Saturday, May 17, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 10.38: Śreṇya Right on the Target

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bhadrā)
tasmād-adhīraṁ capala-pramādi navaṁ vayas-tāvad-idaṁ vyapaitu |
kāmasya pūrvaṁ hi vayaḥ śaravyaṁ na śakyate rakṣitum-indriyebhyaḥ || 10.38

Just let pass, therefore, this irresolute phase,

This fickle and heedless phase of juvenility;

For the first flush is the target of Desire

And cannot be protected from the power of the senses.

On the surface Śreṇya is saying that a man who is young in years is inevitably unprotected from being assailed through the senses by Desire. On the surface Śreṇya's argument is that, as a young man aged 29, the bodhisattva would be wise to wait until he is an older man before he could realistically hope to defeat the power of the senses. 

On the surface Śreṇya is giving the bodhisattva advice that is not true.

Below the surface the King might be saying that a person who is immature in his practice is unprotected. Below the surface the King might be advocating an indirect route (as opposed to end-gaining) as the best way to go from immaturity in the direction of maturity. Below the surface, thus, the King might be pointing, ironically, to a situation in which impermanence is the best friend of even an aged practitioner. 

Below the surface the King might be telling the truth and giving very good advice.

When I was in my 20s, my Zen teacher told me “If we don't follow desire in our action, we usually forget that some kind of desire made us suffer.” 

These words can be heard as an echo of King Śreṇya's “Just let this pass” (tāvad-idaṁ vyapaitu).

At the same time, in the realization that “If we don't follow desire in our action, we usually forget that some kind of desire made us suffer” there may be an echo of the Buddha's words quoted yesterday “Here is a means” (ayam upāyaḥ).

Here is a means, for a person of any age, to realize true maturity, though not necessarily all in one go, but rather by following that indirect route which is the way of cessation of suffering.

This way, again, is an indirect one. There is no Get out of jail free card that might instantly transport me from the immature state which is the target of end-gaining Desire (or sensual Love) into the mind of an old buddha. “Beam me up Scottie,” sadly, only works in Star Trek.

Hence the wisdom, based on seeing impermanence, of “Just let this pass” (tāvad-idaṁ vyapaitu).

Speaking of being a target of Desire, here is what the Buddha tells Nanda in SN Canto 13 about the basis upon which are gradually built those defences with which a practitioner can protect himself from the arrows of Desire. The original foundation stone as the Buddha describes it is śila (discipline, integrity) and the title of the canto is śilendriya-jayaḥ,  Defeating the Power of the Senses through the Discipline of Integrity.

tasmāc-cāritra-sampanno brahmacaryam-idaṃ cara /
Steeped in good conduct, therefore, lead this life of devout abstinence,
aṇumātreṣv-avadyeṣu bhaya-darśī dṛḍha-vrataḥ // SN13.20 //
And in what is even minutely blameworthy see danger,
being firm in your purpose.

śīlam-āsthāya vartante sarvā hi śreyasi kriyāḥ /
For founded on integrity unfurl all actions on the better path,
sthānādyānīva kāryāṇi pratiṣṭhāya vasundharām // 13.21 //
Just as events like standing unfold when a force resists the earth.

mokṣasyopaniṣat saumya vairāgyam-iti gṛhyatām /
Let it be grasped, my friend, that release is seated in dispassion,
vairāgyasyāpi saṃvedaḥ saṃvido jñāna-darśanam // 13.22 //
Dispassion in conscious awareness, 
and conscious awareness in knowing and seeing.

jñānasyopaniṣac-caiva samādhir-upadhāryatām /
And let it be experienced, again, that the knowing is seated in a stillness
samādher-apy-upaniṣat sukhaṃ śārīra-mānasam // 13.23 //
And that the seat of the stillness is a body-mind at ease.

praśrabdhiḥ kāya-manasaḥ sukhasyopaniṣat parā /
An assurance on which sits ease of the body-mind is of the highest order,
praśrabdher-apy-upaniṣat prītir-apy-avagamyatām // 13.24 //
And the assurance is seated in enjoyment. 
Again, let this be realised in experience.

tathā prīter-upaniṣat prāmodyaṃ paramaṃ matam /
The enjoyment is seated in a great happiness which,
similarly, is understood to be of the highest order;
prāmodyasyāpy-ahṛllekhaḥ kukṛteṣv-akṛteṣu vā // 13.25 //
And the happiness is seated in a freedom
from furrowing the heart over things done badly or not done.

avilekhasya manasaḥ śīlaṃ tūpaniṣac-chuci /
But the freedom of the mind from remorse 
is seated in pristine practice of integrity.
ataḥ śīlaṃ nayaty-agryam-iti śīlaṃ viśodhaya // 13.26 //
Therefore, realising that integrity comes first, 
purify the discipline of integrity.

śīlanāc-chīlam-ity-uktaṃ śīlanaṃ sevanād-api /
The discipline of integrity is so called because it comes out of repeated practice; 
repeated practice comes out of devotion to training;
sevanaṃ tan-nideśāc-ca nideśaś-ca tad-āśrayāt // 13.27 //
Devotion to training comes out of direction in it;
and direction comes out of submitting to that direction.

śīlaṃ hi śaraṇaṃ saumya kāntāra iva daiśikaḥ /
For the discipline of integrity, my friend, is the refuge:
it is like a guide in the wilderness,
mitraṃ bandhuś-ca rakṣā ca dhanaṃ ca balam-eva ca // 13.28 //
It is friend, kinsman, and protector; it is wealth, and it is strength.

yataḥ śīlam-ataḥ saumya śīlaṃ saṃskartum-arhasi /
Since the discipline of integrity is such, my friend,
you should work to perfect the discipline of integrity.
etat-sthānam-athānyeṣu mokṣārambheṣu yoginām // 13.29 //
Among those who practise, moreover,
this is the stance taken in different endeavours whose aim is freedom.

tataḥ smṛtim-adhiṣṭhāya capalāni svabhāvataḥ /
On this basis, standing grounded in reflective awareness,
indriyāṇīndriyārthebhyo nivārayitum-arhasi // 13.30 //
You should hold back the naturally impetuous senses 
from the objects of those senses.

bhetavyaṃ na tathā śatror-nāgner-nāher-na cāśaneḥ /
There is less to fear from an enemy or from fire, 
or from a snake, or from lightning,
indriyebhyo yathā svebhyas-tair-ajasraṃ hi hanyate // 13.31 //
Than there is from one's own senses; 
for through them one is forever being smitten.

dviṣadbhiḥ śatrubhiḥ kaś-cit kadā-cit pīḍyate na vā /
Some people some of the time are beleaguered by hateful enemies
– or else they are not.
indriyair-bādhyate sarvaḥ sarvatra ca sadaiva ca // 13.32 //
Besieged through the senses are all people everywhere, all of the time.

na ca prayāti narakaṃ śatru-prabhṛtibhir-hataḥ /
Nor does one go to hell when smitten by the likes of an enemy;
kṛṣyate tatra nighnas-tu capalair-indriyair-hataḥ // 13.33 //
But meekly is one pulled there when smitten through the impetuous senses.

hanyamānasya tair-duḥkhaṃ hārdaṃ bhavati vā na vā /
The pain of being smitten by those others may occur in the heart
– or else it may not.
indriyair-bādhyamānasya hārdaṃ śārīram-eva ca // 13.34 //
The pain of being oppressed through one's senses
is a matter of the heart and indeed of the body.

saṃkalpa-viṣa-digdhā hi pañcendriya-mayāḥ śarāḥ /
For smeared with the poison of conceptions, 
are those arrows, produced from five senses,
cintā-puṅkhā rati-phalā viṣayākāśa-gocarāḥ // 13.35 //
Whose tails are anxiety, whose tips are thrills,
and whose range is the vast emptiness of objects.

manuṣya-hariṇān ghnanti kāma-vyādheritā hṛdi /
Fired off by Desire, the hunter, they strike human fawns in the heart;
vihanyante yadi na te tataḥ patanti taiḥ kṣatāḥ // 13.36 //
Unless they are warded away, men wounded by them duly fall.

niyamājira-saṃsthena dhairya-kārmuka-dhāriṇā /
Standing firm in the arena of restraint, and bearing the bow of resolve,
nipatanto nivāryās-te mahatā smṛti-varmaṇā // SN13.37 //
The mighty man, as they rain down, must fend them away,
wearing the armour of reflective awareness.

The point might be, then, that śīla (discipline, or integrity, or the discipline of integrity) is a function of maturity, not an instant fix. But it is not necessarily a function of age. So a young man of 29, if he is steeped in śīla, can protect himself from the arrows of Desire by wearing the armour of reflective awareness. And an old man who is not so steeped in śīla, can easily make himself, in the first flush of an immature reaction, into a target of Desire.

An old man's evident youthfulness is sometimes a cause for celebration – as when a child observed from afar FM Alexander in his 70s walking, and asked “Who is that boy over there?”

And the evident immaturity of a man of 54 is sometimes a cause for regret. In the latter situation, however, we are caused by today's verse to reflect, when we dig for its deeper meaning, impermanence is something for which to be grateful.

tasmāt: ind. from that, therefore
adhīram (acc. sg. n.): mfn. imprudent ; deficient in calm self-command ; excitable ; capricious
dhīra: mfn. steady , constant , firm , resolute , brave , energetic , courageous , self-possessed , composed , calm , grave
capala-pramādi (acc. sg. n.): unsteady and negligent
capala: mfn. moving to and fro , shaking , trembling , unsteady , wavering ; wanton , fickle , inconstant
pramādin: mfn. negligent , careless , incautious , indifferent; drunken

navam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. new, young
vayaḥ (acc. sg.): n. vigorous age , youth , prime of life , any period of life , age
tāvat: ind. at once , now , just , first
idam (acc. sg. n.): this
vyapaitu = 3rd pers. sg. imperative vy-apa-√i: to go apart or asunder , separate ; to cease, disappear

kāmasya (gen. sg.): m. desire, pleasure ; Love or Desire personified ; name of the god of love
pūrvam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. first; (with vayas) " first age " , youth
hi: for
vayaḥ (nom. sg.): n. age
śaravyam (nom. sg.): n. a butt or mark for arrows , aim , target

na: not
śakyate = 3rd pers. sg. śak: to be able, capable
rakṣitum = inf. rakṣ: to guard , watch , take care of , protect , save , preserve (" from " abl.)
indriyebhyaḥ (abl. pl.): n. senses

五欲悉休廢 増長樂法心 


Rich said...

"impermanence is something for which to be grateful"
Never thought of it like that but so true, all things shall pass. But for the stillness.

Mike Cross said...

Thanks Rich.

A few years ago somebody left a comment on one of my blogs drawing my attention to the meaning of spontaneity in connection with the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which seems to be another name for impermanence.

Mike Cross said...

Not sure who it was who left that comment, but whoever it was I feel grateful to him for taking the trouble.