Saturday, April 6, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.22: Having Regard for People (Not Causing Collateral Damage)

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
tata indra-samo jitendriyāśvaḥ pravivikṣuḥ param-aśvam āruroha |
parivartya-janaṁ tv-avekṣamāṇas-tata evābhimataṁ vanaṁ na bheje || 5.22

And so, powerful as Indra, 
with the powerful horses of his senses tamed,

He mounted his highest of horses, wishing to get started.

But then, having regard for people, 
he turned [his horse] around again,

And did not repair directly to the longed for forest.

When I prepared yesterday's comment I had not translated or formed a view on today's verse, so it is reassuring to find that today's verse, at least as I read it, supports the tentative conclusion I came to yesterday about directness and indirectness of approach.

The point, as I read it, is that the prince – even in spite of his Indra-like strength of mind and his strong desire to get started – remained somewhat circumspect and aware of himself as part of a wider picture. He did not just dive in following the lowly evolved end-gaining principle.

Part of the reason I hadn't formed a view on today's verse until translating it just now is that there were some textual issues to iron out in process of translation.

In the 2nd pāda, EHJ amended the original param (best/highest [describing the horse]) to puram (the city [object of wishing to enter]). The Chinese translation's 還入城 appears to support this amendment.

In the 3rd pāda, EHJ amended the original parivartya (he turned [himself/his horse] around, and...) to parivāra, so that parivāra-janaṁ means “his following” or “his companions.”

EHJ's reading, then, is that the prince wished to go back to the city out of consideration for his companions:  

"Then he, who was Indra's peer and had conquered the horses of the senses, mounted his horse with the intention of entering the city; but out of regard for his following he did not go straight to the longed for forest."

But in that case, as EHJ himself recognizes in a footnote, the appropriate particle in the 3rd pāda would be hi and not tu.

I prefer the original reading of param and parivartya for two or three reasons: firstly, because it is the original reading; secondly because it fits the logic of tu; and thirdly because I think there is philosophical and practical meaning in the description of the prince not going directly for the target in an end-gaining manner but rather having the circumspection and flexibility to turn around (pari-vṛt).

In this the prince was both similar and different to Nanda as described in SN Canto 4:
Reverence for the Buddha drew him on; love for his wife drew him back: / Irresolute, he neither stayed nor went, like a king-goose pushing forwards against the waves. // SN4.42 // Once she was out of sight, he descended from the palace quickly -- / Then he heard the sound of ankle bracelets, and back he hung, gripped in his heart again. // 4.43 // Held back by his love of love, and drawn forward by his love for dharma, / He struggled on, being turned about (vivartyamānaḥ) like a boat on a river going against the stream. // SN4.44 //
The similarity is indicated by the two verbs from the root vṛt vivartyamānaḥ in Nanda's case, parivartya in his older brother's case. The difference also might be indicated by these two verbs, with Nanda being turned around passively while his older brother makes a decision to turn around, out of regard for people.

It would be natural to say “out of regard for others,” but as discussed previously I think that in this part Aśvaghoṣa is deliberately avoiding the language of self and others. Hence when he describes the prince as janam avekṣamāṇaḥ, “having regard for people,” people includes not only others but also self.

This having regard also is related with the question of directness or indirectness, to do or not to do. When we just do, i.e. when we go directly for the end we have in view, there is self and its object. Others exist but their existence is incidental and they are liable to suffer collateral damage. But when we eschew such end-gaining in favour of non-doing, then collateral damage does not have to follow. Undesirable side effects, in other words, if we slow down and follow indirect means, might be avoidable.

FM Alexander saw that evolution has equipped us all, like animals, to go directly for whatever end we have in view, relying on instinctive or subconscious guidance and control. He saw further that when human beings whose sensory appreciation is faulty rely on these means, even if we gain the end we have in view, we only do so at the expense of undesirable and unintended consequences – like side-effects in medicine, and collateral damage in war.

The antidote that Alexander proposed to this kind of ignorance was the application of a principle he called “inhibition and direction” to everyday actions like sitting, standing, and lying down. Hence:
I venture to assert that if the gap is to be bridged, it will be by means of a knowledge, gained through practical experience, which will enable us to inhibit our instinctive, 'subconscious' reaction to a given stimulus, and to hold it inhibited while initiating a conscious direction, guidance, and control of the use of the self that was previously unfamiliar." (The Universal Constant in Living, 1946)
This principle as I understand it is, if not the same, then very close to the Buddha's teaching of smṛti, mindfulness or awareness.

In today's verse, as I read it, the prince is exhibiting such mindfulness or awareness in a natural, undeveloped form – in the form that comes naturally to us as healthy human beings before we are corrupted by personal agendae and other tainted things; in the form, that is, of common consideration for fellow human beings.

The initial irony of Zen practice might be that in our desire to rush in like fools and get started in it, we are liable to demonstrate that lack of mindful consideration that results in harmful side effects. I know whereof I speak. 

Human instinct and human ignorance being as strong as they are, and the end-gaining habit being as strong as it is, the ultimate irony of Zen practice manifests itself when a Zen master barges about creating harmful side-effects in the pursuit of the drug of sexual pleasure, or creating collateral damage in the pursuit of his historical mission as conceived by him.

Whether I myself am part of the problem or part of the solution, I do not honestly know. I am afraid that much of the time I am trying to be part of the solution, and in that very trying I inevitably maintain myself as part of the problem. On a bad day, impatient end-gaining thus causes me to fly into a rage when wires get tangled up, or a computer doesn't work as expected, or I cannot find something which I feel I need in a hurry. “WHERE IS MY FUCKING KEY???!!!”

On a good day, especially when I am alone here in France, I distance myself from the desire to be right and other delusions and from tainted things like trying, and thereby experience the joy and ease of the first dhyāna, born of separateness.... which is not the end, nor even the beginning of the end, but which might be a worthwhile end in the beginning.

I think there a lot of people in the United States who have suffered the harmful side-effects, or collateral damage, from the end-gaining of Zen masters of Japanese and other stripes.

If I personally went over to America with the agenda of trying to sort it all out, trying to do some kind of imitation of Bodhidharma, nothing is more certain than that I would be part of the problem. Not that I don't sometimes have that impulse. But I am thankfully able to realize it as one of those ideas described in SN Canto 15, whose title is "Abandoning Ideas." 

Still, I would not hesitate to recommend the writings of FM Alexander as pointing to the solution, and I hope that, in spite of the personal shortcomings of the translator, this translation and these comments also might be part of the solution.

tataḥ: ind. then
indra-samaḥ (nom. sg. m.): like Indra
jitendriyāśvaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the horses of his senses conquered
jita: mfn. conquered, defeated
indriya: mfn. fit for or belonging to or agreeable to indra; n. sense, power of the senses
aśva: horse

pravivikṣuḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (fr. Desid. pra- √viś) wishing to enter (acc.)
pra- √viś: to enter , go into , resort to ; to enter upon , undertake , commence , begin , devote one's self to
param (acc. sg. m.): mfn. extreme; best, highest
puram (acc. sg.): n. the city
aśvam (acc. sg. ): m. horse
āruroha = 3rd pers. sg. perf. ā- √ ruh: to ascend, mount

parivartya = abs. causative pari- √ vṛt: to cause to turn or move round or back or to and fro ; to overthrow , upset (a carriage) ; to invert , put in a reverse order ; to turn topsy-turvy i.e. search thoroughly ; (A1.) to cause one's self to be turned round (in having one's head shaved all round)
janam (acc. sg.): m. people , subjects (the sg. used collectively ; ayaṁ janaḥ , " this person , these persons " , I , we )
parivāra-janam (acc. sg. m.): his companions
parivāra: m. surroundings , train , suite , dependants , followers
tu: but
avekṣamāṇaḥ = nom. sg. m. pres. part. ava √īkṣ: to look towards , look at , behold

tataḥ: ind. then, from that time
eva: (emphatic)
abhimatam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. longed for , wished , desired ; supposed , imagined
abhi- √ man: to think of , long for , desire
vanam (acc. sg.): n. forest
na: not
bheje = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bhaj: to turn or resort to ; to declare for , prefer , choose (e.g. as a servant)

歛情抑諸根 徐起還入城 
眷屬悉隨從 謂止不遠逝
[Relation with Sanskrit tenuous]

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