Saturday, January 17, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 13.45: Transformative Power of Doing Nothing

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Vāṇī)
bhūtvāpare vāri-dharā bhantaḥ sa-vidyutaḥ sāśani-caṇḍa-ghoṣāḥ |
tasmin drume tatyajur aśma-varṣaṁ tat puṣpa-varṣaṁ ruciraṁ babhūva || 13.45

Others became massive rain-clouds,

With lightning and fierce crashing of thunder;

They dropped on that tree a shower of stones

Which turned into a pleasant rain of flowers.

Was Aśvaghoṣa's intention that these stones were transformed by the bodhisattva's exercise of friendliness, as described in BC13.42, or transformed by the bodhisattva's refusal to budge from sitting, as described in BC13.43?

Either way, it is evident that the bodhisattva did not stop sitting in order to go and express any ill-will towards those ignorant others. However ignorant those others were, dropping burning embers and stones on him, the bodhisattva did not go out of his way to offend them – retaliating neither with guns and bullets nor with sardonic pencil.

Aśvaghoṣa, as I read him, did indeed satirize the ignorant. But it is part of Aśvaghoṣa's genius that he used irony in such a way as not to have offended those ignorant beings he was satirizing. 

“You cannot do an undoing,” Marjory Barlow used to say.

To put it another way, we cannot overcome unconsciousness by acting unconsciously.

Ignorance is destroyed not by ignorance but, on the contrary, by an act of knowing.

Hence, again, in Nāgārjuna's words:
The doings which are the root of saṁsāra thus does the ignorant one do. / The ignorant one therefore is the doer; the wise one is not, because of reality making itself known. //MMK26.10// In the destruction of ignorance, there is the non-coming-into-being of doings./ The destruction of ignorance, however, is because of the allowing-into-being of just this act of knowing.//MMK26.11//

As an antidote to the process whereby ignorance (avidyā) gives rise to doings (saṁskārān), “Thy will be done” – the original teaching of all the Abrahamic religions -- would seem to be a powerful antidote.

Ironically, however, when Thy is conceived as a personal God by Whose authority I am sanctioned, then religious belief in Thy will, and religious desire to let Thy will be done, get horribly tangled up in ignorance and violent doings. Historical manifestations have included Christian and Muslim crusades, and -- for a more recent example -- Israeli building of Jewish settlements in violation of international law.

But Avśaghoṣa's satire was not directed only at religious believers. His irony is never crueller than when in SN Canto 8 he remorselessly ridicules the misogynist striver who purports to be conveying the Buddha's teaching.

A couple of posts ago, I questioned whether ill-will is a kind of ignorance itself, or whether ill-will is doing (saṁskāra) grounded in ignorance  (avidyā). I took the view that ill-will might be ignorance itself. But, on reflection, I think I came up with the wrong answer to my own question.

By way of confirmation this morning I received the following from Ānandajoti Bhikkhu:
Yes, ill-will belongs to sankhāra [Sanskrit: saṁskāra] because it is a root for unwholesome volitions. In this sense all the paṭiccasamuppāda formulas deal with it, because avijjā [Sanskrit: avidyā] conditions sankhārā [Sanskrit: saṁskārān]. 
See this also from Nyanatiloka, the authority on orthodoxy:

---- Buddhist Dictionary ----

saṅkhāra, This term has; according to its context; different shades of meaning; which should be carefully distinguished. (I) To its most frequent usages (see following 1-4) the general term 'formation' may be applied; with the qualifications required by the context. This term may refer either to the act of 'forming or to the passive state of 'having been formed' or to both. 1. As the 2nd link of the formula of dependent origination; (paṭiccasamuppāda; q.v.); saṅkhāra has the active aspect; 'forming'; and signifies karma (q.v.); i.e. wholesome or unwholesome volitional activity (cetanā) of body (kāyasaṅkhāra); speech (vacīsaṅkhāra) or mind (citta- or manosaṅkhāra). This definition occurs; e.g. at S. XII; 2; 27. For see in this sense; the word 'karma-formation' has been coined by the author. In other passages; in the same context; saṅkhāra is defined by reference to (a) meritorious karma-formations (puññābhisaṅkhāra); (b) demeritorious karma-formations (apuññābhisaṅkhāra); (c) imperturbable karma-formations (āneñjābhisaṅkhāra); e.g. in S. XII; 51; D. 33. This threefold division covers karmic activity in all spheres of existence: the meritorious karma-formations extend to the sensuous and the fine-material sphere; the demeritorious ones only to the sensuous sphere; and the 'imperturbable' only to the immaterial sphere. 2. The aforementioned three terms; kāya; vacī- and cittasaṅkhāra are sometimes used in quite a different sense; namely as (1) bodily function; i.e. in-and-out-breathing (e.g. M. 10); (2) verbal function; i.e. thought-conception and discursive thinking; (3) mental-function; i.e. feeling and perception (e.g. M. 44). See nirodhasamāpatti. 3. It also denotes the 4th group of existence (saṅkhārakkhandha); and includes all 'mental formations' whether they belong to 'karmically forming' consciousness or not. See khandha; Tab. II. and S. XXII; 56; 79. 4. It occurs further in the sense of anything formed (saṅkhata; q.v.) and conditioned; and includes all things whatever in the world; all phenomena of existence. This meaning applies; e.g. to the well-known passage; "All formations are impermanent... subject to suffering" (sabbe saṅkhāra aniccā ... dukkhā). In that context; however; saṅkhāra is subordinate to the still wider and all-embracing term dhamma (thing); for dhamma includes also the Unformed or Unconditioned Element (asaṅkhatadhātu); i.e. Nibbāna (e.g. in sabbe dhammā anattā; "all things are without a self"). (II) Saṅkhāra also means sometimes 'volitional effort'; e.g. in the formula of the roads to power (iddhipāda; q.v.); in sasaṅkhāra- and asaṅkhāraparinibbāyī (see anāgāmī; q.v.); and in the Abhidhamma terms asaṅkhārika- (q.v.) and sasaṅkhārikacitta; i.e. without effort = spontaneously; and with effort = prompted. In Western literature; in English as well as in German; saṅkhāra is sometimes mistranslated by 'subconscious tendencies' or similarly (e.g Prof. Beckh: "unterbewusste Bildekraefte;" i.e. subconscious formative forces). This misinterpretation derives perhaps from a similar usage in non-Buddhist Sanskrit literature; and is entirely inapplicable to the connotations of the term in Pāli Buddhism; as listed above under I; 1-4. For instance; within the dependent origination; see is neither subconscious nor a mere tendency; but is a fully conscious and active karmic volition. In the context of the 5 groups of existence (see above I; 3); a very few of the factors from the group of mental formations (saṅkhārakkhandha) are also present as concomitants of subconsciousness (see Tab. I-III); but are of course not restricted to it; nor are they mere tendencies.

bhūtvā = abs. bhū: to become
apare (nom. pl. m.): others, ones who were different
vāri-dharāḥ (nom. pl.): m. 'holding water' ; a rain-cloud
vāri: n. = vār , water , rain , fluid , fluidity
bṛhantaḥ = nom. pl. m. bṛhat: mfn. lofty , high , tall , great , large , wide , vast , abundant , compact , solid , massy , strong , mighty

sa-vidyutaḥ = nom. pl. m. sa-vidyut: mfn. accompanied with lightning
sāśani-caṇḍa-ghoṣāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. accompanied by the thunderbolt's violent roar
sa-: accompanied by
aśani: f. the thunderbolt, a flash of lightning
caṇḍa: mfn. fierce , violent , cruel , impetuous , hot , ardent with passion , passionate , angry
ghoṣa: m. indistinct, tumult ; the roaring of a storm , of thunder , of water , &c

tasmin (loc. sg. m.): that
drume (loc. sg.): m. tree
tatyajur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. tyaj: to let go , dismiss , discharge
aśma-varṣam (acc. sg. n.): a shower of stones

tat (nom. sg. n.): it
puṣpa-varṣam (acc. sg. n.): a shower of flowers
ruciram (acc. sg. n.): mfn. bright , brilliant , radiant , splendid , beautiful ; pleasant , charming
babhūva = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bhū: to become

[No corresponding Chinese translation]

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