Friday, May 16, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.37: Śreṇya Nearly There

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Chāyā)
ataś-ca lolaṁ viṣaya-pradhānaṁ pramattam-akṣāntam-adīrgha-darśi |
bahu-cchalaṁ yauvanam-abhyatītya nistīrya kāntāram-ivāśvasanti || 10.37

And so,
having outgrown the fickle years whose main concern is objects,

Having got over heedless, impatient, short-sighted immaturity,

Having passed beyond pretense-filled adolescence,

They breathe again, as if having crossed a wasteland.

On the surface, again, King Bimbisāra is describing people who have simply grown old in years, like the residents sitting around, without ambition or any sense of urgency, in comfortable armchairs in the lounge of an old people's home.

Below the surface, the King is describing the breathing of the tathāgatas, those who, in such a way, have gone beyond.

A practical teaching point that might be embedded in today's verse, then, is that if we wish to breathe like a tathāgata, it might not do any good to practise this or that technique of yoga breathing, pulling in here and finding support there. Even the clinical practice of mindfulness that has suddenly become trendy, simply watching the breathing, along with anything else that enters the mind, with non-judgemental awareness, might not be sufficient to get the mindfulness practitioner all the way over to the other side.

No, the only way to experience the breathing of a tathāgata, in the end, might rather be to get the whole of oneself all the way over to the other side of the wasteland of samsāra. 

For precisely that purpose, the Buddha taught the four noble truths. Hence:

atha dharma-cakram-ṛta-nābhi dhṛti-mati-samādhi-nemimat /
And so the wheel of dharma -- whose hub is uprightness, 
whose rim is constancy, determination, and balanced stillness,
tatra vinaya-niyamāram-ṛṣir-jagato hitāya pariṣady-avartayat // SN3.11 //
And whose spokes are the rules of discipline -- 
there the Seer turned, in that assembly, for the welfare of the world.

iti duḥkham-etad-iyam-asya samudaya-latā pravartikā /
"This is suffering; this is the tangled mass of causes producing it;
śāntir-iyam-ayam-upāya iti pravibhāgaśaḥ param-idaṁ catuṣṭayam // 3.12 //
This is cessation; and here is a means." 
Thus, one by one, this supreme set of four,

abhidhāya ca tri-parivartam-atulam-anivartyam-uttamaṁ /
The seer set out, with its three divisions
of the unequalled, the incontrovertible, the ultimate;
dvādaśa-niyata-vikalpam ṛśir-vinināya kauṇḍina-sagotram-āditaḥ // 3.13 //
And with its statement of twelvefold determination;
after which he instructed, as the first follower, him of the Kauṇḍinya clan.

sa hi doṣa-sāgaram-agādham-upadhi-jalam-ādhi-jantukaṁ /
For the fathomless sea of faults, whose water is falsity, where fish are cares,
krodha-mada-bhaya-taraṅga-calaṁ pratatāra lokam-api ca vyatārayat // SN3.14 //
And which is disturbed by waves of anger, lust, and fear;
he had crossed, and he took the world across too.

In my admittedly limited understanding, what the Buddha was pointing to when he said “here is a means” (ayam upāyaḥ) was just the practice of sitting in the full lotus posture. Just sitting, in other words, is the very embodiment of the truth of the way of cessation of suffering.

This was Dogen's intention when he came back from China to Japan and wrote his first draft of Fukan-zazengi. This was Bodhidharma's intention – so thoroughly discussed by the Zen masters of China – in coming from the west. This was the intention of both Aśvaghoṣa and Nāgārjuna in staying in India and writing what they wrote. And this was the intention of Gautama the Buddha in staying in India and teaching what he taught.

Such was my prejudice before starting work on translating Aśvaghoṣa, and so far I haven't read anything, including in today's verse, to falsify that prejudice. I have only read verse after verse that confirms it.

Nāgārjuna's mūla-madhyama-kakārikā, a priori, looked to me more daunting. If the conventional wisdom was to be believed, MMK was a massive philosophical treatise on emptiness.

But I intend to show, starting next year, all being well, after getting to the end of the extant part of Buddha-carita, that the essence of Nāgārjuna's MMK is nothing but the intention of Bodhidharma in coming from the west and facing a wall for nine years.

The Buddha taught pratītya-samutpādam (Complete Springing Up, grounded in [forward and backward] direction), sarva-dṛṣti-prahāṇāya, in the direction of abandoning all views.

That seems to me to be MMK in a nutshell. The parts that seem, a priori, to be very difficult might only be difficult because of the convoluted nature of people's views – as exemplified by the various rubbish commentaries and rubbish translations of MMK that in recent years have been produced, by people who were not devoted to just sitting, but who had other agendae, or else by people who were not able or could not be bothered to go back to Nāgārjuna's own Sanskrit. 

So I think Nāgārjuna's intention was never to establish a philosophy of emptiness. His intention was to clear away, as if emptying a great big dustbin, a load of rubbish views. That I think is how we should understand Nāgārjuna's philosophy of emptiness. His intention was to empty out the rubbish and get back to what the Buddha taught, the essence of which was pratītya-samutpādam (Complete Springing Up, grounded in [forward and backward] direction), sarva-dṛṣti-prahāṇāya, in the direction of abandoning all views.

ataḥ: ind. from this, therefore
ca: and
lolam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. moving hither and thither , shaking , rolling , tossing , dangling , swinging , agitated , unsteady , restless ; changeable , transient , inconstant , fickle ; desirous , greedy , lustful ,
viṣaya-pradhānam (acc. sg. n,): having objects as its most important thing
pradhāna: n. a chief thing or person , the most important or essential part of anything

pramattam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. excited , wanton , lascivious , rutting ; intoxicated ; inattentive , careless , heedless , negligent , forgetful
akṣāntam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. impatient
adīrgha-darśi (acc. sg. n.): mfn. not far-sighted, Bcar.

bahu-cchalam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. deceitful
chala: n. fraud , deceit , sham , guise , pretence , delusion , semblance , fiction , feint , trick , fallacy
yauvanam (acc. sg.): n. youth
abhyatītya = abs. abhy-ati-√i: to pass over

nistīrya = abs. nis- √ tṛṛ: to come forth from , get out of, escape ; to pass over or through , cross (sea &c )
kāntāram (acc. sg.): mn. a large wood , forest , wilderness , waste
iva: like
āśvasanti = 3rd pers. pl. ā- √ śvas: to breathe , breathe again or freely

壯年心輕躁 馳騁五欲境
疇侶契纒綿 情交相感深

年宿寡綢繆 順法者所宗

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