Monday, March 25, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.10: The First Dhyāna Does Itself

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
samavāpta-manaḥ-sthitiś-ca sadyo viṣayecchādibhir-ādhibhiś-ca muktaḥ |
sa-vitarka-vicāram-āpa śāntaṁ prathamaṁ dhyānam-anāsrava-prakāram || 5.10

In stumbling upon firm upstandingness of the mind

He was instantly released from worries,
such as those associated with desires for objects;

He entered the first peaceful stage, 
in which there are ideas and thoughts,

Of the meditation whose essence 
is freedom from polluting influences.

My translation of the 1st pāda may sound idiosyncratic, but it is literal enough and it makes sense to me on the basis of plentiful experience over the years of being alternately held in, and released from, the grip of worries. Which is to say that thirty years of sitting-meditation practice, and twenty years of Alexander work have caused me at least to begin to see that to go directly for firm upstandingness of the body (or “proper posture” as some unenlightened individuals call it) is a recipe for stiff necks, frozen shoulders, bad backs, and mental rigidity. Whereas the secret of attaining firm upstandingness of the mind might reside in the absence of any intention to move a single muscle in the direction of trying to achieve firm upstandingness of the body. This, I think, is why Aśvaghoṣa has described the prince entering the first dhyāna more or less by accident – so that no thanks are due to any understanding on the part of the prince in regard to how to sit, but thanks might rather be due to mother Earth.

Today's verse causes me to reflect on how, while still in single figures, around the age of 8, I used to like to walk up the hill to my old primary school before anybody else had got there, first thing in the morning, and just hang about on the steps to the classroom and in the playground. Again at the age of around 12, before I started drinking home-brew beer in earnest in the evenings, and staying in bed as long as I could in the mornings, I used to get to my old secondary school up to an hour before assembly and just stand in splendid isolation by the radiator of the 2nd-year form room, looking out over the playing fields and out to the Bristol Rd beyond. In some ways I might have been closer to the first stage of dhyāna then than after I came to Japan and learned how to sit in the right physical posture, doing this, doing that, and doing the other. In some ways, again, the last 20 years have been about dropping off the Zen habits I learned in Japan, which mainly centred on trying to be right (i.e. desiring the delusory object of being right), and returning to a more natural way of being. A way of being that I used to enjoy by myself before I developed the polluting influence of a greed for Zen.

Lest this sounds like nothing more than the idiosyncratic interpretation of a disaffected oddball, reflect again on how the Zen ancestor Aśvaghoṣa is telling the story of the prince's experience of the first stage of Zen meditation: The prince has not been initiated into the secret of Zen meditation by any Zen master; he has not yet shaved his head; he has not clothed himself in any Zen uniform; he does not have any idea about how to sit in the right posture. He has not become a Zen Buddhist. Rather, he has ridden on a swift horse, has moved slowly over the earth, has separated himself from prattling companions, and has gone to sit upon the earth in separated solitude at the root of a rose-apple tree growing up from the earth. He has come back more than once to clear/distinct/separated recognition of how all things in the material world come into being and perish – as energy is prevented from dissipating, and then energy dissipates, in accordance with the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

Thus, without having any idea about standing or sitting firmly upright, the prince has naturally experienced a spontaneous manaḥ-sthitiḥ, lit. “standing upright of the mind.” And thus he has naturally entered the first dhyāna which, as will be mentioned tomorrow, is not born of Zen group-think but, on the contrary, is viveka-jam, “born of separateness.”

samavāpta-manaḥ-sthitiḥ (nom. sg. m.): having met with firm upright standing of the mind
samavāpta: mfn. obtained , attained
sam-ava- √āp: to meet with , attain , reach , gain , obtain , incur
manaḥ: n. mind
sthiti: f. standing upright or firmly , not falling ; standing , staying , remaining , abiding ; constancy , perseverance ; standing still , stopping , halting
ca: and
sadyaḥ: ind. on the same day , in the very moment

viṣayecchādibhiḥ (inst. pl.): desires for sensual enjoyments and so on
viṣaya: m. anything perceptible by the senses , any object of affection or concern or attention , any special worldly object or aim or matter or business , (pl.) sensual enjoyments , sensuality
icchā: f. wish , desire , inclination
ādi: ifc. beginning with , et caetera , and so on
ādhibhis (inst. pl.): m. thought , care , anxious reflection , mental agony , anxiety , pain
ca: and
muktaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. loosened , let loose , set free, liberated ; (with instr. or ifc. = released from , deprived or destitute of)

sa-vitarka-vicāram (acc. sg. n.): containing ideas and thoughts
āpa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. āp: to reach , overtake , meet with , fall upon ; to obtain , gain , take possession of ; to enter
śāntam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. (fr. √1. śam) appeased , pacified , tranquil , calm , free from passions , undisturbed

prathamam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. first
dhyānam (acc. sg.): n. meditation , thought , reflection
an-āsrava-prakāram (acc. sg. n.): of the sort which is free from pollutants
āsrava: m. distress , affliction , pain
ā-: (as a prefix to verbs , especially of motion , and their derivatives) near , near to , towards
srava: m. flowing , streaming , a flow of (comp.)
an-āsrava: mfn. free from mundane inclinations
prakāra: m. sort , kind , nature , class , species , way , mode , manner (mostly ifc. mfn. ; cf. tri- " of three kinds ")
pra- √ kṛ: to make , produce , accomplish , perform , achieve , effect

心定安不動 五欲廓雲消
有覺亦有觀 入初無漏禪 

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