Thursday, October 30, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.87: The Iron Zen of Being There (3rd-Hand)

¦−−−−¦¦⏑−−−¦⏑−⏑−   mavipulā
yataś ca buddhis tatraiva sthitānyatrāpracāriṇī |
sūkṣmāpaṭvī tatas tatra nāsaṁjñitvaṁ na saṁjñitā || 12.87

Again, because the mind, being right there,

Stood still, not wandering elsewhere,

Therefore in that state
– that subtle, not intellectual, state of the mind –

There was neither unconsciousness nor consciousness.

Today's verse can be read as a description – albeit a third-hand description – of the fourth dhyāna as experienced by Udraka's teacher Rāma.

The sense of stillness, motionless, or lack of any undue excitement, is thus common to today's verse and to Aśvaghoṣa's own description of the fourth dhyāna in SN Canto 17:
Then, even in that stage of meditation, he found a fault: he saw it as better to be quiet, not excited, / Whereas his mind was fluctuating tirelessly because of ease circulating. // SN17.52 // In excitement there is interference, and where there is interference there is suffering, / Which is why, insofar as ease is excitatory, devotees who are desirous of quiet give up that ease. // SN17.53 // Then, having already transcended ease and suffering, and emotional reactivity, / He realised the lucidity in which there is indifference and full awareness: thus, beyond suffering and ease, is the fourth stage of meditation. // SN17.54 //

Given that the Buddha, contrary to general opinion, did not regard Udraka as having been his teacher, it would be easy to judge Udraka harshly and to call into question whether Udraka's declaration of the fourth-dhyāna realm beyond consciousness and unconsciousness, was genuine or not.

But the Buddha did not judge Udraka in that way. The Buddha rather praised Udraka as having had only a bit of dust on his eye. 

Neither did Aśvaghoṣa judge Udraka harshly. Rather, by avoiding the use of direct speech to represent Udraka's view, Aśvaghoṣa allowed us to give the benefit of the doubt to Rāma and Udraka, accepting that (a) Rāma might have realized, as claimed, the highest of the 31 Realms of Existence, and (b) the modest Udraka, without necessarily claiming to have made the 31st Realm his own, still transmitted Rāma's teaching as faithfully as he could.

As a technique of translation to allow this sense to be conveyed of Udraka being Rāma's faithful mouthpiece (as opposed to declaring his own realization of the fourth dhyāna),
(a) yesterday I translated gata-spṛḥaḥ as “one was free of aspiring,” rather than “he [Udraka] was free of aspiring”; and
(b) in today's verse I have emphasized the sense of indirectly reported speech by using the past tense (“stood still”; “there was neither...”).

A conclusion we can tentatively draw, then, is that Arāḍa ostensibly realized the 30th of 31 Realms of Existence, known in Pali as ākiñcaññāyatanaṁ, The Sphere of Nothingness. And Udraka's teacher Rāma ostensibly realized the 31st of the 31 Realms of Existence, known in Pali as nevasaññānāsaññāyatanaṁ, The Sphere of Neither-Perception-nor-Non-Perception.

These are the top two of the four Formless Worlds said to be experienced by a practitioner in the highest stage of meditation, the fourth dhyāna.

Reading between the lines, however, Arāḍa's words point beyond the fourth dhyāna to the ending of ignorance itself, via the teaching and practice of pratītya-samutpāda, and we can revere the words of Arāḍa as such – at least up until his conclusion about the soul escaping the body like a bird from a cage. 

We cannot revere Udraka in a similar way, since Udraka is not quoted in his own words, and Udraka's doctrine is Rāma's teaching and not his own.

Nevertheless, the present series of five verses, describing what the bodhisattva made of Udraka, serves as a further reminder of what the fourth dhyāna is... and, more importantly, what it is not. 

It is not the end of ignorance. It is not even the beginning of the end. But maybe, in an epic story of the struggle against ignorance, it is the end of the beginning.

This epic story of the awakening of action (buddha-carita-mahā-kāvya) is, in other words, a dope's biography. It is the story of the dopey one's struggle to defeat his own ignorance, by the means – beyond the fourth dhyāna – of an act of knowing. Hence,
The doings which are the root of saṁsāra thus does the dopey one do. / The dopey one therefore is the doer; the wise one is not, because of reality making itself known. //MMK26.10// In the destruction of ignorance, there is the non-coming-into-being of doings./ The destruction of ignorance, however, is because of the allowing-into-being of just this act of knowing.//MMK26.11// By the destruction of this one and that one, this one and that one are discontinued. / This whole edifice of suffering is thus well and truly demolished.//MMK26.12//

For a bloke who sits, then, today's verse can be read as encouragement to realize the fourth dhyāna. But more than that, today's verse, in context, serves as a reminder that for the bodhisattva the fourth dhyāna was never the end. The end, as expressed in the teaching of the four noble truths, was the total demolition of the whole edifice of suffering.

The total demolition of the whole edifice of suffering sounds like one hell of a big ask. But it can be accomplished here and now, Nāgārjuna seems to suggest, simply by an act of knowing. 

The difficulty, as FM Alexander demonstrated with unrivalled clarity, is that human beings have not evolved to realize the simple act of knowing. We have rather evolved to react unconsciously, to be the dopey one, the doer. 

And so, with the dollar price of gold heavily down again overnight, I cannot help but concluding... 


yataḥ: ind. since
ca: and
buddhiḥ (nom. sg.): f. judgement, mind
tatraiva: ind. right there, in that very state

sthitā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. standing firm, remaining
anyatra: ind. elsewehere
apracāriṇī (nom. sg. f.): not appearing
pracārin: mfn. coming forth , appearing ; proceeding with , acting , behaving ; going about , wandering

sūkṣmā (nom. sg. f): mfn. subtle
apaṭvī = nom. sg. f. apaṭu: mfn. not clever , awkward , uncouth ; ineloquent ; sick , diseased ; EHJ: inert : PO: static
paṭu: sharp , pungent , acrid , harsh , shrill , keen , strong , intense , violent ; smart , clever , skilful , crafty , cunning ; eloquent ; clear , manifest
tataḥ: ind. therefore, from that, thence
tatra: ind. there, in that state

na: not
asaṁjñitvam (nom. sg.): n. unconsciousness
saṁjñitva n. >> saṁjñin: mfn. having consciousness , conscious of (comp.) ; having a name , named
na: not
saṁjñitā (nom. sg.): f. consciousness
saṁjñita: mfn. made known , communicated ; called , named , termed (generally ifc.)

以衆生至彼 必當還退轉

[Relation with Sanskrit tenuous]

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