Monday, June 16, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.26: Developing the Wherewithal to Relish a Challenge

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
ye rāja-caurodaka-pāvakebhyaḥ sādhāraṇatvāj-janayanti duḥkham |
teṣu praviddhāmiṣa-saṁnibheṣu kāmeṣu kasyātmavato ratiḥ syāt || 11.26

Because of what they have in common 
with kings, thieves, water and fire,

They engender suffering.

When desires are like lures hurled [by the hunter],

Who in possession of himself would delight in those desires?

The relevance of the reference to kings, thieves, water and fire, according to a note by EBC, is that any one of these can seize [pleasures/desires] from us.

The commonality referred to in the 2nd pāda, then, seems to be the tendency that desires share with kings, thieves, water and fire to steal away what we think of as belonging to us.

EHJ concurs with a note to the effect that Kings etc. hold the passions jointly with the owners [of the passions] in the sense that they may take away the objects of enjoyment at any time. This idea and the use of sādhāraṇa to express it are both common. The group consists sometimes of these four, sometimes of five, adding kinsfolk, sometimes of six, adding foes.

EHJ adds: The exact connection of praviddhāmiṣa [EHJ trans: “an exposed bait”] with the first line is not clear to me, presumably bait or prey which attracts robbers etc.

My reading of praviddhāmiṣa (lit. “hurled flesh” or “a hurled lure”) is that the agent doing the hurling is our old friend kāma-vyādha, Desire the hunter, who we met in SN13.36:

saṃkalpa-viṣa-digdhā hi pañcendriya-mayāḥ śarāḥ /
For smeared with the poison of conceptions,
are those arrows, produced from five senses,
cintā-puṅkhā rati-phalā viṣayākāśa-gocarāḥ // 13.35
Whose tails are anxiety, whose tips are thrills,
and whose range is the vast emptiness of objects.

manuṣya-hariṇān ghnanti kāma-vyādheritā hṛdi /
Fired off by Desire, the hunter, they strike human fawns in the heart;
vihanyante yadi na te tataḥ patanti taiḥ kṣatāḥ // 13.36
Unless they are warded away, men wounded by them duly fall.

niyamājira-saṃsthena dhairya-kārmuka-dhāriṇā /
Standing firm in the arena of restraint, and bearing the bow of resolve,
nipatanto nivāryās-te mahatā smṛti-varmaṇā // 13.37
The mighty man, as they rain down, must fend them away,
wearing the armour of sustained awareness.

Especially in view of Aśvaghoṣa's treatment of the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, I am firm in the conviction that Aśvaghoṣa wrote Buddhacarita first and then wrote Saundarananda as a kind of colourful illustration of the application of fundamental teachings, like pratītya-samutpāda, that he had already introduced.

Thus in SN Canto 3 Aśvaghoṣa mentions in passing the Buddha's statement of the twelve links, and in SN Canto 17 Aśvaghoṣa describes Nanda's ultimate cessation of and triumph over ignorance (aka darkness). But there is no specific mention in Saundarananda of the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda. Evidently that specification had already taken place in the second half of Buddhacarita, i.e. the part for which Aśvaghoṣa's original Sanskrit is missing.

Notwithstanding the objection, in that case, that today's verse could not have been referring specifically to SN13.36, which Aśvaghoṣa had yet to write, I think the metaphor fits of Desire the hunter throwing out lures and firing off arrows.

In terms of that metaphor, then, the alternative answer to the rhetorical question asked in today's verse might be like this:

When desires are like lures hurled [by Desire the hunter], the person who would delight in those desires might be the mighty man who is up for the challenge, being clad in the armour of sustained awareness (smṛti-varmaṇā).

Due to the operation of karma in three times (short-term, medium-term and very long term), even if I have gone to sleep thinking of light as opposed to darkness, I often wake up in the morning feeling weak and discouraged. In that state, my first constructive step is to remember the verse that I am going to publish later on. In so doing, I am confident, based on past experience, that every verse has something in it that will inspire me to want to get out of bed and sit.

Today's verse, when I resorted to it like this, seemed to me to contain the encouragement to get up and work at developing smṛti, sustained awareness, or, as it is generally called “mindfulness.”

If unwieldiness were no objection in seeking a translation of smṛti, I might be tempted to translate it as sustained, meditative, reflective, total awareness 

  • sustained, because smṛ originally means to remember: it includes a sense of something working over time.
  • meditative, because smṛti as the Buddha describes it is an adornment of the 4th stage of sitting-meditation (dhyāna); and it is something to be developed through meditation (bhāvana).
  • reflective, as opposed to careful, and as opposed to intellectual; and also because smṛti is described as having a protective function, like armour that reflects or deflects arrows.
  • total, as opposed to partial, and as opposed to intellectual; and because it is a function of the whole body and mind, including (as my teacher always took pains to emphasize) the function of the autonomic nervous system.
  • awareness, or attention, or attentiveness, as opposed to mindfulness, because “mindfulness” originally carried with it the spiritual whiff of Buddhism, though nowadays it seems to be taking on more the clinical pong (from bleach used as disinfectant?) of MBSR “mindfulness based stress reduction.”

My teacher, Gudo Nishijima, was skeptical about so-called “mindfulness" meditation. The way he saw it, the primary point of Zazen was to keep the spine straight vertically, tucking the chin in slightly. When one devoted oneself to this action, thoughts and feelings subsided and one entered samādhi, the state like the sea, which my teacher identified with balance of the autonomic nervous system. The Chinese character used to represent smṛti (; Jap: NEN), my teacher understood simply to mean “the mind when the autonomic nervous system is balanced.”

Where this understanding of smṛti seems to me to fall down is in failing to convey the developmental aspect that the Buddha's teaching, as recorded in Pali and Sanskrit, so clearly conveys, especially by the word bhāvana.

When we think about what we, as followers of the Buddha, are here to develop, as the antidote to the ignorance which lies at the root of all suffering, then wisdom (prajñā), and especially insight into the real meaning of the four noble truths, is the obvious primary antidote to ignorance.

Prajñā (wisdom, knowing) is the first of three divisions of the noble eightfold path, the other two divisions being śīla (integrity, good conduct, discipline) and samādhi (balance, stillness, balanced stillness).

I am not sure whether śīla per se is something to be developed. It might rather be something to be practised or maintained. And samādhi per se, as a state like the sea, might be something to be entered rather than developed. But within samādhi as a division of the eightfold path are included both samādhi per se and smṛti. And smṛti, as the Buddha taught it, is evidently something to be developed.

The evidence for this pervades the website, but perhaps the best evidence to cite would be the final section of the Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasuttaṁ, whose title Satipaṭṭhānabhāvanānisaṁso is translated by Ānandajoti Bhikkhu as “The Advantages of Developing the Ways of Attending to Mindfulness.”

This section of the Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasuttaṁ emphasizes the benefits of developing the ways of attending to sati / smṛti (sustained meditative reflective total awareness?) over a definite period of time – say seven years, or six years, or five years, or four years, or three years, or two years, or one year, or seven months, or six months, or five months, or four months, or three months, or two months, or one month, or half a month, or seven days.

True Awareness

Is Manifest

Dullness and Distraction

How Can They Arrive? 

Remember: when true reflective awareness is manifest, 
how can dullness and distraction intervene?

When I look at these Chinese characters, 念, from Fukan-zazengi-shinpitsu-bon, I recognize that these two characters originally represent the Sanskrit samyak-smṛti, or true mindfulness, and yet at the same time an effort might be necessary to reconnect  samyak-smṛti and 

念 is composed of two radicals (now) and  (mind). 

ye (nom. pl. m.): which
rāja-caurodaka-pāvakebhyaḥ (abl./dat. pl. m.): kings, thieves, water, and fire
rāja: m. a king
caura: m. a thief, robber
udaka: n. water
pāvaka: fire or the god of fire

sādhāraṇatvād (abl. sg.): n. universality ; temperateness
sādhāraṇa: mfn. " having or resting on the same support or basis " , belonging or applicable to many or all , general , common to all , universal , common to (gen. dat. instr. with and without saha , or comp.); like , equal or similar to (instr. or comp.); behaving alike
janayanti = 3rd pers. pl. jan: to generate , beget, cause
duḥkham (acc. sg.): n. suffering, sorrow, misery

teṣu (loc. pl. m.): those
praviddhāmiṣa-saṁnibheṣu (loc. pl. m.): like flesh hurled out/down, like lures
praviddha: mfn. hurled , cast , thrown into
pra- √vyadh: to hurl , cast , throw away or down
āmiṣa: n. flesh, meat ; an object of enjoyment , a pleasing or beautiful object &c
saṁnibha: mfn. like , similar , resembling (ifc. ; often pleonastically with names of colours)

kāmeṣu (loc. pl.): m. pleasures, desires
kasya (gen. sg.): who?
ātmavataḥ (gen. sg. m.): being self-possessed
ratiḥ (nom. sg.): f. pleasure , enjoyment , delight in , fondness
syāt = 3rd pers. sg. optative as: to be

王賊水火分 惡子等共財
亦如臭叚肉 一聚群鳥爭

貪財亦如是 智者所不欣 
有財所集處 多起於怨憎

1 comment:

Mike Cross said...

Some of the views I expressed in working out this comment, I happened to notice, might tend to be falsified by the following:

Tatra pi sudaṁ Bhagavā Vesāliyaṁ viharanto Ambapālivane,
There also the Gracious One, while living in Vesālī in Ambapālī's Wood,

etad-eva bahulaṁ bhikkhūnaṁ Dhammiṁ kathaṁ karoti:
spoke frequently to the monks about the Teaching, (saying):

“Iti sīlaṁ, iti samādhi, iti paññā,
“Such is virtue, such is concentration, such is wisdom,

sīlaparibhāvito samādhi mahapphalo hoti mahānisaṁso,
when virtue is well-developed it yields great fruit and brings great advantages in regard to concentration,

samādhiparibhāvitā paññā mahapphalā hoti mahānisaṁsā,
when concentration is well-developed it yields great fruit and brings great advantages in regard to wisdom,

paññāparibhāvitaṁ cittaṁ sammad-eva āsavehi vimuccati,
when wisdom is well-developed the mind is completely liberated from the pollutants,

seyyathīdaṁ: kāmāsavā bhavāsavā avijjāsavā.” ti
that is to say: the pollutant of sensuality, the pollutant of (craving for) continued existence, the pollutant of ignorance.”