Tuesday, July 22, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.61: A Time to Seek Quiet

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
sva-karma-dakṣaś-ca yadāntiko jagad-vayaḥsu sarveṣv a-vaśaṁ-vikarṣati |
vināśa-kāle katham-avyavasthite jarā pratīkṣyā viduṣā śamepsunā || 11.61

And when Death who is so skilled at his work

Drags mankind, in all stages of life, helplessly to our end,

How, when the time of his demise is not subject to orderly arrangement,

Shall the wise man who seeks quiet look forward to old age?

According to the conventional wisdom, as represented by the view of King Bimbisāra, the time to seek quiet is old age. But the mind of the bodhisattva stands (or sits) opposed to the conventional view.

As an example of the working of one such mind, here again is what Marjory Barlow said in her FM Alexander Memorial Lecture in 1965: 

Alexander could not change anything by doing. He could not trust his feeling. He then saw that he had underestimated the strength of habit. What he observed in the mirror was the end-result of disordered patterns lying deep in the nervous system. And that these inner patterns of impulses, conveyed through the nervous system to the muscles acting on the bony structure and joints of the body, were operative perpetually, whether he was moving, speaking or sitting still.

In fact these inner patterns were him -- insofar as his body was the outer manifestation of them.

The next step in the journey was taken when Alexander realised that the only place where he could begin to control the wrong habitual patterns was at the moment when the idea came to him to speak or move.

The moment when, whatever state of misuse he was in, would be made worse as he went into action.

He had reached the only place, and the only moment in time, where change could begin, or where he could have any control over the habitual patterns of misuse, which were dominating everything he attempted to do.

This place, or this moment in time, was the instant that a stimulus to activity reached his consciousness. In the ordinary way, when a stimulus comes, we react to it in the only manner possible. The response is made without thought -- without any knowledge on our part of what we are putting into motion. The reaction is the immediate response of the whole self, according to habitual patterns of movement which we have developed from our earliest years. We have no choice in this, we can behave in no other way. We are bound in slavery to these unrecognised patterns just as surely as if we were automatons.

When Alexander reached understanding of this part of the problem he had found the key to all change. He understood at last in what way he must work.

One simple way of working, based on this understanding, is this:
  1. Say No to the desire to breathe more deeply, and instead of doing anything, think the Alexander directions for release and expansion of the whole self as a respiratory mechanism. 
  2. Be aware of the breathing. (Long is long. Short is short.) 
  3. Enjoy the calming effect on the mind.

As I publish this post Frederique the builder is making a racket next door, but this morning in search of quiet I got up early enough to sit for a couple of hours before Fredo could get going with his angle grinder. And very quiet it was. 

I reflected on Dogen's description of sitting-Zen, in the opening sentence of Shobogenzo as 無為 (Jap: MU-I), which the dictionary gives as "idle, inactive," but which my teacher originally translated as "natural." "Natural" is very good, except the original is a negative. 無為 stands for the Sanskrit a-saṁskṛta, and a-saṁskṛta, it occurs to me now, on the basis of 30-plus years of sitting, 20 years of Alexander work, and the last few years of studying Sanskrit, simply means "not done." 

Ironically, on this fine quiet morning I have a sense -- it may only be temporary -- of my own understanding of sitting-Zen being saṁskṛta, cooked. As cooked as it will ever be. The affirmation is there in the hitting of the target with a translation of a-saṁskṛta that now seems blindingly obvious.

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.

People discuss Nāgārjuna as if he was some kind of great philosopher. But I hope, beginning in earnest next year, to clarify how, before he was a philosopher, Nāgārjuna was a practitioner and a teacher of non-doing. 

How, in the end, might we best describe the practice of just sitting? I think we might best describe it like this:

not done

sva-karma-dakṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): skilled in its own task
svakarman: n. one's own deed; one's own business or occupation
dakṣa: able , fit , adroit , expert , clever , dexterous , industrious , intelligent
ca: and
yadā: ind. since
antikaḥ [EHJ] (nom. sg. m.): Death
tu [EBC]: but
kaḥ [EBC] (nom. sg. m.): who? [= Fate]
jagat (acc. sg.): n. the world, living beings

vayaḥsu (loc. pl.): n. age
sarveṣu (loc. pl. n.): mfn. all
a-vaśam (acc. sg. n.): not having one's own free will , doing something against one's desire or unwillingly
vikarṣati = 3rd pers. sg. vi- √ kṛṣ: to draw apart or asunder , tear to pieces , destroy ; to draw along or after , to pull out

vināśa-kāle (loc. sg.): the time of utter loss
vināśa: m. utter loss , annihilation , perdition , destruction , decay , death , removal
katham: how?
avyavasthite (loc. sg. m.): mfn. not conformable to law or Practice; not in due order , unmethodical ; unsettled, uncertain, Bcar.

jarā (nom. sg.): f. old age
pratīkṣyā = nom. sg. f. gerundive pratīkṣ: to look at ; to look forward to , wait for , expect
viduṣā = inst. sg. vidvas: m. a wise man , sage , see ; mfn. one who knows , knowing , understanding , learned , intelligent , wise
śamepsunā (inst. sg. m.): mfn. desirous of a tranquil life
śama: m. tranquillity , calmness ; peace
īpsu: mfn. striving to obtain ; wishing to get or obtain , desirous of (with acc.)
īps: (Desid. of √āp) to wish to obtain.

死賊執劍隨 常伺求其便
豈聽至年老 遂志而出家

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