Friday, December 19, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 13.15: Down with Māra

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Vāṇī)
tasmiṁs tu bāṇe 'pi sa vipramukte cakāra nāsthāṁ na dhteś cacāla |
dṣṭvā tathainaṁ viṣasāda māraś cintā-parītaś ca śanair jagāda || 13.15

But even when the arrow was unleashed at him,

He thought nothing of it; from constancy, he did not budge.

Seeing him like this, Māra sank down into despondency

And, filled with anxious thought, he said in a low voice:

saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ
The doings which are the root of saṁsāra thus does the ignorant one do.

There are two kinds of essentially downward direction which the ignorant one, as exemplified by Māra, does do.

The first can be summarized as “puffed up.” When we are puffed up, we feel like we are really going up, but the feeling is delusory. Our sensory appreciation, to use FM Alexander's phrase, is not reliable. Our sensory appreciation, Alexander would sometimes say, is debauched.

Psychologically speaking, this puffed-up postural state tends to be associated with
(a) self-assertive statements like, “I shall go to destroy his vow, like the swollen torrent of a river breaking through a dike!” (BC13.6); and
(b) conceited views of past triumphs, as Māra has demonstrated in connection with his bringing down of Sūrpaka, the fishes' foe (BC13.11), of Purū-ravas and of Śan-tanu (BC13.12).

Since pride invariably comes before a fall, wrong direction of the first kind invariably leads to wrong direction of the second kind, which is expressed in the 3rd pāda of today's verse as viṣasāda, “he sank down.”

This depressed or slumping postural state (which Zazen practitioners are liable to try to disguise by an external mask of uptightness – uptightness masquerading as uprightness ) is associated psychologically with a heavy load of anxious thought.

At the same time, both kinds of downward direction – both the puffed-up state and the pulled-down state – are associated with a loss of vocal power.

Just such a loss of vocal power was the starting point in the investigations of FM Alexander -- without whose teaching this comment would not have been possible.

The task I see ahead in 2015 is to clarify in my own way, based on the discoveries of FM Alexander in the field of non-doing, what the Buddha meant by the teaching preserved in Sanskrit as pratītya-samutpāda.

We don't have Aśvaghoṣa's own account in Sanskrit of this teaching – though the relevant part from BC Canto 14 is preserved in the Tibetan, and we have EHJ's translation from the Tibetan. 

Fortunately, however, we do have the Sanskrit of Aśvaghoṣa's Dharma-grandson Nāgārjuna, whose MMK (mūla-madhyamaka-kakārikā) begins as follows:

a-nirodham an-utpādam an-ucchedam a-śāśvatam
an-ekārtham a-nānārtham an-āgamam a-nirgamam ||MMK1.1
Beyond closing down, beyond springing up,
Beyond discontinuity, beyond continuity,
Beyond identity, beyond distinctions,
Beyond coming near, beyond going away,

yaḥ pratītya-samutpādaṁ prapañcopaśamaṁ śivam |
deśayām āsa saṁbuddhas taṁ vande vadatāṁ varam ||MMK1.2
There is Springing Up, by going back ,
Which, as the wholesome cessation of spin,
He the Fully Awakened Sambuddha taught.
I praise him, the best of speakers.

Then, 25 chapters later, in the penultimate chapter of MMK, Nāgārjuna makes it crystal clear exactly what the Buddha meant by the pratītya (going back) of pratītya-samutpāda.

In the first verse of the chapter, Nāgārjuna states:
punar-bhavāya saṁskārān avidyā-nivṛtas tridhā |
abhisaṁskurute yāṁs tair gatiṁ gacchati karmabhiḥ ||MMK26.1||
The doings that lead to repeated becoming,
One veiled in ignorance, in three ways,
[With body, mouth, and mind] does do; and by these
Actions, he enters a sphere of existence.

Nāgārjuna then goes through the twelve links in the twelvefold chain linking ignorance (1), doings (2), consciousness (3), psychophysicality (4), six senses (5), contact (6), feeling (7), thirsting (8), clinging (9), becoming (10), birth (11), and the suffering of ageing, death et cetera (12), before coming back to his beautifully succinct conclusion. In this conclusion, Nāgārjuna comes back to the real root of saṁsāric suffering, in ignorant doing: 

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.

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 well and truly demolished.

In MMK26.11 jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt is translated here “because of the allowing-into-being of just this act of knowing.” bhāvanāt could equally be translated as “because of the cultivation.” and jñānasyāsyaiva could equally be translated as “of just this wisdom.” Thus, for example:

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

If you ask the Dalai Lama what MMK26.11 really means – and if you get the chance, please do ask – I imagine this is what he will tell you. Ignorance is caused to cease not by religious prayer, but by true education, which is the cultivation of wisdom.

I think that teaching is totally true, as far as it goes.

But the present series of verses as I read it points to a still truer understanding of jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt whereby the -na neuter action noun jñāna “knowing,”  expresses real wisdom as something less abstract than what tends to be conveyed with the word “wisdom.” That something is the simple non-doing act of sitting still.

My point is that Aśvaghoṣa does not describe the bodhisattva defeating Māra with wisdom; he describes the bodhisattva defeating Māra by a more concrete means. The bodhisatta just keeps on sitting still. Whatever Māra unleashes at him, the bodhisattva does not break his sitting posture, and does not budge.

This means, concrete action though it is, is not an act of doing. It is an act of knowing. 

tasmin (loc. sg.): at him
tu (but)
bāṇe (loc. sg.): m. an arrow
api: even
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
vipramukte (loc. sg.): mfn. loosened ; discharged , shot , hurled
vi-pra- √ muc: to loosen , unfasten , take off ; to liberate , set free ; to discharge , hurl , shoot

cakāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. kṛ: to do, make
na: not
āsthām (acc. sg.): f. consideration, care
na: not
dhṛteḥ (abl. sg.): f. holding , seizing , keeping , supporting (cf. carṣaṇī- , vi-) , firmness , constancy , resolution
dhṛ: to hold , bear ; to hold back , keep down , stop , restrain , suppress , resist
cacāla = 3rd pers. sg. perf. cal: to be moved from one's usual course , be disturbed , become confused or disordered , go astray ; to turn away from , swerve , deviate from (abl. e.g. dharmāt , to swerve from virtue)

dṛṣṭvā = abs. dṛś: to see
tathā: ind. thus, in this way
enam (acc. sg. m.): him
viṣasāda = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi-√sad: to be exhausted or dejected , despond , despair ; to sink down , be immersed in (loc.)
√sad: to sit down, to sink down , sink into despondency or distress
māraḥ (nom. sg.): m. Māra

cintā-parītaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. lost in thought, thoughtful, Bcar.
cintā: f. thought , care , anxiety , anxious thought about
parīta: mfn. surrounded , encompassed , filled , taken possession of , seized (with instr. or in comp.)
ca: and
śanaiḥ: ind. quietly , softly , gently , gradually , alternately
jagāda = 3rd pers. sg. perf. gad: to speak articulately , speak , say , relate

菩薩不視箭 亦不顧三女
魔王惕然疑 心口自相語

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