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

1 comment:

Rich said...

Yes, it's true, I did sit with my head back and down for a long time and created a neck injury. It's much better now and more in the direction of forward and up.