Saturday, May 24, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.3: Friendship, Impermanence, Karma, Growth

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Mālā)
a-satsu maitrī sva-kulānurūpā na tiṣṭhati śrīr-iva viklaveṣu |
pūrvaiḥ ktāṁ prīti-paraṁparābhis-tām-eva santas-tu vivardhayanti || 11.3

Among the untrue,
friendship formed by each in keeping with his tribe

Does not last – like sovereign power among the faint-hearted.

But friendship forged by repeated past favours,

Is just that benevolence which the true cause to grow.

The famous words which begin Shobogenzo chap. 3, Genjo-koan, six years ago I translated like this:

1. When everything becomes Buddha-Dharma, then there is delusion and enlightenment, there is training, there is life and there is death, there are buddhas and ordinary beings.

2. When each of the ten thousand things is not about me, then there is no delusion and no realization, there are no buddhas and no ordinary beings, nothing is born and nothing lost.

3. The Buddha's Way of awakening, inherently, has sprung out beyond bounty and thrift, and so there is life and death, there is delusion and enlightenment, there are beings and buddhas.

4. And though it is like this, it is only that flowers, while loved, fall; and weeds, while hated, flourish. 

When we read today's verse in light of these four phases, its relation with the first phase is in the distinction between the untrue/bad, between whom friendship does not last for long, and the true/good.

But in the second phase the universal law of objective reality, beyond bad and good, is impermanence – so that anything that requires energy, even human friendship, does not last.

In the third phase, however, impermanence is not a recipe for indolence. On the contrary, it is because of impermanence that there is such a thing as a right direction. Because of impermanence we can, by our own efforts, win friends and influence people. 

So in the fourth phase, because of good actions, there are sometimes in this world spectacularly good results, like a teaching that opens up like a great big cauliflower, or like the benevolence (maitrī) which, having been nurtured by aeons of bodhisattva-practice, caused the Buddha to manifest universal compassion, as described in Aśvaghoṣa's portait of the Tathāgata in SN Canto 3:

avagamya taṁ ca kṛta-kāryam amṛta-manaso divaukasaḥ /
Sensing the completion of his task,
the denizens of heaven whose heart's desire is the deathless nectar
harṣam-atulam-agaman muditā vimukhī tu māra-pariṣat pracukṣubhe //SN3.8 
Buzzed with unbridled joy. But Māra's crew was downcast and trembled.

sa-nagā ca bhūḥ pravicacāla huta-vaha-sakhaḥ śivo vavau /
The earth with its mountains shook, that which feeds the fire blew benignly,
nedur-api ca sura-dundubhayaḥ pravavarṣa cāmbu-dhara-varjitaṁ nabhaḥ //3.9 
The drums of the gods resounded, and from the cloudless sky rain fell.

avabudhya caiva paramārtham-ajaram-anukampayā vibhuḥ /
Awake to the one great ageless purpose, and universal in his compassion,
nityam-amṛtam-upadarśayituṁ sa varāṇasī-parikarām-ayāt purīm //3.10
He proceeded, in order to display the eternal deathless nectar,
to the city sustained by the waters of the Varaṇā and the Asī – to Vārāṇasī.

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 //3.11
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 twelve connecting statements;
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 //3.14
And which is disturbed by waves of anger, lust, and fear;
he had crossed, and he took the world across too.

sa vinīya kāśiṣu gayeṣu bahu-janam-atho giri-vraje /
Having instructed many people at Kāśi and at Gaya as also at Giri-vraja,
pitryam-api parama-kāruṇiko nagaraṁ yayāv-anujighṛkṣayā tadā //SN3.15
He made his way then to the city of his fathers, 
in his deeply compassionate desire to include it.

Benevolence, impermanence, good karma, true growth.

To understand today's verse like that, in four phases, might be, for me at least, to go some way to meeting the Dalai Lama's definition of how to serve one's guru – by keeping his or her teaching in tact.

Of course, if Buddhism is a spiritual religion, then a better way than philosophical analysis might be the holding of memorial services and the offering of prayers.

But if the Buddha's teaching is a means of combating ignorance, then there might be more merit in seeing how, in a verse like today's verse, the four noble truths form the underlying framework.

It is on that basis – on the basis of how I was taught by my teacher to think – that I have been endeavouring to understand the phrase pratītya-samutpāda not only as a teaching of causality at the second phase but also as a suggestion of sitting in the fourth phase. Hence, “a Complete Springing Up, grounded in going back.”

Suffering, accumulation, cessation, path.
Idealism (something subjective), materialism (something objective), action, reality.
Benevolence, impermanence, good karma, true growth.
Doing, not doing, non-doing, body and mind dropping off.
Feeling, thinking, sitting, springing completely up.

If the Buddha-dharma is just to sit, and just to sit is the Buddha-dharma, then, ironically, there might be nothing more valuable to support us in our sitting practice than to understand the poetry of a Zen patriarch philosophically, according to the underlying framework of the four noble truths.

Many people understand that Zen is ultimately the overturning of theory, and total devotion to practice, and at the fourth phase it sort of is. At the fourth phase Zen is nothing but sarva-dṛṣṭi-samucchedaḥ, the utter destruction of all views.

But flowers in the sky have to be investigated before they are ready to fall down. And Zen Master Dogen talked, in connection with the Samādhi which is King of Samādhis, of theory and practice being in mutual accord.

In conclusion, then, today's verse does not seem at first glance to have anything to do with the practice of just sitting. But on closer investigation, the four pādas of today's verse follow four phases. And the four-phased teaching of the Buddha, as primarily manifested in the teaching of the four noble truths, is always pointing ultimately to that way of cessation of suffering which is just to sit. 

a-satsu (loc. pl.): m. (pl.) bad or contemptible men
maitrī (nom. sg.): f. friendship , friendliness , benevolence , good will (one of the 4 perfect states with Buddhists)
sva-kulānurupā (nom. sg. f.): suitable to one's own family / house
sva-kulānuvṛttā (nom. sg. f.): following from one's own family, following from kinship
anurūpa: mfn. following the form , conformable , corresponding , like , fit , suitable ; adapted to , according to
anuvṛtta: mfn. following , obeying , complying
anu- √ vṛt: to go after; to follow from a previous rule ; to obey , respect , imitate ; to resemble

na: not
tiṣṭhati = 3rd pers. sg. sthā: to abide, remain, continue
śrīḥ (nom. sg.): f. light , lustre , radiance , splendour , glory ; prosperity , welfare , good fortune , success , auspiciousness , wealth , treasure , riches , high rank , power , might , majesty , royal dignity
iva: like
viklaveṣu (loc. pl. m.): mfn. overcome with fear or agitation , confused , perplexed , bewildered , alarmed , distressed ; timid, shy ; faltering (as speech)

pūrvaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. an ancestor , forefather (pl. the ancients , ancestors) ; mfn. former , prior , preceding , previous ; being before ; ancient , old , customary , traditional ;
kṛtām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. made, done, established
prīti-paraṁparābhiḥ (inst. pl. m.): by repeated favours
prīti: f. pleasure, joy ; friendly disposition , kindness , favour , grace , amity
mfn. one following the other , proceeding from one to another (as from father to son) , parampara: successive , repeated

tām (acc. sg. f.): that [friendship]
eva: (emphatic)
santaḥ (nom. pl.): m. good or honest or wise or respectable people
tu: but
vivardhayanti = 3rd pers. pl. causative vi- √ vṛdh: to cause to grow or increase or prosper , nourish , rear , enlarge , augment , advance , further , promote ; to gratify , exhilarate , gladden

世間説凡品 不能處仁義
薄徳遇近情 豈達名勝事
承習先勝宗 崇禮修敬讓

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