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

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