Tuesday, October 28, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.85: Ultimate (& Penultimate) Irony

saṁjñāsaṁjñitvayor doṣaṁ jñātvā hi munir udrakaḥ |
ākiṁcanyāt paraṁ lebhe saṁjñāsaṁjñātmikāṁ gatim || 12.85 

For, knowing the fault 
in the duality of consciousness and unconsciousness,

The sage Udraka had glimpsed,

Beyond being without anything,

The realm made up of [neither] consciousness [nor] unconsciousness.

In BC12.63 Arāḍa spoke of one who, realizing that there is nothing there, is known as ākiṁcanyaḥ, a man of being without anything.

adhyātma-kuśalas tv anyo nivartyātmānam ātmanā
kiṁ-cin nāstīti saṁpaśyann ākiṁcanya iti smṛtaḥ
But one who is different, being skilful in regard to his own self – having dropped off the self, using the self – / Realizing that there is nothing there, is known as a man of being without anything.//BC12.63//

We considered at that time that Arāḍa's words seem on the surface to be expressing a teaching different from what the Buddha taught, but the same words can be read as pointing below the surface to the very teaching that the Buddha did later teach. 

Superficially, Arāḍa's description in BC12.63 of being without anything (ākiṁcanya) is a description of the 30th of the 31st Realms of Existence, i.e. the penultimate state in the Formless Realm; and what Udraka glimpsed was a higher state, the ultimate state, the fourth in the four sub-realms in the Formless Realm (Skt: ārūpya dhātu; Pāli: arūpa-dhātu)

A Dictonary of  Buddhism, courtesy of the Oxford Index, has the following entry on ārūpya dhātu:
The Formless Realm; the most subtle of the three levels of existence (triloka) according to Buddhist cosmology. This realm is totally devoid of all materiality and suffering. It comprises four states: boundless space (ākāśa-anantya), boundless consciousness (vijñāna-anantya), nothingness (ākiṁcanya), and neither-ideation nor non-ideation (naivasaṃjñā-nāsaṃjñā). Birth in these states is achieved through mastery of one of the four corresponding attainments (samāpatti) but despite the extremely tenuous nature of existence in this realm, it still forms part of saṃsāra and beings residing there will eventually return to lower states of existence when the force of their merit (puṇya) or good karma is exhausted.

So, on the face of it, Udraka in today's verse is being described as having realized or conceived or caught sight of (lebhe) the 31st and highest realm in the hierarchy of 31 realms, in which being without anything is the 30th realm.

I am not entirely sure about the grammar of saṁjñāsaṁjñātmikāṁ, which literally seems to mean "made up of consciousness and unconsciousness." The sense of a realm made up of [neither] consciousness [nor] unconsciousness, however, is confirmed by tomorrow's verse. And in the Pali suttas Udraka (Pali: Uddaka) is recorded as having declared nevasaññānāsaññāyatanaṁ, the Sphere of Neither-Perception-nor-Non-Perception. 
Uddako Rāmaputto Nevasaññānāsaññāyatanaṁ pavedesi.                            Uddaka Rāmaputta declared the Sphere of Neither-Perception-nor-Non-Perception.
On the face of it, then, by glimpsing the ultimate Sphere, Udraka went one better than Arāḍa (Pali: Āḷāra), who only regarded himself as having realized ākiñcaññāyatanaṁ, the Sphere of Nothingness, the penultimate level in the thirty-one Realms of Existence. 
Evaṁ vutte, Rājakumāra, Āḷāro Kālāmo Ākiñcaññāyatanaṁ pavedesi.            When this was said, Prince, Āḷāra Kālāma declared the Sphere of Nothingness.

As discussed yesterday, however, there is much evidence to support the conclusion that the Buddha did not in fact regard Udraka's realization as having surpassed Arāḍa's realization. All the evidence is that, on the contrary, the Buddha regarded only Arāḍa as having been his teacher. 

The greater number of verses that Aśvaghoṣa devotes to Arāḍa seems to be a reflection of Arāḍa's singular importance. Arāḍa is quoted directly in three speeches (BC12.5-10; BC12.16-42; BC12.46-67) covering 6 + 27 + 22 = 55 verses. Udraka is seen off in only 5 verses (BC12.84 – 88). Moreover Aśvaghoṣa does not allow Udraka to express himself in direct speech; instead, he dismisses Udraka's doctrine in cursory fashion.

We need to dig below the surface, then, to understand the ironic meaning of the 3rd pāda of today's verse.

The irony might be that when ākiṁcanya, being without anything, is understood to be an expression of the buddha-nature, then there is nothing higher than it and nothing deeper than it: in short, there is nothing beyond it. That being so, the realm that Udraka realized (or at least glimpsed) beyond being without anything might not be anything to write home about. And probably because what Udraka realized (or glimpsed, or conceived), was nothing to write home about, the bodhisattva's stay in Udraka's ashram is described from beginning to end in no more than 5 verses.

When today's verse is read like this, then, with due appreciation of its irony, what might have most power to lift the spirits of a bloke who sits is the reference in the 3rd pāda to being without anything. Being without anything, ākiṁcanya, though it is the name of the penultimate realm in the 31 Realms of Existence, might also be the ultimate goal of sitting practice. 

Yesterday I briefly watched an instructional video on “Zazen” (Japanese word = sitting-dhyāna) in which the teacher spoke of having no goal and the importance of sitting up straight.

This doesn't accord with the “Zazen” teaching of the Japanese Zazen Master Dogen. It doesn't accord either with the teaching of Dogen's Indian ancestor Aśvaghoṣa, who wrote as follows of Nanda's attainment of the goal:
Having attained to the seat of arhathood, he was worthy of being served. Without ambition, without partiality, without expectation; / Without fear, sorrow, pride, or passion; while being nothing but himself, he seemed in his constancy to be different. // SN17.61 //

The truth of the matter, ironically, might be that the true goal is to be without anything. The goal, in particular, if we are talking about sitting practice itself, might be to sit without any faulty conception about upright posture.


Heard any good jokes recently? 

saṁjñāsaṁjñitvayoḥ (gen. dual): of consciousness and unconsciousness
saṁjñā: f. consciousness , clear knowledge or understanding or notion or conception; a name , appellation , title , technical term
a-: negative prefix
saṁjñitva = saṁjñin: mfn. having consciousness , conscious of (comp.) ; having a name , named , termed , that which receives a name or has a term given to it in grammar ( °jñi-tva n. )
doṣam (acc. sg.): m. fault

jñātvā = abs. jñā: to know , have knowledge , become acquainted with (acc. ; rarely gen.) , perceive , apprehend , understand
hi: for
muniḥ (nom. sg.): m. the sage
udrakaḥ (nom. sg.): m. Udraka

ākiṁcanyāt (abl. sg.): n. (fr. a-kiṁcana) want of any possession , utter destitution ; m. a nihilist, Bcar. xii, 63
param: ind. (with abl.) beyond , after
lebhe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. labh: to take , seize , catch ; catch sight of , meet with , find ; to gain possession of , obtain , receive , conceive

saṁjñāsaṁjñātmikām (acc. sg. f.): EBC: which maintained a name and a non-name ; EHJ: characterised by neither consciousness nor unconsciousness
saṁjñā: f. consciousness
asaṁjñā: f. unconsciousness
ātmaka: mf(ikā)n. belonging to or forming the nature of (gen.) ; having or consisting of the nature or character of (in comp.) ; consisting or composed of
gatim (acc. sg.): f. manner or power of going; path , way , course ; state , condition , situation , proportion , mode of existence

雖觀細微境 見想不想過

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