Sunday, March 23, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.66: In Praise of Due Process

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Rāmā)
ity-evam-etena vidhi-krameṇa mokṣaṁ sa-yatnasya vadanti taj-jñāḥ |
prayatnavanto 'pi hi vikrameṇa mumukṣavaḥ khedam-avāpnuvanti || 9.66

In this way, say experts in the matter,

By this order of proceeding, is release assured,
to one who makes effort.

For if their effort, however persevering, is disorderly,

Seekers of release obtain only exhaustion.

Vikrameṇa in the 3rd pāda of today's verse can be read in two ways.

The first and more usual way of taking vikrama would be to mean “strident power, force, strong energy.”
Hence EBC translated the second half:
“but however ready for effort with all their energy, those who seek liberation will find weariness”
and EHJ: 
“for those, who desire liberation by means of their individual energy, however much they exert themselves, reap nothing but weariness.”

In EHJ's translation is wilfulness the factor being negated?

Another possibility, following a similar tack to the one taken by EHJ, is to understand that the factor being negated is force, or undue force (the force of end-ganing). Thus, for example:
“For if their effort, however persevering, is forcible, seekers of release obtain only exhaustion.”

The logic of today's verse would seem to work better, however, if the 3rd pāda was describing the absence of the order referred to in the 1st pāda.

This apparently led Speyer to amend the 3rd pāda to
praytnavanto 'nya-vidhi-krameṇa mumukṣavaḥ khedam-avāpnuvanti
“persevering by another order of proceeding, seekers of release obtain only exhaustion.”

I am not sure to what extent a reading along the lines intended by Speyer is supported by the Chinese
I think these five characters literally mean “if with excessive method” (which might support the above “negation of undue force” interpretation).
But Samuel Beal seems to have translated this line “Without contrivance of their own.”
(Without contrivance of their own, how vain and fruitless is the toil of those who seek "escape." [Beal])

In any event, a more elegant solution to the translation of the 3rd pāda is provided by the second way of reading vikrameṇa, taking krameṇa (“with order”) as prefixed by vi- meaning “apart” or “without.”

Thus PO translates vikrameṇa as “violating that sequence” and notes:

For the use of the term vikrama with the meaning of “violating an established sequence or order,” see Olivelle 2007.

I have followed PO in reading vikrameṇa in this way and have understood it to mean “without proper order” or “not methodically.”

Read like this, today's verse is reminiscent of what the Buddha tells Nanda in SN Canto 16:

kleśa-prahāṇāya ca niścitena kālo 'bhyupāyaś-ca parīkṣitavyaḥ /
One set on abandoning the afflictions, then, should attend to timing and method;
yogo 'py-akāle hy-anupāyataś-ca bhavaty-anarthāya na tad-guṇāya // 16.49 //
For even practice itself, done at the wrong time and
relying on wrong means,
makes for disappointment and not for the desired end.

ajāta-vatsāṃ yadi gāṃ duhīta naivāpnuyāt kṣīram-akāla-dohī /
If a cow is milked before her calf is born, 
milking at the wrong time will yield no milk.
kāle 'pi vā syān-na payo labheta mohena śṛṅgād yadi gāṃ duhīta // 16.50 //
Or even at the right time no milk will be got if, through ignorance, 
a cow is milked by the horn.

ārdrāc-ca kāṣṭhāj-jvalan-ābhikāmo naiva prayatnād-api vanhim-ṛcchet /
Again, one who wants fire from damp wood, try as he might, will not get fire.
kāṣṭhāc-ca śuṣkād-api pātanena naivāgnim-āpnoty-anupāya-pūrvam // 16.51 //
And even if he lays down dry wood, 
he won't get fire from that, with bad bushcraft.

In the above excerpt from the Buddha's speech in SN Canto 16, the word the Buddha uses for a [wrong] means is [an]upāya. So if Aśvaghoṣa's intention in today's verse is to stimulate us to consider further, in connection with effort (yatna) in the direction of release (mokṣa), the matter of due process or proper method (krama), then the following verses (in which Aśvaghoṣa himself is narrating) might be ones to study:

atha saṃharṣaṇān-nandaṃ viditvā bhājanī-kṛtam /
Seeing, then, that by boosting Nanda he had made a receptacle,
abravīd bruvatāṃ śreṣṭhaḥ krama-jñaḥ śreyasāṃ kramam // 13.9 //
The best of speakers, the knower of processes, spoke of better ways as a process.

krameṇādbhiḥ śuddhaṃ kanakam-iha pāṃsu-vyavahitaṃ
Just as gold, washed with water, is separated from dirt in this world, methodically,
yathāgnau karmāraḥ pacati bhṛśam-āvartayati ca /
And just as the smith heats the gold in the fire and repeatedly turns it over,
tathā yogācāro nipuṇam-iha doṣa-vyavahitaṃ
Just so is the practitioner's mind, with delicacy and accuracy, 
separated from faults in this world,
viśodhya kleśebhyaḥ śamayati manaḥ saṃkṣipati ca // 15.68 //
And just so, after cleansing it from afflictions, 
does the practitioner temper the mind and collect it.

evaṃ mano-dhāraṇayā krameṇa vyapohya kiṁ-cit samupohya kiṁ-cit /
Thus, by methodically taking possession of the mind,
getting rid of something and gathering something together,
dhyānāni catvāry-adhigamya yogī prāpnoty-abhijñā niyamena pañca // 16.1 //
The practitioner makes the four dhyānas his own,
and duly acquires the five powers of knowing.

In conclusion, then, if we were hasty we might easily dismiss what the counsellor is saying as a load of ancient Brahmanical dust of the sort that would soon be rendered obsolete by the truly golden words of the enlightened Buddha. But if we are more methodical about it, there might be elements of real gold to be extracted even from the counsellor's second hand dust – those golden elements including mokṣa (release), yatna (effort), and krama (order, methodicalness).

Having prepared the above comment yesterday, I had a dream last night in which I was sitting as one of six people around a rectangular table, with two people to my left, two people to my right, and one person on the short side opposite me. A person on my left, the one seated further from me, started talking about Zen. She might have been a Japanese woman, or a western women who knew a lot of Japanese Zen terms, because she kept suffixing people's names with Japanese honorifics like Zenji-sama and Roshi, and as she did she joined her fingertips together in a gesture resembling a gassho (or añjali) and resembling at the same time a Christian crossing herself. I keeled over to my right till my body was resting on the table and started snoring.

I am not sure exactly what this dream was telling me about mokṣa, yatna, and krama, but I did reflect while sitting this morning that the first step in making effort in the direction of release is always taken from this place, wherever I am now.

The veteran Alexander teacher Elizabeth Walker who died recently, when asked how she began working on herself (the Alexander equivalent of meditating, or bhāvanā), replied that she began by asking Where am I? and How am I?

Her first step in the direction of release, I think my dream was reminding me, was not to build a sixteen-foot golden statue to FM Alexander and venerate it.

Hence another of the Buddha's instructions to Nanda comes to mind:

ataḥ prabhṛti bhūyas-tvaṃ śraddhendriya-puraḥsaraḥ /
"Starting afresh from here, my friend, 
with the power of confidence leading you forward,
amṛtasyāptaye saumya vṛttaṃ rakṣitum-arhasi // SN13.10 //
In order to get to the nectar of deathlessness 
you should watch the manner of your action.

iti: “...,” thus
evam: ind. thus
etena (inst. sg.): by this
vidhi-krameṇa (inst. sg. m.): “series of rules” [EBC] ; “Vedic injunctions” [EHJ] ; “sequence of rules” [PO]
vidhi: m. a rule , formula , injunction , ordinance , statute , precept , law , direction; any prescribed act or rite or ceremony ; method , manner or way of acting , mode of life , conduct , behaviour
krama: m. a step ; course ; uninterrupted or regular progress , order , series , regular arrangement , succession (e.g. varṇa-krameṇa , " in the order of the castes ")

mokṣam (acc. sg.): m. release, liberation
sa-yatnasya (gen. sg. m.): one who makes effort
vadanti = 3rd pers. pl. vad: to say
taj-jñāḥ (nom. pl. m.): those who know that, experts in the matter

prayatna-vantaḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. assiduous , diligent , persevering
api: though, however
hi: for
vikrameṇa (inst. sg.): m. the absence of the krama-pāṭha ; m. a step , stride , pace ; course , way , manner ; valour , courage , heroism , power , strength ; force , forcible means (nāsti vikrameṇa , it cannot be done by force)
krama-pāṭha: m. the krama reading (i.e. a peculiar " step by step " arrangement of a Vedic text made to secure it from all possible error by , as it were , combining the saṁhitā-pāṭha and the padapāṭha i.e. by giving the words both as connected and unconnected with following and preceding words)

mumukṣavaḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. desiring to be free ; m. a sage who strives after emancipation
khedam (acc. sg.): m. lassitude , depression ; exhaustion , pain , affliction , distress
avāpnuvanti = 3rd pers. pl. ava-√āp: to reach , attain , obtain , gain , get ; to suffer (e.g. blame or unpleasantness or pain)

古今之所傳 此三求解脱
若以餘方便 徒勞而無實  

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