Monday, July 29, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 6.47: Breathing (in Splendid Isolation)

sametya ca yathā bhūyo vyapayānti balā-hakāḥ |
saṁyogo viprayogaś-ca tathā me prāṇināṁ mataḥ || 6.47

Just as clouds join together

And then drift apart again,

So, as I see it, is the joining and separation

Of those who breathe.

What I wrote in my comment yesterday linking separation and breathing I wrote before starting work on the translation of today's verse in which prāṇinām means “living creatures” and at the same time, originally, “breathers.”

On the surface, then, prāṇinām means all living beings, but below the surface prāṇin “one who breathes” might be intended to suggest the same as bhūta in yesterday's verse – i.e. a real human being, or a realized human being, who knows what it is truly to allow an in-breath and truly to allow an out-breath.

Yesterday evening after another thunderstorm had passed (the one on Saturday seeming to have knocked out my neighbour's phone line and therefore my connection to the internet; hence the late posting), the air smelt very fresh and the sounds of the rain-invigorated forest stream intermingling with birdsongs sounded very distinct. As I sat outside in full lotus I had a sense, stimulated by the energy of a corner of the forest where I feel I belong and at the same time by today's verse, of the importance of being able to breathe easy in one's own skin.

Thinking in terms of the hidden meaning of today's and yesterday's verses, as I read them, I can't deny how vital it has been to associate with Alexander teachers like Ron Colyer and Marjory Barlow, who taught me a lot about how NOT to breathe; and how useful it was, before that, to join with others in Japan who were sincerely devoted to “just sitting,” as they believed in it. But in the end what it means to me, and what it has meant to me for more than ten years now, to breathe easy in my own skin, is mainly to retreat to this place by the forest in France and sit by myself.

Through the centuries, I seem to hear Dogen's teacher Tendo Nyojo saying, as he is quoted saying in Shobogenzo, as if to take the piss out of a monk who praised his own solitary practice: “Let him kill himself by sitting.”

And the sanitized version of my instinctive response is: “Please be so kind as to leave me alone.”

The joy of the first dhyāna is described in SN Canto 17, and again in BC Canto 5, as “born of solitude / separateness.” And the going up beyond joy of the third dhyāna involves many separations, altogether and one after another.

Ostensibly, then, the prince in today's verse is again describing separation as the essence of suffering. But I think that below the surface Aśvaghoṣa is conscious of separation as the essence of sitting-meditation.

sametya = abs. sam- √i : to go or come together
ca: and
yathā: ind. just as
bhūyaḥ: ind. again, once more

vyapayānti = 3rd pers. pl. vy-apa- √ yā : to go away , retire , withdraw; to pass away, vanish
balā-hakāḥ (nom. pl.): m. or valāhaká a rain or thunder -cloud , any cloud

saṁyogaḥ (nom. sg.): m. conjunction , combination , connection ; union or absorption with or in ; contact
viprayogaḥ (nom. sg.): m. disjunction , dissociation , separation
ca: and

tathā: in like manner
me (gen. sg.): me
prāṇinām = gen. pl. prāṇin: m. 'breathing' a living or sentient being , living creature
mataḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. thought , believed , imagined , supposed , understood ; regarded or considered as , taken or passing for (nom. or adv.)
matau [Gawronski] (nom. dual): ibid.

[EHJ notes that Aśvaghoṣa uses a single verb with a double subject several times.]

浮雲興高山 四集盈虚空
俄而復消散 人理亦復然

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