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

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