Tuesday, June 10, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.20: Towards Taking Possession of the Self

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
kṣyādibhir-dharmabhir-anvitānāṁ kāmātmakānāṁ ca niśamya duḥkham |
svāsthyaṁ ca kāmeṣv-akutūhalānāṁ kāmān vihātuṁ kṣamam-ātmavadbhiḥ || 11.20

After they have seen the suffering of desire-driven men

Who are chained to duties such as ploughing and the rest

And have seen the well-being
of men who are not unduly interested in desires,

It is natural for people in possession of themselves to give desires up.

EBC translated dharmabhir-anvitānām as “devoted to worldly pursuits,” and cross-referenced dharmabhir (worldly pursuits) to BC5.5-6:
As the ploughs tore and scattered tufts of young grass over the soil, and littered the soil with dead worms, insects, and other little creatures, / He saw that soil like that, and felt intense sorrow, as if at the killing of his own human relatives.//BC5.5// Again, seeing the men ploughing, their complexions riven by the wind, the sun's rays and the dust, / And seeing the oxen unsteady from the exhaustion of drawing, the most noble one felt extreme pity.// BC5.6//

EHJ amended to karmabhir-arditānāṁ, and translated “afflicted as they are by pursuits [such as agriculture, etc.]”.

Today's verse introduces the teaching of being ātmavad, in possession of oneself, as opposed to being kāmātmaka or kāmātman, driven by desires.

The main teaching point to take from today's verse, then, may be that although the bodhisattva is ostensibly out to put the blame on desires, when we reflect exactly on what the bodhisattva is saying, he is actually highlighting the importance of being in possession of oneself, and therefore is implicitly putting the blame on lack of self-possession. 

In the 3rd pāda kāmeṣv-akutūhalānām can be taken as “not unduly interested in desires” or “having no particular fascination for desires;” it can also be read as “not being eager/impetuous while among desires.” Either way, it is a description of a practitioner who is in possession of himself or herself, as opposed to a person who is pulled and pushed by passing fancies (even though, in the latter reading, the practitioner may still be subject to such passing fancies).

How do we go about thus coming into possession of ourselves?

Master Dogen's rules for sitting-zen, as set out for example in Fukan-zazengi, can be read as nothing other than fundamental instructions for coming into possession of ourselves. Hence the conclusion:

If for a long time you practice what is like this,

You will assuredly become it.

The treasure house will spontaneously open up

And accepting and using of its contents will be up to you.

Why did Dogen have to go and dampen our optimistic expectations by adding the word HISASHIKU “for a long time”?

As the Buddha tells Nanda in SN Canto 16:

ekena kalpena sacen-na hanyāt sv-abhyasta-bhāvād-asubhān vitarkān /
It may not be possible, following a single method,
to kill off unwholesome thoughts that habit has so deeply entrenched;
tato dvitīyaṃ kramam-ārabheta na tv-eva heyo guṇavān prayogaḥ //SN16.70
In that case, one should commit to a second course 
but never give up the good work.

anādi-kālopacitātmakatvād balīyasaḥ kleśa-gaṇasya caiva /
Because of the instinct-led accumulation, from time without beginning,
of the powerful mass of afflictions,
samyak prayogasya ca duṣkaratvāc-chettuṃ na śakyāḥ sahasā hi doṣāḥ //SN16.71
And because true practice is so difficult to do, 
the faults cannot be cut off all at once.

I think Dogen added "for a long time" because he was pointing in the direction of a pot of gold that lies at the end of a rainbow of growth, or development 

This is a point which has not been lost on Tibetan masters who have preserved the tradition of bhāvana, which is generally rendered into English as meditation, but whch literally means developing or cultivating -- nothing that can be achieved in a hurry. 

Apropos of which, speaking of the secret treasure-house yielding up its gold, here is another quote from Matthieu Ricard's book The Art of Meditation:
Every being has the potential for englightenment just as surely, say the traditional texts, as every sesame seed contains oil. Despite this, to use another traditional comparison, we wander about in confusion like a beggar who is simultaneously both rich and poor because he does not know that he has a treasure buried under the floor of his hut. 

Apopros of which, again, what did the Buddha tell Rāhula, as recorded in the Pali Suttas?
....samaṁ bhāvanaṁ bhāvehi
develop the developing, in balance....
[like earth, water, fire, wind, space]

These are the means, bhāvana, the developmental means, by which we are to extinguish what lies behind desires. And these, equally, are the means, the developmental means, by which we are to take possession of ourselves.

Sitting with reflective awareness of all of the above, reflecting on what I have been reflecting on for the past 30 years as a student of Zen Master Dogen, and for the past 20 years as a student of FM Alexander, but also in light of what I have been reading in recent weeks in the Tibetan tradition as reported by Matthieu Ricard, and in the Pali Suttas as translated by Ānandajoti Bhikkhu, I have a sense of arrows all pointing in the same direction.

The direction is primarily up, for which reason the vestibular system, responsible for a true or faulty sense of upright balance, might be the essential pivot for going in the right direction, the direction of growth, the direction of developing. 

At the same time, the direction is primarily backwards, back towards the origin, back towards original nature, back towards taking possession of the treasure of the self.

But taking possession of the treasure of the self does not necessarily mean getting a grip on something. On the contrary, the Buddha tells Rāhula: 

ānāpānasatiṁ Rāhula bhāvanaṁ bhāvehi,
Develop the developing, Rāhula, that is reflective awareness while breathing....

vimocayaṁ cittaṁ assasissāmī ti sikkhati,
he trains like this: freeing the mind I will breathe in,
vimocayaṁ cittaṁ passasissāmī ti sikkhati....
he trains like this: freeing the mind I will breathe out....

paṭinissaggānupassī assasissāmī ti sikkhati, 
he trains like this: contemplating letting go I will breathe in,
paṭinissaggānupassī passasissāmī ti sikkhati....
he trains like this: contemplating letting go I will breathe out....

evaṁ bhāvitā kho Rāhula ānāpānasati evaṁ bahulīkatā
In this way, Rāhula, reflective awareness while breathing out and in 
when it has been developed like this and made much of
mahapphalā hoti mahānisaṁsā.
yields great fruit, brings great advantages.

kṛṣyādibhiḥ (inst. pl. n.): ploughing et cetera
dharmabhiḥ = inst. pl. dharman: n. law , rule , duty ; n. practice , custom , mode , manner (dhármaṇā , °mabhis ; °maṇas pári in regular order , naturally )
anvitānām (gen. pl. m.): mfn. gone along with ; joined , attended , accompanied by , connected with , linked to ; having as an essential or inherent part , endowed with , possessed of , possessing
karmabhiḥ (inst. pl.): n. acts, actions, occupations
arditānām (gen. pl. m.): mfn. injured , pained , afflicted , tormented , wounded

kāmātmakānām (gen. pl. m.): men of desire
kāmātman: mfn. " whose very essence is desire " , consisting of desire , indulging one's desires , given to lust , sensual , licentious
ātmaka: mfn. having or consisting of the nature or character of (in comp.)
ca: and
niśamya = abs. ni- √ śam: to observe, hear
duḥkham (acc. sg.): n. sorrow, suffering, pain

svāsthyam (acc. sg.): n. (fr. sva-stha) self-dependence , sound state (of body or soul) , health , ease , comfort , contentment , satisfaction
ca: and
kāmeṣu (loc. pl.): m. desire, pleasure
akutūhalānām (gen. pl. m.): mfn. not taking interest in (loc.), Bcar.
kutūhala: n. (fr. kutas and hala , " calling out " ?) , curiosity , interest in any extra-ordinary matter ; eagerness, impetuosity

kāmān (acc. pl.): m. desire, pleasure
vihātum = inf. to leave behind , relinquish , quit , abandon ; to get rid of or free from (acc.)
kṣamam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. fit , appropriate , becoming , suitable , proper for (gen. dat. , loc. inf.)
ātmavadbhiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. having a soul ; self-possessed , composed , prudent

種種苦求利 悉爲貪所使
若無貪欲者 勤苦則不生
慧者見苦過 滅除於貪欲

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