Wednesday, November 6, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.18: Sympathetic Resonance

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
tataḥ kha-gāś-ca kṣaya-madhya-gocarāḥ samīpa-baddhās-turagāś-ca sat-ktāḥ |
hayasya tasya pratisasvanuḥ svanaṁ narendra-sūnor-upayāna-śaṅkitāḥ || 8.18

Then the birds whose feeding place was in the middle of the dwelling,
[Those movers in empty space whose range, in loss, is the middle,]

And the well-treated horses tethered nearby,
[And those venerated movers in readiness 
who are bound to immediacy,]

Echoed the sound of that horse,

In anticipation of the prince's approach.
[With the intuitive sense of getting close 
which belongs to a son or daughter of the best of men]. 

Dog-whisperer Cesar Millan talks of dogs going in a second from 0 to 10, on a fighting scale where 10 is fighting to the death, and the original balanced state of a dog, the state of zero, is calm submissive energy or calm assertive energy. This zero state is the state which human dog owners, in an ideal world, maintain for the benefit of themselves and their dogs. 

Horses, unlike dogs, though bigger than dogs, are animals of flight rather than fight. Still, they are social animals and by a combination of their recent evolution and training, they can be caused to follow a human leader -- especially a relatively enlightened one like Horse-whisperer Monty Roberts --  in a calm submissive way. 

Birds, though somewhat amenable to training in certain cases, generally abide in empty space further along towards the wild end of the spectrum.

If we understood today's verse only on the surface, we might think that what it is describing is something exciting, so that birds and horses are awakening from the state of zero and, while not rising to the frenzied excitement of a fighting dog at the top of the fighting scale, are nevertheless moving up from zero in the direction of more excitement. 

But below the surface I think what is being described, ironically, is a happening that only ever takes place in the state of zero, aka emptiness, aka readiness. 

My teacher Gudo Nishijima identified this state of zero with balance of the autonomic nervous system. And the happening being described in today's verse, as I read it, my teacher explained using the metaphor of sympathetic resonance between tuning forks. 

That today's verse is thus able to convey a hidden meaning which (at least in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th pādas) is so unrelated to the ostensible meaning, rests on certain verbal and grammatical ambiguities that Aśvaghoṣa in his poems utilizes again and again, verse after verse. Thus, for example: 

kha-ga means bird, but literally it means moving / abiding in empty space.
tura-ga  means horse, but literally it means moving willingly / readily.

kṣaya means 1. dwelling-place; and 2. loss -- like for example losing body and life, or dropping off body and mind. 
gocara means 1. a place where birds are fed, and 2. a range of action.

narendra-sūnoḥ could equally express either the object or the subject of assuming / anticipating / intuitive sensing. 

Last but by no means least, narendra ostensibly means the King (in today's verse, that is King Śuddodhana) but below the surface narendra very often suggests the Buddha as the best of men, or King of Dharma; and so in today's verse narendra-sūnoḥ could mean "the prince's" or could mean "belonging to a son (or daughter) of the Buddha." 

The methods by which (in chronological order) Aśvaghoṣa, FM Alexander, Gudo Nishijima, Monty Roberts, and Cesar Millan have attempted to convey their message, are all very different from each other, at least on the surface. So that at the level of words, Aśvaghoṣa uses incredibly ambiguous expressions, while Gudo did his damndest to spell everything out as clearly as possible even at the risk of going too far along the path of reductionism, and in the work of Monty and Cesar non-verbal communcation between human and animal, or leader and follower, is evidently very much to the fore. 

But below the surface the efforts of all these human beings in the direction of balance, or emptiness, or the state of zero, might all rest equally on certain universal truths, one of which is the kind of non-verbal sympathetic resonance exhibited by tuning forks. 

Aśvaghoṣa is probably best known, to the extent that he is known at all, as a great Sanskrit poet. But before I knew him as a wordsmith, I knew him as a name in a list of Zen patriarchs, 12th in line from the Buddha Śākyamuni, who, it can safely be assumed, transmitted the Buddha-dharma, mainly by non-verbal means, to the 13th Zen patriarch Kapimala, who carried on the transmission to the 14th Zen patriarch Nāgārjuna, and so on through the patriarchs of India, China, and Japan. 

This is the field we are working in, a field in which by far the most important communication is non-verbal. Speaking for myself, when I read what Buddhist scholars write about Aśvaghoṣa, I have a sense of getting further away. But when I watch an old episode of the Dog Whisperer on youtube, or a youtube clip of the Horse-whisperer in action, I have a sense of getting close. 

In that case, you might ask, why am I concentrating so much energy on churning out all these words, day after day? And that might be a good question. 

One excuse is the shabby state of my own brain and nervous system. I am conscious of remaining like one of those somewhat dangerous dogs that Cesar considers not yet fully rehabilitated. Look at me with the wrong kind of eye-contact, or approach me with your tail in the air in what I perceive to be a dominant fashion, and I go from 0 to 10 in a second.... after which it takes considerably more than a second for me to get back to zero. In that respect, when Cesar described his put bull terrier Daddy as way better than Cesar himself, even though in theory it shouldn't be like that, even though in principle a human has to be above the dog, I totally sympathize with Cesar's sentiments. 

But another excuse is that Aśvaghoṣa himself went to the bother of writing all these difficult words which, he predicted, to one who remained aware of the deceit (of a deceitful combatant), would yield up their gold . So how could it not be worth the effort of continuing to dig? 

Seeing, in general, that the world is moved primarily by fondness for objects and is repelled by liberation,

I for whom liberation is paramount have told it here like it is, using a kāvya poem as a pretext. /
Being aware of the deceit, take from (this verb-rooted dust) what pertains to peace and not to idle pleasure.
Then elemental dust, assuredly, shall yield up serviceable gold. // SN18.64 //

tataḥ: ind. then
kha-gāḥ (nom. pl. m): mfn. 'moving in air'; m. a bird
kha: n. a cavity , hollow , cave , cavern , aperture ; vacuity , empty space , air , ether , sky
ga: only ifc. going , moving; staying , being , abiding in
ca: and
kṣaya-madhya-gocarāḥ (nom. pl. m.): whose feeding place was in the middle of the dwelling /  whose place of nourishment was in the middle of loss
kṣaya: m. an abode , dwelling-place , seat , house ; m. loss , waste , wane , diminution , destruction , decay ,
madhya: mfn. middle
gocara: m. pasture ground for cattle ; range, field for action;  a place where birds are fed

samīpa-baddhāḥ (nom. pl. m.): tethered nearby ; being fettered by presence/imminence
samīpa: mfn. near (in place or time) , contiguous , proximate , adjacent , close by , at hand , approaching , imminent ; n. nearness , proximity , vicinity , presence , imminence
baddha: mfn. bound , tied , fixed , fastened , chained , fettered
turagāḥ (nom. pl.):. m. " going quickly " , a horse ;   the mind , thought  
tura: mfn. quick , willing , prompt
ga: only ifc. going , moving; staying , being , abiding in
ca: and
sat-kṛtāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. done well ; honoured , treated with respect or hospitality , entertained; worshipped, adored

hayasya (gen. sg.): m. horse
tasya (gen. sg. m.): of that
pratisasvanuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. prati- √ svan: to resound
svanam (acc. sg.): m. sound, voice

narendra-sūnoḥ (gen. sg.): of the son of the man-lord
sūnu: m. a son, child, offspring ; f. a daughter
upayāna-śaṅkitāḥ (nom. pl. m.): supposing the arrival
śaṅkita: mfn. alarmed , apprehensive , distrustful , suspicious , afraid of (abl. gen. , or comp.) , anxious about (loc. or acc. with prati) ; assuming , supposing
upayāna-śaṅkinaḥ [EHJ] (nom. pl. m.): supposing the arrival
upayāna: n. coming near , approach , arrival
śaṅkin: mfn. afraid of , fearing (comp.); timid , suspicious , distrustful ; assuming , supposing , suspecting , imagining

宮中雜鳥獸 内廏諸群馬
聞白馬悲鳴 長鳴而應之

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