Friday, October 3, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.60: Losing Interest in Form

tatas tad-dhyānam utsjya viśeṣe kta-niścayaḥ |
kāmebhya iva sat-prājño rūpād api virajyate || 12.60

Having thus let go of that meditation,

And with his mind set on higher distinction,

The one who really understands what is real
– like he lost interest in desires –

Loses interest in form.

Arāḍa now seems to have well and truly lost the plot. The spiritual aspirant whom Arāḍa describes as wise, it seems to us who sit, at first glance, is committing the cardinal sin of the Zen backslider – namely, failing to stick to the principle of daily practise of sitting-meditation. Rather, with his end-gaining mind aspiring to a loftier spiritual aim, the spiritual aspirant is here described as shunning altogether the material world of black cushions, sore legs, and good physical posture. Hence:

EBC: Then, having abandoned this contemplation, being resolved to find a further distinction, he becomes as disgusted with form itself as he who knows the real [sat-prājño] is with pleasures.

EHJ: Then, abandoning the practice of that trance, the wise man  [sa prājño] sets his mind on progress and turns away from all desire for material form even, as previously from the passions.

PO: Then, having cast aside that trance, he sets his sight on a higher state; / As he once withdrew from pleasures, so now the wise man  [sa prājño] withdraws also from visible form.

Each of these translations is, at the outer level, perfectly good. Each provides ample basis for the prosecution of Arāḍa, who stands accused of having departed already from Zen Buddhist orthodoxy.

But once again, Aśvaghoṣa seems to have left the door open for a case to be mounted in Arāḍa's defence. And the case for the defence once again rests on the ambiguity of Arāḍa's words.

Thus, in the 1st pāda, tad dhyānam utsṛjya could once again express
(a) something errant, like being lazy in Zen practice; 
or, ironically,
(b) a bit of nothing, an absence of the whiff of self-conscious pretence that is apt to accompany those who practice Zen Buddhism, not to mention Buddhist-based mindfulness meditation, the FM Alexander Technique, and so on. Beware of receiving a double-dose of  tad dhyānam, that Zen, from true stinkers who are steeped in self-conscious practice of both traditional Zen and Zen as re-discovered by FM Alexander.

The 2nd pāda, again, could describe
(a) a spiritual aspirant setting his sights on a lofty spiritual goal somewhere over the rainbow; 
or, ironically,
(b) to borrow a phrase from a Chinese Zen master, a beggar boy breaking his begging bowl.

The 3rd pāda could describe as sat-prājñaḥ
(a) a spiritual aspirant who believes that the real is the spiritual as opposed to the material; 
or, ironically,
(b) a Zen practitioner who understands that the real is the real, as opposed to the spiritual, and as transcendent over the purely material.

The loss of interest in form described in the 4th pāda, then, is ostensibly a symptom of religious sincerity, but what I think Aśvaghoṣa really had in mind was the loss of interest in form that happens when one makes progess in Alexander work. And if you want to know what I mean by that, then I suggest you spend a few years finding out for yourself!

When we read today's verse as above, taking pains to dig out the irony hidden beneath the surface, it serves as yet another reminder not to jump to conclusions.

When I reflect back on my own life, how often have I acted too quickly, or too dumbly, based on assumptions that turned out to have been not well founded?

Too often to mention!

By the way, we are now half-way through this very long Canto of 121 verses. I note, for the purposes of memorizing the verses in order, that we are 15 verses into Arāda's second speech. The first 11 of those verses (BC12.46-56) took us to the fourth dhyāna. Today's verse can be remembered as the fourth verse in another block of four, so that
  1. BC12.47 concerns subjective delusion (abhimāna);
  2. BC12.48 Fat Profit (bṛhat-phala);
  3. BC12.49 physical realization of the truth of cessation (śarīra-vinivṛttaye);
  4. BC12.50 transcendence of interest in form (rupād api virajyate).

tataḥ: ind. then, from that place, on those grounds
tad (acc. sg. n.): that, this
dhyānam (acc. sg. n.): act of meditating, stage of meditation
utsṛjya = abs. ut- √ sṛj: to let loose , let off or go ; to set free ; to open ; to sling , throw , cast forth or away ; to lay aside ; to quit , leave , abandon , avoid , eschew ; to discontinue , suspend , cease , leave off

viśeṣe (loc. sg.): m. distinction
kṛta-niścayaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. determined or resolved on (dat. , loc. inf. or in comp.)

kāmebhyaḥ (abl. pl.): m. desires
iva: like, as
sat-prājñaḥ (nom. sg. m.): wise in regard to what is real
sat: n. what is true or real
prājñā: f. intelligence , understanding , wisdom
saḥ [EBC] (nom. sg. m.): he
prājñaḥ [EBC] (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (fr. jñā) intellectual (opp. to śārīra , taijasa) ; intelligent , wise , clever

rūpāt (abl. sg.): n. any outward appearance or phenomenon or colour (often pl.) , form , shape , figure ; handsome form , loveliness , grace , beauty , splendour ; nature , character , peculiarity , feature , mark , sign , symptom ; likeness , image , reflection ; circumstances (opp. to " time " and " place ")
api: also
virajyate = 3rd pers. sg. vi- √ rañj: to be changed in colour , be discoloured , lose one's natural colour ; to become changed in disposition or affection , become indifferent to , take no interest in (abl. or loc.)

増進修智慧 厭離第四禪
決定増進求 方便除色欲 

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