Tuesday, October 14, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.71: Letting Go of the Platonic Self, & the Beginning of Investigation of Grounds

viśuddho yady api hy ātmā nirmukta iti kalpyate | 
bhūyaḥ pratyaya-sad-bhāvād amuktaḥ sa bhaviṣyati || 12.71

For even if the pure self, 'the soul,' 

Is declared to have been released,

Once again, as long as the grounds exist,

It will become not released.

To learn the Buddha-dharma, Zen Master Dogen famously asserted, is to learn the self. And to learn the self is to forget the self. 

Arāḍa seemed, below the surface, to be saying something very similar  in BC12.63, about using the self to drop off the self. 

The Sanskrit word for the self in these practical contexts is ātman. 

In today's verse, however, ātman seems to mean the Platonic or spiritual self or the soul, and the bodhisattva seems to be using the term as synonymous with kṣetra-jña, the knower of the field (MW: the soul, the conscious principle in the corporeal frame) referred to in the previous two verses. 

In what sense, then, is it reasonable to talk of the ātman as being set free, or liberated, or released; and equally to talk of the ātman as becoming not free or not liberated or not released?

When the ātman is not being released, is there a self which is being overly tensed up, as if the whole self were being held in a cage of undue muscular tension? Or is it rather that the concept of an ātman or a soul or a self is being held onto? 

Is the practical aim to free the self which is the original unit of psychophysical unity -- like in Zazen, or like in an Alexander lesson?  

Or is the aim to let go of the false conception of a separable soul -- like releasing a helium balloon into the sky, or like dropping a hot potato? 

Again, are these two aims -- one physical and one mental? Or do they boil down in practice to one aim? 

In the coming verses of the bodhisattva's reply we will have several opportunities to come back to these questions, since the bodhisattva repeatedly refers to the ātman. 

What I strongly suspect, a priori, is that Aśvaghoṣa intentionally left two doors open; and what I picture is Aśvaghoṣa sitting there nodding and smiling as, through the centuries (EBC in the 19th, EHJ in the 20th, and PO in the 21st) professors of Sanskrit, with all their intellectual knowledge about the ancient wisdom of India, singularly fail to notice the existence of the second door -- marked "IRONY." 

Of particular interest to us who sit, in the lineage of the Zen ancestors, is the use of the word  pratyaya, grounds, in the 3rd pāda  of today's verse.  

In tomorrow's verse also Aśvaghoṣa records the Buddha using this word pratyaya, to which Nāgārjuna turns his attention in the first chapter of his Mūla-madhyamaka-kārikā (MMK).  The title of that first chapter of MMK is pratyaya-parīkṣā, which can be translated "Investigation of Grounds." More controversially, in view of the fact that Nāgārjuna discusses four pratyayāḥ, I have thought to translate the chapter title "Investigation of the Cornerstones" or "Investigation of the Cornerstones of Direction." 

The derivation of pratyaya  seems to go back to prati-i, which means "to go back to." The same may be true of the derivation of pratītya  in the compound  pratītya-samutpāda. I think that both pratyaya and pratītya go back to the root prati-i, to go back. 

How important it is, in Nāgārjuna's teaching, for us to understand the meaning of pratītya-samutpādaSpringing Up by going backis indicated in the opening two verses of MMK: 

a-nirodham an-utpādam an-ucchedam a-śāśvatam
an-ekārtham a-nānārtham an-āgamam a-nirgamam ||MMK1.1
Beyond closing down, beyond springing up,
Beyond discontinuity, beyond continuity,
Beyond identity, beyond distinctions,
Beyond coming near, beyond going away,

yaḥ pratītya-samutpādaṁ prapañcopaśamaṁ śivam |
deśayām-āsa saṁbuddhas taṁ vande vadatāṁ varam ||MMK1.2
There is Springing Up, by going back,
Which, as the wholesome cessation of spin,
He the Fully Awakened Sambuddha taught.
I praise him, the best of speakers.

In today's verse EHJ translates pratyaya-sad-bhāvād  "from the continued existence of the causal conditions." PO translates "because the causal roots are present." 

So we get a sense from today's verse of pratyaya indicating what something goes back to, or what -- causally -- something is grounded in.

In the compound  pratītya-samutpāda, the second element samutpāda is usually translated "origination" and the first element  pratītya "dependent" or "conditional" or "interdependent." But the verb sam-ut-pad is given first in the MW dictionary as "to spring up together." And I take pratītya to be the absolutive of  prati-i . 

So I intend to state the case, starting next year, if I live that long, for reading pratītya-samutpāda as an expression of action itself, springing up into which is synonymous, in the teaching of the Zen ancestors, with going back to the source of suffering, and cutting suffering off at its source, which is ignorance. 

Today's verse, then, can be read as preparing the ground for us to understand the teaching that the bodhisattva in BC Canto 14, as the fully awakened Sambuddha, is going to realize as  pratītya-samutpāda  -- i.e. so-called "Dependent Origination;" but also, as I intend to propose, "Springing Up by going back." 

viśuddhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. completely cleansed or purified (also in a ritual sense) , clean , clear , pure (lit.and fig.)
yady-api: ind. even if, although
hi: for
ātmā (nom. sg.): m. the breath; the soul ; the individual soul , self , abstract individual ; essence , nature , character , peculiarity

nirmuktaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. loosed , separated , sundered , liberated or saved or escaped
nir- √ muc:  to loosen or liberate
iti: “....,” thus
kalpyate = 3rd pers. sg. causative passive kḷp:  to set in order , arrange ; to fix ; to declare as , consider as (with double acc.) ; to frame , form , invent , compose (as a poem &c ) , imagine

bhūyaḥ: ind. further on; once more , again , anew
pratyaya-sad-bhāvāt (abl. sg.); because of the existence of its grounds / the roots of its direction / causal roots
pratyaya: m. belief ; ground , basis , motive or cause of anything (in med.) = nimitta , hetu &c ; (with Buddhists) a co-operating cause; the concurrent occasion of an event as distinguished from its approximate cause
sad-bhāva: m. real being , existence ; the being true , truth , real state of things

amuktaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. not loosed , not let go , not liberated from birth and death , not liberated from rāhu , still eclipsed
saḥ (nom. sg. m.): it
bhaviṣyati = 3rd pers. sg. future bhū: to become

汝謂我清淨 則是眞解脱
若遇因縁會 則應還復縛

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