Wednesday, July 2, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.41: Reasons to Be Not Cheerful, Part 2

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Māyā)
kāmeṣv-anaikāntikatā ca yasmād-ato 'pi me teṣu na bhoga-saṁjñā |
ya eva bhāvā hi sukhaṁ diśanti ta eva duḥkhaṁ punar-āvahanti || 11.41

Again, since there is nothing absolute about desires,

For that reason also, I do not call those desires an enjoyment.

For the very states of being that confer pleasure,

Also bring, in their turn, pain.

In today's verse the bodhisattva introduces another, second reason why he does not call desires or sense pleasures (kāmāḥ) “enjoyments” or “objects of enjoyment” (bhogāḥ).

So, looking back, just to be clear, what was the first reason?

Ostensibly, the first reason was that desires or pleasures are like pain-killers or pain-relievers that bring only symptomatic relief from suffering, and as such they are nothing to relish for one who is engaged in cutting out suffering at its root.

But below the surface, I think the real reason the bodhisattva does not call desires enjoyments is that the bodhisattva is a buddha-to-be and not yet a buddha. As such, the bodhisattva sounds to me like he is somehow blocked from appreciating that desires might be called enjoyments; he has not yet realized the core principle of the Lotus Sutra, which is that a buddha alone, together with a buddha, is just able perfectly to realize that all dharmas are real form. 

In this core teaching, needless to say, all kinds of desires -- from gross sensual end-gaining to modest spiritual aspirations -- are included in all dharmas. 

Thus, in yesterday's verse, below the surface, ironically, quite unbeknowns to himself, the bodhisattva might have been describing nobody but a buddha:
For he who, when burning with a bilious fever, would consider a cooling action to be an enjoyment – He is the one who, while engaged in counteracting suffering, might call desires an enjoyment.

So in today's verse the bodhisattva introduces a second reason why he does not call desires an enjoyment, and that reason has to do with their non-absoluteness, their variability, the absence in them of anything absolute.

Clearly the bodhisattva is expressing a bodhisattva's will to the truth. He could hardly do anything else. But is he expressing the truth itself? Or is there, as usual, an ironic subtext?

We will see as his argument unfolds. As a starting point, in any event, today's verse causes us to reflect in what sense desires are relative, flimsy, changeable, unreliable and in what sense they are not.

A golfball might be expected to drop faster than a feather because a golfball is heavier and denser than a feather. But that reasoning turns out to be incorrect, as was proved (if I remember rightly) by dropping said items on the surface of the moon, where there was no air resistance. Here on earth the golfball drops faster, but the reason is not weight or density: the reason is air-resistance. So if we expect the golfball to drop faster because it is heavier, here on earth our expectation will be fulfilled, but our reasoning will have been dead wrong. 

In possibly an analogous way, one might expect a fleeting desire to be somehow more subject to the 2nd law of thermodynamics than, say, a diamond. I think the truth may be that, insofar as a desire is energy, a desire and a diamond are both exactly equally subject to the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which is to say that both are completely subject to it. This might be especially true if a person's desire is a diamond, or if a diamond is a person's desire.

I am not questioning the principle stated in the second half of today's verse. That principle is as stated in SN Canto 17 in connection with Nanda's progress through the stages of sitting-Zen:

tad-dhyānam-āgamya ca citta-maunaṃ lebhe parāṃ prītim-alabdha-pūrvām /
And on reaching that stage, in which the mind is silent,
he experienced an intense joy that he had never experienced before.
prītau tu tatrāpi sa doṣa-darśī yathā vitarkeṣv-abhavat-tathaiva // 17.48 
But here too he found a fault, in joy, just as he had in ideas.

prītiḥ parā vastuni yatra yasya viparyayāt-tasya hi tatra duḥkham /
For when a man finds intense joy in anything,
paradoxically, suffering for him is right there.
prītāv-ataḥ prekṣya sa tatra doṣān prīti-kṣaye yogam-upāruroha // 17.49
Hence, seeing the faults there in joy,
he kept going up, into practice that goes beyond joy.

prīter-virāgāt sukham-ārya-juṣṭaṃ kāyena vindann-atha saṃprajānan /
And so experiencing the ease enjoyed by the noble ones,
from non-attachment to joy, knowing it totally, with his body,
upekṣakaḥ sa smṛti-mān vyahārṣid dhyānaṃ tṛtīyaṃ pratilabhya dhīraḥ // 17.50 
He remained indifferent, fully aware, and,
having realised the third stage of meditation, steady.

yasmāt paraṃ tatra sukhaṃ sukhebhyas-tataḥ paraṃ nāsti sukha-pravṛttiḥ /
Since the ease here is beyond any ease,
and there is no progression of ease beyond it,
tasmād babhāṣe śubha-kṛtsna-bhūmiṁ parāpara-jñaḥ parameti maitryā // 17.51
Therefore, as a knower of higher and lower,
he realised it as a condition of resplendent wholeness which he deemed
-- in a friendly way – to be superlative.

dhyāne 'pi tatrātha dadarśa doṣaṃ mene paraṃ śāntam-aniñjam-eva /
Then, even in that stage of meditation, he found a fault:
he saw it as better to be quiet, not excited,
ābhogato 'pīñjayati sma tasya cittaṃ pravṛttaṃ sukham-ity-asram // 17.52 //
Whereas his mind was fluctuating tirelessly because of ease circulating.

yatreñjitaṃ spanditam-asti tatra yatrāsti ca spanditam-asti duḥkham /
In excitement there is interference,
and where there is interference there is suffering,
yasmād-atas-tat-sukham-iñjakatvāt praśānti-kāmā yatayas-tyajanti // 17.53 //
Which is why, insofar as ease is excitatory,
devotees who are desirous of quiet give up that ease.

atha prahāṇāt sukha-duḥkhayoś-ca mano-vikārasya ca pūrvam-eva /
Then, having already transcended ease and suffering,
and emotional reactivity,
dadhyāv-upekṣā-smṛtimad viśuddhaṃ dhyānaṃ tathāduḥkha-sukhaṃ caturtham // 17.54 
He realised the lucidity in which there is indifference and full awareness:
thus, beyond suffering and ease, is the fourth stage of meditation.

yasmāt-tu tasmin-na sukhaṃ na duḥkhaṃ jñānaṃ ca tatrāsti tad-artha-cāri /
Since in this there is neither ease nor suffering,
and the act of knowing abides here, being its own object,
tasmād-upekṣā-smṛti-pāriśuddhir-nirucyate dhyāna-vidhau caturthe // 17.55 //
Therefore utter lucidity through indifference and awareness
is specified in the protocol for the fourth stage of meditation.

What I am questioning is the bodhisattva's reasoning – i.e. his second justification for not calling desires an enjoyment. I am questioning whether his attitude to blame desires, as per the Canto title, is enlightened or not.

We will see as his argument unfolds.

kāmeṣu (loc. pl.): m. desires
anaikāntikatā: f. variableness, Bcar.
an-aikāntika: mfn. unsteady , variable , having many objects or purposes
an-aikānta: mfn. (fr. ekānta) , variable , unsteady ; (in logic) occasional , as a cause not invariably attended by the same effects
ekānta: m. a lonely or retired or secret place ; a single part , part , portion ; the only end or aim , exclusiveness , absoluteness , necessity ; devotion to one object , worship of one Being , monotheistic doctrine
ca: and, but
yasmāt: ind. since

ataḥ: ind. therefore, from this, for that reason
api: (emphatic)
me (gen. sg.): of/for me
teṣu (loc. pl. m.): towards those [desires]
na: not
bhoga-saṁjñā (nom. sg. f.): the name “enjoyment”

ye (nom. pl. m.): [those] which
eva: (emphatic)
bhāvāḥ (nom. pl.): m. being, state ; any state of mind or body ; that which is or exists , thing or substance , being or living creature (sarva-bhāvāḥ , all earthly objects) ;
hi: for
sukham (acc. sg.): n. pleasure, ease, comfort
diśanti = 3rd pers. pl. diś: to point out , show , exhibit ; to produce, bring forward ; to assign , grant , bestow

te (nom. pl. m.): those
eva: (emphatic)
duḥkham (acc. sg.): n. pain, trouble, discomfort
punar: ind. back again, in turn
āvahanti = 3rd pers. pl. ā- √ vah: to bring

貪求止苦患 愚夫謂自在
而彼資生具 亦非定止苦

又令苦法増 故非自在法

[Relation with Sanskrit tenuous] 

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