Monday, March 4, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.93: Finding Submission Disagreeable

na cānuvartanaṁ tan-me rucitaṁ yatra nārjavam |
sarva-bhāvena saṁparko yadi nāsti dhig-astu tat || 4.93

Neither do I find submissive behaviour to be agreeable,

Where sincerity is lacking;

If coming together is not with one's whole being,

Then out with it!

In today's verse, again, the prince is ostensibly showing indignation at Udāyin's statement that
For women, even if the means are false/insincere/deceitful (anṛtenāpi), obedience/submissive behaviour (sam-anuvartanam) is appropriate, / To sweep away their diffidence, and purely for the purpose of enjoying oneself! //BC4.67//
When I referred to today's verse in commenting on BC4.75I wrote that the verse shows the prince not to be interested in half-hearted application of half-hearted means. So one way of reading today's verse is as an affirmation of the prince's utterly sincere and whole-hearted attitude, in awakening the bodhi-mind and in his attitude towards relations between men and women. And that reading may be true, as far as it goes. The prince's words can be read as an indignant expression of pure idealism, reading which we can glean some insight into what it means to awaken the bodhi-mind.

Now that I come to translate today's verse in its proper sequence, however, and to comment on it in light of the verses that precede it, I think Aśvaghoṣa may have intended to allow or to invite a contrary reading, which is not so affirmative towards the idealistic thoughts of the prince. 

For example, if the prince is expressing the view that sincerity must come first, so that submissive behaviour should follow from sincerity, Aśvaghoṣa may have had in mind a counter-argument which would negate the prince's view. The counter-argument might be based in evidence that in actual practice sincerity sometimes follows from submissive behaviour, in which case submissive behaviour (whether or not sincerity is lacking) is the primary factor and sincerity is secondary.

Let's say, for example, that having intended to sit for 30 minutes or more, one finds that after only 10 minutes one feels very sleepy and lacking sincerity. Submissive behaviour in that situation might be to go and have a lie down, possibly a nap, and then to return to the round black cushion after that, with mind refreshed and sincerity replenished.

For another example, Marjory Barlow was the niece of FM Alexander and both she and her uncle knew a thing or two about submissive behaviour (aka letting or allowing) and about sincerity (aka non-end-gaining). Marjory used to say: “If you feel you are wrong, say No [e.g. to the desire to do something to put yourself right], give your orders [e.g. Let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, while sending the knees forward and away], and go into movement without a care in the world. Let it come out in the wash.”

Again, FM Alexander asked rhetorically: 'Don't you see that if you get perfection today, you will be farther away from perfection than you have ever been?'

In this way, I think the sentiments expressed in today's verse can be read not only as admirable but also as deluded – as the idea of a person who is not enlightened yet but who is establishing a sincere wish so to be. Whereas the words of Marjory and FM might be the words of a person who is enlightened already and is expressing a wish for others so to be.

The unenlightened prince did not find submissive behaviour to be agreeable where sincerity is lacking. The enlightened Marjory, in contrast, recommended her student when he was feeling insincere just to practise submissive behaviour.

In this light also can be understood Aśvaghoṣa's description of the state of mind of the pulled-down Nanda when he half-heartedly submits to having his head shaved at the end of Saundara-nanda Canto 5:
"Therefore, while you are meeting the present moment, while death has yet to come, / So long as you have the energy for practice, decide on better." // SN5.49 // Addressed thus by his benevolent and compassionate guide, / Nanda said, "I shall do, Glorious One, all that you say, just as you teach it." // 5.50 // At this the sage of Videha [Ānanda] reclaimed him, and held him close as he led him off writhing, / And then, while Nanda's eyes welled with tears, he separated the crowning glory of his hair from the royal umbrella of his head. // 5.51 // As his hair was thus being banished, his tearful downcast face / Resembled a rain-sodden lotus in a pond with the top of its stalk sagging down. // 5.52 // Thence, in drab garb with the dull yellow-red colour of tree bark, and despondent as a newly-captured elephant, / Nanda resembled a waning full moon at night's end, sprinkled by the powdery rays of the early morning sun. // SN5.53 //
The coming together of a sharp razor and Nanda's scalp, then, might not have met the criterion of the Buddha-to-be. But the Buddha-thus-come and Ānanda were evidently not overly concerned about Nanda's lack of whole-hearted sincerity. Rather, when in his half-hearted state Nanda expressed his willingness totally to submit, Ānanda with the Buddha's approval went right ahead and grabbed the reluctant Nanda and led him off to have his head shaved.

Having written the above comment and slept on it – albeit fitfully   I woke up in the middle of the night with a nagging sense that I need to explore in detail what the idealistic prince means by the words dhig-astu tat, and what kind of mirror those words might be holding up to yours truly, who is never slow to conclude "Fuck that for a game of cards" or "To hell with him" and "She can fuck off as well."

Especially in light of what I wrote last night in my response to Nigel's comment, I fear that my habitual "to hell with it" in response to an imperfect situation might be the very essence of failing to submit. Failing to submit to what? Failing to submit to what George Soros calls "harsh reality" – the reality that he claims to believe in like other people believe in God, the reality of being a Jew in Nazi Hungary during WWII, the reality of belonging to an oppressed tribe or minority today, the reality of failed African states, the harsh reality that most of us would prefer to sweep under the carpet, the reality which is so harsh and so imperfect that I can't be bothered to address it.... so dhig-astu tat.

"Fuck it." "Sod him." And "To hell with her." It might be the neural equivalent of throwing a broken toy out of the pram, or throwing away cloth parts of which have become soiled – the kind of discarded cloth a bhikṣu traditionally regards as the purest material with which to sew a robe.

So one way of reading today's verse – though unconsciously I have resisted reading it in this way – is as holding up a mirror to those of us who find submission to harsh reality too disagreeable. The irony that we and the prince fail to see might be this: it is our very perfectionism that renders us insincere and imperfectly enlightened in the sense of being imperfectly able to submit to harsh reality.

The above sounds very much like the teaching of my Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima, in which case how come I can accept it from the mouth of George Soros, when I resisted it from the mouth of Gudo Nishijima?

The answer, I think, is that there was something missing from Gudo's understanding of the relation between thinking and reality. He had a bias against thinking, which was tied up in some disagreeable way with what he fought against as an officer in the Japanese Imperial Army – the intellectual civilization of the white man. For 13 years I adopted Gudo's bias as my own, which caused my sitting to be unduly stiff. At the same time, I challenged Gudo's bias, even while making it my own; and even more so after receiving input from Alexander teachers. But I was unable to remedy the bias against thinking. And finally I realized I was never going to remedy it – partly as a result of a reflexive feedback loop, whereby the manner in which I stuck up for thinking only tended to confirm Gudo's bias against it. So in the end I realized that Gudo Nishijima was never going to be the perfectly true master I wanted him to be, and that being so I couldn't be the totally submissive student, the empty cup, that Gudo wished to pour his dharma into. I was never going to totally affirm him, and he was never going to totally affirm me. My coming together or mutual relation (saṁparka) with him was never going to be with my whole being. So in the end what did I decide? Dhig-astu tat!

For my dhig-astu tat, I think that I am to blame. I continue to be blameworthy for the fault of perfectionism. But for his bias against thinking, and the hurtful actions that stemmed from it, I blame Gudo.

Harsh indeed. But what kind of coming together, between man and woman, or between thinking subject and objective reality, whether whole-hearted or half-hearted, exists outside of it? 

na: not
ca: and
anuvartanam (nom. sg.): n. obliging , serving or gratifying another ; compliance , obedience
tad (nom. sg. n .): that; ind. there (correlative of yatra)
me (gen. sg.): of/for me

rucitam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. shone upon (by the sun &c ) , bright , brilliant , glittering ; pleasant , agreeable ; sweet , delicate , dainty
yatra: ind. wherein
na: not
ārjavam (nom. sg.): n. straightness , straight direction ; n. rectitude , propriety of act or observance ; n. honesty , frankness , sincerity

sarva-bhāvena (inst. sg.): m. whole being or nature ; the whole heart or soul (-ena, with all one's thoughts , with one's whole soul)
saṁparkaḥ (nom. sg.): m. mixing together , mixture , commingling , conjunction , union , association , touch , contact between (comp.) or with (instr.) ; bodily contact , sexual intercourse
sam- √pṛc: to mix together , commingle , bring into contact , connect , unite
√pṛc: to mix , mingle , put together with (instr. , rarely loc. ; dhanuṣā śaram , " to fix the arrow upon the bow " ), unite , join ; to give lavishly , grant bountifully , bestow anything (acc. or gen.) richly upon (dat.)
pṛc: food, nourishment

yadi: if
na: not
asti: there is
dhig-astu tat: shame upon that! out with it!
dhik: ind. , used as a prefix or as an interj. of reproach , menace or displeasure = fie! shame! out upon! what a pity! &c (dhik tvām or tava [also with astu] shame upon you! )
astu = 3rd pers. sg. imperative as: to be
tat (acc. sg. n.): that

虚誑僞隨順 是事我不爲
眞實隨順者 是則爲非法 

No comments: