Saturday, December 6, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 13.2: Introducing Māra - Of Lovely Flower-Power, & Hateful Weapons

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
yaṁ kāma-devaṁ pravadanti loke citrāyudhaṁ puṣpa-śaraṁ tathaiva |
kāma-pracārādhipatiṁ tam eva mokṣa-dvia māram udāharanti || 13.2

Kāma-deva, “God of Love,” they call him in the world,

The bearer of the brightly-coloured bow
and, equally, of flower-arrows;

That same despot in his playground of desire,

The hater of liberation, they call Māra.

My Zen teacher lived in the post-WWII bubble of Japanese over-confidence, not to say arrogance.

That psychological bubble had its economic counterpart in a capital investment bubble which reached its peak in around 1990-91, accompanied by bubbles in Japanese equities and real estate. The Japanese monetary authorities' reactions to the bursting of those bubbles, ever since, have continued to be instrumental in the inflation of a global money bubble, associated with misallocation of resources – especially in favour of bloated and parasitic financial sectors – and growing inequality.

For the past few years I have been trying to get my head around the phenomenon of a declining gold price in the face of unprecedented money printing around the world. Some, like Jim Rogers, say that, since everything goes in waves, large corrections in commodity prices are only natural. Others see all the markets as being more or less rigged. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. But my intuition has been that a lot of distortions – in the markets as in how the Buddha's teaching is taught – originate in Japan. Japan, in many ways, continues to be a very strange place, having been cut off as it was for so many centuries from the outside world. That being so, I found this article by metals analyst Paul Mychreest truly eye-opening -- dot-joining and alarming in equal measure.

The article describes many ironies, the central one being how risky speculation and leverage seem to have been used to suppress the price of gold which, in principle, should rise when risks to the system rise. Mychreest also describes how Japan is "the cutting edge of the cutting edge" of the expanding global credit bubble. 

His article begins by asking: Has the market completely missed a huge long/short trade which has helped to drive up the Nikkei and drive down the gold price for more than 2 years? One that puts risk-taking and leveraged speculation by our industry in an unfavourable light again?

I may seem to digress too much, but I heed the warnings of commentators like Jim Rickards, who sees the complex system of the global economy as being like an avalanche waiting to engulf all of us -- the financially savvy and innocent alike. In view of at least a possibility of such a crash, if not the inevitability of such a crash, Jim Rickards advocates holding some portion of savings – maybe ten per cent – in physical gold held outside the banking system.

If all the banks fail, and the rules of the game are reset, as Jim Rickards predicts, gold will still be gold. It was on Jim Rickards' recommendation, by the way, that I recently read the book Lords of Finance, which helps to put everything in its proper historical perspective. If everything goes tits up in the financial markets and the global economy, it won't be the first time.

Coming back to Zen, I would say that everything in Japanese Zen has already gone completely tits up. And the Nishijima-Cross translation of Shobogenzo, which was supposed to be part of the solution, like a Zen gold standard, has more likely been part of the problem. That is because at the root of the whole effort was a serious bit of ignorance.

Whereas other big beasts in the world of Japanese Zen were scholars and priests who had undergone a period of Zen brainwashing at some Buddhist university or temple, my teacher had ploughed his own lonely furrow. He was enabled in this by quite a privileged position, as a Law graduate of Tokyo University who followed the royal road of top Japanese mandarins, into the Ministry of Finance. So he hadn't wasted his time being taught rubbish by clueless professors of Buddhist studies, or doing pointless rituals in Japanese temples. Rather, he studied Shobogenzo by himself, and translated it into modern Japanese; and focused his energies, in practice, into Zazen itself, just sitting.

As a result of these efforts, my Zen teacher used to speak – with no lack of confidence – of “two enlightenments.” He spoke as if he knew whereof he spoke. And I for one was a true believer in almost every word. Ironically, however, my teacher had never in fact seen what he called “the second enlightenment,” even in a dream – at least not as Aśvaghoṣa describes the Buddha's awakening in BC Canto 14. The Buddha's awakening, at least as far as we can judge from EHJ's translation of the Tibetan, was very much bound up with the recognition that ignorance (avidyā; the first in the twelve links) is the causal grounds for doings (saṁskārāḥ; the second in the twelve links). But that recognition eluded my teacher. If he had understood, then he wouldn't have taught his students, with voice and with hand, to do this, that and the other, on the basis of a wrong conception of right posture.

I have stated my case many times before but, to sum up, my Zen teacher was a complete con artist. He convinced yours truly that he had got “the second enlightenment,” that he himself was an awakened Buddha, when in fact he was no such thing. He was a kind of con-man, and I was one of the ones who was conned.

And yet – paradoxically – when it came to teaching the first enlightenment, I could not have found a truer teacher.

So, by a circuitous route, we come to today's verse, which seems to describe Māra in terms of opposites. On one side is kāma, love; on the other is dviṣa, hating.

Today's verse causes me to think that Māra could have been a child of the 1960s, decade of flower-power and “All you need is Love,” and decade of hate – decade of hateful weapons like napalm and Agent Orange, and decade of the Cultural Revolution in China.

So the link to the first enlightenment, as my teacher taught it, is that the fundamental means for transcending love and hate is simply just to sit there, naturally, like the bodhisattva under the bodhi tree, not doing anything.

yam (acc. sg. m.): [him] whom
kāma-devam (acc. sg. m.): “God of Love”
pravadanti = 3rd pers. pl. pra- √ vad: to speak out; to pronounce, call, name
loke (loc. sg. m.): in the world

citrāyudham m. " having variegated weapons " , N. of a son of dhṛta-rāṣṭra; N. of kāma-deva, Bcar.
citra: mfn. conspicuous , excellent , distinguished ; bright , clear , bright-coloured ; variegated , spotted , speckled ; various , different , manifold ; strange , wonderful
āyudha: n. a weapon
puṣpa-śaram = púṣpa-bāṇa: m. " flower-arrowed " , the god of love
tathaiva: ind. equally, likewise

kāma-pracārādhipatim (acc. sg. m): the ruler of the playground of Love
pracāra: m. roaming , wandering ; coming forth , showing one's self , manifestation , appearance , occurrence , existence ; employment, use ; conduct , behaviour ; a playground , place of exercise ; pasture-ground , pasturage
adhipati: m. a ruler , commander , regent , king.
tam (acc. sg. m.): him
eva: emphatic

mokṣa-dviṣam (acc. sg. m.): the enemy of liberation
muc: to loose , let loose , free , let go , slacken , release , liberate
dviṣa: mfn. (ifc.) hostile , hating ; m. foe, enemy
māram (acc. sg.): m. Māra
udāharanti = 3rd pers. pl. ud-ā- √ hṛ : to set up , put up ; to relate , declare , announce ; to quote , cite , illustrate ; to name , call
ā- √ hṛ: to fetch , bring , bring near ; to manifest , utter , speak

五欲自在王 具諸戰鬥藝
憎嫉解脱者 故名爲波旬

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