Monday, December 15, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 13.11: An Ironic Study in Being Rigidly Determined vs Being Loosened

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Chāyā)
athādya nottiṣṭhasi niścitātman bhava sthiro mā vimucaḥ pratijñām |
mayodyato hy eṣa śaraḥ sa eva yaḥ sūrpake mīna-ripau vimuktaḥ || 13.11

Or if today you will not stand up, O determined man

Then be rigid! Do not loosen your vow! 

For this arrow that I am holding up, is the very arrow

That I let loose at Sūrpaka, the fishes' foe. 

niścita in the 1st pāda of today's verse and sthira in the 2nd pāda could both literally be translated as "fixed." Thus, using a bit of poetic license: 
O you whose essence is fixity, be as fixed as you like!
This puts me in mind of an exchange I had about ten years ago with a fellow Alexander teacher at an Alexander workshop. I was sitting in lotus and my opponent was sitting in conventional Alexander form on a chair. Our conversation centred on what FM Alexander meant by "a position of mechanical advantage." 

For my opponent, sitting on a chair was superior, as a position of mechanical advantage, than sitting in lotus, since while sitting on a chair one was better prepared for movement, and especially the movement from sitting to standing. 

For me, being rigidly attached to the teaching of Zen Master Dogen, nothing is superior to sitting in full lotus. 

From where my opponent was sitting, I must have seemed as rigid in my attitude as anybody could be. 

From where I was sitting, my opponent was just an enemy of the true Buddha-dharma -- to put it politely. 

In a footnote to today's verse, EHJ noted that 2nd pāda is ironical, meaning 'you will need all your firmness not to give up your vow.' 

More broadly, the whole verse as I read it is ironical. In general, as indicated by the above exchange, for practitioners in search of freedom any kind of fixity or rigidity is to be avoided, and any form of letting go, coming undone, or coming unloose is to be welcomed. But in today's verse, ironically, it is Māra who is bragging about the arrow he let loose, and poking sarcastic fun at the bodhisattva who is rigidly sticking to his vow. 

The Fishes' Foe is mentioned by that name, mīna-ripu, in SN Canto 8, as part of the striver's tirade against women:  
The daughter of Sena-jit the Conqueror, so they say, coupled with a cooker of dogs; Kumud-vatī, 'the Lilly Pool,' paired up with Mīna-ripu, 'the Foe of Fishes'; / And Bṛhad-rathā, 'the Burly Heroine,' loved a lion: there is nothing women will not do. // SN8.44 //
In SN Canto 10, in begging for the Buddha's help, Nanda seems to allude to the same character who met his demise having fallen in love with Kumudvatī, except that in this case Nanda uses the name abja-śatru lit. “the enemy of the water-born”: 
Therefore pour on me the water of your voice, before I am burned, as was The Fishes' Foe; / For a fire of passion is going now to burn me up, like a fire rising up to burn both undergrowth and treetops. // SN10.53 //
In a footnote to SN8.44, EHJ considered that that Mīna-rupu might in that context have been a fish-devouring crocodile. 

The name Sūrpaka, as per EHJ's text, does not offer any clues -- the MW dictionary simply states that Sūrpaka = Śūrpaka, who was an enemy of Kāma-deva, aka Māra. 

The old Nepalese manuscript, however, is ambiguous. EHJ gives its reading as sūrpp(?yy?)ake. EBC's text has sūryake. And the MW dictionary gives  sūryake as "resembling the sun." EBC adds the following footnote identifying Sūryake with the Sun: 
The Sun, alluding to his amour with Vaḍavā. (The lake is called vipannamīnam in tusaṁhāra I, 20.)

Insofar as the sun dries up water in a lake, and therefore too much of it is not good for any fish in the lake, Sūryaka makes a certain sense. Nonetheless I have gone with EHJ's reading of Sūrpaka.

It is ironic, in conclusion, that devotion to the principle and ineffably subtle practice of non-doing has a rigid aspect of unswerving constancy. It is ironic, equally, that wisdom in non-doing has a humble aspect of not always being the one who knows. 

Hence in Nāgārjuna's words as I read them, tattva-darśanāt doesn't necessarily mean "because of me seeing the truth"; it might rather mean "because of reality making itself known." 

What would we think if we woke up one morning and heard that somebody had walked into a coffee shop with a shotgun with the intention of causing others to bend to the will of Buddha? 

Unenlightened though we still may be, we would somehow know intuitively that it did not make any sense at all. The Buddha's teaching was evidently never about subjugating others. 

And yet to follow the Buddha's teaching does require a certain rigidity, a certain steel. 

So we sit in lotus, still. Not so much because we see the truth of it, but more because sitting in lotus is so mechanically advantageous to the truth of non-doing making itself known. 

A gunman walks into a coffee shop and forces a customer to hold up a flag declaring that there is no Buddhism other than the one true Buddhism, and the Zen ancestors are its prophets? 

Could it happen? It sounds bizarre, but on reflection I think maybe it could, because of the propensity of human beings to get everything completely upside down.  

A gunman walks into a coffee shop and forces a customer to hold up a flag declaring that there is no Buddhism other than the One True Buddhism, and the Zen ancestors are its prophets...

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 ignorant one do. / The ignorant one therefore is the doer; the wise one is not, because of reality making itself known. //MMK26.10// 

na vidvān "the wise one is not," means the wise one is not the doer. 

atha: and so, now, but, else 
adya: ind. today
na: not
uttiṣṭhasi = 2nd pers. sg. future ud- √sthā: to stand up , spring up , rise , raise one's self
niścitātman (voc. sg.): O one who is resolute to the core!
niścita: mfn. one who has come to a conclusion or formed a certain opinion , determined to , resolute upon ; ascertained , determined , settled , decided
niś- √ ci: to ascertain , investigate , decide , settle , fix upon , determine , resolve
ātman: essence , nature , character , peculiarity (often ifc. e.g. karmā*tman , &c )

bhava = 2nd pers. sg. imperative bhū: to be
sthiraḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn.  firm , hard , solid , compact , strong; fixed , immovable , motionless , still , calm
mā: a particle of prohibition or negation, most commonly joined with the Subjunctive i.e. the augmentless form of a past tense (esp. of the aor. e.g. mā́ no vadhīr indra , do not slay us , O indra
vimucaḥ = 2nd pers. sg. subjunctive (formed from vi-mumuca) vi- √ muc: to unloose , unharness ; to leave , abandon , quit , desert , give up , relinquish
pratijñām (acc. sg.): f. admission , acknowledgment , assent , agreement , promise , vow

maya (inst. sg.): by me
udyataḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. raised , held up
ud- √ i: to rise 
hi: for
eṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): this here
śaraḥ (nom. sg.): m. arrow
sa (nom. sg. m.): it, that
eva: (emphatic)

yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): which
sūrpake (loc. sg.): m. Sūrpaka
śūrpaka: m. N. of a demon (an enemy of kāmadeva)

sūryaka: mfn. resembling the sun
mīna-ripau (loc. sg. m.): the enemy of fishes
vimuktaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. unloosed, discharged

今若不起者 且當安汝意
愼莫捨要誓 試我一放箭

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