Sunday, August 24, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.18: Prakṛti, and Knowing a Concrete Path as Primary

[Friday, August 22nd]

tatra tu praktir nāma viddhi prakti-kovida |
pañca bhūtāny ahaṁ-kāraṁ buddhim avyaktam eva ca || 12.18

But what therein is called Prakṛti, Primal Stuff,

Know, O knower of what is primary!

As the five elements, the ego-maker,

The intellect, and Avyaktam, the Unseen Power.

In the present series of four verses (BC12.17 – 20), Arāḍa outlines the main elements of his own teaching.

In the first phase he exhorts the bodhisattva to comprehend all of it – the Being which embraces both Primal Stuff and its Transformation.

In the second phase he discusses Primal Stuff, and suggests what concretely is primary.

In the third phase he discusses Transformation, including both the physical and the mental.

And in the fourth phase he suggests real contemplation of the whole self (not only what is conscious).

The fourth phase in this way combines, as the fourth phase is supposed to combine, all the elements of the previous three phases.

In reading today's verse as thus belonging to the 2nd phase, I see the vocative phrase prakṛti-kovida, “O knower of what is primary!” as having particular significance (just as I read the vocative phrase sthira-sattva, “O one whose being is steadfast!” as having particular significance below the surface of yesterday's verse).

EHJ points out with reference to this vocative phrase prakṛti-kovida, that Nanda in the final verse of SN Canto 17 refers to the Buddha as prakṛti-guṇa-jñam, “knower of types” or, more literally, “knower of primary qualities.”

Speaking of what is primary, what Zen Master Dogen saw as primary, as my teacher Gudo Nishijima used to see it, was the will to the truth.

The bodhisattva will demonstrate just what this will to the truth is, ironically, by leaving Arāḍa – regardless of the fact that Arāḍa was muni-sattamaḥ, the best of sages, the truest of sages.


atha mokṣa-vādinam-arāḍam-upaśama-matiṁ tathoḍrakaṁ /
Then Ārāḍa, who spoke of freedom, and likewise Uḍraka,
who inclined towards quietness,
tattva-kṛta-matir-upāsya jahāv-ayam-apy-amārga iti mārga-kovidhaḥ // SN3.3 //
He sat alongside, his heart set on truth, and he left.
He who intuited the path intuited: "This also is not it."

Arāda in today's verse thus calls Gautama prakṛti-kovida “O one who knows/intuits what is primary!”, whereas Aśvaghoṣa in SN3.3 calls him mārga-kovidaḥ “He who knew/intuited the path.” 

The suggestion might be that what Aśvaghoṣa regarded as primary was a concrete path itself – the means-whereby, coming before any aim, however high.

Apropos of that, what FM Alexander regarded as primary, in the way of a means-whereby, was what he called “the correct employment of the primary control of the use of the self.”

My sitting this morning was somewhat lacking in lustre, at least for the first fifty or so minutes. Then I got round, stimulated by today's verse, to thinking what really was primary, and so I ordered my head, in the strongest possible terms to go forward and up – and in response to this order I maintained an iron resolve not to do anything in the way of arranging the head. 

Still I did definitely want my head to move, not as an arrangement into a right position, but as an undoing, as a movement in the direction of release. 

And out of this paradoxical situation in which I am strongly wishing for something to happen while maintaining a decision not to move a muscle to help it along, my breathing opened up a lot. To put it another way, my back released in a lengthening and widening direction.

Such experiences, repeated again and again over the years, gradually strengthen one's conviction that old FM Alexander really did know what he was talking about. It is a shame that, for one reason or another, I couldn't do a better job of causing my Zen teacher to see that. 

tatra: ind. therein, in that [group]
tu: but
prakṛtiḥ (nom. sg.): f. Primary Matter; Primal Nature
nāma: ind. by name i.e. named , called ; indeed , certainly , really , of course

viddhi = 2nd pers. sg. imperative vid: to know
prakṛti-kovida (voc. sg. m.): knower of primary matters
kovida: mfn. experienced , skilled , learned in (loc. gen. , or ifc. e.g. aśveṣu , or aśvānām or aśva-kovida , " skilled in horses ")

pañca: five
bhūtānī (acc. pl.): n. an element , one of the 5 elements (esp. a gross element = mahā-bh° q.v. ; but also a subtle element = tan-mātra q.v. ; with Buddhists there are only 4 element)
ahaṁ-kāram (acc. 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

buddhim (acc. sg.): f. the power of forming and retaining conceptions and general notions , intelligence , reason , intellect , mind , discernment , judgement ; (in sāṁkhya phil.) Intellect (= adhy-avasāya , the intellectual faculty or faculty of mental perception , the second of the 25 tattvas)
avyaktam (acc. sg.): mfn. undeveloped , not manifest , unapparent , indistinct , invisible , imperceptible ; 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
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and

性者爲純淨 轉變者五大
我覺及與見 隨境根名變

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