Sunday, March 10, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.99: The Contrasted Other

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
asaṁśayaṁ mtyur-iti prajānato narasya rāgo hdi yasya jāyate |
ayo-mayīṁ tasya paraimi cetanāṁ mahā-bhaye rajyati yo na roditi || 4.99

When a man knows the certainty of death

And yet the red taint of delight arises in his heart,

I venture that his consciousness must be made of steel,

Who does not weep but delights in the great terror.”

Today's verse is the concluding verse in the prince's monologue. We might expect it as such to be a good one, and I think it is. The task of translation is made more difficult by uncertainty attached to the original reading of the 4th pāda, but if we follow the hidden teaching of today's verse, we might delight in the task all the more for that.

The difficulty in the 4th pāda is that the old Nepalese manuscript has rakṣati yaḥ (“who guards/restrains”); hence EBC: “I think that his soul must be made of iron, who restrains it in this great terror and does not weep.” EHJ amended to rajyati yaḥ (“who delights in”) based partly on the Tibetan translation and partly on the fact that rajyati mirrors rāgaḥ (EBC/EHJ: “desire”; MC: “the red taint of delight”) in the 2nd pāda.

I think that EHJ's amendment was right on target, in which case mahā-bhaye rajyati yo na roditi (“who delights in the great terror and does not weep”) truly is a fitting conclusion to the prince's speech – even if the prince himself, as we have found to be the case beneath the surface of most of the verses of the present monologue, is oblivious of the deeper hidden meaning of his own words.

That is to say, the ostensible intention of the prince is ironically to heap scorn upon ordinary people who frolic and play like children in a burning house; whereas the deeper irony, again, is that the prince is accidentally describing the attitude of a buddha towards the harsh reality of which that buddha's own thinking is a part.

My Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima was a good exemplar of this attitude. When George Soros speaks of believing in harsh reality the way that other people believe in God, he pretty well sums up Gudo's attitude, as I witnessed it.

When tested, however, Gudo fell short in a couple of respects of practising what he preached. That is to say, there were one or two harsh realities that he failed to accept, but preferred to remain in denial about. One, as I have complained about at length, was that he wasn't able properly to recognize my role as his partner in the Shobogenzo translation, so attached was he to seeing the project as his own baby, or “my personal job” as he would later call it. This was a difficulty that in my 20s and early 30s I believed I should overlook, or "transcend," as a purely mental issue, not something real. In my late 30s, I was shocked when the mental fallacy manifested itself in the harsh reality of actual events. Good lesson. 

The more significant failure, from the broader philosophical perspective, was Gudo's failure to recognize the active or manipulative role that thinking ought to play in sitting-meditation. Gudo essentially subscribed to what post-modernists call “the enlightenment fallacy.”

For anybody who would like to hear a very lucid explanation of what the enlightenment fallacy is, I recommend listening to George Soros's lecture on Open Society, the 3rd lecture in a series given at Central European University, October 26-30, 2009.

The relationship between fear itself, and the great triple terror of aging, sickness and death, can be seen as what George Soros calls “reflexive” – which is to say the more people fear aging, sickness and death, the more of a terror they are, so the more there is to fear in them. In this situation learning to delight in, or to develop a healthy appetite for, the harsh reality of aging, sickness and death, might be akin to the negative feedback which breaks a vicious circle.  

The relationship between thinking and real or true uprightness in sitting is also reflexive – which is to say that how one thinks, for better or for worse, conditions how one sits; and, conversely, how well or badly one sits conditions how one thinks. This is an area in which George Soros may lack practical expertise. But if he wishes, even at his advanced age, to gain expertise in this area, then I would recommend him to seek out a teacher of the FM Alexander Technique who knows the score. Alternatively he could look for a living Zen master who, in the matter of thinking and reality, knows the score   in which case, George, best of luck! 

If you agree that the relationship between thinking and the reality of sitting is reflexive, then you agree with me that there was a flaw in Gudo Nishijima's understanding. If, on the other hand, you agree with Gudo Nishijima's understanding that thinking and the reality of action are separated by an absolute gulf, then you agree with Gudo Nishijima that there was, has been, and continues to be a flaw in my understanding (as also in George Soros' conceptual framework of reality).

George Soros's conceptual framework of reality, with its two main pillars of fallibility and reflexivity, provides an alternative in the philosophical realm to Gudo Nishijima's four-phased framework of three philosophies and one reality. So far I do not see a middle way between the two approaches. Though it is still early days, George Soros's framework strikes me as being true; whereas I have known in my head, heart, and gut for many years that Gudo's framework was flawed.

For many years, through my 20s and early 30s, my objection to Gudo's approach was instinctive or intuitive. Possibly because of having read Karl Popper at university, and studied systems theory too, I sensed that Gudo wanted – with the best of intentions – to impose an ideology on me. When he was accused of being dogmatic, Gudo used to agree, seeing his theory of four philosophies, or three philosophies and one reality, as the one true dogma of Gautama Buddha, aka “true Buddhism.” 

For Gudo, the important thing was whether an ideology was true or not. If an ideology was true, then he saw nothing wrong with it being imposed on others by force. Hence his somewhat startling confession that, in the interests of world peace, he looked to the United States of America to exercise the role of "global policeman." 

Just as Gudo's ideology was closed, the way he taught his students to sit, at least as I received it, tending to cause me to become closed. Thus, when I showed Marjory Barlow how I had been accustomed to sit, fixing  my head down on top of the spine by pulling the chin in, Marjory remarked: "There is no freedom in it!"

In this way, with experience of Alexander work my objection to Gudo became not philosophical but practical. Alexander work made it blindingly obvious to me that the Japanese “Don't think, just do it” approach was fallacious.

This reality I am describing in inevitably simplified terms was complicated by the fact that Gudo became somewhat less dogmatic in response to the barrage of criticism that I directed at him from 1994 onwards. I think he became more circumspect, for a start, about using his hands to try to correct his students'  postures. In some respects, to tell the truth, Gudo was very open-minded. But the absolute gulf that Gudo saw between thinking and the reality of action was one tenet that was not up for discussion. 

Any way up, the practical truth is that the release the Buddha experienced under the bodhi-tree was muscular release, and muscular release is an undoing. Nobody, not even the Buddha, could do an undoing. 

It may be, however, that by learning to delight in harsh reality, that is to say, by learning how to think in relation to the unthinkable, non-buddhas experience undoing in the practice of non-doing.

In yesterday's verse, the prince described himself as the contrasting I, aham punar. In today's verse the prince returns to describing the contrasted other. And ostensibly that contrasted other is an ordinary man, an ignorant man, not a buddha. But what the prince is really describing in today's verse, as I read it, is a man who is truly other (anya), truly different (anya), a non-buddha.

In short, then, I venture that mahā-bhaye rajyati yo na roditi, a big strong boy who does not cry in the face of aging, sickness and death but who rather delights in those harsh realities, is that man who the Chinese Zen masters praised as 非仏 (Jap: HI-BUTSU) a non-buddha.

Non-buddhas, I venture further, invariably practice  非思量  (Jap: HI-SHIRYO), “non-thinking” – thinking, but not what people generally understand by thinking.

asaṁśayam: ind. without doubt
mṛtyuḥ (nom. sg.): m. death , dying
iti: “....,” thus
prajānataḥ = gen. sg. m. pres. part. pra- √ jñā: to know , understand (esp. a way or mode of action) , discern , distinguish , know about , be acquainted with (acc.) ; to find out , discover , perceive , learn

narasya (gen. sg.): m. a man
rāgaḥ (nom. sg.): m. colour , hue , tint , dye , (esp.) red colour , redness ; any feeling or passion , (esp.) love
hṛdi (loc. sg.): n. in the heart
yasya (gen. sg.): of whom
jāyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive jan: to be born or produced , come into existence

ayo-mayīm (acc. sg. f.): made of iron
ayas: n. iron , metal ; steel
tasya (gen. sg.): of him
paraimi = 1st pers. sg. parā- √i: to go or run away , go along , go towards (acc.) ; to reach , attain , partake of (acc.) [EBC: I think that; EHJ: I consider that; PO: I reckon]
parā: ind. away , off , aside , along , on
emi = 1st pers. sg. √i: to go, to go to or towards (with acc.) ; to arrive at , reach , obtain ; to undertake anything (with acc.) ;
parā- √ mṛś: to seize or lay hold of , touch , feel , stroke , handle , clutch ; to point or refer to (acc.) ; to consider , deliberate
cetanām (acc. sg.): f. consciousness , understanding , sense , intelligence

mahā-bhaye (loc. sg. n.): in the great terror
rakṣati = 3rd pers. sg. rakṣ: to guard , watch , take care of , protect , save , preserve
rajyati = 3rd pers. sg. rañj: to be dyed or coloured , to redden , grow red , glow ; to be affected or moved , be excited or glad , be charmed or delighted by (instr.) , be attracted by or enamoured of , fall in love with (loc.)
yaḥ: [he] who
na: not
roditi = 3rd pers. sg. rud: to weep , cry , howl , roar , lament , wail

老病死熾然 決定至無疑
猶不知憂慼 眞爲木石心

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