Wednesday, January 28, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 13.56: A Non-Doing Being Booms

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Vāṇī)
bhūtaṁ tataḥ kiṁ cid adśya-rūpaṁ viśiṣṭa-bhūtaṁ gagana-stham eva |
dṣṭvarṣaye drugdham a-vaira-ruṣṭaṁ māraṁ babhāṣe mahatā svareṇa || 13.56

Then a certain being,
being of great distinction

But having no discernible form,
just hanging there in the emptiness,

Saw Māra seeking to do the seer harm and,
without vengefulness or fury,

Boomed at Māra in a mighty voice:

In the 1st pāda of today's verse, as I read it, the truth of non-doing is suggested by the description of this being of distinction as adṛśya-rūpam, which ostensibly means “invisible” but which below the surface might be intended to mean “without any [interest in] visible form.” So not like a Japanese temple priest when, for example, he is called upon to put on a good show for a funeral ceremony. More like some hermit we have never heard of just sitting in some remote location, forgetting himself as he watches the trees change colour with the seasons.

The same truth of non-doing is suggested in the 2nd pāda of today's verse, as I read it, by gagana-stham eva, which is repeated from BC13.40:
One who was different put above himself a blazing mass of straw, as high as the mountains' peaks; / As soon as he released it, it just hung there in the emptiness, then shattered, at his suggestion, into a hundred pieces.//

For anybody interested in the connection between non-doing and vocal resonance (or a booming voice), see, for example, FM Alexander's book The Use of the Self.

When it comes to using the voice, non-doing does not necessarily mean not speaking. Non-doing might mean getting maximun resonant sound from minimum physical effort -- in which case the ability to listen might be primary. 

A non-doing voice, then, is one in which there is an absence of superfluous effort, or an absence of noise. 

Similarly, when it comes to accepting and using the self in sitting, non-doing does not necessarily mean not sitting. Non-doing might mean not interfering, in such a way that sitting tends in the direction of simplicity. Non-doing might mean sitting in such a way that noise is minimized and the right thing is simply allowed to do itself.  I think this is what Nāgārjuna meant by jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvana, the allowing-into-being of just this act of knowing...

saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ |
avidvān kārakas tasmān na vidvāṁs tattva-darśanāt ||MMK26.10
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.

avidyāyāṁ niruddhāyāṁ saṁskārāṇām asaṁbhavaḥ |
avidyāyā nirodhas tu jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt ||MMK26.11
In the ceasing of ignorance,
There is the non-coming-into-being of doings.
The cessation of ignorance, however,
Is because of the allowing-into-being of just this act of knowing.

My Zen teacher seemed to understand all this very well. The way he explained it, the point is simply to sit so that the autonomic nervous system can do its work of returning us to our original state of natural balance. 

Then, with ineffable stupidity, he proved that he hadn't really understood the principle of non-doing at all, by teaching his students to pull in the chin -- just a little,  you understand -- in order to keep the neck bones straight vertically. 

So not doing, in the context of sitting-zen, means for me precisely NOT doing the very things that my Zen teacher taught me to do. 

He has not been the only Zen teacher in Japan, by any means, in recent years, who got everything upside down, in the matter of doing, not doing, and non-doing. But he is the one whose teaching I made no little effort to get to know.

bhūtam (nom. sg.): n. a being
tataḥ: then
kiṁ cid (nom. sg. n.): a certain
adṛśya-rūpam (nom. sg. n.): of invisible shape/form

viśiṣṭa-bhūtam (nom. sg. n.): (ifc.) being or being like anything ; n. a being
viśiṣṭa: mfn. distinguished , distinct , particular , peculiar ; pre-eminent , excellent
gagana-stham (nom. sg. n.): standing in the sky
gagana: n. the atmosphere , sky , firmament
stha: (only ifc.) standing , staying , abiding , being situated in , existing or being in or on or among
eva: (emphatic)

dṛṣṭvā = abs. dṛś: to see
rṣaye (dat. sg.): m. seer
drugdham (acc. sg. n.): mfn. (past. part. druh) one who has tried to harm , hurtful , malicious ; n. offence , misdeed
druh: to hurt , seek to harm , be hostile to
a-vaira-ruṣṭam (acc. sg. n.): not being hostile or angry
a-: (negative prefix)
vaira: mfn. hostile , inimical , revengeful
ruṣṭa = ruṣita: mfn. injured , offended , irritated , furious , angry

māram (acc. sg.): m. Māra
babhāṣe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bhāṣ: to speak, say
mahatā (inst. sg.): big, great
svareṇa (inst. sg.): voice

空中負多神 隱身出音聲
我見大牟尼 心無怨恨想
衆魔惡毒心 無怨處生怨

癡諸惡魔 徒勞無所爲 

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