Thursday, April 17, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.8: Undiluted Mindfulness

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Upendravajrā)
bhruvau lalāṭaṁ mukham-īkṣaṇe vā vapuḥ karau vā caraṇau gatiṁ vā |
yad-eva yas-tasya dadarśa tatra tad-eva tasyātha babandha cakṣuḥ || 10.8

Eyebrows, forehead, mouth, or organs of seeing;

Body or hands; feet or manner of going –

Whatever aspect of him any of them looked at,

To that very target her or his eye was bound.

The first two or three hours of my day are generally devoted to sitting and then this blog. After publishing a post, I generally do some kind of practical work – preferably in the garden – and then sit again.

Today, however, has been different. Last night I woke up in the middle of the night with a headache and feeling my heart pounding. Were the fingers of my left hand tingling, or was I imagining it? I sat up for a while in lotus, memorized today's verse, and lay down again. I hope, I thought to myself before going back to sleep, I am not going to be found lying dead between these mildewed sheets in a house that is in need of some serious cleaning – since I left it in a hurry at the end of last summer after my wife's dog had to be put to sleep, and the house could have done with a clean then, seven and a half months ago, let alone now.

So the first thing I did this morning was to load the washing machine, and while it was churning I started cleaning the kitchen. By the time the first load of washing was ready to hang out to dry, I was still cleaning the kitchen, so I put another load in, and carried on cleaning the kitchen some more. 

One good thing about this place in France is that over the years I have planted loads of lavender, mainly from cuttings, and so the lavender plants provide a good base, on a sunny day, for drying and airing sheets and pillow-cases. Plus the somewhat tattered old kaṣāya, sewn twenty-five years ago, that I leave here in France.

So it was getting on for noon before finally, out in the garden, I crossed my legs under the shade of a hedge and looked out on the weed-strewn garden landscape and listened to the birds singing. Towering to my right, reminding me of that element of direction which is the gravitational, a big ash tree was already in bloom. I can see it now, through the upstairs window, as I write.

Pretty much as soon as I sat down, it occurred to me that today's verse is really about what the Buddha called samyak smṛtiḥ, true mindfulness. And the agents of that true mindfulness are the women and men described in yesterday's verse as being devoted to different work.

If today's verse were really all about the bodhisattva, if it were really all about his eye-catching beauty, then it might gladden the heart of a religious, bodhisattva-worshipping Buddhist, but it wouldn't mean much to me.

On the surface, today's verse is indeed a description, befitting a kāvya poem, of how the people's eyes couldn't help be riveted on any part of the bodhisattva upon which they happened to alight, so strikingly beautiful was he. Hence EHJ cross-references today's verse to Rām, 5.22.15.

But it occurred to me when I sat that what Aśvaghoṣa might actually have had in mind was the kind of experience one sometimes has when one starts on some practical job – like sewing a kaṣāya, for example, or cleaning the kitchen – and finds it difficult to stop.

That might be one criteria for the difference in different work. Ordinary work is like cycling whose main motivation is a stiff-necked desire to get to a destination – or worse, still, cycling whose motivation is stiff-necked fear, the desire to get quickly away from a dangerous situation. Ordinary work is hard work, work that is hard to carry on doing. Different work is work that, when one gets in the zone, is difficult to stop doing.

To put it another way, in ordinary work one's attention is more or less focused on an end to be gained, whereas in different work attention can't help but be bound to the immediate task in hand. 

The first definition in the dictionary of the samyak of samyak smṛtiḥ is: going along with or together, turned together or in one direction, combined, united.

I think it was Chogyam Trungpa who said that the samyak of samyak smṛtiḥ means straight in the sense that whisky without ice or water added is straight – undiluted, in other words.

nyāyena satyābhigamāya yuktā samyak smṛtiḥ samyag-atho samādhiḥ /
True mindfulness, properly harnessed 
so as to bring one close to the truths; and true balance:
idaṃ dvayaṃ yoga-vidhau pravṛttaṃ śamāśrayaṃ citta-parigrahāya // SN16.33 //
These two, pertaining to practice, 
are for mastery, based on tranquillity, of the mind.

bhruvau (acc. dual): f. an eyebrow , the brow
lalāṭam (acc. sg.): n. the forehead , brow
mukham (acc. sg.): n. the mouth, face
īkṣaṇe (acc. dual): n. a look , view , aspect;regarding , looking after , caring for ; sight ; eye
īkṣ: to see , look , view , behold , look at , gaze at
vā: or

vapuḥ (acc. sg.): n. form, body
karau (acc. dual): m. " the doer " , the hand
vā: or
caraṇau (acc. dual): mn. foot
gatim (acc. sg.): f. going , moving , gait , deportment , motion in general ; manner or power of going ; procession , march , passage , procedure , progress , movement
vā: or

yad (acc. sg. n.): which, to whatever
eva: (emphatic)
yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): who
tasya (gen. sg.): of him
dadarśa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. dṛś
tatra: ind. there, on that, to that place

tad (acc. sg. n.): that
eva: (emphatic)
tasya (gen. sg.): of him
atha: then, and then
babandha = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bandh: to bind ; to catch , take or hold captive
cakṣuḥ (acc. sg.): n. n. faculty of seeing , sight; eye

士女公私業 一時悉休廢
敬形宗其徳 隨觀盡忘歸 

No comments: