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


Rich said...

The bubble burst 25 years ago and they are still paying high interest compared to the rest of the world to attract capital and savings. I'd like to understand this better.

Mike Cross said...

The relation between Japanese interest rates and movements of capital and savings in the rest of the world is not easy to understand. I don't pretend to understand it. But broadly speaking Japanese interest rates have been kept artificially low since the Japanese bubble burst in 1990/91. And people who understand these things better than I do say that hedge funds and the like have borrowed cheaply in yen as part of a carry trade which has contributed to bubbles around the world. Japan's "lost decade" or lost decades might be a salutary example of the kind of imbalances to which zero interest rates and "RYOTEKI KANWA" (quantitative easing) lead.

So be careful what you wish for, Rich. You may have ample opportunity to understand it in your own backyard, if you are not careful!

Rich said...

Whoops, had that reversed. Japan has had low interest rates. So if you borrow yen and buy a currency paying a high interest rate you can profit if the relative value of the currencies remains stable.

Mike Cross said...

Yes, you got it totally arse over tit. But at least you were able to recognize your mistake.