Wednesday, March 13, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.102: Light & Earth (2) – Echoing Impermanence

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
tataḥ purodyāna-gatāṁ jana-śriyaṁ nirīkṣya sāye pratisaṁhtāṁ punaḥ |
anityatāṁ sarva-gatāṁ vicintayan viveśa dhiṣṇyaṁ kṣiti-pālakātmajaḥ || 4.102

Then, having witnessed the beautiful women's brightness
which had pervaded the park

Receding once more into the twilight,

The one begotten from a guardian of the earth,

Contemplating all-pervading impermanence,
entered his earthen-hearthed dwelling.

Today's verse, as I read it, echoing BC4.100, is designed to cause us to reflect further on what light is, and to dig deeper into what earth is – within the big moving picture described by the 2nd law of thermodynamics, aka “all-pervading impermanence” (anityatāṁ sarva-gatām).

Hence the reference to light in jana-śriyam (lit. “light of people” meaning “beautiful women”), echoed by the sense of fading light in sāye (“in the twilight”).

Hence also the reference to earth in kṣiti-pālakātmajaḥ (“the one begotten from a guardian of the earth”), echoed by dhiṣṇyaṁ which here means “house/dwelling” but which originally means an earthen hearth by the side of an altar.

But the strongest echo, represented by the gatām (“pervaded/pervading”) repeated in the 2nd and 4th pādas, causes us to reflect on anityatāṁ sarva-gatām, all-pervading impermanence.

If impermanence is all-pervading, why did the Buddha describe suffering as constant, or ever-present (prasaktam)?
This is suffering, which is constant (prasaktam) and akin to trouble; this is the cause of suffering, akin to starting it; / This is cessation of suffering, akin to walking away. And this, akin to a refuge, is a peaceable path. // SN16.4 //
Consideration of the 2nd law of thermodynamics may be instructive. The 2nd law describes the tendency that energy has to spread out (unless prevented from doing so) in the real universe, i.e. the material universe. The 2nd law does not concern itself with things in the unreal universe, like end-gaining ideas and other illusions – the things that FM Alexander described as the most difficult things to get rid of, the things that don't exist. The 2nd law, to make an interesting philosophical point, does not concern itself with itself, because the 2nd law is not real or material. It does not have any energy that might spread out. In the same way, a word does not have any energy that might spread out, but, as a Chinese Zen master memorably noted, a word can be a stake to which to tie a donkey for ten thousand years.

Suffering, then, is not impermanent, it is rather constant or adhesive or “stuck on” (the literal meaning of prasaktam) insofar as it is stems from the area not described by the 2nd law, the area of unreality.

An intuitive but unclear grasp of this distinction between what is real and what is unreal lay behind Gudo Nishijima's understanding of Dogen's instruction in sitting-meditation to think the concrete state of not thinking. How? 非思量 (Jap: HI-SHIRYO).

非思量 (HI-SHIRYO), in Gudo's understanding means “It is different from thinking.” 非思量 (HI-SHIRYO) is an expression of action itself....

"Think the concrete state of not-thinking!" 


Don't think! Do what is different from thinking  非思量 (HI-SHIRYO). Just act! Just do it! Just keep the spine straight vertically!

In Gudo's conceptual framework, thinking belongs to the area not described by the 2nd law, the area of unreality, whereas action is real.

What FM Alexander demonstrated in practice to people like his niece Marjory Barlow who demonstrated it in practice to people like me, is that thinking, for better or for worse, does in fact belong in the area described by the 2nd law. Thinking is energetic; it is always implicated, for better or for worse, in how human beings direct the flow of our own energy. 

Speaking from my experience of having an Alexander lesson with Marjory Barlow, I would say that the energy which she consciously directed in my presence, and which she encouraged me to practise consciously directing for myself, was akin to light.
Visible light (commonly referred to simply as light), according to Wikipedia, is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and is responsible for the sense of sight. Primary properties of visible light are intensity, propagation  direction, frequency or wavelength spectrum, and polarisation, while its speed in a vacuum, 299,792,458 meters per second, is one of the fundamental constants of nature. In common with all types of electromagnetic radiation, visible light is emitted and absorbed in tiny "packets" called photons, and exhibits properties of both waves and particles. In physics, the term light sometimes refers to electromagnetic radiation of any wavelength, whether visible or not. Electromagnetic radiation is a particular form of the more general electromagnetic field, which is produced by moving charges.
A Google search for “how human beings produce electro-magnetic radiation” yields much information on what kind of dangers electro-magnetic radiation can present to human health, but not much information the other way round, about the influence human beings may be able to exert, consciously or unconsciously, on an electro-magnetic field. I venture to suggest that, when an investigation comes to be made, thinking, as demonstrated and taught by FM Alexander will be found to involve electro-magnetic radiation in a way that is not yet understood.

This suggestion arises, again, largely out of practical experience of Alexander work. In particular it stems from lying on Marjory Barlow's teaching table and experiencing a situation that she described as “the whole body being informed with thought.” By “thought” Marjory meant directions, messages passing through the brain and nervous system – “those electrical impulses, if you like.” Subjectively, what Marjory meant by “thought” seemed or felt like energy flowing, and even though it was not visible, I would say that it had something in common with light.

At the same time, when Marjory gave this experience, to me or to other Alexander pupils, her feet were on the ground and she was directing herself up – in that direction which is opposite to the gravitational pull of the earth.

These might be the most fundamental two ingredients that sitting-meditation depends upon – some kind of conscious direction of energy, akin to light, in an upward direction; and the constant presence under sitting-bones and knees of a supporting surface subject to a pull of 1g.

So if anybody opines that a verse like today's verse has got nothing to do with sitting-mediation, I disagree with that view.

And 非思量 ( HI-SHIRYO) as I understand it, does not mean what Gudo Nishijima understood it to mean. I think 非思量 ( HI-SHIRYO) means thinking, but not thinking as thinking is generally understood. 非思量 ( HI-SHIRYO), “non-thinking,” means real thinking in the same way that 非仏  HI-BUTSU), “a non-buddha” means a real buddha – not Buddha as idealized by Buddhists but a real buddha like Marjory Barlow whose direction of energy was totally in accordance with the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

"Think yourself into the zone beyond thinking!"


非思量 ( HI-SHIRYO). By non-thinking. 

EBC, EHJ and PO, incidentally, all have sāyam in the 2nd pāda – the text of the old Nepalese manuscript is uncertain but the meaning is not impacted much either way.

tataḥ: ind. from that, thence
purodyāna-gatām (acc. sg. f.): pervading the park
purodyāna: n. " city garden " , a pleasure-garden belonging to a town , park
jana-śriyam (acc. sg.): f. beautiful women (coll.)
jana: m. people , subjects (the sg. used collectively
śrī: f. light , lustre , radiance , splendour , glory , beauty , grace , loveliness

nirīkṣya = abs. nir- √ īkṣ: to look at or towards , behold , regard , observe (also the stars) , perceive
sāye (loc. sg.): n. (prob. fr. √ so, to destroy , kill , finish) the close of day , evening
sāyam [EBC]: ind. in the evening , at eventide
pratisaṁhṛtām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. kept back , checked , restrained ; compressed , reduced in bulk
prati-saṁ- √ hṛ: to draw together , contract (with ātmānam , " one's self " i.e. to shrink , return to its usual bed , said of the sea) ; to draw or keep back , withdraw (as a weapon , the eye &c ) ; to absorb , annihilate , destroy
punaḥ: ind. back, again

a-nitya-tām (acc. sg.): f. transient or limited existence
sarva-gatām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. all-pervading, omnipresent
vicintayan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. vi- √ cint : to think of , reflect upon , ponder , consider

viveśa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. viś: to enter , enter in or settle down on , go into
dhiṣṇyam (acc. sg.): m. sort of subordinate or side-altar (generally a heap of earth covered with sand on which the fire is placed; n. site , place , abode , region , house ; n. the seat of a god i.e. a quarter of the sky ; n. star , asterism (looking like the fire on the side altars) ; mfn. mindful , attentive
kṣiti-pālakātmajaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the self-begotten of a guardian of the earth ; the prince
kṣiti: f. dominion ; f. an abode , dwelling , habitation , house ; the earth , soil of the earth ; f. wane , perishing , ruin , destruction
pālaka: m. a guardian , protector; m. a prince , ruler , sovereign
ātma-ja: m. " born from or begotten by one's self " , a son

太子見園林 莊嚴悉休廢
伎女盡還歸 其處盡虚寂
倍増非常想 俛仰還本宮

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