Sunday, November 2, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.90: Singular Pleasure

atha nairaṇjanā-tīre śucau śuci-parākramaḥ |
cakāra vāsam ekānta-vihārābhiratir muniḥ || 12.90 

And so, on a pure bank of the Nairaṇjanā,

He whose heroic endeavour was pure

Took up his dwelling

As a sage who delighted in a solitary vihāra
      a lonely practice-place,
     and the pleasure ground of devotion to a single end.


Today's verse, as well as supplying historical detail about the river now known as Lilajan River, can be read as a reminder that practice in the middle way is neither exclusively one thing nor the other. 

Hence, as I was alluding to yesterday, an approach like the FM Alexander Technique which is regarded – with some justification – as having to do with how physically to sit, turns out to be, in Alexander's own words, “the most mental thing there is.”

Conversely, Zen meditation, during our initial forays into it, tends to turn out to be much more acutely physical than we had previously expected.

Thus śucau in the 2nd pāda describes the river bank as pure in the sense of physically clean, washed clean by water flowing through a remote landscape. And the same word śuci in the compound śuci-parākramaḥ describes the bodhisattva's bold advance as pure in the sense of mentally untainted, free of impure motives.

This double meaning of śuci in the  2nd pāda prepares our mind to appreciate a parallel double-meaning in the compound ekānta-vihārābhiratiḥ which spans the 3rd and 4th pādas. In this compound ekānta = eka (one) + anta (end), and the word primarily means “a lonely place.” Hence EBC translated ekānta-vihārābhiratiḥ “bent as he was on a lonely habitation,” and EHJ similarly “who delighted in a lonely habitation.” PO translated "finding delight in solitude."

But just as viviktam can describe physical solitude but equally mental seclusion (e.g. kamair viviktam, being secluded from desires), so also can ekānta mean not only physical solitude but also “having a single end” or “being devoted to one object.”

When we read today's verse like this, its connection is apparent with the two aspects discussed yesterday of śreyas, as representing the right direction and at the same time the true destination.

The right direction (śreyas =  betterment) is the direction of growth, which is constructive, organic, upward. And the true destination (śreyas = the supreme good) Nāgārjuna described as the total destruction of the whole edifice of suffering. Hence...
  1. ignorance avidyā
  2. doings saṁskārāḥ
  3. consciousness vijñānam
  4. psychophysicality nāmarūpam
  5. six senses ṣaḍ-āyatanam
  6. contact saṁsparśaḥ
  7. feeling vedanā
  8. thirsting tṛṣṇā
  9. grasping hold upādānam
  10. becoming bhavaḥ
  11. birth jātiḥ
  12. the suffering of aging and death, and so on, sorrows, lamentations...                            jarā-maraṇa-duḥkhādi śokāḥ saparidevanāḥ....
saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ |
avidvān kārakas tasmān na vidvāṁs tattva-darśanāt ||MMK26.10
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.

avidyāyāṁ niruddhāyāṁ saṁskārāṇām asaṁbhavaḥ |
avidyāyā nirodhas tu jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt ||MMK26.11
In the destroying of ignorance,
There is the non-coming-into-being of doings.
The destroying of ignorance, however,
Is because of the allowing-into-being of just this act of knowing.

tasya tasya nirodhena tat-tan nābhipravartate |
duḥkha-skandhaḥ kevalo 'yam evaṁ samyaṅ nirudhyate ||MMK26.12
By the destruction of this one and that one,
This one and that one are discontinued.
This whole edifice of suffering
Is thus totally destroyed.

Understood like this, ekānta-vihārābhiratiḥ, “delighting in a solitary vihāra,” while ostensibly it suggests enjoying the scenery at some remote beauty spot, below the surface might be intended to point to action like putting out a fire burning on one's head. 

Though your head and clothes be on fire, direct your mind so as to be awake to the [four noble] truths. / For in failing to see the purport of the truths, the world has burned, it is burning now, and it will burn. //SN16.43//

atha: ind. and so, then
nairaṇjanā-tīre (loc. sg.): on a bank of the nairaṇjanā
nairaṇjanā: f. N. of a river (Nilajan) falling into the Ganges in magadha (Behar)
tīra: n. shore, bank

śucau (loc. sg. n.): mfn. shining ; clear , clean , pure (lit. and fig.)
śuci-parākramaḥ (loc. sg. m.): whose heroism was pure
parākrama: m. bold advance , attack , heroism , courage , power , strength , energy , exertion , enterprise

cakāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. kṛ: to do, make
vāsam (acc. sg.): m. staying , remaining (esp. " overnight ") , abiding , dwelling , residence
ekānta-vihārābhiratiḥ (nom. sg. m.): delighting in the place of recreation which is devotion to one object
ekānta: m. a lonely or retired or secret place ; the only end, absoluteness ; devotion to one object ; mfn. directed towards or devoted to only one object or person
vihāra: m. walking for pleasure or amusement , wandering , roaming ; walking for pleasure or amusement , wandering , roaming ; a place of recreation , pleasure-ground ; a monastery or temple (originally a hall where the monks met or walked about)
abhirati: f. pleasure , delighting in (loc. or in comp.)
muniḥ (nom. sg.): m. the sage

見彼五比丘 善攝諸情根
持戒修苦行 居彼苦行林 
[Corresponds to BC12.91 in EHJ's edition.]
尼連禪河側 寂靜甚可樂
菩薩即於彼 一處靜思惟 

[Corresponds to BC12.90 in EHJ's edition – the order is reversed.]

No comments: