Sunday, September 21, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.48: Mobilizing in the Right Direction

tato rāgād-bhayaṁ dṣṭvā vairāgyāc-ca paraṁ śivam |
nighṇann-indriya-grāmaṁ yatate manasaḥ śame || 12.48

He sees, on these grounds, 
how horror arises out of redness

But the highest happiness out of its absence,

And he mobilizes himself – curbing the senses –

In the direction of quieting of the mind.

Ostensibly, again, today's verse is leading up to a description of the first dhyāna. So it is describing a practitioner at a stage preparatory to the first of four stages of sitting-meditation. Ostensibly its position is before the first of four stages. 

Below the surface, however, I read today's verse, in common with every verse since BC12.40, as having gone beyond the fourth of four phases. 

As I noted at the end of my comment to BC12.41, in the effort to memorize the verses of the present Canto in series, I have been remembering them in the following four-phased sequence:

BC12.1 – ideal moon (first phase)
BC12.2 - spatial dimensions (second phase)
BC12.3 – subject and object meet at the place of purity (third phase)
BC12.4 - Sitting (fourth phase)...

and so on, group of four after group of four...

BC12.5 – ideal vessel
BC12.6 – dogged constancy, unromantic negation of emotion
BC12.7 – nothing miraculous
BC12.8 – something miraculous

BC12.9 - vi- √ jñā 1. to know
BC12.10 - vi- √ jñā 2. being known
BC12.11 - vi- √ jñā 3. knowing
BC12.12 – Realization

BC12.13 – Motivation and estimation
BC12.14 – skepticism (Can it be explained?)
BC12.15 – Arāḍa acts (his own teaching)
BC12.16 – Listen!

BC12.17 – Intro; concepts / birth, death, aging
BC12.18 – Prakṛti - what is really primary (not what you think)
BC12.19 – Vikāra - physical bits and bobs; equally, the mind
BC12.20 – Knowing the [Unified] Field (= meeting the Tāthagata)

BC12.21 – distinction 1; Awake vs Not Awake
BC12.22 – distinction 2: Manifest vs Not Manifest
BC12.23 – causes of saṁsāra
BC12.24 – the eight concrete causes

BC12.25, 26 – wrong grounding, selfishness
BC12.27, 28 – blurring (x2)
BC12.29, 30 – lack of discrimination, wrong means
BC12.31, 32 – attachment, pulling down

BC12.33 – thus, fivefold ignorance
BC12.34 – tamo, moha, mahā-moha
BC12.35 -  mahā-moha = kāma
BC12.36 – tamīsram (x2)

BC12.37 – duḥkha (saṁsāra as 1st noble truth)
BC12.38 – negation of “ego” (ironic affirmation of aham)
BC12.39 – truth of cessation
BC12.40 – meeting the Tāthagata tatra, (via the four)

At this point the regular four-phased progression seems to break down. BC12.41 and 12.42, rather than starting a new set of four phases, seem to continue on at, or beyond, the fourth phase. The same can be said for BC12.43 onwards. 

BC12.41 – meeting the Tāthagata again (via the four again) 
BC12.42 – meeting Buddha as brahma-practice (Araḍa's conclusion).
BC12.43 – oneness of means and end (narrator's descripiton)
BC12.44 – oneness of means and end (bodhisattva's question)
BC12.45 – same Dharma, by the book (narrator's descripiton)
BC12.46 – first step / last step --> primacy of action (Araḍa begins again).
BC12.47 – first step / last step  = 少欲知足, no dichotomy 
BC12.48 – transcending raw emotion, by going in the right direction

So the present progression, at one level, is a progression towards Zen Master Arāḍa's description of the first, second, third, and fourth dhyānas. In that case today's verse is about recognition and mental motivation -- getting psyched. 

But at the deeper level, the present series of verses can be read as pointing to the sitting that Zen Master Dogen praised as 安楽門 ANRAKU [no] HOMON, the Dharma-gate of peace and ease, which is beyond 禅 SHU-ZEN, learning Zen, or dhyāna to be learned. 

When today's verse is read in this light, its first word, tataḥ, means not simply "then" but rather “on this basis” or “on these grounds.” And on these grounds, referring back to BC12.40,  means on the grounds of meeting Buddha.  In that case, dṛṣtvā, seeing, suggests not so much an easy intellectual recognition as hard-won realization. 

EBC translated the 1st pāda Then having seen how fear arises from passion...”;
EHJ, Then, seeing thedanger that arises from passion...”; 
and PO similarly “Then, seeing that from passion comes danger....”

But, like tatra in BC12.40, tataḥ in today's verse can be read as much more than an inconsequential conjunction.

The point is that the one in question (ayam; BC12.46) is ostensibly a devotee (EBC) or an aspirant (EHJ) who happens to notice something. But below the surface the one in question might be a buddha who has already realized everything.

Again, the second half of today's verse can be read on two levels at least. Thus both EBC and PO translated yatate as “he strives”:

EBC: he strives, by restraining all the senses, to attain to tranquillity of mind.
EHJ: he arrests his senses and exerts himself in the matter of mental quietude.
PO: He restrains all his sense organs and strives to quieten his mind. 

These sound like descriptions of the striving of the ignorant one who, in Nāgārjuna's account, does the doings which are the root of saṁsāra.

How in fact does a wise one restrain or arrest the senses?

The answer I think is: not directly. To try to restrain or arrest the senses directly is just the kind of doing that the ignorant one does.

And how can striving take us in the direction of quieting of the mind? 

The answer I think, again, is: not directly. To strive to quieten the mind directly is just the kind of doing that the ignorant one does.

Therefore, if we read today's verse as description of the practice of a wise one, then the true relation between niyate (he makes effort) and nigṛhnan (holding back) might be that making effort is primary and holding back of the senses is a kind of happy accident

It is not that we make effort by restraining the senses, as indicated by EBC's translation. Nor is it that we first restrain the senses and then start striving, as suggested by the translations of EHJ and PO. 

Rather, making effort in a particular direction is a means-whereby for allowing the power of the senses naturally to abate. “Direction is the truest form of inhibition,” to borrow a phrase from Alexander work.

A lof of digging for small potatoes, you might think. But if there is a hundredth or thousandth of a gap, as Dogen emphasized, the gulf is wider than the separation of heaven and earth. 

Aśvaghoṣa's verbal irony is the mirror of the irony of practice. Because he knew so well that to strive in the direction of undoing is, ironically, just to do...

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.

tataḥ: ind. then, on that basis
rāgāt (abl. s.g): m. colour , hue , tint , dye , (esp.) red colour , redness ; any feeling of passion  
bhayam (acc. sg.): n. fear ; sg. and pl. terror , dismay , danger , peril , distress ; danger
dṛṣṭvā = abs. dṛś: to see

vairāgyāt (abl. sg.): n. loss of colour ; freedom from all worldly desires , indifference to worldly objects and to life , asceticism
ca: and
param (acc. sg.): highest, supreme, of the highest order
śivam m. happiness , welfare ; n. welfare , prosperity , bliss

nigṛhṇan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. ni- √ grah: to hold down , lower , depress ;
to keep or hold back , draw near , attract ; to seize , catch , hold , hold fast , stop , restrain , suppress , curb , tame , punish
indriya-grāmam (acc. sg.): m. the assemblage of the organs , the senses or organs of sense collectively
grāma: m. an inhabited place , village , hamlet ; the collective inhabitants of a place , community , race ; ifc. (cf. Pa1n2. 6-2 , 84) a multitude , class , collection or number (in general)

yatate = 3rd pers. sg. yat: to seek to join one's self with , make for , tend towards (loc.) ; to endeavour to reach , strive after , be eager or anxious for (with loc. dat. acc. with or without prati , once with gen. ; also with arthe , arthāya , artham and hetos ifc. ; or with inf.) ; to exert one's self , take pains , endeavour , make effort , persevere , be cautious or watchful
manasaḥ (gen. sg.): n. mind
śame (loc. sg.): m. tranquillity, peace ; tranquillization , pacification , allayment , alleviation , cessation , extinction

見貪欲怖畏 及離欲清涼
攝諸根聚落 安心於寂默

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