Friday, July 4, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.43: Rightful Condemnation of Sense-Pleasures? Or Unenlightened View?

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Māyā)
dvandvāni sarvasya yataḥ prasaktāny-alābha-lābha-prabhtīni loke |
ato 'pi naikānta-sukho 'sti kaś-cin-naikānta-duḥkhaḥ puruṣaḥ pṛthivyām || 11.43

Since pairs of opposites -- gain and loss, and the like -- 

Are attached to everything in the world,

For that reason, again, nobody exclusively has pleasure,

Nor does any man on the earth exclusively have pain.

In the wider scheme of the present Canto, is the bodhisattva rightly condemning sense pleasures as a distraction from what is truly important? Or is he expressing a view born of the ignorance by which the ignorance which cannot blame itself sees the root of suffering as residing on the outside?

I don't know for sure. Perhaps there is something to learn from either reading, though the latter somewhat subverts the former. 

The key to the latter reading, if there is any merit in it, might be ato' pi (for that reason also) at the beginning of the 3rd pāda, which mirrors ato' pi at the beginning of the 2nd pāda of BC11.41. It could be that Aśvaghoṣa is asking us to check the bodhisattva's reasoning.

The bodhisattva seems to be saying that because all things out there in the conditioned world are dual and relative (not absolute), so is human experience of happiness and unhappiness, pleasure and pain, also dual and relative (not absolute).

Is that reasoning true?

Are sukham and duḥkham, happiness and suffering, ease and hardship, pleasure and pain, invariably functions of things in the world? Or do they have more to do with the mind of the human agent? It might come down to a semantic problem of the meaning of sukham and duḥkham.

The wooden table in front of me now as I write: is it dual and relative or is it absolute? I don't really know and don't really care. It is a philosophical problem. What has been occupying my mind more of late is pratītya-samutpāda as a practical problem, a problem of undoing and non-doing,  a problem of springing up by going back -- in which translation of pratītya-samutpāda going back might be synonymous with undoing. 

saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ |
avidvān kārakas tasmān na vidvāṁs tattva-darśanāt ||MMK26.10||

The doings which are the root of saṁsāra

Thus does the ignorant one do.

The ignorant one therefore is the doer;

The wise one is not, because of the act of realizing the truth.

Like the full stop that cannot put an end to itself, ignorance cannot inhibit ignorance. So one of the things that the ignorant doer does do (saṁskaroti) is to put the blame on dharmas outside of himself – on dharmas like desires or pleasures (kāmeṣu) and sense objects (viṣayeṣu).

Contrast Nanda passing through the four stages of sitting-meditation in SN Canto 17, seeing faults at progressively subtler levels in his own practice.

Or contrast what the Buddha tells Nanda in SN Canto 13:

dṛṣṭvaikaṃ rūpam-anyo hi rajyate 'nyaḥ praduṣyati /
On seeing one and the same form this man is enamoured,
that man is disgusted;
kaś-cid bhavati madhya-sthas-tatraivānyo ghṛṇāyate // SN13.52
Somebody else remains in the middle;
while yet another feels thereto a human warmth.

ato na viṣayo hetur-bandhāya na vimuktaye /
Thus, an object is not the cause of bondage or of liberation;
parikalpa-viśeṣeṇa saṃgo bhavati vā na vā // SN13.53
It is due to peculiar fixed conceptions that attachment arises or does not.

A further reflection, having slept on today's verse (though not very well at all) and sat, is that as a rugby player and a student of accountancy, I had a mind established early on in the arithmetic of winning and losing, profit and loss. Then again in Japan I met a teacher who saw everything in the world as having something equivalent to a human autonomic nervous system divided into two parts; thus, even a table, my teacher would say, is (1) the concept and design of a table, and at the same time is (2) wood and metal.

But being in Alexander work for the past 20 years, and at the same time being a father, has caused me I hope to think more developmentally, more organically. In particular I remember a conversation with Marjory Barlow in which I kind of complained that I felt like I was fighting a losing battle in terms of spreading the gospel of non-doing among my target audience of stiff-necked Zen devotees. Sort of as if I was captaining a rugby team that was 15 – 0 down at half time. Marjory reminded me that nothing in Alexander's work can be hurried, since it has to do with growth.

So when Nāgārjuna said that the cessation of ignorance rested on jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvana, the development of just this knowing, I think he had in mind organic growth, more than he had in mind intellectual or philosophical knowledge having to do with pairs of opposites. Nāgārjuna might rather have had in mind non-doing practice and direct experience in which pairs of opposites drop off.

Don't think good, bad,
Don't care right, wrong...

So instructed Zen Master Dogen, and the merits to health and sanity of non-judgemental “mindfulness,” it seems, are becoming more and more widely appreciated, by people sitting on chairs.

Still, there might be something to be said for the old way of shaving one's head, just sitting in nature with legs crossed, like a lotus growing in a great big pond, forgetting everything, and dropping off by that method the original pair of opposites which is body and mind.

dvandvāni (nom. pl.): n. (the repeated nom. of dva) pair , couple , male and female ; a pair of opposites (e.g. heat and cold , joy and sorrow &c )
sarvasya (gen. sg.): all
yataḥ: ind. whence, since

prasaktāni (nom. pl. n.): mfn. attached , cleaving or adhering or devoted to
alābha-lābha-prabhṛtīni (nom. pl. n.): loss, gain, et cetera
alābha: m. non-acquirement; loss
labha: m. acquisition , gain
prabhṛti: f. beginning , commencement (ifc. = " commencing with " or " et caetera ")
loke (loc. sg. m.): in the world

ataḥ (correlative of yataḥ): ind. hence, for that reason
api: too, also
na... kaś-cid: nobody
ekānta-sukhaḥ (nom. sg. m): exclusively happy
ekānta: m. the only end or aim , exclusiveness , absoluteness , necessity
ekānta-karuṇa: mfn. wholly and solely compassionate , wholly charitable
asti: there is

na: not
ekānta-duḥkhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. absolutely unhappy, Bcar. xi, 43.
puruṣaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a man, a person
pṛthivyām (loc. sg. f.): on the earth

乃至世八法 悉非決定相

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