iha ced-aham-īdśaḥ svayaṁ san vijugupseya paraṁ tathā-svabhāvam |
na bhavet-sadśaṁ hi tat-kṣamaṁ vā paramaṁ dharmam-imaṁ vijānato me || 5.13
For if I here, being like that myself,
Should disavow another in the same condition,
That would not be worthy of me,
Or conduce to my knowing this most excellent dharma.”
“This most excellent dharma” (paramaṁ dharmam-imam) to which the prince is referring is sitting-meditation – the meditation whose essence is freedom from polluting influences (dhyānam-anāsrava-prakāram; BC5.10).
The gist of today's verse, then, is the prince's recognition that seeing oneself as separate from a despicable “other” – in other words, the viewpoint of snobbery, or arrogance, or conceit; and at the same time the viewpoint of blind unconsciousness and denial – is not conducive to investigating this practice which we can come to know, in the way that we can come to know a person or a place, but which not even the buddhas can understand.
In the middle of the cold snap which we are currently enduring today's verse brings me sunshine on all sort of levels.
Above all, it seems to me to vindicate all that Dogen says in Shobogenzo about the centrality of sitting-meditation in the lives of the buddha-ancestors. In the Buddha's life history, as Aśvaghoṣa is relating it, sitting-meditation is not, as it has sometimes been understood in places like Japan, a practice that begins after one has established the will to the truth and been “ordained” as a monk. Rather, sitting-meditation is all tangled up in a complicated way with awakening of the bodhi-mind; and awakening of the bodhi-mind, conversely, is all tangled up in a complicated way with awakening of the bodhi-mind.
The point is, then, that, for the prince, the Zazen-entangled awakening of the bodhi-mind (which, as we know, would eventually hit its target) was tangled up with separateness, but it was a separateness in which the prince saw himself as in the same boat as everybody else. It was not a separateness which caused him to disavow “the other.” The prince's awakening of the bodhi-mind was tangled up with devotion to the highest, most excellent practice there is. But this devotion to the highest did not involve any sense of aloofness – at least not aloofness in the sense of disdain for people considered inferior.
According to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary, aloof means: removed or distant either physically or emotionally
. In that sense, the prince's experience of the first dhyāna sprang
from a certain aloofness. In a discussion of synonyms for
indifferent, however, the dictionary adds that aloof “suggests a
cool reserve arising from a sense of superiority or disdain for
The difficulty of the present series of verses may be that Aśvaghoṣa is at pains to clarify in what sense the prince was aloof, and in what sense he was not aloof at all.
And the recognition in the background – what it behoves us who sit to recognize – is that aloofness in the sense of superiority or disdain for inferiors is not conducive to knowing this most excellent dharma which is sitting-meditation.
Conversely, does sitting in a group and all saying together, in whatever language, “May all beings be well,” conduce to knowing the most excellent dharma? Maybe in some sense it does, as an antidote to the wrong kind of aloofness. Still, I can't help strongly doubting it!
iha: ind. here
iha: ind. here
ced: when, if
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
īdṛśaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. endowed with such qualities , such, being in this boat
svayam: ind. myself ; of or by one's self spontaneously , voluntarily , of one's own accord
san = nom. sg. m. pres. part. as: to be
vijugupseya = 1st pers. sg. optative desiderative: vi-√gup: to shrink away from , wish to conceal from
√gup: to guard, conceal; to beware of , shun , avoid , detest , spurn , despise (with acc.)
param (acc. sg.): m. another, the other
tathā-svabhāvam (acc. sg. m.): being orginally of the same condition
svabhāva: m. native place ; own condition or state of being , natural state or constitution , innate or inherent disposition , nature , impulse , spontaneity
bhavet = 3rd pers. sg. opt. bhū: to be
sadṛśam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. conformable , suitable , fit , proper , right , worthy
tat (nom. sg. n.): that
kṣamam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. adequate ; favourable to (gen.); bearable, tolerable ; fit , appropriate , becoming , suitable ,
paramam (nom. sg. m.): mfn. supreme, highest
dharmam (nom. sg.): m. dharma, law, that which is established or firm , steadfast decree, duty
imam (nom. sg. m.): this
vijānataḥ = gen. sg. m. pres. part. vi- √ jñā : to distinguish , discern , observe , investigate , recognize , ascertain , know , understand
me (gen. sg.): of/in me