Monday, June 3, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.80: Sounds of Enlightened Hoof-steps (Not Making People Wake Up)

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑⏑⏑−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−    Puṣpitāgrā
atha sa pariharan-niśītha-caṇḍaṁ parijana-bodha-karaṁ dhvaniṁ sad-aśvaḥ |
vigata-hanu-ravaḥ praśānta-heṣaś-cakita-vimukta-pada-kramo jagāma || 5.80

And so, avoiding the noise that stridently attacks slumber,

Avoiding the noise that makes people all around wake up,

Being through with sputtering, 
the fires of his neighing all extinguished,

That good horse, with footsteps liberated from timidity, set off.

What Aśvaghoṣa is doing in today's verse, as I read it (through rose-tinted glasses, admittedly, as an Aśvaghoṣa fan), is describing his own state of quietly and harmoniously preaching the Buddha-dharma, allowing anybody and everybody to wake up who is ready to wake up, without preaching at anybody, without trying to enforce change on anybody.

If I ever attain a similarly quiet state, without stridency or fear, even it is only for one day, or one hour, you may discern it on this blog.

You won't hear me whimper another angry word about what I have had to put up with, these past 30 years, and every tap of the keyboard will resound with the iron confidence of Zen.

On present trend, my estimated time of arrival is 2073, some time before my 113th birthday.

Speaking of making people wake up, a couple of reflections spring to mind.

The first is that Dogen's teaching, when he came back to Japan from China in his twenties, was, in Gudo's words “very strong.” “Very strong” meant, in other words, strident. Moreover, cause and effect being what it is, this stridency was very probably a factor in the decision of Buddhist monks whose feathers Dogen had ruffled, to burn his temple down. Later in his career, Gudo felt, Dogen's words became more balanced and harmonized, as is reflected in the later chapters of Shobogenzo.

The second reflection is that the strident tone that is symptomatic of a desire to make others wake up – an end-gaining desire, that is, which I am sure my own vocal chords have betrayed on many an occasion – is conspicuous in some Alexander teachers I know and have known, by its total absence. Ron Colyer, for example, whose training school I sometimes visit, uses the metaphor of preparing and laying out a buffet for the student-teachers he is training. I sometimes reflect on this metaphor as an antidote to a wrong habitual tendency in me to want to lead horses to water and force them to drink.

Ultimately there is no physical means of emulating the kind of mature state of non-stridency that I admire in one or two others. Self-consciousness of foot placement only serves to send one crashing loudly into dustbins and miscellaneous empty bottles. Preventing oneself from making strident noises might ultimately not even be a matter of the brain and nervous system. If it were, there might be some practical point in gathering knowledge about reflexes, neurology, brain anatomy and the rest of it. No, the challenge is deeper than that. The challenge might be, in FM Alexander's words, "the most mental thing there is." 

I browsed a Zen book once whose title I think was “Being No-one, Going Nowhere,” but I did not believe a word of it. Really understanding what those words meant, who would seek to draw attention to themselves by writing a book with that title? That title might be about as authentic as giving one's translation blog the title of “Nothing But the Lifeblood” and then proceeding to fill the blog with all manner of personal stuff.

What is this deep tendency in me to want to make my mark, to leave my legacy, to cause a Mike Cross statue to be erected for pigeons to crap upon?

Meditating on a NASA blue planet maṇḍala, I ask myself: how would I like to leave planet earth looking, after I have made my own momentous mark, if not like this:


atha: ind. then, and so
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
pariharan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. pari- √ hṛ: to move or carry or take round ; to shun , avoid , leave out , omit ; to take away , remove , beware of or abstain from (acc.)
niśītha-caṇḍam (acc. sg. m.): being fierce in the middle of the night ; being fierce towards slumber
niśītha: m. rarely n. ( √ śī) midnight , night
√ śī: to lie down, lie down to sleep
caṇḍa: mfn. (probably fr. candrá , " glowing " with passion) fierce , violent , cruel , impetuous , hot , ardent with passion , passionate , angry

parijana-bodha-karam (acc. sg. m.): wakening / rousing the household
pari-jana: m. a surrounding company of people , entourage , attendants , servants , followers , suite , train , retinue (esp. of females) ; a single servant
bodha: m. waking , becoming or being awake , consciousness
kara: mfn. making, causing
dhvanim (acc. sg.): m. sound , echo , noise , voice , tone , tune , thunder
sad-aśvaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the good horse

vigata-hanu-ravaḥ (nom. sg. m.): noise from what injures / his jaw being absent
vigata: mfn. gone away , departed , disappeared , ceased , gone (often ibc.)
hanu: 1. " anything which destroys or injures life " , a weapon; 2. f. a jaw
rava: m. ( √ru, to roar) a roar , yell , cry , howl ; clamour, outcry ; any noise or sound (e.g. the whizz of a bow , the ringing of a bell &c )
praśānta-heṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): his neighing inhibited ; his fire extinguished
praśānta: mfn. tranquillized , calm , quiet , composed , indifferent ; extinguished , ceased , allayed , removed , destroyed , dead
pra- √śam: to become calm or tranquil , be pacified or soothed
heṣā: f. neighing , whinnying
heṣas: n. quickness , vigour , fire
√heṣ: 1. to neigh , whinny ; (prob. connected with √1. hi, to impel) , to be quick or strong or fiery

cakita-vimukta-pada-kramaḥ (nom. sg. m.): with footsteps liberated from timidity
cakita: n. trembling , timidity , alarm
vimukta: mfn. unloosed ; set free , liberated (esp. from mundane existence) , freed or delivered or escaped from (abl. instr. , or ifc.)
pada-krama: m. a series of steps , pace , walking
jagāma = 3rd pers. sg. perf. gam: to go

束身不奮迅 屏氣不噴鳴

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