Friday, December 27, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.69: The Heart of Oneness

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
mamāpi kāmaṁ hdayaṁ su-dāruṇaṁ śilā-mayaṁ vāpy-ayaso 'pi vā ktam |
anāthavac-chrī-rahite sukhocite vanaṁ gate bhartari yan-na dīryate || 8.69

My heart too must be very hard

– Made of stone or else wrought of iron –

In that, left like an orphan,
now that its protector,
who was accustomed to comfort, has gone,
shorn of his royal glory, to the forest,

It does not split apart.”

In the 3rd pāda, śrī-rahite means, in one sense of śri, “shorn of the insignia of royalty,” or “shorn of high rank.” At the same time, as EHJ points out in a footnote,  Yaśodharā herself is compared in BC2.26 to Śrī, the goddess of beauty and fortune:

Then he summoned for him, from a family of steadfast integrity,
A true woman, the possessor of fine form, modesty and discipline, /
A woman full of glory whose name was Yaśodharā, “Bearer of Glory” –
In the shape of such a woman did the king invoke Śrī, goddess of fortune. //BC2.26//

So when Yaśodharā describes her husband in the 3rd pāda as going śrī-rahite, “shorn of his royal glory,” in EHJ's words, we get the antithesis, whereby she is without her nātha (protector), and he in a double sense is without his Śrī.

Below the surface of today's verse as I read it, what is being expressed is the wonder of having a healthy human heart.

There may be yoga-experts who can intervene so as to exercise a degree of direct control over the working of their heart. But even those of us who neither have that kind of expertise, nor are interested in having that kind of expertise, can witness on a daily basis the miracle whereby when we exert ourselves our heart beats faster, and then after that our pulse retains its more normal resting rhythm, when we lie down, or when we sit.

My Alexander head of training used to speak of the three H's: head, heart, and hara.

Sometimes, as a variation on that theme, I like to reflect on having one head, one heart, two hands, two knees, two sitting bones, and one hara.

To paraphrase Bob Marley:

One love.
One heart.
Let's start from separateness
And feel all right.

In Nanda's progress towards the worthy state of arhathood, via four stages of sitting-zen, as Aśvaghoṣa describes that progress in SN Canto 17, experiencing separateness and feeling all right is only a starting point, a first stage of sitting-meditation. Later on, a fourth stage is described in which knowing exists as its own object (jñānaṃ tad-artha-cāri; SN17.55) – a state of grace that presumably cannot prevail in the kind of advanced yoga wherein the heart becomes an object to be brought under the direct control of the consciousness of the controlling subject.

The principle I am alluding to here my Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima understood clearly enough when it came to breathing. So he taught me and his other students, in so many words, to concentrate on our posture and let the breathing take care of itself. 

When it came to the matter of posture, however, Gudo's teaching was not so clear. Or rather it was very clear, and at the same time very wrong. Gudo's teaching on right posture, in common with many Japanese Zen masters who were his contemporaries, was basically the teaching of the military parade ground, with one or two pernicious refinements....


Notice how undue tension in the muscles behind the spinal column is causing this soldier's head (in Alexander's words) to tend to pull “back and down” so that his chin is tending to raise up. This soldier's “position of attention” would be corrected a la Japanese Zen of Gudo and others by pulling the chin an inch or two backwards to cause the neck bones to become straight vertically... resulting over the years in such symptoms as neck and shoulder ache, back ache, head-aches, and over the very long term, I dare say, impaired functioning of the heart.

When I think back to the way I used to sit, following Gudo's instructions to do this, that, and the other in the interests of keeping the spine straight vertically, I feel with Yaśodharā it really is a wonder that – as a direct and indirect consequence of adhering so doggedly to that faulty standard – my heart didn't break. Thank you, Mother Nature! 

mama (gen. sg.): my
api: also
kāmam: ind. according to wish or desire , according to inclination , agreeably to desire , at will , freely , willingly; readily ; (as a particle of assent) well , very well , granted , admitted that , indeed , really , surely
hṛdayam (nom. sg.): n. the heart
su-dāruṇam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. very cruel or dreadful or terrible (n. " something terrible " or " a partic. mythical weapon ")

śilā-mayam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. made of stone
vā: or else
api: even, again
ayasaḥ (gen. sg.): n. iron , metal
api: even, again
vā: or else
kṛtam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. made

a-nāthavat (nom. sg. n. [agreeing with hṛdayam]): not having a protector or master
a- (negative prefix)
nāthavat: mfn. having a protector or master , dependant , subject ;
anātha-vat: ind. like an orphan; in an orphaned state
anātha: mfn. having no master or protector ; fatherless
-vat: ind. like
śrī-rahite (loc. sg. m.): devoid of his royal majesty
śrī: f. light , lustre , radiance , splendour , glory , beauty , grace , loveliness; prosperity , welfare , good fortune , success , auspiciousness , wealth , treasure , riches (śriyā , " according to fortune or wealth ") , high rank , power , might , majesty , royal dignity ; symbol or insignia of royalty; N. of lakṣmī (as goddess of prosperity or beauty)
rahita: mfn. deserted by , separated or free from , deprived or void or destitute of (instr. or comp.)
sukhocite (loc. sg. m.): mfn. accustomed to comfort or happiness
sukha: n. ease, comfort, happiness
ucita: mfn. delightful , pleasurable , agreeable ; used to

vanam (acc. sg.): n. the forest
gate (loc. sg. m.): mfn. gone, departed
bhartari (loc. sg.): m. a preserver , protector , maintainer , chief , lord , master ; m. husband
yat (relative pronoun): that
na: not
dīryate = 3rd pers. sg. passive dṝ: to be split , break open , fall asunder , decay

我亦無心腸 夫棄遊山林
不能自泯沒 此則木石人 


Rich said...

I sometimes wonder which will break first, my heart or my head. Not something. To dwell on.

Mike Cross said...

jñānaṃ ca tatrāsti tad-artha-cāri

And there is knowing there, being there for that.

“To know when we are wrong is all that we shall ever know in this world,” said FM Alexander.

Maybe so. And maybe in truly knowing that, a way is opened to knowing knowing.