Friday, January 3, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 8.76: Good & Bad Medicine

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
tad-adya māṁ vā naya tatra yatra sa vraja drutaṁ vā punar-enam-ānaya |
te hi tasmān-mama nāsti jīvitaṁ vigāḍha-rogasya sad-auṣadhād-iva || 8.76

Therefore either take me today to the place where he is,

Or else go quickly and bring him back here;

For without him there is no life for me,

As for a gravely ill man without good medicine.

Today's verse as I read it is saying something about a suffering subject's pain of separation from a beloved object. It is also suggesting something about good and bad medicine.

The point about separation is that the human mind tends – wrongly, it invariably turns out – to foresee the ending of suffering in the elimination of physical distance between suffering subject and beloved object. Thus, even a human being as versed in psychology as Cesar Millan, when his beloved pit-bull terrier Daddy died, took a bunch of pills and expressed his desire to be buried next to his deceased dog. But what help would that have been, to man or beast? 

The point about good and bad medicine might be that bad medicine is curative and has unforeseen side effects, whereas good medicine is preventive and has no harmful side effects.

The overall gist of today's verse, then, below the surface, as I read it, is to remind us that, contrary to the deluded thoughts of the lamenting king, good medicine is preventive. 

Thus the Buddha's teaching, in the form of the four noble truths, does not advocate closing of gaps between suffering subjects and beloved objects by physical means. It advocates instead the inhibition of those desires which are the cause of subject and object becoming separate.

I spent too much time in Japan as a suffering subject resorting to the bad medicine which is pursuit of “correct posture,” as if some such object existed, and as if I ought to make that into my most beloved object. 

So I experienced the worst of both worlds at one and the same time – the suffering associated with separation from a real beloved object, that very separation being rooted in the delusory belief that I was somehow serving mankind by confining myself to Tokyo and taking the medicine that I thought was doing me good, but which was only heaping suffering on top of suffering. 

The very best of medicines – which in reality is freely available to anybody, whatever their proximity to beloved objects – might be the teaching that there is no such thing as a right posture, though there is such a thing as a right direction.

Those who pursue correct posture are taking bad medicine, and those who teach the pursuit of correct posture are administering bad medicine. 

Correct posture is a view to be abandoned, and for the past 20 years, in gradual steps, I have been working towards the abandonment of that view.

I wouldn't claim to have shaken off that view completely, once and for all. I have occasional good moments in which, freed of any obligation to be right, my body seems spontaneously to take a deep breath. But in sitting upright in full lotus, the stimulus is always there – unless it is consciously inhibited – to sit upright. And unless that stimulus is consciously inhibited, the old habitual reaction to that stimulus asserts itself, just as surely as alcohol or marijuana changes a person's mind in a way that is liable to feel good, even if the side effects are not so good.

I am not the only one to whom the bad medicine of “correct posture” was administered. But who else, among the victims of Japanese Zen masters of recent ages, is even working in the direction of the abandonment of that view?

At the risk of being divisive, I think that in this matter there is no middle way, no room for compromise. There is such a thing as a right direction, and a person who is tethered to the viewpoint of correct posture, whatever virtues he or she (no names mentioned) might have, is not going  even slowly  in that direction.

tad: ind. therefore
adya: ind. today, now
mām (acc. sg. m.): me
vā: ind. either
naya = 2nd pers. sg. imperative nī: to lead
tatra: ind. there
yatra: ind. wherein

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
vraja = 2nd pers. sg. imperative vraj: to go
drutam: ind. quickly , rapidly , without delay
vā: ind. or
punar: ind. back again
enam (acc. sg. m.): that one, him
ānaya = 2nd pers. sg. imperative ā- √ nī : to lead near, bring ; to bring back

ṛte: ind. under pain of , with the exclusion of , excepting , besides , without , unless (with abl.)
hi: for
tasmāt (abl. sg. m.): him
mama (gen. sg.): of/in me
na: not
asti (3rd pers. sg. as): there is
jīvitam (nom. sg.): n. life

vigāḍha-rogasya (gen. sg.): for one plunged into disease
vigāḍha: mfn. plunged into , entered
roga: m. ( √ruj) " breaking up of strength " , disease , infirmity , sickness
sad-auṣadhāt (abl. sg.): good medicine
sat: mfn. real , actual , as any one or anything ought to be , true , good , right
auṣadha: n. herbs used in medicine , simples , a medicament , drug , medicine in general
iva: like

汝速持我往 不爾往將還
不爲此二者 我命將不存
更無餘方治 唯待子爲藥

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