Friday, January 9, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 13.37: Stopping Anger, by Doing Nothing

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bālā)
kaś cit tato roṣa-vivtta-dṣṭis tasmai gadām udyamayāṁ cakāra |
tastambha bāhuḥ sagadas tato 'sya puraṁdarasyeva purā sa-vajraḥ || 13.37

Then one of them, his angry gaze turned on the sage,

Raised a club in his direction,

Whereupon his arm with the club became immovable

As in ancient times did the arm of Indra
'Destroyer of Strongholds,' with the thunderbolt.

EHJ notes:
The Mahā-bhārata mentions several occasions of Indra's being paralysed; the use of the name Puramdara ['Destroyer of  Strongholds'] suggests that it was the occasion of the taking of Tripura ['The Triple Stronghold'], narrated at xiii. 7490...

This is the first in a series of verses in which Aśvaghoṣa describes the bodhisattva as dealing with attacks from members of Māra's army.

So we will have further chances to explore what these episodes might suggest, in terms of how to deal with various manifestations of negativity. As a starting point in this endeavour, the following verses from SN Canto 16 may be instructive:
Integrity (śīla) no more propagates the shoots of affliction than a bygone spring propagates shoots from seeds. / The faults, as long as a man's integrity is untainted, venture only timidly to attack his mind. // SN16.34 // But balance (samādhi) casts off the afflictions like a mountain casts off the mighty torrents of rivers. / The faults do not attack a man who is standing firm in balanced stillness: like charmed snakes, they are spellbound. // 16.35 // And wisdom (prajñā) destroys the faults without trace, as a mountain stream in the monsoon destroys the trees on its banks. / Faults consumed by it do not stand a chance, like trees in the fiery wake of a thunderbolt. // SN16.36 //
At the same time,  it may become apparent what kind a philosophical progression underlies the order in which Aśvaghoṣa describes these episodes, starting with an attack by one whose paralysed arm brings to mind a religious myth concerning the supreme god. 

For the last couple of days, while laid up in bed feeling grateful for the existence of aspirins, I have been perusing a book by Bill Fleckenstein titled "Greenspan's Bubbles -- The Age of Ignorance at the Federal Reserve." The title is BF's response to the title of Greenspan's memoir "The Age of Turbulence."  

I was attracted to BF's book by the title which combines the word Bubbles with the word Ignorance.  At the same time I know from his interviews available on the internet that "Fleck" is a paragon of clear thinking and straight talking. Besides that, since the book was published in 2008, it is now available second hand for 1p plus the price of postage. 

What emerges is that Greenspan, "the Maestro," not only got almost everything wrong that he could have got wrong but also, what was worse, refused again and again to recognize his mistakes. Greenspan's Bubbles is thus a good follow-up read to The Lords of Finance. 

Coincidentally I got an email yesterday from somebody I haven't met in many decades. I initiated contact with her and she asked me what I had done with my life. After I gave her the outline she told me of a friend who is deeply into Zen Buddhism as a spiritual path, and who has a calm and peacefulness to be envied and admired. "You," she added, with reasonable justification I suppose, "sound more conflicted." 

Fuck! Not what I wanted to read when at a low ebb. "None taken" I felt like emailing right back. But, perhaps influenced for the better by today's verse, I went back to bed instead and read my book. 

This may all sound like another rambling digression but as I sat this morning these various strands all seemed related to Marjory Barlow's lovely confession: "I think of doing nothing. Then I ask myself - What kind of nothing am I doing?" 

Bubbles inflate because of a gap between thinking and reality which, in our ignorance, we fail to see. Ignorant commentators of Greenspan's day, with no sense of irony, christened him "the Maestro," beause they thought he knew what he was doing -- an impression that Greenspan, after the event, in various talks and in his memoir, went out of his way to re-affirm. 

Whereas a true Zen maestro, I submit, might be one who is able to see the gap, and on that basis, make effort in the direction of not doing anything -- just like the bodhisattva in today's verse. 

If somebody has realized such effort as a spiritual path which is nothing but a bed of roses, then the best of British luck to them. But my path has not been like that and it continues not to be like that. 

"The doings which are the root of saṁsāra," Nāgārjuna wrote, "thus does the ignorant one do." 

Too bloody true. And in a somehow analogous way...

The bubbles which, through misallocation of resources, are in the process of causing suffering on a global scale, thus did the ignorant one inflate. 

kaś cit (nom. sg. m.): somebody
tataḥ: ind. then
roṣa-vivṛtta-dṛṣṭiḥ (nom. sg. m.): wrathfully turning his gaze
roṣa: wrath, anger, rage
vi- √ vṛt: to turn round, revolve ; to roll , wallow ; to writhe in convulsions , struggle
dṛṣṭi: f. seeing , viewing , beholding (also with the mental eye) ; sight ; eye , look , glance

tasmai (dat. sg.): at him
mudām: f. pleasure , joy , gladness
gadām [EBC/EHJ] (acc. sg.): f. club, bludgeon
udyamayāṁ cakāra = 3rd pers. sg. periphrastic causative perfect ud- √i: to raise

tastambha 3rd pers. sg. perf. stambh: to fix firmly ; to become stiff or immovable
bāhuḥ (nom. sg.): mf. the arm
sa-gadaḥ (nom. sg. m.): with the club
tataḥ: then
asya (gen. sg.): of this one

puraṁ-darasya (gen. sg.): m. " destroyer of strongholds " , N. of indra
iva: like
purā: ind. before , formerly , of old
sa-vajraḥ (nom. sg. m.): with the thunderbolt
vajra: mn. " the hard or mighty one " , a thunderbolt (esp. that of indra , said to have been formed out of the bones of the ṛṣi dadhīca)

衆魔益忿恚 倍増戰鬥力 

[Correspondence with Sanskrit tenuous]  

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