Tuesday, September 2, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.29: Meaningful Differences

aviśeṣaṁ viśeṣa-jña pratibuddhāprabuddhayoḥ |
praktīnāṁ ca yo veda so 'viśeṣa iti smtaḥ || 12.29

What knows no distinction,
O knower of distinctions!

Between the Awake and the Not Awake,

Or among the constituent parts of the Primary Matter,

Is known as “lack of discrimination.”

The distinctions Arāḍa refers to in today's verse are ostensibly those drawn in Sāṁkhya philosophy.

But considering that the fully awakened Buddha regarded Arāḍa as having but a little dust on his eye, Aśvaghoṣa might be expecting us to dig for deeper meaning than that. Aśvaghoṣa might be expecting us to understand what practical -- as opposed to philosophical -- purpose could be served by the distinctions Arāḍa sees.

To that end, the distinction referred to in the 2nd pāḍa between the Awake and the Not Awake can be read in light of FM Alexander's aphorism that "When an investigation comes to be made it will be found that every single thing we do in the work is exactly what is done in Nature, where the conditions are right, the difference being that we are learning to do it consciously."

In the 3rd pāda prakṛtīnām is genitive plural of prakṛti, hitherto translated and understood as the Primary Matter (singular) and explained in terms of the primacy of devoting oneself to a path or a means-whereby as opposed to the alternative approach of blindly striving for results (see comment to BC12.18).

In the plural, the MW dictionary gives prakṛti as (in the sāṁkhya phil.)... the 8 producers or primary essences which evolve the whole visible world (viz. a-vyakta, buddhi, ahaṁ-kāra, and the 5 tan-mātras or subtle elements).

Thus EBC translated prakṛtīnām in today's verse “between the different evolvents;” EHJ translated “between the primary constituents” and PO “among Primal nature's constituents.”

I know next to nothing about Sāmkhya philosophy, and I am not particularly interested in filling that gap in my knowledge. But a distinction which I know has value in practice concerns the primary importance, in sitting, of the pelvis. And the important distinction to make, with regard to the pelvis, might be this: The pelvis is part of the back, and not part of the legs.

Similarly one can say that when one is sitting well, the neck is part of the back, the neck is the top of an integrated back, so that a certain separation or freedom is allowed, at the atlanto-occipital joint, where the back (including pelvis and neck) and the head join. 

Again the shoulders sit easy on the back, the shoulders are part of the back, and are not bullied out of position by the doings of the arms and hands.

In conclusion, within the primary criterion which is the samādhi of accepting and using the self (Jap: JIJUYO-ZANMAI), what is truly primary? 

My Zen teacher taught his students that the primary thing was the action of keeping the spine straight vertically. 

FM Alexander spoke of recognizing that relativity in the use of the headneck, and other parts which proved to be a primary control of the general use of the self.

I would say that my Zen teacher's teaching about keeping the spine straight vertically was a crude approximation of a truth that FM Alexander, and teachers he taught, learned to demonstrate with great delicacy and accuracy. 

Both teachers were interested in what was primary, and made distinctions between what was of primary and secondary importance. Thus, for my Zen teacher, parts that were of primary importance were the spine and the autonomic nervous system. For FM Alexander the relation between the head and neck, and between the head and neck and other parts, was primary. Other relationships between body parts were secondary. 

My Zen teacher, Rev. Gudo Nishijima, made a clear philosophical distinction between thinkingfeeling, and action

FM Alexander made a clear distinction in practice between doing and not doing, the key to the cessation of the former and allowing of the latter being what Alexander called "thinking" -- not thinking as opposed to action, but thinking as opposed to doing, thinking as facilitator of action. 

For more than fifteen years after I  met him in the summer of 1982, my Zen teacher showed incredible generosity to me, who he saw as being his potential successor. But a spanner was thrown in the works of our relationship circa 1997, due partly to my own lack of diplomatic / political skills and partly to his prejudice against Alexandrian "thinking." 

It is a deep irony, it strikes me this morning, a deep irony that I cannot help expressing as the conclusion to the comment I prepared last night, that my way of repaying my teacher's generosity is to publicize as clearly as I can his supreme ignorance with regard to the teaching of Nāgārjuna which he admired so much. 

The point I am primarily here to clarify is that my Zen teacher and I, when we sat together in Japan stiffening our necks by pulling our chins in, were exactly who Nāgārjuna -- when he made his supremely meaningful distinction between the ignorant and the wise -- called the ignorant ones. 

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.

aviśeṣam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. without difference , uniform
viśeṣa-jña (voc.): O one who knows what is special!

pratibuddhāprabuddhayoḥ (gen. dual n.): the awake and the unawake; EBC: the illuminated and the unwise; EHJ: the intelligent and the unintelligent; PO: the Conscious and the Unconscious
pratibuddha: mfn. awakened , awake ; illuminated , enlightened
a-prabuddha: mfn. not awake
prabuddha: mfn. awakened , awake , roused , expanded , developed , opened , blown ; known , understood , recognised ; enlightened , clear-sighted , clever , wise

prakṛtīnām (gen. pl.): f. " making or placing before or at first " , the original or natural form or condition of anything , original or primary substance (opp. to vi-kṛti q.v.) ; pl. the 8 producers or primary essences which evolve the whole visible world (viz. a-vyakta , buddhi or mahat , ahaṁ-kāra , and the 5 tan-mātras or subtle elements ; rarely the 5 elements alone)
ca: and
yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): [that] which
veda = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vid: to know , understand , perceive , learn , become or be acquainted with , be conscious of , have a correct notion of ; (ya evam veda [in Br. ], " who knows thus " , " who has this knowledge ")

saḥ (nom. sg. m.): it
aviśeṣaḥ (nom. sg): m. non-distinction , non-difference , uniformity ;
iti: “..., thus
smṛtaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. remembered , recollected , called to mind , thought of ; handed down , taught , prescribed , (esp.) enjoined by smṛti or traditional law , declared or propounded in the law-books ; termed , styled , named (nom. with or without iti)

如是不分別 是説名總攬
愚黠性變等 不了名不別

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