Thursday, May 22, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.1: Going Against the Grain

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Mālā)
athaivam-ukto magadhādhipena suhn-mukhena pratikūlam-artham |
svastho 'vikāraḥ kula-śauca-śuddhaḥ śauddhodanir-vākyam-idaṁ jagāda || 11.1

Now when the monarch of the Magadhas, with friendly face,

Had addressed him thus, with contrary purport,

He whose noble house and personal integrity were pure,

The son of 'Pure Mush' Śuddhodana,
being well in himself and unperturbed, spoke this reply:

On the surface, in the 2nd pāda of today's verse pratikūlam artham and suhṛn-mukhena are opposed to each other. Hence,

EBC: in a hostile speech with a friendly face,
EHJ: with friendly face but with matter that was repugnant to him,
PO: harmful advice beneath his friendly face.

Below the surface, however, pratikūlam artham (“with contrary purport” or “with meaning that goes against the grain”) can be read as confirmation that the real or hidden meaning of Śreṇya's words at the end of BC Canto 10 might have been contrary to their ostensible meaning.

So in BC10.36 for example, Śreṇya seems on the surface to be describing old folk in a pejorative way, as being impotent and sheepishly shamefaced. But the real meaning of Śreṇya's words, on the contrary, might be to praise maturity. Below the surface, Śreṇya might be praising those who are truly old as being able to enjoy that state of grace which is sweet surrender, and as being humble.

In the latter case, being contrary does not imply hostility or repugnance or harm, but it might rather imply the kind of attitude that the Buddha praised in Nanda in SN Canto 12:

loke 'sminn-ālayārāme nivṛttau durlabhā ratiḥ /
In this world which likes what is close to home, a fondness for non-doing is rare;
vyathante hy-apunar-bhāvāt prapātād-iva bāliśāḥ // SN12.22 
For men shrink from the end of becoming like the puerile from the edge of a cliff.

In Śreṇya's drawing near, in the true sense, below the surface, Śreṇya spoke the truth about what it is to grow old, in the sense of to develop, to reach full maturity as a human being. And inherent in such development, in general, is the forward direction. The forward direction, and also the upward direction – the Japanese word for development, advancement, or progress is in fact 向上(KOJO), lit. “going upward.”

I don't know who the hell I am, but I have a friend who is a local osteopath and he often refers children to me, if he thinks I can help them, calling me “a developmental therapist.” Ironically, the essence of the work that my wife and I do with children  work that my friend calls “developmental therapy”  is going back. The child is encouraged to curl up like a baby in the womb, or to go onto his belly like a baby in its first six months, or to go on hand and knees, and thus to practice and experience very slow movements, and quiet non-movements, to give the brain a second chance to make connections that it failed to make, for whatever reason, the first time round.

Similarly, for the last 20 years I have had a kind of career in Alexander work. I came to England from Japan at the end of 1994 with a view to finding a good training school to train at. I found a good one and began a 3-year training course in September 1995. I graduated in the summer of 1998, and began a career as an Alexander teacher. I started having lessons with FM Alexander's niece Marjory Barlow, and would ride down to her house in London every couple of weeks on my motorbike, with a view to advancing my understanding of what Alexander's teaching was. I wrote things that were published in Alexander Technique journals. I started teaching regularly on an Alexander training course... When I describe it like that, it sounds like I have been advancing through a career, making some kind of progress. 

But to tell the truth, if I have learned anything at all from 20 years in the Alexander work, it has nothing to do with this kind of progress, but everything to do with a kind of regress. The regress is a journey whose direction is not so much forward and up but back and down. Back and down to the real source of all the trouble in the world, which is not out there but in here.

Let me quote Marjory Barlow in her own words:

Alexander could not change anything by doing. He could not trust his feeling. He then saw that he had underestimated the strength of habit. What he observed in the mirror was the end-result of disordered patterns lying deep in the nervous system. And that these inner patterns of impulses, conveyed through the nervous system to the muscles acting on the bony structure and joints of the body, were operative perpetually, whether he was moving, speaking or sitting still. 

In fact these inner patterns were him -- insofar as his body was the outer manifestation of them. 

The next step in the journey was taken when Alexander realised that the only place where he could begin to control the wrong habitual patterns was at the moment when the idea came to him to speak or move. 

The moment when, whatever state of misuse he was in, would be made worse as he went into action. 

He had reached the only place, and the only moment in time, where change could begin, or where he could have any control over the habitual patterns of misuse, which were dominating everything he attempted to do. 

This place, or this moment in time, was the instant that a stimulus to activity reached his consciousness. In the ordinary way, when a stimulus comes, we react to it in the only manner possible. The response is made without thought -- without any knowledge on our part of what we are putting into motion. The reaction is the immediate response of the whole self, according to habitual patterns of movement which we have developed from our earliest years. We have no choice in this, we can behave in no other way. We are bound in slavery to these unrecognised patterns just as surely as if we were automatons. 

When Alexander reached understanding of this part of the problem he had found the key to all change. He understood at last in what way he must work. 

We have now followed him in his journey from the outermost manifestation of misuse, that is the interference with the normal working of his whole body, resulting in the vocal failure, to the innermost point where he could stop this interference. 

Let us now reverse the process and follow him on his way out again.... 
Anybody who is interested can pick up the story HERE.

Again, if I relate what I am saying to the process of this blog, my intention for these past six years has been to manifest on this blog a constant slow progress, a translation done at a snail's pace of one verse per day. Thus the translation has progressed. My understanding of Sanskrit has progressed. My familiarity with Aśvaghoṣa has progressed. Progress has been slow, but progress there has been. It looks like I have been going forward. 

And yet... what kind of progress is this so-called progress?

What did the Buddha tell Nanda about forward progress?

tasmāt pravṛttiṃ-parigaccha duḥkhaṃ pravartakān-apy-avagaccha doṣān /
Comprehend, therefore, that suffering is doing; 
witness the faults impelling it forward;
nivṛttim-āgaccha ca tan-nirodhaṃ nivartakaṃ cāpy-avagaccha mārgam // SN16.42 
Realise its stopping as non-doing; and know the path as a turning back.

śirasy-atho vāsasi saṃpradīpte satyāvabodhāya matir-vicāryā /
Though your head and clothes be on fire 
direct your mind so as to be awake to the truths.
dagdhaṃ jagat satya-nayaṃ hy-adṛṣṭvā pradahyate saṃprati dhakṣyate ca // SN16.43
For in failing to see the purport of the truths, 
the world has burned, it is burning now, and it will burn.

I may seem to have veered somewhat off the topic of today's verse, but the above reflections were stimulated by the description of Śreṇya's speech as pratikūlam artham, having a contrary aim.

When Śreṇya discussed old age, he seemed on the surface to describe old age in pejorative terms. But below the surface, on the contrary, Śreṇya's words suggest maturity as a kind of progress. And deeper still below the surface, the truth may be that true progress is never only progress but is, on the contrary, primarily a backward step.

For this reason, in the interests of brevity, though the translation is a little one-sided with regard to the two primary meanings of prati-√i (1. going towards, 2. coming back), it might not always be wrong to translate pratītya-samutpāda as “a Complete Springing Up, grounded in going back.”

atha: ind. now, and so
evam: ind. thus
uktaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. spoken to, addressed
magadhādhipena (inst. sg.): by the ruler of the Magadhas
adhipa: m. a ruler , commander , regent , king.

suhṛn-mukhena (inst. sg.): with a good-hearted mouth / face
suhṛd: m. " good-hearted " , " kindhearted " , " well-disposed " , a friend , ally
mukha: n. the mouth , face , countenance; source , cause , occasion of (gen. or comp.) ; a means (mukhena ind. by means of)
pratikūlam (acc. sg. n.):: mfn. " against the bank " (opp. to anu-kūla q.v.) , contrary , adverse , opposite , inverted , wrong , refractory , inimical , disagreeable , unpleasant
artham (acc. sg. n.): aim , purpose (very often artham , arthena , arthāya , and arthe ifc. or with gen. " for the sake of , on account of , in behalf of , for ") ; sense , meaning , notion

svasthaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. self-abiding , being in one's self (or " in the self " Sarvad. ), being in one's natural state , being one's self uninjured , unmolested , contented , doing well , sound well , healthy (in body and mind ; often v.l. for su-stha) , comfortable , at ease ; relying upon one's self , confident , resolute , composed
avikāraḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. unchangeable , immutable
kula-śauca-śuddhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): being pure from the honesty of his noble house
kula: n. a race , family ; a house, abode ; a noble or eminent family or race
śauca: n. cleanness , purity , purification ; n. purity of mind , integrity , honesty (esp. in money-matters)
śuddha: mfn. cleansed , cleared , clean , pure , clear , free from (with instr.) , bright , white ; cleared , acquitted , free from error , faultless , blameless , right , correct , accurate , exact , according to rule ; pure i.e. simple , mere , genuine , true , unmixed

śauddhodaniḥ (nom. sg.): m. (fr. śuddhodana) patr. of gautama buddha
śuddhodana: m. " having pure rice or food " , N. of a king of kapila-vastu (of the tribe of the śākyas and father of gautama buddha
odana: mn. ( √ud, to issue out) grain mashed and cooked with milk , porridge , boiled rice , any pap or pulpy substance
vākyam (acc. sg.): n. speech , saying , assertion , statement , command , words
idam (acc. sg. n.): this
jagāda = 3rd pers. sg. perf. gad: to speak articulately , speak , say , relate , tell anything (acc.) to any one (acc.)

瓶沙王隨順 安慰勸請已
太子敬答謝 深感於來言

No comments: