Sunday, June 30, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.18: Leaving Sorrow & Turning Back

śoka-tyāgāya niṣkrāntaṁ na māṁ śocitum-arhasi |
śoka-hetuṣu kāmeṣu saktāḥ śocyās-tu rāgiṇaḥ || 6.18

For me who has left, to leave sorrow behind,

You ought not to sorrow.

Those stuck on sorrow-causing desires –

Carriers of the taint of redness, rather,
are the ones to sorrow for.

There is no word in the English dictionary that adequately translates the Sanskrit rāgin, which as a noun is given in the Sanskrit-English dictionary as “lover” or “libertine,” but which as an adjective means dyed or coloured, and especially dyed or coloured red. The English word that might come closest, in my mind, would be “redster.” Such a word is not recorded in the English dictionary, yet – though an internet search reveals that redster is a brand name for a kind of ski boot, and it has been used as a term of affection for a gaudily-painted Chevrolet pick-up truck. In any event, today's verse seems to provide a kind of definition of what a human redster is – redster: one who is stuck on the desires that cause sorrow.

As regards the gist of today's verse, it seems worthy of note that the prince, before he became the enlightened Buddha, already had the recognition that sorrow is rooted in certain desires. This recognition, then, can be understood to be associated not only with the ultimate realization of the four noble truths by one who is no longer tainted by redness; but also with anybody's (even a redster's) establishment of the will to realize the truth.

Inhibition of, or in other words, turning back from, the redness of sorrow-causing desires, is the third noble truth (śāntir-iyam); and the prince was aware of it long before he prepared a seat for himself under the bodhi tree. What changed under the bodhi tree, I suppose, is that the Buddha must have come into full possession of inhibition as something more than a true principle; hence ayam-upāyahere is a means.

This, I think, was Dogen's confidence when he came back in his twenties from China to Japan. He had the confidence of a man in full possession of a means of inhibition – not only knowledge, that is, of the truth of inhibition. Though he was not yet 30 years old, Dogen already knew the path, as a turning back. 

In the title of the present canto, chandaka-nivartanaḥ, chandaka is ostensibly the object of nivartanaḥ – Turning Back Chandaka. But I think what is really going on is that Aśvaghoṣa is using chandaka as a stimulus to investigate various aspects of nivartanaḥ – In Relation to Chandaka, Turning Back.

Ostensibly Aśvaghoṣa's purpose in Buddha-carita is to tell the story of the Buddha's life or the Buddha's career, from before his birth to after his death, following the direction of Time's arrow. But Aśvaghoṣa's real purpose, in every verse he wrote, is not that. Hence in SN Canto 16 he has the Buddha tell Nanda:
Comprehend, therefore, that suffering is doing; witness the faults impelling it forward; / Realise its stopping as non-doing; and know the path as a turning back // SN16.42 //

Learn the backward step of turning the light and letting it shine

nivartakaṃ cāpy-avagaccha mārgam
and know the path as a turning back.

śoka-tyāgāya (dat. sg.): for the quitting of sorrow
śoka: m. sorrow , affliction , anguish , pain , trouble , grief
tyāga: m. leaving , abandoning , forsaking ; quitting
niṣkrāntam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. gone out , departed , come forth

na: not
mām (acc. sg. m.): me
śocitum = inf. śuc: to suffer violent heat or pain , be sorrowful or afflicted , grieve , mourn at or for (loc. or acc. with prati)
arhasi (2rd pers. sg. arh): you ought

śoka-hetuṣu (loc. pl. m.): the causes of sorrow
kāmeṣu (loc. pl.): m. desires

saktāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. clinging or adhering to , sticking in (loc); fixed or intent upon , directed towards , addicted or devoted to , fond of , engaged in , occupied with (loc. )
śocyāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. to be sorrowed for ; to be lamented , deplorable , miserable
tu: but
rāgiṇaḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. (fr. √ rañj , and rāga) coloured , having a partic. colour ; red ; m. a painter ; a lover , libertine

爲斷憂出家 勿爲子生憂
五欲爲憂根 應憂著欲者 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.17: Directing the Mind Towards How

dhruvo yasmāc-ca viśleṣas-tasmān-mokṣāya me matiḥ |
viprayogakathaṁ na syād-bhūyo 'pi sva-janād iti || 6.17

And since separation is certain

Therefore my mind is directed towards liberation

In order that, somehow, one might not be

Repeatedly dissevered from one's own people.

I have translated, or at least punctuated, today's verse in such a way that particular emphasis is given to the katham (how?) in the 3rd pāda.

One can woffle on for ages and ages, as I have done, arguing that Saundarananda is not a story of religious conversion, though it might be a blueprint for individual transformation; again, one can sit dumbly on a round black cushion for X hours every day, as I have also done; but without some real means, some how, that actually bloody works, it might all have been wasted time and wasted effort.

Has it all been a waste of time and effort?

I don't know. I fear it has, due primarily to successive failures of inhibition on my part.

"This is suffering;" the Buddha said, "this is the tangled mass of causes producing it; this is inhibition; and here is a means." (iti duḥkham-etad-iyam-asya samudaya-latā pravartikā / śāntir-iyam-ayam-upāya iti; SN3.12)

The means to which the Buddha refers, Dogen's teaching leaves a reader of Shobogenzo in no doubt, is essentially just to sit in full lotus. 

Simple as that. What could go wrong?

When something goes wrong, FM Alexander observed, it is always down to a failure of inhibition.

When the Buddha said ayam-upāya, “here is a means,” in my mind he was indicating sitting in lotus as the inhibition of those ideas, desires and tendencies which act as triggers for habitual patterns of doing which are all tangled up with four primitive vestibular reflexes. Such inhibition was described by FM Alexander as
1. letting the neck be free (inhibition of primitive fear reactions centred on the Moro reflex);
2. to let the head go forward (inhibition of TLR in extension) and up (inhibition of TLR in flexion); 
3. to let the back lengthen and widen (inhibition of twists associated with the ATNR);
4. to let the knees go forwards and away (inhibition of STNR).

Here, as I see it, is the essential means, the Buddha's original how, the expression of which in this form, with Alexander's four primary directions related to four vestibular reflexes, I sort of worked out for myself, primarily for my own satisfaction, after many years of directing my mind towards liberation.

And yet I don't feel satisfied and I don't feel that I have been successful. On the contrary, I am acutely conscious of repeated failures of inhibition, the karmic retribution for which, working as it does in three times, might be catching up with me right now, like many pigeons coming home to roost. 

So, I ask myself, this morning, what would I count as success?

What would cause me to think that I had succeeded in demonstrating that ayam upāya, this means, as I have described it, actually works?

On Monday my elder son will sit the final exam in a four-years master's degree course at Imperial College London, but he is already pretty well assured of gaining either a 2:1 degree or a first. So I can't help feeling, as a proud father, that this result is some measure of success of our efforts for the past 22 years as parents. My elder son, I might add, spent a year on a developmental movement programme aimed at inhibiting or preventing the problems with immature vestibular reflexes that run in my side of his family. Furthermore, my son is not only a boffin but is also the kind of bloke who can look somebody in the eye with the kind of self-assured confidence that I didn't quite have when I was 22.

And yet I, for my own part, despite such a vicarious triumph, can't help feeling that my life thus far has been more or less a failure.

What I have been endeavouring to do for the past five years, I suppose, is to demonstrate not only by this translation itself but also in my manner of doing and commenting on it, that I am in possession here – combining the wisdom of Zen ancestors with the wisdom of FM Alexander who rediscovered the secret of Zen for our time – of a means that really works.

Have I succeeded? No I have not.

I have received some encouraging feedback along the way, from people who know Sanskrit better than I do. But what would really count as success is if somebody, anybody, was able to show that this translation of Aśvaghoṣa's writings had helped them really, demonstrably, to understand what the Buddha meant by ayam-upāya.

It is not enough to know that inhibition is the key, academically or scientifically, in the realm of knowledge; we have to demonstrate what inhibition is, in practice, in the realm of action. 

In this matter, anybody can see, I have set the bar pathetically low.

My hope is that people who come after me in the field of inhibitory practice might be enabled, as my sons seem to have been enabled in the area of educational achievement, to jump with relative ease over a bar which I have set so low – and yet which I continue to send repeatedly tumbling to the ground.

dhruvaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. certain, inevitable, assured
yasmāt: ind. since
ca: and
vi-śleṣaḥ (nom. sg.): m. loosening , separation , dissolution , disjunction , falling asunder ; separation (esp. of lovers)

tasmāt: ind. (correlative of yasmāt) therefore
mokṣāya (dat. sg.): m. emancipation , liberation , release
me (gen. sg.): my
matiḥ (nom. sg.): f. thought , design , intention , resolution , determination , inclination , wish , desire ; the mind

viprayogaḥ (nom. sg.): m. disjunction , dissociation , separation
vi-pra- √ yuj: to separate from , deprive of
katham: ind. how?
na: not
syāt = 3rd pers. sg. opt. as: to be

bhūyaḥ: ind. more ; still more , moreover , besides , further on ; once more , again , anew
api: even (emphatic)
sva-janāt (abl. sg.): from one's own people
iti: “....,” [thinking] thus

若得解脱者 永無離親期 

Friday, June 28, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.16: Selfish Emotion vs. Reason & Fact

tad-evam-abhiniṣkrāntaṁ na māṁ śocitum-arhasi |
bhūtvāpi hi ciraṁ śleṣaḥ kālena na bhaviṣyati || 6.16

So you ought not to grieve for me

Who thus am well and truly gone;

Since any union, for however long it has existed,

In time will cease to exist.

In the 1st pāda of today's verse evam-abhiniṣkrāntam “thus well and truly gone,” means gone into the forest as reliably and completely as described in yesterday's verse – i.e. with clarity of purpose, and no emotional volatility; in such a way, in other words, that the kind of backsliding into which Nanda will later be tempted to fall, is unlikely or impossible. 

The 2nd pāda (1st line in translation) is an exhortation not to be emotional.

In the 3rd and 4th pādas, as I read them, the prince counterposes against an emotion like grief a reasoned examination of the real world, in which life is only possible, including at the molecular level, by the breaking and making of bonds.

The chemical formula for the oxidation of glucose during aerobic respiration, for example, is

C6 H12 O6 + 6 O2 –> 6 CO2 + 6 H2O

So when we sit practising mindfulness of breathing, the union of the carbon and hydrogen which are combined together in glucose is, for however long it has existed, now ceasing to exist.

This thinking on the part of the prince thus presages the wisdom that will later be shown by the enlightened Buddha in the famous story of the mustard seed and the grieving mother who, in this rendering of the story, is caused to reflect to herself: "How selfish am I in my grief!”

This causes me to reflect, in turn, on the importance in the 2nd pāda of mām (me). The prince is not attempting here to forestall grief per se, and nor does the enlightened Buddha negate the practical usefulness of grief per se; hence he tells Nanda in SN Canto 14: 
In fear, in joy and in grief, one does not succumb to sleep; / Therefore against the onslaughts of sleep resort to these three: // SN14.26 // Feel fear from death's approach, joy from grasping a teaching of dharma, / And from the boundless suffering inherent in a birth, feel the grief. // SN14.27 //
What reasoned investigation of reality is being counterposed against, then, is feeing sorry for oneself because of the loss of a particular object, e.g.  mām (me)

If we are to grieve loss, the implicit point seems to be, we might more wisely grieve for the loss inherent in the human condition, as played out on the slaughter-bench of history. 

tad: ind. therefore
evam: ind. thus, in this way
abhiniṣkrāntam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. gone out towards ; having left the house (abl.) in order to become an anchorite

na: not
mām (acc. sg. m.): me
śocitum = inf. śuc: to suffer violent heat or pain , be sorrowful or afflicted , grieve , mourn at or for (loc. or acc. with prati)
arhasi (2rd pers. sg. arh): you ought

bhūtvā = abs. bhū: to be
api: even, however
hi: for
ciram: ind. for a long time
śleṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): m. adhering or clinging to (loc.) ; connection , junction , union (also applied to sexual union); embracing , an embrace

kālena (inst. sg.): ind. instr. in the course of time
na: not
bhaviṣyati = 3rd pers. sg. future bhū: to be

長夜集恩愛 要當有別離
以有當離故 故求解脱因 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.15: Keeping Calm and Carrying On

jarā-maraṇa-nāśārthaṁ praviṣṭo 'smi tapo-vanam |
na khalu svarga-tarṣeṇa nāsnehena na manyunā || 6.15

'For an end to aging and death,

I have entered the ascetic wood;

Not out of any thirst for heaven,

Nor disaffectedly nor with zealous ardour.

The 1st pāda relates to the prince's motivation: he is motivated to solve a problem.

The 2nd pāda emphasizes that the problem is not just an abstract philosophical problem: it is a practical problem, in order to solve which he has entered a place where people go to devote themselves to hard practice.

In the 3rd pāda the prince states that his motivation is not any kind of religious mania; it does not arise from a strong delusory desire for what does not exist (like re-union with the Supreme Spirit).

And in the 4th pāda he states that his motivation does not arise from emotional imbalance, one way or the other.

In today's verse in the round, then, as I read it, the prince is exuding a calm determination which may be contrasted to the nervous agitation that is described arising in him in BC Canto 3.

On a couple on textual points, EHJ amended jarā (aging) to janma (birth) and PO rendered the 4th pāda as nāsneheneha (na + asneha + iha) na manyunā. EHJ's amendment is neither refuted nor supported by the Chinese whose 爲脱生老死 means “in order to be free of birth, aging and death”; and PO's addition of the iha was clearly a slip, since it resulted in the pāda having nine syllables (i.e. one syllable too many).

If we look as usual for a surface meaning and a sub-text in today's verse, ostensibly the prince is choosing words whose communication to the king via Chandaka will assuage the king's anguish; and the sub-text is that Aśvaghoṣa is letting us the readers know what mind it was that caused the prince eventually to realize the deathless step (a-mṛtaṁ padam) – that stage in a practical process which is akin to an eternal refuge.

Concepts like “the end of aging and death” (jarā-maraṇa-nāśa) or as per EHJ “an end to birth and death” (janma-maraṇa-nāśa) were current before the time of the Buddha in Brahminist teaching of cause and effect continuing from one re-birth to the next, until attainment of nirvāṇa (nirvāṇa = final emancipation from matter and re-union with the Supreme Spirit [MW]). So telling the king that his motivation was jarā-maraṇa-nāśārtham (“to put an end to aging and death”) would have been understandable to the king, as would entry into an ascetic wood, in which case the 3rd and 4th pādas are providing added re-assurance that there is nothing for the king to worry about in terms of his son's emotional state.

But for our purposes, “the end of aging and death” has to mean something totally and utterly different from the kind of “re-union with the Supreme Spirit” that was targeted by asceticism in the Brahmanical tradition.

In the Buddha's teaching, again, the end of aging and death is something to be experienced as a stage of practice, by a practitioner who has worked on himself in the direction of cutting out faults.

Thus in Canto 16 of Aśvaghoṣa's epic tale of Beautiful Joy, the Buddha tells Beautiful Joy:
So my friend, with regard to the many forms of becoming, know their causes to be [the faults] that start with thirsting / And cut out those [faults], if you wish to be freed from suffering; for ending of the effect follows from eradication of the cause. // SN16.25 // Again, the ending of suffering follows from the disappearance of its cause. Experience that reality for yourself as peace and well-being, / A place of rest, a cessation, an absence of the red taint of thirsting, a primeval refuge which is irremovable and noble, // 16.26 // In which there is no becoming, no aging, no dying, no illness, no being touched by unpleasantness, / No disappointment, and no separation from what is pleasant: It is an ultimate and indestructible step, in which to dwell at ease. // 16.27 // A lamp that has gone out reaches neither to the earth nor to the sky, / Nor to any cardinal nor to any intermediate point: Because its oil is spent it reaches nothing but extinction. // 16.28 // In the same way, a man of action who has come to quiet reaches neither to the earth nor to the sky, / Nor to any cardinal nor to any intermediate point: From the ending of his afflictions he attains nothing but extinction. // 16.29 //

Dogen in a chapter of Shobogenzo titled Shizen-biku, “The Beggar of the Fourth Dhyāna,” tells the story of a practitioner who mistakenly considered himself to have experienced for himself the fourth and final stage (that eternal refuge which is not subject to aging and death), when in fact he had only experienced the fourth stage of sitting-meditation.

So in some sense that chapter of Shobogenzo, is a cautionary tale of pride coming before a fall, and when I translated the chapter twenty or so years ago I had the sense, or fear, that I didn't want in any circumstances to be another shizen-biku.

I secretly fancied (not discouraged in such fantasies I might add by my teacher Gudo Nishijima) that my role models ought rather to be the famous patriarchs who were instrumental in the spread of the Dharma from one great nation to another, like Dogen himself, or like Taiso Eka, or Bodhidharma.

In recent days and weeks, however, I must confess, having put myself in a position where I could be severely punished by any sharp downturn in the price of gold, which has duly materialized, it occurs to me that the anonymous beggar of the fourth dhyāna, who fell from grace but subsequently got back on track, might not be such a bad role model after all.

Feeling myself right now to be in a severe financial predicament, I remember two years or so after I last saw Gudo, which is to say three years or so before he ripped the heart out of our translation partnership, Gudo wrote me that he had entered into “a very severe situation.” Gudo was referring to the aftermath of the decision by Michael J. Luetchford to proceed on his own with what began as a joint collaboration between Gudo and MJL to translate Nāgārjuna's MMK.

“Cause and effect” as Gudo once said to me, many years earlier, in a different context, while rubbing cream into his knee, “is so severe.”

Severe though it is, there might be no other vehicle by which a practitioner can, by gradually cutting out faults, experience for himself or herself the ending of aging and death.

On that point, in their affirmation of karma, or cause and effect, Brahmanism and the Buddha's teaching might have something in common. In their affirmation of the value of going to practise a celibate life in a forest or wood, again, the two traditions might have something in common. Perhaps the most fundamental difference, however, is that the prince – even before he became the enlightened Buddha – realized that asceticism was not the way to cut out faults.

So Brahmanism and the Buddha's teachings have some aspects in common. And their aim, in Sanskrit words, sounds exactly the same – jarā-maraṇa-nāśa, the ending of aging and death. But in practice the aim of each is utterly different. And the means of each for pursuing the aim is also utterly different.

When Patrick Olivelle asserts, then, that “Even though Aśvaghoṣa sought to present Buddhism as an integral part of Brahmanism, the reality was that there was an ongoing debate between the two traditions,” I think he does Aśvaghoṣa a disservice.

The reality, notwithstanding some points in common, is that the aims of the two traditions are utterly different, and the means also are utterly different. Notwithstanding some formal similarities, the integral parts of the two traditions are utterly different.

And so Aśvaghoṣa's hidden agenda in a verse like today's, as I have thus found myself responding to it, might be to cause us to remain mindful of exactly how Brahmanism and the Buddha's teaching are different. 

The difference, in a nutshell, might be practising asceticism with a view to union with Supreme Spirit vs sitting in such a manner as to cut out faults. 

jarā-maraṇa-nāśārtham (acc. sg. n.): in order to destroy old age and death
jarā: f. aging, old age
maraṇa: n. dying, death
nāśa: m. the being lost , loss , disappearance , destruction , annihilation , ruin , death
artha: mn. aim, purpose

praviṣṭaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. entered
asmi = 1st pers. sg. as: to be
tapo-vanam (acc. sg.): the ascetic grove

na: not
khalu: ind. (as a particle of asseveration) indeed , verily , certainly , truly ; na khalu , by no means , not at all , indeed not
svarga-tarṣeṇa (inst. sg.): because of thirst for heaven

na: not
asnehena (inst. sg.): m. want of affection
sneha: m. blandness , tenderness , love , attachment to , fondness or affection
iha: ind. here, now, the here and now
na: not
manyunā (inst. sg.): m. spirit , mind , mood , mettle (as of horses) ; high spirit or temper , ardour , zeal , passion; rage , fury , wrath , anger , indignation ; grief , sorrow , distress , affliction

爲脱生老死 故入苦行林
亦不求生天 非無仰戀心
亦不懷結恨 唯欲捨憂悲 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.14: Bowing as Turning Back

anena maṇinā chanda praṇamya bahuśo npaḥ |
vijñāpyo 'mukta-viśrambhaṁ saṁtāpa-vinivttaye || 6.14

“Using this pearl, Chanda,

Bow down repeatedly before the protector of men,

And, without loosening your grip on fearlessness, 
communicate with him

So that the fires of anguish 
may be turned back and extinguished –


Using this shining pearl,

Taking possession of the whole head

With hands, feet, arms, legs, and back, back, turning back,

Again and again ... but avoiding meaningless repetition... slowly bowing forward.

In the first two pādas of today's verse, the ostensible meaning of anena maṇinā praṇamya bahuśo nṛpaḥ is offering/paying to the king repeated obeisance/homage with the jewel/pearl.

Hence “By thee with this jewel, O Chaṁda, having offered him repeated obeisance, the king,..” (EBC); “With this jewel, Chanda, you must make repeated obeisance to the king,...” (EHJ); “With this gem, Chanda, you must pay repeated homage to the king,...” (PO).

But if we follow the subtext identified yesterday in which the shining pearl is a metaphor for head/consciousness, then praṇamya is better understood not so much as the paying of obeisance or homage as the physical/developmental activity of bowing down to the ground.

In that case, as many times before, nṛ-paḥ “protector of men,” which ostensibly means King Śuddodhana, might be intended below the surface to suggest the Buddha.

In bowing before the King of Dharma, how should we be? Should we bow down to the protector of men in religious awe, like a God-fearing Christian kneeling before the putative King of Kings? The 3rd pāda, as I read it, suggests not.

I think amukta-viśrambham is another one of those paradoxical compounds (like ānṛśaṁsa-cikīrṣayā, “wanting to do prevention of harm,” in BC6.12) that Aśvaghoṣa employs to cause us to engage the grey matter.

A-mukta means “not loosed” or “without letting go” or “without losing hold”; and vi-śrambha means 1. loosening, relaxation; 2. confidence, trust; and 3. absence of restraint, familiarity.

Amukta-viśrambham might therefore literally be translated as “without loosening your grip on loosening” or “without letting go of coming undone.”

As such it might be a negative equivalent of “think this state of not-thinking.”

The prince is asking Chandaka not to stiffen up in fear but rather to abide in that loose, relaxed, and uninhibited state which is confidence or fearlessness – but in so asking, paradoxically, the prince speaks of a-mukta, not letting go of it.

How is a bloke to think not-thinking? 


How is a bloke not to loosen his grip on fearlessness? 

It sounds like the kind of problem that an Alexander teacher encounters in using his or her hands to convey a lengthening and widening direction to a pupil while taking the pupil into movement. 

How is a bloke not to loosen his grip on fearlessness? 

The answer in words might be "non-doing." 

But it is perfectly possible to know the answer in words, while stiffening one's wrists like anything. 

The final word of today's verse, vinivṛttaye, is, like the nivartanaḥ of the Canto title, from the root √vṛt, to turn. So just as chandraka-nivartanaḥ means “The Turning Back of Chandaka” or even “Turning Back with Chandaka,” saṁtāpa-vinivṛttaye means “for the turning back of anguish” or “for turning back from anguish.”

Ostensibly, then, saṁtāpa-vinivṛttaye means “so that he [the king] will be turned back from anguish” or “so that his anguish will be extinguished.” But below the surface saṁtāpa-vinivṛttaye might also mean “so that you, Chanda, turn back from anguish” and “so that all beings are turned back from anguish.”

“So that the fires of anguish may be turned back and extinguished” is my best effort at a translation that allows the ostensible meaning and the hidden meanings, and which also includes the allusion to the “Turning Back” of the Canto title – remembering that the Buddha exhorted Nanda to know the path as a turning back (nivartakaṃ cāpy-avagaccha mārgam).
Comprehend, therefore, that suffering is doing; witness the faults impelling it forward; / Realise its stopping as non-doing; and know the path as a turning back (nivartakaṃ). // SN16.42 //
In conclusion, then, I read today's verse as suggesting that bowing can be a powerful means of knowing the path as a turning back. But bowing is not necessarily so effective. If we bow with neck stiffened and head pulled back, for example, in a state of grovelling fear, or solicitous prayer, bowing might not be such an effective means of turning back or of communicating with a protector of men. It might all depend on how one takes into one's possession and uses one's own shining pearl.

anena (inst. sg. m.): this
maṇinā (inst. sg.): m. a jewel , gem , pearl (also fig.) , any ornament or amulet , globule , crystal
chanda (voc.): Chanda!

praṇamya = abs. pra √nam: to bend or bow down before (often with mūrdhnā , śirasā &c ) , make obeisance to (dat gen. loc. or acc.)
bahuśaḥ: ind. manifoldly , repeatedly , much , often
nṛpaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the guardian/protector of men, the king

vijñāpyaḥ = vi-jñāpanīyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. to be made known , to be communicated ; to be (respectfully) informed or apprised
a-mukta-viśrambham (acc. sg. n.): without losing hold of loosening [EBC: with his loving confidence still unshaken; EHJ: in full confidence; PO: without being diffident]
a-mukta: mfn. not loosed , not let go , not liberated from [birth and death]
viśrambha: m. slackening , loosening , relaxation (of the organs of utterance) , cessation ; trust , confidence in (loc. gen. , or comp.) ; absence of restraint , familiarity , intimacy ; °bhaṁ √ kṛ with gen. , " to win the confidence of "
vi- √śrambh: , to confide , be confident , trust in or rely on (loc.) ; Caus. vi-śrambhayati , to relax , loosen , untie
√śrambh: to be careless or negligent ; to trust , confide

saṁtāpa-vinivṛttaye (dat. sg.): for the cessation of sorrow
saṁtāpa: m. becoming very hot , great or burning heat , glow , fire ; affliction , pain , sorrow , anguish , distress
vinivṛtti: f. cessation , coming to an end ; omission , discontinuance ; cessation of work, inactivity, Bcar.
vi-ni-√vṛt : to turn back , return ; to turn away , desist or cease from (abl.) ; to cease , end , disappear ; to be extinguished (as fire)
vi-nivartana: n. turning back , return ; coming to an end , cessation

車匿持此珠 還歸父王所
持珠禮王足 以表我虔心
爲我啓請王 願捨愛戀情

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.13: Exploring Massive Mass & Energetic Energy

mukuṭād-dīpa-karmāṇaṁ maṇim-ādāya bhāsvaram |
bruvan vākyam-idaṁ tasthau sāditya iva mandaraḥ || 6.13

The shining pearl, which serves as a source of light,

He took into his possession, from his crown,

And firmly he stood, speaking these words,

Like Mount Mandara in the Aditi-begotten sun.

The conventions of English grammar make it difficult to retain in their original position the four elements of today's verse which are namely:
(1) something starting in the crown which has the function of a light (a metaphor for consciousness?),
(2) a shining jewel (a precious stone; a material thing which has economic value) appropriated for a particular use,
(3) the action of standing firmly, and speaking,
(4) the imposing reality suggested by the simile of a legendary mountain standing in the sun.

Maṇiṁ could could mean a jewel or a pearl. My opting for pearl is probably biased by descriptions in Shobogenzo (probably drawn from the Lotus Sutra as translated by Kumārajīva) of pearls in top-knots, as well as by Master Gensa's famous assertion that the whole Universe in ten directions is one bright pearl.

Mukuṭād-ādāya could means “he took from the crown” or “he received through the crown” – in which case “crown,” as in English, could mean a crown worn on the head, or the head itself. Mukuṭād-ādāya could mean “he felt from the crown” or “he imparted to himself from the crown” or “he separated from the crown” or “he appropriated from the crown.”

The challenge in verses like today's verse is to see not only the fabulous or fantastic scene that Aśvaghoṣa is inviting us to picture on the service, but also a more prosaic and practical hidden meaning.

Such hidden meaning is not liable to be dug out by the means of sitting at a computer screen and woffling about chakras.

Nevertheless, today's verse can be read as an invitation to investigate what the light of consciousness is, and to ask, for example: Is it limited to the top two inches? Or can it be separated from the top two inches? Again, if it is not limited to the top two inches, how far down might it go?

Many of the children my wife and I have worked with over the years who are easily distracted (or in other words are considered to have poor powers of concentration, or to be poor listeners, or to have attention deficit disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) are often described by their mothers, paradoxically, as being remarkably good at focusing for long periods on something that grabs their attention – video games being the usual example.

It might be said that these children do not suffer from a deficit of the light of attention; rather, they suffer from a weak ability to appropriate that light. In other words they have not learned how to turn the light around and make it into their own possession.

It might be argued further that the essence of meditative activities – especially activities involving very slow movement and standing or sitting firmly in non-movement – is to appropriate or to take possession of the light of attention.

Today's verse, then, below the surface, can be read as a four-phased description of what sitting-meditation is – in which case Mount Mandara might be said to correspond to the (ZA; sitting) and the Aditi-begotten sun to the (ZEN; meditation) of 坐禅 (ZAZEN; sitting-meditation).

Incidentally, in process of preparing today's translation and commentary I googled various phrases like “pearl in the top-knot” and “jewel in the Buddha's crown,” and these searches yielded – as might be expected – links to some fabulous and fantastic passages, mainly from Mahāyana sūtras.

But one of the links was to a website which has a page with a very clear guide to Sanskrit pronunciation. It caused me to reflect again how good it would be to be able to hear Aśvaghoṣa's original words recited by somebody with a voice as clear as that of the woman on these recordings.

Having prepared the above comment yesterday, when I sat for an hour this morning, I tried picturing something like a shining pearl as a source of light in my head. Such use of visual images is not unheard of in Alexander work. Marjory Barlow, for example, sometimes used the image of a ping-pong ball on top of a fountain to convey the sense of the head going forward and up on top of a lengthening spine.

Whether the use of such images is authentic or not comes down, in Alexander work, to one criterion, and the criterion is: going up? or going down? 

In the transmission of the Buddha-dharma, similarly, Dogen reports, there is one criterion, and again it is centred on upright balance. The criterion is, namely, the samādhi (or balanced state) of accepting and using the self. My teacher tried to reduce this to balance of the autonomic nervous system, for which stupidity, as you have witnessed on this blog, I have vented my anger towards him, thus spectacularly failing to meet the criterion. 

In any event, the wisdom behind the reductionist stupidity was the wisdom of knowing that the criterion is balance. Balance like that realized by the Buddha when he sat under the bodhi-tree acala-dhṛtir-adri-rājavat as unmovably stable as the king of mountains (SN3.7).

Did visualizing a shining pearl help me sit like a mountain this morning, or not?

I don't know.

The experiment did cause me to reflect that I tend to assume that I know what it is to sit like a mountain but am less sure what it means to turn the light around and let it shine – as if I knew what mass was, but was less sure about energy and light.

When I examination this assumption that I know what mass is, however, is it not a most extremely stupid unexamined view?

What do I really know? I don't know what mass is, any more than I know what energy or light is. I know that on several occasions in my adult life, I have fucked up big time, acting on the basis of imbalanced states of greed, fear/anger, and delusion. Consequently, anything that might offer even a remote hope of serving as an antidote to these three, I am prepared to give a try – setting aside, at least temporarily, intellectual judgements of what is authentic and what is not authentic.

When imbalanced people try to be right, that is a recipe for disaster. But that is what Japanese Zen is mainly all about. Seeing my own delusory desire to be proven right, sadly, as very much part of the problem, I hope every day for redemption through service of Aśvaghoṣa.

This might be the truest thing I have said in a long time – in which case, I don't know, but credit may possibly be due to the shining pearl.

mukuṭāt (abl. sg.): mn. a tiara , diadem , crown ; a crest , point , head
mukuṭa-ratna / mukuṭopala: m. a crest-gem , jewel on a diadem
mukuṭin: mfn. crowned , wearing a diadem
dīpa-karmāṇam (acc. sg. m): having the action of a light / lamp
dīpa: m. a light , lamp , lantern
karman: n. act, action (frequently ifc. , the first member of the compound being either the person who performs the action [e.g. vaṇik-k° , a merchant's business] or the person or thing for or towards whom the action is performed [e.g. rāja-k° , the business of a king , paśu-k° , animal sacrifice] or a specification of the action [e.g. śaurya-k°, a heroic deed , prīti-k°, an act of friendship]) ; occupation ; work
dīpa-ṁ-kara: m. " light-causer " , N. of a mythical buddha

maṇim (acc. sg.): m. a jewel , gem , pearl (also fig.) , any ornament or amulet , globule , crystal
ādāya = abs. ā- √ dā: " to give to one's self " , take , accept , receive from ; to take off or out from (abl.) , separate from (abl.) ; to seize , grasp , take or catch hold ; to perceive , notice , feel ; to keep in mind
ā-: (as a prefix to verbs , especially of motion , and their derivatives) near , near to , towards
√ dā: to give , bestow , grant , yield , impart , present , offer to
bhāsvaram (acc. sg. m.): mfn. shining , brilliant , bright , resplendent

bruvan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. brū: to speak
vākyam (acc. sg.): n. speech, words
idam (acc. sg. n.): this
tasthau = 3rd pers. sg. perf. sthā: to stand , stand firmly

sa-: (connected with saha , sam , sama) an inseparable prefix expressing "junction" , "conjunction" , "possession" (as opp. to a priv.) , " similarity " , " equality " (and when compounded with nouns to form adjectives and adverbs it may be translated by " with " , " together or along with " , " accompanied by " , " added to " , " having " , " possessing " , " containing " ,
ādityaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. belonging to or coming from aditi ; m. " son of aditi "; m. pl. N. of seven deities of the heavenly sphere RV. ix , 114 , 3 , &c S3Br. iii , 1 , 3 , 3 (the chief is varuṇa , to whom the N. āditya is especially applicable ) ; m. N. of a god in general , especially of sūrya (the sun) ; mfn. relating to the god of the sun
iva: like

mandaraḥ (nom. sg. m.): m. N. of a sacred mountain (the residence of various deities ; it served the gods and asuras for a churning-stick at the churning of the ocean for the recovery of the amṛta and thirteen other precious things lost during the deluge)

寶冠頂摩尼 光明照其身
即脱置掌中 如日曜須彌