Sunday, April 7, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.23: The Strength To Think Twice (Like One Who Drinks Twice)

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
sa jarā-maraṇa-kṣayaṁ cikīrṣur-vana-vāsāya matiṁ smtau nidhāya |
praviveśa punaḥ puraṁ na kāmād-vana-bhūmer-iva maṇḍalaṁ dvipendraḥ || 5.23

Desiring to put an end to aging and dying,

He had – while remaining mindful – 
directed his thinking towards living in the forest,

And yet he reluctantly re-entered the city,

Like a mighty elephant from the jungle entering a ring.

Once again I am reassured that what I thought about yesterday's verse, relating to the connection between having regard for people (avekṣamāṇaḥ) and remaining mindful, seems to tally with what is written in today's verse, where smṛtau (locative) means “in mindful circumstances” or “while remaining mindful.”

The non-technical context helps us to understand what the Buddha means by smṛti (mindfulness/awareness) when he uses the term in his long monologue in Cantos 13, 14, 15, and 16 of Saundara-nanda, in which he begins by recommending Nanda to use mindfulness/awareness/vigilance to combat the influence of faulty sensory appreciation, hence: 
On this basis, standing grounded in mindfulness, / You should hold back the naturally impetuous senses from the objects of those senses. // SN13.30 //
The Canto in which mindfulness features most prominently, however is Canto 14, viz:
And so, upon acts like sitting, moving, standing, looking, and speaking -- / Being fully aware of every action -- you should bring mindfulness to bear. // SN14.35 // When a man, like a gatekeeper at his gate, is cocooned in mindfulness, / The faults do not venture to attack him, any more than enemies would attack a guarded city. // 14.36 // No affliction arises in him for whom mindfulness pervades the body -- / Guarding the mind in all situations, as a nurse protects a child. // 14.37 // But he is a target for the faults who lacks the armour of mindfulness: / As for enemies is he who stands in battle with no suit of armour. // 14.38 //  Know to be vulnerable that mind which mindfulness does not guard -- / Like a blind man without a guide groping after objects. // 14.39 // When men attach to meaningless aims and turn away from their proper aims, / Failing to shudder at the danger, loss of mindfulness is the cause. // 14.40 // Again, when each virtue, beginning with integrity, is standing on its own patch, / Mindfulness goes after those virtues like a herdsman rounding up his scattered cows. // 14.41 // The deathless nectar is lost to him whose mindfulness dissipates; / The nectar exists in the hands of him for whom mindfulness pervades the body. // 14.42 // Where is the noble principle of a man who lacks mindfulness? / And for whom no noble principle exists, to him a true path has been lost. // 14.43 // He who has lost the right track has lost the deathless step. / Having lost that nectar of deathlessness, he is not exempt from suffering. // 14.44 // Therefore walking with the awareness that "I am walking" and standing with the awareness that "I am standing" -- / Upon such moments as these, you should bring mindfulness to bear. // 14.45 // In this manner, my friend, repair to a place suited for practice, free of people and free of noise, a place for lying down and sitting; / For by first achieving separateness of the body it is easy to obtain separateness in the mind. // SN14.46 //
In the above rendering, I have translated smṛti in every case as “mindfulness” and in SN14.46 have translated viveka (in light of recent reflections) as “separateness.”

Mindfulness as a cocoon or as armour fits with the sense in today's verse that mindfulness is not always a state of narrow focus, but is sometimes on the contrary an all-pervading and all-round awareness – an expanded field of awareness in which one is conscious not only of self and object/other but also of the wider picture of which self and other are a part. 

In the very evocative metaphor in the 4th pāda, an elephant is dvi-pa, literally “one that drinks twice” (i.e. with mouth and with trunk). Though I am sure Aśvaghoṣa did not mean anything by it, I can't help thinking the choice of term for elephant (of which there are many in Sanskrit) is suitable in the sense that the prince in today's verse is portrayed as one who thinks twice – so that in the elephant metaphor one who thinks twice is represented by one who drinks twice.

For the giving up, in short, of all these ideas, / Mindfulness of inward and outward breathing, my friend, you should make into your own possession. // SN15.64 //

Having prepared the above comment yesterday and slept on it, while I was sitting this morning and reflecting on what today's verse means in terms of mindfulness of breathing, something came back to me from nearly twenty years ago. When I started doing Alexander work, in 1994, the combination of a “doing” approach to sitting-meditation, and the stresses of preparing the Shobogenzo translation while at the same working hard to earn money to support a young family, had caused my habitual state to be more or less “pulled down,” twisted into myself, held, and concentrated. After I started Alexander teacher training and began in earnest the process of consciously directing myself out of all of that, the following 4-line ditty used to guide me while I was sitting:

Don't hold the breath.

Mindfulness of breathing as I had practised it before then was an unconscious attempt to concentrate the mind on breathing. Mindfulness of breathing as I was then learning to practise it was, on the contrary, conscious effort to unconcentrate on breathing.

Mighty elephants like the one in today's verse, so they say, never forget. Not forgetting, or remembering, is one meaning of smṛti. Hence EHJ's translation of the 2nd pāda:  “fixing his thoughts in memory on dwelling in the woods.” 

Do elephants ever forget? It may be truer to say that elephants are always mindful – as long as they stay in their natural element, and away from human zoos. The same may be true for other non-human mammals, including notably dogs – because dogs are conspicuously mindful, providing they do not develop psychological problems under the influence of imbalanced human beings. 

Today's verse, then, again, is very evocative in its use of an elephant metaphor which mainly speaks for itself. But the particular point I take from today's verse about mindfulness is that the prince, even before he became the enlightened Buddha, was already mindful. After his enlightenment he taught the likes of Nanda consciously to develop this natural faculty of mindfulness, or expanded awareness, or all-around vigilance – this unconcentrated elephant mind.

"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."

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
jarā-maraṇa-kṣayam (acc. sg. m.): an end of old age and death
cikīrṣuḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (from desid. kṛ) intending to make or do or perform (with acc. or ifc.)

vana-vāsāya (dat. sg.): towards dwelling in the forest
vāsa: staying , remaining (esp. " overnight ") , abiding , dwelling , residence , living in (loc. or comp
matim (acc. sg.): f. thought , design , intention , resolution , determination , inclination , wish , desire (with loc. dat. or inf.) (matiṁ √ kṛ or dhā or dhṛ or ā- √dhā or samā- √dhā or ā- √sthā or sam-ā- √sthā , with loc. dat. acc. with prati , or artham ifc. , to set the heart on , make up one's mind , resolve , determine
smṛtau (loc. sg.): f. remembrance, mindfulness, attention
nidhāya = abs. ni- √ dhā: to put or lay down; to put into ; (with manas) to fix or direct the thoughts upon or towards i.e. resolve , determine to (dat.)

praviveśa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. pra- √ viś: to enter , go into , resort to (acc. or loc.)
punaḥ: ind. back , home , in an opposite direction ; again, once more
puram (acc. sg.): n. city
na: not
kāmāt: ind. (abl.) for one's own pleasure , of one's own free will , of one's own accord , willingly , intentionally

vana-bhūmeḥ (abl. sg.): f. " forest-region " , the neighbourhood of a wood
iva: like
maṇḍalam (acc. sg.): n. anything round ; a circle
dvipendraḥ (nom. sg.): m. " prince of elephants " , a large elephants
dvi-pa: m. elephant (lit. drinking twice , sc. with his trunk and with his mouth)
indra: ifc. best , excellent , the first , the chief (of any class of objects)

内密興愍念 方欲超世表
形雖隨路歸 心實留山林
猶如繋狂象 常念遊曠野

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