Friday, January 2, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 13.30: The Angry Nāgas Are On the Side of Liberation

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Mālā)
mahībhto dharma-parāś ca nāgā mahā-muner vighnam amṣyamāṇāḥ |
māraṁ prati krodha-vivtta-netrā niḥśaśvasuś caiva jajṁbhire ca || 13.30

The nāgas
as bearers of the Earth and committed supporters of dharma,

Not looking kindly on the hindrance to the great sage,

Their eyes rolling angrily in Māra's direction,

Hissed and snorted, and came unwound.

The Earth-bearing nāgas who are mad keen on dharma...

I would like to have translated dharma-parāḥ in the 1st pāda of today's verse like this, as “mad keen on dharma.” But since the dictionary states that mad keen is an informal British expression, I have gone instead with “committed supporters of dharma.”

The point, either way, is that the nāgas, though easily given to anger, are on the side of dharma. And the dharma in question – whether done blindly with the body, whether mindfully not done, or whether realized with Mother Nature in the driving seat as the dropping off of body and mind – is sitting in lotus.

Sitting in full lotus is what FM Alexander called a position of mechanical advantage. The position itself is advantageous. When we sit in this position, even if we are in the grip of some stupid mental misconception around “right posture” or “keeping the spine straight vertically,” the whole Universe is still in some sense on our side, keeping us veering, in spite of our stupid selves, more or less in the right direction.

The nāgas in today's verse are described as angry. And as the general rule, anger is of course very bad. From the idealistic standpoint everybody should be going around the whole time just mindfully NOT being angry.

But from the standpoint which is antithetically opposed to the idealistic standpoint, anger is a colourful fact. Thus the Dalai Lama in his autobiography gives a humorous account from his youth about a monk-mechanic at the royal palace in Lhasa who was forever banging his head and cursing as he struggled to keep a rickety old car on the road.

In the middle way between idealism and the standpoint opposed to idealism, there is practice, the essence of which is to allow.

If we are talking anger, then anger might be a signal that something is not being allowed, something is stuck. Again, anger might be a kind of energy waiting to be allowed, or channelled, in the right direction.

In the 4th pāda of today's verse, it hardly needs me to point out, niḥśaśvasuś caiva is onomatopoeic  (and yes, I did have to look up that spelling in the dictionary). Which is to say that niḥśaśvasuś caiva sounds like hissing and snorting.  

But the really interesting word is jajṛṁbhire, which in a number of ways seems to suggest allowing. First it has connotations of gaping open, or opening up, as opposed to keeping things buttoned down. Second, as a description of nāgas, who are generally depicted as being coiled, it suggests coming unwound, or coming undone.

This direction, the direction of coming unwound or coming undone, I venture to submit, is just the right direction. What FM Alexander called “doing” blocks this direction. 

If I realized anything in 2014, I realized the identity of what FM Alexander called "doing" and what is recorded as the second link in the Buddha's  twelvefold chain of causation, i.e. saṁskārāḥ, "doings."  

I was aided in this by Nāgārjuna's excellent expression 
saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ
The doings which are the root of saṁsāra thus does the ignorant one do. 

"Doings," Nāgārjuna's words suggest, is activity that emerges out of ignorance. And "doing," FM Alexander taught, similarly, is wrong patterns of activity which are rooted in a misconception.

A prime example of such a misconception is the misconception that I need to do something in order to come undone. 

What is allowed to emerge when such ignorance is inhibited is called “non-doing.” 

Non-doing is, in other words, the right thing doing itself. And the description in today's verse of nāgas coming unwound out of their coils, as I read it, is a suggestion of the right thing doing itself. 

Today's verse, as I read it, then, as well as being colourful and full of humorous undercurrents, is yet another verse that relates to the dharma (do not call it a doctrine!) of pratītya-samutpāda. The coming unwound might be a synonym for samutpāda, complete springing up.

Reflecting on today's verse, and reflecting on the buddha-nature that shines through the descriptions of beings whom Māra supposed to belong to his army, who is left on Māra's side as the true enemy of the dharma of liberation?

If even angry beings are on the Buddha's side, and if beings who seem at first glance to be unlovely turn out to be bodhisattvas in waiting, then who is not on the Buddha's side?

I think the answer, ironically, might turn out to be goody-two-shoes types of the kind described in tomorrow's verse.

The really bad guys are ever liable to be those who – while twisting the truth around, confusing up with down, talking the talk of liberation while failing to walk it – would like to manifest themselves as the good guys.

mahībhṛtaḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. bearing the great earth
dharma-parāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. intent on virtue , pious , righteous
parā: f. any chief matter or paramount object (ifc. [f(ā).] having as the chief object , given up to , occupied with , engrossed in , intent upon , resting on , consisting of , serving for , synonymous with &c)
ca: and
nāgāḥ (nom. pl.): m. a snake ; a nāga or serpent-demon

mahā-muneḥ (gen. sg.): the great sage
vighnam (acc. sg.): m. a breaker , destroyer ; (also n.) an obstacle , impediment , hindrance , opposition , prevention , interruption , any difficulty or trouble
a-: (negative prefix)
mṛṣyamāṇāḥ = nom. pl. m. pres. part [middle voice or passive] to forget , neglect ; to disregard , not heed or mind , mind , bear patiently , put up with (acc.) ; to pardon , forgive , excuse , bear with (gen.)

māram (acc. sg.): m. Māra
prati: ind. towards
krodha-vivṛtta-netrāḥ (nom. pl. m.): their eyes rolling with anger
vivṛtta: mfn. turned or twisted round &c; whirling round , flying in different directions (as a thunderbolt)

niḥśaśvasuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. niḥ- √ śvas: to hiss, snort
ca: and
jajṛṁbhire = 3rd pers. pl. perf. jṛṁbh: to open the mouth , yawn ; to gape open , open (as a flower) ; to fly back or recoil (as a bow when unstrung) ; to unfold , spread (as a flood &c ) , expand , occupy a larger circuit ; to feel at ease
ca: and

愛法諸天人 及諸龍鬼等
悉皆忿魔衆 瞋恚血涙流 

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