hriyamāṇas-tayā prītyā yo viśeṣaṁ na paśyati |
sthānaṁ bhāsvaram-āpnoti deveṣv-ābhāsureṣu saḥ || 12.53
If, carried away by this joy,
He sees no higher distinction,
He occupies a resplendent station
Among the Shining Gods.
Reviewing Arāḍa's present speech, as I was doing on the ferry, in the context of memorizing the current series of verses from BC12.46, I reflected on the number of verbs from the root √āp, to reach, obtain, realize. Verses BC12.49, BC12.51, BC12.52 each have avāpnoti. In addition, BC12.50 has prāpya (absolutive from pra-√āp), and today's verse has āpnoti.
Especially the contrast between the youngster in BC12.51 and the wise one in BC12.52 seems to highlight that the same verb, ava-√āp, meaning to reach or to arrive or to gain a destination, can represent either a desirable step in the right direction or else a sticking point.
In today's verse, as I read it, the sense of getting stuck is emphasized by sthānam, which originally is an -na neuter action noun – “the act of standing” – but in this context means a station, a state of being stationary, or a place of fixity.
I come back again to FM Alexander's admonition: "You all fix. It's your worst evil!"
I remember also the observation of Alexander's niece about religion. Religion, Marjory said, was mainly fixing.
Apropos of which, again while I was on the ferry, my eyes alighted on the opening paragraph of Patrick Olivelle's introduction to his translation of Buddhacarita, in which he writes:
In addition to being an erudite theologian, Ashva-ghosha was a gifted poet. In “Life of the Buddha” (Buddhacarita), he melds the theological and the poetic into an epic poem that presents Buddhism as the crowning and consummation of the Brahmanical religion.
Never in the field of Buddhist studies has a more misleading or less helpful sentence been written.
Have we not learned, in the 100 years since Britain marched optimistically into the First World War, believing that God was on our side, that religion is nothing to be consummated. It might be something to be abandoned.
"The crowning and consummation of the Brahmanical religion"?
Not if you ask me.
In brahma-practice as Arāḍa is describing it, there is progress through four dhyānas, four Zens. The description of the four Zens by Zen Master Arāḍā seems to be the same as, or at least entirely consistent with, the description of the four Zens by Zen Master Aṣvgahoṣa in SN Canto 17. (The divergence emerges beyond the level of the fourth dhyāna.) And in this description of the four dhyānas, religious enjoyment of association with gods emerges as an option at the level of the 2nd dhyāṇa (deveṣv-ābhāsuraiḥ, among the Shining Gods), then again at the level of the 3rd dhyāna (śubha-kṛtsnair daivataiḥ, with the All-Good Gods). But such association is a stage at which the immature person gets stuck, and consequently fails to develop. The wise one, having reached either of those stages, moves on to the next dhyāna, until reaching the fourth dhyāṇa, which then becomes a base for further development.
Zen practice, then, even as it is being described by the Zen Master Arāḍa as part of brahma-practice, is coming across as being quite irreligious. Enjoyment of association with deities is not negated as a possibility. But neither is it described as a religious path to be crowned and consummated. It is rather identified as an obstacle to human development.
hriyamāṇaḥ (nom. sg. m. pres. part. passive hṛ): being carried away
tayā (inst. sg. f.): by that
prītyā (inst. sg.): f. joy
yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
viśeṣam (acc. sg.): m. distinction; characteristic difference , peculiar mark , special property , speciality , peculiarity ; distinction , peculiar merit , excellence , superiority
paśyati = 3rd pers. sg. paś: to see
sthānam (acc. sg.): n. the act of standing , standing firmly , being fixed or stationary ; state, station
bhāsvaram (acc. sg. n.): mfn. shining , brilliant , bright , resplendent
āpnoti = 3rd pers. sg. ap: to reach , overtake , meet with , fall upon; to obtain , gain , take possession of ; to enter , pervade , occupy
deveṣu (loc. pl.): m. gods
ābhāsureṣu (loc. pl. m.): mfn. shining , bright ; m. N. of a class of deities
saḥ (nom. sg. m.): he