Wednesday, December 10, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 13.6: Māra's Window of Opportunity

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
tad yāvad evaiṣa na labdha-cakṣur mad-gocare tiṣṭhati yāvad eva |
yāsyāmi tāvad vratam asya bhettuṁ setuṁ nadī-vega ivātivddhaḥ || 13.6

So, while he has yet to attain the Eye,

While he remains within my range,

I shall go to destroy his vow,

Like the swollen torrent of a river breaking through a dike."

The car my wife uses to go to work has become available for a few days, so I have taken the opportunity to bring some stuff to France. 

The ferry crossing yesterday was a bit rough, a bit of a challenge for a person with a dodgy vestibular system, and the house and bedding were a bit damp and cold. So the trip so far has been an opportunity to reflect afresh on what the bodhisattva meant by totally appeasing the senses (samtarpitendriyatā). Appeasing the senses contrasts with the ascetic attitude of wanting to batter the senses into submission. At the same time, appeasing the senses is different from pandering to the senses. 

Put like this, the middle way of appeasing the senses seems like a no brainer.... and yet it took the bodhisattva six years of ascetic striving to arrive at this approach. 

So now he is sitting there under the big fig tree, sitting in full lotus, having arrived at a practical means-whereby in the middle way. This means-whereby is conducive to samādhi, and to the attainment of dharmas by which is realized the ultimate deathless step. 

But the bodhisattva himself, with maybe a hint of irony, has vowed to do completely what needs to be done, and in making that vow, evidently, he does not regard himiself as having realized the goal yet. 

And Māra, from where he stands, also does not regard the bodhisattva as having escaped his clutches just yet. 

So the Eye (cakṣus) in the 1st pāda of today's verse means more than "the first enlightenment" of sitting in lotus with a moderate, balanced attitude towards practice. If the Eye means insight, it is deeper insight than the bodhisattva has so far attained. 

The Eye, then, might mean the Eye of saṁbodhi, full awakening, attainment of which, Māra fears, will take the bodhisattva beyond the range of Māra's influence. 

Apropos of which I remember many years ago listening to a cassette tape, given to me while I was visiting Thailand, of a Dharma-talk by Ajahn Sumedho, who observed that human beings before we are fully awake tend to be very impressionable. 

So I think again of FD Roosevelt pulling the wool over people's eyes so successfully, in his effort to get America into WWII. 

And for a more recent example, I think of the Citigroup economist Willem Buitter who, just before the Swiss gold referendum, released an article arguing that gold is a 6000-year-old bubble. That's right Willem.  WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. And bankers in the modern world are very prudent, not at all moved by greed and fear, and  therefore not at all suceptible to Māra's influence; so then what is the use of money made out of metal? 

Maybe ten years ago, while here in France, I wrote the following: 

Without fear or greed, 
From dawn until dusk,
Sits Buddha's mind-seed, 
Untainted by husk. 

A few years after that, in 2008 -- much to Māra's delight, I suppose -- we had the collapse of Lehman Brothers in the US and the run on Northern Rock in England, and the subsequent intervention of the monetary authorities to save the banking system... 

Since then fears of a financial meltdown have subsided. It is lucky for us that the bankers all seem to know what they are doing.

tad: ind. so, therefore
yāvat: ind so long as
eva: emphatic
eṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): this one, he
na: not
labdha-cakṣuḥ (nom. sg m.): having attained the Eye
cakṣus: n. faculty of seeing , sight ; the eye

mad-gocare (loc. sg.): in my orbit
go-cara: m. pasture ground for cattle ; range , field for action ; the range of the organs of sense , object of sense , anything perceptible by the senses , esp. the range of the eye
tiṣṭhati = 3rd pers. sg. sthā: to stay , remain , continue in any condition
yāvat: ind so long as
eva: emphatic

yāsyāmi = 1st pers. sg. future yā: to go
tāvat: ind. to that extent
vratam (acc. sg.): n. any vow or firm purpose , resolve
asya (gen. sg.): of this one, of him
bhettum = inf. bhid: to split , cleave , break , cut or rend asunder , pierce , destroy

setum (acc. sg.): mfn. (fr. √si) binding , who or what binds or fetters ; m. a bond , fetter ; m. a ridge of earth , mound , bank , causeway , dike , dam , bridge , any raised piece of ground separating fields (serving as a boundary or as a passage during inundations) ; m. a help to the understanding of a text , an explanatory commentary (also N. of various commentaries)
nadī-vegaḥ (nom. sg.): m. the current of a river
vega: m. violent agitation ; a stream , flood , current (of water , tears & )
iva: like
ati-vṛddhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. very large; very old

及慧眼未開 我國猶得安
當往壞其志 斷截其橋梁


Jordan said...

So, destroying the middle class via the hidden tax of inflation is all part of the plan.

Mike Cross said...

How else but by inflation can the debt burden be relieved in a democracy?

Who's going to vote for another way --like increased taxes and lower government spending?

I think many of us in the US and the UK (not to mention places like Greece, where the books have been cooked on an epic scale) have been living way beyond our means for years. Sending you all the way to Iraq might have been part of that overspend. Or maybe -- by protecting the petrodollar -- it was part of the solution, temporarily.

Debt being already where it is, relative to GDP, inflation is the only way forward. That's why the central banks are hell bent on generating it -- not least at the cutting edge of the cutting edge of credit creation, in Japan.

But the irony seems to be that so far they can't generate inflation at the desired level. All they create is distortions in the market, misallocation of resources, and excessive inflation in the price of certain financial assets, mainly equities and bonds.

Without the kind of inflation that causes nominal GDP to grow, the debt burden goes on getting heavier. Chances of our governments meeting their unfunded liabilities (your marine pension, my state pension) grow ever more remote.

On the bright side, if and when the whole thing goes tits up, the Buddha's teaching of having small desire and being content, might come into its own.