Saturday, September 6, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.33: Do Cracks Appear?

ity-avidyām hi vidvān sa pañca-parvāṁ samīhate |
tamo mohaṁ mahā-mohaṁ tāmisra-dvayam-eva ca || 12.33

Thus does the wise one, then, targeting ignorance,

Think of ignorance as fivefold:

As obscuration, as delusion, as great delusion,

And as the two kinds of darkness.

Insofar as the central gist of today's verse is a description of one who is wise (vidvān) targetting or aiming to cease ignorance (avidyām), it is very reminiscent of the Buddha's teaching as distilled by Nāgārjuna:

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.

The analysis of ignorance into five categories, however, might be Arāḍa's own idea.

EHJ notes:
The teacher referred to is Vārsaganya according to Vācaspati Miśra on Sāmhhyakārikā 47; the sūtra is Tattvasamāsa 14,  and is alluded to in the Yogasūtrabhāṣya and the Purānas, but not specifically in the MBh. Samīhate, “desire,” “wish,” [translated by EHJ as "declares"] is equivalent to iṣ as used in philosophical works of asserting a principle.

Against EHJ's view that vidvān saḥ, “that wise teacher” (EHJ) or “he the wise one,” refers to “the great Sāṁkhya teacher Vārsaganya” (PO's words), is the fact that samīhate is in the present tense. The present tense suggests to me that Arāḍa is concerned with how a wise practitioner is to practice now, and is not so concerned (as EHJ is concerned) with the history of Sāṁkhya philosophy. 

But a still stronger refutation of EHJ's view on Vārsaganya might be provided, again, by Aśvaghoṣa's description of Arāḍa's teaching in BC12.15 as svasya śaṣtrasya, his own teaching.

I may seem to labour the point but I think that to fail to understand this point is to fail to do Arāḍa justice. Arāḍa was more than a representative of Sāṁkhya philosophy or of the Brahmanical tradition. He had conducted his own research into the cycle of saṁsāra and he was teaching a teaching which was his own teaching.

Sharpening our critical faculties, therefore, we are required to see why
  •  the awakened Buddha would later say that Arāḍa (and only Arāḍa) had been his teacher, and why he thought that Arāḍa along with Udraka, as two men with only a little dust on their eyes, might be amenable to his dharma; and at the same time
  • why the bodhisattva saw a fault in Arāḍa's teaching, was not satisfied with it, and abandoned it in favour of severe asceticism.

So the question that seems to arise in connection with today's verse is whether separating ignorance into five is itself a manifestation of ignorance?

In the Buddha's teaching as recorded by Nāgārjuna, the key to the cessation of ignorance, and of the whole edifice of suffering built on ignorance, is expressed as tattva-darśana, and as jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvana. These expressions are ambiguous, and something has to be lost in translating them. But what we can say with certainty is that they are expressions in the singular. Tattva-darśanāt is ablative singular. Jñānasyāsya, similarly, is genitive singular; it expresses a unitary act of knowing.

“Realizing reality” is pithy as a translation of tattva-darśana, but it easily suggests reality as an object realized by a doing subject. It thus, in purporting to point to the absence of any gap, in fact invites a crack to appear. 

In conclusion, to answer the question asked in the title of this post, Do cracks appear?, yes, of course, they most certainly do, as has been amply demonstrated throughout human history. 

I have started reading Paul Fussell's book The Great War & Modern Memory, which is a kind of study of how big cracks began to appear exactly 100 years ago.

Young men went to war with idealistic and optimistic thoughts and expectations and met in spades the horrors of sickness, injury and death. 

Thus had opened one big crack. 

It was against the opening of any such crack that Dogen took pains to warn us at the beginning of his instructions for sitting-Zen.

If the slightest crack opens, it turns into a gulf like between heaven and earth, and swallows young men like the mud of the Somme.

So we should not be too quick to dismiss the teaching of Arāḍa. But as and when we see a crack appearing in his teaching we should not hesitate to drop him like a stone, which is exactly what the bodhisattva did... until such time as the bodhisattva became the fully awakened Sambuddha and knew that Arāḍa, conversely, might be able to learn from him. 

iti: “...,” thus
avidyām (acc. sg.): f. ignorance
hi: for
vidvān (nom. sg.): m. the wise one
saḥ (nom. sg. m.): he, that

pañca-parvām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. (river) having 5 windings ; (also) five fold, Bcar.
parvan: n. a knot , joint ; a break , pause , division , section (esp. of a book)
samīhate = 3rd pers. sg. sam- √ īh : to strive after , wish for , desire , endeavour to gain (acc.)
√ īh: to endeavour to obtain ; to aim at , attempt ; to long for , desire ; to take care of ; to have in mind , think of (with acc.)

tamaḥ (nom. sg.): n. darkness , gloom ; darkness of hell ; the obscuration of the sun or moon in eclipses , attributed to rāhu; mental darkness , ignorance , illusion , error (in sāṁkhya phil. one of the 5 forms of a-vidyā)
moham (nom. sg.): m. loss of consciousness , bewilderment , perplexity , distraction , infatuation , delusion , error , folly
mahā-moham (nom. sg.): m. great confusion or infatuation of mind
mahā́-mohana: mfn. very confusing or bewildering MBh

tāmisra-dvayam (nom. sg. n.): EBC/EHJ/PO the two kinds of darkness
tāmisra: m. the dark half of the month; m. (in sāṁkhya phil.) indignation , anger (one of the 5 forms of a-vidyā)
tamisra: n. darkness , dark night (also pl.) ; n. a dark hell , hell (in general) ; n. anger
tamisrā: a dark night
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and

諸世間愚夫 攝受於五節
闇癡與大癡 瞋恚與恐怖

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