Friday, February 6, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 13.65: Knowing as Growing

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Kīrti)
kṣamā-śipho dhairya-vigāḍha-mūlaś cāritra-puṣpaḥ smti-buddhi-śākhaḥ |
jñāna-drumo dharma-phala-pradātā notpāṭanaṁ hy arhati vardhamānaḥ || 13.65

For the tree, deeply rooted in constancy, 
whose fibres are forbearance,

Whose blossom is good conduct,
whose branches are awareness and good judgement,

The tree of knowing, the bestower of dharma-fruit,

Does not deserve to be uprooted, now that it is growing.

The present series of verses, from BC13.61 – 66, are full of figurative expressions. But their main thrust, as I have been reflecting in the titles of these blog posts, has to do with knowing.

  • BC13.61 contains the metaphor jñānauṣadham, “the medicine of knowing;”
  • BC13.63 contains the metaphor jñāna-pradīpaḥ, “the lantern of knowing;”
  • BC13.65, today's verse, contains the metaphor jñāna-drumaḥ, “the tree of knowing.”

The other three verses in the series do not contain the word jñāna, but...
  • BC13.62 is about path-finding, or knowing the terrain like a good guide;
  • BC13.64 is about knowing where the far shore of saṁsāra is, and knowing how to get there;
  • BC13.66, tomorrow's verse, as I read it, as I will discuss tomorrow, suggests the oneness of knowing and undoing – thereby emphasizing the point I have been at pains to make already, that what Nāgārjuna meant by jñānasyāsyaiva, “just this act of knowing,” is an act of knowing, and NOT an act of doing. Insofar as it has to do with doing, it is an act of undoing, or an act of coming undone.
Today's verse, by the way, was one of the first that tempted me to venture my own translation and commentary of it back in November 2008. The link is here. 

When I read that translation and commentary now, I feel my translation was trying too hard to be different. Besides that, a lack of familiarity with Aśvaghoṣa's Sanskrit allowed me to take liberties in translation that I would not take now.

But one thing that has not changed in the last six years – and it is the main point I emphasized in my commentary then – is my understanding that jñāna is not best translated, as per EHJ, EBC and PO, “knowledge.” Jñāna is better translated as “knowing,” and better understood as an act of knowing – as in Nāgārjuna's words which I hereby quote again:
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 bringing-into-being of just this act of knowing.//MMK26.11//

Yesterday, at the request of the author of one of the articles in question, I skimmed two or three articles related to Zen, non-doing, and the vestibular system. The bloke who emailed me supposed that the content would have been up my street. 

Browsing the articles caused me to reflect, again, on the difference between knowledge, or knowing about, and jñāna, knowing. Knowing about stuff, knowledge -- especially scientific knowledge -- tends to be valued highly in our world, as sometimes reflected in Nobel prizes, awards of doctorates, intellectual property rights, lucrative copyrights, et cetera. 

In the realm of practice, in contrast, the people I revere are the ones who not only know about stuff but who are evidently content to practise knowing, as its own reward. 

The truest Zen masters in the world today, if you ask me, don't see themselves as Zen masters at all. I think of people like Ānandajoti Bhikkhu in the Theravada tradition, and Mathieu Ricard in the Tibetan tradition. Those guys, true monks, are not interested in the baubles that society dangles as rewards for the pursuit of knowledge. For them knowing is its own reward. That, I think, is part of the reason why a person like Ānandajoti Bhikhu makes his dharma-fruit freely accessible, totally free of charge.  He for me is a role model, and his website to me is exemplary. 

When, in contrast, I received an unsolicited email recently inviting me to purchase a book on Zen, I felt angry. Hey look at me everybody, I am Zen master, anointed by Gudo Nishijima as one of his true Dharma-heirs. His teaching is my teaching. You can buy my book in print or, for the same price, on Kindle. 

No, fuck off, you fraud. You are just the person I don't want to be.

The mirror principle at work? Undoubtedly. But at least I see it. 

"As long as you know you are a fraud," a wise person once told me, "you are not a complete fraud." 

kṣamā-śiphaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having patience as fibres (said of the tree of knowledge), Bcar. xiii, 65.
śiphā: f. a fibrous or flexible root (used for making whips &c )
dhairya-vigāḍha-mūlaḥ (nom. sg. m.): deeply rooted in constancy
dhairya: n. (dhīra) firmness , constancy , calmness , patience , gravity , fortitude , courage ,
vigāḍha: mfn. plunged into , entered ; deep
mūla: ifc. = rooted in , based upon , derived from

cāritra-puṣpaḥ (nom. sg. m.): whose flowers are good conduct
cāritra: n. manner of acting, conduct, good conduct, good character, reputation
smṛti-buddhi-śākhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): whose branches are awareness and good judgement

jñāna-drumaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the tree of knowing
dharma-phala-pradātā (nom. sg. m.): bestower of the fruit of dharma
pradātṛ: m. a giver , bestower (mostly in comp. with the object)

na: not
utpāṭanam (acc. sg.): n. the act of tearing out or up ; pulling up by roots , eradicating
hi: for
pāṭana: n. splitting , dividing , tearing up , cutting to pieces , destroying
√paṭ: to go ; to split , open , burst asunder
arhati = 3rd pers. sg. arh: to deserve , merit , be worthy of , to have a claim to , be entitled to (acc.)
vardhamānaḥ = nom. sg. m. pres. part. vṛdh: to grow

忍辱爲法芽 固志爲法根
律儀戒爲地 覺正爲枝幹
智慧之大樹 無上法爲果
蔭護諸衆生 云何而欲伐

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