Tuesday, December 31, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.73: One Steadfast Resolution

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
niśāmya ca chandaka-kanthakāv-ubhau sutasya saṁśrutya ca niścayaṁ sthiram |
papāta śokābhihato mahī-patiḥ śacī-pater-vtta ivotsave dhvajaḥ || 8.73

Having observed the two, Chandaka and Kanthaka,

While being well informed 
as to the steadfast unity of purpose of a son,

A lord of the earth had fallen down, toppled by sorrow,

Like the flag of Indra, Lord of Might, when the carnival is over.

Chandaka, the horse-master, can be taken in today's verse as in many previous verses as representing the thinking mind; while Kanthaka, the horse, can again be taken as representing the power of instinct.

Observing those two, then, might be a metaphor for being mindful of one's own mind and body.

A son can be read as meaning an offspring in the sense that the Buddha's brother Nanda became his offspring, in the sense that Nāgārjuna was the offspring of the offspring of Aśvaghoṣa, and in the sense that Aśvaghoṣa himself was the offspring of Puṇyayaṣaḥ. A son, in other words, might mean a Zen patriarch. 

Appreciating a son's steadfast resolve (acc. sg.), then, or appreciating a son's steadfast unity of purpose, might be a metaphor for following the Buddha's teaching in one direction – that direction being, in my book, or from the round black cushion upon which I park my backside, up.

But this up, I wish to clarify, is a totally different direction to the direction that I felt was up when, under the direction of a Zen patriarch in Japan, I used to make a big effort to sit up straight, pulling my head backward so that the neck bones might form something like a perfectly straight column with the rest of the spine.

The last 20 years, under the direction of Alexander teachers, has been a gradual process of, as it were, dismantling the false edifice of that up.

Read in this light, the second half of today's verse is an ironic metaphor for the kind of realization that Nanda describes in SN Canto 17 as “the loss of everything” (sarva kṣaya):
For through the liberating knowledge of the compassionate teacher who extracted a dart of passion that was lodged in my heart, /  Now such abundant ease is mine -- Oh! how happy I am in the loss of everything (sarva kṣaye)// SN17.65 // For, by putting out the burning fire of desires, using the water of constancy, as if using water to put out a blaze, / I have now come to a state of supreme refreshment, like a hot person descending into a cool pool. // SN17.66 //

“Let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up...,” said FM Alexander, and “Never let a day go by without coming back to those words.”

What a free neck feels like, or how the head goes forward and up, I don't know – and more and more these days I don't even want to know. Twenty years ago, when I first came back to England, I was desperate to know. I remember sitting in the very room I am writing in now, sitting in front of a mirror and being desperate to know. Nowadays I am not so interested in what is reflected in the mirror. What is reflected in the mirror is always a bit of something. Whereas the real joy of coming back to “neck free, head forward and up,” is in what those words represent in the way of a bit of nothing.

I don't know much. I haven't got much to teach or much to transmit. But I do know this: I know what it is to deliberately stiffen the neck (aka “keep the neck bones straight vertically”) by pulling the head back. That was something I was taught to do (to do being the operative word), and something that I practised very diligently.

Oh what a relief it is, Oh how happy I am, to be free, for a start, from all that.

Recently the flag counter indicates that the number of new visitors to this blog has been dropping off, and something contrary in me rejoices to observe it. Here I am giving away hard-dug gold for free, but the takers are relatively few. Never mind. Less and less does it give me grief that others will not listen to or cannot appreciate what I am saying. I am glad that I know what I mean.

When I reflect on what I have written above, and why I have written it, and why I feel the temptation to add something along the lines of "Go on you world of stupid fuckers, who are dazzled by Japanese words and exotic Zen paraphernalia, go on and keep doubting me for another year!", I am aware that something in me positively wants people to doubt me. It's part of the tendency that my wife describes to "drive people away."

Insofar as the tendency is unconscious and associated with pulling back of the head, I know that Marjory Barlow would not have approved of it. So my New Year's resolution for 2014 is to keep going up -- not doing at all what my Zen teacher taught me to do -- and to keep telling you all, with a free neck, to fuck off and leave me alone. 

On further reflection, in an irony that Aśvaghoṣa might have appreciated, I suspect that in writing the above I stiffened my neck. 

niśāmya = abs. ni- √ śam: to observe , perceive , hear , learn
ca: and
chandaka-kanthakau (acc. dual): Chandaka and Kanthaka
ubhau (acc. dual): both

sutasya (gen. sg.): m. son, child, offspring ; mfn. begotten
saṁśrutya = abs. saṁ- √ śru: to hear or hear from (e.g. mukhāt , " from any one's mouth ") , attend or listen attentively to (acc.) ; (A1.) to be distinctly heard or audible
ca: and
niścayam (acc. sg.); m. inquiry , ascertainment , fixed opinion , conviction , certainty , positiveness ; resolution , resolve, fixed intention , design , purpose , aim
sthiram (acc. sg. m.): mfn. firm , hard , solid , compact , strong; fixed , immovable , motionless , still , calm ; firm , not wavering or tottering , steady ; stern , relentless , hard-hearted ; constant , steadfast , resolute , persevering

papāta = 3rd pers. sg. perf. pat: to fall
śokābhihataḥ (nom. sg. m.): stricken with grief
śoka: m. grief, sorrow
abhihata: mfn. struck , smitten , killed ; afflicted with
mahī-patiḥ (nom. sg.): m. " earth-lord " , a king , sovereign

śacī-pateḥ (gen. sg.): m. lord of might or help (applied to indra and the aśvins)
śacī: f. the rendering of powerful or mighty help , assistance , aid (esp. said of the deeds of indra and the aśvins , instr. śácyā and śácībhis , often = " mightily " or , " helpfully ")
vṛtte (loc. sg. m.): mfn. turned , set in motion (as a wheel) ; completed , finished ; past, elapsed, gone
iva: like
utsave (loc. sg.): m. enterprise , beginning ; a festival , jubilee; joy , gladness , merriment ; opening , blossoming
dhvajaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a banner , flag , standard

見車匿白馬 廣問知出家
擧身投於地 如崩帝釋幢

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