Thursday, August 29, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 7.8: Here Comes the Sun - Effortlessly (?)

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bālā)
lekharṣabhasyeva vapur-dvitīyaṁ dhāmeva lokasya carācarasya |
sa dyotayām-āsa vanaṁ hi ktsnaṁ yad-cchayā sūrya ivāvatīrṇaḥ || 7.8

For, like the physical double of Indra, bull of gods,

Like the glory of all that moves and is still in the world,

He lit up the whole forest –

As if the Sun himself had dropped by.

Aśvaghoṣa compares the enlightened Buddha to the shining sun, for example, in these two verses in SN Canto 3:
To people possessed by ends, serving many and various paths, / Splendour had arisen that seemed like the sun: Gautama was like the sun, dispelling darkness. // SN3.16 //
 He walked over water as if on dry land, immersed himself in the soil as though it were water, / Rained as a cloud in the sky, and shone like the newly-risen sun. // SN3.23 //
In today's verse, the prince is compared to the sun before his enlightenment – as also in BC7.6, in commenting upon which I omitted to mention that, as descendants of Ikṣvāku, the family of King Śuddodhana were regarded as belonging to the solar race.

More important than this allusion to descent from Ikṣvāku, however, is the principle that enlightenment did not change the Buddha from a person without light into a person with light. Rather, as the Buddha-to-be, the prince was already more than radiant enough to dazzle the eyes of ashram-dwelling sages.

Once again, then, though today's verse on the surface does not seem to have much to do with the one great matter which is the practice of sitting-meditation, the principle behind today's verse as I read it is the principle that Dogen states at the beginning of his instructions for sitting-zen – namely, that enlightenment is already abundantly present in the earth under our feet, in the vast emptiness overhead, and in the grass and trees of our own mind; so who needs to make a big effort?

In principle, not me, for one. But in practice it might be a different story. In practice I cycled 65 miles from the ferry port of Ouistreham in the middle of July in order to be here by the forest, and I am still here, not feeling too eager, I must admit, to go back to the noise of the Southeast of England.

The reason twenty years ago we moved to the noise of the Southeast of England in the first place, ironically, was so that I could train as a teacher of the technique of FM Alexander, who said of his work:
"When an investigation comes to be made it will be found that every single thing we do in the work is exactly what is done in Nature, where the conditions are right, the difference being that we are learning to do it consciously."
In the 4th pāda, yad-ṛcchayā can be read in this light. The dictionary gives yad-ṛcchayā as spontaneously, accidentally, unexpectedly, but in translation I intended “dropped by” to include both the sense of descent conveyed by avatīrṇaḥ (he alighted/descended) and the sense of effortless spontaneity conveyed by yad-ṛcchayā.

Marjory Barlow used to say that what really got her interested in the work of her uncle FM Alexander, when she was an avid reader of books at the age of 16, was the promise it held out of the possibility of living consciously, of really being conscious.

I suppose that the Buddha's enlightenment, similarly, and the possibility of us realizing what the Buddha realized, might be related with the possibility of consciously doing – or allowing -- what happens in Nature spontaneously or accidentally.

My wife trained as an Alexander teacher after me and she also practises sitting-meditation – though more intermittently than she used to, since getting a dog. My wife has observed in the past, and I agree with her, that being here by the forest gives one less of an incentive to think Alexander's directions. It is as if in a place where grass and trees are shooting up all around, the right thing is apt to do itself, even if one doesn't bother with the work of allowing it.

Having said that, I should add that just as I frequently stumble and fall while living in Aylesbury, so also am I quite capable of stumbling and falling from grace while residing here by the forest.

Everything seems to be going swimmingly... and then the internet connection goes down, a cockerel crows, and something within me suddenly, unexpectedly, yad-ṛcchayā, wishes to spit the dummy and throw the toys out of the pram.

Marjory's words remind me that “being wrong is the best friend we have got in this work.”

What work?

Mara wryly smiles.

lekharṣabhasya (gen. sg.): m. " best of gods " , N. of indra
lekha: m. a line, stroke ; (also pl.) a writing , letter , manuscript ; a god , deity
ṛṣabha: m. (fr. √2. ṛṣ, to thrust ), a bull (as impregnating the flock) ; any male animal in general ; the best or most excellent of any kind or race
iva: like
vapur-dvitīyam (nom. sg. n.): the embodied double; EBC/EHJ/PO: a second form
vapus: n. form , figure , (esp.) a beautiful form or figure , wonderful appearance , beauty ; body
dvitīya: mfn. second
vapur-dhara: m. having form , embodied ; having beautiful form , handsome
vapur-guṇa : m. personal beauty

dhāma (nom. sg.): n. dwelling-place , house , abode , domain RV. &c &c (esp. seat of the gods); favourite thing or person , delight , pleasure ; effect , power , strength , majesty , glory , splendour , light
iva: like
lokasya (gen. sg.): m. the world
carācarasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. movable and immovable , locomotive and stationary , moving and fixed (as animals and plants) ; n. the aggregate of all created things whether animate or inanimate , world
cara: mfn. moving
acara: mfn. not moving

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
dyotayām-āsa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. periphrastic causative dyut: to make bright , illuminate , irradiate ; to cause to appear , make clear or manifest , express , mean
vanam (acc. sg.): n. forest, woods
hi: for
kṛtsnam (acc. sg. n.): all , whole , entire

yad-ṛcchayā: ind. spontaneously , by accident , unexpectedly
yad-ṛcchā: f. self-will , spontaneity , accident , chance
sūryaḥ (nom. sg.): m. the sun or its deity
iva: like
avatīrṇaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. alighted , descended

爲日月天子 而來下此耶 

要是所應敬 奔競來供養

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