Wednesday, April 30, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.21: Drawing Closer to Simplicity?

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Chāyā)
tataḥ śucau vāraṇa-karṇa-nīle śilā-tale saṁniṣasāda rājā |
nṛpopaviśyānumataś-ca tasya bhāvaṁ vijijñāsur-idaṁ babhāṣe || 10.21

Then, on a rock as grey as an elephant's ear,

On a clean slab of rock, the king sat down;

And, while sitting as a protector of men, being allowed by the other,

And wanting to know the reality of that other, he spoke as follows:

Zen Master Dogen never wrote of 座禅 (ZA ZEN) “seated meditation”; he always wrote of 坐禅 (ZAZEN), which for the past few years I have translated, using a hyphen, as “sitting-meditation.”

At the time of the Nishijima-Cross translation of Shobogenzo it hadn't occurred to me to translate 坐禅 as sitting-meditation, using a hyphen. It was remiss of me, and at the same time my preferred translation changed after my understanding changed with Alexander experience.

My teacher Gudo Nishijima did very much see it as significant that Dogen wrote 坐禅 and not 座禅. I clearly understood from him that “sitting” was better than “seated.” But a translation like “sitting in Zazen,” as I see it now, is further from hitting the target than is “sitting-meditation.” But it took me a lot of years, not until after our Shobogenzo translation was published, to see that 坐禅 might be best translated as “sitting-meditation.”

The point, as I see it now, is, that the sitting is the meditation and the meditation is the sitting.

But what does it mean to sit? Equally, what does it mean to meditate?

I think that at the most fundamental level, direction is the unifying factor. In particular, the upward direction is the unifying factor.

Alexander spoke of four directions:
1. To let the neck be free
2. To let the head go forward and up
3. To let the back lengthen and widen
4. While sending the knees forwards and away.

These are four directions for how to sit well. At the same time these are four directions for how to meditate.

As I sat after breakfast on Tuesday morning, reflecting on Nāgārjuna's four cornerstones of direction, it struck me afresh how to sit and to meditate can be one and the same thing -- an integral act not of doing but of allowing, or of being allowed (anumataḥ). 

What Alexander called four “directions” can, on a good day, be nothing more than four reflections, or meditation on four simple facts, viz:
1. Rarely if ever is anything to be gained by stiffening the neck. 
2. The head originally wants to go forward and up.
3. Each of us originally has two sides, a left side and a right side, with no gap in the middle. In the middle, rather, is the spinal column.
4. The pelvis originally is part of the back, not part of the legs.

These four are facts. They are not invitations to do something. They are facts to be reflected on, or meditated on, or contemplated, or realized.

But in the very realization of those facts as facts, sitting can become a Springing Up Together – an integral practice and experience, in other words, of going up against gravity, or of being allowed to go up against gravity. 

I may seem to have digressed, but today's verse seems to me to be about sitting. Today's verse contains not one but two verbs meaning to sit – saṁniṣasāda in the 2nd pāda, from saṁ-ni-√sad; and upaviśya or upopaviśya in the 3rd pāda, from upa√viś or upopa-√viś.

Both the Nepalese manuscript and EBC's text have nṛpopaviśya (nṛpa + upopaviśya), but all three professors translated as if the verb was upopaviśya:

Then the king sat down on the clean surface of the rock, dark blue like an elephant's ear; and being seated, with the other's assent, he thus spoke, desiring to know his state of mind: (EBC)

Then the king sat down on a clean piece of rock, dark blue as an elephant's ear, and being seated beside him with his permission spoke to him, desiring to ascertain his state of mind:- (EHJ)

Then the king sat down upon a clean rock, that was dark as an elephant's ear; seated close to him with his permission, and wishing to know his mind, the king said: (PO)

Today's verse, then, seems to present us with first a tricky textual uncertainty (nṛpopaviśya or upopaviśya); and second at least two layers of meaning (overt description of Bimbisāra approaching, sitting down, and asking the bodhisattva about his intention; or hidden suggestion of Bimbisāra drawing near to the truth of the other, and inquiring into the reality of that state of being).

The textual uncertainty is the same one as encountered in Canto 9 when the bodhisattva is described on or by the road:
As thus on those grounds they were going, they saw him, who had totally neglected purification, shining with handsome form, / On the road, royally seated at the foot of a tree – like the sun when it has entered a canopy of cloud.//BC9.8//

Reading upopaviśya for nṛpopaviśya would give “Sitting by the side of road, at the foot of a tree....”

If we read upopaviśya in today's verse, and go with the overt rather than what I see as the hidden mening,

Then, on a rock as grey as an elephant's ear,

On a clean slab of rock, the king sat down;

And, sitting beside the other, with his assent,

Wanting to know his state of mind, he spoke as follows:

But since the combination of textual uncertainty and ambiguity of meaning results in more permutations than I can reasonably handle with square brackets, I have put all my eggs in the basket of the Nepalese manuscript and what I think is the hidden meaning, or one of the hidden meanings.

Why is the rock described as being the colour of the elephant's ear? I think that description may be intended to emphasize that the surface of the rock was clean, pure, free of mud, moss and miscellaneous detritus. Maybe that was another sense in which Bimbisāra, in his meeting with the bodhisattva, was drawing close – drawing closer to simplicity, getting nearer to a bit of nothing.

tataḥ: ind. then
śucau (loc. sg.): mfn. shining , glowing , gleaming , radiant , bright; clear , clean , pure (lit. and fig.) ,
vāraṇa-karṇa-nīle (loc. sg. n.): of the dark colour of an elephant's ear
vāraṇa: m. an elephant (from its power of resistance)
karṇa: m. the ear
nīla: mfn. of a dark colour , (esp.) dark-blue or dark-green or black

śilā-tale (loc. sg.): n. a slab of rock ; the surface of a rock
saṁniṣasāda = 3rd pers. sg. perf. saṁ-ni-√sad: to sink or sit down
rājā (nom. sg.): m. the king

nṛpopaviśya: sitting as a king
nṛpa: m. protector of men, king
upaviśya = abs. upa- √ viś: to sit down , take a seat (as men
upopaviśya = abs. upopa- √ viś: to sit down or take a seat by the side of , sit down near to (acc.)
anumataḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. approved , assented to , permitted , allowed , agreeable , pleasant
anu- √ man: to approve , assent to , permit , grant
ca: and
tasya (gen. sg.): his

bhāvam (acc. sg.): m. being ; true condition or state , truth , reality; any state of mind or body , way of thinking or feeling , sentiment , opinion , disposition , intention ; the seat of the feelings or affections , heart , soul , mind
vijijñāsuḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. desirous of knowing or understanding; wishing to learn from (gen.)
idam (acc. sg. n.): this, the following
babhāṣe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bhāṣ: to speak , talk , say , tell

時王勞問畢 端坐清淨石
瞪矚瞻神儀 顏和情交悦

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.20: Speaking Health to Power

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Buddhi)
taṁ nyāyato nyāya-vidāṁ variṣṭhaṁ sametya papraccha ca dhātu-sāmyam |
sa cāpy-avocat-sadśena sāmnā n-paṁ manaḥ-svāsthyam-an-āmayaṁ ca || 10.20

Having come, in a proper way,
into the presence of the best of knowers of a proper way,

The king asked after the balance of his bodily humours;

And he also, in a suitably equable manner, spoke

To a protector of men, 
of mental well-being and freedom from disease.

On the surface today's verse is not saying much. The bodhisattva and the king of Magadha exchanged verbal pleasantries.

PO notes:
According to Manu 2.127, the polite way to greet a kshatriya is to ask about his health (an/āmaya). Aśvaghoṣa is following this custom in his composition.

Below the surface, I suspect, Aśvaghoṣa is following a different tradition altogether.

The way to greet a man who regards himself as a kshatriya?

How about: “All right there, you snob. How are you doing? Still haven't dropped off your kshatriya body and mind yet, by the looks of it.”

No. The deeper meaning of today's verse, as I read it, might have to do with how any bodhisattva – like me or you– should speak to any protector of men, and not necessarily in words.

Our aim might be, when speaking truth to power, and not necessarily in words, always to express mental well-being and freedom from disease.

The best way of speaking like that might be to keep our mouths shut and to demonstrate in practice, with our legs crossed in the full lotus posture, the ultimate meaning of pratītya-samutpāda, or a Springing Up Together, grounded in direction.

Having said that, pratītya-samutpāda as causality (“grounded arising”?) as set out by the Buddha in a twelvefold chain, is not a thing to think light of.

There have been not a few days this year, I must admit, when my health has been such that I have been in no condition to manifest any kind of springing up, and have instead remained most of the day in bed. 

Good and bad karma makes itself felt, Dogen reminded us, in three times – over the short, medium and very long term. Now Max Clifford, for one, is well placed to know what Dogen was talking about.

tam (acc. sg. m.): him
nyāyataḥ: ind. in a fitting manner , as is fit or proper , according to right or justice
nyāya: that into which a thing goes back i.e. an original type , standard , method , rule , (esp.) a general or universal rule , model , axiom , system , plan , manner , right or fit manner or way , fitness , propriety
nyāya-vidām (gen. pl.): m. one who knows what is fit or proper
variṣṭham (acc. sg. m.): mfn. (superl. vara) the most excellent or best , most preferable among (gen. or comp.)

sametya = abs. sam-ā-√i: to come together , approach together , meet
papraccha = 3rd pers. sg. perf. prach: to ask, inquire into
ca: and
dhātu-sāmyam (acc. sg.): n. equilibrium of the bodily humours , good health ;
dhātu: a constituent element or essential ingredient of the body (distinct from the 5 mentioned above and conceived either as 3 humours [called also doṣa] phlegm , wind and bile BhP. [cf. purīṣa , māṁsa , manas , ChUp. vi , 5 , 1] ; or as the 5 organs of sense , indriyāṇi).
sāmya: n. equality , evenness , equilibrium , equipoise , equal or normal state

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
ca: and
api: also
avocat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist vac: to speak , say , tell , utter , announce , declare , mention , proclaim , recite , describe
sadṛśena (inst. sg. n.): mfn. like, resembling ; conformable , suitable , fit , proper , right , worthy
sāmnā = inst. sg. sāman: n. calming , tranquillizing , (esp.) kind or gentle words for winning an adversary , conciliation ( instr. sg. and pl. , " by friendly means or in a friendly way , willingly , voluntarily ")

nṛ-pam (acc. sg.): m. 'protector of men'; king
manaḥ-svāsthyam (acc. sg.): n. health of mind, Bcar.
svāsthyam: n. (fr. sva-stha) self-dependence , sound state (of body or soul) , health , ease , comfort , contentment , satisfaction
an-āmayam (acc. sg.): n. freedom from disease ; health
ca: and

歛容執禮儀 敬問彼和安
菩薩詳而動 隨順反相酬

Monday, April 28, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.19: Drawing Near to Perfection

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Rāmā)
taṁ rūpa-lakṣmyā ca śamena caiva dharmasya nirmāṇam-ivopadiṣṭam |
sa-vismayaḥ praśrayavān narendraḥ svayambhuvaṁ śakra ivopatasthe || 10.19

To him who, with his wealth of handsome form and his calmness,

Was like a work of dharma built to specification,

The first among men, filled with wonder, respectfully drew near,

As to 'Self-Existing' Svayam-bhū the mighty Indra drew near.

In today's verse again, the main verb is given extra force by coming at the end. And that main verb is upatasthe, from upa-√sthā, to stand or place one's self near.

So the point that is emphasized is that Bimbisāra drew near to the bodhisattva, who seemed to embody perfection itself.

Yesterday I used the analogy of golf, and that analogy may also serve in today's verse. Even the greatest golfer in the world does not expect to record a round of 18, with eighteen holes-in-one. Rather, at a par 5 hole more than half of the shots of even a top golfer would be approach shots.

Read like this, today's verse sheds further light on the canto title śreṇyābhigamanah, which means something like Śreṇya's Approach, or Śreṇya / Drawing Near. On the surface Śreṇya's Approach means Śreṇya's proposal, which the bodhisattva is going to reject as a bad idea. But below the surface Śreṇya's Drawing Near might be a good model for any of us to follow. Which is to say that, rather than going directly for the target of enlightenment, as we conceive it in our unenlightened state, the better course might be to remain content respectfully to place ourselves progressively (or regressively) nearer.

Again, at the risk of boring the living daylights out of everybody, I am going to connect this with the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, in which Springing Up Together, or Springing Up as All of One Piece (samutpāda), might be compared to getting the ball in the hole, and grounding oneself in direction (pratītya) might be compared to approaching the green.

Being grumpy, for whatever reason, to extend the analogy, might be equivalent to straying into the rough, or into a bunker, or into a lake, or somewhere else totally out of bounds.

But Springing Up Together (samutpāda), like getting the ball straight in the hole, suggests the practice and experience of perfection, and in today's verse svayam-bhuvam, which means “Self-Existing” or “Spontaneously Being” can also be read like that, as an expression of practice and experience of perfection.

Svayam-bhū is ostensibly the name of one of the three big Hindu gods, i.e., either Brahmā (MW: the one impersonal universal Spirit manifested as a personal Creator and as the first of the triad of personal gods) or Śiva (MW: "The Auspicious One,” the disintegrating or destroying and reproducing deity who constitutes the third god of the Hindu trimūrti or Triad, the other two being brahmā "the creator" and viṣṇu " the preserver").

But in this Canto, Aśvaghoṣa is portraying the human bodhisattva as if he were already the finished article, on a par with gods in heaven. Thus, apart from comparing the bodhisattva to the sun (BC10.7, 10.15) and to the moon (BC10.18), Aśvaghoṣa twice compares the bodhisattva to a god called Svayam-bhū, in today's verse and in BC10.2:
Well guarded, and beautified, by mountains; preserved, and purified, by healing hot springs; in the hook of five hills, stood the city he entered – / Like 'Self-Existing' Svayam-bhū, unperturbed, entering the heights of heaven. // BC10.2//

Svayam means “self” or “by oneself”; hence “spontaneously.” And bhū means being, existing, or arising.

So in today's verse as I read it, Aśvaghoṣa is describing the bodhisattva's being as perfectly enlightened even before he goes through ascetic practice, gives up ascetic practice, and sits easy under the bodhi tree.

I think the principle in the back of Aśvaghoṣa's mind, in other words, was the principle that when the bodhisattva became the fully awakened Buddha, that was traditionally described as a kind of earth-shattering event, accompanied by rejoicing of sky-dwellers in Tuṣita heaven et cetera; but at the same time nothing really changed. All that has happened was that the bodhisattva who was perfect already totally became himself.

“You are all perfect,” Marjory Barlow used to say, “apart from what you are doing.”


arhattvam-āsādya sa sat-kriyārho nirutsuko niṣpraṇayo nirāśaḥ /
Having attained to the seat of arhathood, he was worthy of being served.
Without ambition, without partiality, without expectation;
vibhīr-viśug-vītamado virāgaḥ sa eva dhṛtyānya ivābabhāse // SN17.61 //
Without fear, sorrow, pride, or passion;
while being nothing but himself, he seemed in his constancy to be different.

Hence again, Dogen wrote that when the moon is reflected in water, the water is not disturbed by the moon, and the moon is not made wet by the water.

And yet, having said all this, the fact remains that the pelvis is part of the back, not part of the legs, and an awful lot of us fail to realize this in practice. Before I came to the Alexander Technique, I had a black belt in karate, and a strong idea that I should always be centred in my hara, or my tanden. But in regard to the obvious truth that the pelvis is part of the back, not part of the legs, thanks to FM Alexander, I am a lot more clear now than I was then.

One of these days, when I get round to it, I will post a video on this blog to demonstrate what the four cornerstones of direction are, as I understand them, in the context of an activity like bowing down to the ground.

In relation to the motivational, I will endeavour to demonstrate the meaning of not being in a panic to get to the end, and, especially, not being in too much of a hurry to touch the floor with the hands. In other words, don't "end-gain" to get the hands on the floor; attend to the means-whereby of staying grounded in directions, while bending the knees and bending the hips, and the hands will get there sure enough without any bother. 

In relation to the gravitational, what does it mean to keep allowing the head to go forward and up, even while the body is moving down in space towards the ground?

In relation to having no gap in the middle, I would like to discuss the action of bringing the palms, and the two sides of the self, into contact with each other. I would like to discuss this particularly in connection with a vestibular reflex called the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex. 

And in relation to this present state of being in command, I should like to draw attention above all to the fact that the pelvis is originally part of the back. The pelvis, before the big muscles of the hip and thigh start bullying it and twisting it out of place, originally belongs to the back. And when my pelvis is back where it belongs, working as part of my back, then (to borrow a phrase from Shunryu Suzuki) I am the boss.

tam (acc. sg. m.): him
rūpa-lakṣmyā (inst. sg. f.): with beauty of form
rūpa: n. any outward appearance or phenomenon or colour (often pl.) , form , shape , figure; handsome form
lakṣmī: f. wealth , riches ; good sign; beauty , loveliness , grace , charm , splendour , lustre
ca: and
śamena (inst. sg.): m. tranquillity , calmness , rest , equanimity; peace
ca: and
eva (emphatic)

dharmasya (gen. sg.): dharma
nirmāṇam (acc. sg.): n. measuring ; forming , making , creating , creation , building , composition , work (ifc. " made of "); (with Buddh. ) transformation ; pith , the best of anything (= sāra)
nir- √ mā: to mete out , measure ; to build , make out of (abl.) , form , fabricate , produce , create
iva: like
upadiṣṭam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. specified , particularized ; taught , instructed
upa- √ diś: to point out; to indicate , specify , explain , inform , instruct , teach
upaviṣṭam [EHJ] (acc. sg. m.): mfn. seated, sitting
upa- √ viś: to come near ; to sit down

sa-vismayaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having astonishment , surprised , perplexed , doubtful
praśraya-vān (nom. sg. m.): mfn. deferential , respectful , civil , modest
narendraḥ (nom. sg.): m. “chief of men”; king

svayambhuvam (acc. sg. m.): = svayambhū: mfn. 'self-existing , independent'; name of brahman, of śiva
svayam: ind. self , one's self (applicable to all persons e.g. myself , thyself , himself &c ) , of or by one's self spontaneously , voluntarily , of one's own accord
bhū: mfn. becoming , being , existing , springing , arising
śakraḥ (nom. sg. m.): “the mighty” Indra
iva: like, as
upatasthe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. upa- √ sthā: to stand or place one's self near ; to place one's self before (in order to ask) , approach , apply to ; to come together or meet with , become friendly with , conciliate ; to stand near in order to serve , attend , serve

妙色淨端嚴 猶若法化身
虔心肅然發 恭歩漸親近
猶如天帝釋 詣摩醯首羅

Sunday, April 27, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.18: A Peak Experience (Back & Forth, and Up)

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (ddhi)
tataḥ sma tasyopari śṅga-bhūtaṁ śāntendriyaṁ paśyati bodhisattvam |
paryaṅkam-āsthāya virocamānaṁ śaśāṅkam-udyantam-ivābhra-kūñjāt || 10.18

Then he saw, up above that hill, being in the nature of a peak, 

The bodhisattva, the power of his senses quieted,

Coming back to sitting with legs fully crossed, and shining forth,

Like the moon rising out of a thicket of clouds.

In the 4th pāda of today's verse udyantam (rising, going up) is the present participle of ud-√i. The ud- (up) is the ut- of samutpāda in pratītya-samutpāda. The √i (going) may be assumed to be as in the -itya of pratītya (prati + itya) in pratītya-samutpāda.

Since I began few weeks ago to study the beginning of Nāgārjuna's mūla-madhyamaka-kākarikā, Nāgārjuna's assertion has been much on my mind that what the Buddha taught, in brief, was just pratītya-samutpāda.

I was taught by my Zen teacher to think things out in four phases, and to know that what the Buddha taught, ultimately, resides in the fourth phase. What the Buddha taught, at the fourth phase, every Zen patriarch has realized by one and only one method, which is sitting in the full lotus posture.

So I know with as much certainty as I can know anything that pratītya-samutpāda means more than the teaching on causality generally known as “dependent origination” or “conditional origination.” That teaching belongs to the second phase. But when Nāgārjuna states that what the Buddha taught was just pratītya-samutpāda he must ultimately be talking not at the second phase but at the all-inclusive fourth phase.

So I am working towards a translation of pratītya-samutpāda that fits the fourth phase – but preferably also the second phase too.

The MW dictionary defines pratītya-samutpāda as:
m. (Buddhist) the chain of causation (twelvefold).

That definition belongs to the second phase, taking pratītya to mean something like dependent/conditional and samutpāda to mean origination/arising.

To read samutpāda as “arising” or “springing up” is not controversial, since this is what samutpāda originally means.

Pratītya is more difficult, or more ambiguous.

Maybe it is like golf. In golf it is not difficult to know what the aim is: the aim is to get the ball in the hole. But it is extremely difficult to know what the means is. 

The MW dictionary gives pratītya as:
n. confirmation , experiment RV. vii , 68 , 6 ; comfort , consolation ib. iv , 5 ,14 (others mfn. to be acknowledged or recognized).

The same dictionary gives prati-√i as:
to go towards or against , go to meet (as friend or foe) ; to come back , return ; to resort to ; (also Passive) to admit , recognize , be certain of , be convinced that ; to trust , believe (with gen.) ; Passive pratīyate , to be admitted or recognized , follow , result ; Causative praty-āyayati (Pass. praty-āyyate) , to lead towards i.e. cause to recognize or acknowledge , convince (any one of the truth of anything) ; to make clear , prove.

And pratīti as:
f. going towards , approaching ; the following from anything (as a necessary result) , being clear or intelligible by itself ; clear apprehension or insight into anything , complete understanding or ascertainment , conviction ; confidence , faith , belief.

Pratītya may be assumed to be the absolutive form of prati-√i. And the prefix prati- can mean either “towards” or “back again.”

So the pratītya of pratītya-samutpāda seems to describe the arising (samutpāda) as following from either (1) a going towards, or (2) a coming back to.

Having asserted that the Buddha taught pratītya-samutpāda, Nāgārjuna proceeds to consider four pratyaya.

The MW dictionary defines pratyaya as:
m. belief, firm conviction , trust , faith , assurance or certainty ; proof , ascertainment ; conception , assumption , notion , idea ; (with Buddhists and jainas) fundamental notion or idea ; consciousness , understanding , intelligence , intellect ; analysis , solution , explanation , definition ; ground , basis , motive or cause of anything ; (with Buddhists) a co-operating cause.

These definitions of pratyaya seem rather to indicate a pratyaya as something we come back to, rather than go towards. A belief, a fundamental notion, a ground and a basis, are all things to come back to.

At the same time, intuitively, I somehow know that Nāgārjuna's four pratyaya are four cornerstones of direction, of going towards. That intuitive knowing comes from more than 30 years of sitting in lotus four times every day, including 20 years in Alexander work, and 15 years of working as a developmental therapist helping children with immature vestibular reflexes.

What sitting in lotus has taught me, eventually, if it has taught me anything, is the truth of Alexander's observation that there is no such thing as a right position, but there is such a thing as a right direction

To come back to today' s verse, on the face of it, today's verse does not have much to do with the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, at least not if we limit that teaching to the second phase.

But if we accept Nāgārjuna's assertion that what the Buddha taught was just pratītya-samutpāda – and equally if we accept the assertion in the Pali suttas that he who sees pratītya-samutpāda sees the dharma, and he who sees the dharma sees pratītya-samutpāda (yo paṭiccasamuppādaṁ passati so dhammaṁ passati, yo dhammaṁ passati so paṭiccasamuppādaṁ passati.MN 28) – then our task is just exactly to see how today's verse relates to the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda.

That being so, again, a connection with samutpāda is not difficult to make. When the bodhisattva is described as shining forth like the rising moon, the rising is synonymous with samutpāda.

But what light, if any, does today's verse shed on the meaning of pratītya?

For example is sitting in full lotus a practice that involves a going back (so that prati- = back again)?

Or is sitting in full lotus a practice better understood as a practice that involves going towards (so that prati- = towards, in the direction of)?

To repeat, Nāgāruna wrote of four pratyaya and I think these four correspond to the four primary directions which in Alexander work are the basis of springing up. And these four directions, in turn, correspond to four primitive vestibular reflexes. So I understand the four pratyaya to be four foundations, or four grounds, or four elements or – since there are four of them – four cornerstones of direction.

So my preferred translation, at this time, of pratyaya is “cornerstone of direction.” And “cornerstone of direction” covers both meanings of prati, in the sense that a cornerstone is a foundation that everything goes back again to, and direction is a going towards.

Coming back to pratītya in this light, as a description of samutpāda, my first intuition was to emphasize the “direction” side of the foundations/grounds/cornerstones of direction, which being so I have thought to translate pratītya-samutpāda as “directed arising” or “springing up together, with direction.”

But if we take the prati- of pratyaya and pratītya as meaning not to so much “towards” as “back again,” then it may be better to emphasize the “foundation/grounds” side of the foundations/grounds/cornerstones of direction. In that case pratītya-samutpāda might better be translated as something like “grounded arising.”

And “grounded arising” might work better as a translation of pratītya-samutpāda as conventionally understood, as a teaching at the second phase. Thus:

Ignorance is the grounds of volitional processes;
volitional processes are the grounds of consciousness, et cetera.

But today's verse, as I read it, is a suggestion of pratītya-samutpāda at the fourth phase. No, stronger than that. Today's verse as I read it is a direct description of pratītya-samutpāda at the fourth phase, in which the rising of the moon on the outside is a metaphor for the springing up which is happening on the bodhisattva's inside, as the bodhisattva stays back in his back, sitting in full lotus. 

Was the springing up directed by sitting in full lotus? Or was the springing up grounded in sitting in lotus?

Directed arising? Or grounded arising?

Nāgārjuna's answer might very well have been “No.”

Having prepared this comment yesterday and slept on it, it occurs to me this morning that I am looking for a translation of pratītya-samutpāda that endeavours to convey the kind of peak experience, at the fourth phase, which today's verse endeavours to convey, without leaning to one side or the other of prati-.  

Though it won't win any prizes for elegance, then, the best I can do so far as a complete translation of pratītya-samutpāda might be something along the lines of:  springing up together, having come back to being directed.

yaḥ pratītya-samutpādaṁ prapañcopaśamaṁ śivam |
deśayām-āsa saṁbuddhas taṁ vande vadatāṁ varam ||2||

There is a Springing Up Together, grounded in direction,

Which, as the wholesome cessation of spin,

He the Fully Awakened One taught.

I praise him, the best of speakers.  

tataḥ: ind. then
sma: (joined with a pres. tense or pres. participle to give them a past sense)
tasya (gen. sg.): of that
upari: ind. (As a separable preposition , with acc. loc. , or gen.) over , above , upon , on , at the head of , on the upper side of , beyond
śṛṅga-bhūtam (acc. sg.): like a mountain peak
śṛṅga: n. horn; the top or summit of a mountain , a peak , crag
bhūta: (ifc.) being or being like anything

śāntendriyam (acc. sg. m.): with decomissioned senses
śānta: mfn. appeased , pacified , tranquil , calm , free from passions , undisturbed ; abated , subsided , ceased ; rendered ineffective , innoxious , harmless (said of weapons) ; m. an ascetic whose passions are subdued
paśyati = 3rd pers. sg. paś: to behold, see
bodhisattvam (acc. sg.): m. the bodhisattva; he whose essence was awakening

paryaṅkam (acc. sg.): m. a partic. mode of sitting on the ground (a squatting position assumed by ascetics and Buddhists in meditation)
pari-: ind. around, fully
aṅka: m. hook, curve, lap ; any mark
āsthāya = abs. ā- √ sthā : to stand or remain on or by ; to ascend , mount ; to stay near , go towards , resort to ; to undertake , perform , do , carry out , practise , use ; to maintain , affirm ; to take care for , have regard for
virocamānam = acc. sg. m. pres. part vi- √ ruc : to shine forth , be bright or radiant or conspicuous or visible ; to appear as or like (nom.) ; to outshine , excel (acc.)

śaśāṅkam (acc. sg.): m. " hare-marked " , the moon
udyantam = acc. sg. m. pres. part. ud- √i : to rise (as the sun or a star &c ) ; to come up (as a cloud)
iva: like
abhra-kūñjāt (abl. sg.): out of a thicket of clouds
abhra: n. cloud
kuñja: m. a place overrun with plants or overgrown with creepers , bower , arbour (see BC10.15)

見菩薩嚴儀 寂靜諸情根
端坐山巖室 如月麗青天

Saturday, April 26, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.17: Back to Springing Up

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Ārdrā)
sa pāṇḍavaṁ pāṇḍava-tulya-vīryaḥ śailottamaṁ śaila-samāna-varṣmā |
maulī-dharaḥ siṁha-gatir-n-siṁhaś-calat-saṭaḥ siṁha ivāruroha || 10.17

The hill of the Pāṇḍavas, that most exalted of rocks,

He of rock-like stature and heroic power on a par with the Pāṇḍavas,

A human lion, 
wearing the royal headdress and going with a lion's gait,

Like a lion with bouncing mane – that hill he did ascend.

When I woke up this morning the clock in my head said 6.30. But the clock by the side of the futon said it was already ten past eight. So that was not the best of starts, and furthermore it was grey outside and raining. I wore shorts, so that the many weeds on the gravel path would not make my tracksuit bottoms wet, and walked the sixty yards to my dojo/hut at the bottom of the garden without any spring in my step to speak of. 

But on some days at this time of year when I am sitting outside by the forest, I have the experience of petals of apple and ash blossoms falling down around about me, while I am going in the opposite direction. Yesterday, when I was preparing this comment, was one such day. 

What has that got to do with today's verse? you might well ask.

The unifying factor is going up (or otherwise).

In today's verse, in other words, as I read it, the act of going up a hill is a metaphor for springing up as a result of a lengthening-and-widening direction. The doing of an external act involving gross physical movement is a metaphor for an act involving no gross external movement (except for preliminary bowing and swaying) but rather involving an internal process of undoing, or coming undone.

So if the construction of the translation of today's verse is clumsy, that is because I wanted to give pride of place at the end of the verse to the verb, the action word. That action word, as in BC10.14, is aruroha, “he went up” or “he ascended.”
Having accepted whatever food was offered, he went to a solitary mountain spring, / And there, according to principle, that food he did eat, and the hill of the Pāṇḍavas he did ascend. //BC10.14//

I think it is neither a coincidence nor an infelicity of style that Aśvaghoṣa thus ended two of the last four verses with the same word aruroha. Aruroha means “ascended” or “went up,” in which phrasal verb up is a direction, and went is an action, or a realization.

“He went up,” might be pointing us to the essence of what the Buddha taught.

What the Buddha taught, in Nāgārjuna's words, was pratītya-samutpāda, which broadly means “directed arising” or “directed springing up” or, “springing up together, with direction,” or, less succinctly but more evocatively, “springing up as all of one piece, with direction.”

“Directed arising” or “directional arising” or “dependent origination” or “conditional origination” was used to describe the twelvefold process whereby
1) ignorance gives rise to 2) volitional processes;
2) volitional processes give rise to 3) consciousness;
3) consciousness gives rise to 4) mind and bodily form;
4) mind and bodily form give rise to 5) the six sense spheres;
5) the six sense spheres give rise to 6) contact;
6) contact gives rise to 7) feeling;
7) feeling gives rise to 8) craving;
8) craving gives rise to 9) attachment;
9) attachment gives rise to 10) continuation;
10) continuation gives rise to 11) birth;
11) birth gives rise to
12) aging, death, grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow, and despair...
and so there is an origination of this whole mass of suffering.

Such is directed/directional arising at what my teacher used to call “the second phase.” The second phase includes objective consideration of objective reality (or what George Soros calls “harsh reality”) which is governed by causality, and which is largely immune to our subjective thoughts and feelings about it (but which is sometimes changed by those thoughts and feelings in unpredictable ways via what GS calls reflexivity).

So in general our subjective thoughts and feelings belong to the first phase, and twelvefold directional arising stands opposed to subjectivity at the second phase.

But samutpāda is a noun from the verb sam-ut-√pad, “to spring up together,” and a verb belongs to the third phase – except when it suggests the reality of sitting itself, in which case it belongs to the fourth phase.

Ultimately, it is as a suggestion of springing up in sitting itself, at the fourth phase, that I read pratītya-samutpāda.

If, as Nāgārjuna asserts, what the Buddha taught is just pratītya-samutpāda, why one might wonder does the Buddha not speak to Nanda of pratītya-samutpāda in Aśvaghoṣa's record of what the Buddha taught Nanda?

The answer I think is contained in passages like the two verses that begin SN Canto 15:

yatra tatra vivikte tu baddhvā paryaṅkam-uttamam /
In whatever place of solitude you are,
cross the legs in the supreme manner
ṛjuṃ kāyaṃ samādhāya smṛtyābhimukhayānvitaḥ // SN15.1 //
And align the body so that it tends straight upward;
thus attended by awareness that is directed

nāsāgre vā lalāṭe vā bhruvor-antara eva vā /
Towards the tip of the nose or towards the forehead,
or in between the eyebrows,
kurvīthāś-capalaṃ cittam-ālambana-parāyaṇam // SN15.2 //
Let the inconstant mind be fully engaged with the fundamental.

The answer, in other words, is that Aśvaghoṣa is always at pains to point to the truth of pratītya-samutpāda, or “springing up, with direction” except not in so many words.

This I think is why Aśvaghoṣa ends BC10.14 and today's verse with the same word arurhoha. He is pointing us in that direction, towards the integral practice and experience of springing up – in opposition to that most fundamental of forces (ālambana) which causes fruit to hang down and blossoms to fall down.

In conclusion, then, I venture to submit that it is not wrong to understand pratītya-samutpāda, or “directional/conditional arising/origination,” as a description of the twelvefold causal process outlined above. But to attach to that view, in a know-it-all kind of a way, and thereby fail to acknowledge other ineffable dimensions of pratītya-samutpāda, as suggested by inadequate words like “directed arising” or like “integral springing up, with direction,” might be the kind of attitude for which the Buddha (in the Dīghanikāya; "Collection of Long Discourses”) rebuked Ānanda.

Gambhīro cāyaṁ, Ānanda, paṭiccasamuppādo gambhīrāvabhāso ca. DN 15

Deep, Ānanda, is this directed arising. And deeply it shines forth. 

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
pāṇḍavam (acc. sg.): Pāṇḍava; name of mountain
pāṇḍava-tulya-vīryaḥ (nom. sg. m.): with heroic energy equal to the Pāṇḍavas
tulya: mfn. equal
vīrya: n. manliness , valour , strength , power , energy ; heroism

śailottamam (acc. sg. m.): the uppermost mountain
śaila: m. a rock , crag , hill , mountain
uttama: mfn. uppermost, highest, excellent
śaila-samāna-varṣmā (nom. sg. m.): with stature like a mountain
samāna: mfn. alike, equal
varṣman: n. height , greatness , extent ; body ; a handsome form or auspicious appearance

maulī-dharaḥ (nom. sg. m.): crown-bearer
mauli: m. the head , the top of anything ; mf. a diadem , crown , crest ; mf. hair ornamented and braided round the head (= dhammilla)
maulī: f. the earth
siṁha-gatiḥ (nom. sg. m.): with a lion's gait
nṛ-siṁhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): a lion among men

calat-saṭaḥ (nom. sg. m.): with bouncing mane
cal: to be moved , stir , tremble , shake , quiver , be agitated
saṭā: f. an ascetic's matted or clotted hair , a braid of hair (in general) ; the mane (of a lion or horse)
siṁhaḥ (nom. sg.): m. lion
iva: like
āruroha = 3rd pers. sg. perf. ruh: to ascend

天冠佩花服 師子王遊歩
簡擇諸宿重 安靜審諦士
導從百千衆 雲騰昇白山