Monday, February 2, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 13.61: Knowing as Medicine

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Sālā)
tal lokam ārtaṁ karuṇāyamāno rogeṣu rāgādiṣu vartamānam |
mahā-bhiṣaṅ nārhati vighnam eṣa jñānauṣadhārthaṁ parikhidyamānaḥ || 13.61

Therefore, in his compassion for the afflicted world

As it twists and turns 
through illnesses and through emotions like red passion 
-- through breakdowns and booms -- 

This great man of healing deserves no impediment,

As he wears himself out,
in his quest for the medicine of knowing.

Implicit in the medical metaphor in today's verse, as I read it, is that the world is essentially subject to two kinds of affliction. Roga literally means a breakdown, i.e. a disease, an episode of infirmity; or, in socio-economic terms, a bust. Rāga literally means redness or inflammation, i.e. passion; or, in socio-economic terms, a boom or a bubble. 

EBC translated jñānauṣadha as “the remedy knowledge” and EHJ as “the medicine of knowledge,” and these translations accord with the MW dictionary definitions of jñāna as knowledge, (esp.) the higher knowledge (derived from meditation).” In this sense, jñāna could equally be translated as “wisdom.”

Thus when Nāgārjuna wrote that

saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ |
avidvān kārakas tasmān na vidvāṁs tattva-darśanāt ||MMK26.10
avidyāyāṁ niruddhāyāṁ saṁskārāṇām asaṁbhavaḥ |
avidyāyā nirodhas tu jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt ||MMK26.11

one could reasonably translate jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt as “because of the cultivation of just this wisdom.” Hence:

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 his realization of reality.//26.10//
In the destruction of ignorance, there is the non-coming-into-being of doings./
The destruction of ignorance, however, 
is because of the cultivation of just this wisdom.//26.11//

Exactly thinking, however, jñāna is an -na neuter action noun, and so it is more literally translated as “knowing” or “the act of knowing.”

And the literal translation, in my book, is in this case more meaningful. Which is to say that when ignorance is destroyed by just sitting, it is not so much that knowledge is being brought to bear, and more that ignorance is being destroyed by the bringing-into-being, or the allowing-into-being, of the act of knowing in which the right thing is allowed to do itself. Hence:

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.//26.10//
In the destruction of ignorance, there is the non-coming-into-being of doings./
The destruction of ignorance, however, 
is because of the bringing-into-being of just this act of knowing.//26.11//

What is interesting  about today's verse, then, is that, following Nāgārjuna, we would normally think of knowing  (jñāna) as the antidote to ignorance. But in today's verse the suggestion is that knowing is the antidote to afflictions in general, including the exuberance and greed associated with booms and bubbles. 

Speaking of bubbles, it seems that a great big money bubble has been keeping the global financial system on life support since 2008. So let's be grateful for that... until such time as the whole damn thing bursts. Then we will be confronting the debris of a massive breakdown, or bust, and the world will be in dire need of men of great healing who at least have some insight into what has been stopping the right thing from doing itself.

Such is knowledge I have gleaned from Alexander work over the past 20 years. Nobody knows how the right thing does itself, and nobody can make the right thing do itself. The wise one, in the act of sitting as an act of knowing, is not the doer but is the allower. He or she knows what NOT TO DO. And in the act of knowing what not to do, on a good day, the right thing is given a chance to do itself. 

The wise one, then, is not the one who knows what to do. The wise one, primarily, is the one who knows what NOT TO DO. 

We can contrast individual scapegoats, like Alan Greenspan, who Bill Fleckenstein singles out in his book Greenspan's Bubbles - The Age of Ignorance at the Federal Reserve; or like "Fred the Shred" Goodwin, former boss of the Royal Bank of Scotland, much reviled in the UK around the time of the 2008 crash and now largely forgotten. These are individuals who didn't know what they were doing, but got where they were by pretending that they did know what they were doing. Thus, somehow they were allowed to rise to positions where their wrong decisions could lead to massive misallocation of resources -- which is the socio-economic equivalent of individual misuse of the self. 

Since the crash of 2008, the truth still has not really made itself known. Stock markets have kept going up, enabling politicians in Europe to keep playing the game of "extend and pretend." They have talked about bailing out broken economies and about reform, while really bailing out nobody but the big banks and reforming nothing. 

One man in Europe who has been telling the truth in this regard, it seems to me, is Greece's new finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. 

This interviewer on Russia Today, ironically enough, since Russia is not generally thought of as the land of free speech, shows the virtue of allowing YV to speak freely. She asks the question and then shuts the %^&* up. I wish more BBC journalists would follow that example, and listen to answers, instead of trying to show how clever they are with rapid follow-up questions. 

The interview last Friday on BBC's Newsnight is a case in point. The interviewer, most annoyingly, seems not to want to give YV time to answer any of the questions that she -- in her evident profound indifference to what is really going on -- has already prepared. 

How are we ever going to know what is going on, if BBC journalists keep asking questions without waiting to listen to the answers? 

Written as one disgruntled license-payer. 

tad: ind. therefore
lokam (acc. sg.): m. the world
ārtam (acc. sg. m.); mfn. fallen into (misfortune) , struck by calamity , afflicted , pained , disturbed ; injured ; oppressed , suffering , sick , unhappy
karuṇāyamānaḥ nom. sg. m. pres. part. karuṇa: to pity, to have compassion

rogeṣu (loc. pl.): m. ( √1. ruj) " breaking up of strength " , disease , infirmity , sickness
ruj: to break , break open , dash to pieces , shatter , destroy  ; to cause pain , afflict , injure 
rāgādiṣu (loc. pl.): red passions, et cetera
rāga: m. the act of colouring ; colour , hue , tint , dye , (esp.) red colour , redness; inflamation ; any feeling or passion , (esp.) love , affection or sympathy for , vehement desire
vartamānam = acc. sg. m. pres. part. vṛt: to turn ; to move or go on , get along , advance , proceed ; to be , live , exist , be found , remain , stay , abide , dwell

mahā-bhiṣaj (nom. sg.) m. a great healer
bhiṣaj: m. a healer , physician
na: not
arhati = 3rd pers. sg. arh: to deserve (acc.)
vighnam (acc. sg.): m. an obstacle , impediment , hindrance , opposition , prevention , interruption , any difficulty or trouble
eṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): he, this one

jñānauṣadhārthaṁ (acc. sg. n.): for the sake of the medicine which is the act of knowing
jñāna: n. knowing , becoming acquainted with , knowledge , (esp.) the higher knowledge (derived from meditation)
auṣadha: n. herbs used in medicine , simples , a medicament , drug , medicine in general
parikhidyamānaḥ = nom. sg. m. pres. part. pass. pari- √ khid: to be depressed or afflicted , feel uneasy
khid: , to strike , press , press down ; to be depressed or wearied

世間無救護 中貪恚癡毒
哀愍衆生故 求智慧良藥
爲世除苦患 汝云何惱亂

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