Saturday, June 28, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.37: Towards Clearing of Pollutants, by Diving into Water (& Biting into Food Etc.)

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
iṣṭaṁ hi tarṣa-praśamāya toyaṁ kṣun-nāśa-hetor-aśanaṁ tathaiva |
vātātapāmbv-āvaraṇāya veśma kaupīna-śītāvaraṇāya vāsaḥ || 11.37

For water is good for the purpose of allaying thirst;

Food, in a very similar way, for staving off hunger;

A dwelling for protection against wind, the heat of the sun, and rain;

Clothing for covering the private parts and protecting against cold.

Thinking exactly about what the bodhisattva is saying both on the surface and below the surface, though I may have been on the right lines yesterday I probably need to go back and tweak the translation. For example:

As for the view “But desires are enjoyments!”,

No desire is to be reckoned as “to be enjoyed.”

Clothes and other such material goods in the world,

Are rather to be seen in terms of counteracting pain.

The point to be clear about, in regard to yesterday's verse, is that the bodhisattva was ostensibly thinking light of enjoyment of material goods like clothes, since such enjoyment addresses only the symptoms of pain and suffering; but below the surface the bodhisattva might be suggesting something much more fundamental about the attitude towards material objects of a practitioner whose fundamental task is to cut off pain and suffering at the root.

In today's verse, then, the bodhisattva ostensibly is continuing to think light of what he has been calling kameṣu and viṣayeṣu, desires, pleasures, objects of the senses, objects of sensual enjoyment. These objects include material necessities like water, food, shelter and clothing which are iṣṭam, sought, desired, approved as good – in the same way that good medicine is sought, and approved as good, not because it is enjoyable to take but because it has utilitarian merit.

So on the surface the bodhisattva seems to be saying that water is desired, or approved as good (iṣṭam) in order to allay thirst – i.e. that water has the practical merit of allaying thirst, but no significance beyond that in terms of what really matters. What really matters, the bodhisattva has been suggesting, is nurturing the desire for freedom and rendering oneself immune to the pernicious influence of miscellaneous other desires.

But below the surface how buddhas and bodhisattvas feel about water has to run much deeper than dry appreciation of its utilitarian merit. So, on reflection, we are forced to think again about what the bodhisattva is really saying.

To what extent it is a native sensibility and to what extent a lasting influence of Dogen's teaching, I don't know, but in Japan water is revered as much more than a material substance that is good for allaying thirst. One manifestation of that reverence is the widespread use of the honorific o- before mizu, so that an ordinary Japanese woman in the kitchen is liable to talk not of mizu (water) but o-mizu (the honourable water). This is as per the teaching of Zen Master Dogen in Shobogenzo chap. 82, JI-KUIN-MON, Sentences to Be Shown in the Kitchen Hall.

One thinks again of the famous story of the half-dipper bridge at Eihei-ji temple, where Dogen, so the story goes, would take a dipper of water from the stream and pour half of the water back into the stream, out of some kind of unfathomable reverence for the stream and the water.

At the same time, I venture to suggest, buddhas and bodhisattvas are not beyond appreciating water from the point of view of atoms and molecules whizzing about, which is how my son, when studying for a Chemistry A level, deepened my own appreciation of water. While we tend to take water for granted (and as I write, in fact, it is absolutely pissing it down with rain), water turns out to have some unique and amazing chemical properties.

Do the Zen patriarchs have water in their dojos, their places of practice?, Dogen asks at the end of Shobogenzo chap. 14, SANSUIGYO, The Sutra of Mountains and Water. Dogen leaves the question unanswered. But the right answer, of course, is: You bet they do. And not because they appreciate water only for its utilitarian merit.

Again, what does the Buddha tell Rāhula about water? Does the Buddha tell his son that water is good only for allaying thirst? No, he does not. What he says about water is this:

Āposamaṁ Rāhula bhāvanaṁ bhāvehi
Develop developing, Rāhula, like water.

Just as, Rāhula, they wash away what is clean in the water, and they wash away what is unclean, and they wash away what has become dung, and they wash away what has become urine, and they wash away what has become spit, and they wash away what has become pus, and they wash away what has become blood, but the water is not distressed, or ashamed, or disgusted by it...

evam-eva kho tvaṁ Rāhula āposamaṁ bhāvanaṁ bhāvehi,
just so do you, Rāhula, develop the developing that is the evenness of water.

In these terms, water as the Buddha directs Rāhula's attention to it, is not an object of enjoyment, is not a thing “to be enjoyed” (bhogya); but water is very much a thing for a practitioner to use, and to appreciate -- for its evenness and for its other myraid virtues -- in the work of counteracting pain and suffering at the deepest levels of origination of pain and suffering 

The situation with food can be understood to be exactly the same (tathaiva) or to be very similar (tathaiva) as with water. What does the Buddha tell Nanda, in relation to eating and enjoyment of food, at the beginning of SN Canto 14?

cikitsārthaṃ yathā dhatte vraṇasyālepanaṃ vraṇī /
Just as one who is wounded, for the purpose of healing,
puts ointment on a wound,
kṣud-vighātārtham-āhāras-tadvat sevyo mumukṣuṇā // 14.11 //
So does one who wills freedom, for the purpose of staving off hunger, eat food.

bhārasyodvahanārthaṃ ca rathākṣo 'bhyajyate yathā /
Just as, in order to ready it for bearing a burden, 
one greases a wagon's axle,
bhojanaṃ prāṇa-yātrārthaṃ tadvad vidvān-niṣevate // 14.12 //
So, in order to journey through life, 
does the wise man utilize food.

samatikramaṇārthaṃ ca kāntārasya yathādhvagau /
And just as two travellers in order to cross a wasteland
putra-māṃsāni khādetāṃ dampatī bhṛśa-duḥkhitau // 14.13 //
Might feed upon the flesh of a child,
though grievously pained to do so, as its mother and father,

evam-abhyavahartavyaṃ bhojanaṃ pratisaṃkhyayā /
So food should be eaten, consciously,
na bhūṣārthaṃ na vapuṣe na madāya na dṛptaye // 14.14 //
Neither for display, nor for appearance;
neither to stimulate intemperance, nor to feed extravagance.

dhāraṇārthaṃ śarīrasya bhojanaṃ hi vidhīyate /
Food is provided for the upkeep of the body
upastambhaḥ pipatiṣor-durbalasyeva veśmanaḥ // 14.15 //
As if to prop, before it falls, a dilapidated house.

plavaṃ yatnād yathā kaś-cid badhnīyād dhārayed-api /
Just as somebody might take pains to build and then carry a raft,
na tat-snehena yāvat-tu mahaughasyottitīrṣayā // 14.16 //
Not because he is so fond of it but because he means to cross a great flood,

tathopakaraṇaiḥ kāyaṃ dhārayanti parīkṣakāḥ /
So too, by various means, do men of insight sustain the body,
na tat-snehena yāvat-tu duḥkhaughasya titīrṣayā // 14.17 //
Not because they are so fond of it
but because they mean to cross a flood of suffering.

śocatā pīḍyamānena dīyate śatrave yathā /
Just as a king under siege yields, in sorrow, to a rival king,
na bhaktyā nāpi tarṣeṇa kevalaṃ prāṇa-guptaye // 14.18 //
Not out of devotion, nor through thirsting, but solely to safeguard life,

yogācāras-tathāhāraṃ śarīrāya prayacchati /
So the devotee of practice tenders food to his body
kevalaṃ kṣud-vighātārthaṃ na rāgeṇa na bhaktaye // 14.19 //
Solely to stave off hunger, neither with passion nor as devotion.

The 2nd pada of today's verse seems to say that just as it is with water, exactly so (tathaiva) is it with food.

But is it? Is it exactly the same? Or is it very similar? I think it is very similar, with one important difference, which is that water in general cannot become the object of human greed. If drinking water causes a thirsty drinker to feel even more thirsty, that is a sign of dehydration, and so the drinker should carry on and drink more water. If drinking wine, beer or cider and eating delicious food causes the eater to want to eat and drink more and more, however, that is liable to be a case of greed, with potentially pernicious consequences to health and to practice. So I read tathaiva in the 2nd pāda as meaning “very similarly.”

Below the surface, philosophically thinking (in terms of a four-phased dialectic), it may thus be possible to read the 1st pāda as tending to suggest positive affirmation of value beyond the purely utilitarian, and the 2nd pāda as tending to suggest stoic negation of the positive.

In that case, how should we see a dwelling? Can a case be made for seeing a dwelling as residing in the middle way between water and food? Even in the Buddha's day, for example, there were vihāras, which might have been appreciated as more than utilitarian sheds. And even before there were vihāras, there were dwellings – old shrines and the like – that the Buddha describes in the Pali suttas as ramaṇīya, “delightful.”

Finally, at the fourth phase, we have the kaṣāya, the Buddha's robe, whose unfathomable merits, needless to say, go far beyond covering the private parts and protecting against cold.

As if this comment were not already long enough, EHJ adds in passing a brief footnote encouraging us to compare today's verse with Majjhima I, 10.

The section EHJ refers to is titled Sabbāsavasutta, translated in this version as “All the Taints.” In Sanskrit it would be sarvāsrava-sūtra, or “The Sutra of All the Pollutants” or “The Sutra of All the Polluting Influences.”

The specific passage is titled paṭisevanāpahātabbaāsava, “Taints to be Abandoned by Using” or “Polluting Influences to be Abandoned through the Use [of Material Things]":

Katame ca, bhikkhave, āsavā paṭisevanā pahātabbā? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu paṭisaṅkhā yoniso cīvaraṃ paṭisevati: ‘yāvadeva sītassa paṭighātāya, uṇhassa paṭighātāya, ḍaṃ­samaka­sa­vātāta­pa­sarīsa­pa­samphas­sā­naṃ paṭighātāya, yāvadeva hiri­kopī­nap­paṭic­chāda­nat­thaṃ’.What taints, bhikkhus, should be abandoned by using? Here a bhikkhu, reflecting wisely, uses the robe only for protection from cold, for protection from heat, for protection from contact with gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, the sun, and creeping things, and only for the purpose of concealing the private parts.
Paṭisaṅkhā yoniso piṇḍapātaṃ paṭisevati: ‘neva davāya, na madāya, na maṇḍanāya, na vibhūsanāya, yāvadeva imassa kāyassa ṭhitiyā yāpanāya, vihiṃ­sū­para­tiyā, brahma­cari­yā­nuggahāya, iti purāṇañca vedanaṃ paṭihaṅkhāmi navañca vedanaṃ na uppādessāmi, yātrā ca me bhavissati anavajjatā ca phāsuvihāro ca’.“Reflecting wisely, he uses almsfood neither for amusement nor for intoxication nor for the sake of physical beauty and attractiveness, but only for the endurance and continuance of this body, for ending discomfort, and for assisting the holy life, considering: ‘Thus I shall terminate old feelings without arousing new feelings and I shall be healthy and blameless and shall live in comfort.’
Paṭisaṅkhā yoniso senāsanaṃ paṭisevati: ‘yāvadeva sītassa paṭighātāya, uṇhassa paṭighātāya, ḍaṃ­samaka­sa­vātāta­pa­sarīsa­pa­samphas­sā­naṃ paṭighātāya, yāvadeva utuparis­saya­vinoda­na­paṭi­sallā­nā­rāmat­thaṃ’.“Reflecting wisely, he uses the resting place only for protection from cold, for protection from heat, for protection from contact with gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, the sun, and creeping things, and only for the purpose of warding off the perils of climate and for enjoying retreat.
Paṭisaṅkhā yoniso gilā­nappac­caya­bhesaj­ja­parik­khā­raṃ paṭisevati: ‘yāvadeva uppannānaṃ veyyā­bādhi­kā­naṃ vedanānaṃ paṭighātāya, abyā­bajjha­parama­tāya’.“Reflecting wisely, he uses the medicinal requisites only for protection from arisen afflicting feelings and for the benefit of good health.
Yañhissa, bhikkhave, appaṭisevato uppajjeyyuṃ āsavā ­vighā­ta­pari­ḷāhā, paṭisevato evaṃsa te āsavā ­vighā­ta­pari­ḷāhā na honti. Ime vuccanti, bhikkhave, āsavā paṭisevanā pahātabbā.“While taints, vexation, and fever might arise in one who does not use the requisites thus, there are no taints, vexation, or fever in one who uses them thus. These are called the taints that should be abandoned by using.”

At the conclusion of the Sutta, having described taints/pollutants to be abandoned by various means, including paṭisevanā (by using [material things]) and bhāvanā (by developing), the Buddha states:
yaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave: ‘bhikkhu sabbā­sava­saṃ­vara­saṃ­vuto viharati, acchecchi taṇhaṃ, vivattayi saṃyojanaṃ, sammā mānābhisamayā antamakāsi dukkhassā’”ti.[when the taints that should be abandoned... by using... by developing, etc. have been abandoned...... by using... by developing, etc.] then he is called a bhikkhu who dwells restrained with the restraint of all the taints. He has severed craving, flung off the fetters, and with the complete penetration of conceit he has made an end of suffering.”

What was it again that the Buddha told Nanda at the beginning of SN Canto 16 in the direction of destroying the polluting influences (āsrava-saṃkṣayāya)?

evaṃ mano-dhāraṇayā krameṇa vyapohya kiṁ-cit samupohya kiṁ-cit /
Thus, by methodically taking possession of the mind,
getting rid of something and gathering something together,
dhyānāni catvāry-adhigamya yogī prāpnoty-abhijñā niyamena pañca // SN16.1
The practitioner makes the four dhyānas his own,
and duly acquires the five powers of knowing...

ataḥ paraṃ tattva-parikṣaṇena mano dadhāty-āsrava-saṃkṣayāya /
From then on, through investigation of what is,
he applies his mind to destroying the polluting influences,
tato hi duḥkha-prabhṛtīni samyak catvāri satyāni padāny-avaiti // SN16.3
For on this basis he fully understands suffering and the rest,
the four true standpoints.

bādhātmakaṃ duḥkham-idaṃ prasaktaṃ duḥkhasya hetuḥ prabhavātmako 'yam /
This is suffering, which is constant and akin to trouble;
this is the cause of suffering, akin to starting it;
duḥkha-kṣayo niḥsaraṇātmako 'yaṃ trāṇātmako 'yaṃ praśamāya mārgaḥ // SN16.4 
This is cessation of suffering, akin to walking away.
And this, akin to a refuge, is a peaceable path.

ity-ārya-satyāny-avabudhya buddhyā catvāri samyak pratividhya caiva /
Understanding these noble truths, by a process of reasoning,
while getting to know the four as one,
sarvāsravān bhāvanayābhibhūya na jāyate śāntim-avāpya bhūyaḥ // SN16.5
He prevails over all pollutants, by the means of mental development,
and, on finding peace, is no longer subject to becoming.

In conclusion, then, today's verse, when we dive into it and bite into it and take refuge in it and envelop ourselves in it completely, might be a kind of dojo in which to understand the underlying dialectic of the four noble truths, and in which to get to know those four as one.

At the same time, insofar as it points us back to what the Buddha taught about using material things in such a way as to abandon the polluting influences (asravān), today's verse might be a kind of pointer in the direction of prevailing over those polluting influences.

The underlying suggestion might be that prevailing over those polluting influences -- in other words, eliminating suffering at root – is not accomplished by seeing material necessities as “things to be enjoyed” or “objects of enjoyment”; but such victory IS to be accomplished by using those material necessities in such a way that demonstrates true appreciation of them.

So apologies again for another unduly long post, but at present I am by the forest in France with plenty of time (when I am not chasing grass snakes out of the house) to ponder; and, as always, the more one digs into every verse that Aśvaghoṣa wrote, the more one realizes there is to dig for below the surface of each verse, and the more one realizes there is to research in the background to each verse.

no whiff of [unreal fancies] should be tolerated, as if they were snakes in the house (SN16.82)

In the background to much of what Aśvaghoṣa wrote, evidently, was material that is much more familiar to students of the Pali Suttas than it is to devotees of Chinese and Japanese Zen. I am thinking in particular about prevailing over pollutants by means of developing/meditation.

Though it was apparently very rare for Buddhist monks in Japan to discuss teachings regarded as belonging to the Hīnayāna, the small vehicle, Zen Master Dogen wrote a chapter of Shobogenzo, chap. 73, titled SANJUSHICHI-BON-BODAI-BUNPO, “The 37 Elements of Bodhi.” In Pali that would be Sattatiṁsā Bodhipakkhiyadhammā, 37 Things on the Side of Awakening.

Dogen wrote that those 37 were the very eyes and nostrils of Gautama Buddha. At the same time, he wrote in conclusion that we should forget all about them, cutting everything out by sitting. 

In order truly to appreciate where Aśvaghoṣa was coming from, and what direction Aśvaghoṣa was veering in, I venture to submit, we are called upon, even in a seemingly innocuous-looking verse like today's verse, to appreciate, for a start, both these aspects of the Zen patriarchs' teaching. The two mutually opposing aspects are like something very devoted to the teaching of Gautama Buddha co-existing with something very ironic and subversive. Like believing in absolutely everything and believing in absolutely nothing.

Mining Aśvaghoṣa gold is, among other things, a kind of training in dealing with this difficult opposition. 

Master Kodo Sawaki, who my teacher regarded as his teacher, even though Master Kodo didn't regard my teacher as his student, apparently used to say, "A buddha can do this" (joining hands and bowing), and "A buddha can do this" (touching his lower eyelash with his index finger and pulling the skin down). 

iṣṭam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. sought, wished for, desired ; liked ; agreeable ; reverenced ; regarded as good , approved
hi: for
tarṣa-praśamāya (dat. sg.): for allaying of thirst
toyam (nom. sg.): n. water

kṣun-nāśa-hetoḥ (gen. sg.): for the removal of hunger
kṣudh: f. hunger
nāśa: m. the being lost , loss; ifc. destroying
aśanam (nom. sg.): n. eating, food
tathā: ind. likewise
eva: (emphatic)

vātātapāmbvāvaraṇāya (dat. sg.): for protection against wind, heat, and water
vāta: m. wind
ātapa: m. heat (especially of the sun) , sunshine
ambu: n. water
āvaraṇa: n. the act of covering
veśma (nom. sg.): n. a house , dwelling , mansion , abode , apartment

kaupīna-śītāvaraṇāya: for covering private parts and protecting against cold
kaupīna: n. the pudenda , privities ; a small piece of cloth worn over the privities by poor persons ; a wrong or improper act , sin = kaupa, n. well-water
kaupa: mfn. (fr. kūpa) , coming from a well or cistern; n. well-water
śīta: n. cold , coldness , cold weather
āvaraṇa: n. the act of covering
vāsaḥ (nom. sg.): n. clothes, clothing

食以療飢患 除渇故飮水 

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