Friday, June 6, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.16: Should We Put Our Trust In a Separate Nirvāna Someplace Else?

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Kīrti)
baler-mahendraṁ nahuṣaṁ mahendrād-indraṁ punar-ye nahuṣād-upeyuḥ |
svarge kṣitau vā viṣayeṣu teṣu ko viśvased-bhāgya-kulākuleṣu || 11.16

From Bali those realms passed to great Indra;
from great Indra to Nahuṣa;

And from Nahuṣa back again to Indra:

Who, whether in heaven or on the earth, could breathe easy

In realms so subject to the graces and indignities of fate?

For the passing of Śri [Royal Dominion] from Bali to Indra, EHJ tells us in a footnote to today's verse, cp. the Balivāsavasaṁvāda of Mahā-Bhārata xii, particularly 8145-6.

A footnote by PO provides a bit more detail:
Bali was the leader of the asuras, the enemies of the gods. He was anointed as Indra, the king of gods, by Śukra [see BC1.41]. It was after Bali's defeat by Viṣṇu that Indra was able to resume the role of king.

EHJ's note adds a comment on the meaning of viṣaya:
Viṣaya in d has, as in verses 13 and 15, the secondary sense of 'kingdom', but refers primarily to the objects of sense that kings gain control over by extending their sovereignty.

PO follows suit and goes further down the track of contrasting two meanings of viṣaya.
Note that in this verse Aśvaghoṣa cleverly uses the two meanings of viṣaya, object of sense and realm/kingdom.

These notes seem in danger of going down precisely the track of separation, the track of false separation, that I think Aśvaghoṣa is deliberately inviting us to go down in this Canto whose title is “Condemning Desires” or “Blaming Desire.” The invitation is to go down the track of aspiring to nirvāṇa someplace else, some realm separate from desireable sense objects. The classic example of such a place is “the other monastery.”

As an antidote to this kind of thinking, Dogen quotes the Buddha's words that a person of small desire already just has nirvāna. Such a person is called a great human being. But the implicit teaching point of the present series of verses, as I read them, is to remind us that even such a great human being sits nowhere else but kāmeṣu and viṣayeṣu, among desires in realms which are sensory, impermanent, irreligious, full of concrete material objects like fences, walls, tiles and pebbles. 

We all, whether totally unenlightened, not-yet enlightened, or perfectly awakened, when we sit, sit nowhere else but among desires in these realms. The difference is that the unenlightened, while sitting in these realms, do not know satisfaction; whereas great human beings, as Dogen informs us in the final chapter of Shobogenzo, are those who, while sitting in these very realms, do know satisfaction. They know satisfaction not because they have eliminated blameworthy desire, but because they have ended faults. 

That, I would like to add in passing, is what the practical teaching of pratītya-samutpāda is really all about. It is not, as I used to think it was, primarily a doctrine of causality. It is all about going back and ending faults. Springing Up, by going back. 

So to see Aśvaghoṣa as cleverly playing with two meanings of viṣaya might be just exactly to miss the real point. The real point might be that Aśvaghoṣa is precisely refusing to acknowledge two separate meanings of viṣayeṣu.

The point might rather be that to live in the impermanent world is to live kāmeṣu, among desires, and equally to live viṣayeṣu, among sense objects, in sensory realms. And conversely, to live among desires and among sense objects in sensory realms – whether those sensory realms are experienced as being in heaven or as being on the earth – is just to live in the impermanent world.

Reading kāmeṣu and viṣayeṣu in this light, I do not hear the bodhisattva's rhetorical question as expressing any kind of choice. When the bodhisattva asks viṣayeṣu teṣu ko viśvased?, I hear him asking “Who among us could breathe easy while living in those equally impermanent heavenly and earthly realms in which, unavoidably, we all – every one of us, as a god, as an animal, as an ordinary human being, or as a buddha – are living?”

So the bodhisattva's question strikes me as expressing the same recognition that the Buddha expressed as follows in SN Canto 15:

praśvasity-ayam-anvakṣaṃ yad-ucchvasiti mānavaḥ /
That a man draws breath and next time around breathes in again,
avagaccha tad-āścaryam-aviśvāsyaṃ hi jīvitam // SN15.57
Know to be a wonder; for staying alive is nothing to breathe easy about.

idam-āścaryam-aparaṃ yat-suptaḥ pratibudhyate /
Here is another wonder: that one who was asleep wakes up
svapity-utthāya vā bhūyo bahv-amitrā hi dehinaḥ // SN15.58
Or, having been up, goes back to sleep; 
for many enemies has the owner of a body.

garbhāt prabhṛti yo lokaṃ jighāṃsur-anugacchati /
He who stalks humankind, from the womb onwards, with murderous intent:
kas-tasmin viśvasen-mṛtyāv-udyatāsāv-arāv-iva // SN15.59
Who can breath easy about him? 
Death, poised like an enemy with sword upraised.

Each of the three professors, however, translated viṣayeṣu teṣu ko viśvased as if some of us might have a choice in whether or not to subject ourselves to the indignities of living among objects in impermanent realms in heaven and on earth. Hence:

Who would put his trust in these worldly objects...? (EBC)
Who would trust in those objects of sense...? (EHJ)
Who would put his trust in this sensual realm...? (PO)

These translations seem to me to want to place the blame not where it belongs, with the complacent trusting fool, but rather on objects in the sensory realm. 

So I would like to ask each of the three professors:
EBC! Whenever you pulled a chain in the expectation that a toilet would flush, did you have any choice but to put your trust in a worldly object? And how about when an awakened buddha pulls the chain?
EHJ! When you hit a letter key on your typewriter, feeling it under your fingertip, did you have any choice but to trust an object of sense? If you had trusted instead, say, a Christian prayer, would you have got the job done?
PO! When you walk, do you go putting your trust, with each footstep, in this sensual realm? Or do you rely on some other means, like a magic carpet for example, for getting from A to B?

The point that we fail to grasp in our immaturity, or when we are outside of practice looking in, is that there is no nirvāṇa separate from the suffering of living and dying. 

When I was 17, to cite one example of immaturity outside of practice, I developed an unhealthy interest in the writings of Carlos Castaneda, one of whose books was titled “A Separate Reality.” I remember some blurb on the back cover by Aldous Huxley. (Aldous Huxley, by the way, turned out to be a great fan of FM Alexander – though the appreciation was not necessarily mutual.) Huxley asserted something along the lines that if Castaneda really experienced what he claimed to have experienced, it had earthshaking implications for humanity. That seemed at the time to make sense to me.

But no. The implicit point of today's verse, as I read it – even if the verse sounds like it might be affirming the possibility of breathing easy in some realm separate from the vicissitudes of the fleeting sensory realm – is to cause us to reflect that there is no such realm. No Separate Reality. No safe place in which to breathe easy. No rationale for blaming desire and aspiring to nirvāṇa in a separate realm devoid of desirable sense objects. “A Separate Reality” was only an idea that Carlos Castaneda dreamt up to sell books to impressionable dupes like I was. The Buddha's teaching is to give up all ideas; but especially that one. Especially the idea of living happily ever after someplace else. Hence:

asau kṣemo janapadaḥ subhikṣo 'sāvasau śivaḥ /
"That country is an easy place to live; 
that one is well-provisioned; that one is happy."
ity-evam-atha jāyeta vitarkas-tava kaś-cana //15.42
If there should arise any such idea in you,

praheyaḥ sa tvayā saumya nādhivāsyaḥ kathaṃ-cana /
You are to give it up, my friend, and not entertain it in any way,
viditvā sarvam-ādīptaṃ tais-tair-doṣāgnibhir-jagat //15.43
Knowing the whole world to be ablaze with the manifold fires of the faults.

ṛtu-cakra-nivartāc-ca kṣut-pipāsā-klamād-api /
Again, from the turning of the circle of the seasons,
and from hunger, thirst and fatigue,
sarvatra niyataṃ duḥkhaṃ na kva-cid vidyate śivam //15.44
Everywhere suffering is the rule. Not somewhere is happiness found.

kva-cic-chītaṃ kva-cid gharmaḥ kva-cid rogo bhayaṃ kva-cit /
Here cold, there heat; here disease, there danger
bādhate 'bhyadhikaṃ lokaṁ tasmād-aśaraṇaṃ jagat //15.45
Oppress humanity in the extreme. The world, therefore, has no place of refuge.

jarā vyādhiś-ca mṛtyuś-ca lokasyāsya mahad bhayam /
Aging, sickness and death are the great terror of this world.
nāsti deśaḥ sa yatrāsya tad bhayaṃ nopapadyate //15.46
There is no place where that terror does not arise.

yatra gacchati kāyo 'yaṃ duḥkhaṃ tatrānugacchati /
Where this body goes there suffering follows.
nāsti kā-cid gatir-loke gato yatra na bādhyate //15.47
There is no way in the world going on which one is not afflicted.

ramaṇīyo 'pi deśaḥ san su-bhikṣaḥ kṣema eva ca /
Even an area that is pleasant, abundant in provisions, and safe,
ku-deśa iti vijñeyo yatra kleśair-vidahyate //15.48
Should be regarded as a deprived area where burn the fires of affliction.

lokasyābhyāhatasyāsya duḥkhaiḥ śārīra-mānasaiḥ /
In this world beset by hardships physical and mental,
kṣemaḥ kaś-cin-na deśo 'sti svastho yatra gato bhavet //15.49
There is no cosy place to which one might go and be at ease.

duḥkhaṃ sarvatra sarvasya vartate sarvadā yadā /
While suffering, everywhere and for everyone, continues at every moment,
chanda-rāgam-ataḥ saumya loka-citreṣu mā kṛthāḥ // 15.50
You are not to enthuse, my friend, over the world's shimmering images.

yadā tasmān-nivṛttas-te chanda-rāgo bhaviṣyati /
When your enthusiasm is turned back from all that,
jīva-lokaṃ tadā sarvam-ādīptam-iva maṃsyate // 15.51
The whole living world you will deem to be, as it were, on fire.

atha kaś-cid vitarkas-te bhaved-amaraṇāśrayaḥ /
Any idea you might have, then, that has to do with not dying,
yatnena sa vihantavyo vyādhir-ātmagato yathā //15.52
Is, with an effort of will, to be obliterated as a disorder of your whole being.

muhūrtam-api viśrambhaḥ kāryo na khalu jīvite /
Not a moment of trust is to be placed in life,
nilīna iva hi vyāghraḥ kālo viśvasta-ghātakaḥ //15.53
For, like a tiger lying in wait, Time slays the unsuspecting.

balastho 'haṃ yuvā veti na te bhavitum-arhati /
That "I am young," or "I am strong," should not occur to you:
mṛtyuḥ sarvāsv-avasthāsu hanti nāvekṣate vayaḥ //15.54
Death kills in all situations without regard for sprightliness.

kṣetra-bhūtam-anarthānāṃ śarīraṃ parikarṣataḥ /
As he drags about that field of misfortunes which is a body,
svāsthy-āśā jīvitāśā vā na dṛṣṭārthasya jāyate // 15.55
Expectations of well-being or of continuing life
do not arise in one who is observant.

nirvṛtaḥ ko bhavet kāyaṃ mahā-bhūtāśrayaṃ vahan /
Who could be complacent carrying around a body,
a receptacle for the elements,
paraspara-viruddhānām-ahīnām-iva bhājanam // 15.56
Which is like a basket full of snakes each opposed to another?

praśvasity-ayam-anvakṣaṃ yad-ucchvasiti mānavaḥ /
That a man draws breath and next time around breathes in again,
avagaccha tad-āścaryam-aviśvāsyaṃ hi jīvitam //15.57
Know to be a wonder; for staying alive is nothing to breathe easy about.

idam-āścaryam-aparaṃ yat-suptaḥ pratibudhyate /
Here is another wonder: that one who was asleep wakes up
svapity-utthāya vā bhūyo bahv-amitrā hi dehinaḥ //15.58
Or, having been up, goes back to sleep;
for many enemies has the owner of a body.

garbhāt prabhṛti yo lokaṃ jighāṃsur-anugacchati /
He who stalks humankind, from the womb onwards, with murderous intent:
kas-tasmin viśvasen-mṛtyāv-udyatāsāv-arāv-iva // 15.59
Who can breath easy about him?
Death, poised like an enemy with sword upraised.

prasūtaḥ puruṣo loke śrutavān balavān-api /
No man born into the world, however endowed with learning and power,
na jayaty-antakaṃ kaś-cin-nājayan-nāpi jeṣyati // 15.60
Ever defeats Death, maker of ends,
nor has ever defeated him, nor ever will defeat him.

sāmnā dānena bhedena daṇḍena niyamena vā /
For cajoling, bribing, dividing, or the use of force or restraint,
prāpto hi rabhaso mṛtyuḥ pratihantuṃ na śakyate // 15.61
When impetuous Death has arrived, are powerless to beat him back.

tasmān-nāyuṣi viśvāsaṃ cañcale kartum-arhasi /
So place no trust in teetering life,
nityaṃ harati kālo hi sthāviryaṃ na pratīkṣate // 15.62
For Time is always carrying it off and does not wait for old age.

niḥsāraṃ paśyato lokaṃ toya-budbuda-durbalam /
Seeing the world to be without substance, as fragile as a water-bubble,
kasyāmara-vitarko hi syād-anunmatta-cetasaḥ // 15.63
What man of sound mind could harbour the notion of not dying?

tasmād-eṣāṃ vitarkāṇāṃ prahāṇārthaṃ samāsataḥ /
So for the giving up, in short, of all these ideas,
ānāpāna-smṛtiṃ saumya viṣayī-kartum-arhasi //15.64
Reflective awareness while breathing out and in, my friend,
you should make into your own possession.

ity-anena prayogeṇa kāle sevitum-arhasi /
Using this device you should take in good time
pratipakṣān vitarkāṇāṃ gadānām-agadān-iva //15.65
Counter-measures against ideas, like remedies against illnesses.

baleḥ (abl. sg. m.): from Bali ; N. of a daitya (son of virocana ; priding himself on his empire over the three worlds , he was humiliated by viṣṇu , who appeared before him in the form of a vāmana or dwarf. son of kaśyapa and aditi and younger brother of indra , and obtained from him the promise of as much land as he could pace in three steps , whereupon the dwarf expanding himself deprived him of heaven and earth in two steps , but left him the sovereignty of pātāla or the lower regions)
mahendram (acc. sg. m.): to great Indra
nahuṣam (acc. sg. m.): to Nahuṣa
mahendrāt (abl. sg. m.): from great Indra

indram (acc. sg. m.): to Indra
punar: ind. back again
ye (nom. pl. m.): which
nahuṣāt (abl. sg. m.): from Nahuṣa
upeyuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. upa- √i: to go or come or step near , approach , betake one's self to , arrive at

svarge (loc. sg.): n. heaven
kṣitau (loc. sg.): f. earth
vā: or else
viṣayeṣu (loc. pl.): m. objects, sensual enjoyments
teṣu (loc. pl. m.): those
kaḥ (nom. sg. m.): who
viśvaset = 3rd pers. sg. optative vi- √ śvas: to draw breath freely , be free from fear or apprehension , be trustful or confident , trust or confide in , rely or depend on (acc. gen. , or loc.)
bhāgya-kulākuleṣu (loc. pl. m.): being of mixed fortune, subject to the ups and downs of fate
bhāgya: n. fate , destiny (resulting from merit or demerit in former existences) , fortune , (esp.) good fortune , luck , happiness , welfare
kulākula: mfn. excellent and not excellent , middling; of mixed character or origin

波羅大帝釋 大帝釋農沙
農沙歸帝釋 天主豈有常

國土非堅固 唯大力所居

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