Thursday, January 29, 2015


¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Bālā)
moghaṁ śramaṁ nārhasi māra kartuṁ hiṁsrātmatām utsja gaccha śarma |
naiṣa tvayā kampayituṁ hi śakyo mahā-girir merur ivānilena || 13.57

“Do not do, O Māra, work that is empty!

Let go of hurtfulness! Come to quiet!

For this man can no more be shaken by you

Than the great mountain Meru can be shaken by the wind.

“Labour not in vain, O Māra!”

That was my first effort at translating the 1st pāda of today's verse. I felt that wording might befit a booming voice.

On further reflection, though, nārhasi māra kartum struck me as being, below the surface, another pointer in the direction of the truth of non-doing – Do not, O Māra, do!”

In that case what is being negated, by the being of distinction, is doing.

The being of distinction, in other words, is not negating moghaṁ śramam, fruitless effort, per se; the being of distinction is negating the doing of moghaṁ śramam.

In that case, again, moghaṁ śramam, idle effort, or empty work, might be an ironic suggestion of what Dogen in the opening sentence of Shobogenzo called “a subtle method which is supreme and free of doing” (最上無為の妙術 ; SAIJO-MUI NO MYO-JUTSU).

"Free of doing" is a translatin of 無為 (Jap: MU-I; Ch: wu-wei).  無為 is given as a noun in the Japanese-English dictionary as “idleness.” So 無為 means "free of doing," or "inactive" or "idle" in the sense of being empty of superflous activity. 

Going back to the Sanskrit, as discussed in a previous post, 無為 represents a-saṁskṛta, which means "not prepared" or "not formed" or “not done.” 

The saṁskṛta of  a-saṁskṛta“not done,” is the past participle of the root  saṁ-s-kṛ, from which, in the following sentence of Nāgārjuna's, are formed the words saṁskārān (acc. pl.), "doings," and saṁskaroti (3rd. pers. sg.), "does do": 

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.

This verse from Nāgārjuna's MMK, as I read it, like today's verse from Aśvaghoṣa's Buddhacarita, is not so much a statement of doctrine as it is an inspiration to practise non-doing. It is a reminder of the principle that, in the words of FM Alexander, "Stop doing the wrong thing, and the right thing does itself." 

When the Buddha speaks of śraddhā, "belief, confidence," I hear him speaking not of religious belief but rather of confidence in just this truth -- stop ignorant doing, and the right thing does itself.  

Stop doing the wrong thing,  and the truth outs, reality makes itself known, the right thing does itself. 

Thus, it struck me just now as I sat, letting go of hurtfulness is not something I can do. Holding on to hurtfulness is something I do. And so if I were truly to practise non-doing, hurtfulness might already have been let go of. 

Evidently, however, there are levels and levels of non-doing, and levels and levels of letting go. I know of no words that clarify the principle of non-doing more concisely and clearly than Nāgārjuna's words. And when it comes to poetry that encourages us, subliminally, using metaphors, to keep digging deeper and deeper, it might be difficult to beat Aśvaghoṣa. 

For those of us who revere Aśvaghoṣa and Nāgārjuna not only as poets and philosophers, but as buddha-ancestors, as paragons of sitting practice, then, superficial intellectual understanding of non-doing and letting go is no good. We are called upon to demonstrate the proof of the pudding in the eating -- primarily in our manner of accepting and using the self in sitting. 

mogham (acc. sg. m.): mfn. vain , fruitless , useless , unsuccessful , unprofitable; left , abandoned ; idle ; ind. in vain , uselessly , without cause
śramam (acc. sg.): m. fatigue ; exertion , labour , toil , exercise , effort either bodily or mental , hard work of any kind
na: not
ārhasi = 2nd pers. sg. arh: to ought
māra (voc. sg.): Māra!
kartum = inf. kṛ: to do

hiṁsrātmatām (acc. sg.): f. malevolence Bcar.
hiṁsra: mfn. injurious , mischievous , hurtful , destructive , murderous , cruel , fierce , savage ; n. cruelty
ātmatā: f. essence , nature
utsṛja = 2nd pers. sg. imperative ut- √ sṛj : to let loose, let go ; to lay aside ; to quit, leave off
gaccha = 2nd pers. sg. imperative gam: to go, to enter into
śarma (acc. sg.): n. shelter ; Joy , bliss , comfort , delight , happiness

na: not
eṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): this man
tvayā (inst. sg.): by you
kampayitum = inf. causative kamp: to cause or make to tremble , shake
hi: for

śakyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): to be able
mahā-giriḥ (nom. sg. m.): the mighty mountain
meruḥ (nom. sg.): m. Meru
iva: like
anilena (inst. sg.): m. air or wind

當捨恚害心 寂靜默然住
汝不能口氣 吹動須彌山 

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