Tuesday, July 15, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.54: Rejoicing In a Way of Non-doing

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Buddhi)
bhaikṣopabhogīti ca nānukaṁpyaḥ ktī jarā-mtyu-bhayaṁ titīrṣuḥ |
ihottamaṁ śānti-sukhaṁ ca yasya paratra duḥkhāni ca saṁvtāni || 11.54

Not to be pitied, just because the food he enjoys is begged,

Is the man of action
who intends to cross beyond the terror of ageing and dying;

For him the highest happiness, the happiness of peace,
is here and now, 

And miseries hereafter are rescinded.

A Christian hymn as I remember singing it as school goes:

Not for ever by still waters
Would we ask our way to be;
But the steep and rugged pathway
We would tread rejoicingly.

An internet search reveals an alternative version...

Father, hear the prayer we offer:
Not for ease that prayer shall be,
But for strength that we may ever
Live our lives courageously.

Not for ever in green pastures
Do we ask our way to be;
But the steep and rugged pathway
May we tread rejoicingly.

Not for ever by still waters
Would we idly rest and stay;
But would smith the living fountains
From the rocks along our way.

Be our strength in hours of weakness,
In our wanderings be our guide;
Through endeavour, failure, danger,
Father, be thou at our side

… but I still prefer my own, shortened and edited version. The religious behaviour of praying to a heavenly father, as the Dalai Lama for one has pointed out, is no kind of weapon in combating ignorance. Our primary weapon in combating ignorance might not be prayer but might rather be, as discussed yesterday, what Nāgārjuna called jñānasyāsyaiva, “just this act of knowing.”

Still, when I sat memorizing today's verse and waiting for inspiration as to what it meant, the words to the old hymn – albeit wrongly remembered – bubbled up into my consciousness.

Why? I think because the hymn speaks of rejoicing in or on a way, and that is precisely the truth to which the bodhisattva is bearing witness in today's verse. He is not speaking of the Full Awakening of sambodhi, because he has not realized that truth yet. But, as a man of action who is on his way, he is qualified to have a go at expressing what that happiness is like.

In the 1st pāda, as EHJ points out in a footnote, the compound bhaikṣopabhogin is an unusual expression, intended to imply that for the wise man, bhaikṣa [almsfood] takes the place of kāma [desire, sensual pleasure]. The less counter-intuitive compound kāmopabhoga appeared in the previous Canto in a verse spoken by King Bimbisāra:
One who is old, assuredly, is able to realize dharma. In old age the drive is absent for enjoyment of sensual pleasures (kāmopabhogeṣu). And so pleasures, they say, belong to the young; acquisition of substance to one in the middle; dharma to a mature elder. //BC10.34//

In today's verse EBC translated bhaikṣopabhogin “he who lives on alms”; EHJ as “he subsists on alms”; and PO as “[one should not pity] a man for eating almsfood.” But, particularly in view of the allusion to kāmopabhoga, “enjoyment of sensual pleasures,” I think Aśvaghoṣa may have intended the original to convey more of a sense of enjoyment.

In the 2nd pāda, EBC evidently took kṛtī as vocative (“my good friend”); EHJ translated as “the wise man,” and PO as “a skillful man.” But I think the real meaning of kṛtī is the first one given in the dictionary, “one who acts.” Kṛtin in this context means a bloke who is on his way, a bloke who has started out on the road referred to in BC11.50 – the peaceful and wholesome path (kṣemaṁ śivaṁ mārgam).

In the 3rd pāda, then, it follows that the bodhisattva is describing the ease, joy and happiness of already being on this pathway – steep and rugged though it may be.

Then in the 4th pāda, as I read it, the bodhisattva is not looking forward to the future abolition of suffering. Hence I have not followed EBC in translating “hereafter all pains are for him abolished” or EHJ “for whom suffering in the life beyond is abolished” or PO “and escapes suffering in the hereafter.” Because how could the bodhisattva talk about abolition of suffering before he has abolished it? No, I think what the bodhisattva is expressing is the joy of being here and now on a path, in which case all future sufferings are rescinded in the sense that the future does not exist.

When today's verse is read like this, a couple of parallels in Saundarananda spring to mind. First, in SN Canto 12, when Nanda first begins to turn his light around – before he has crossed over, but after he has established the desire or the intention to cross over – the Buddha tells him that then, already, he has in his hands the deathless nectar of inviolable happiness:

ari-bhūteṣv-anityeṣu satataṃ duḥkha-hetuṣu /
Upon whims which are transient and akin to enemies, forever causing suffering,
kāmādiṣu jagat saktaṃ na vetti sukham-avyayam // SN12.24 //
Upon things like love, the world is fixed.
It does not know the happiness that is immune to change.

sarva-duḥkhāpahaṃ tat-tu hasta-stham-amṛtaṃ tava /
But that deathless nectar which prevents all suffering you have in your hands:
viṣaṃ pītvā yad-agadaṃ samaye pātum-icchasi // 12.25 //
It is an antidote which, having drunk poison,
you are going in good time to drink.

anarha-saṃsāra-bhayaṃ mānārhaṃ te cikīrṣitam /
In its fear of worthless wandering your intention is worthy of respect,
rāgāgnis-tādṛśo yasya dharmonmukha parāṅ-mukhaḥ // 12.26 //
For a fire of passion such as yours,
O you whose face is turned to dharma, is being turned around.

Second, and following on from this allusion to something being turned around, is the verse in Saundarananda that I tend to quote the most. Although the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda is not mentioned by name in Saundarananda, this is the verse that seems to me to express the gist of pratītya-samutpāda, as springing up, by going back:

tasmāt pravṛttiṃ-parigaccha duḥkhaṃ pravartakān-apy-avagaccha doṣān /
Comprehend, therefore, that suffering is doing;
witness the faults impelling it forward;
nivṛttim-āgaccha ca tan-nirodhaṃ nivartakaṃ cāpy-avagaccha mārgam //SN16.42
Realise its stopping as non-doing;
and know the path as a turning back.

The two ca in the second half of this verse, though I have translated them with an “and”, are best understood as expressing simultaneity. To know the path as a turning back, in other words, is just to realize the stopping of suffering as non-doing. And conversely, to realize the stopping of suffering as non-doing is to know the path as a turning back. 

Zen teachers who wander around adjusting the posture of self and others, tucking this in, pushing that up, and arranging this and that to look symmetrical, have not seen the true meaning of non-doing even in a dream. How then can they be teaching the Buddha's teaching as the Buddha taught it? They talk of shikan-taza, "just sitting," but it seems to me that even the best among them, in recent times, have not fully known what they were talking about. 

The Zen branch, I venture to submit, needs to go back to the original root.

That was my intuition six years ago when I started to translate Aśvaghoṣa. The Soto Zen Sect is a sect. Like a dead branch. To try to reform it would be a waste of time. My teacher in his dotage had the idea to establish a new kind of organization, based on his teaching, in the middle way between the Soto Sect and secular society. But my teacher's patriarchal ideas were also part of the problem, pretty much rooted in a nest of volitional formations.

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

The volitional formations which are the root of saṁsāra

Thus does the ignorant one form.

The ignorant one therefore is the doer;

The wise one is not, because of reality making itself known.

bhaikṣopabhogī (nom. sg. m.): living on alms, enjoying almsfood
upabhogin: mfn. ifc. enjoying , making use of
upabhoga: m. enjoyment , eating , consuming
kāmopabhoga: m. enjoyment of pleasures, Bcar [BC10.34]
iti: “...,” thus
ca: and, but
na: not
anukampyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. pitiable , worthy of sympathy

kṛtī (nom. sg. m.): mfn. one who acts , active ; expert ; good, virtuous ; one who has attained an object or accomplished a purpose , satisfied
jarā-mṛtyu-bhayam (acc. sg.): the terror of ageing and dying
titīrṣuḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. desirous of crossing

iha: here, in this world
uttamam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. the ultimate, the uppermost
śānti-sukham (nom. sg. n.): the happiness of tranquillity
śānti: f. tranquillity , peace , quiet , peace or calmness of mind
sukha: n. ease, comfort, happiness
ca: and
yasya (gen. sg.): of/for whom

paratra: ind. elsewhere , in another place , in a future state or world , hereafter
duḥkhāni (nom. pl. n.): sufferings, pains, hardships
ca: and
saṁvṛtāni (nom. pl. n.): mfn. covered , shut up ; concealed , laid aside , kept , secured ; restrained , suppressed , retired , withdrawn

欲度生老死 節身行乞食
寡欲守空閑 後世免惡道

是則二世安 汝今勿哀我

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