Friday, February 14, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.29: Towards Being Awake

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
śokāgninā tvad-virahendhanena niḥśvāsa-dhūmena tamaḥ-śikhena |
tvad-darśanāmbv-icchati dahyamānam antaḥpuraṁ caiva puraṁ ca ktsnam || 9.29

Burning with a fire of grief whose fuel is your absence,

Burning with a fire whose fumes are sighs,
and whose flames are hell,

While it seeks the water of your presence,

Is not only the royalty within the battlements but the whole city."

The old Nepalese manuscript has a tear covering the three syllables corresponding to -nam antaḥ in EHJ's text. In EBC's text these three syllables are -naḥ so' ṁtaḥ. Thus where EHJ has dahyamānam antaḥpuraṁ, EBC has dahyamānaḥ so 'ṁtaḥpuraṁ.

In EBC's reading, therefore, the subject of today's verse is the burning he (dahyamānaḥ saḥ), i.e. Rāhula, and the main verb (where EHJ has [ambv-]icchati, “it seeks [water]”) is [tvad-darśanāya]ṛcchati, “he wanders [for a sight of thee].” Hence:

Burned with the fire of anguish within him, to which thy absence adds fresh fuel, — a fire whose smoke is sighs and its flame despair, — he wanders for a sight of thee through the women's apartments and the whole city. (EBC)

If this feels like a lot of trouble for you to read, it seems like a hell of a lot of trouble for me to write, as I put on my reading glasses and crane my neck over long-forgotten footnotes. What for?, we may well ask. It is not as if you are wanting to pass an exam in Buddhist studies, is it? And neither am I working towards a Ph. D. in said subject. So what, in the practical arena, is the bloody point?

The bloody point, as is usually the case in Aśvaghoṣa's writing, is buried below the surface.

On the surface, the two tvad (you) in today's verse mean you the shining young prince who everybody in the city – not only your nearest and dearest in the royal palace – is missing terribly, so that if you go back to Kapilavastsu now, you will by your princely presence immediately cause the fire of everybody's grief to be extinguished.

But below the surface, tvad means you the bodhi-sattva, you whose essence (sattva) is awakening (bodhi). The point then, below the surface, might be that seeking the essence of awakening is not the preserve of the chosen few ; the point might be that humanity as a whole has been evolving in the direction of awakened consciousness, in preparation for the leap from the instinctual to the awakened plane of being.

In more concrete terms, what I have just written arises out of daily experience in which most of the time I am going around reacting unconsciously to this and that stimulus. But every day, as a rule four times a day, I set aside time which is devoted to NOT reacting unconsciously. What I mean by that is that I set aside time and find a solitary space for the sitting whose essential aim is uprightness, and I consciously restrain myself from reacting to that stimulus (SUNAWACHI SHOSHIN TANZA; “Just sit upright!”) as my stupid body would like to react, unconsciously, by straining, by stiffening up, by doing what FM Alexander called pulling the head back and down and arching and narrowing the back. 

A clue that this line of reasoning is as Aśvaghoṣa intended might be contained in the 1st pāda of tomorrow's verse, in which Aśvaghoṣa describes the buddha-to-be as sa bodhisattvaḥ paripūrṇa-sattvaḥ, which means something like “he who in his essential being was complete, he the bodhi-sattva (the being whose essence was awakening).”

My French neighbour, as I have mentioned before, often in casual conversation performs a gallic shrug of her shoulders and asks rhetorically, Qu' est-ce que vous voulez? “What do you want?” The meaning seems to be along the lines of “What can we do about it?” but the question always resonates in my consciousness long after it has been posed. What am I doing here, alone by the forest. Why have I come here, separating myself from work and family in England? And the correct answer, today's verse reminds me, might be Je voudrais me reveiller, “I would like to wake up.”

As I sat this morning reflecting again on what it means to wake up, the significance of a verse in SN Canto 14 struck me afresh. Putting on a kaṣāya and sitting in lotus is inherently an expression – whether the expression be enlightened or unenlightened – of the desire to be awake. But when the Buddha speaks to Nanda of the desire to be awake, ironically, it is mainly in the context of preparing to go to sleep:
Having passed the day self-possessed, through maintenance of the mind, / You may be able, shaking off sleep, to spend the night-time too in a state of practice. // SN14.20 // Since even when you are conscious sleep might be holding out in your heart, / Consciousness properly revealing itself is nothing to be sure about. // 14.21 // Initiative, constancy, inner strength and courage / Are the elements always to bear in mind while you are being oppressed by sleep. // 14.22 // Recite clearly those dharma-teachings that you have learnt; / Point others in their direction, and think them out for yourself. // 14.23 // Wet the face with water, look around in all directions, / And glance at the stars, wanting always to be awake (jijāgariṣuṇā sadā). // 14.24 // By the means of inner senses that are not impetuous but in a state of subjection, / By the means of a mind that is not scattered, walk up and down at night or else sit. // 14.25 // In fear, in joy and in grief, one does not succumb to sleep; / Therefore against the onslaughts of sleep resort to these three: // 14.26 // Feel fear from death's approach, joy from grasping a teaching of dharma, / And from the boundless suffering inherent in a birth, feel the grief. // 14.27 // Such a step may need to be taken, my friend, in the direction of being awake (jāgaraṇaṁ prati); / For what wise man, out of sleep, makes a wasted life? // 14.28 // To neglect the reptilian faults, as if ignoring snakes in the house, / And thus to slumber on, does not befit a man of wisdom who wishes to overcome the great terror. // 14.29 // For while the world of the living burns with the fires of death, disease and aging, / Who could lie down insensibly, any more than in a burning house? // 14.30 // Therefore, knowing it to be darkness, you should not let sleep enshroud you / While the faults remain unquieted, like sword-wielding enemies. // 14.31 //  But having spent the first of the three night-watches actively engaged in practice, / You should, as one who is pulling his own strings, go to bed to rest the body. // 14.32 // On your right side, then, remaining conscious of light, / Thinking in your heart of wakefulness (prabodhaṁ hṛdaye kṛtvā), you might with peace of mind fall asleep. // SN14.33 //

These Chinese characters, written in Dogen's own hand, from Fukan-zazengi-shinpitsu-bon, are read in Japanese as SHOSHIN-TANZA,  "letting the body be true, sit upright!" or, more simply, "sit upright!"

It sounds like a stimulus to do something. But it might better be understood as a stimulus not to do anything, at least not as the unenlightened body understands doing. 

śokāgninā (inst. sg. m.): by the fire of grief / sorrow
tvad-virahendhanena (inst. sg. m.) whose fuel is your absence
tvad: your
viraha: m. abandonment , desertion , parting , separation (esp. of lovers) , absence from (instr. or comp.); lack , want (ifc. = lacking , with the exception of)
indhana: n. kindling , lighting ; fuel

niḥśvāsa-dhūmena (inst. sg. m.): whose smoke is sighs
niḥśvāsana: m. = °śvasita n. breathing out or sighing
niḥ- √ śvas: to hiss, snort, breathe, sigh
dhūma: m. smoke , vapour , mist
tamaḥ-śikhena (inst. sg. m.)
tamas: n. darkness, gloom ; the darkness of hell, hell or a particular division of hell ; the obscuration of the sun or moon in eclipses , attributed to rāhu ; mental darkness , ignorance , illusion , error
śikhā: f. a tuft or lock of hair on the crown of the head , a crest , topknot , plume ; a pointed flame , any flame ; a ray of light

tvad-darśanāmbu (acc. sg. n.): the water of your presence
tvad: you
darśana: n. seeing , observing , looking , noticing , observation , perception ; n. audience , meeting ; n. the becoming visible or known , presence ; n. showing
ambu: n. water
icchati = 3rd pers. sg. iṣ: to endeavour to obtain , strive , seek for ; to desire , wish , long for , request
tvad-darśanāya (dat. sg.): for your presence (EBC: “for a sight of thee”)
ṛcchati [EBC] = 3rd pers. sg. ṛ: to go , move , rise , tend upwards
dahyamānam = nom. sg. n. pres. part. passive dah: to burn
dahyamānah [EBC] = nom. sg. n. pres. part. passive dah: to burn

antaḥ-puram (nom. sg.): n. the king's palace , the female apartments , gynaeceum ; those who live in the female apartments
saḥ [EBC] (nom. sg. m.): he [Rāhula]
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
puram (nom. sg.): n. the city
ca: and
kṛtsnam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. all , whole , entire

擧國諸士女 別離苦熾然
歎息煙衝天 熏慧眼令闇

唯求見汝水 滅火目開明 

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