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

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