−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Indravajrā)
spṣṭaṁ hi yad-yad-guṇavadbhir-ambhas-tat-tat-pthivyāṁ yadi tīrtham-iṣṭam |
tasmād-guṇān-eva paraimi tīrtham-āpas-tu niḥsaṁśayam-āpa eva || 7.31
For whatever water has been touched by people steeped in good –
That is sacred bathing water, if such on earth is sought.
Therefore, virtues, yes, I do see as a sacred ford.
But water, without doubt, is water.”
There one by one, season by season, and moment by moment, trees convey their individual form; / While some odd ones also bring out the combined manifold glory of all six seasons. // SN10.19 // Some produce garlands and wreaths which are fragrant and affecting, with variously interwoven strands, / And small round creations suited to the ear which are akin to earrings' opponents. // 10.20 // Trees there that abound in red lotuses look like trees ablaze. / Different trees, growing full-blown blue lotuses, seem to have their eyes open. // 10.21 // In various colourless hues, or else white; beautifully illuminated with golden dividing lines; / Beyond the weaving together of strands, being nothing but a unity; are the exquisite robes that trees there bear as fruit. // SN10.22 //
If Aśvaghoṣa's craft is compared to the production of garlands and wreaths, or compared – as I compared it yesterday – to basketwork, then there are strands running through it both horizontally and vertically. Practice and experience of the joy of sitting-dhyāna, for example, runs, from top to bottom, through the description of the process of the Buddha-to-be and of the Buddha.
Hence the Buddha-to-be, before he leaves home and shaves his head, is described as practising and experiencing sitting-dhyāna:
And desiring to be alone with his thoughts, he fended away those amicable hangers on / And drew close to the root of a solitary rose-apple tree whose abundant plumage fluttered agreeably all around.//BC5.8// There he sat upon the honest, verdant earth whose horizons shimmered like emeralds; / And, while reflecting how the living world arises and perishes, he dangled on the path of standing firmly upright, which is of the mind. // BC5.9// In stumbling upon firm upstandingness of the mind, he was instantly released from worries, such as those associated with desires for objects; / He entered the first peaceful stage, in which there are ideas and thoughts, of the meditation whose essence is freedom from polluting influences. // BC5.10//
And the Buddha in the process of becoming awakened, is described as practising and experiencing sitting-dhyāna::
Then, having seen that it was not the path, he also abandoned that extreme asceticism. / Understanding the realm of meditation to be supreme, he ate good food in readiness to realise the deathless. // SN3.5 // With golden arms fully expanded and as if in a yoke, with lengthened eyes, and bull-like gait, / He came to a fig tree, growing up from the earth, with the will to awakening that belongs to the supreme method of investigation. // SN3.6 // Sitting there, mind made up, as unmovingly stable as the king of mountains, / He overcame the grim army of Māra and awoke to the step which is happy, irremovable, and irreducible. // SN3.7 //Sensing the completion of his task, the denizens of heaven whose heart's desire is the deathless nectar / Buzzed with unbridled joy. But Māra's crew was downcast and trembled. // SN3.8 // The earth with its mountains shook, that which feeds the fire blew benignly, / The drums of the gods resounded, and from the cloudless sky rain fell. // SN3.9 //
So whereas, conventionally thinking, the four dhyāna (EHJ: “trances”) of sitting-zen are said by Buddhist scholars to be mastered in a preliminary stage, the reality was that the Buddha-to-be practised sitting-zen, the Buddha-in-the-process-of-becoming-the-Buddha practised sitting-zen, and the Buddha after already becoming the Buddha practised sitting-zen.
In the introduction to his translation of Buddhacarita, EHJ refers to a puzzle, which has defeated wiser heads than mine. In SN Canto 17, after the aspirant has reached the supermundane path, he acquires successively the three stages of srotāpanna, sakṛdāgāmin, and anāgāmin, and it is only thereafter that the four trances are described and they are said to be the immediate precursors of Arhatship. But SN16.1, in accordance with the view generally prevailing in the schools, shows that the trances are mastered in a preliminary stage before the process of bhāvanā [mental development] begins; and that they are even accessible to non-Buddhists is the regular belief, which BC Canto 12 shows Aśvaghoṣa to share.
The puzzle EHJ refers to is a puzzle to him because he only knows what comes before what, according to the view generally prevailing in the schools. EHJ doesn't know that practice of sitting-zen which is the dropping off of all views.
Thus, at the beginning of SN Canto 16, as EHJ notes, sitting-dhyāna is described as belonging to a preliminary stage, before the practitioner begins the process of developing the mind (bhāvanā), by investigating what is (tattva-parikṣaṇena):
Thus, by methodically taking possession of the mind, getting rid of something and gathering something together, / The practitioner makes the four dhyānas his own, and duly acquires the five powers of knowing: // SN16.1 // The principal transcendent power, taking many forms; then being awake to what others are thinking; / And remembering past lives from long ago; and divine lucidity of ear; and of eye. // 16.2 // From then on, through investigation of what is (tattva-parikṣaṇena), he applies his mind to eradicating the polluting influences, / For on this basis he fully understands suffering and the rest, the four true standpoints: // 16.3 // This is suffering, which is constant and akin to trouble; this is the cause of suffering, akin to starting it; / This is cessation of suffering, akin to walking away. And this, akin to a refuge, is a peaceable path. // 16.4 // Understanding these noble truths, by a process of reasoning, while getting to know the four as one, / He prevails over all pollutants, by the means of mental development (bhāvanayā), and, on finding peace, is no longer subject to becoming. // SN16.5 //
But in the 4th pāda of today's verse, the prince of the Śākyas, the Buddha-to-be, without waiting for mastery of all four dhyānas, goes right ahead and expresses the truth of what is, called in Sanskrit tat-tva, that-ness.
SN16.1, EHJ says, in accordance with the view generally prevailing in the schools, shows that the trances are mastered in a preliminary stage before the process of bhāvanā begins....
āpas-tu niḥsaṁśayam-āpa eva
But water, without doubt, is water.
A Chinese Zen master, wishing to praise the acme of mindful sitting, wrote a poem in which he described, in so many words, fish swimming about in a slow and leisurely manner, in water that was clear right down to the bottom.
Commenting on this poem, Dogen famously wrote his own description of fishes swimming like fishes – in water that was, no doubt (though Dogen omitted to mention it), like water.
Having prepared the above comment on Friday afternoon, I set off on Friday night to meet our younger son and his girlfriend at Gatwick airport, stopping off at the local petrol station on the way... And so here is a post-script, and a note to self, typed in late on Friday night:
Diesel, without doubt, is diesel.
Petrol, without doubt, is petrol.
Reflecting on all of the above on Saturday morning, I would sum it up like this:
(1) The religious thesis is that holy water washes away wrong.
(2) The prince's irreligious anti-thesis is that wrong will never be washed away by water.
(3) What washes away wrong is confidence
– the confidence of one who knows a way that works, of discipline/integrity (śīla), balance/integration (samādhi), and wisdom (prajñā);
– the confidence of being in no doubt that water is water.
(4) I have in front of me a Roadside Repair and Recovery Report in which is written, under the heading REPORTED FAULT “Petrol in Diesel.”
spṛṣṭam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. touched
yad-yad (nom. sg. n.): whatever (yad is often repeated to express " whoever " , " whatever " , " whichever ")
guṇavadbhiḥ (inst. pl.): mfn. " furnished with a thread or string " and " endowed with good qualities " ; endowed with good qualities or virtues or merits or excellences , excellent , perfect
ambhaḥ (nom. sg.): n. water, the celestial waters
tat-tat (correlative of yad-yad): that
pṛthivyām = loc. sg. pṛthivī: f. the earth or wide world
tīrtham (nom. sg.): n. a passage , way , road , ford , stairs for landing or for descent into a river , bathing-place , place of pilgrimage on the banks of sacred streams , piece of water
iṣṭam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. wished , desired ; liked , beloved ; agreeable
tasmād: ind. therefore
guṇān (acc. pl.): m. good quality , virtue , merit , excellence
paraimi = 1st pers. sg. parā- √i: to go or run away , go along , go towards (acc.) ; to reach , attain , partake of (acc.) [EBC: I count; EHJ: I regard; PO: I consider] ; see also BC4.99
tīrtham (acc. sg.): n. a passage , way , road , ford , stairs for landing or for descent into a river , bathing-place , place of pilgrimage on the banks of sacred streams , piece of water
āpaḥ = nom. pl. ap: f. (in Ved. used in sing. and pl. , but in the classical language only in pl. , ā́pas) water
niḥsaṁśayam: ind. undoubtedly , surely
āpaḥ (nom. pl. f.): water