Thursday, September 12, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 7.22: Using Pain as a Means to Pursue Pain

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Vāṇī)
kāya-klamair-yaś-ca tapo 'bhidhānaiḥ pravttim-ākāṅkṣati kāma-hetoḥ |
saṁsāra-doṣān-aparīkṣamāṇo duḥkhena so 'nvicchati duḥkham-eva || 7.22

And he who, by the bodily travails called ascetic practice,

Desires advancement for the sake of desire

While failing to attend to the faults that fuel saṁsāra –

He by the means of suffering pursues nothing but suffering.

In the 2nd pāda of today's verse, desiring advancement for the sake of desire suggests the desire to ascend up to heaven for sex with celestial nymphs – which was a commonly held goal of ascetic practice, as exemplified by Nanda in SN Cantos 10 and 11.

In the 3rd pāda, saṁsāra can be explained as the cycle whereby unconscious reactions follow from unconscious actions. In SN Canto 16, in advocating understanding of the four noble truths as a means for Nanda to eradicate faults, the Buddha compares saṁsāra to a hammock or a swing (dolā):
For by failing to wake up and come round to this four, whose substance is the reality of what is, / Humankind goes from existence to existence without finding peace, hoisted in the swing of saṁsāra (saṃsāra-dolām-adhiruhya). // SN16.6 //
In today's verse the Buddha-to-be, even before he has decisively realized what saṁsāra is, by getting off the swing as the enlightened Buddha, nonetheless uses the term saṁsāra – as also in BC5.25 he picked up the concept pari-nirvāṇa before he had found out in his own experience what pari-nirvāṇa might really mean.

So this verse also, as I read it, is a demonstration of deductive reasoning – the kind of deductive reasoning that led the Buddha-to-be eventually to be the Buddha.

In translating the compound saṁsāra-doṣān one has to decide what relation is implied between doṣān (faults) and the flowing process called saṁsāra (originally from saṁ-√sṛ, to flow together). The simplest and least intrusive translation might be “of” – the faults/evils of saṁsāra. This is how each of the three professors translate the 3rd pāda of today's verse, hence: 
not examining the inherent evils of mundane existence (EBC); 
does not perceive the evils of the cycle of existence (EHJ); 
without grasping the evils of samsaric life (PO). 
But whereas “of” rightly suggests that faults are part of saṁsāra, or are inherent in saṁsāra, I think Aśvaghoṣa's idea is that, more than that, or prior to that, faults are the cause of saṁsāra. If saṁsāra is akin to a swing on which a child is playing, then faults are akin to the child and the parent who, by their combined efforts, are keeping the swing moving. It is only human faults, in other words, which cause the swing of saṁsāra to have any momentum.

This is why the Buddha says that it is by failing to wake up to the four noble truths that we human beings go from existence to existence without finding peace, hoisted in the swing of saṁsāra. To wake up to the four noble truths is to get off the swing of saṁsāra because to follow the noble eightfold path which is the fourth of the Buddha's four noble truths, is to abandon the faults:
Giving oneself to this path with its three divisions and eight branches -- this straightforward, irremovable, noble path -- / One abandons the faults, which are the causes of suffering, and comes to that step which is total well-being. // SN16.37 //
We have been through this many times already, being led back time and again by Aśvaghoṣa's preventive message, which reminds us of the primary importance of cutting out greed, anger, and delusion, along with all the lesser faults.
"This is suffering; this is the tangled mass of causes producing it; / This is cessation; and here is a means." Thus, one by one, this supreme set of four, // SN3.12 // The seer set out, with its three divisions of the unequalled, the incontrovertible, the ultimate; / And with its statement of twelvefold determination; after which he instructed, as the first follower, him of the Kauṇḍinya clan. // 3.13 // For the fathomless sea of faults, whose water is falsity, where fish are cares, / And which is disturbed by waves of anger, lust, and fear; he had crossed, and he took the world across too. // SN3.14 //
Here is a means. The means is the noble eightfold path, with its three divisions of śīla (integrity/discipline), prajñā (wisdom) and samādhi (balance/integration). For cutting out the faults that fuel saṁsāra, this is the means.

We have covered this by now many times already over the course of the past five years. And yet the 4th pāda of today's verse seems to cause us to reflect afresh, if we are that way inclined, while sitting in full lotus, and thinking up.... 

if not pain by means of pain, 
if not suffering by means of suffering, 
we are pursuing what? 
and by means of what?

My Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima prided himself on having an answer for every question, and he did indeed have an answer for every question. “All questions can be answered!” he declared in an interview for the Japan Times circa 1980. His ability to give a credible answer to all my questions was one of the things that made it impossible for me to detach myself from his orbit through the 1980s.

We are pursuing what? and by means of what?

Gudo would generally answer that we are pursuing the balanced state of the autonomic nervous system by means of doing something – by means of keeping the spine straight vertically, an action which is different from thinking.

FM Alexander observed that, in nature when conditions are right, the spine lengthens vertically all by itself. (During the six weeks I just spent by the forest in France, I reaffirmed on a number of occasions that this does in fact seem to be true.)  And in his work, Alexander said, we learn to allow consciously what happens in nature naturally when the conditions are right.

The natural lengthening of the spine, it is emphasized in Alexander work, is not something that can be done by the doing subject: it is rather an undoing. So we cannot do it, but we can learn (so Alexander masters and mistresses assert) to allow it, or to think it.

In conclusion, then, the reasoning of the Buddha-to-be in today's verse seems to presage a later question, and a later reflection, to be asked and to be had while sitting in full lotus, and thinking up – we are pursuing what? and by means of what?

My Zen teacher Gudo Nishjima was adamant that this means, aka what?, is the reality of action itself, which is totally separated (Jap: kiri-hanarete-iru) from thinking. And on this point, I found that Gudo was dead wrong. Just this I know. Just this I shed blood, sweat and tears to be clear about. And I am clear – not because I myself am a master of Alexandrian thinking, but because I have had on me the hands of Alexander teachers who were true masters of what Alexander called thinking. 

If the means is what?, what is what??

I don't know what what? is. But Gudo confidently asserted that it was something totally cut off from thinking, and I do know that it is not that. Gudo's confidence was misplaced. 

kāya-klamaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. bodily fatigue, Bcar.
klama: m. fatigue , exhaustion , languor , weariness
yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
ca: and
tapaḥ (nom. sg.): n. ascetic practice
abhidhānaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): n. telling , naming , speaking , speech , manifesting ; a name , title , appellation , expression , word

pravṛttim (acc. sg.): f. moving onwards , advance , progress ; active life (as opp. to ni-vṛtti [q.v.] and to contemplative devotion , and defined as consisting of the wish to act , knowledge of the means , and accomplishment of the object)
ākāṅkṣati = 3rd pers. sg. ā- √ kāṅkṣ : to desire , long for , endeavour to gain (with acc.) ; to endeavour to reach a place , turn to (acc.)
kāma-hetoḥ (gen. sg.): for the sake/purpose of desire / sensual pleasure
kāma: m. wish , desire , longing ; pleasure , enjoyment ; love , especially sexual love or sensuality

saṁsāra-doṣān (acc. pl. m.): the faults/evils of saṁsāra
saṁsāra: m. going or wandering through , undergoing transmigration ; course , passage , passing through a succession of states , circuit of mundane existence , transmigration , metempsychosis , the world , secular life , worldly illusion
saṁ- √sṛ: to flow together ; to go about , wander or walk or roam through ; to walk or pass through (a succession of states) , undergo transmigration , enter or pass into (acc.)
doṣa: mn. fault , vice , deficiency , want , inconvenience , disadvantage ; badness , wickedness , sinfulness ; damage , harm , bad consequence , detrimental effect
a (negative prefix)
parīkṣamāṇaḥ = nom. sg. m. pres. part. pari- √īkṣ: to look round , inspect carefully , try , examine , find out , observe , perceive

duḥkhena (inst. sg.): n. suffering, pain, hardship
saḥ (nom. sg. m.) he
anvicchati = 3rd pers. sg. anv- √ iṣ: to desire , seek , seek after , search , aim at
duḥkham (acc. sg.): n. suffering, pain, hardship
eva: (emphatic)

自枯槁其形 修行諸苦行
而求於受生 増長五欲因
不觀生死故 以苦而求苦

No comments: