Friday, October 4, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 7.44: Bhava (Becoming). Bhāva (Feeling & Thinking). And an Unspoken Hint at What Bhāvanā Is Not?

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Māyā)
ity-evam-ukte sa tapasvi-madhye tapasvi-mukhyena manīṣi-mukhyaḥ |
bhava-praṇāśāya kta-pratijñaḥ svaṁ bhāvam-antar-gatam-ācacakṣe || 7.44

When he, in the midst of the ascetics,
was thus addressed by the first ascetic,

He the first in perspicacity,

Since he had vowed to end the bhava which is becoming,

Disclosed the bhāva of his own real inner feelings and thoughts:

It is a given in works like the Lotus Sūtra, and the Sutra of the Collected Past Deeds of the Buddha (as quoted in Shobogenzo chap. 87), that the Buddha-to-be is an exemplar of good conduct. The implicit principle – so obvious that it hardly seems to need stating – is that the Buddha-to-be did not get to be the Buddha by means of bad karma; on the contrary, he got to be the Buddha solely by means of good karma.

Aśvaghoṣa, of course, nowhere goes against this principle. At the same time, in Aśvaghoṣa's descriptions of the Buddha-to-be, the Buddha-to-be is not yet the Buddha. His feelings and thoughts are not yet the feelings and thoughts of one who is truly awake. His feelings and thoughts are the feelings and thoughts of one who is on the way to being truly awake.

So the Buddha-to-be may be, as described in the 2nd pāda of today's verse, manīṣi-mukhyaḥ, “first in perspicacity,” but he is not yet, for example, prajña-mukhyaḥ, “first in really knowing.”

I am caused to reflect that when I was at primary school, I was generally regarded as first in perspicacity – top of the class in such activities as mental arithmetic, problem solving, and verbal reasoning. But I would gladly swap that ranking, if I could, for a mid-table position, or even a place in the relegation zone, in the Premier League of prajñā. Prajñā, real wisdom, real knowing, rather than manīṣā, intelligence, is what we are really after – what we really need, if we are ever going to be of any use to man or beast.

The perspicacious Buddha-to-be has reasoned, correctly, that a sojourn in heaven, even if ascetic practice leads to that goal, will only be a temporary state of affairs, a bhava (an existence, or a stage in a cycle of becoming), leading in time to another bhava. On the grounds of such reasoning the Buddha-to-be, the 3rd pāda of today's verse reminds us, has vowed to put an end to such existences, to such re-births, to such becoming.

This vow of the Buddha-to-be, as a vow of the Buddha-to-be, must have been a good cause. And yet it does not prevent him from duly becoming an ascetic practitioner and spending six years punishing himself through severe ascetic practice.

Hitherto the Buddha-to-be has been concealing his real feelings and thoughts from the ascetics in the ashram. So we can understand from this that sometimes to conceal one's real feelings and thoughts is good karma. But now the Buddha-to-be deems the moment is right to disclose his real feelings and thoughts. So we can understand from this that sometimes to disclose one's real feelings and thoughts, also, is good karma.

But we need not understand that the feelings and thoughts of a buddha-to-be, real though they are, are what causes a buddha-to-be to become a buddha. 

In the 4th pāda of today's verse, svam means his own, antar-gatam means inner or secret, and bhāvam means what he really thought or felt, what was really in his heart, his real state of being.
svaṁ bhāvam-antar-gatam
his inward thought [EBC]
his inward feelings [EHJ]
his inner feeling [PO].

The word bhāvam seems to me to convey some sense of affirmation of the reality of what is in our hearts, our feelings and thoughts. So I read in today's verse affirmation of the reality of feelings and thoughts, affirmation of concealing those feelings and thoughts when appropriate, and affirmation of expressing those feelings and thoughts when appropriate.

And yet today's verse, with its play on bhava and bhāva, also seems to point to what remains for the Buddha-to-be to affirm.

I don't know whether Avśaghoṣa intended any such connection or not, but today's verse puts me in mind again of what the Nanda is told at the beginning of SN Canto 16, not by a buddha-to-be but by the awakened Buddha:
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. // SN16.4 // Understanding these noble truths, by a process of reasoning, while getting to know the four as one, / He prevails by the means of bhāvanā over all pollutants,  and, on finding peace, is no longer subject to becoming. // SN16.5 // For by failing to wake up and come round to this four, whose substance is the reality of what is, / Humankind goes from bhava to bhava without finding peace, hoisted in the swing of saṁsāra. // SN16.6 //
1. the bhava (becoming, existence) of the 3rd pāda of today's verse and of SN16.6;
2. the bhāva (his real feelings and thoughts) of the 4th pāda of today's verse; and
3. the bhāvanā (meditation, development, training/working the mind) of SN16.5;
are each from the root √bhū, to become, to be, to exist.

In his coming five-verse speech, the Buddha-to-be is first going to express the warm feelings of gratitude he sincerely feels for the hospitality the ascetics have shown him; then he is going to state frankly the secret thoughts he has been harbouring about the difference between what the ascetics are aiming for (a sojourn in heaven) and what he is aiming for (a less impermanent solution, the end of becoming). So bhāvam in today's verse would seem to represent those feelings and those thoughts.

The Buddha-to-be is going to express to the ascetics svaṁ bhāvam-antar-gatam, his own inner bhāvam, including his bhāvam (thinking) about bhava (becoming).

But where does this bhāvam, this thinking, lead the prince in the end? Only to six years of ascetic bhava, becoming.

In the end it is not the bhāva of one's own feelings and thoughts that the Buddha advocates as a means of prevailing over mental pollutants like greed, anger, and delusion; he rather advocates bhāvanā, which literally seems to mean something like “the act of bringing into being,” but whose dictionary definitions include meditation, reflection, contemplation:
Even if, as a result of calm consideration, you have let go of desires, / You must, as if shining light into darkness, abolish them by means of their opposite. // SN15.4 //  What lies behind those desires sleeps on, like a fire covered with ashes; / You are to extinguish it, my friend, by the means of bhāvanā, as if using water to put out a fire. // SN15.5 // 
While translating these references to bhāvanā in Saundara-nanda (at which time I eventually opted to translate bhāvanā “mental development,” I asked myself what bhāvanā meant – as distinct, if distinct, from dhyāna, which literally means “thinking.” I thought long and hard about what bhāvanā meant at that time, but did not come to a conclusion that I felt satisfied with, which is doubtless why I am taking this opportunity now to return to unfinished business.

Today's verse does not throw any direct light on what bhāvanā means. But, within the broader context of the journey of the Buddha-to-be, today's verse may provide a hint about what bhāvanā does not mean – the suggestion being, as I receive it, that bhāvanā does not mean the bhāva of one's own inner feelings and thoughts, however warm those feelings might be, and however perspicacious those thoughts might be.

Some things, perhaps we can say in conclusion, Aśvaghoṣa does not touch upon directly, but he rather hints at obliquely...
yāvad rucito 'stu vāsaḥ
during which time, let the act of abiding be shone upon.

This process that is going on here and now, at least the more real, less intellectual aspects of it, which I compare to digging, might be bhāvanā. Digging at such a snail's pace of one verse per day, at least, is intended as the use of an opposite, or an antidote, to the habit of impatient end-gaining. 

Again, what FM Alexander called “the Work” or “working on the self” might be bhāvanā – except that the “on” somehow sounds superfluous.

working the self (?)
training the mind (?)
working the mind – like a farmer works the land, or like a goldsmith works gold (?)

As with prajṇā, knowing, and dhyāna, thinking, it may be that  bhāvanā would most accurately be translated by an action word, by a word ending in -ing. 

To be continued.

ity-evam-ukte (loc. sg.): thus addressed
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
tapasvi-madhye (loc. sg.): in the middle of the ascetics
tapasvin: mfn. distressed , wretched , poor , miserable ; practising austerities , (m.) an ascetic
madhya: mfn. middle (used like medius e.g. mádhye samudré , " in the midst of the sea "); mn. the middle of the body , (esp.) a woman's waist

tapasvi-mukhyena (inst. sg.): by the first ascetic
mukhya: mfn. being in or coming from or belonging to the mouth or face ; being at the head or at the beginning , first , principal , chief , eminent (ifc. = the first or best or chief among )
manīṣi-mukhyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the first in intelligence
manīṣin: mfn. thoughtful , intelligent , wise , sage , prudent ;

bhava-praṇāśāya (dat. sg.): for the cessation of becoming
bhava: m. (√bhū) coming into existence, birth ; becoming ; being, existence
praṇāśa: m. vanishing , disappearance , cessation , loss , destruction , death
kṛta-pratijñaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. one who fulfils a promise or agreement
pratijñā: f. admission , acknowledgment , assent , agreement , promise , vow; a statement , assertion , declaration , affirmation ; (in logic) a proposition , the assertion or proposition to be proved

svam (acc. sg. m.): his own
bhāvam (acc. sg.): m. ( √ bhū) being ; true condition ; any state of mind or body , way of thinking or feeling , sentiment , opinion , disposition , intention ; the seat of the feelings or affections , heart , soul , mind
antar-gatam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. inward, internal, secret
ācacakṣe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. ā- √ cakṣ : to look at , inspect ; to tell , relate , make a communication about (acc.) , announce , declare , make known , confess
√ cakṣ: to appear , become visible

菩薩向梵志 説己心所期
我修正方便 唯欲滅諸有 

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