Wednesday, April 23, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.14: Directed Arising, in Four Steps

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bhadrā)
ādāya bhaikṣaṁ ca yathopapannaṁ yayau gireḥ prasravaṇaṁ viviktam |
nyāyena tatrābhyavahtya cainan-mahī-dharaṁ pāṇḍavam-āruroha || 10.14

Having accepted whatever food was offered,

He went to a solitary mountain spring,

And there, according to principle, he ate that food,

And went up the hill of the Pāṇḍavas.

The Pāṇḍava mountain, according to a note by PO, is the north-easterly of the five hills around Rājagṛha, and the name refers to the Mahābhārata episode where Kṛṣṇa, Ārjuna and Bhima approach the city across these hills to kill its king, Jara-sandha.

The Wikipedia entry on Rājagṛha (now called Rajgir) happens to have a photo which shows two or three of the hills.

But the geography, history and mythology of the hill in today's verse, as I read it, are incidental. The point is that when the bodhisattva went up the hill, that going up was a metaphor for what the Buddha would later teach as pratītya-samutpāda, "springing up totally, with direction" or, more succinctly, "directed arising." 

Read in this light, today's verse is another one that follows a four-phased dialectic process, culminating in a suggestion of the practice and experience of going up in sitting.

In the first pāda the key word is yathopapannam, which expresses non-discriminating acceptance. When it comes to food, that means accepting and eating whatever has been offered. For a practising bodhisattva, the Buddha reminds Nanda in SN Canto 14, picking and choosing of food is strictly off limits:

yasmān-nāsti vināhārāt sarva-prāṇabhṛtāṃ sthitiḥ /
Since without food there is none that survives among those that bear breath,
tasmād duṣyati nāhāro vikalpo 'tra tu vāryate // SN14.9 //
Therefore eating food is not a sin; but being choosy, in this area, is prohibited.

When it comes to sitting-meditation, the same principle of non-discriminating acceptance was expressed by Zen Master Dogen with eight Chinese characters which mean “Don't think good, bad. Don't care right, wrong.”

Yesterday on BBC Radio 4 I happened to hear an account by Martin Sixsmith of Sigmund Freud's early efforts to access the unconscious mind. Freud apparently regarded the technique of getting his patient to practise free association as a kind of breakthrough. And to that end it seems Freud asked the patient to suspend her critical faculties in relation to whatever association came up.

When one reflects on the function of the Moro reflex, this approach in the direction of healing makes a lot of sense, since thinking that something is bad and wrong, in a person suffering from an aberrant Moro reflex, will tend to trigger undue emotional responses – thereby undermining that cornerstone of direction that Nāgārjuna called hetu, “the motivational.”

The 2nd pāda is antithetical to the first in affirming the separateness of a mountain spring described as viviktam, which means solitary, isolated, set apart, segregated, discriminated.

In SN Canto 17, Aśvaghośa uses the same word viviktam to describe the 1st dhyāna as separated or distanced from desires and tainted things:

kāmair-viviktaṃ malinaiś-ca dharmair-vitarkavac-cāpi vicāravac-ca /
Distanced from desires and tainted things, 
containing ideas and containing thoughts,
viveka-jaṃ prīti-sukhopapannaṃ dhyānaṃ tataḥ sa prathamaṃ prapede // SN17.42 //
Born of solitude and possessed of joy and ease, 
is the first stage of meditation, which he then entered.

I have discussed in several past posts whether in the second half of SN17.42, viveka-jam is best understood as “born of solitude” (as I originally translated it) or as “born of discrimination” (as EHJ and LC translated it).

Viviktam and viveka are both from the root vi-√vic, which originally means to sift out or separate out (especially to sift out grain by tossing or blowing). By extension vi-√vic means to distinguish, to discriminate, to investigate, or to deliberate So vivikta and viveka in essence mean the same thing, vivikta being the adjectival past participle (separated, isolated, distanced, set apart, distinct) and viveka being the noun (separateness, distinction, discrimination).

To preserve this sense of two words with a common root, if I had to translate SN17.42 now, I think I would translate vivikta as “separated” and viveka as “separateness”:
Separated from desires and tainted things, containing ideas and containing thoughts, / Born of separateness, and possessed of joy and ease, is the first stage of meditation, which he then entered. // SN17.42 //
In today's verse, evidently, at least on the surface, viviktam describes the mountain spring as solitary, i.e., as physically separated or isolated from people, rather than as set apart in anybody's mind. But either way, there is an opposition in the first two pādas, as I read them, between non-discrimination and separateness, both of which might be useful weapons in our armoury as Zen practitioners.

The 3rd pāda, then, expresses the synthesis. And that synthesis, as my teacher never tired of asserting, is “action in the balanced state of body and mind.” Since those words are rather static, I would prefer to call it something like “directed action” or “acting with direction.” But whatever we call it, action like that is I think what is suggested by the 3rd pāda of today's verse.

Then finally the 4th pāda, as I have suggested already, might be a metaphor for pratītya-samutpāda, springing up with direction, or directed arising

A few weeks ago, when I came back to Nāgārjuna's mūla-madhyamaka-kākarikā, on the basis of these past six years of being taught Sanskrit mainly by Aśvaghoṣa himself, I knew straight away that pratītya-samutpāda had to be an expression of sitting-meditation itself. Otherwise, Dogen did not know what he was talking about.

As an expression of sitting-meditation, especially in light of Alexander experience, samutpāda works perfectly well. The dictionary gives the noun samutpāda as “rise,” from the verbal root sam-ut-√pad, "to spring up together."

The difficulty is in understanding the pratītya, in which direction I have been helped by a certain Sankrit paṇḍit who I consult from time to time on thorny issues. He informed me that pratītya was not as I had originally thought a gerundive from prati-√i (“to be gone towards”). I had jumped to this wrong conclusion mainly on the basis of the definition of pratītya in the MW dictionary, which includes in parenthesis mfn. to be recognized. So my first stab at translating pratītya-samutpāda was “What waits to be realized, as a springing up together.”

After he had informed me that prati-√i is better understood as an absolutive (“after going towards”), I then tried again with “What has been Realized as a Springing Up Together.”

This also got knocked back, on the basis that pratītya-samutpāda should be a kind of samutpāda.

So I asked my paṇḍit friend to help me out by suggesting his own translation, and he wrote me:

If you would like to continue to play around with the kind of English vocabulary that you were leaning towards, a rendering that reflects the structure of the Sanskrit better might for instance be Springing Up With Realization.

This struck me when I read it as an expression that would have met with the wholehearted approval of Gudo Nishijima. Perhaps it deserves to stand, as a succinct and meaningful translation of pratītya-samutpāda: “Springing up with realization.” But on reflection it fails to convey the sense inherent in pratītya of going or having gone (itya) in a direction (prati). So I decided to substitute “direction” for “realization” and thus arrived at Springing Up Together, with direction.

As an expression of the essence of sitting-meditation, this seemed to me to come pretty close to hitting the target.

Then two or three days ago I came across Ānandojiti Bikkhu's translation of Paṭiccasamuppādavibhaṅga, The Analysis of Conditional Origination, in which paṭiccasamuppāda (the Pali equivalent of pratītya-samutpāda) is rendered Conditional Origination. It caused me to reflect that maybe a more ecumenical translation of pratītya-samutpāda was also desirable – one that sounded like an expression (at the fourth phase) of the essence of sitting-meditation, but which also fitted as a description of the twelve links in the chain of cause and effect, which the Buddha also taught and which is the theme of Paṭiccasamuppādavibhaṅga.

So the phrase that springs to mind this morning is Directional Arising.

I submit that 
  • 1. Directional/Directed Arising is a literal translation of pratītya-samutpāda, 
  • 2. Directed Arising sounds like a Zen patriarch's expression of going up in sitting-meditation, and 
  • 3. The Analysis of Directional Arising might even fit as a title of Paṭiccasamuppāda-vibhaṅga.
I am probably wide of the mark with this, as I was when my first attempt at translating pratītya-samutpāda was batted away so easily by somebody who understands Sanskrit much better than I do. But I certainly do not regret venturing that wrong translation and having my understanding corrected. Whatever I have learned in 54 years (which some might say is evidently not much) I have learned like that. 

ādāya = abs. ā- √ dā: to give to onself, take, receive, accept
bhaikṣam (acc. sg.): n. anything obtained by begging , begged food , charity , alms
ca: and
yathopapannam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. just as may happen to be at hand , just as happened , just as occurring , unconstrained , natural

yayau = 3rd pers. sg. perf. yā: to go
gireḥ (gen. sg.): m. a mountain
prasravaṇam (acc. sg.): n. streaming or gushing forth , trickling , oozing , effusion , discharge ; a well or spring
viviktam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. separated , kept apart , distinguished , discriminated ; isolated , alone , solitary ; pure , clean , neat , trim ; clear , distinct

nyāyena: m. 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; : (inst.) " in the right manner , regularly , duly " ,
tatra: ind. there
abhyavahṛtya = abs. abhy-ava- √ hṛ: to throw down into water, to take food, eat
ca: and
enat (acc. sg. n.): this, that [begged food]

mahī-dharam (acc. sg.): m. “earth-bearing”; a mountain
pāṇḍavam (acc. sg.): m. N. of a mountain ; belonging to or connected with the pāṇḍavas
āruroha = 3rd pers. sg. perf. ā- √ ruh: to ascend

精麁隨所得 持鉢歸閑林
食訖漱清流 樂靜安白山

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