Sunday, May 4, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.25: Irony, Force & Ignorance

¦¦⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Sālā)
tat-saumya rājyaṁ yadi paitkaṁ tvaṁ snehāt-pitur-necchasi vikrameṇa |
na ca kramaṁ marṣayituṁ matis-te bhuṇkṣvārdham-asmad-viṣayasya śīghram || 10.25

So if, my friend, out of love for your father,

You do not wish by forcible means to inherit your father's kingdom,

But you have no mind to hold out for a regular succession,

Then enjoy possession of half of my realm, right away!

After yesterday's verse had stimulated me to reflect and comment on irony and the use of forceful means, preparing today's verse caused me to reflect further on those two elements of irony and force, plus the further element of ignorance. Ignorance was in the background to my reflections yesterday on end-gaining, but I didn't mention ignorance by name.

On the subject of irony, EHJ notes, in connection with today's verse:

A typical case of Indian irony. Bimbisāra, who sees nothing unreasonable in the Buddha turning his father out of his kingdom and killing him in the process, was himself to experience that treatment at the hands of his son.

Much of Aśvaghoṣa's irony, it seems to me, totally passed EHJ by. But when it came to today's verse, evidently, EHJ allowed himself to be a target that Aśvaghoṣa hit.

On the connection between irony and use of force, as I alluded to yesterday, I think the most fundamental basis on which a sincere Zen practitioner understands irony – sooner or later – is the paradox of right posture. The paradox is, in short, that if I have even a homeopathic dose of desire to sit in the right posture, that desire puts me wrong. The desire to arrange myself, by forcible means – be the forcing ever so subtle – takes me, as sure as night follows day, in the wrong direction. It is, in my book, the best joke in the world. And at the same time the bitterest tragedy.

On the subject of ignorance, I was reflecting as I sat on Saturday morning – a beautiful sunny morning here by the forest, after a week of much rain – on the close connection that exists between ignorance and end-gaining, end-gaining and ignorance. I was tempted to write that end-gaining is just ignorance and ignorance is just end-gaining. But in light of the the Buddha's teaching of pratītya-samutpāda,  it may be more accurate to write of end-gaining being the manifestation of ignorance. 

With an eye to translating Nāgārjuna's MMK from next year, as anybody will know who has followed recent posts, I have been thinking about how to understand and how to translate pratītya-samutpāda, a teaching which Nāgārjuna evidently saw as of central importance.

The first thing that struck me about pratītya-samutpāda is that the samutpāda, “springing up together,” sounds to me like a description, before it sounds like anything, of what we wish to happen in sitting-meditation – what is called in Alexander work “going up.”

As Alexander Teacher Walter Carrington said (quoting him from memory), “I want to go up. I am not going to move a single muscle to make that happen, but I do want that. I want to go up.”

So, on the basis of sitting practice informed by Alexander work, my intuition is that pratītya-samutpāda ultimately means something like “a Springing Up Together, grounded in direction” or, for short, “grounded arising.”

But pratītya-samutpāda, is clearly also a traditional twelvefold teaching on causality.

Thus the penultimate chapter of MMK (Chapter 26) is titled dvādaśāṅga-parīkṣā, “Investigation of the Twelve.”

When two weeks ago I visited the website of Ānandajoti Bhikkhu I found by a happy coincidence that he had just this April published on Ancient Buddhist Texts  the text and new translation of an Abhidhamma work titled The Analysis of Conditional Origination (Paṭiccasamuppāda).

In announcing this, AB writes:

The intensive study of the text has brought home to me two things: the very great importance of this doctrine in the array of the Buddha’s teaching, and the immense subtlety of the Abhidhamma analysis, which looks at the teaching as it applies to each mind-moment according to its ethical quality.

In view of this very great importance, it is  noteable that Aśvaghoṣa nowhere in Saundarananda records the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda by name.

But what he does do is to describe Nanda's progress (or regress) to the point where Nanda cuts the five upper fetters (SN17.57), the last of which is ignorance.

Thus, at the end of SN Canto 17, Nanda says:

tasmāc-ca vyasana-parād-anartha-paṅkād-utkṛṣya krama-śithilaḥ karīva paṅkāt /
From that extreme predicament, from that worthless mire,
up he dragged me, like a feeble-footed elephant from the mud,
śānte 'smin virajasi vijvare viśoke saddharme vitamasi naiṣṭhike vimuktaḥ // SN17.72 //
To be released into this quieted, dustless, feverless, sorrowless,
ultimate true reality, which is free from darkness.

taṃ vande param-anukampakaṃ maharṣim mūrdhnāhaṃ prakṛti-guṇa-jñam-āśaya-jñam /
I salute the great supremely compassionate Seer,
bowing my head to him, the knower of types, the knower of hearts,
saṃbuddhaṃ daśa-balinaṃ bhiṣak-pradhānaṃ trātāraṃ punar-api cāsmi saṃnatas-tam // SN17.73 //
The fully awakened one, the holder of the ten powers,
the best of healers, the deliverer: again, I bow to him.

In this passage vitamasi means free from darkness or free from ignorance. And though I have not got as far as translating it yet, I can see that in the opening verse of MMK Chapter 26 Nāgārjuna writes of avidyā, ignorance.

In Pali avidyā is avijjā, and a very old Pali text (from the vinaya, or Discipline section)  tells how the newly awakened Buddha
paṭiccasamuppādaṁ anulomapaṭilomaṁ manasākāsi
applied his mind thoroughly to conditional origination 
in forward and reverse order

Thie Buddha's investigation, in the forward direction, begins with avijjā, ignorance:
avijjāpaccayā saṅkhārā
Because of ignorance, there are (volitional) processes...

Then the Buddha's further investigation, in the backward direction, also begins with avijjā, ignorance:
Avijjāya tveva asesavirāganirodhā saṅkhāranirodho,
But from the complete fading away and cessation of ignorance, 
there is the cessation of (volitional) processes...

This latter process, a process of going in a backward direction, obviously has practical implications at the 3rd phase, the practical phase of duḥkha-nirodha-satya, the truth of the cessation of suffering.

In conclusion, how are we to go about ending ignorance? If we go for it by forceful means, be the force ever so subtle, that going for it might be nothing but ignorance manifesting itself. The original irony.

Thus, it may be good to retain in the translation, or a translation, of pratītya-samutpāda, the sense of a turning back, as opposed to going directly for it. The sense of progress in a backward direction.

A springing up that follows from going back?
A springing upward, grounded in going backward?

If we thus understand the prati-√i of pratītya to mean “to go back,” so that the absolutive pratītya means “having gone back,” then one fairly literal translation of pratītya-samutpāda that matches the earliest descriptions of the Buddha's practice and realization under the bodhi tree is: 
pratītya-samutpāda –
A springing up together, having gone in a backward direction.

To be continued, in forward and backward directions.... 

tat: ind. therefore, so
saumya (voc. sg): O mild man of the soma!
rājyam (acc. sg.): n. kingship, kingdom
yadi: if
paitṛkam (acc. sg. n.): belonging to a father , paternal , ancestral
tvam (nom. sg.): you

snehāt (abl. sg.): m. blandness , tenderness , love , attachment to , fondness or affection for (loc. gen. , or comp.)
pituḥ (gen. sg.): m. father
na: not
icchasi = 2nd pers. sg. iṣ: to desire, seek after ; to expect or ask anything from any one
vikrameṇa (inst. sg.): m. step ; course , way , manner ; force , forcible means ib. ( °māt ind. by force ; nāsti vikrameṇa , it cannot be done by force)
EHJ note: vikrameṇa, as at 9.66, 'by a wrong course of action'?

na: not
ca: and (sometimes disjunctive)
kṣamam (acc. sg.): n. propriety fitness
kramam [EHJ] (acc. sg.): m. step; course ; uninterrupted or regular progress , order , series , regular arrangement , succession
marṣayitum = causative inf. mṛṣ: to cause to forget ; to bear , suffer , overlook , pardon , excuse (mostly with acc. ; sometimes with Pot. or fut. or with Pot. after yad , yac ca-yadi , yadā , jātu e.g. na marṣayāmi yat- , I cannot ) ; to put up with anything from (gen.) ; (with na) , not to let alone , molest
matiḥ (nom. sg.): f. thought , design , intention , resolution , determination , inclination , wish , desire (with loc. dat. or inf.)
te (gen. sg.): your, in you

bhuktvā = abs. bhuj: enjoy, eat; (with pṛthivīm , mahīm &c ) to take possession of , rule , govern
ardham (acc. sg.): mn. the half
bhuṇkṣva [EHJ] = 2nd pers. sg. imperative bhuj: to take possession of , rule , govern
asmad-viṣayasya (gen. sg.): my realm
viṣaya: m. dominion , kingdom , territory , region , district , country , abode
śīghram: ind. quickly , rapidly , fast

若不代父王 受禪享其土
吾今分半國 庶望少留情

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