Saturday, March 15, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.58: Nothing Doing vs Non-Doing

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bhadrā)
ke-cit-svabhāvād-iti varṇayanti śubhāśubhaṁ caiva bhavābhavau ca |
svābhāvikaṁ sarvam-idaṁ ca yasmād-ato 'pi mogho bhavati prayatnaḥ || 9.58 

Naturally, others explain, out of innate being

Arise the good and the ugly, being and non-being.

And since this whole world is the natural product of innate being,

Again therefore effort is all in vain.

“What's the point of getting sober, when you're going to get drunk again?”

I don't know what school of Western philosophy (presumably ending with an -ism) such lazy-arsed sentiment belongs to.

I know even less what branch, if any, of ancient Indian Sāṁkhya philosophy today's verse belongs to.

But the basic gist is clear enough, of today's verse as of the drunkard's refrain.

The Buddha never sang the praises of no effort. But the Buddha, as Aśvaghoṣa records him, and as quoted in yesterday's verse, did sing the praises of nivṛtti, “non-doing”:

tasmāt pravṛttiṃ-parigaccha duḥkhaṃ pravartakān-apy-avagaccha doṣān /
Comprehend, therefore, that suffering is doing; 
witness the faults impelling it forward;
nivṛttim-āgaccha ca tan-nirodhaṃ nivartakaṃ cāpy-avagaccha mārgam //SN16.42//
Realise its stopping as non-doing; and know the path as a turning back.

Non-doing is, it can be argued, a state of effortlessness, or a state of spontaneous flow, that the Buddha knew was worth making an effort to realize.

When records of what the Buddha taught passed into China, the Chinese took nivṛtti to be synonymous with a teaching that was already familiar to them from practice of the Tao, namely 無為 (wu wei; Jap: MU-I), which also literally means “non-doing.”

In Australia and England around the turn of the 19th century, FM Alexander made some discoveries of his own, more or less independently, which caused him also to sing the praises of non-doing.

It may be that in each of these three approaches, each of which affirms the principle of non-doing, a common mistake is to confuse non-doing with doing nothing, or making no effort. A common mistake, in other words, is to confuse non-doing with “nothing doing.”

Incidentally, while trying to glean what kind of -ism in Western philosophy expresses the viewpoint of “No thanks, I cannot be bothered,” I googled laissez-faire and was interested to read that the principle of laissez-faire in economics is postulated to have its origins in the oriental researches of a French economist named François Quesnay. Quesnay in 1767 wrote a book titled Le Despotisme de la Chine.  “It was Quesnay,” Wikipedia informs us, “who coined the term laissez-faire, laissez-passer, laissez-faire being a translation of the Chinese term 無為   wuwei.”

A further reflection stimulated by today's verse, having slept and sat on the above translation and comment, is Marjory Barlow addressing a room of student teachers. “You,” said Marjory “are the most important people in the world. Because you are the future of the Alexander Technique.

At the time, in my mind, it was natural to see Marjory as the most important person in the room, because she represented a one-to-one link with the work and teaching of her uncle, FM Alexander himself.

But this morning, I do see that Marjory was absolutely right. My work, setting aside work on myself, is to help others not to make the same kind of mistakes that I made when I was young and full of misdirected energy.

And the others who can most constructively be taught to make effort in the right direction are children and the young.

Can an old dog be taught new tricks? Maybe he can, maybe he can't. But to pour a lot of one's energy into trying to help an old dog, when the world is full of young pups requiring right direction, might itself be a kind of misdirection of energy, or a waste of time.

In conclusion, then, I conclude, for my own benefit if for nobody else's, that the effort to point children and young people in the right direction, providing that it is done reasonably well, with somewhat skillful hands and somewhat seeing eyes, is never effort done in vain.

ke-cit (nom. pl. m.): some
svabhāvāt (abl. sg.): m. native place; own condition or state of being , natural state or constitution , innate or inherent disposition , nature , impulse , spontaneity ; (°vāt from natural disposition , by nature , naturally , by one's self , spontaneously)
iti: “...,” thus
varṇayanti = 3rd pers. pl. varṇ: to depict , picture , write , describe , relate , tell , explain

śubhāśubham (nom. sg. n.): weal and woe , good and evil
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
bhavābhavau (nom. dual m.): existence and non-existence ; prosperity and adversity
bhava: m. coming into existence , birth , production ; being , state of being , existence , life ; well-being , prosperity , welfare , excellence
abhava: m. non-existence ; destruction , end of the world
ca: and

svābhāvikam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. (fr. svabhāva) belonging to or arising from one's own nature , natural , native , spontaneous , original , peculiar , inherent
sarvam idam (nom. sg. n.): 'all this' ; this earthly world , this universe
ca: and
yasmāt: ind. from which, whence

ataḥ: ind. hence, henceforth , from that time
api: also
moghaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. vain , fruitless , useless
bhavati = 3rd pers. sg. bhū: to be, become
prayatnaḥ (nom. sg.): m. effort, perseverance

有説淨不淨 各從自性起
言可方便移 此則愚癡説 

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