Tuesday, May 27, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.6: Intending to Express Nothing But the Truth

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Mālā)
suhttayā cāryatayā ca rājan khalv-eṣa yo mām-prati niścayas-te |
atrānuneṣyāmi suhttayaiva brūyām-ahaṁ nottaram-anyad-atra || 11.6

With nothing but friendship and nobility, O king!

Comes this resolution of yours towards me.

Conciliation, in this situation,
I too shall express with friendship plain and simple.

No other response, in this situation, could I express.

If I look for a four-phased progression in today's verse, I see it in the expression of
1. true motivation,
2. clear intention,
3. appropriate action, and
4. negation of anything other than the straight expression of the truth.

In the wider context, I think Aśvaghoṣa is making it clear that in the verses that follow the bodhisattva is going to tell it just as he sees it. So if we want to know what the thoughts of a bodhisattva were, such that the Buddha-to-be was led to be the Buddha, it is fortunate for us that King Bimbisāra addressed the bodhisattva as frankly as he did, thus causing the bodhisattva to come straight out with what was on his own mind.

But it might also be possible to read the 4th pāda of today's verse as suggesting non-verbal expression of the truth.

In MMK2.1, Nāgārjuna writes of the Buddha teaching
pratītya-samutpādaṁ prapañcopaśamaṁ śivam
Springing Up by going back, as the wholesome cessation of spin.

The second half of today's verse, as I read it, is pointing towards what Nāgārjuna called prapañcopaśamaṁ śivam, the wholesome cessation of spin. Prapañca (spin) is given in the dictionary as amplification, prolixity, diffuseness, copiousness; and also as deceit, trick, fraud.

Somebody as economical with words as Aśvaghoṣa was (so that my English invariably occupies more of the page than the romanized transcription of his Sanskrit), can hardly be accused of prolixity. But his words are, by his own admission, with all their layers of hidden meaning, full of deceit and trickery – perhaps because that it is in the very nature of words.

So I think that what Nāgārjuna wanted to suggest by pratītya-samutpāda was not only the verbal statement of twelvefold linkage. 

I read Springing Up by going back as a suggestion of the ultimate cessation of spin, which is manifested when a person sits in the full lotus posture, without saying any words, and totally drops off body and mind.

It may be that, in the final analysis, no other sort of response will do.

Speaking of pratītya-samutpāda, I spent yesterday afternoon studying the penultimate chapter of MMK, which ends with the following two verses:

avidyāyāṁ niruddhāyāṁ saṁskārāṇām asaṁbhavaḥ |
avidyāyā nirodhas tu jñānenāsyaiva bhāvanāt ||11||

With the cessation of ignorance

There is the the non-occurrence of [neural] formations.

But this very cessation of ignorance,

By an act of knowing, follows from Working at Development.

tasya tasya nirodhena tat-tan nābhipravartate |
duḥkha-skandhaḥ kevalo 'yam evaṁ samyaṅ nirudhyate ||12||

By the ceasing of this one and of that one,

This one no longer advances and that one no longer advances.

This whole mass of suffering

In this way is well and truly destroyed.

Nāgārjuna's teaching around the twelve links is thus not pointing his reader to any kind of fathoming of “dependent origination” by intellectual thought. Nāgārjuna's teaching, as might have been expected from a Zen patriarch, is ultimately pointing us back to a round black cushion, seat of what the Indian patriarchs called bhāvana, which means something like Bringing into Being, or Meditation, or Meditation Work, or Mental Development, or Training, or Work on the Self, or Developmental Work. 

I have provisionally translated bhāvana above as “Working at Development,” which is still not totally satisfactory. Bhāvana is an -na neuter action noun, and so an -ing ending in English might be approrpiate. At the same time I would like to find a translation that somehow conveys the sense of Work on the Self, as well as the sense of Development.

Of course I am prejudiced by the fact that my investigations to date have caused me to be interested in
(a)  the teaching of FM Alexander, which he called “the Work,” and in which “work on the self” is often referred to; and 
(b) a field sometimes called “neuro-developmental therapy” in which is recognized the role of immature vestibular reflexes in impeding human development, in the classroom, in the playground, and beyond.

In my defence, however, the reason I came back to England and trained as an Alexander teacher and as a neuro-developmental therapist was because it became obvious to me while I was in Japan that the problem I feel I was put on this earth to solve my Zen teacher had not in fact solved. He sometimes seemed to think he had solved it, but he demonstrated to me by his ignorance in the matter of “right posture” that he had not in fact solved it.

After all these years of not being totally satisfied with any living teacher, in recent weeks and months I have had a growing sense of being pointed by dead teachers like the Buddha, via the Pali suttas, and by Aśvaghoṣa and by Nāgārjuna via their own writings in Sanskrit, in particular towards the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, or Springing Up by going back.

My own Zen teacher understood well that the essence of the Buddha's teaching was contained, plainly and simply, not in words but in that act which is both an act of sitting and an act of wordless knowing. My own Zen teacher also understood and taught that this act of sitting/knowing was in essence a backward step – back in the direction of what he called “balance of the autonomic nervous system.”

But samutpāda, lit. “Springing Up Together,” suggests to me something spontaneous along the lines practised and experienced in Alexander work, and not something forced along the lines taught by recent generations of Zen masters of Japan, with the pulling in of this and the pushing out of that. In the past I  have joined others in worshipping at the shrine of Master Kodo Sawaki, who was a famously frank man, by no means a purveyor of spin. But I dare say that in the matter of right posture Master Kodo also was not entirely free of ignorance... and certainly not in his early teaching years. 

What I am doing here is showing you my workings. I haven't solved the problem yet to my own satisfaction.

At primary school I was precocious when it came to solving problems. I somehow got it into my head at an early age that I was here on this earth to solve a big problem for everybody's benefit. But if the problem is total destruction of this whole mass of human suffering, I most certainly have not solved the problem yet – not even by continuing to practise sitting-meditation four times a day in light of Alexander's discoveries, and in light of developing understanding of the importance of primitive vestibular reflexes.

My strong hunch, however, is that Gautama the Buddha, and the 12th patriarch in his lineage Aśvaghoṣa, along with the 14th patriarch in his lineage Nāgārjuna, were three human beings who did solve the problem totally. And even though Aśvaghoṣa's own description of the twelve links in BC Canto 14 has been lost, it is evident that those three teachers all regarded the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, Springing Up by going back, as very vital.

The thing for which I have thirsted most in my fifty-odd years is my teacher's affirmation that, yes, I solved the big problem. I suppose that is what both of us were hoping for, and maybe even expecting – that I would succeed in solving the big problem and he would be able to recognize it. But sadly he lost his marbles and died already, and I still haven't totally solved the problem yet. 

One thing I do see, however, is that thirsting is one of the twelve links, and that the cessation of thirsting does not mean the elimination of desire. No. The cessation of thirsting is rather represented by the teaching of alpecchu, wanting little, small desire. 

So if I could only solve the problem of destruction of the whole mass of human suffering, even without being able to receive the affirmation that I craved from my teacher, I think in the end I might settle for that. 

suhṛttayā (inst. sg.): f. friendship, friendliness, affection
ca: and
āryatayā (inst. sg.): f. honourable behaviour
ca: and
rājan (voc. sg.): m. O king!

khalu: ind. (as a particle of asseveration) indeed , verily , certainly , truly
eṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): this
yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): which
mām (acc. sg. m.): me
prati: ind. towards
niścayaḥ (nom. sg.): m. inquiry , ascertainment , fixed opinion , conviction , certainty ; resolution , resolve, fixed intention , design , purpose , aim
te (gen. sg.): your

atra: ind. in this matter , in this respect ; in this place , here at this time , there , then
anuneṣyāmi = 1st pers. sg. anu- √ nī: to bring near , lead to ; to induce , win over , conciliate , pacify , supplicate.
anunaya: m. conciliation , salutation , courtesy , civility , showing respect or adoration to a guest or a deity ; humble entreaty or supplication , reverential deportment
suhṛttayā (inst. sg.): f. friendship, friendliness
eva: (emphatic)

brūyām = 1st pers. sg. optative brū: to speak, say ; to answer
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
na: not
uttaram (acc. sg.): n. answer , reply
anyat (acc. sg. n.): other, different
atra: ind. in this matter , in this respect ; in this place , here at this time , there , then

既知汝厚懷 不爲違逆論
且今以所見 率心而相告

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