Wednesday, August 13, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.9: The Race Is Not Always to the Slow (The Conscious Mind Must Be Quickened)

tad-vijñātum-imaṁ dharmaṁ paramaṁ bhājanaṁ bhavān |
jñāna-plavam-adhiṣṭhāya śīghraṁ duḥkhārṇavaṁ tara || 12.9

To investigate this dharma, therefore,

You are a supremely fit person.

Climbing aboard the raft of knowing,

May you swiftly cross over the foaming sea of suffering.

EHJ cross-references today's verse to a verse in the Mahā-bhārata (viii. 3551).

A google search for “raft of knowledge” leads to the place in the Bhagavad-gita where Kriṣṇa tells Arjuna:
Even if thou beest the greatest sinner among all that are sinful, thou shalt yet cross over (saṁtariṣyasi) all transgressions by the raft of knowledge (jñānaplavenaiva).

The first thought that occurs to me, however, is to cross-reference today's verse to the Old Testament, viz:
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

This might be a nice example of Jewish epic poetry, translated in such a way, in the King James Version of the Bible, as to be readily engraved in the memory:

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift...

The race is not to the swift.

How true.

And yet, today's verse seems to want to remind us, hanging around until old age tempers our desire for sensual pleasures – as recommended by the likes of King Bimbisāra – is not always the wise option either.

In the 2nd pāda of today's verse paramam could be taken (as each of the three professors took it) as accusative agreeing with dharmam or could be taken (as I have taken it, and PO also took it, in a double sense) as nominative neuter agreeing with bhājanām.

I think Arāḍa's intention is not to big up his teaching (EBC: this highest religion; EHJ: this, the highest dharma; PO: this, the supreme dharma), but rather to express his recognition that the bodhisattva-prince is evidently a person of the highest order. Hence in tomorrow's verse Arāḍa will tell the bodhisattva that he intends, in his case, to dispense with usual preliminaries and to proceed -- swiftly -- to the elucidation of his teaching.

So this is one meaning of śīghram, “swiftly.” One meaning of swiftly is “while you are still young, without waiting for old age.”

But today's verse also causes me to reflect on FM Alexander's aphorism that “the conscious mind must be quickened.”

In particular it may be because the link between avidyā (ignorance) and saṁskārāḥ (doings), in the twelvefold chain, is formed with such lightning swiftness, that the conscious mind must be quickened.

Just now as I sat, as often naturally happens when I am sitting, I found myself going through Alexander's four directions. Just to think the words without letting doings arise in response to those words, is a challenge in itself.

Many years from now people may read this blog and see that this work was right at the beginning of the connection being made between the discoveries of FM Alexander and the Buddha's teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, Springing Up by going back. Not that others before me didn't make the connection of course – not least FM Alexander's niece Marjory Barlow. Marjory herself caused me to see the lightning rapidity with which doings arise, in the ignorant one; Marjory also gave me a glimpse of what it might mean to be the wise one. In that sense, this translation of the closing verses of Nāgārjuna's MMK chapter 26 owes as much to her as it does to me:

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.

tad: ind. so, therefore
vijñātum = inf. to distinguish , discern , observe , investigate , recognize , ascertain , know , understand
imam (acc. sg. m.): this
dharmam (acc. sg.): m. dharma

paramam (acc. sg. m. / nom. sg. n.): mfn. (superl. of pára) most distant , remotest , extreme , last ; chief , highest , primary , most prominent or conspicuous ; best, most excellent
bhājanam (nom. sg.): n. (fr. Caus. bhaj) " partaker of " , a recipient , receptacle , (esp.) a vessel , pot , plate , cup ; n. (with gen. or ifc. with f(ā).) , a place or person in which anything is collected or in whom any quality is conspicuous , any fit object or clever or deserving person
bhavān (nom. sg. m.): the gentleman present, you

jñāna-plavam (acc. sg.): the raft of knowing
jñāna: n. knowing , becoming acquainted with , knowledge , (esp.) the higher knowledge
plava: mfn. floating, swimming; mn. a float , raft , boat , small ship
adhiṣṭhāya = abs. adhi-√sthā to stand upon , depend upon to inhabit abide to stand over ; to ascend, mount

śīghram: ind. quickly , rapidly
duḥkhārṇavam (acc. sg.): the foaming sea of suffering
arṇava: m. the foaming sea
tara = 2nd pers. sg. imperative tṛṛ: to pass across or over , cross over (a river) , sail across

觀汝深固志 堪爲正法器
當乘智慧舟 超度生死海

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