Saturday, August 31, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 7.10: [Having/Being] Release-Desire

−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Rāmā)
kīrṇaṁ tathā puṇya-ktā janena svargābhikāmena vimokṣa-kāmaḥ |
tam-āśramaṁ so 'nucacāra dhīras-tapāṁsi citrāṇi nirīkṣamāṇaḥ || 7.10

Through the ashram that was filled in this manner

With pious people having desires upon heaven,

He, being desirous of release, steadily walked,

Observing the various ascetic practices.

If there is any merit in our sitting practice we traditionally direct it towards the buddhas of the three times, the three times being the past, present, and future.

In today's verse vimokṣa-kāma, “desiring release,” like the parallel compound svargābhikāma, “desiring heaven,” ostensibly means desiring in the present some imagined liberation in the future. But if we dig below the surface vimokṣa-kāma might mean, more practically, below that surface meaning, just desiring release here and now, in the present.

Yesterday I was caused to reflect on the above point by today's verse and also by the painful news that my wife's dog seems to be suffering from some chronic damage to her spine, suffered a couple of months ago in June, while the poor old dog was doing her level best to keep up with me when I took her cycling. This was while my wife was in Japan for three weeks, leaving me to look after the dog. Having wasted a lot of time and money on vets in Aylesbury, who gave the dog blood-tests and x-rays but no diagnosis, my wife took the dog yesterday to see a woman in Wales who really knows dogs, and this dog whisperer confirmed that, yes, the dog must have damaged her spine over-exerting herself, and it is not sure whether she will survive the injury or not.

Hearing this diagnosis and regretting that I caused the problem, I observed, seemed to make it more difficult for me to desire release in the practical sense – i.e. in the sense of wishing here and now for my head to go forward and up, my back to lengthen and widen, and my legs to release out of my pelvis. It made this desiring more difficult, and at the same time, I thought to myself, it made this desiring more imperative.

I can either sit regretting the mistake I made in the past, I reasoned, directing my head back and down in the process, or I can desire release here and now, directing the head forward and up.

Insofar as I follow my habit, I do the former, pulling my head back into the past. Insofar as I desire release, here and now, I inhibit my habit.

Such is the real, practical difficulty of the third noble truth. Desiring release in the future is not difficult – it is as easy as wishing to go to heaven. Desiring release here and now can sometimes be very difficult.

Such, at any rate, were my somewhat jaded thoughts yesterday afternoon, which I felt inspired to write down as above. And even though I felt inspired to write those thoughts down, when I sat again later in the evening, my sitting had only become even more jaded – namakura zazen, sitting-meditation with a blunt sword.

Much of BBC Radio 4's programming yesterday was given over to Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet who has just died. Listening to snippets of eulogies to him, I was shocked to discover that he was using the digging metaphor long before I was – but with this exception: for him, he had swapped the spade of his potato-digging potato-eating ancestors for a pen; for me, the instrument I have swapped with the spade of my potato-digging potato-eating ancestors is an eyeball. And that eyeball is the digging eye of sitting-meditation, which tends remarkably, if left alone, to dig all by itself.

So when I sat this morning, I saw that I had not dug deep enough in the comment I prepared yesterday, in which I had described vimokṣa-kāma, “desiring release,” as an action to be practised in the present.

In the original Sanskrit kāma is not a verb; vimokṣa-kāmaḥ is a nominative expression  – [being/having] release-desire. So the two parallel expressions are originallysomething like:

They, [having/being] heaven-over-desire.... he, [having/being] release-desire.

And the reason this matters is that desiring is a verb, whether the object of desiring resides in the future (like heaven) or in the present (like the whole self going up, but as a natural response to the earth, and not in a doing way). Desiring is something that I do in the present.

But when release-desire is scrutinized by that eyeball which is like a spade, release-desire is not always something that I do in the present. Release-desire might be more a function of the past. Release-desire might be something that has evolved for millions of years in human beings, like the desire to please the human beings who lead them has evolved in dogs  – with  consequences that sometimes pull heavily on our human heart-strings. 

Vimokṣa-kāmaḥ, release-desire, might be something that has been there since ancient times waiting for me to turn back to it, when I have given up pursuing a whole lot of other desires. 

Most pernicious of these other desires, it may be argued, is the desire to be right, which carries with it fear of being wrong, attendant upon which is fixing – the very antithesis of release. Quad Erat Demonstrandum. 

If there is any merit in this comment, or if there was any merit in the early-morning digging that preceded this comment, I dedicate any such merit to the buddhas of the three times, and also to all dogs everywhere.

kīrṇam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. scattered, strewn with ; filled with , full of (instr.)
tathā: ind. in such a manner
puṇya-kṛtā (inst. sg. m.): mfn. acting right , virtuous , pious
puṇya: n. the good or right , virtue , purity , good work , meritorious act , moral or religious merit
kṛt: mfn. only ifc. ( Pa1n2. 6-1 , 182) making , doing , performing , accomplishing , effecting , manufacturing , acting , one who accomplishes or performs anything , author
janena (inst. sg.): m. people

svargābhikāmena (inst. sg. m.): being desirous of heaven
svarga: m. heaven
abhi- √ kam: to desire, love
abhikāmena (inst. sg. m.): mfn. affectionate , loving , desirous (with acc. or ifc.)
abhi-: ind. (a prefix to verbs and nouns , expressing) to , towards , into , over , upon.
vimokṣa-kāmaḥ (nom. sg. m.): being desirous of liberation
vimokṣa: m. the being loosened or undone
vi- √ muc: to unloose, unharness; to take off; to release, set free, liberate

tam (acc. sg.): that
āśramam (acc. sg.): mn. a hermitage , the abode of ascetics , the cell of a hermit or of retired saints or sages
saḥ (nom. sg. m.): he
anucacāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. anu- √ car: to walk along
dhīraḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. steady , constant , firm , resolute , brave , energetic , courageous , self-possessed , composed , calm , grave

tapāṁsi (acc. pl.): n. heat ; religious austerity , bodily mortification , penance , severe meditation
citrāṇi (acc. pl. n.): mfn. conspicuous , excellent , distinguished ; variegated , spotted , speckled ; agitated (as the sea , opposed to sama) ; various , different , manifold ; strange, wonderful
nirīkṣamāṇaḥ = nom. sg. m. pres. part. nir- √ īkṣ: to look at or towards , behold , regard , observe (also the stars) , perceive

菩薩遍觀察 林中諸梵志

No comments: