Sunday, June 29, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.38: Towards Washing Pollutants Away

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Sālā)
nidrā-vighātāya tathaiva śayyā yānaṁ tathādhva-śrama-nāśanāya |
tathāsanaṁ sthāna-vinodanāya snānaṁ mjārogya-balāśrayāya || 11.38

A place to lie down [or the act of lying down],
likewise, for striking a blow against sleep;

A vehicle [or the act of going],
again, for taking the strain out of a journey;

A seat [or the act of sitting],
again, for revelling in the act of abiding;

And a bath [or the act of bathing],
as a means for cleansing, and for health and strength.

The hard work on today's verse has, I hope, was mainly done yesterday.

That being so, in the 1st pāda śayyā ostensibly means a bed, a place to crash out and snore; a place in EBC's words “for removing drowsiness” (EHJ: “for riddance of drowsiness”; PO: “to expel drowsiness”). But if, taking the hint from yesterday's verse, we understand that the bodhisattva is pointing to the cessation of suffering through destruction of all polluting influences, then śayyā, as a place to lie down, may better be understood as a place like the couch in Marjory Barlow's teaching room. That place was not a site for lying down and having a kip in order to remove drowsiness on a temporary basis; it was more akin to a battleground in the war against sleep, i.e. in the war against unconsciousness, or the war against ignorance.

Then in the 2nd pāda, again, a yāna ostensibly means a vehicle with two or four wheels, a cart or a wagon. But what Aśvaghoṣa might have in mind below the surface is the vehicle called in the Lotus Sutra 一仏乗, the one Buddha-vehicle. Thus:
Śariputra. The Tathāgata only by means of the one Buddha-vehicle preaches the Dharma for living beings. There is no other vehicle, neither a second nor a third. (LS1.90, Expedient Means).

In the 2nd, 3rd and 4th pādas, yāna and āsana and snāna are -na neuter action nouns, and so their original meaning is “the act of going,” “the act of sitting” and “the act of bathing.” For that matter, śayyā in the 1st pāda can mean “the act of lying down.” In today's verse, then, following on from the allusion in yesterday's verse to the use of the material requisites as a means of ridding oneself of polluting influences, the sense is to the fore of using not only material requisites but also actions as a means of ridding oneself of those polluting influences, or taints (āsrava).

The key to seeing these double-meanings in the -na action nouns, for this reader anyway, is āsana in the 3rd pāda. Aśvaghoṣa often uses āsana ostensibly to mean seat but below the surface to suggest sitting itself, as in the phrase used in the strap line to this blog, kāñcanam āsanam (golden sitting; see BC5.44).

In today's verse, then, the ostensible meaning of the 3rd pāda is something like “a seat for alleviating the pain of standing” (EBC); “thus too a seat for relief from standing” (EHJ); “a seat too as a respite from standing” (PO). But vinodana literally means diversion or play, and the real or hidden meaning, as I read it, is to point to sitting-meditation as Dogen described it, as 安楽法門 (ANRAKU [no] HOMON), a Dharma-gate which is easy, comfortable, peaceful, happy – in short, totally free from the taints of asceticism, religiosity, and trying to be right. (Just because I describe it like this doesn't mean that I always remember to practise and experience it like this.)

The question that then arises is why āsana, the act of sitting, is alluded to in the 3rd pāda rather than the 4th pāda – as might be expected in view of a Zen patriarch's reverence of sitting as the ultimate.

When I asked myself that question and -- after a sandwich and a nap – went to sit outside on a very quiet afternoon by the forest, the answer was too obvious for words. As obvious as the lavender-coloured lavender flowers whose lavender colour had been deepened by the afternoon showers. The 4th pāda is pointing in the right direction, which is towards freedom from the polluting influences. Polluting influences means, for example, wanting this and that, and aspiring to become this or that, and end-gaining in one's ignorance for this and that. And what better symbol to use, as a means for freeing the body-and-mind from such polluting influences, than a bath?

Shobogenzo chap. 7 is titled 洗浄, SENJO. And 洗浄 means washing, cleansing, bathing -- not only figuratively, but practically too, using water, soap, etc. The chapter begins like this: 
There is practice-and-experience that Buddhist patriarchs have guarded and maintained: it is called not being tainted.

What this not being tainted means can be understood on many levels, including the level of personal hygeine. But one of the reasons Master Kodo Sawaki was revered so highly in Japan as maybe the greatest Zen teacher of the 20th century is that he was, so they say, despite being a Zen monk, conspicuously free of any spiritual agenda. Hence the fondness of Taisen Deshimaru and his Zen followers in France for the phrase from the Heart Sutra 無所得 (Jap: MUSHOTOKU), having no agenda, having no sense of what's in it for me.

Again, however, it should be acknowledged, and confessed, that those who talk the talk do not always walk the walk.

Any way up, and in conclusion, the most important thing, with or without a personal or spiritual agenda, might be just to keep walking the walk, to keep on going (yāna) – while not neglecting other -na neuter action nouns like sitting (āsana) and bathing (snāna).

My final reflection today, having slept on the above and sat, is that I don't want to add much more in the way of a final reflection, since these comments have been from the beginning too wordy and long, and recently they are getting even worse. Except to add that each pāda in today's verse, as also in yesterday's verse, has as its main element a compound in the dative case. Moreover, the last three pādas in today's verse each ends with a word in the dative case. And the dative case conveys a sense of movement towards, of going in the right direction. So the grammar sort of reminds us, in Sanskrit if not so well in English, that there is such a thing as a right direction. And this truth helps me to get out of bed in the morning, helps me to stop worrying whether I have showed myself to be a bad guy with a personal agenda or a good guy without one... and get bloody on with it.

Causing ears vis-a-vis shoulders, and nose vis-a-vis navel, to be opposed, is vital.

When Dogen wrote this sentence he was not describing how to position the ears and shoulders out of some misguided notion of symmetry. He was, as I hear him, describing an antagonistic direction whereby the swathes of muscles between the left mastoid process and the right shoulder, and between the right mastoid process and left shoulder, are releasing, so that the back lengthens and widens, and mindfulness of breathing can really mean something.

nidrā-vighātāya (dat. sg.): for striking a blow against sleep
nidrā: f. sleep , slumber , sleepiness , sloth
vighāta: m. a stroke , blow with (comp.) ; driving back , warding off ; destruction ; removal
tathā: likewise
eva: (emphatic)
śayyā (nom. sg.): f. a bed, couch, sofa ; lying , reposing , sleeping ; resort, refuge

yānam (nom. sg.): n. going , moving , riding , marching &c; n. a vehicle of any kind , carriage , waggon , vessel , ship , litter , palanquin ; n. (with Buddhists) the vehicle or method of arriving at knowledge , the means of release from repeated births (there are either 3 systems , the śrāvaka-yāna , the pratyeka-buddha-y° or pratyeka-y° , and the mahā-y° ; or more generally only 2 , the mahā-yāna or " Great method " and the hina-y° or " Lesser method " ; sometimes there is only " One Vehicle " , the eka-yāna , or " one way to beatitude ")
tathā: likewise
adhva-śrama-nāśanāya (dat. sg.): for destroying the fatigue of a journey
adhva: m. a road ; a journey
śrama: fatigue , weariness , exhaustion ; exertion, toil
nāśana: n. destruction , removal

tathā: likewise
āsanam (nom. sg.): n. sitting ; a seat
sthāna-vinodanāya (dat. sg.): for diversion in abiding
sthāna: n. the act of standing ; staying, abiding ; continued existence , continuance in the same state (i.e. in a kind of neutral state unmarked by loss or gain) ; place of standing or staying , any place , spot , locality , abode ,
vinodana: n. diversion , play , amusement , pastime
vinoda: m. driving away , removal; diversion , sport , pastime , pleasure , playing or amusing one's self with (comp.)

snānam (nom. sg.): n. bathing, washing
mṛjārogya-balāśrayāya (dat. sg.): as an aid to cleanliness, health, and strength.
mṛjā: f. wiping , cleansing , washing , purification , ablution
arogya: mfn. healthy
bala: n. power, strength
aśraya: help , assistance , protection ; mfn. ifc. depending on , resting on , endowed or furnished with

行疲故求乘 立惓求床座

除垢故沐浴 皆爲息苦故

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