saṁpūjyamānas taiḥ prahvair vinayād anuvartibhiḥ |
tad-vaśa-sthāyibhiḥ śiṣyair lolair mana ivendriyaiḥ || 12.93
He was greatly honoured by those five humble followers;
While, being obedient, because of training, they deferred to him,
Abiding as disciples under his dominion,
Like the restless senses deferring to the mind,
When things work well, they tend to work in a certain order. Hence the saying in Alexander work, for example, “the head leads, the body follows.” Conversely, when things go wrong, they tend to go wrong in a certain order. Hence the recognition among sumo wrestlers that to get the opponent's head going towards the ground, or towards the outside of the ring, is to get the opponent himself going in that direction.
In today's verse, as in yesterday's, Aśvaghoṣa ostensibly chose a metaphor that was apt to represent the hierarchical relationship between the bodhisattva as the natural head of the group and the five bhikṣus who in today's verse are called śiṣyaiḥ, disciples, or “ones ready to be taught.” So my provisional title for today's post was The Leader Leads, Those Ready to Be Taught Follow. That ostensibly is the hierarchical relationship that interested Aśvaghoṣa in today's verse.
But I think Aśvaghoṣa's real intention, again, was to suggest something about the natural hierarchy in which the five human senses exist. And so the real point of today's verse, as I read it, is to cause us to reflect on the principle that the mind leads and the human senses – if they have been trained well – obediently follow.
In the comment to BC12.91, I quoted Marjory Barlow's teaching that we cannot exercise direct control over our feelings.
“We control our feelings. Our feelings control us.”
At the same time, what we can control, at least to some extent, is what we think, i.e. how we use our mind, especially in the context of giving consent to an action or withholding that consent.
"The thinking conditions the feeling. And the feeling conditions the action."
Thus is allowed into being what Nāgārjuna called jñānasyāsyaiva, this very act of knowing, which is, in other words, tattva-darśana, reality making itself known.
But we human beings have not evolved to think in this way. We have rather evolved to react to the world as we are experiencing it through the senses.
To try to get reality to make itself known by holding ourselves in what we feel to be a right position, might be a bit of insanity. But down that crazy path is where reliance on feeling is liable to take us.
Religious people, then, will read today's verse as having religious significance – as emphasizing that, even before his enlightenment, the Buddha-to-be was the truly Worshipful One. But not being misled by the unreliable senses is not so much a religious problem as a developmental problem, or an evolutionary problem. Hence the primary importance not of religious prayer but of training (and especially vestibular re-training), in the hands of somebody who knows the score.
The problem, Aśvaghoṣa must have recognized, as FM Alexander also recognized, is that “None of you wants anything mental.”
I would like to make a distinction here between “Mindfulness-Based-Stress-Reduction” and what Aśvaghoṣa and Nāgārjuna were pointing towards, which was the total destruction of suffering, through an act of knowing.
saṁpūjyamānaḥ = nom. sg. m. passive pres. part. sam- √ pūj: to salute deferentially , honour greatly , revere
taiḥ (inst. pl. m.): by those
prahvaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. bowed , stooping , bowing before; humble, modest
vinayāt (abl. sg.): m. leading , guidance , training (esp. moral training) , education , discipline , control ; m. good breeding , propriety of conduct , decency , modesty
anuvartibhiḥ = inst. pl. m. anuvartin: mfn. following , compliant , obedient , resembling.
tad-vaśa-sthāyibhiḥ (inst. pl. m.): being in his dominion
vaśa: m. authority , power , control , dominion
sthāyin: mfn. standing , staying , being or situated in or on (comp.); being in a partic. place , resident , present ; being in a partic. state or condition
śiṣyaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. 'to be taught'; a pupil , scholar , disciple
lolaiḥ (inst. pl.): mfn. moving hither and thither , shaking , rolling , tossing , dangling , swinging , agitated , unsteady , restless ; inconstant, fickle
manaḥ (nom. sg.) n. the mind
iva: like, as
indriyaiḥ (inst. pl.): the senses