Saturday, March 30, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.15: Neither That Nor the Opposite of That

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
na jaharṣa na cāpi cānutepe vicikitsāṁ na yayau na tandri-nidre |
na ca kāma-guṇeṣu saṁrarañje na vididveṣa paraṁ na cāvamene || 5.15

He felt neither thrill nor pang;

Into intellectual striving, or lassitude and sleepiness, he did not fall;

He was not reddened by passion for sensual desires,

And neither did he hate, or look down upon, the other.

It is not controversial to assert that the 1st pāda expresses the negation of two opposite emotions, one being thrillingly positive and one being acutely negative. Hence EBC “He did not rejoice and did not feel remorse” ; EHJ “He did not rejoice nor yet was he downcast”; PO “He did not give in to dejection or delight.”

The 3rd and 4th pādas, similarly, explicitly express the negation of love and hate.

The difficulty lies in seeing what, if any, opposition is implied in the 2nd pāda, whose elements EBC identifies as hesitation, indolence, and sleep; EHJ as doubt, sloth and drowsiness, and PO as doubt, sloth and sleep.

In pondering during my sleep how vicikitsā (doubt/inquiry) might be opposed to tandri-nidra (lassitude and sleep) I woke up to find that something was pointing me towards the example of Professor John Dewey who, I read or heard somewhere, when he first came under the tutelage of FM Alexander, used to fall asleep almost as soon as Alexander put hands on him. The explanation, as I remember it, was that Dewey's habitual state was to be held very tautly in the grip of his intellectual inquiries, and when Alexander's hands released Dewey's musculature from this unduly tense grip the pendulum naturally swang the other way in the direction of relaxation and sleep. In light of that example, I have understood vicikitsā, which is from the same root (vi-√ci) as vicinvan (“reflecting”) in BC5.7 and BC5.9, to mean not so much doubt or hesitation as intellectual inquiry, or intellectual striving. In that case I think the opposition of intellectual striving (associated with dominance of the sympathetic nervous system) and lassitude and sleepiness (associated with dominance of the parasympathetic nervous system) makes sense.

As regards the overall gist of today's verse, the first question it causes me to ask myself is: what is the difference between the state of zero of the prince as described in today's verse, and the state of an arhat as described by the Buddha as follows in Saundara-nanda Canto 16?  
When a man sees a separate bodily form as decrepit, that insight of his is accurate; / In seeing accurately he is disenchanted, and from the ending of exuberance ends the red taint of passion. // SN16.44 // By the ending of the duality which is exuberance and gloom, I submit, his mind is fully set free. / And when his mind is fully liberated from that duality, there is nothing further for him to do. // SN16.45 //
The answer that came to me this morning, as I was sitting in my snow-covered meditation hut, relates to what FM Alexander called “learning to do it consciously”; hence:
"When an investigation comes to be made it will be found that every single thing we do in the work is exactly what is done in Nature, where the conditions are right, the difference being that we are learning to do it consciously."
In other words, the prince's awakening of the bodhi-mind is sometimes associated, as described in Buddha-carita Canto 3, with arising of undue nervous excitement; and it is sometimes associated, as described in today's verse, with balance, or freedom from love and hate. For a person who has just awakened the bodhi-mind, then, balance is hit and miss, because that person has not yet learned the means of allowing consciously what happens in Nature naturally.

This being so, in Saundara-nanda Canto 17, Aśvaghoṣa relates how, following the Buddha's plan, Nanda consciously directs his energy towards the conscious re-discovery of that peace which he might have already experienced unconsciously many times before – for example, in his mother's womb:
By the yoke of that very practice, he, firm in himself, minimised the duality of love and hate; /Being himself big across the chest, he made those two small, and so obtained the second fruit in the noble dharma. // 17.37 // A small vestige of the great enemy, red passion, whose straining bow is impatient desire and whose arrow is a fixed conception, / He destroyed using weapons procured from the body as it naturally is -- using the darts of unpleasantness, weapons from the armoury of practice. // 17.38 // That gestating love-rival, malice, whose weapon is hatred and whose errant arrow is anger, / He slayed with the arrows of kindness, which are contained in a quiver of constancy and released from the bow-string of patience. // 17.39 // And so the hero cut the three roots of shameful conduct using three seats of release, / As if three rival princes, bearing bows in the van of their armies, had been cut down by one prince using three iron points. // 17.40 //
As a result of such conscious effort, brought to ultimate fruition via passage through four stages of sitting-meditation, Nanda in the end consciously realizes the state of zero which today's verse describes the prince as realizing in the beginning more or less by accident. Thus:
Having attained to the seat of arhathood, he was worthy of being served. Without ambition, without partiality, without expectation; / Without fear, sorrow, pride, or passion; while being nothing but himself, he seemed in his constancy to be different. // SN17.61 //
The difference, then, is not in the state of zero. Zero is zero in the womb. Zero is zero at the beginning of awakening the bodhi-mind. And zero is zero at the end of arhathood. The difference is that the practice of a person who has just awakened the bodhi-mind is liable to be hit and miss, whereas a master who is in conscious possession of a proven means-whereby should be able to hit the target with more consistency, or constancy.

The second question today's verse caused me to ask myself (to tell the truth, chronologically, it was the first question – my provisional title for this post being The Readiness Is All), is where this verse fits into the progression of the story of how the prince awakens the bodhi-mind and resolves to leave home in favour of the life of a wandering mendicant. The answer to that question – which may relate to the principle that when a student is ready to be taught the teacher he needs tends to appear, as if by magic – is probably best considered in light of tomorrow's verse.

na: not
jaharṣa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. hṛṣ: to become erect or stiff or rigid , bristle (said of the hairs of the body &c ) , become on edge (like the teeth); to rejoice, be glad
na: not
ca: and
api: also
ca: and
anutepe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. anu- √ tap: to heat ; to vex, annoy ; (passive) to suffer afterwards , repent; (causative) to distress

vicikitsām (acc. sg.): f. (fr. Desid. vi- √ ci) doubt , uncertainty , question , inquiry ; error, mistake
vi- √ ci: to divide ; to discern, distinguish ; to investigate, examine ; to look for , long for , strive after
na: not
yayau = 3rd pers. sg. perf. yā: to go, set out ; to come within range of ; esp. with the acc. of an abstract noun = to go to any state or condition , become , be e.g. vināśaṁ yāti , he goes to destruction i.e. he is destroyed ; kāṭhinyaṁ yāti , it becomes hard ; dveṣyatāṁ yāti , he becomes hated ; similarly nidhanaṁ- √yā , to die ; nidrāṁ- √yā , to fall asleep
na: not
tandri-nidre (acc. dual f.): lassitude and slumber/sloth
tandrā: f. lassitude , exhaustion , laziness
tand: to become relaxed
tandr: to make languid ; Caus. to grow fatigued
nidrā: f. sleep , slumber , sleepiness , sloth
ni- √ drā: to fall asleep , sleep , slumber

na: not
ca: and
kāma-guṇeṣu (loc. pl. m.): m. " quality of desire " , affection , passion ; satiety , perfect enjoyment ; an object of sense ; m. pl. the objects of the five senses , sensual enjoyments
saṁrarañje = 3rd pers. sg. perf. saṁ- √ rañj: to be dyed or coloured , become red ; to be affected with any passion

na: not
vididveṣa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi- √ dviṣ: to dislike , hate , be hostile to (acc.)
param (acc. sg. m.): the other, another
na: not
ca: and
avamene = 3rd pers. sg. perf. ava- √ man: to despise , treat contemptuously

不喜亦不憂 不疑亦不亂
不眠不著欲 不壞不嫌彼

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