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 

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