Monday, November 17, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.105: Stillness & Progress – The Right Thing Does Itself

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svastha-prasanna-manasaḥ samādhir upapadyate |
samādhi-yukta-cittasya dhyāna-yogaḥ pravartate || 12.105 

In one whose mind is well and tranquil,

Samādhi, balanced stillness, sets in.

In one whose mind is possessed of samādhi,

Dhyāna, meditative practice, progresses.

Translation is a losing game.

Because translation is a losing game, the temptation as a translator is often to over-egg the pudding, saying more in English than was there in the original Sanskrit. The temptation, in every sphere of human endeavour, is always to do too much.

Six years ago I was drawn to today's verse by Patrick Olivelle's striking translation of it.
PO: Mental concentration springs up when one's mind is well and serene, And practice of trance advances when concentration grips one's mind.
Concentration gripping one's mind resonates with Dogen's description of the Zen ancestors being gripped by stillness (GOCCHI NI SAERARU). And, probably because of my experience of pulling myself down for 13 years in Japan before Alexander work gave me the experience of springing up again, I am always drawn to descriptions of springing up. Thus six years ago when I first laid hands on the Clay Sanskrit Library edition of Buddhacarita, translated by PO, I see that I wrote next to today's verse the Chinese character for balance, , which represents the Sanskrit samādhi. I drew 定 surrounded by a circle with an arrow pointing upwards, like the male symbol. 
Somewhat disappointingly, however, on further investigation, the upa- of upa-√pad does not seem to mean “up.” The ut- of ut-√pad means “up.” Thus the MW dictionary defines ut-√pad as “to arise” and sam-ut-√pad as “to spring up together.” But for upa-√pad the dictionary seems to indicate not so much the sense of springing up as the sense of drawing near or setting in or simply taking place. The noun upapāda is given as “happening.”

As further confirmation that translation is a losing game, here for comparison are EBC's and EHJ's translations of today's verse:
EBC: True meditation is produced in him whose mind is self-possessed and at rest, — to him whose thoughts are engaged in meditation the exercise of perfect contemplation begins at once.
EHJ: The man whose mind is well-balanced and serene develops concentrated meditation when the mind is possessed of concentrated meditation; the practice of trance begins.

And here is my own effort of six years ago which strikes me, as I read it now, as another manifestation of doing too much. 

When the mind is well and serene,
Physical balance asserts itself;
And when balance is in the harness of intelligence,
Zen practice gets going.

There again, in six years time, if I am still around, I may well look back on how today I have translated today's verse, and shake my head again. The pendulum may swing back so that  I think the distinction was after all worth emphasizing that samādhi is primarily a state of physical balance (as opposed to mental concentration, as per PO), and citta means mind in the sense of the thinking mind, or the intelligence.

Six years ago, I would have been conscious, in translating today's verse as I did, of the Alexander teacher Walter Carrington's pamphlet titled "Balance as a Function of Intelligence." But today, for what reason exactly I don't know, I am content just to follow EHJ in taking citta as synonymous with manas, and simply translating "the mind." 

Translation never stops being a losing game. Maybe what changes over time is a bloke's desire to assert himself as a winner, or indeed as a champion loser. 

If the right thing is allowed to do itself, such ambition, one would think, ought to wane. On the other hand if such ambition is suppressed, rather than being dealt with skilfully, such ambition is liable to spring up again with explosive force! 

But in conclusion, what is it, if not samādhi, that we want to spring up. In the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, Springing Up, By Going Back, what is it that is supposed to spring up?

If we go back to Nāgārjuna's words in MMK, the closest thing to an answer to this question might be jñānasyāsyaiva, just that act of knowing which springs up into being not because I am so skilled in manipulating it, but rather tattva-darśanāt, because of reality making itself known, because of the right thing doing itself.

saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ |
avidvān kārakas tasmān na vidvāṁs tattva-darśanāt ||MMK26.10
avidyāyāṁ niruddhāyāṁ saṁskārāṇām asaṁbhavaḥ |
avidyāyā nirodhas tu jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt ||MMK26.11
tasya tasya nirodhena tat-tan nābhipravartate |
duḥkha-skandhaḥ kevalo 'yam evaṁ samyaṅ nirudhyate ||MMK26.12
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 (tattva-darśanāt). //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 (jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt). //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//

svastha-prasanna-manasaḥ (gen. sg. m.): whose mind is composed and tranquil
svastha: mfn. self-abiding , being in one's self (or " in the self " Sarvad. ), being in one's natural state , being one's self uninjured , unmolested , contented , doing well , sound, well , healthy ; composed
prasanna: mfn. clear , bright , pure (lit. and fig.) ; placid, tranquil

sam-ādhiḥ (nom. sg.): m. putting together ; union ; setting to rights , adjustment , settlement ; concentration of the thoughts ,
upapadyate = 3rd pers. sg. upa- √ pad: to go towards ; to approach , come to , arrive at , enter ; to reach , obtain , partake of ; to enter into any state ; to take place , come forth , be produced , appear , occur , happen ; to be present , exist
upa-: ind. (a preposition or prefix to verbs and nouns , expressing) towards , near to (opposed to apa , away) , by the side of , with , together with , under , down (e.g. upa- √gam , to go near , undergo); near to , at , on , upon ; at the time of , upon , up to , in , above
upapāda: m. happening

samādhi-yukta-cittasya (gen. sg. m.): whose mind is taken over by balanced stillness
yukta: mfn. set to work , made use of , employed , occupied with , engaged in , intent upon (instr. loc. or comp.); absorbed in abstract meditation , concentrated , attentive ; furnished or endowed or filled or supplied or provided with , accompanied by , possessed of (instr. or comp.)
citta:  n. attending , observing ; n. thinking , reflecting , imagining , thought ; heart, mind ; intelligence, reason 

dhyāna-yogaḥ (nom. sg.): m. profound meditation (or " meditation and abstraction ")
yoga: m. the act of yoking ; any junction , union , combination , contact with (instr. with or without saha , or comp.) ; a means , expedient , device , way , manner , method ; partaking of , possessing (instr. or comp.) ;
pravartate = 3rd pers. sg. pra- √ vṛt: to roll or go onwards (as a carriage) , be set in motion or going ; to come forth , issue , originate , arise , be produced , result , occur , happen , take place

寂靜離老死 第一離諸垢

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