Sunday, August 31, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.27: The Blur – Enemy of Aldous and Arāḍa Alike (But Not in Equal Measure)

yas-tu bhāvān a-saṁdigdhān-ekī-bhāvena paśyati |
mt-piṅḍavad-asaṁdeha saṁdehaḥ sa ihocyate || 12.27

But what sees not blurred things

As coalesced into one mass,

Like a ball of mud,
O one who is free of blur!

– Here that is called blurring of sight.

In today's verse saṁdeha could literally be translated “confusion,” as each of the three professors translated it (EBC/PO: confusion; EHJ: confusion of thought); and eki-bhāva could be translated accordingly as “fused into one,” so that “fuse” and “con-fuse” resonated with each other.

But as I wrote in the comment to BC12.24, I read saṁdeha in this context as “blurring of vision” – an impediment belonging to the 2nd phase, since it is related with how the devotee of saṁsāra is connected, through sensory perception, with the external world. And the word in today's verse that seems to support this reading is paśyati, “sees.”

On further reflection, and remembering the title of a booklet written by a colleague in developmental work titled "My Vision is Perfect, Why Don't I See?",  I think "blurring of sight" may be better than "blurring of vision." 

If we thus understand saṁdeha to mean blurring of sight, it is the elimination of this interference to which Aldous Huxley, author of The Doors of Perception and one-time pupil of FM Alexander, devoted much of his life.

Huxley's eyesight had been impaired in his youth by an illness; and learning Alexander's means-whereby principle under the tutelage of Alexander himself had evidently helped Huxley to see better, in more ways than one.

Later, however, Huxley resorted to study of the Bates method under a teacher in California, and with reference to Huxley's efforts to improve his eyesight by these means, FM Alexander apparently denigrated what he called Huxley's “beastly end-gaining exercises.”

For Alexander, any exercise which aims at specific improvements by a means which is not truly holistic, was a variation on the theme of beastly end-gaining. Alexander's only exception when it came to exercises was an exercise he called “the Whispered Ah” – which is an exercise in non-doing, or non-endgaining. 

For Alexander, then, whatever growth Huxley felt he had achieved from practising the Bates Method, from taking LSD in the attempt to open the Doors of Perception, and from his effort to see God through his association with Vedanta philosophy, Huxley had not been able to see what Alexander meant by application of the means-whereby principle. This in spite of the fact that Huxley titled one of his later books Ends and Means.

A similar irony may be noted with regard to Arāḍa himself, in that Arāḍa is in process of laying out a means-whereby the bodhisattva might liberate himself from saṁsāra. This means-whereby, Arāḍa is teaching in today's verse, involves overcoming the obstacle of blurred seeing. And yet, the bodhisattva ultimately realizes, Arāḍa himself still has dust in his eyes regarding such liberation.

In the case of Arāḍa, however, who was the truest of sages, the dust was not much.

Thus, in the Discourse to Prince Bodhi (Bodhirājakumārasuttaṁ; MN85), the Buddha relates, in the part about deciding who to teach after his awakening, that he thought first about Arāḍa, since Arāḍa for a long time had been one with little dust on his eyes (dīgharattaṁ apparajakkhajātiko).

Aldous Huxley, evidently, as FM Alexander saw him and his “beastly end-gaining” was still a man with a lot of dust on his eyes. But Arāḍa was the truest of sages, a man with only a little dust on his eyes.

That's why I think a certain sharpness of the critical faculties deserves to be brought to the present Canto. We are not dealing, as EHJ and PO have opined, with an early form of Sāmkhya philosophy, which would have brought with it a whole lot of eye-dust. Neither is Arāḍa as I hear him necessarily to be understood as representing the Brahmanist tradition -- though he does refer in the end to brahma. Rather, we are dealing with the truest of sages, a man with but a little dust on his eyes, expounding his own teaching (svasya śastrasya; 12.15). 

Equally, though for brevity I have translated iha in today's verse and in yesterday's verse as "here," I think Arāḍa means by iha "in this teaching of mine." 

yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): that which
tu: but
bhāvān (acc. pl.): m. that which is or exists , thing or substance , being or living creature (sarva-bhāvāḥ , all earthly objects)
a-saṁdigdhān (acc. pl. m.): mfn. not indistinct; undoubted , unsuspected , certain

ekī-bhāvena (inst. sg.): m. the becoming one , coalition
paśyati = 3rd pers. sg. paś: to see

mṛt-piṅḍavat: ind. like a lump of clay
mṛt-piṅḍa: m. a clod of earth , lump of clay
mṛḍ: f. earth , soil , clay , loam ; a piece of earth , lump of clay
piṅḍa: m. any round or roundish mass or heap , a ball , globe , knob , button , clod , lump , piece
asaṁdeha (voc. sg.): O one free of doubt!

saṁdehaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a conglomeration or conglutination (of material elements); doubt , uncertainty
saṁ- √ dih: to smear , besmear , cover ; to heap together ; to be doubtful or uncertain (said of persons and things
deha: ( √ dih , to plaster , mould , fashion) the body ; form , shape , mass , bulk (as of a cloud)
sa (nom. sg. m.): it
iha: ind. here, in this system
ucyate: is called

於諸性猶豫 是非不得實
如是不決定 是説名爲疑 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.26: Self-Consciousness – Primary Interference

bravīmy-aham-ahaṁ vedmi gacchāmy-aham-ahaṁ sthitaḥ |
itīhaivam-ahaṁ-kāras-tv-anahaṁ-kāra vartate || 12.26

I speak, I know,

I go, I stand firm –

It is thus that here, O unselfconscious one!, 

Self-consciousness carries on.

In his footnote to BC12.24 EHJ comments that ahaṁkāra as part of the eightfold prakṛti (as cited in BC12.18) should be understood differently from ahaṁkāra as cited in BC12.24 and as defined in today's verse.

Thus, whereas EBC had translated ahaṁkāra throughout as "egotism," EHJ translates ahaṁkāra as part of prakṛti (in BC12.18) as “the ego-principle” whereas in BC12.24 and today's verse EHJ translates ahaṁkāra as “wrong attribution of personality.”

On reflection, I agree with EHJ that ahaṁkāra should be understood differently in the two contexts – but not necessarily translated differently, since the original word in Sanskrit is the same.

Consistency is not always a terrorist. Sometimes, it occurs to me this morning, consistency is the translator's friend! 

If we accept Arāḍa's drawing of a distinction between what is primary (prakṛṭi) and what is secondary (vikāra) – which in general seems a wise enough distinction to make – then we need to choose a translation of ahaṁkāra in BC12.18 that conveys a sense of what is truly primary.

The MW dictionary defines ahaṁkāra as:
  • conception of one's individuality, self-consciousness;
  • the making of self, thinking of self, egotism;
  • pride, haughtiness ;
  • (in sāṁkhya phil.) the third of the eight producers or sources of creation , viz. the conceit or conception of individuality , individualization
Of these definitions, “self-consciousness” (or “sense of self”) might best fit the bill for a translation of ahaṁkāra in BC12.18, and also, it occurs to me just this morning, in today's verse. 

In BC12.24 and today's verse, where ahaṁkāra is being cited as a reason for failing to transcend, “egotism” would be the obvious choice, except that the word, since the 1890s when EBC chose it as a translation of ahaṁkāra, has acquired many unhelpful barnacles courtesy of Sigmund Freud and his English-speaking interpreters. 

PO translates ahaṁkāra in all three instances as “ego” (BC12.18, BC12.24: “ego”, BC12.26: “the ego”). 

PO's ego seems to me to be more problematic that EBC's egotism. Egotism expresses a view or a tendency, an -ism which, as such might be a useful word for expressing something that we are required to drop off. But in the English translations of Freud's writings which discuss the ego and the id, the impressionable reader (such as I was in the 1980s) is easily led to believe in the existence of something that Freud discovered called “the ego.” Nowadays it is commonplace to speak of a person having a big ego or a fragile ego or a strong ego. But talking in that way might generally be unhelpful, insofar as it reinforces belief in something called ego.

By translating ahaṁkāra in today's verse as “the ego,” PO in some sense brings the translation of Aśvaghoṣa up to date, in light of Freud's discoveries and their absorption into popular culture and language. “The ego” is concise and natural-sounding as a translation of ahaṁkāra in the 3rd pāda of today's verse, and “You who are free of ego!” is, to the modern ear, a natural-sounding translation of the vocative an-ahaṁkāra in the 4th pāda of today's verse. And yet those translations, in my book, are somehow dangerously misleading.

My Zen teacher liked Sigmund Freud's ideas; especially he liked the writings of a Freudian psychologist named Karl Menninger. “We have to cure the problem of ego,” I remember my teacher saying once, while we were having lunch in a restaurant near his office in Ichigaya. In writing this post thirty years later, it occurs to me, I am solving the problem right here and now. Though I doubt if anybody will notice! 

On another occasion I remember my teacher asserting that ego was another word for “deformed mind.” On still another occasion he attributed to Dogen the concept of “the true ego.” I am not sure what Japanese words he was translating when he came up with the latter assertion – maybe 真我

In any event, I have come to see it as unhelpful to think of wrongness in terms of a psychological entity such as the so-called “ego” has been supposed to be. I find it more constructive, when I am able to remember to think in this way, to think of wrongness in terms of wrong tendencies and wrong habits. This is how one is taught to think in Alexander work. 

In years gone by if people told me that I had a big ego or a fragile ego, I might have been inclined to believe them.

The way that nowadays I tend to understand – primarily in myself – what people call “a fragile ego” is in terms of what FM Alexander called “undue excitement of fear reflexes and emotions.” 

Again, one of the things I learned from Peter Blythe, whose teaching I praised yesterday, was that a strong secondary psychological symptom of an immature Moro reflex is a tendency to low self-esteem.

Peter Blythe's sagacity was to see vestibular matters as primary and psychological explanations as secondary. In this Peter Blythe's approach was similar to Gudo Nishijima's, which saw the autonomic nervous system as primary and psychological matters as secondary.

When it came to clear discrimination and a means-whereby for dealing with the problem of egotism, however, both of those modern-day sages, in my book, were behind FM Alexander.

Coming back to the translation of ahaṁkāra in today's verse, then, I think that “egotism,” fits the bill better than “ego.” But “self-consciousness” fits the bill best, as an expression of what is primary in our search for the truth as human beings, and at the same time as an expression of the first thing to be abandoned in that search. 

In conclusion, if we look for harbingers of the Buddha's truth in what Arāḍa is saying in the present Canto about ahaṁkāra, self-consciousness, firstly as a primary matter, and secondly as an obstacle or interference, the truth that Arāḍa is expressing may be closely related to the famous teaching of Zen Master Dogen about learning and forgetting the self:

To learn the Buddha's truth is to learn the self.

To learn the self is to forget the self.

To forget the self is to be experienced by the myriad things.

To be experienced by the myriad things is to let one's own body and mind, 
and the body and mind of the external world, fall away.

bravīmi = 1st pers. sg. brū: to say, speak
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
vedmi = 1st pers. sg. vid: to know

gacchāmi = 1st pers. sg. gam: to gp
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
sthitaḥ (nom. sg. m.): standing

iti: “...,” thus
iha: in this place, here; in this world; in this system
evam: ind. in this way
ahaṁ-kāraḥ (nom. sg.):m. conception of one's individuality , self-consciousness ; the making of self , thinking of self , egotism ; pride , haughtiness ; (in sāṁkhya phil.) the third of the eight producers or sources of creation , viz. the conceit or conception of individuality , individualization

tu: but
an-ahaṁ-kāra (voc. sg.): O one without ego!
vartate = 3rd pers. sg. vṛṭ: to turn ; to move or go on , get along , advance , proceed

如是等計我 是名我作轉

Friday, August 29, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.25: Wrong Grounding

tatra vipratyayo nāma viparītaṁ pravartate |
anyathā kurute kāryaṁ mantavyaṁ manyate 'nyathā || 12.25

Among those, “wrong grounding”

Keeps setting movement in the wrong direction –

It causes to be done wrongly what is to be done;

And causes to be thought wrongly what has to be thought.

“Grounding” in the context of Alexander work is a dangerous word to use. The word tends to stimulate as a reaction in the unenlightened listener an unconscious downward direction, which is the very opposite of what is desired – namely, a conscious upward direction.

Nevertheless it occurred to me in process of preparing today's post – or more accurately in process of forgetting about today's post and listening to the rain-filled stream gush by – that “wrong grounding” is a translation of vi-pratyayaḥ that fits well, covering or at least touching on various meanings of pratyaya, but especially the connotation of vestibular functioning which seems to me to be of primary importance.

Arāḍa, as befits a teacher who Aśvaghoṣa described as muni-sattamaḥ, the truest of sages, the best of sages, thus seems to be embarking on a very well-grounded analysis of what causes us to remain tied onto the swing of saṁṣāra.

I am still not sure what to make of the opening part of Arāḍa's present speech in which he discriminates between Primary Matter (prakṛti) and Transformation (vikāra). And I am aware that Arāḍa is going to conclude his present speech by talking about brahma, in what appears to be the way of a religious believer. But insight into the causes of saṁsāra, expressed in his own words, appears to be Arāḍa's strong suit. 

In the background I think Aśvaghoṣa's recognition is that a person does not have to be a fully awakened sambuddha in order to be clear in regard to the fundamental causes of unconscious human behaviour.

And this causes me to reflect that one of the people who taught me about these causes was a teacher who never made any claims in regard to Buddhist enlightenment but who was nevertheless, when it came to understanding unconscious human behaviour, among the sagest of sages. I am thinking of Peter Blythe, founder of the Institute of Neuro-Physiological Psychology (INPP) in Chester, who used to describe the vestibular system as “the foundation stone of living.” The four cornerstones of living, building on that metaphor, as I have described on this blog many times before, might be four vestibular reflexes.

Understanding how these primitive reflexes, when they are aberrant, influence what human beings do and what human beings think, helps to shed light on the discoveries of another man who was among the truest of sages, and that is FM Alexander.

FM himself was a premature baby who was not expected to live – except that his mother had the strong idea that her first-born was going to live. Since FM was premature, he is very likely, almost certain, to have been towards the far-end of the Bell curve in terms of aberrant primitive reflexes.

So, to cut a long story short – since it is a long story I have tried to tell before on this blog – FM evolved a technique whereby conscious guidance and control of the self might take over where, under the influence of “unduly excited fear reflexes and emotions,” unconscious guidance and control had become faulty. And this technique centred on what Alexander called not doing (or inhibiting) and called thinking (or directing). 

Thinking is important in Alexander work in view of the truth that one cannot do an undoing. Undoing of patterns of muscular tension is generally what we want, but such undoing cannot be done. It can be brought about, however, by learning to think in the right way. By learning to replace unconscious directions  (like the pulling back and down of the head under stress) with conscious directions, like thinking "head forward and up." 

This work, said FM Alexander of his own teaching, is an exercise in learning how to think.

As when learning anything, the student tends to learn by making mistakes, by doing in error and by thinking in error. 

So, for example, the student thinks "head forward and up" in the wrong way and the head actually pulls even more back and down. 

And sometimes this tendency to pull the head back and down, in students in whom the tendency is particularly strong, can be traced back to immature development of vestibular reflexes like the Moro reflex and the Tonic Labyrinthine reflex. 

So it is in this light -- in the light of discoveries made by modern day non-Buddhist sages like FM Alexander and Peter Blythe -- that I read today's verse.

tatra: ind. therein, in that group, among those
vi-pratyayaḥ (nom. sg.): m. mistrust
pratyaya: m. belief, firm conviction , trust , faith , assurance or certainty ; conception , assumption , notion , idea ; (with Buddhists and jainas) fundamental notion or idea); consciousness , understanding , intelligence , intellect (in sāṁkhya = buddhi); ground , basis , motive or cause of anything ; (with Buddhists) a co-operating cause
prati- √i: to go towards or against , go to meet (as friend or foe) ; to come back , return ; to trust or believe in
nāma: ind. by name i.e. named , called

viparītam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. turned around, reversed, inverted ; being the reverse of anything , acting in a contrary manner ; perverse , wrong , contrary to rule
pravartate = 3rd pers. sg. pra- √ vṛt: to roll or go onwards, be set in motion or going; proceed ; come forth

anyathā: ind. otherwise , in a different manner ; inaccurately , untruly , falsely , erroneously
kurute = 3rd pers. sg. kṛ: to do , make , perform , accomplish , cause , effect
kāryam (acc. sg.): n. what is to be done, task to be done

mantavyam (acc. sg.): n. what is to be thought
manyate = 3rd pers. sg. man: to think ; to set the heart or mind on
anyathā: ind. otherwise , in a different manner ; inaccurately , untruly , falsely , erroneously

不信顛倒轉 異作亦異解
我説我知覺 我去來我住

Thursday, August 28, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.24: The Reality of Falling On Down

vipratyayād-ahaṁ-kārāt-saṁdehād-abhisaṁplavāt |
aviśeṣānupāyābhyāṁ saṅgād-abhyavapātataḥ || 12.24

[It fails] because of wrong grounds,
because of ego-making,

Because of blurring of vision,
because of blurring of boundaries,

Because of lack of discrimination and wrong means,

Because of attachment, 
and because of falling on down.

EHJ notes This group of eight reasons, for which the soul fails to free itself, is
found elsewhere only in the Carakasaṁhitā Śarīrasthāna [an Aryuveda text], but there is some similarity of idea at M.Bh., xii. 7505-6. The first five apparently cause ajñāna, the sixth karman, and the last two tṛṣṇā.

Once again, however, I prefer to think that we are exempted from having to contrast and compare Arāḍa's teachings with Indian texts that went before or came after him, by Aśvaghoṣa's description of Arāḍa's teaching as svaysa śāstramhis own teaching (BC12.15).

So rather than look back in search of understanding of this group of eight reasons, we might be better off looking forward, to the next eight verses (BC12.25 to 12.32) in which Arāḍa considers each of these eight reasons in turn.

Since I haven't studied those eight verses in detail yet, the translation of today's verse is provisional.

That said, a priori, I am still thinking in four phases. So whereas EHJ sees a 5-1-2 formation, I see a 2-2-2-2 formation.

Read like this, in the 1st pāda vi-pratyaya and ahaṁ-kāra, relate to the self. The dictionary gives vi-pratyaya as “distrust”; EBC translated as “mistake,” EHJ “misunderstanding”, PO “wrong knowledge.” I am conscious that in the 1st chapter of MMK, Nāgārjuna discusses four pratyaya, which, from initial study of that chapter, I understand to be “the four cornerstones of direction.” So vi-pratyaya suggests to me, at the first phase, wrong grounds for directing the self. Those grounds are primarily related to the vestibular system, which is vital for inner listening to oneselfAhaṁ-kāra (EBC: egoism; EHJ: wrong attribution of personality; PO: ego) also, more obviously, is a function of the self.

In the 2nd pāda, I read saṁdeha (EBC: confusion; EHJ: confusion of thought; PO: confusion), at the 2nd phase, as a function of the external senses, through which we are connected to the external world. Hence not so much “confusion of thought” as blurring of vision. Abhisaṁplava is given in the MW dictionary as “fluctuation” but samplava shares with saṁdeha the definition “conglomeration,” and the sense of something originally distinct being lost in an amorphous mass. Thus I wonder if abhisaṁplava (EBC: fluctuation; EHJ: wrong conjunction; PO: wrong association), at the 2nd phase, can be understood to express our tendency to subsume ourselves into, or identify with, what – whether on the inside or on the outside – we ought not to subsume ourselves into or identify with. Taking this sense, and wishing to reflect the overlap in meaning between saṁdeha  and  abhisaṁplava, I have provisionally translated abhisaṁplava as "blurring of boundaries." 

The 2nd pāda thus emerges as in some sense anti-thetical to the 1st pāda, which is generally as it should be. In other words, if the thesis of the 1st pāda is that we, with our dodgy vestibular functioning, should not be selfish, then the anti-thesis of the 2nd pāda is that we should, distinctly, to our own selves be true.

The 3rd pāda, then, can be read as related to the essential elements of practice, those elements being, on the subjective side, discrimination, or thinking straight; and, on the objective side, a means-whereby that has been determined to work.

And the 4th pāda seems to sum up in two words what keeps up spinning on the merry-go-round of saṁsāra – namely saṅga, the whole gamut of attachments which ordinarily governs us, and abhyavapāta, the constant gravitational pull, the constant falling – in the absence in the world of the Buddha's original teaching of pratītya-samutpāda – back and down. 

I have thus provisionally translated abhyavapāta “falling on down” as the opposite conception to 仏向上事 BUTSU-KOJO-JI, “The Matter of a Buddha Going On Up,” which is my favoured translation of the title of Shobogenzo chap. 28.

Reading Aśvaghoṣa's poetry like this, in four phases – whether or not others regard the analysis as valid – at least has the merit, I can report with certainty from my own experience, of rendering the lines and verses easier to remember in order.

Since today's verse lays the groundwork for the emergence of the matter of a buddha going on up, today's verse as I read it fittingly comes as the fourth in the present series of four verses (BC12.21 - 24). 

vi-pratyayāt (abl. sg.): m. distrust
pratyaya: m. belief, firm conviction , trust , faith , assurance or certainty ; conception , assumption , notion , idea ; (with Buddhists and jainas) fundamental notion or idea); consciousness , understanding , intelligence , intellect (in sāṁkhya = buddhi); ground , basis , motive or cause of anything ; (with Buddhists) a co-operating cause
prati- √i: to go towards or against , go to meet (as friend or foe) ; to come back , return ; to trust or believe in
ahaṁ-kārāt (abl. sg.): m. the making of self , thinking of self , egotism

saṁdehāt (abl. sg.): m. a conglomeration or conglutination (of material elements); doubt , uncertainty
saṁ-dehá-gandha: m. a whiff or slight tinge of doubt
saṁ- √ dih: to smear , besmear , cover ; to heap together ; to be doubtful or uncertain (said of persons and things
deha: ( √ dih , to plaster , mould , fashion) the body ; form , shape , mass , bulk (as of a cloud)
abhisaṁplavāt (abl. sg.): m. fluctuation, Bcar.
abhi-: ind. (a prefix to verbs and nouns , expressing) to , towards , into , over , upon. (As a prefix to verbs of motion) it expresses the notion or going towards , approaching , &c
samplava: m. flowing together , meeting or swelling (of waters) , flood , deluge ; a dense mass , heap , multitude ; conglomeration , taking a form or shape , rise , origin ; noise , tumult (esp. of battle) ;

a-viśeṣānupāyābhyām (abl. dual): lack of discrimination and wrong means
a-viśeṣa (abl. sg.): m. non-distinction , non-difference
an-upāya: m. bad means (an-upāyena, "to no purpose")
upāya: m. coming near , approach , arrival ; that by which one reaches one's aim , a means or expedient (of any kind) , way , stratagem , craft , artifice

saṅgāt (abl. sg.): m. sticking, clinging to; addiction or devotion to , propensity for , (esp.) worldly or selfish attachment or affection , desire , wish , cupidity
abhyavapāta: m. gravitation, Bcar. xii, 24
-taḥ: (ablative sufix)
abhy-ava- √ pat: to fly near
ava- √ pat: to fly down
√ pat: to fly , soar , rush on ; to fall down or off , alight , descend (with acc. or loc.) , fall or sink (with or without adhas or narake , " to go down to hell " ; with caraṇau or °ṇayoḥ , " to fall at a person's feet ") ; to fall (in a moral sense)
pāta: flying , mode of flying , flight; throwing one's self or falling into (loc.) or from (abl.) , fall , downfall (also ifc. after what would be a gen. or abl. &c e.g. , gṛha- , fall of a house ; parvata- , fall from a mountain ; bhū- , fall on the earth) ; alighting , descending or causing to descend , casting or throwing upon , cast , fall (of a thunderbolt) , throw , shot ; a fault , error , mistake

不信我疑濫 不別無方便
境界深計著 纒綿於我所

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.23: Causes of Saṁsāra

a-jñānaṁ karma tṣṇā ca jñeyāḥ saṁsāra-hetavaḥ |
sthito 'smiṁs tritaye jantus tat sattvaṁ nātivartate || 12.23

Ignorance, karma, and thirsting

Are to be known as the causes of saṁsāra;

A creature set in these three ways

Fails to transcend the aforementioned Sattva, Being –

In today's verse Arāḍa can be heard to point to the core practical problem. Arāḍa can be heard to ask the question that the bodhisattva will answer as the newly enlightened Buddha in BC Canto 14.

Sadly, since most of the original Sanskrit of BC Canto 14 is missing, we do not have Aśvaghoṣa's original account of how the Buddha identified the causes of saṁsāra and described how he had elminated them, by the teaching and practice of pratītya-samutpāda, Springing Up by going back. But we do have other reliable sources in Sanskrit, not least that of Aśvaghoṣa's Dharma-grandson Nāgārjuna.

In today's verse, then,
  • ajñānam can be taken as synonymous with avidyā, ignorance, no. 1 in the twelvefold chain that Nāgārjuna describes as following from the ignorant doings which are the root of saṁṣāra;
  • karma can be taken as synonymous with saṁskārāḥ, doings, no. 2 in the chain; and
  • tṛṣṇā is tṛṣṇā, thirsting, no. 8 in the chain. 
The twelve links in the chain are enumerated by Nāgārjuna in Sanskrit as follows:
  1. avidyā ignorance 
  2. saṁskārāḥ doings 
  3. vijñāna consciousness 
  4. nāmarūpam psychophysicality 
  5. ṣaḍ-āyatanam six senses 
  6. saṁsparśaḥ contact 
  7. vedanā feeling 
  8. tṛṣṇā thirsting 
  9. upādānam grasping hold 
  10. bhavaḥ becoming 
  11. jātiḥ birth 
  12.  jarā-maraṇa-duḥkhādi śokāḥ saparidevanāḥ....  the suffering of aging and death, and so on, sorrows, lamentations...                        

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 doings.
The cessation of ignorance, however,
Is because of the bringing-into-being of just this act of 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.

The most fundamental problem in practice might be, in four words, the force of habit. Thinking today along those lines,  I have translated sthito 'smims tritraye accordingly, somewhat creatively, as "set in these three ways."  Sthito 'smims tritraye would be more literally translated "staying in this triad [singular]" or even "stuck in this three-way groove." In any event, I think Arāḍa is pointing to the tendency that I and others have to become set in our ways, or to get stuck in a groove. 

In terms of sitting-meditation, a tendency to avoid might be to sit as an expert, as a veteran who already knows all the pitfalls. To sit as a veteran who knows all the pitfalls, having almost completely lost the beginner's mind, might be already to sit in the pit! 

a-jñānam (nom. sg.): n. non-cognizance ; ignorance
karma (nom. sg.): n. action; former act as leading to inevitable results , fate (as the certain consequence of acts in a previous life)
tṛṣṇā (nom. sg.): f. thirst ; desire
ca: and

jñeyāḥ (nom. pl. m.): to be known
saṁsāra-hetavaḥ (nom. pl. m.): causes of saṁsāra

sthitaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. staying, remaining ; standing , staying , situated , resting or abiding or remaining in (loc. or comp.); engaged in , occupied with , intent upon , engrossed by , devoted or addicted to (loc. or comp.); abiding by , conforming to , following (loc.); adhering to or keeping with (loc.) ; turned or directed to , fixed upon (loc. or comp.) ; resting or depending on (loc.)
asmin (loc. sg. n.): in this
tritaye (loc. sg.): n. triad, threesome
jantuḥ (nom. sg.): m. creature

tat (acc. sg. n.): that
sattvam (acc. sg.): n. being
na: not
ativartate = 3rd pers. sg. ati- √ vṛt: to pass beyond , surpass , cross

愚癡業愛欲 是説爲轉輪 
若住此三種 是衆生不離

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.22: The Manifest vs The Not Manifest

jāyate jīryate caiva bādhyate mriyate ca yat |
tad-vyaktam-iti vijñeyam-avyaktaṁ tu viparyayāt || 12.22

What is born, what grows old,

What is bound, what dies:

That is to be known as Vyaktam, the Manifest;

Otherwise it is Avyaktam, the Not Manifest.

Arāḍa will conclude his present speech by citing two pairs of opposites. Knowing these, Arāḍa will assert, the Knower of the Field abandons the stream of births and deaths, i.e. he, she or it obtains release from saṁsāra. This release, Arāḍa will subsequently claim, is synonymous with realization of the supreme brahma (see 12.65).

Those two pairs of opposites are the Awake (pratibuddhi) and the Not Awake (a-pratibuddha) of yesterday's verse; and the Manifest (vyaktam) and Not Manifest (a-vyaktam) of today's verse.

The bodhisattva will express his ultimate dissatisfaction with this teaching on the basis that it does not provide for abandonment of, or release from, the knowing subject himself, herself, or itself -- the Knower of the Field.

That being so, are we to discard Arāḍa's pairs of opposites as invalid?

I think not. I think not on the basis that from BC12.46 through to BC12.56 Arāda outlines the four dhyānas in terms which seem closely to correspond, on first perusing, with Aśvaghoṣa's description of the four dhyānas in SN Canto 17.

Arāḍa's teaching, then, is ultimately incomplete, but that does not mean that all Arādā's observations are necessarily false. 

In the same way, the teaching of a maths or biology or foreign language teacher at a secondary school, just because that teaching is ultimately insufficient as a means of obtaining release from saṁsāra, is not necessarily false. 

That 2 + 2  = 4 is the truth, or at least it is a truth. And truths like that provide a basis for exiting saṁsāra. But even though they are true, such truths are not sufficient in themselves to get us out of saṁsāra. 

If we therefore attempt to read yesterday's verse and today's verse in a positive light, as expressing a truth analogous to 2 + 2 = 4, what truth is Arāḍa expressing?

It might relate to the truth expressed by the Buddha in the Diamond Sutra, as quoted in Shobogenzo chap. 61 Kenbutsu, Meeting Buddha:

If we see [both] the many forms and [their] non-form, we at once meet the Tathāgata.”

Yesterday's verse can be read as an expression of this truth at the first phase, in which the human mind is a unity of what is awake and what is not awake, i.e. a unity of the conscious and the unconscious. 

And today's verse can be read as an expression of this truth at the second phase, in which the branches of a big ash tree are manifestly swaying in the wind and rain outside my window, but in which the laws of motion which the swaying obeys, are not manifest. 

At least those laws of motion were not manifest until the likes of Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz started using calculus to express them on paper.

My own Zen teacher was very clear, at a certain level, what Gautama Buddha meant by the above quote from the Diamond Sutra. My teacher would use the example of the table he was sitting at -- a table manifestly made of wood, but at the same time made to a plan that existed only inside someone's mind (unless the planner gave his plan form by, for example, drawing it on paper). 

And yet when it came to understanding Dogen's exhortation to sit bodily, to sit mentally, and to sit as body and mind dropping off, my teacher tried to explain everything in terms of the physical mechanism of the autonomic nervous system. 

When my teacher heard from me about Alexander's calling his work “the most mental thing there is,” based on the practice and principle of thinking as opposed to doing, my teacher seemed to me to hear those words through the filter of a prejudice against "the white man's civilization."

I believe the phrase used in the handbook Japanese soldiers in WWII were given, to explain what they were fighting for, was hakujin no bunka, lit. "the white man's civilization,"  or "intellectual civilization" as my teacher called it, wishing to be polite. Hakujin no bunka meant the civilization of the intellectual white man, the would-be oppressor of the physically excellent black man and the practical yellow man. That white man's civilization was the enemy against which Japanese soldiers in WWII were taught they were defending the Nation of Japan -- much as modern day jihadists see themselves as defending Islaam from "the West." 

Among Japanese, Gudo Nishijima was much more intellectual than most. So I have come to see, in later years, that the mirror principle might have been at work in Gudo's apparent prejudice against the tendency he saw in caucasians to think rather than to grasp reality. 

A wiser person than I am, and one less fuelled by testosterone, like Gabriele Linnebach, saw it as his problem, not anybody else's problem. But I felt it is a kind of aggression directed at me personally, against which I wanted to fight back. 

To tell the truth, even though the old bastard is now deceased, I still haven't finished wanting to fight back. 

Somebody may come along at some time and express towards me the kind of criticism I haven't stopped expressing towards my teacher. I won't complain about that, I promise -- as long as those criticisms are true.  

In my teacher's case, he told me that he welcomed my criticism. He told me that it was very useful for his practice. 

In the end though, none of us likes to be told that we are wrong -- especially if the telling is not done skillfully. 

jāyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive jan: to be born
jīryate = 3rd pers. sg. passive jṛṛ: to grown old
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)

bādhyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive bandh: to bind , tie , fix , fasten , chain , fetter ; to form or produce in any way , cause , effect ; [Passive] to be bound &c &c ; (esp.) to be bound by the fetters of existence or evil , sin again ; to be affected by i.e. experience , suffer (instr.) ; [EHJ: that which suffers from disease]
mriyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive mṛ: to die
ca: and
yat (nom. sg. n.): [that] which

tad (nom. sg. n.): that
vyaktam (nom. sg.): mfn. adorned , embellished , beautiful; caused to appear , manifested , apparent , visible , evident ; developed, evolved ; perceptible by the senses (opp. to a-vyakta , transcendental) MBh. BhP; n. (in sāṁkhya) " the developed or evolved " (as the product of a-vyakta q.v.)
iti: “....,” thus
vijñeyam (nom. sg. n.): to be known, to be recognized

avyaktam (nom. sg.): n. (in sāṁkhya phil.) " the unevolved (Evolver of all things) " , the primary germ of nature , primordial element or productive principle whence all the phenomena of the material world are developed ; mfn. undeveloped , not manifest , unapparent , indistinct , invisible , imperceptible
tu: but
viparyayāt: ind. in the opposite case , otherwise

覺知生老死 是説名爲見
與上相違者 説名爲不見