Saturday, February 7, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 13.66: Knowing Undoing (Tribute to Gudo Nishijima)

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
baddhāṁ dḍhaiś cetasi moha-pāśair yasya prajāṁ mokṣayituṁ manīṣā |
tasmin jighāṁsā tava nopapannā śrānte jagad-bandhana-mokṣa-hetoḥ || 13.66

His purpose is to free living creatures who are bound in mind

By the tightly gripping fetters of foolishness;

Your murderous intent towards him is not appropriate

When he is exhausting himself to undo the ties that bind the world.

The being of distinction, just hanging their in emptiness, began his booming at BC13.57. His booming will end with BC13.69. So with today's verse we are ten verses through a series of 13 verses in which a being of distinction, as I hear him, is booming the most fundamental truth of non-doing.

Since picking up in the opening salvo in BC13.57 the words nārhasi māra kartum, “You, O Māra, should not do,” I have therefore been discussing these verses with reference to Nāgārjuna's excellent statement about how doings arise from ignorance, except when opposed by an act of knowing:
The doings that lead to rebirth one veiled in ignorance, in three ways [with body, speech and mind], / Does do; and by these actions he enters a sphere of existence. //MMK26.1 // Consciousness seeps, with doings as causal grounds, into the sphere of existence./ And so, consciousness having seeped in, pychophysicality is infused. //26.2// Conversely, once psychophysicality is infused, there is the coming into existence of the six senses; / The six senses having arrived, contact arises; //26.3// And when the faculty of sight, going back, has met a physical form, and met indeed a meeting together, / – When sight has gone back, in this way, to psychophysicality – then consciousness arises. //26.4// The combination of the three – physical form, consciousness and faculty of seeing – / Is contact; and from that contact arises feeling. //26.5// On the grounds of feeling, there is thirst – because one thirsts for the object of feeling. / While the thirsting is going on, grasping hold takes hold in four ways.//26.6// While there is grasping hold, the becoming originates of the one who grasps – / Because becoming, in the absence of grasping hold, would be set free and would not become becoming. //26.7// The five aggregates, again, are the becoming. Out of the becoming rebirth is born. / The suffering of ageing and death, and all the rest of it – sorrows, along with lamentations; //26.8// Dejectedness, troubles – all this arises out of rebirth. / Thus there is the coming about of this whole mass of suffering. //26.9// 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// By the destruction of this one and that one, this one and that one are discontinued. / This whole edifice of suffering is thus well and truly demolished.//MMK26.12//

Realization of Nāgārjuna's truth of "the non-coming-into-being of doings," passive though non-doing may sound, in fact requires the very opposite of passivity.  Thus, 
  1. in the first four verses in his monologue (BC13.57-60), the being of distinction is mainly praising the bodhisattva's unshakeable resolve and persistence.
  2. Today's verse is the last in a series of six verses (BC13.61-66) in which the being of distinction uses figurative language – both similes and metaphors – to praise the bodhisattva for knowing, or seeking to know, the means of liberation.
  3. Looking ahead, BC13.67 discusses past becoming present in the moment of sitting; and BC13.68 points to the place of the sitting as the very centre of the earth. So those two verses bring our attention to the here and now of the bodhisattva's sitting.
  4. And BC13.69 exhorts Māra to get down off his high horse. In exhorting Māra thus, the being of distinction tells Māra again, as in BC13.57, “Come to quiet.” So the final verse closes the circle, reminding us that the work, from beginning to end, is all about coming to quiet.
Of the six verses in the present series, then, today's verse is the concluding verse, and it is the verse which comes closest to being a literal rather than a metaphorical description of the bodhisattva's effort.

Which is to say that we who are not enlightened are indeed bound in our minds, as tightly as if by firmly fastened fetters. So the reference to fetters is somewhat metaphorical, but the main thrust of today's verse is literal -- because we literally are bound in our minds, by ignorance or foolishness, as if by fetters. 

The fact is that we who are not yet enlightened are indeed bound in our minds by moha (delusion, unconciousness, ignorance, foolishness), and what will set us free is, as discussed in connection with the five previous verses, jñāna, the act of knowing. What will cause us to come undone, is not an act of doing, but is on the contrary jñāna, an act of knowing.

In Nāgārjuna's words, “just this act of knowing” (jñānasyāsyaiva; 26.11) seems to refer back to “reality making itself known” or “realization of reality” (tattva-darśana; 26.10).

So one way of understanding Nāgārjuna's expression of the Buddha's teaching is as an affirmation of action itself. The ending of ignorance is synonymous with realization of reality, and reality is realized in action.

This is the essence of what my teacher termed “the philosophy of action.”

Ironically, however, Zazen as I for one practised it under my teacher's guidance, was very much an act of doing. It was, to tell the truth, an act of blind doing, an act of unconsciousness, an act of ignorance, an act of sheer foolishness – the very opposite of an act of knowing.

So, for purposes of clarification, here are two contrasting approaches to sitting-meditation, expressed in the first person singular:
  1. The lineage to which my teacher belongs is a line of ones who were right. As he was right in his sitting, straight and true, so also am I right in my sitting, straight and true. But being right (or “having the Buddha-nature”) is not just a principle. It is necessary for me to demonstrate what rightness is, by sitting in the right posture, while wearing the authentic uniform, exactly sown. There must be no gap between right posture as an ideal, and my own sitting posture. For this is the gap that Dogen warned against. So, again, it is necessary for me to demonstrate what rightness is, by sitting in the right posture. In this way I hope to save all people in the world who, unlike my lineage of the enlightened and right, are all deluded and wrong.
  2. My teacher taught me to accept, first up, that I am wrong. That is OK, because we are all wrong – “all in the same boat.” So “Let it all be wrong.” My teacher taught me to stop trying to be right, which is the height of foolishness, because there ain't no such animal as being right. She taught me that there is no such thing as a right position, but there is such a thing as a right direction. And the way to go in this right direction is simply to stop doing. “You are all perfect,” she used to say, “apart from what you are doing.” So sitting-meditation allows us the opportunity to get to the bottom of what wrong doing is, and to cut off this wrong doing at source. The cutting is accomplished by an act, not of doing the right thing, but of knowing the wrong thing -- and thereby allowing the right thing to do itself. 
With approach (1), my task is to realize reality by just acting. With approach (2), my task is to allow reality to assert itself by an act of knowing.

My Zen teacher, Gudo Nishijima, saw the translation of Nāgārjuna's MMK as being of the highest importance. I think he rather expected to find confirmation in Nāgārjuna's words of approach (1). Now that I come to study MMK for myself, however, Nāgārjuna's words, when literally translated, seem to me to lend strong support to approach (2).

The whole situation is too bloody ironic for words.

Today, as it happens, I received an email from one of my Zen teacher's Dharma-heirs, which I think tends to demonstrate approach (1). I shall copy and paste it below.
Dear All,Since I have not heard of any other plan, we will be conducting a small memorial service for Roshi to be netcast tonight, led by a priest in our Sangha from Sweden (so, continuing on the line one more generation). Please share if you are conducting or aware of any events or other memorial in some way.Of course, none of this is necessary for him, and he might laugh about it. Yet, we do it nonetheless. Gassho, Jundo

Yes, Jundo, you do do it nonetheless. And when you do do it nonetheless, doing might be the operative word.

"continuing on the line one more generation"? 
I think that you, Jundo Cohen, are lying to yourself. 

OK, so we all lie to ourselves. But in your case it is so spectacularly obvious that everybody can look into the mirror of your behaviour -- like advertizing your for-profit self-serving book and your self-serving memorial service -- and think "As far as I can prevent it, I don't ever want to behave like that." 

The Gudo Nishijima I knew – following on from Kodo Sawaki, the Zen master who refused to accept Gudo as a formal student – did not value memorial services. Gudo Nishijima valued primarily two things. The first he called Zazen. The second he called “true Buddhist theory.”

In his old age, he became very bound in mind to true Buddhist theory as he understood it, slightly wrongly in my opinion. Speaking of "the One True Buddhism," which he identified with his own view, he became very bound in mind by the tightly gripping fetters of foolishness.

And yet, if there is one person who I think would have been able to appreciate the above translation of MMK chapter 26, it would have been the Gudo Nishijima I knew -- especially in his sixties. Seeing that the above translation was true enough and literal enough, he would gladly have adopted it as his own... and in some sense it does belong to him. Without him the above translation would never have existed, any more than the Nishijima-Cross translation of Shobogenzo would have existed.

So the above translation of MMK chapter 26, it occurs to me this grey morning, represents the absolute falsification of Gudo Nishijma's Buddhist view. And at the same time it represents the culmination of his whole life work.

Go figure.

baddhām (acc. sg. f.): mfn. bound
dṛḍhaiḥ (inst. pl.): mfn. fixed , firm , hard , strong , solid , massive ; firmly fastened , shut fast , tight , close (e.g. ship , 52 , 5 ; bonds , fetters , chains)
cetasi (loc. sg.): n. mind
moha-pāśaiḥ (inst. pl.): by the fetters of delusion
moha: m. ( √muh ) loss of consciousness , bewilderment , perplexity , distraction , infatuation , delusion , error , folly ; (with Buddhists) ignorance (one of the three roots of vice)
muh: to become stupefied or unconscious , be bewildered or perplexed , err , be mistaken , go astray; to become confused , fail , miscarry
pāśa: m. a snare , trap , noose , tie , bond , cord , chain , fetter (lit. and fig.)

yasya (gen. sg.): of him
prajām (acc. sg.): f. creatures, creation
mokṣayitum = inf. muc: to loose , let loose , free , let go , slacken , release , liberate
manīṣā (nom. sg.): f. thought , reflection , consideration , wisdom , intelligence , conception , idea ; prayer ; desire , wish , request

tasmin (loc. sg.): at him
jighāṁsā (nom. sg.): f. desire to kill
tava (gen. sg.): your
na: not
upapannā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. fit , suited for the occasion , adequate , conformable

śrānte (loc. sg.): n. fatigue , exertion ; mfn. wearied , fatigued , tired , exhausted
jagad-bandhana-mokṣa-hetoḥ (gen. sg.): whose motive is to undo the bonds of the world

貪恚癡枷鎖 軛縛於衆生
長劫修苦行 爲解衆生縛


Rich said...

"And yet, if there is one person who I think would have been able to appreciate the above translation of MMK chapter 26, it would have been the Gudo Nishijima I knew -- especially in his sixties. Seeing that the above translation was true enough and literal enough, he would gladly have adopted it as his own... and in some sense it does belong to him. Without him the above translation would never have existed, any more than the Nishijima-Cross translation of Shobogenzo would have existed."

Of cause. And thanks for your efforts.

Mike Cross said...

Thanks Rich.

But efforts for the sake of what? Efforts in service of what?

That's the question posed, as I read it, by tomorrow's verse.