Sunday, July 7, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.25: Chanda's Not for Turning

iti vākyam-idaṁ śrutvā chandaḥ saṁtāpa-viklavaḥ |
bāṣpa-grathitayā vācā pratyuvāca ktāñjaliḥ || 6.25

Having heard these words,

The anguished Chanda,

With voice clogged with tears,

As he stood with hands held together in a reverent posture,
answered back:

The main point I, as a bloke who sees the main thing as sitting, took from yesterday's verse was the teaching that if, in sitting, I wish to be free from the angst which habitually bedevils me, I should sit on the grounds of nairguṇyam-asmākam, our being-without virtue, the Buddha-nature that we all possess.

This, as I heard it, was the hidden meaning of what the prince said to Chandaka.

In light of this teaching, how is Chandaka?

Today's verse introduces a long monologue by Chandaka which continues for 16 verses from BC6.26 through to BC6.41.

Chandaka, despite being included in yesterday's verse among those who possess nair-guṇyam, aka the Buddha-nature, evidently is not yet aware of that virtue in and for himself.

Thus, when in BC6.41 Chandaka concludes his monologue by imploring the prince nivartasva, “turn back!”, Chandaka has not yet got the point of the Canto title chandaka-nivartanaḥ, “Chandaka's Turning Back.” Chandaka does not yet see that the one he is required to turn back is himself.

In four phases, then, the 1st pāda of today's verse suggests that Chandaka heard the prince's words (but otherwise, he failed to understand them).

The 2nd pāda locates the cause of Chandaka's inability to understand in his anguished emotional state.

The 3rd pāda expresses the practical principle of psycho-physical unity – Chandaka's mental imbalance finding its physical manifestation in inefficient use of his vocal mechanism.

I took the 4th pāda, on first preparing this comment, to be an expression of Chandaka doing his best, despite not being in the best emotional shape, to crack on. And in so cracking, I noted, Chandaka, by standing with his hands joined together, followed a traditional form.

As I sat this morning, however, I abandoned this reading which is somewhat affirmative of Chandaka's attitude in favour of a more sceptical or cynical reading. Having provisionally titled today's post “Chandaka Cracks On,” I changed the title to “Chanda's Not for Turning.”

It occurred to me this morning as I sat, in the traditional cross-legged posture, wrapped in a kaṣāya, with shaved head, and yet habitually full of woe about this and that, that today's verse might be more than an encouragement to a bloke who sits just to crack on regardless, just doing it for another thirty years which hopefully won't be as error-strewn and angst-filled as the last thirty. There might rather be something in today's verse for a bloke who sits to meditate on, in Aśvaghoṣa description of one who is in bad shape emotionally even as he stands (to quote the MW dictionary) “in a reverent or respectful posture.”

Dogen said there is sitting with the mind as opposed to sitting with the body, and vice versa.

My teacher Gudo Nishijima interpreted this teaching as having to do with the antagonistic action of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves; and, unable to accept this teaching as required, like a beggar whose hands were forming an empty cup, I answered back, with not a little anguish.

But my being right in noticing that Gudo got it wrong is of no benefit to me whatsover unless I am able to demonstrate in practice what sitting with the mind really means – which is where the principles of the FM Alexander Technique come in. But only if I apply them. And those principles, beginning with conscious inhibition of a desire to feel right in the gaining of one's end, are not easy to apply. 

Sitting with the mind, I venture to submit, based on yesterday's verse, and based on experience in Alexander work, means turning back (i.e. inhibiting end-gaining) and sitting nairguṇyāt, on the grounds of the Buddha-nature, such that body and mind spontaneously drop off and one's original features assert themselves.

As in Alexander work, to have the experience once is a kind of enlightenment, but once is not enough. (Because of the instinct-led accumulation, from time without beginning, of the powerful mass of afflictions, / And because true practice is so difficult to do (samyak prayogasya ca duṣkaratvāt), the faults cannot be cut off all at once. // SN16.71 // )

In conclusion, then, I take today's verse as a pointer to and reminder of the fact that true practice 
(samyak prayoga) is so difficult to do (duṣkara). 

Standing for 16 verses in a reverent posture is not so difficult to do. And sitting for five, seven, or nine hours a day in what one proudly believes to be “a good posture” or “the right posture” is not so difficult to do – I know because I spent two years in my twenties doing just that. The real difficulty might reside not in the stalwart doing of this, that, and the other, but rather in the naiḥ of nairguṇyam, the being without. And Chanda's tear-clogged voice gives away the fact that – whatever traditional form he might force his body into – he has not yet got the point of the turning back and being without.

iti: thus
vākyam (acc. sg.): n. speech, words
idam (acc. sg. n.): this
śrutvā = abs. śru: to hear , listen or attend to anything (acc.) , give ear to any one (acc. or gen.) , hear or learn anything about (acc.) ; to hear (from a teacher) , study , learn ; to be attentive , be obedient , obey

chandaḥ (nom. sg.): m. Chanda ; m. N. of śākya-muni's charioteer (chandaka)
saṁtāpa-viklavaḥ (nom. sg. m.): overcome with burning sorrow
saṁtāpa: m. becoming very hot , great or burning heat , glow , fire; affliction , pain , sorrow , anguish , distress
viklava: mfn. overcome with fear or agitation , confused , perplexed , bewildered , alarmed , distressed

bāṣpa-grathitayā (inst. sg. f.): choking / clogged with tears
grathita: mfn. strung , tied , bound , connected , tied together or in order , wound ; having knots , knotty ; coagulated , thickened , hardened
vācā (inst. sg.): f. speech , voice , talk ; a word , saying , phrase , sentence

pratyuvāca = 3rd pers. sg. perf. prati- √ vac: to speak back , answer , reply
kṛtāñjaliḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. one who joins the hollowed palms in reverence or to solicit a favour (holding the hollowed palms together as if to receive alms or an offering) , standing in a reverent or respectful posture
añjali: m. ( √ añj) the open hands placed side by side and slightly hollowed (as if by a beggar to receive food ; hence when raised to the forehead , a mark of supplication) , reverence , salutation , benediction
√ añj: to apply an ointment or pigment , smear with , anoint ; to honour , celebrate ;

車匿奉教勅 悲塞情惛迷
合掌而胡跪 還答太子言 

1 comment:

Mike Cross said...

When I wrote in this comment about sitting with the mind, I wrote it before noticing that in the 3rd pāda of BC6.26 Chandaka says sīdati me cetas, which ostensibly means "my heart sinks" but which can also be read as saying "my mind sits."