Tuesday, December 3, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.45: Allowing Space for Separate Dangling of Extremities

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
vrajann-ayaṁ vāji-varo 'pi nāspśan-mahīṁ khurāgrair-vidhtair-ivāntarā |
tathaiva daivād-iva saṁyatānano hanu-svanaṁ nākta nāpy-aheṣata || 8.45

This royal war-horse, also, as he went, did not touch the ground,

The tips of his hooves seeming to dangle separately in midair.

His mouth was sealed as if, again, by a divine force;

He neither neighed nor made a sound with his jaws
[neither neighed nor sounded the warning of death and disease].

Ostensibly, again, Chandaka sounds like a schoolboy making his lame excuses – “It wasn't me miss, honestly. It was the gods what done it.”

But the real or hidden point of Chandaka's words is to describe the kind of action that sportsmen and women and actors and other kinds of performers experience when they are in the zone, or when the gods are with them.

And the particular action that the Horse-Whisperer Aśvaghoṣa might have in mind, using the  princely war-horse Kanthaka as a symbol for the Śākya prince (and maybe also, autobiographically, for the Horse-Whisperer himself), is the action of sitting upright, being as if suspended midway (antarā) between heaven and earth.

Was Bodhidharma a Zen patriarch who just sat, facing the wall, silently suspended in space, lips constantly sealed, so that he never sounded any verbal warning of death and disease?

Was Aśvaghoṣa, in contrast, a great Sanskrit poet who devoted every waking moment to words, so that the Buddha's warning of death and disease might be sounded through the reciting out loud of kāvya poetry?

In the popular imagination, the answers might be yes and yes. But the true answers might be no and no. The truth is that Bodhidharma did open his mouth, if only to say "You have got my marrow."  The truth is, equally, that Aśvaghoṣa was a Zen patriarch, whose practice of just sitting Bodhidharma transmitted into China. 

This being so, I think today's verse might be intended below the surface to have an autobiographical element, so that ostensibly Aśvaghoṣa was relating an ancient legend that appealed to superstitious types who believed in gods, but really he was writing out of his own experience.

The experience under investigation is the experience of, when walking, the feet never touching the ground, and, when sitting, the extremities seeming to dangle separately as if in midair. It may be that out of such separation is born enjoyment of the first dhyāna, the first stage of sitting-meditation.

The great challenge in life, it seems to me, is continuing to want that kind of separation before one wants anything else.

In Alexander work it is investigated and recognized that separate dangling of extremities (aka head going forward and up, back lengthening and widening, knees going forwards and away, widening across the upper part of the arms, wrists and ankles being free, et cetera) is not difficult to allow, if a pupil wishes it or simply thinks it, in preparation for going into movment. The difficulty is that none of us has evolved to wish like that or to think like that. We have evolved not to wish for balance, and not to think in a way that conduces to balance; we have evolved rather to go directly into movement. We have evolved to go directly for any end we happen to desire. Enjoyment of action in the balanced state may be our birthright as human beings, but we haven't evolved to want it. So some of us, probably most of us in developed countries, stand to benefit from learning to want it and learning (or being trained) how to allow it. 

This kind of recognition, incidentally, was behind the idea I had five years ago to approach this translation one verse at a time, one day at a time, leaving plenty of space between the lines for separate dangling of extremities. 

vrajan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. vraj: to go , walk , proceed , travel , wander , move
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this
vāji-varaḥ (nom. sg. m.): best of war-horses ; princely war-horse
vājin: m. warrior, hero ; m. the steed of a war-chariot ; m. a horse, stallion
vara: mfn. choicest, valuable , precious , best , most excellent or eminent among (comp); (ifc.) royal , princely
api: also, even
na: not
aspṛśan = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect spṛś: to touch

mahīm (acc. sg.): f. " the great world " , the earth (in later language also = ground , soil , land , country)
khurāgraiḥ (inst. pl.): n. the tip of a hoof, Bcar
khura: hoof
agra: tip
vidhṛtaiḥ (inst. pl. n.): mfn. kept asunder , divided , separated; kept off ; held, borne
vi- √ dhṛ : to hold , bear , carry

iva: like, as if
antarā: ind. in the middle ; midway ; in midair

tathaiva: ind. exactly so; in like manner
daivāt (abl. sg. n.): mfn. belonging to or coming from the gods , divine , celestial ; depending on fate , fatal ; n. a deity ; n. divine power or will , destiny , fate , chance (daivāt ind. by chance , accidentally)
iva: like, as if
saṁyatānanaḥ (nom. sg. m.): his mouth bound up ; his breathing held in
saṁyata: mfn. held together , held in , held fast &c ; self-contained , self-controlled with regard to (loc. instr. , or comp.) ; tied together , bound up , fettered , confined , imprisoned , captive ; closed ; kept in order ; m. " one who controls himself " , N. of śiva
saṁ- √ yat: to unite (in trans.) , meet together , encounter (rarely " as friends " , generally " as enemies ") , contend , engage in contest or strife , quarrel ; to unite , join together (trans.)
ānana: n. the mouth ; the face
anana: n. breathing , living

hanu-svanam (acc. sg.): m. sound made with the jaws Bcar. [but see BC8.41]
na: not
akṛta = 3rd pers. sg. aorist kṛ: to do, make
na: not
api: even
aheṣata = 3rd pers. sg. aorist heṣ: to neight, whinny

厭氣令無聲 足亦不觸地

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