight meditation as practised in Theravada countries like Thailand.

The objects of the prince's seeing in today's verse are faults (doṣān). The objects of Nanda's seeing when he passes through the four stages of sitting-meditation in Canto 17 of Aśvaghoṣa's epic story of Beautiful Joy, also, are faults.

In Nanda's progress, he enters the first dhyāna having distanced or separated himself from those end-gaining desires which trigger gross faults; he enters the second dhyāna having recognized the fault in entertaining disturbing thoughts; he enters the third dhyāna having recognized the fault in attaching to joy; and he enters the fourth dhyāna having recognized the subtlest of faults in enjoyment of ease. Nanda's progress through four dhyānas thus involves seeing faults at progressively subtler levels. So it is a process of seeing. But at the same time, as I shall argue later, it is a progressive process, in which, implicitly, the seeing is guided by directional thinking.

In today's verse, the prince sees faults, but in a more reflective way. If the seeing causes intoxication to lift, it is by accident rather than by design. 

What faults does the prince see? 

EBC, EHJ and PO each understood that the prince saw sickness, aging, and death themselves as faults (EBC) or as evils (EHJ/PO).

But what faults in fact has the prince just accurately seen?

The prince has seen that human beings tend in our ignorance to disavow “the other,” who is afflicted by old age, or who is diseased or dying (BC5.12). This fault is the way of the world (singular; loka-gatim; BC5.11).

Behind this general fault in the singular, it may be inferred that the prince saw three faults that have to do with how we conceive or react to aging, sickness, and death. Those three faults – corresponding to the three traditonal objects of vipaśyana/vipassana – might be 1. denying aging, sickness and death as an unconscious strategy to avoid facing up to suffering; 2. failing to recognize aging, sickness and death as manifestatons of all-pervasive impermanence; and 3. fearing aging, sickness and death as looming personal tragedies, rather than accepting them as impersonal, objective facts of life.

There is no doubt that Aśvaghoṣa in his writings in general affirmed the practice of seeing in detail (vipaśyataḥ yathāvat) that the world is full of suffering, impermanent, and devoid of self. Hence he has the Buddha tell Nanda:
So my friend garner your energy greatly and strive quickly to put an end to polluting influences, / Examining in particular the elements -- as suffering, as impermanent and as devoid of self. // SN16.47 //
At the same time, there is also no doubt that in Saundara-nanda Canto 17 Aśvaghoṣa described shaking of the tree of afflictions by the means of this vipaśyana insight as a process separate from sitting-dhyāna.

In the present Canto, however, as I was getting at yesterday, the prince's awakening of the bodhi-mind seems to involve various elements getting tangled up in no particular order – so that insight concerning aging, sickness and death proceeds, follows and is mixed in with the prince's experience of the first stage of sitting-meditation.

In any event, today's verse as I read it is an illustration of the principle that seeing things as they are is the fundamental method of shaking the tree of afflictions, including undue exuberance or high spirits.
On the grounds of their being held together, their causality, and their inherent nature, on the grounds of their flavour and their concrete imperfection, / And on the grounds of their tendency to spread out, he who was now contained in himself, carried out a methodical investigation into things. // SN17.15 // Desiring to examine its total material and immaterial substance, he investigated the body, / And he perceived the body to be impure, full of suffering, impermanent, without an owner, and again, devoid of self. // 17.16 // For, on those grounds, on the grounds of impermanence and emptiness, on the grounds of absence of self, and of suffering, / He, by the most excellent among mundane paths, caused the tree of afflictions to shake. // 17.17 // Since everything, after not existing, now exists, and after existing it never exists again; / And since the world is causal, and has disappearance as a cause, therefore he understood that the world is impermanent. // 17.18 // Insofar as a creature's industry, motivated by bond-making or bond-breaking impulse, / Is dependent on a prescription, named "pleasure," for counteracting pain, he saw, on that account, that existence is suffering. // 17.19 // And insofar as separateness is a construct, there being no-one who creates or who is made known, / But doing arises out of a totality, he realised, on that account, that this world is empty. // 17.20 // Since the throng of humanity is passive, not autonomous, and no one exercises direct control over the workings of the body, / But states of being arise dependent on this and that, he found, in that sense, that the world is devoid of self. // 17.21 // Then, like air in the hot season, got from fanning; like fire latent in wood, got from rubbing; / And like water under the ground, got from digging, that supra-mundane path which is hard to reach, he reached: // SN17.22 //
In Canto 17 of his epic story of Beautiful Joy, it seems to me, Aśvaghoṣa thus follows the convenient fiction or fertile fallacy of an orderly progression through various stages, according to which the tree of afflictions is first shaken by the mundane (laukikena) path of vipaśyana practice, and then sitting-dhyāna comes later on the supra-mundane (lokottaram) path. In the present Canto of his epic story of Awakened Action, in contrast, the prince goes right ahead and experiences the first dhyāna, albeit by accident, without stopping to worry whether he is on the mundane or supra-mundane path.

Having prepared the above comment and then slept on it, this morning as usual I sat in lotus for an hour, during which, I think, I practised both vipaṣyana and dhyāna in a manner in which two kinds of thinking were not clearly separated, but more jumbled up.

Having done some wood-cutting yesterday, my body is a bit stiff this morning; partly also as a result of sleeping in a cold room, I woke with a bit of a headache. In response to the headache, before I got out of bed, I thought the direction that Alexander called “knees forward and away.” In other words, I thought my legs out of my back. I know from experience that just to think this direction, without doing anything, helps energy to become more concentrated in the pelvis and lower back, which is antithetical to having a headache. Then when I sat, partly as a response to today's verse, I saw that the headache was full of suffering, impermanent, and nothing that I need to take personally. From time to time, I came back to seeing like this. I also intermittently thought my legs out of my pelvis, and at least once ran through all Alexander's directions “to let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, while sending the knees forwards and away – all together, and one after the other.” A whole lot of other random thoughts were present too, including the thought or feeling that I could do with a cup of coffee (which I am now drinking as I write).

Vipaśyana and dhyāna are both neuter -na verbal action nouns. Vipaśyana is from the root √paś, to see; and dhyāna is from the root √dhyai or √dhyā, to think.

Both vipaśyana, as described in today's verse, and dhyāna, as described in Saundara-nanda Canto 17, involve seeing faults. And both involve thinking.

But a clear separation can be made – at least in theory, if not always in practice – between the seeing of faults in each case, and the kind of thinking involved in each case.

The kind of thinking employed in vipaśyana is reflective or passive. The kind of thinking expressed by dhyāna, I submit, is active or goal-oriented. When FM Alexander described his work as an exercise in finding out what thinking is, he was referring to the latter kind of thinking, aka “thinking in activity.” Thinking the legs out of the back is one example of it.

Thinking like this is the original meaning of Zen, i.e. dhyāna. But in Zen as it is taught in Japanese lineages today, people only know that thinking is something to let pass, like a floating cloud; or something to cut out, like a disturbing current.

Zen masters in the world today do not have a clue what Zen originally means. And vipassana teachers do not see the fault in it. How is that for irony?

iti: thus
tasya (gen. sg.): of him
vipaśyataḥ = gen. sg. m. pres. part. vi- √ paś : to see in different places or in detail , discern , distinguish; to observe , perceive , learn , know
yathāvat: ind. duly , properly , rightly , suitably , exactly

jagataḥ (gen. sg.): n. that which moves or is alive , men and animals; the world
vyādhi-jarā-vipatti-doṣān (acc. pl. m.): the evils of sickness, aging and death ; faults associated with sickness, growing old, and going wrong
vipatti: f. going wrongly , adversity , misfortune , failure , disaster (opp. to sam-pattí); ruin , destruction , death ; cessation , end
doṣa: m. fault , vice , deficiency , want , inconvenience , disadvantage ; badness , wickedness , sinfulness ; offence , transgression , guilt , crime ; damage , harm , bad consequence , detrimental effect

bala-yauvana-jīvita-pravttaḥ (nom. sg. m.): resulting from his strength, youth, and life
bala: n. power , strength , might , vigour
yauvana: n. (fr. yuvan) youth , youthfulness
jīvita: n. life, duration of life
pravṛtta: mfn. set out from; issued from (abl.) , come forth , resulted , arisen , produced , brought about , happened , occurred ; purposing or going to , bent upon (dat. loc. , or comp.); engaged in , occupied with , devoted to (loc. or comp.);

vijagāma = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi- √ gam : to go asunder , sever , separate ; to go away , depart , disappear , cease , die
ātma-gataḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. being on itself
madaḥ (nom. sg.): m. hilarity , rapture , excitement , inspiration , intoxication ;
kṣaṇena: ind. (inst.) instantly

如是眞實觀 少壯色力壽
新新不暫停 終歸磨滅法 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.13: Investigating This Most Excellent Dharma, In the Same Boat as Anybody

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
iha ced-aham-īdśaḥ svayaṁ san vijugupseya paraṁ tathā-svabhāvam |
na bhavet-sadśaṁ hi tat-kṣamaṁ vā paramaṁ dharmam-imaṁ vijānato me || 5.13

For if I here, being like that myself,

Should disavow another in the same condition,

That would not be worthy of me,

Or conduce to my knowing this most excellent dharma.”

“This most excellent dharma” (paramaṁ dharmam-imam) to which the prince is referring is sitting-meditation – the meditation whose essence is freedom from polluting influences (dhyānam-anāsrava-prakāram; BC5.10).

The gist of today's verse, then, is the prince's recognition that seeing oneself as separate from a despicable “other” – in other words, the viewpoint of snobbery, or arrogance, or conceit; and at the same time the viewpoint of blind unconsciousness and denial – is not conducive to investigating this practice which we can come to know, in the way that we can come to know a person or a place, but which not even the buddhas can understand.

In the middle of the cold snap which we are currently enduring today's verse brings me sunshine on all sort of levels.

Above all, it seems to me to vindicate all that Dogen says in Shobogenzo about the centrality of sitting-meditation in the lives of the buddha-ancestors. In the Buddha's life history, as Aśvaghoṣa is relating it, sitting-meditation is not, as it has sometimes been understood in places like Japan, a practice that begins after one has established the will to the truth and been “ordained” as a monk. Rather, sitting-meditation is all tangled up in a complicated way with awakening of the bodhi-mind; and awakening of the bodhi-mind, conversely, is all tangled up in a complicated way with awakening of the bodhi-mind. 

The point is, then, that, for the prince, the Zazen-entangled awakening of the bodhi-mind (which, as we know, would eventually hit its target) was tangled up with separateness, but it was a separateness in which the prince saw himself as in the same boat as everybody else. It was not a separateness which caused him to disavow “the other.” The prince's awakening of the bodhi-mind was tangled up with devotion to the highest, most excellent practice there is. But this devotion to the highest did not involve any sense of aloofness – at least not aloofness in the sense of disdain for people considered inferior.

According to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary, aloof means: removed or distant either physically or emotionally . In that sense, the prince's experience of the first dhyāna sprang from a certain aloofness. In a discussion of synonyms for indifferent, however, the dictionary adds that aloof “suggests a cool reserve arising from a sense of superiority or disdain for inferiors...”

The difficulty of the present series of verses may be that Aśvaghoṣa is at pains to clarify in what sense the prince was aloof, and in what sense he was not aloof at all.

And the recognition in the background – what it behoves us who sit to recognize – is that aloofness in the sense of superiority or disdain for inferiors is not conducive to knowing this most excellent dharma which is sitting-meditation.

Conversely, does sitting in a group and all saying together, in whatever language, “May all beings be well,” conduce to knowing the most excellent dharma? Maybe in some sense it does, as an antidote to the wrong kind of aloofness. Still, I can't help strongly doubting it!

iha: ind. here
ced: when, if
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
īdṛśaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. endowed with such qualities , such, being in this boat
svayam: ind. myself ; of or by one's self spontaneously , voluntarily , of one's own accord
san = nom. sg. m. pres. part. as: to be

vijugupseya = 1st pers. sg. optative desiderative: vi-√gup: to shrink away from , wish to conceal from
√gup: to guard, conceal; to beware of , shun , avoid , detest , spurn , despise (with acc.)
param (acc. sg.): m. another, the other
tathā-svabhāvam (acc. sg. m.): being orginally of the same condition
svabhāva: m. native place ; own condition or state of being , natural state or constitution , innate or inherent disposition , nature , impulse , spontaneity

na: not
bhavet = 3rd pers. sg. opt. bhū: to be
sadṛśam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. conformable , suitable , fit , proper , right , worthy
hi: for
tat (nom. sg. n.): that
kṣamam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. adequate ; favourable to (gen.); bearable, tolerable ; fit , appropriate , becoming , suitable ,
vā: or

paramam (nom. sg. m.): mfn. supreme, highest
dharmam (nom. sg.): m. dharma, law, that which is established or firm , steadfast decree, duty
imam (nom. sg. m.): this
vijānataḥ = gen. sg. m. pres. part. vi- √ jñā : to distinguish , discern , observe , investigate , recognize , ascertain , know , understand
me (gen. sg.): of/in me

我今求勝法 不應同世間
自嬰老病死 而反惡他人 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.12: Disavowing the Other

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
kpaṇaṁ bata yaj-janaḥ svayaṁ sann-avaśo vyādhi-jarā-vināśa-dharmā |
jarayārditam-āturaṁ mtaṁ vā param-ajño vijugupsate madāndhaḥ || 5.12

“O how pitiable it is that human beings,

While being ourselves at the mercy of sickness, aging and death,

Should tend, in our ignorance and wanton blindness,

To disavow the other, 
who is afflicted by old age, or who is diseased or dying.

The most difficult word in today's verse is vijugupsate, from the root √gup, which has connotations of protecting oneself or hiding something from oneself; and, in its desiderative form, of shunning or despising others. EBC translated paraṁ vijugupsate as “look with disgust on another;” EHJ as “pay no heed to another;” and PO as “treat another with contempt.”

I think what the prince is pointing to is the unconscious tendency that psychologists call denial and at the same time – insofar as the desiderative of √gup means to shun, detest, and despise – the unconscious behaviour of projecting onto a detestable other what one seeks to deny in onself.

In regard to this unconscious tendency and this unconscious behaviour, evidently, the prince is separate from the unconscious herd in that he for one is conscious of the tendency.

How does this conscious recognition on the part of the prince fit into the wider context of his awakening of the bodhi-mind?

It seems to me to be part of a meditation, in the context of awakening of the bodhi-mind, on the ironic meaning of separateness.

The conventional wisdom in Mahāyāna Buddhism, at least as it was taught to me, is that awakening the bodhi-mind means establishing the will to deliver others over to the far shore before one is delivered oneself. But an iconoclast could make the argument that this Mahāyāna precept is itself based on a fallacy, namely, separation of self and others.

What evidence is there in Saundara-nanda of how the separation into self and others is treated, in the words of Aśvaghoṣa as narrator, and in words spoken by the Buddha?

In Canto 3, Aśvaghoṣa describes the Buddha acting not for “others” but for the welfare of the world (jagato hitāya). This description is phrased in such a way, it seems to me, as to avoid separation of self and others. The captain of the Brittany Ferries' MV Normandy, after all, when he crosses the English channel, takes me across too. He doesn't strive heroically to send me across first in the ferry before diving in himself in his swimming trunks.
And so the wheel of dharma -- whose hub is uprightness, whose rim is constancy, determination, and balanced stillness, / And whose spokes are the rules of discipline -- there the Seer turned, in that assembly, for the welfare of the world (jagato hitāya). // SN3.11 //.... For the fathomless sea of faults, whose water is falsity, where fish are cares, / And which is disturbed by waves of anger, lust, and fear; he had crossed, and he took the world across too. // SN3.14 //
Similarly, later in the present Canto of Buddha-carita, when the prince talks to his horse, he speaks in terms not of benefitting others (para) but of benefitting the world (jagat), which, unlike "others," can be understood as including the self.
So realize well that my departure from here is yoked to dharma for the welfare of the world (jagadd-hitāya) / And exert yourself, O best of horses, with speed and prowess, for your own good (ātma-hite) and the good of the world (jagadd-hite ca). //BC5.78//
In addressing Nanda in Canto 15 of Saundara-nanda, the Buddha does talk in terms of self and other. But again it is not in a spirit of discriminating the two:
For unhelpful thoughts carried in the heart densely grow, / Producing in equal measure nothing of value for the self and for the other (ātmanaś-ca parasya ca). // SN15.20 //
Later in Canto 15 comes the following consideration of one's own people and other people. Interestingly from the standpoint of this investigation, the Buddha himself does not talk of "other" people; the terms he uses are sva-jana (one's own people) and jana (people):
Among beings dragged by our own doing through the cycle of saṁsāra / Who are our own people (sva-janaḥ), and who are other people (janaḥ)? It is through ignorance that people attach to people. // 15.31 // For one who turned on a bygone road into a relative (sva-janaḥ), is a stranger (janaḥ) to you; / And a stranger (janaḥ), on a road to come, will become your relative (sva-janaḥ). // 15.32 // Just as birds in the evening flock together at separate locations, / So is the mingling over many generations of one's own (sva-janasya) and other people (janasya). // SN15.33 // 
At the end of Saundara-nanda, however, the enlightened Buddha does speak to the enlightened Nanda in terms of self and others:
But deemed to be higher than the highest in this world is he who, having realized the supreme ultimate dharma, / Desires, without worrying about the trouble to himself, to teach tranquillity to others (parebhyaḥ). // SN18.56 // Therefore forgetting the work that needs to be done in this world on the self, do now, stout soul, what can be done for others (para-kāryam). / Among beings who are wandering in the night, their minds shrouded in darkness, let the lamp of this transmission be carried. // SN18.57 //
Here my argument – that the Buddha/Aśaghoṣa tended to avoid language that might nurture the conceited fallacy of a self that is separate from others – seems to break down. I would only add that the Buddha draws the fallacious distinction between self and others most starkly or overtly when addressing a person who is no longer liable to be deluded by fallacies, in which case the Buddha needn't be so careful in his use of language.

What strikes me most about today's verse, to come to a tentative conclusion, is that the prince, in his present stage of the process of awakening the bodhi-mind, does not come out and excitedly declare, like some kind of Christian martyr, “I intend totally to sacrifice my own well being, and just work for the salvation of others.” Nor does the prince get ahead of himself and say what the enlightened Buddha will later say to the enlightened Nanda about forgetting work on the self and doing what one can for others. The prince's treatment of self and others, it seems to me, on the basis of mental balance realized in the first stage of sitting-meditation, as opposed to the kind of nervous agitation described as arising in Canto 3, is more deeply meditative, more considered, more perceptive, more attuned to reality, more philosophical and at the same time more practical – more in the middle way.

Having conducted the above investigation yesterday, and looked ahead to tomorrow's verse which seems to describe sitting-meditation as “this most excellent dharma,” and slept on all of this, and then practised sitting-meditation this morning as usual, I shall sum up as follows:

The separateness from which sitting-meditation springs involves a mental and physical distancing of oneself from the end-gaining desires and instincts of the herd, but this separateness is not a separateness in which I wish to see myself as essentially different from “the other.” Such a wish – if I wished to see myself as potentially one of the immortals, as distinct from others who are subject to sickness, aging, and death  – might cause me to disavow or despise “the other,” who would represent to me what I would like to deny about myself (in the same way that Jews represented to Adolf Hitler the Jewishness he wished to disavow in himself). The separateness from which sitting-meditation springs, then, does not detract from the sense that we are all in the same big boat, so we can all sink or we all float. The truth is that we are all of us in the same boat, and it is not necessarily floating on a river in Egypt.

kṛpaṇam: ind. (acc. sg. n.) miserably , pitiably
bata: ind. an interjection expressing astonishment or regret , generally = ah! oh! alas!
yad: that
janaḥ (nom. sg.): m. people
svayam: ind. self , one's self (applicable to all persons e.g. myself , thyself , himself &c ) , of or by one's self spontaneously , voluntarily , of one's own accord
san = nom. sg. m. pres. part. as: to be

a-vaśaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. unsubmissive to another's will , independent , unrestrained , free ; not having one's own free will , doing something against one's desire or unwillingly
arasaḥ [EBC] (nom. sg. n.): mfn. weak , effectless , having no strength
vyādhi-jarā-vināśa-dharmā (nom. sg. m.): being subject to sickness, aging and death
vyādhi: m. disorder , disease , ailment , sickness
jarā: f. growing old, aging
vināśa: m. utter loss , annihilation , perdition , destruction , decay , death , removal
dharman: n. (esp. ifc.) nature , quality , characteristic mark or attribute

jarayā (inst. sg.): f. old age, aging
arditam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. injured , pained , afflicted , tormented , wounded
āturam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. suffering , sick (in body or mind)
mṛtam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. dead
vā: ind. or

param (acc. sg.): m. another (different from one's self) , a foreigner , enemy , foe , adversary
ajñaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. not knowing; ignorant , inexperienced ; unconscious
vijugupsate = 3rd pers. sg. desiderative vi- √ gup: to shrink away from , wish to conceal from
√gup: to guard , defend , protect , preserve (from abl.) ; to hide, conceal; Desid; to seek to defend one's self from (abl.) , be on one's guard ; to beware of , shun , avoid , detest , spurn , despise (with acc.) ; to feel offended or hurt
madāndhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. blind through drunkenness or passion , infatuated , ruttish (as an elephant)
madā: f. sexual desire or enjoyment , wantonness , lust , ruttishness , rut (esp. of an elephant); pride , arrogance , presumption , conceit
mada [as per BC5.15]: m. hilarity , rapture , excitement , inspiration , intoxication
andha: mfn. blind

終身受大苦 而不自覺知
厭他老病死 此則爲大患

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.11: Concern for the Other, Born of Separateness

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
adhigamya tato viveka-jaṁ tu parama-prīti-sukhaṁ manaḥ-samādhim |
idam-eva tataḥ paraṁ pradadhyau manasā loka-gatiṁ niśamya samyak || 5.11

But then, having experienced that most excellent state of joy and ease,

Born of separateness, which is integration of the mind,

He proceeded to give consideration to the following evident fact –

Since, by means of the mind, he had clearly seen the way of the world.

In today's verse as I read it the tu (but) in viveka-jaṁ tu at the end of the 1st pada has important meaning.

As discussed in comments on vivikta-tām (being alone, solitude, separateness) in BC5.8, I suspect that in the description of Nanda's progress through four dhyānas in Saundara-nanda Canto 17, viveka-jam is a deliberately ambiguous phrase, expressing both clear separation of things in the mind (i.e. “discrimination”) and physical separation of a practitioner from disturbing influences (i.e. “solitude”). The translation of viveka-jam which best suits this dual purpose might be “born of separateness.” Hence:
Distanced (viviktam) from desires and tainted things, containing ideas and containing thoughts, / Born of separateness (viveka-jam) and possessed of joy and ease, is the first stage of meditation, which he then entered. // SN17.42 //
In translating today's verse, possibly because EBC (“sprung from deliberation”), EHJ (“which springs from discernment”) and PO (“born of discernment”) each overlooked the sense in which the first dhyāna springs not only from mental but also from physical separateness, each passed over and failed to translate the tu in viveka-jaṁ tu.

I think the tu represents the contrast between (a) the joy and ease the prince has subjectively experienced for himself, that experience being born of separateness, and (b) the consideration he gives to an objective fact about others in the world, from whom he does not see himself as separate. This fact (idam) is given emphasis in the 3rd pāda by eva. This evident fact (idam eva), which the prince is going to discuss in the coming two verses, concerns how we human beings tend to try as far as possible to see ourselves as separate from other human beings who are truly in the same boat as ourselves – probably because we are afraid to see in ourselves the vulnerability to sickness, aging and death that is demonstrably the fate of others.

The separateness that gave rise in the prince to the first dhyāna, then, had nothing to do with insouciance or arrogance or snobbery. It was not that kind of separateness. Hence “he did not hate or look down upon the other” (na vididveṣa paraṁ na cāvamene; BC5.15).

Besides the two meanings of separateness (viveka) discussed above – that is, the separateness of separating things out in the mind, and the separateness of physical solitude that one person experiences when he separates himself from others – a third meaning of separateness is the internal separateness that is allowed when muscles come undone. Thus, “let the head go forward and up” is a preventive direction by which a practitioner can remind himself that the head and the back are anatomically distinct; they separate and join at the atlanto-occipital joint. When there is freedom at this joint, head and back are relatively separate. When there is stiffness at this joint, head and back are unduly stuck together. Similarly “let the knees go forwards and away” reminds us that the legs and back are also anatomically distinct; they separate and join at the hips. In this sense also, then, at least in my book, the first dhyāna is viveka-jam, born of separateness.

Digging further down into separateness, some pernicious gaps are forms of separateness that are not fertile ground for meditation to spring from – examples are the gap between what I practice and what I preach; or the gap between who I really am and who I think and feel I am; or the gap between us and them. As an extreme example of unwholesome separation of us and them, Josef Mengele springs to mind, selecting among people arriving at Auschwitz who should live and who should die.

There again, a couple of beneficial gaps spring to mind which can give rise to a meditative state. I think firstly of the gap between stimulus and response which one can consciously open up by giving oneself a stimulus, for example, to move a leg while lying down, and then giving up the idea of moving the leg, before eventually moving the leg. I think secondly of a gap between the the bone conducted sound of one's own voice in chanting or singing, which is transmitted to the ear more rapidly than the air-conducted sound of one's voice. In rooms where the acoustics are conducive, one can get a real sense of using one's voice within this gap between two feedback loops, one longer than the other. 

Such are some random thoughts about separateness. 

In the first stage of sitting-meditation, that is, at the level of the first dhyāna, such endless ideas and thoughts are a fault which is indulged.

What, in the end, is the separateness that gives rise to the first dhyāna? Separateness has so many diminesions that if we translate viveka-jam as “born of discrimination” that might be a mistake, and if we translate viveka-jam as “born of solitude” that might also be a mistake. In the end it might be impossible to pin down what separateness is. But as examples of what separateness is not, I would cite fascist group-think and undue stiffness of neck and hips – both of which, in accordance with the principle of psycho-physical unity, FM Alexander thought nazi Germany was demonstrating during WWII.

When weeds, regardless of whether we love them or hate them, arise, their arising might be born of separateness; and when flowers, regardless of whether we love them or hate them, perish, their perishing might be born of separateness.

To put it another way, whereas thinking human subjects and the reality of financial markets are not separate from each other, the relationship between the thinking human subjects and the 2nd law of thermodynamics might be totally non-reflexive.

When the pull of mother Earth, again, remains pretty much constant, whatever I happen to think or feel about it, that also might be an example of separateness.

When I ask myself what Aśvaghoṣa meant by describing the first dhyāna as viveka-jam "born of separateness," such ideas and thoughts emerge in a never-ending stream of possible answers. But the best clue as to what Aśvaghoṣa meant might be there in the master's own words -- "distanced/separated/free from desires and tainted things" (kāmair-viviktaṃ malinaiś-ca dharmaiḥ): 
Distanced (viviktam) from desires and tainted things, containing ideas and containing thoughts, / Born of separateness (viveka-jam) and possessed of joy and ease, is the first stage of meditation, which he then entered. // SN17.42 //

adhigamya = abs. adhi- √ gam : to go up to , approach , overtake , to approach for sexual intercourse , to fall in with , to meet , find , discover , obtain ; to accomplish ; to study , read
tataḥ: ind. thence, from that , in consequence of that
viveka-jam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. (1) produced or arising from discrimination ; (2) born of solitude (?)
viveka: m. discrimination , distinction ; consideration , discussion , investigation ; true knowledge , discretion , right judgement , the faculty of distinguishing and classifying things according to their real properties
vi- √vic: to sift (esp. grain by tossing or blowing) , divide asunder , separate from (instr. or abl.) ; to shake through (acc.) ; to distinguish , discern , discriminate ; to decide (a question) ; to investigate , examine , ponder , deliberate
tu: but ; sometimes used as a mere expletive

parama-prīti-sukham (acc. sg. m.): being the highest joy and ease
parama: mfn. chief , highest ; best, most excellent
prīti: f. any pleasurable sensation , pleasure , joy , gladness , satisfaction
sukha: n. ease , easiness , comfort , prosperity , pleasure , happiness
manaḥ-samādhim (acc. sg. m.): bringing the mind into harmony
manas: n. mind
samādhi: m. putting together ; union ; setting to rights , adjustment , settlement; bringing into harmony ; intense application or fixing the mind on , intentness , attention (°dhiṁ- √kṛ , " to attend ") ; concentration of the thoughts , profound or abstract meditation

imam (acc. sg. m.): this
idam (acc. sg. n.): this , this here , referring to something near the speaker ; idam often refers to something immediately following , whereas etad points to what precedes (e.g. śrutvaitad idam ūcuḥ , having heard that they said this)
eva: (emphatic) (in its most frequent use of strengthening the idea expressed by any word , eva must be variously rendered by such adverbs as) just , exactly , very , same , only , even , alone , merely , immediately on , still , already , &c
tataḥ param or tataś ca param: ind. after that , thereupon
tataḥ: ind. from that, thence, on that basis
param: ind. beyond, after; in a high degree , excessively , greatly , completely
pradadhyau = 3rd pers. sg. perf. pra- √ dhyai: to meditate upon , think of (acc. with or without prati)

manasā: ind. (inst.) in the mind ; in thought or imagination ; with all the heart , willingly
loka-gatim (acc. sg.): f. " way of the world " , actions of men
gati: f. going , moving , gait , deportment , motion in general ; procession , march , passage ; path, way, course
niśamya = abs. ni- √ śam: to observe , perceive , hear , learn
samyak: ind. in one or the same direction , in the same way , at the same time , together; in one line, straight ; completely , wholly , thoroughly , by all means; correctly , truly , properly , fitly , in the right way or manner , well , duly ; distinctly, clearly

離欲生喜樂 三
世間甚辛苦 老病死所壞