Sunday, January 19, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.4: Freedom from the Sin of Certainty

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Rāmā)
śuddhaujasaḥ śuddha-viśāla-kīrter-ikṣvāku-vaṁśa-prabhavasya rājñaḥ |
imaṁ janaṁ vettu bhavān-adhīraṁ śruta-grahe mantra-parigrahe ca || 9.4

“Though we belong to a king in the line of Ikṣvāku

Who is pure in his bodily energy and pure in his wide renown,

Know, good sir, that the men before you are not sure of ourselves

In apprehending what truth is taught
And in comprehending the art of thought.

The repetition of śuddha (pure) in the 1st pāda of today's verse is a play on the name of King Śuddhodana, since śuddhodana literally means "pure (śuddha) porridge (odana).”

At the same time, the description of the Śakya king, in the context of today's verse as a whole, seems to raise the question of what the purity of perfection, or the purity of absolute certainty, might be – both in the physical sphere (the sphere of porridge) and in the mental sphere (the sphere of renown); both in the spiritual sphere (the priest's sphere of śruta, revealed truth that is taught) and in the material sphere (the counsellor's sphere of mantra, economic and political strategy that is thought).

A mantra, literally, according to the MW dictionary, is an instrument of thought. 

Alexander work, a famous Alexander teacher named Patrick Macdonald once said, helps you think straight.

Can the same be said about sitting-meditation?

Hmmm. Not sure about that.

I woke up too early this morning, in pitch blackness, struggling to think straight – about gold, about other forms of money like dollars and pounds and euros and yen whose substance is faith; about what might happen in 2014 if faith in paper promises collapses; about what kind of right direction might emerge thereafter; and about where my own efforts  – not to mention investments  – are directed in light of that right direction which may eventually assert itself.

On my birthday card that I received from my elder son a few weeks ago, he wrote something along the lines of “here's hoping the global economy crashes in 2014.” There was a dose of irony there, of course, because what father would really wish upon his sons and upon future generations a world rendered dangerous by a financial crash and a dysfunctional economy?

Irony is intimately related with the fallibility of human thinking, and the unpredictability of real events.

What do we really know? In seeking to think straight, what rock might be our foundation? To put it another way, how might we avoid, as we forge forward into 2014, receiving a right hook to the chin from the hand of Cosmic Irony? 

The 2nd law of thermodynamics, so expert scientists say who study these things, might be the one law of the universe that will never be falsified.

According to the 2nd law, the law of impermanence, Time's Arrow, even a rock is energy waiting to spread out, so that a sedimentary rock, for example, may eventually become sand again.

That being so, if small rocks started spontaneously melting together into one big rock which rolled spontaneously uphill, that might be not only a miracle of religious proportions but also a nice demonstration of ultimate cosmic irony. I and others like me who don't believe in God might become true believers and head for the nearest church or mosque, willingly letting Him have the last laugh.

For the time being, however, whatever little faith I have retained I shall continue to put in such a thing as a right direction.

There is no such thing as a right position, FM Alexander asserted, but there is such a thing as a right direction.

That being so, an arrow might be a kind of Alexander mantra. 

At the same time we usually think of a mantra as being circular.

After an hour of sitting this morning – admittedly an hour of sitting rather stiffly in my fatigued, sleep-deprived state – it occurred to me that a nice mantra for sitting-meditation, with elements of both arrow and circle, is a double helix.

The one I pictured in my mind had upward pointing arrows on top, but was something along these lines: 

I hope that some bright spark in the not-too-distant future may be able to see more clearly than I can see myself the connection between Aśvaghoṣa's use of irony, to which I have been drawing attention on this blog, and what George Soros has said, in connection with the relationship between thinking and reality, about fallibility and reflexivity.

Aśvaghoṣa's teaching, I venture to assert, does not belong to the age of faith; but Aśvaghoṣa's teaching might shortly come into its own out of the ashes of abandoned faith – just as the present global financial crisis seems to have caused economists in universities around the world to see the flaws in market fundamentalism and look afresh at George Soros's philosophical framework, built on the dual pillars of fallibility and reflexivity.

śuddhaujasaḥ (gen. sg. m.): mfn. pure in valour
śuddha: mfn. cleansed , cleared , clean , pure , clear
śuddh'odana: m. " having pure rice or food " , N. of a king of kapila-vastu (of the tribe of the śākyas and father of gautama buddha
odana: mn. ( √ud, to issue out), grain mashed and cooked with milk , porridge , boiled rice , any pap or pulpy substance
ojas: n. bodily strength , vigour , energy , ability , power ; vitality (the principle of vital warmth and action throughout the body); light , splendour , lustre
aujasa: n. (fr. ojas) gold

śuddha-viśāla-kīrteḥ (gen. sg. m.): pure in wide renown
śuddha: mfn. cleansed , cleared , clean , pure , clear
viśāla: mfn .spacious , extensive , broad , wide , large; great , important , powerful , mighty , illustrious , eminent
kīrti: f. ( fr. √2. kṛ, to praise) mention , making mention of , speech , report ; good report , fame , renown , glory

ikṣvāku-vaṁśa-prabhavasya (gen. sg.):
ikṣvāku: m. name of a son of manu vaivasvata (father of kukṣi and first king of the solar dynasty in ayodhyā)
vaṁśa: m. the line of a pedigree or genealogy (from its resemblance to the succession of joints in a bamboo) , lineage , race , family
prabhava: m. production , source , origin , cause of existence (as father or mother , also " the Creator ") , birthplace (often ifc. , with f(ā). , springing or rising or derived from , belonging to)
rājñaḥ (gen. sg.): m. king

imaṁ janam (acc. sg. m.): these persons, us
vettu = 3rd pers. sg. imperative vid: to know
bhavān (nom. sg.): your honour , your worship , your lordship or ladyship , you (lit. " the gentleman or lady present ")
adhīram (acc. sg. m.): mfn. imprudent ; not fixed, moveable ; confused ; deficient in calm self-command ; excitable ; capricious ; weak-minded , foolish
adhīnam [Kern] (acc. sg. m.): mfn. depending on , subject to , subservient to
adhītam [EHJ] (acc. sg. m.): mfn. attained ; studied, read ; well read ; learned [EHJ: “charged with”]

śruta-grahe (loc. sg.): m. the perception of sacred knowledge, Bcar
śruta: n. anything heard , that which has been heard (esp. from the beginning) , knowledge as heard by holy men and transmitted from generation to generation , oral tradition or revelation , sacred knowledge
graha: m. grasp , seizing , laying hold of (often ifc.) ; m. taking , receiving , reception; m. apprehension , perception , understanding
mantra-parigrahe (loc. sg.): m. the mastery of counsel
mantra: m. " instrument of thought " , speech , sacred text or speech , a prayer or song of praise ; a Vedic hymn or sacrificial formula , that portion of the veda which contains the texts called ṛc or yajus or sāman (q.v.) as opp. to the brāhmaṇa and upaniṣad portion ;
a mystical verse or magical formula (sometimes personified) , incantation , charm , spell (esp. in modern times employed by the śāktas to acquire superhuman powers ; consultation , resolution , counsel , advice , plan , design , secret
mantṛ: m. a thinker , adviser , counsellor
parigraha: m. laying hold of on all sides , surrounding , enclosing , fencing round ; getting , attaining , acquisition , possession , property (ifc. " being possessed of or furnished with ")
ca: and

淨稱淨飮王 甘蔗名勝胄
我等爲師臣 法教典要事

No comments: