Friday, February 28, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.43: Bodhisattva-Wisdom / Buddha-Wisdom (ctd.) - Towards Freedom from Faults

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Haṁsī)
varaṁ hi bhuktāni tṇāny-araṇye toṣaṁ paraṁ ratnam-ivopaguhya |
sahoṣitaṁ śrī-sulabhair-na caiva doṣair-adśyair-iva kṣṇa-sarpaiḥ || 9.43

For foraging herbs, out in the wilds,

While clasping the highest contentment to one's breast
like a hidden jewel,

Is much better than living with the faults

That tend easily to go, like unseen black snakes, with royal glory.

The bodhisattva's metaphor comparing the faults to snakes brings to mind two metaphors used by the Buddha in SN Canto 16.
But balance (samādhiḥ) casts off the afflictions like a mountain casts off the mighty torrents of rivers. / The faults do not attack a man who is standing firm in balanced stillness (sthitaṁ samādhau): like charmed snakes, they are spellbound. // SN16.35 //
If their counteragent cannot be found and unreal fancies do not subside (naivopaśāmyeyur-asad-vitarkā), / They must not for a moment be left unchecked: no whiff of them should be tolerated, as if they were snakes in the house. // SN16.82 //
If we compare the bodhisattva's words and the Buddha's words, they are pointing in one and the same direction, namely, towards elimination of the faults – beginning with greed, anger, and delusion – that stem from thirsting.

The major difference might be that the Buddha has realized, and is clarifying for Nanda's benefit, a practical means-whereby a person can work in that direction, whereas the bodhisattva has yet to clarify such a method. At the centre of the method, when the bodhisattva does eventually clarify it, abandoning asceticism and defeating Māra, is the practice that was called in Chinese 三昧王三昧 (Jap: ZANMAI-O-ZANMAI), “the Samādhi which is King of Samādhis,” or “The State of Balanced Stillness which is King of States of Balanced Stillness.”

The ultimate kingship, then, might be a kind of kingship which is not easily attended by faults. It is not a kingship in which I am mindful of my power over others or my responsibility for others; it might be a kind of kingship in which I lose all ambition and totally forget everything.

In conclusion, neither the bodhisattva nor the Buddha hated the whole idea of royal glory (śrī), like some late 18th century revolutionary French intellectual, with guillotine standing by. But when it came to seeing faults as an enemy that should not be tolerated, the bodhisattva is already singing from the same hymn sheet that the Buddha would later sing from.
For just as a man afraid of thieves in the night would not open his door even to friends, / So does a wise man withhold consent equally to the doing of anything bad or anything good that involves the faults. // SN16.79 //

My great uncle on my father's side, Sir Eugene Cross, was a close friend of a better known working-class hero of the South Wales valleys, the Labour politician Nye Bevan. Eugene, at any rate, was certainly a hero to my grandfather, from whom I felt a certain unspoken pressure – especially after I passed an exam to go to the top school in my local area – to somehow follow in Uncle Eugene's footsteps, preferably finding spare time, along the way to rank and power, to play rugby for Wales. 

Since my mother's father ran off when she was an infant and she was an only child, the only male blood relative I had as a role model on my mother's side was her grandfather Bill Haworth, a clog-wearing labourer in a Darwen paint factory, Mr. Nobody. A man of lower rank and less power, or less personal ambition, it would be difficult to imagine. A pipeful of strong tobacco and a half pint of ale at the Anchor Pub over the road were all that Bill Haworth aspired to.

On the face of it, the bodhisattva's words are an encouragement to me to emulate Bill Haworth, Mr. Nobody, and to totally to forget the unreal fancy (asad vitarka) of being somebody of momentous import like Uncle Eugene. 

For whatever reason, I find that not so easy. Is it a question of naivopaśāmyeyur-asad-vitarkāḥ?

na: not
eva: (emphatic)
upaśāmyeyur = 3rd pers. pl. optative upa- √ śam: to become calm or quiet; to cease, become extinct
asad: not being , not existing , unreal ; untrue, wrong ; bad
vitarka: m. conjecture, supposition, fancy

Unreal fancies might not, indeed, subside.

Maybe so. But on further reflection, I come back to the title of the present canto, kumarānveṣāṇaḥ, one of whose meanings is "The Investigation of a Prince." 

In some sense every bodhisattva, whether he or she likes it or not, is unavoidably a prince, a king-to-be, an heir to the original king of dharma. Moroever, when, even for a moment, he or she sits in full lotus and forgets everything, it must be already that the king of samādhis is sitting in full lotus and forgetting everything – in which condition of royal glory, the Buddha's teaching suggests, faults do not get a look-in. 

varam: ind. preferably , rather , better (also = preferable , sometimes with abl. which in veda is often followed by ā e.g. agníbhyo váram , " better than fires " RV. ; sákkibhya ā́ váram , " better than companions " ib. ; exceptionally with acc. e.g. śiṣyaiḥ śata-hutān homān , ekaḥ putra-kut varam , " better one sacrifice offered by a son than a hundred offered by disciples " )
hi: for
bhuktāni (nom. pl. n.): mfn. enjoyed , eaten , made use of , possessed &c
tṛṇāni (nom. pl.): n. grass , herb , any gramineous plant , blade of grass , straw (often symbol of minuteness and worthlessness)
araṇye (loc. sg.): n. a distant land ; a wilderness , desert , forest

toṣam (acc. sg.): m. ( √ tuṣ) satisfaction , contentment , pleasure , joy
param (acc. sg. m.): of the highest order ; better or worse than , superior or inferior to , best or worst , highest , supreme
ratnam (acc. sg.): n. a jewel , gem , treasure , precious stone (
iva: like, as if
upaguhya = abs. upa- √ guh : to hide , cover , conceal ; to clasp , embrace , press to the bosom

sahoṣitam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. one who has dwelt with another
saha: together with
uṣita = past. part. vas: to dwell , live , stop (at a place)
śrī-sulabhaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): easily obtained with royal glory
śrī: f. light , lustre , radiance , splendour , glory ; 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
su-labha: mfn. easy to be obtained or effected , easily accessible or attainable , feasible ; fit or suitable for , answering to (mostly comp.)
na: not
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)

doṣaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. fault , vice , deficiency , want , inconvenience , disadvantage
a-dṛśyaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. invisible , latent ; not fit to be seen
iva: like
kṛṣṇa-sarpaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): black snakes

故知王正苦 不如行法安
寧處於山林 食草同禽獸
不堪處深宮 黒蛇同其穴

Thursday, February 27, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.42: Back to Nature (Nowhere Else)

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Sālā)
itthaṁ ca rājyaṁ na sukhaṁ na dharmaḥ pūrve yathā jāta-ghṇā narendrāḥ |
vayaḥ-prakarṣe 'parihārya-duḥkhe rājyāni muktvā vanam-eva jagmuḥ || 9.42

No comfort, then, is kingship, nor inabdicable dharma –

So that ancient kings who felt disgust, 

As the drag of getting old brought forth inevitable suffering, 

Ceded their kingdoms and retired nowhere else but to the forest.

Today's verse, for a start, gives us a bit more insight into what the buddha-to-be meant by the Sanskrit word dharma, as a masculine noun, at least in certain contexts. The first definition of dharma given in the MW dictionary is “that which is established or firm.” So the sense of a law which is unassailable or inviolable, or of a duty which is not abdicable, seems to be inherent in the original word dharma. This is why I have felt justified in translating dharmaḥ in the 1st pāda of today's verse as “inabdicable dharma” – though I am not looking forward to reading that phrase aloud if and when I get as far as making an audio recording of this translation.

The other word in today's verse that strikes me as worthy of comment is the emphatic eva in vanam-eva, which I have translated as “nowhere else but to the forest.” The emphasis has the effect of reminding me, for one, that whether I am sitting in France on the edge of an area that is designated as a forêt domaniale, a national forest,” or sitting in middle England amid a cluster of houses some of which have trees in their garden, the direction this sitting is intended to take me in, is nowhere else but back to nature.

Any old lumberjack can go and feel at home in the forest. But how to sit in such a way that the respiratory mechanism is allowed to work as nature intended – that is more of a challenge.

Sitting can be like a wooden stake fixed in the ground – like a stake to which to tie a donkey for 10,000 years. Or sitting can be like a growing tree, expanding upward and outward in all directions. Opting for the former might be like being lost in the woods. Vanam-eva in today's verse, as I read it, is a kind of reminder – insofar as we have a choice in the matter – to opt for the latter, getting back to the forest. 

According to the idea of the philosopher-king (an idea which we think of as rooted in Greek philosophy, but which may also have been current in ancient India), a person proceeds from enlightenment to the seat of government. The bodhisattva in today's verse, as in many verses in the present canto, is expressing his unwavering conviction that the right direction is the opposite direction, away from government of others and back to finding oneself in the forest. 

ittham: ind. (fr. id) thus , in this manner
id: ind. even, just, only ; indeed , assuredly (especially , in strengthening an antithesis)
ca: and
rājyam (nom. sg.): n. royalty , kingship , sovereignty , empire
na: not
sukham (nom. sg.): n. ease , easiness , comfort , prosperity , pleasure , happiness
na: not
dharmaḥ (nom. sg.): m. that which is established or firm , steadfast decree , statute , ordinance , law; dharma, duty

pūrve (loc. sg.): mfn. (declined like a pron. when implying relative position whether in place or time) being before or in front fore , first ; former , prior
yathā: ind. so that
jāta-ghṛṇāḥ (nom. pl. m.): feeling disgust
ghṛṇā: f. a warm feeling towards others , compassion , tenderness ; f. aversion , contempt ; horror, disgust
narendrāḥ (nom. pl. m.): indras among men, kings
vayaḥ-prakarṣe (loc. sg. m.): at the dragging along of age
vayas: n. vigorous age , youth , prime of life , any period of life , age
prakarṣa: m. pre-eminence , excellence , superiority , excess , intensity , high degree; length of time , duration
pra- √kṛṣ: to draw or stretch forth , drag along or away
aparihārya-duḥkhe (loc. sg. n.): inevitable suffering
aparihārya mfn. not to be avoided , inevitable

rājyāni (acc. pl.): n. kingship, empire; n. kingdom, realm
muktvā = abs. muc: to release, let go of
vanam (acc. sg.): n. the forest
eva: (emphatic)
jagmuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. gam: to go

位高爲災宅 慧者所不居
古昔先勝王 見居國多愆
楚毒加衆生 厭患而出家

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.41: Towards Unity & Simplicity

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Vāṇī)
jāmbūnadaṁ harmyam-iva pradīptaṁ viṣeṇa saṁyuktam-ivottamānnam |
grāhākulaṁ cāmbv-iva sāravindaṁ rājyaṁ hi ramyaṁ vyasanāśrayaṁ ca  || 9.41

For, like a golden palace on fire,

Like the finest food laced with poison,

And like a lotus pond full of crocodiles,

Kingship is attractive but it harbours calamities.

EBC notes here that, in the manuscripts from which EBC was working, from mid-way through the second half of today's verse, “the remainder of the prince's speech is lost.” Fortunately, relying on the older manuscript from which EHJ worked (the old Nepalese manuscript discovered by HP Shastri after EBC had finished his translation) we have a record of all those missing verses. Might a similar new discovery be made at some time in the future of a long-lost manuscript containing the second half of Buddha-carita? I hope so  and preferably before March 2015, when I am due to run out of verses of Buddha-carita to translate. 

Today's verse is self-explanatory, with no hidden irony lurking like a crocodile below the surface, at least as far as I can see, waiting to bite the arse of the intellectually arrogant who think they have got to the bottom whereof they have only scratched the surface.

But today's verse stimulates us to reflect further on what the bodhisattva wanted, and what a bodhisattva wants.

Kingship, for most of the bodhisattvas reading this, will never be a temptation. But we are constantly presented with lesser options that, like kingship, look attractive but only serve to make our life more complicated.

Why did Master Tendo Nyojo refuse the grateful gift of gold pieces from a wealthy donor? Because he was happy living his simple life.

How did the Dalai Lama answer when asked what his personal dream would be? To live the simple modest life of an anonymous monk.

In a passage titled Need for Unity and Simplicity in his second book, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, FM Alexander wrote:
“Life has become so complex.” In my opinion we have here the crux of the whole matter, and I venture to predict that before we can unravel the horribly tangled skein of our present existence, we must come to a full STOP, and return to conscious, simple living, believing in the unity underlying all things, and acting in a practical way in accordance with the laws and principles involved.
When Alexander wrote of “acting in a practical way,” that wasn't empty words: those words really meant something. Alexander didn't have a Ph. D. in physiology or psychology; he wasn't trained in medicine. He didn't go to Oxford or Cambridge (though many of those who beat a path to his door were highly educated – like Professor John Dewey and Aldous Huxley, to name a couple). But he had seen something, which set him apart from everybody else, about what it means to act in a practical way. What is more, he worked out a practical way of transmitting what he had seen to others.

When we sit in lotus unconsciously pulling our heads back and down onto the spine in the misguided attempt to have “good posture,” we are not acting in a practical way at all – even if we know a lot of Buddhist philosophy about idealism, materialism, and practical action. We may proudly think – in our own little Buddhist bubble – that we are acting in a practical way, and we may have our views confirmed by fellow Buddhists in our stiff-necked saṁgha that we are acting in a practical way, but in reality, on the contrary, we are working against ourselves. I know whereof I speak.

To sit in lotus in a truly practical way, I venture to submit, based on my own experience, might begin with a recognition of what pulling the head back is, and with a decision to STOP doing it. Expressed positively, in a practical way, that decision is expressed as a wish to allow the head to go FORWARD. But not forward and down. FORWARD and UP.

These characters, thought to be written in Dogen's own hand, express the essence of sitting-zen as naturally/spontaneously to become all of one piece.

jāmbūnadam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. coming from the river (nadī) jambū (kind of gold) ; n. gold from the jambū river , any gold ; = jāmbūnada-maya: made of jāmbūnada gold , golden
harmyam (nom. sg.): n. a large house , palace
iva: like, as if
pradīptam (nom. sg. m.): mfn. kindled , inflamed , burning , shining

viṣeṇa (inst. sg.): " anything active " , poison , venom , bane , anything actively pernicious
saṁyuktam (nom. sg. n.): accompanied or attended by , endowed or furnished with , full of (instr.)
iva: like, as if
uttamānnam (nom. sg. n.): the finest food
uttama: mfn. uppermost , highest ; best, excellent
anna: n. food or victuals , especially boiled rice

grāhākulam (nom. sg. n.): infested with crocodiles
grāha: m. a rapacious animal living in fresh or sea water , any large fish or marine animal (crocodile , shark , serpent , Gangetic alligator , water elephant , or hippopotamus)
ākula: mfn. confused ; filled , full , overburdened with (instr. or generally in comp.)
ca: and
ambu (nom. sg.): n. water
iva: like, as if
sāravindam (nom. sg. n.): containing lotuses
aravinda: n. (fr. ara and vinda ), a lotus , Nelumbium Speciosum or Nymphaea Nelumbo

rājyam (nom. sg.): n. royalty , kingship , sovereignty , empire ; kingdom, realm
hi: for
ramyam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. to be enjoyed , enjoyable , pleasing , delightful , beautiful
vyasanāśrayam (nom. sg. n.): the seat of calamity
vyasana: n. moving to and fro , wagging (of a tail); evil predicament or plight , disaster , accident , evil result , calamity , misfortune ; ill-luck , distress , destruction , defeat , fall , ruin
āśraya: m. seat , resting-place ; mfn. ifc. depending on , resting on , endowed or furnished with
ca: and ; sometimes ca is = eva , even , indeed , certainly , just

七寶妙宮殿 於中盛火然
天廚百味飯 於中有雜毒

蓮華清涼池 於中多毒蟲

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.40: What the Prince Had Firmly Decided

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Premā)
kathaṁ nu mohāyatanaṁ n-patvaṁ kṣamaṁ prapattuṁ viduṣā nareṇa |
sodvegatā yatra madaḥ śramaś-ca parāpacāreṇa ca dharma-pīḍā || 9.40

How can kingship, as the dwelling place of delusion,

Be fit to be entered by a man of wisdom?

For there reside perturbation, intemperance, and exhaustion;

And transgression against dharma 
through harsh treatment of others.

The 3rd pāda of today's verse seems to cite three elements of the moha (EBC: illusion; EHJ/PO: delusion) wherein the bodhisattva does not wish his own mind and body to dwell. Those three elements are 

  • sodvegatā (EBC/PO: anxiety; EHJ: fearfulness), 
  • madaḥ (EBC: passion; EHJ: the intoxication of pride; PO: pride) and
  • śramaḥ (EBC/EHJ: weariness; PO: fatigue). 

The 4th pāda adds a less subjective element, related to the effect of the exercise of kingship on others.

According to EHJ's footnote, the Abhidharma-kośa-śāstra written by Vasubandhu (the 21st Zen patriarch in the lineage in which Aśvaghoṣa is the 12th and Bodhidharma is the 28th) says that kings are incapable of saṁvara (restraint / forbearance), because the maintenance of order requires them to use personal violence against others (AK 3.91). The bodhisattva appears to pick up this point again in BC9.48, with another rhetorical question pointing to the incompatibility of the dharma of kings and the dharma of freedom.

Below the surface, is it possible to read today's verse as subverting this ostensible meaning?

If I thought that was Aśvaghoṣa's intention, I would refer to Daikan Eno's teaching (see Shobogenzo chap. 17, Hokke-ten-hokke) on delusion and realization, the latter being a function of the former. I would consider also the suffering the Buddha brought down on Nanda in using skillful but nonetheless painful means to separate Nanda and his beautiful wife Sundarī. 

Since today's verse is in the form of a question, it is of course possible to read it as being not a rhetorical assertion but an open question. From BC9.53, indeed, the king's counsellor will attempt to respond to the bodhisattva's question as if it were such, citing historical examples like the Śalva king Druma and Antideva who proceeded from the forest to the throne.

As I said at the beginning of this monologue, however, I think the tone of the narrative has changed so that the bodhisattva is not now speaking, as the prince was speaking before, as somebody who did not see the deeper meaning in his own words. On the contrary, the bodhisattva is speaking as one who knows his own mind, and whose mind is made up. So when Aśvaghoṣa described this response of the bodhisattva as praśritam (“full of secret meaning”; BC9.30), I think that this was not a pointer to the reader that we should seek ironic hidden meaning. If the meaning of today's verse was hidden, then I think the meaning was hidden from the king's clever counsellor, but the meaning was not on this occasion hidden by Aśvaghoṣa, through the use of irony, from us.

As a translation of the title of the present canto, kumārānveṣaṇaḥ, my provisional first choice so far is “The Seeking of a Prince,” which at least has the merit of leaving it open whether the prince is the subject or the object of the seeking. But on the evidence of a verse like today's verse, a more meaningful translation would be “The Prince's Investigation” or, better, but not so literally, “What the Prince Had Unequivocally Decided.”

Finally, as I generally ask myself as I sit in the morning having memorized a verse of Aśvaghoṣa's poetry the day before, what has today's verse got to say to a bloke who sits?

For a start the bodhisattva's words might serve to remind a bodhisattva who sits of the practical merits
  • of balanced stillness (samādhi) as opposed to perturbation (sodvegatā);
  • of small desire and complete contentment (alpecchu-saṁtuṣṭi) as opposed to intemperance (mada);
  • of constancy and energy (dhṛti-vīrya) as opposed to exhaustion (śama).

At the same time, the 4th pāda might be a reminder that the successful bodhisattva is one who avoids involvement with others (pareṣām saṁsargam) like a thorn (kaṇṭakam-iva)...

kṛtārthaḥ sa jñeyaḥ śama-sukha-rasa-jñaḥ kṛta-matiḥ
He is to be known as a success, a knower of the taste of peace and ease, 
whose mind is made up --
pareṣāṃ saṃsargaṃ pariharati yaḥ kaṇṭakam-iva // SN14.50 //
He avoids involvement with others like a thorn.

katham: how?
nu: indeed (emphatic)
mohāyatanam (acc. sg. n.): the seat of delusion
moha: m. loss of consciousness , bewilderment , perplexity , distraction , infatuation , delusion , error , folly ; ignorance
muh: to become stupefied or unconscious , be bewildered or perplexed , err , be mistaken , go astray
ā-yatana: n. resting-place , support , seat , place , home , house , abode
nṛ-pa-tvam (acc. sg.): n. 'protector-of-men-ness'; royalty , dominion

kṣamam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. fit , appropriate , becoming , suitable , proper for (gen. dat. , loc. inf.)
prapattum = infinitive pra- √ pad: to go forwards set out for , resort to , arrive at , attain , enter (with acc.); to fly to for succour , take refuge with (acc.) ; to obtain , gain ; to adopt or embrace (a doctrine)
viduṣā (inst. sg.): mfn. one who knows , knowing , understanding , learned , intelligent , wise , mindful of , familiar with , skilled in ; m. a wise man , sage , seer
nareṇa (inst. sg.): a man

sodvega-tā (nom. sg. f.): agitation, fearfulness
sodvega: mfn. agitated , disturbed , anxious , fearful
udvega: m. trembling , waving , shaking; agitation , anxiety
yatra: ind. where
madaḥ (nom. sg.): m. hilarity , rapture , excitement , inspiration , intoxication
śramaḥ (nom. sg.): fatigue , weariness , exhaustion
ca: and

parāpacāreṇa (inst. sg.): “by the mishandling of others” [EHJ];
para: m. another (different from one's self) , a foreigner , enemy , foe , adversary
apacāra: m. want , absence ; defect; fault , improper conduct , offence
apa: ind. (as a prefix to nouns and verbs , expresses) away , off , back; down ; When prefixed to nouns , it may sometimes = the neg. particle a e.g. apa-bhī , fearless ; or may express deterioration , inferiority , &c (cf. apa-pāṭha)
cāra: m. going , motion , progression , course ; practising
apa- √ car: to depart; to act wrongly
paropacāreṇa [EBC] (inst. sg.): “through another's service”
upacāra: m. approach , service , attendance
ca: and
dharma-pīḍā (nom. sg.): f. transgression of law or duty
pīḍā: f. pain , suffering , annoyance , harm , injury , violation , damage ; devastation ; obscuration , eclipse (of a planet)

終身常畏怖 思慮形神疲
順衆心違法 智者所不爲 

Monday, February 24, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.39: Not Being Greedy – Bodhisattva-Wisdom / Buddha-Wisdom

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Māyā)
rājyaṁ mumukṣur-mayi yac-ca rājā tad-apy-udāraṁ sadśaṁ pituś-ca |
pratigrahītuṁ mama na kṣamaṁ tu lobhād-apathyānnam-ivāturasya || 9.39

That the king wishes to cede his kingdom to me –

That indeed is noble, and worthy of a father;

But it would be no more fitting for me to accept,

Than for a sick man, out of greed, to accept food that is bad for him.

In the 1st pāda of today's verse mumukṣuḥ (wishing to cede) is from the root √muc (to let loose, let go, release, set free); and in the 4th pāda lobhāt (out of greed) is from the root √lubh (to desire greatly or eagerly).

So in today's verse, the bodhisattva, the buddha-to-be, though he has not fully realized himself as buddha yet, is already singing words from the hymn sheet of buddhas, praising release and cautioning against greed.

On the surface today's verse doesn't seem to have much to do with sitting-meditation. But what we want in sitting-meditation is mainly release, or freedom; and release or freedom comes, in the first instance, from not wanting anything too greatly or eagerly.

To pursue release or freedom, on the contrary, by striving eagerly for “good posture,” and pulling oneself down in the process, is a kind of insanity.

Ironically, it is a kind of insanity that many men who were sincerely devoted to Zen, in Japan over the last 100 years or so, have preached as the Buddha's wisdom.

In the mid-1980s when I was living in the centre of Tokyo, within easy cycling distance of the office to which my teacher commuted, Japan was at the height of a bubble. Most people at the time thought of it as a speculative bubble in the equity and property markets, but more fundamentally it was understood, by the economist I worked for, as a capital investment bubble. But maybe more fundamentally still, what was inflating was a bubble of Japanese arrogance, or hubris.

I considered myself at the time to be on the outside of this bubble looking in. For two years between 1986 and 1988, I gave myself a target of sitting in lotus for at least five hours every day, and I managed to maintain that standard every day. Every so often I would be called into the office of the economist who employed me to work on a paper or an article he wanted to write, which I thought afforded me certain insights into Japan's bubble economy. At the same time I had good friends in Tokyo who were working full-time in the city. From where I sat, keeping my spine straight vertically for hours on end in my small flat, my friends and my employer were at the centre of the bubble, and I was on the outside looking in.

In retrospect, however, I see that I was most greedily and eagerly sitting right at the dead centre of the bubble of Japanese arrogance, or hubris, or insanity, and was very far from true freedom.

Some truth, fortunately for us, we don't have to be fully awake to see and to speak. Some truth we can see, and can speak, as bodhisattvas.

rājyam (acc. sg.): n. royalty , kingship , sovereignty ; kingdom
mumukṣuḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. being desirous of giving up
mayi (loc. sg. m.): to me
yat (nom. sg. n.): that
ca: and
rājā (nom. sg. m.): the king

tat (nom. sg. n.): [correlative of yat] that
api: and , also , moreover , besides , assuredly , surely
udāram (nom. sg. n.): mfn. high , lofty , exalted ; noble , illustrious , generous
sadṛśam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. conformable , suitable , fit , proper , right , worthy
pituḥ (gen. sg.): m. a father
ca: and

pratigrahītum = infinitive prati- √ grah: to take (as a present or into possession) , appropriate , receive , accept
mama (gen. sg.): for me
na: not
kṣamam (nom. sg. n.): fit , appropriate , becoming , suitable , proper for (gen. dat. , loc. inf. or in comp.)
tu: but

lobhāt (abl. sg.): m. impatience , eager desire for or longing after ; covetousness , cupidity , avarice
apathyānnam (acc. sg. n.): unsuitable food
apathya: mfn. unfit ; unsuitable ; (in med.) unwholesome as food or drink in particular complaints
anna: n. food or victuals , especially boiled rice
iva: like
āturasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. suffering , sick (in body or mind)

欲使我爲王 慈愛法難違
如病服非藥 是故我不堪

高位愚癡處 放逸隨愛憎

Sunday, February 23, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.38: Towards a Truer Appreciation of Time

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Kīrti)
bhavaty-akālo viṣayābhipattau kālas-tathaivārtha-vidhau pradiṣṭaḥ |
kālo jagat-karṣati sarva-kālān-arcārhakaḥ śreyasi sarva-kālaḥ || 9.38

In devotion to sensual objects, 
wrong time exists.

In business, equally, 
a right time is indicated.

Away from mankind and unto itself, 
time is dragging all moments of time.

In the happier state of higher good, 
all time is deserving of adoration.

EHJ notes: A difficult stanza.

The bodhisattva, prompted by the king's assertion that he has given himself to the forest at a wrong time (a-kāle), is investigating the meaning of wrong time, right time, time as the stage of human action, and time as reality itself. This four-line investigation then, as I read it, follows the scheme that my teacher called “the four philosophies” or “three philosophies and one reality.”

Eventually EHJ concludes that the 4th pāda is best amended to
nirvāhake śreyasi nāsti-kālaḥ
EHJ: Time does not exist in the highest good (śreyasi) which leads to salvation (nirvāhake).
PO: but there's no appointed time for what procures final bliss.

EHJ's amendment appears to have been based on the Tibetan translation and on the Chinese
'in the dharma that takes away death there is no time' [EHJ's translation].

EBC's text, which remains faithful to the original manuscripts, has
arcārhake śreyasi sarva-kālaḥ
but all time suits a bliss (śreyasi) which is really worthy of praise (arcārhake).
EBC adds in a footnote to the 4th pāda: 
I.e. mukti can never be ill-timed. But this is an obscure verse.

Like EBC, I have stuck with the original text, except that I have amended arcārhake to arcārhakaḥ, so that it agrees not with śreyasi but with sarva-kālaḥ, and thus describes the whole of time (or every moment of time) as deserving of adoration.

So both EBC and EHJ thought that today's verse was a difficult one. From where I sit it is not so difficult, if we read it in four phases, and understand it as part of what Aśvaghoṣa described in BC9.30 as the bodhisattva's excellent response, that response being full of secret meaning.

The excellence of the bodhisattva's response, in today's verse, might be in its dialectic dynamism – which is to say that it is not stuck in one viewpoint, but it is rather tending in the direction of abandonment of all views (sarva-dṛṣṭi-prahāṇāya). 

To the extent that each is expressing their fundamental direction, today's verse thus causes me to reflect, there is no difference at all between the expression of a bodhisattva, a buddha-to-be, and the expression of a fully awakened buddha – their level may be different, but their direction is the same.

When Marjory Barlow said the words "Head FORWARD and UP" that direction meant more to Marjory Barlow than it meant to me who was listening to her, but for both of us it was, is, and always will be the same direction, and the same words:  "Head FORWARD and UP." 

The starting point of today's verse, then, as expressed in the 1st pāda, is idealism. The idealistic or spiritual view despises the wasting of that time which is given over to vain worldly pursuits when it could be devoted to valuable spiritual pursuits.

The 2nd pāda is antithetical to the spiritual viewpont of the  1st pāda in that it affirms the importance of good timing artha-vidhau, in the business of business, i.e. in the arena of making money by well timed investment decisions (or trades, or bets, as the case may be).

The 3rd pāda brings us back to the fact that our life is playing out on a stage of impermanence, in a theatre where time's arrow is pointing to the exit. Which is to say that our lives are being relentlessly consumed by time, moment by moment, like the lifeblood draining away drop by drop.

And the 4th pāda, chiming with yesterday's verse, might be pointing to that rare state of really being present in which each moment is more valuable than a jewel, and one moment of sitting swallows the whole of what Dogen called existence-time, U-JI: 


In the  4th pāda I might have translated śreyasi more elegantly as “in a state of grace.” I didn't for two reasons.

The first reason is that śreyas is originally a relative concept, a comparative. EHJ translates it as “the highest good” but I think that as a translation of śreyas a word ending in -er is better than a word ending in -est. I think so especially in light of Alexander's principle that there is no such thing as a right position, but there is a right direction. In other words, again as discussed yesterday, there is no such thing as a right posture but there is a right orientation – which, when we first begin to re-discover it, strikes us as feeling like the orientation of a mountain gorilla.

Having been ill for the past four weeks, I now seem to be almost back to normal, at least I am back to work (in the sense of seeing paying customers), but I remember the worst few hours in the past four weeks as being those in which I had a sense of being stuck in limbo, not getting worse, not getting better, but just being stuck, not going anywhere. It tended to confirm me in the recognition that a good way to go about saving the world is not so much to find the cure for this or that ill, or the solution to this or that global problem, but rather to help anybody who can be helped to get moving in the right direction.

Conversely, as I reflected at the time, if for any reason you want to destroy a person, to bring them down, and if that person is chugging along on a certain track, then your task is somehow to derail your enemy. 

Sometimes politicians make enemies not by standing up for something, but just out of base motives like political ambition and jealousy. At the time of Master Bodhidharma there was a scheming politician like that who went by the name of Bodhiruci, whose weapon of choice was poison. And at the time of the Buddha himself there was a scheming politician like that who went by the name of Devadatta, whose weapon of choice was a large rolling rock. 

But it is not always necessary to do anything dramatic involving poison or rock – or knife, rope or lead-piping in the library, conservatory or billiard room. A couple of hidden manouvers in the night is sometimes enough to ensure a derailment of your enemy. And never mind if the ensuing train-wreck causes a bit of collateral damage. 

The second reason I didn't translate śreyasi as “in a state of grace,” is that “a state of grace” is a phrase encrusted with Christian barnacles. Still, it seems to me to be undeniably true that even those who, like Marjory Barlow, considered themselves “Christian, if anything,” have not been excluded by that self-consideration from entering into a happier state of higher good.

Hence Marjory's contemporary Patrick Macdonald, another teacher trained by FM Alexander, wrote:
The F. Matthias Alexander Technique is “like unto a treasure hid in a field, the which, when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath and buyeth that field.” Note that he selleth all that he hath. He does not merely go without a television set or a holiday in France or, perhaps, a fur coat for his wife. He selleth all that he hath! And, while a proper use of the self is not the Kingdom of Heaven, it is practically an indispensable means of approaching it.
What Patrick Macdonald means here by “a proper use of the self,” again it should be emphasized, is not what people think of as “good posture.” It is not a right position. But it does involve pointing one's various bones in their respective right directions, and one's whole self generally in the right direction.

Head FORWARD and UP. 

bhavati = 3rd pers. sg. bhū: to be, exist
akālaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a wrong time, a bad time
viṣayābhipattau (loc. sg.): in devotion of oneself to objects
viṣaya: m. object ; anything perceptible by the senses , any object of affection or concern or attention , any special worldly object or aim or matter or business , (pl.) sensual enjoyments , sensuality
abhipatti: f. seizing; possession
abhi- √ pad: to come near or towards , approach ; to seize , catch , overpower , master ; to take possession of ; to undertake , devote one's self to (acc.)

kālaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a fixed or right point of time , a space of time , time ; the proper time ; occasion , circumstance
tathā: ind. likewise, so
eva: (emphatic)
artha-vidhau (loc. sg.): in the matter of wealth
artha: mn. substance , wealth , property , opulence , money
vidhi: m. any act or action , performance , accomplishment , contrivance , work , business (ifc. often pleonastically e.g. mathana-vidhi , the [act of] disturbing)
pradiṣṭaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. pointed out , indicated , fixed , ordained
pra- √ diś: to point out , show , indicate , declare , appoint , fix , ordain ; to assign , apportion , grant

kālaḥ (nom. sg.): m. time
jagat (acc. sg.): n. that which moves or is alive , men and animals ; n. the world , esp. this world , earth ; n. people , mankind
karṣati = 3rd pers. sg. kṛṣ: to draw , draw to one's self , drag , pull , drag away , tear ; to draw into one's power , become master of , overpower ; to take away anything (acc.) from any one (acc.) ; to draw or make furrows , plough
sarva-kālān (acc. pl. m.): all times

arcārhaka (loc. sg.): ( Bcar. ), mfn. worthy of honour or praise
arcā: f. worship , adoration ; an image or idol (destined to be worshipped)
arc: to honour or treat with respect
arhaka: mfn. entitled to (comp.)
nirvāhake [EHJ] (loc. sg.): mfn. accomplishing , performing , effecting ; EHJ: “which leads to salvation”
nirvāha: m. carrying on , accomplishing , performing , completion ; steadfastness , perseverance
śreyasi (loc. sg.): n. the better state , the better fortune or condition ; m. good (as opp. to " evil ") , welfare , bliss , fortune , happiness ; m. the bliss of final emancipation , felicity
sarva-kālaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the whole of time, every moment of time
nāsti [EHJ]: there is not
kālaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a fixed or right point of time , a space of time , time (in general) ; the proper time or season for (gen. dat. loc.)

侍時受五欲 求財時亦然
一切時死故 除死法無時