Monday, September 22, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.49: The First Dhyāna, By the Book

¦−−−−¦¦−−−−¦⏑−⏑−   mavipulā
atho viviktaṁ kāmebhyo vyāpādādibhya eva ca |
viveka-jam-avāpnoti pūrva-dhyānaṁ vitarkavat || 12.49

Then he realizes the stage secluded from desires,

And also from things like malice;

He realizes the stage born of seclusion –

The first dhyāna, in which there is thinking.

In the passage which follows below from Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasuttaṁ (DN 22), The Long Discourse about the Ways of Attending to Mindfulness, the Buddha is teaching an assembly of monks the truth of the eightfold path.

The link is to the text and translation prepared by Ānandajoti Bhikkhu, whose choice of English words to represent recurring traditional Pali/Sanskrit terms provides a very good benchmark, if not a gold standard. Examples are “the pollutants” for āsravaḥ (MW: defilements, sins); and, in today's verse, “born of seclusion” for vivekajaṁ (MW: produced or arising from discrimination; EBC: arises from discrimination; EHJ: born of discrimination; PO: rising from discrimination).

When I first came across “born of discrimination” as a translation of viveka-jam, six years ago, I felt a doubt about it. But not any more. “Born of seclusion” or “born of separateness” is the meaning. “Born of discrimination” is flat out wrong; it is a translation born of the dictionary, not of practice.

In the passage which follows below, AB translates sammāsamādhi as “right concentration.” “Concentration” is a literal enough reflection of sam (together) + ādhi (putting). The problem with the word concentration, however, as we usually use it, is that it suggests an effort of doing. And “right” tends to be problematic too. I think it was Chogyam Trungpa who taught that samyañc really means “straight” as in taking Scotch whisky straight, not on the rocks. It was maybe an unfortunate metaphor, in view of his reputed alcoholism. In any event, as a translation of sammāsamādhi I have preferred “balanced stillness,” and changed the wording in one or two others places as well. So the following is my reworking of AB's translation:

Katamo ca, bhikkhave, sammāsamādhi?
Now what, monks, is balanced stillness?
Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu vivicceva kāmehi, vivicca akusalehi dhammehi,
Here, monks, a monk, quite secluded from sense desires, secluded from unwholesome things,
savitakkaṁ, savicāraṁ, vivekajaṁ pītisukhaṁ,
[dwells in the state which] has thinking, has reflection, and the joy and ease born of seclusion –
paṭhamaṁ jhānaṁ upasampajja viharati.
he dwells having attained the first stage of meditation.

It makes me happy to see the common elements in
(a) this passage from the Pali (DN 22);
(b) Arāda's description in Sanskrit in today's verse (BC12.49); as also in
(c) Aśvaghoṣa's description of Nanda's attainment of the first dhyāna in SN Canto 17 (SN17.49).

kāmair viviktaṃ malinaiś ca dharmair vitarkavac cāpi vicāravac ca /
Distanced from desires and tainted things, 
containing ideas and containing thoughts,
viveka-jaṃ prīti-sukhopapannaṃ dhyānaṃ tataḥ sa prathamaṃ prapede //SN17.42
Born of seclusion and possessed of joy and ease, 
is the first stage of meditation, which he then entered.

Though the wording varies, the essential elements are as follows:

  • vivicceva kāmehi (DN 22), quite secluded from sense desires
  • kāmair viviktam (SN17.42), separated/distanced/secluded from desires
  • viviktaṁ kāmebhyaḥ (BC12.49) separated/distanced/secluded from desires / sense desires
So the first dhyāna is defined, when we go by the book, as secluded from sense desires.

  • vivicca akusalehi dhammehi (DN22), secluded from unwholesome things,
  • viviktaṃ malinaiś ca dharmair (SN17.42), separated/distanced/secluded from tainted things
  • viviktaṁ vyāpādādibhyaḥ (BC12.49), separated/distanced/secluded from [things/emotions] like malice
The first dhyāna is defined, when we go by the book, as secluded from unwholesome and tainted things – including, for one example, malice.

  • savitakkaṁ, savicāraṁ (DN22), having thinking, having reflection
  • vitarkavac cāpi vicāravac ca (SN17.42), having/containing thinking/thoughts/ideas and having/containing consideration/reflection/thoughts
  • vitarkavat (BC12.49), having thinking
The first dhyāna is defined as having thinking.

  • vivekajaṁ (DN22), born of seclusion
  • viveka-jam (SN17.42), born of separateness/seclusion
  • viveka-jam (BC12.49), born of separateness/seclusion
The first dhyāna is defined as being born of separateness or seclusion.

  • pītisukhaṁ (DN22), having happiness and joy, or joy and happiness, or joy and ease
  • prīti-sukhopapannaṃ (SN17.42), being possessed of joy and ease
  • apūrva-sukha (BC12.50), ease/pleasure/happiness/joy not experienced before, new-found pleasure
The first dhyāna is characterized by positive feelings.

atho: and so, then
viviktam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. separated , kept apart , distinguished , discriminated; isolated , alone , solitary
kāmebhyaḥ (abl. pl.): m. desires

vyāpādādibhyaḥ (abl. pl.): m. malice etc.
vyāpāda: m. evil intent or design , malice
ādi: etc.
eva: emphatic
ca: and
viveka-jam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. produced or arising from discrimination Dharmas. 72; born of solitude/separateness/seclusion
viveka: m. discrimination , distinction
vi- √vic: to sift (esp. grain by tossing or blowing) , divide asunder , separate from
avāpnoti = 3rd pers. sg. ava√āp: to reach , attain , obtain , gain , get

pūrva-dhyānam (acc. sg. n.): the first dhyāna
vitarkavat (acc. sg. n.): mfn. (speech) containing a conjecture or supposition
vitark: vi- √ tark: to reflect , ponder , think , believe , suppose , conjecture , consider
vitarka: m. conjecture , supposition , guess , fancy , imagination , opinion ; reasoning , deliberation , consideration ; purpose, intention

離欲惡不善 欲界諸煩惱
遠離生喜樂 得初覺觀禪 

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