Saturday, July 5, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.44: When A and B Amount to the Same (And When Not)

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bālā)
dṣṭvā ca miśrāṁ sukha-duḥkatāṁ me rājyaṁ ca dāsyaṁ ca mataṁ samānam |
nityaṁ hasaty-eva hi naiva rājā na cāpi saṁtapyata eva dāsaḥ || 11.44

Again, seeing how interconnected are pleasure and pain,

I deem kingship and slavery to amount to the same;

For a king does not always smile,

Nor does a slave always hurt.

Today's verse, again, seems to operate on two levels, at one of which the bodhisattva is conscious and at the other of which he is maybe not yet conscious.

In the series of verses from BC11.22 the bodhisattva also seemed to be speaking at these two levels. But in that series at the unconscious level his rhetorical questions seemed to be expressions of the Buddha's truth. In the present series of verses, as I read it, at the unconscious level the bodhisattva may be expressing the fact that he is still a bodhisattva, and so not yet expressing the truth as a buddha.

Thus in today's verse, at the conscious level, the bodhisattva is continuing to respond appropriately to King Bimbisāra's advocacy of the pursuit of pleasure (kāma) as one of the triad of dharma, wealth, and pleasure. The appropriate response, at that level, may be to reject or to condemn the pursuit of pleasure as an unworthy aim of life. This might be the appropriate response for a bodhisattva to make, who has established the bodhi-mind, or the will to the truth.

If we take the bodhisattva's words at this level, likening kingship to slavery is reasonable, and sometimes it accords with the facts. The Japanese imperial household, when I lived in Japan in the 1980s, for example, were very much slaves to the system. They led tightly regimented lives full of quite meaningless ceremonial obligations which served nobody except Japanese so-called "civil servants."  All this was brilliantly documented in Karel von Wolferen's book The Enigma of Japanese Power.

At the unconscious level, in -isms such as asceticism, Puritanism and the like, pleasures tend to be condemned or blamed as if there were something inherently sinful about pleasure itself.

If we read the bodhisattva's words in this vein, there might be something unenlightened in his likening of A to B.

Dogen was fond of likening A to A and identifying B with B – in which comparisons A might be a stone lantern in the garden and B might be a branch of plum blossoms.

Again, whereas the Heart Sutra famously says that form is emptiness and emptiness is form, or the immaterial is the material and the immaterial is the material, Dogen added that emptiness is emptiness and form is form; the immaterial is the immaterial, the material is the material.

It is in exactly that vein that Nāgārjuna, as I read him, writes at the very beginning of MMK:
an-ekārtham-a-nānārtham-an-āgamam-a-nirgamam ||MMK1.1

Beyond closing down, beyond springing up,

Beyond discontinuity, beyond continuity,

Beyond identity, beyond distinctions,

Beyond coming near, beyond going away,

yaḥ pratītya-samutpādaṁ prapañcopaśamaṁ śivam |
deśayām-āsa saṁbuddhas-taṁ vande vadatāṁ varam ||MMK1.2

There is total Springing Up, by going back,

Which, as the wholesome cessation of spin,

He the Fully Awakened Sambuddha taught.

I praise him, the best of speakers.

I have been perusing a translation and commentary on MMK by Mark Sideris and Shoryu Katsura which is a useful point of reference. They translate prapañcopaśamaṁ śivam, however, as “the auspicious cessation of hypostatization.” 

Hypo- what? Whatever hypostatization means, I think that prapañcopaśamaṁ śivam “the wholesome cessation of spin” or “the wholesome cessation of sophistication” might be intended to express precisely the getting rid of sophisticated philosophical concepts like "hypostatization."

Prapañca is given in the dictionary as expansion; manifoldness; amplification, prolixity, diffuseness, copiousness (in style). So I think the essence of what Nāgārjuna is negating is spinning A as B, in the manner in which political spin-doctors, lawyers, PR men, and the like, are adept at doing.

Hence MMK ends:

sarva-dṛṣṭi-prahāṇāya yaḥ saddharmam-adeśayat |
anukampām upādāya taṁ namasyāmi gautamam || MMK27.30

In the direction of abandoning all views,

He taught the true dharma,

Taking pity.

I bow to him, Gautama.

Pratītya-samutpāda, in my book is not a doctrine (of “dependent origination”) that the Buddha formulated while sitting under the bodhi tree. Pratītya-samutpāda is rather a term that the Buddha used to describe his very practice and experience of sitting under the bodhi tree – a total Springing Up, realized by going back to the root of saṁsāric suffering, which is ignorance.

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 reality making itself known.

avidyāyāṁ niruddhāyāṁ saṁskārāṇām asaṁbhavaḥ |
avidyāyā nirodhas tu jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt ||MMK26.11

In the ceasing of ignorance,

There is the non-coming-into-being of formations.

The cessation of ignorance, however,

Is because of the act of bringing-into-being just this knowing.

tasya tasya nirodhena tat-tan nābhipravartate |
duḥkha-skandhaḥ kevalo 'yam evaṁ samyaṅ nirudhyate ||MMK26.12

By the destruction of each,

Each is discontinued.

This whole edifice of suffering

Is thus totally demolished.

So pratītya-samutpāda, I suggest again, is not a doctrine. It may better be understood as another word for the true dharma – embodied in the practice of just sitting – that the Buddha practised, experienced, and taught. Hence, again: 

sarva-dṛṣṭi-prahāṇāya yaḥ saddharmam-adeśayat |
anukampām upādāya taṁ namasyāmi gautamam || MMK27.30

In the direction of abandoning all views,

He taught the true dharma,

Taking pity.

I bow to him, Gautama.

In the terms of today's verse, then, it may be that, when all views are abandoned by true devotion to just sitting, a slave is a slave and a king is a king.

dṛṣṭvā = abs. dṛś: to see
ca: and
miśrām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. mixed , mingled , blended , combined
vimiśrām [EHJ] (acc. sg. f.): mfn. mixed , mingled , miscellaneous

sukha-duḥkatām (acc. sg.): f. the nature of pleasure and pain
me (gen. sg.): of/by me
rājyam (nom/acc. sg.): n. kingship
ca: and
dāsyam (nom/acc. sg.): n. slavery
ca: and
matam (nom/acc. sg. n.): mfn. thought , believed , imagined , supposed , understood ; regarded or considered as , taken or passing for (nom. or adv.)
samānam (agg. sg. n.): mfn. same, one, alike

nityam: ind. constantly, perpetually
hasati = 3rd pers. sg. has: to laugh , smile
eva: (emphatic)
hi: for
na: not
eva: (emphatic)
rājā (nom. sg.): m. king

na: not
ca: and
api: also
saṁtapyataḥ = gen. sg. m. pres. part. passive saṁ- √ tap: to be oppressed or afflicted , suffer pain , undergo penance
eva: (emphatic)
dāsaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a slave

苦樂相不定 奴王豈有間

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