Thursday, May 8, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.29: The Old Three-legged Stool Argument

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
yo hy-artha-dharmau paripīḍya kāmaḥ syād-dharma-kāmau paribhūya cārthaḥ |
kāmārthayoś-coparameṇa dharmas-tyājyaḥ sa ktsno yadi kāṅkṣito 'rthaḥ || 10.29

For when pleasure overwhelms wealth and dharma,

Or wealth overpowers dharma and pleasure,

Or dharma spells the death of pleasure and wealth –

We must abandon it, if we aspire to meaning in the round.

Today's verse is based on the three-legged stool argument which would later be used in China as a metaphor for desirable co-existence of the teachings of Buddha, Lao-tsu and Confucius. Zen Master Dogen took a very dim view of that metaphor.

In the background to today's verse, once again, is King Bimbisāra's failure to discern that the dharma of a king, and the dharma of liberation, though they are both called dharma, are totally different kettles of fish.

A hint in that direction might be provided in today's verse by the double meaning of artha. In the first three pādas, as one of the triple set of dharma, wealth and pleasure, artha means wealth. But in the 4th pāda Bimbisāra himself uses artha in a different and broader sense to mean “the aim” or “the meaning” of life.

Our attention is thus being drawn here to the difference between the dharma of kings and the dharma of liberation, as conceptions. As conceptions, we can understand with our power of reasoning, the dharma of kings and the dharma of liberation are incompatible. But how much greater is the gulf between a dharma as a conception, and the Buddha-dharma that the Buddha would later realize and teach, using "non-thinking" as a means?

This, if I remember rightly, was the basis on which Dogen rejected the Chinese three-legged stool argument. For Dogen the Buddha-dharma was the action of sitting with the legs fully crossed, which was not on a par with anything.

For Dogen, the Buddha-dharma was the action of sittting, and the action of sitting was the Buddha-dharma.

Speaking of that dharma which is beyond all conceptions, in the Pali Suttas, we are reliably informed, the Buddha himself, in similar vein, said:

Yo paṭiccasamuppādaṁ passati so dhammaṁ passati,
yo Dhammaṁ passati so paṭiccasamuppādaṁ passati. (MN 28)
Who sees pratītya-samutpāda sees the dharma;
Who sees the dharma sees pratītya-samutpāda.

What is being discussed here, by Zen Master Dogen, and by the Buddha himself, is not one leg of a three-legged stool.

As a long-term goal, as far as I can, I would like to clarify how Dogen's assertion and the Buddha's assertion are in essence the same assertion. Expressions of the same realization. For how can they be anything else? To that end, Nāgārjuna's writing may be the bridge. At the same time, in my book at least, the teaching of FM Alexander may be the bridge, because Alexander is the one who put the ut- in samutpāda.

yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): [that] which
hi: for
artha-dharmau (acc. dual): wealth and dharma
paripīḍya = abs. pari- √ pīḍ: to press all round , press together , squeeze ; to torment , harass , vex
kāmaḥ (nom. sg.): m. wish , desire , longing ; pleasure , enjoyment ; love , especially sexual love or sensuality

syāt: ind. (3rd pers. sg. optative as: to be) it may be , perhaps , perchance
dharma-kāmau (acc. dual): dharma and pleasure
paribhūya = abs. pari- √ bhū: to be round anything , surround , enclose , contain ; to be superior , excel , surpass , subdue , conquer
ca: and
arthaḥ (nom. sg.): m. wealth

kāmārthayoḥ (loc./gen. dual): pleasure and wealth
ca: and
upa-rameṇa (inst. sg.): m. cessation , stopping , expiration ; death
upa- √ ram: , to cease from motion , stop ; to cease from action , be inactive or quiet ; to leave off , desist , give up , renounce (with abl.) ; to cause to cease or stop ; to render quiet
dharmaḥ (nom. sg.): m. dharma

tyājyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. to be left or abandoned or quitted or shunned or expelled or removed
sa (nom. sg. m.): the, that
kṛtsnaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. all, whole, entire
yadi: if
kāṅkṣitaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. wished , desired , longed for
kāṅks: to wish , desire , long for , hope for (with acc.) , expect , wait for , await (with acc.) , strive to obtain , look for anything (dat.)
arthaḥ (nom. sg.): m. aim, purpose ; substance , wealth ; sense , meaning , notion

若不獲三利 終始徒勞勤
崇法捨財色 財爲一分人
富財捨法欲 此則保財資
貧窶而忘法 五欲孰能歡

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