Thursday, January 16, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.1: A Spur to Action

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Kīrti)
tatas-tadā mantri-purohitau tau bāṣpa-pratodābhihatau npeṇa |
viddhau sad-aśvāv-iva sarva-yatnāt-sauhārda-śīghraṁ yayatur-vanaṁ tat || 9.1

Then the two, knowing informant and veteran priest,

Smitten by a protector of men, prodded with a goad of tears,

Making every effort, like two good horses spurred into action,

Went with good-hearted swiftness to that forest.

In the 1st pāda of the new canto, as I read it, the two (tau) stand for left brain and right brain; for right hand and left hand, right eye and left eye, right ear and left ear, right leg and left leg; for top and bottom; for defence and attack; for passive and active; for accepting the self and using the self; for forward and up; for lengthening and widening. It is not that the two are a layman and a monk, and not that the two are something ineffable. The two are for balance.

In the 2nd pāda a protector of men ostensibly means King Śuddhodana but below the surface nṛ-pa once again might be intended to mean the king of dharma, whose goad of tears was the noble truth of suffering.

In the 3rd pāda, what is the meaning of every effort? Are two good horses when spurred into action fully mentally alert? Do they make maximum physical effort?

For the past 40 years, on and off, I have enjoyed the simple action of lifting up lumps of iron – of observing the beneficial effect on my neuro-muscular and other systems of moving weights in opposition to the pull of mother earth's gravity. Forty years ago, I used to enjoy the solitude and quietness of the weights room at the back of the school gym, at lunchtimes. I also used to enjoy looking at myself in the mirror afterwards – “poser!” my father would rightly point out, with the no-nonsense powers of observation of a pillar of the West Midlands Police Force C.I.D.

The reason I mention it is that the phrase “maximum effort” is used by body builders to describe the straining accomplishment of one last rep. At the age of 54, I am somewhat wary these days of doing myself a mischief, and no longer so eager to build the kind of body that might help me make friends and influence people, so I tend to eschew the making of maximum effort and place more emphasis on remaining alert. But I do still enjoy doing squats and bench-presses, albeit with relatively light weights. And as far as I know there is no law against it – even for a Zen Alexander teacher who is always going on about not doing.

The good-hearted swiftness mentioned in the 4th pāda is naturally and spontaneously illustrated when somebody walking in front of us drops something like a wallet or a mobile phone. For an example of the opposite, I recall a recent radio interview with an ex-offender who described smoking strong marijuana before going out to mug people, in order to overcome natural human resistance to bringing fear and suffering down upon another human being.

Is there anything we can do to be a person, as in the former example, whose heart is in the right place?

I sense people's eyes rolling as once more I contrive to bring the discussion back to my favourite subject. But I will say it anyway: There is nothing we can do to make our heart be in the right place. But there is plenty we can do to cause our heart to be in the wrong place – for example, we can pull our stiffened necks backwards in a misguided effort to “keep the neck bones straight vertically.”

Thus, pumping iron is inherently neither good nor bad – any more than swimming, or running, or sitting in full lotus is inherently good or bad. If our heart is in the right place, any activity is very good. If our heart is in the wrong place, any activity is bad.

The uprightness of the military parade ground or the Japanese Zazen hall can be seen, in many cases, as a study in having the heart in the wrong place. And the antidote to all that, if we know how to administer it, is contained in balanced directions with dual aspects like 
  • Let the head go (1) FORWARD and (2) UP
  • Let the back (1) LENGTHEN and (2) WIDEN. 

tataḥ: ind. then, thence
tadā: ind. at that time , then , in that case (often used redundantly , esp. after tatas )
mantri-purohitau (nom. dual): counsellor and priest
tau (nom. dual): the two of them

bāṣpa-pratodābhihatau (nom. dual):
bāṣpa: m. a tear, tears
pratoda: m. a goad or long whip
abhihata: mfn. struck , smitten , killed ; beaten
nṛpeṇa (inst. sg.): m. a/the protector/ruler of men

viddhau (nom. dual): mfn. (p.p. of √ vyadh) pierced , perforated , penetrated , stabbed , struck , wounded , beaten , torn , hurt , injured ; stung , incited , set in motion
sad-aśvau (nom. dual): m. a good horse
iva: like
sarva-yatnāt (abl. sg.): with every effort
sarva-yatna: m. every effort ( °nena ind. " with all one's might " , to the best of one's ability)
yatnāt: with or notwithstanding effort ; mahato yatnāt " , with great effort " , " very carefully "

sauhārda-śīghram: with the quickness of the good-hearted
sauhārda: n. (fr. su-hṛd) good-heartedness , affection , friendship for or with (gen. or loc.);
śīghra: mfn. quick , speedy , swift , rapid ( °ghrám ind. and °ghreṇa ind. quickly , rapidly , fast)
yayatur = 3rd pers. dual perf. yā: to go
vanam (acc. sg.): n. forest
tat (acc. sg. n.): that

王正以憂悲 感切師大臣
如鞭策良馬 馳駛若迅流
身疲不辭勞 逕詣苦行林

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