Thursday, September 4, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.31: Use of the Self & Over-Attachment

sajjate yena dur-medhā mano-vāg-buddhi-karmabhiḥ |
viṣayeṣv-anabhiṣvaṅga so 'bhiṣvaṅga iti smtaḥ || 12.31

That by which the dull-witted,

Using mind, voice, intent and actions,

Are tied fast to objects,
O one who is free of over-attachment! –

That is known as over-attachment.

"The fact to be faced is that the human self was robbed of much of its inheritance when the separation implied by the conception of the organism as 'spirit,' 'mind' and 'body' was accepted as a working principle, for it left unbridged the gap between the 'subconscious' and the conscious. I venture to assert that if the gap is to be bridged, it will be by means of a knowledge, gained through practical experience, which will enable us to inhibit our instinctive, 'subconscious' reaction to a given stimulus, and to hold it inhibited while initiating a conscious direction, guidance, and control of the use of the self that was previously unfamiliar."
"I suggest that only those who become capable of translating into practice what is involved in the procedure just described can justly claim to have experienced detachment in the basic sense."

-- F. M. Alexander, The Universal Constant in Living, 1946

If EHJ and PO are to be believed, Arāḍa is interested in attachment as an element of Sāmkhya philosophy. But if we judge him by his own words, Arāḍa is interested not so much in philosophy as in the practical problem of how to get this body out of the cycle of unconscious reaction to stimuli.

Precisely this interest led FM Alexander, like Arāḍa before him, to investigate attachment in the practical, non-philosophical context of gaining particular objects or ends (viṣayeṣu). 

So, for example, the Alexander teacher, with words or else with non-verbal hints, causes the sitting pupil to form in his mind an object or end like standing up. And the pupil learns to untie his mind from attachment to that object, aided by directions like “Let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, while sending the knees forwards and away.”

A further reflection prompted by today's verse is that we use essentially the same things in our ignorance to become over-attached that we use on a path to becoming unattached.

Thus, in the traditional three-way classification of the eightfold noble path into prajñā (wisdom), śīla (conduct), and samādhi (balance), use of the mind can be read as corresponding with prajñā, use of the voice and of actions with śīla, and use of intent/judgement/decision-making with samādhi.

This reflection was prompted in particular by thinking about the meaning of the word vāc (speech, voice) in the 2nd pāda of today's verse. It was specifically problems in the use of his voice that originally alerted FM Alexander to the general problem of unconscious misuse of his whole self. This misuse, Alexander eventually found, by tracing the problem back to its source in a manner very reminiscent of the Buddha's description of pratītya-samutpāda (Springing Up by going back), was rooted in the ignorance of faulty sensory appreciation. At the same time, Alexander found that his misuse was rooted in that manifestation of over-attachment to results which he termed “end-gaining.”

Conversely, on the way back out again, out of the saṁsāric cycle of unconscious reaction, Alexander developed an exercise called the whispered ah! as an aid to developing conscious use of the voice.

What I am discussing here has got nothing to do with Brahmanism or any other of those false ideologies that people call “religions.”

When Patrick Olivelle in the introduction to his translation of Buddhacarita writes about the Buddha's teaching as the consummation of Brahmanism, I could not disagree with him more strongly. The Buddha's dharma, as Nāgārjuna concludes at the end of MMK, tends in the direction of abandoning all -isms.

But if Patrick Olivelle wanted to argue that the Buddha's awakening was the consummation of Arāḍa's teaching, that might be harder to argue against. Because the main gist of Arāḍa's own teaching (svasya śaṣtrasya; BC12.15), as it is emerging in the present Canto, seems to be the seeking of a practical means for liberating the self from the cycle of saṁsāra.

sajjate = 3rd pers. sg. passive sañj: to be attached or fastened , adhere , cling , stick
yena (inst. sg.): by which
dur-medhāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. dull-witted , stupid , ignorant
medha: m. the juice of meat ; marrow (esp. of the sacrificial victim) , sap , pith , essence

mano-vāg-buddhi-karmabhiḥ (inst. pl.): by mind, speech, judgements and actions

viṣayeṣu (loc. pl.): m. objects, sense-objects
anabhiṣvaṅga (voc. sg.): O one who is free of overattachment

saḥ (nom. sg. m.): that
abhiṣvaṅgaḥ (nom. sg.): m. intense attachment or affection to (loc.)
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)

愚癡所計著 意言語覺業
及境界計 着 是説名爲著

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