Thursday, January 15, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 13.43: Bhavanā and Sitting-Dhyāna – One Non-Doing Act?

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Kīrti)
śarīra-citta-vyasanātapais tair evaṁ-vidhais taiś ca nipātyamānaḥ |
naivāsanāc chākya-muniś cacāla sva-niścayaṁ bandhum ivopaguhya || 13.43

And yet, while being assailed by these various causes

Of trouble and pain for body and mind,

The Śākya sage never budged from sitting –

For he had embraced his own resolve like a comrade.

Today's verse makes sense more easily to me if the final word in the 2nd pāda is the nom. sg. nipātyamānaḥ, describing the bodhisattva as being assailed. The Nepalese manuscripts have the inst. pl. nipātyamānaiḥ, leading EHJ to translate “in spite of these various afflictions and distresses of body and mind, which were cast at him.”

Taking nipātyamānaiḥ like this caused EHJ to add the following footnote:
Sukumar Sen (Outline Syntax of Buddhistic Sanskrit, 25) construes the instrumentals of the first line as absolute; more probably Aśvaghoṣa feels the intransitive cacala to be equivalent to a causative passive, 'was not caused to waver by.'

Unless I am missing something, I don't know why EHJ – rather than embroiling us in finer points of Sanskrit grammar – did not just make the relatively minor amendment of nipātyamānaiḥ to nipātyamānaḥ.

Either way, today's verse as I read sits at the centre of a section of five verses whose main theme is the transformative power of sitting-meditation, such that fearful stimuli like falling embers and stones are turned into beautiful phenomena like showers of flower petals.

What is being emphasized, still, is the centrality of just sitting still. Hence in today's verse the bodhisatttva is described as not budging at all. This kind of attitude is familiar to those of us who were brought up in the Japanese “sitting-zen” (Zazen) tradition.

At the same time, the development of the four brahma-vihāras (maitrī, friendliness; karunā, kindness; muditā, gladness; upekṣā, forbearance), as discussed yesterday, belongs to the kind of meditation called in Sanskrit bhavanā. which means something like developing or cultivating or training [the mind]. See for example SN16.5:

sarvāsravān bhāvanayābhibhūya na jāyate śāntimavāpya bhūyaḥ
He prevails over all pollutants, by the means of mental development (bhavanayā), 
and, on finding peace, is no longer subject to becoming.

So the present series of verses seem to confirm, at least to my satisfaction, that there ultimately need be no distinction between sitting-dhyāna and bhavanā. 

Or, in other words, originally, when the bodhisattva was sitting under the bodhi tree, there was no distinction between sitting-dhyāna and bhavanā – they were one non-doing act of sitting.

This sense of bhavanā and sitting-dhyāna coming back to one and the same integral non-doing act, is enhanced in the 4th pāda of today's verse, as I read it, by the description of the bodhisattva embracing his own resolve (sva-niścayam) like a kinsman or like a friend (bandhum iva).

His own resolve, as described at the end of BC Canto 12, is the determination of the Zen man of iron not to be distracted from just sitting:
Then the supreme, unshakeable cross-legged posture – in which sleeping serpents' coils are rolled into a ball – he took up, / As if to say, "I shall not break this sitting posture on the earth until I have done completely what is to be done." //12.120// Then the denizens of heaven felt unequalled joy; no sound did any beast make, nor any bird; / No forest tree creaked, though buffeted by the wind –  when the Glorious One took his sitting posture, resolute to the core. //12.121//

And yet the bodhisattva embraces this, his own resolve, not in a rigid, hard-headed manner, but rather as one steeped in the exercise of friendliness.

Bandhu generally means “kinsman”; hence “clasping firmly his resolution as a kinsman (EBC), “embracing his resolution like a kinsman(EHJ). But sometimes, the MW dictionary informs us, especially when opposed to ripu, bandhu means a friend, an ally, a team-mate, a mate in the Australian/British sense of the world – a fellow human being embraced not out of a sexual motive, but out of friendliness.

So sitting with iron resolve not to budge, and embracing one's own mind like a close friend, sound like two different approaches. But it might not always be so.

It might be a similar thing, then, to the dichotomy I discussed in connection with BC13.40 between American kick-ass sincerity and British self-deprecating irony. Ultimately, that dichotomy might be a false dichotomy.

All this somehow makes sense to me in light of how Marjory Barlow taught me to practise non-doing, playing off against each other the desire to move a leg and the desire to be free from habitual doings... until such time as the leg is able to be moved without any loss of freedom.

Somehow or other I would like to connect more explicitly FM Alexander's teaching of non-doing and the Buddha's teaching of pratītya-samutpāda.

śarīra-citta-vyasanātapaiḥ (inst. pl.): “afflictions and distresses of body and mind” [EHJ]
vyasana: n. moving to and fro , wagging (of a tail) ; evil predicament or plight , disaster , accident , evil result , calamity , misfortune (vyasanāni pl. misfortunes) , ill-luck , distress , destruction , defeat , fall , ruin
ātapa: mfn. causing pain or affliction
EHJ notes that ātapa as a substantive seems to be only known in the sense of “heat,” but as it cannot be an adjective here, EHJ takes it as a substantive in the sense of the adjective.
taiḥ (inst. pl.): those

evaṁ-vidhaiḥ (inst. pl.): such
taiḥ (inst. pl.): those
ca: and
nipātyamānaiḥ = inst. pl. passive pres. part. ni- √ pat: to fly down ; to rush upon , attack , assail (acc. or loc.) ; to befall , happen
nipātyamānaḥ = nom. sg. m. passive pres. part. ni- √ pat: to fly down ; to rush upon , attack , assail (acc. or loc.) ; to befall , happen

na: not
eva: (emphatic)
āsanāt (abl. sg.): sitting, sitting-posture
śākya-muniḥ (nom. sg.): m. Śākyamuni ; the sage of the Śākyas
cacāla = 3rd pers. sg. cal: to be moved , stir , tremble , shake , quiver , be agitated , palpitate

sva-niścayam (acc. sg. m.): his own resolve
niścaya: m. resolution , resolve, fixed intention , design , purpose , aim
bandhum (acc. sg.): m. connection , relation , association ; a kinsman ; a friend (opp. to ripu)
iva: like
upaguhya = abs. upa- √ guh : to clasp , embrace , press to the bosom

[No corresponding Chinese translation]

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