Sunday, October 12, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.69: Finding Fault in Failure to Abandon What Is Most Difficult to Abandon

śrutaṁ jñānam idaṁ sūkṣmaṁ parataḥ parataḥ śivam |
kṣetra-jñasyāparityāgād avaimy etad anaiṣṭhikam || 12.69

“I have listened to this wisdom of yours,

Which grows more subtle stage by stage,
and more wholesome,

But insofar as the Knower of the Field is not abandoned,

I see this wisdom as short of the ultimate.

As noted a couple of days ago, the means (upāya) that Arāḍa has outlined contains the three essential elements of the noble eightfold path, which are namely śīla (integrity), samādhi (integration) and prajñā (integral wisdom).

And yet, ironically, when it comes to liberation itself, Arāḍa's understanding of liberation is not at all integral but is rather fragmentary. He believes there to be such a thing as a "Knower of the Field" -- in other words, a soul, a conscious principle (as the MW dictionary puts it) in the corporeal frame.

In today's verse, when we read it superficially, the bodhisattva can be understood as recognizing that there is such a thing as a “Knower of the Field” – a principle of consciousness disembodied from the corporeal frame -- and protesting that the Knower of the Field is also something to be abandoned, as it is possible for a flea to abandon a bird that has abandoned a cage. 

In reality, however, whereas a flea on a bird that has abandoned a cage is a real thing that really exists, a disembodied "Knower of the Field" is not real; it is only a thought that excites the deluded imagination of the religious and the superstitious. 

Below the surface, then, the bodhisattva can be heard as laying the ground for his own coming realization that the root of all suffering is ignorance. 

In these terms, Arāḍa's conception of a disembodied “Knower of the Field” might be nothing more than a bit of ignorance, a bit of dust in Arāḍa's eye, a bit of a view. 

In the end, today's verse seems designed to remind us, the truth is not a view. To realize the truth is rather to go in the direction of abandonment of views. 

Hence Nāgārjuna's ultimate conclusion in MMK, that the true dharma which the Buddha taught has its direction. And that direction is towards the abandoning of all views (sarva-dṛṣṭi-prahāṇāya). 

In conclusion, the bodhisattva seems on the surface to be saying in today's verse that the Knower of the Field is something to be abandoned. But the real point might be that the Knower of the Field, as Arāḍa conceives it, is nothing to be abandoned. Because the disembodied Knower of the Field is nothing that has ever existed. 

There again, the most difficult things to abandon are always the things -- like views -- that don't exist. 

sarva-dṛṣṭi-prahāṇāya yaḥ saddharmam adeśayat |
anukampām upādāya taṁ namasyāmi gautamam || MMK27.30
In the direction of abandoning all views,
He taught the true dharma,
Taking pity.
I bow to him, Gautama.  

śrutam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. heard, listened to
jñānam (acc. sg. n.): n. knowing , becoming acquainted with , knowledge , (esp.) the higher knowledge (derived from meditation on the one Universal Spirit)
idam (acc. sg. n.): this
sūkṣmam (acc. sg. n.): fine, subtle

parataḥ: ind. farther
parataḥ: ind. farther
śivam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. auspicious, propitious , gracious , favourable , benign

kṣetra-jñasya (gen. sg.): the Knower of the Field ; m. " knowing the body " i.e. the soul , the conscious principle in the corporeal frame
aparityāgāt (abl. sg.): because it is not abandoned
parityāga: m. the act of leaving , abandoning , deserting , quitting , giving up , neglecting , renouncing

avaimi = 1st pers. sg. ava-√i: to look upon , consider ; to perceive , conceive , understand , learn , kno
etat (acc. sg. n.): it, this
a: not
naiṣṭhikam: mfn. forming the end , final , last ; highest , perfect , complete

聞汝勝智慧 微妙深細義於知因不捨 則非究竟道 

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