Monday, February 16, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.2: The Journey Back Begins

¦⏑⏑⏑−¦¦−⏑−⏑¦⏑−⏑−    navipulā
sarveṣu dhyāna-vidhiṣu prāpya caiśvaryam uttamam |
sasmāra prathame yāme pūrva-janma-paraṁparām || 14.2

And having obtained utmost mastery

Over all ways of meditating,

He called to mind in the first watch of the night

The succession of his previous births.

BC14.83, according to EHJ's translation from the Tibetan, reads as follows:
Similarly the great seer understood that the factors are suppressed by the complete absence of ignorance. Therefore he knew properly what was to be known and stood out before the world as the Buddha.

“Factors” is EHJ's translation of whatever the Tibetan is for saṁskarān.

I understand saṁskarān to mean – to give a concrete example – pulling in the chin to keep the neck bones straight, and all the other manifestations of over-tension that such end-gaining born of ignorance brings in its train. I understand saṁskarān to mean what is called in Alexander work “doing.” Since saṁskarān  is plural, I understand saṁskarān to mean “doings.”

If I modify EHJ's translation of BC14.83 accordingly:
Similarly the great seer understood that doings are inhibited by the complete absence of ignorance. Therefore he knew properly what was to be known and stood out before the world as the Buddha.

Now, EHJ, you are talking! 

Between today's verse and that verse, Aśvaghoṣa is going to work backwards, inductively, from successive births in saṁsāra, back to the doings which are the root of saṁsāra. 

In the 26th chapter of  MMK, conversely, Nāgārjuna works  forwards, deductively, from the doings that the one veiled in ignorance does do, through to the suffering of ageing and dying in saṁsāra. Thus:  
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// There again, 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. / In this way 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//

For me, for one, understanding of what Aśvaghoṣa and Nāgārjuna are getting at is hugely facilitated by understanding saṁskarān to mean “doings.”

EHJ's “factors” does not mean anything to me. Ānandajoti Bhikku's “volitional formations” did not mean anything to me. But if saṁskarān means “doings,” then the present Canto in Buddhacarita, along with the 26th chapter of MMK, start to make perfect sense. 

More than that, my own behaviour over these past twenty or thirty years -- which has sometimes been inscrutable even to me -- starts to make sense. 

It is like I had to solve that particular problem of what saṁskarān really means, which is akin to getting the claw of a hammer into a slight gap, after which one knows one is going to be able to rip the whole bloody wall down. 

It is like I was put on this earth to solve that particular problem, to make an inroad into that particular weak point in the edifice. This is your mission, to break down that wall, and don't you worry about what collateral damage you might cause along the way....

FM Alexander had a word for that kind of attitude, in which collateral damage is disregarded. FM called it "end-gaining." 

Rather than inflating a triumphant bubble, then, I am probably better off confessing...

The doings which are the root of saṁsāra, thus has the endgainer done.

sarveṣu (loc. pl. m.): mfn. all
dhyāna-vidhiṣu (loc. pl. m.): methods of meditating

prāpya = abs. pra- √āp: to attain, obtain
ca: and
aiśvaryam (acc. sg.): n. the state of being a mighty lord , sovereignty , supremacy , power , sway; dominion
uttamam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. uppermost

sasmāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. smṛ: to remember, call to mind, be mindful
prathame (loc. sg.): first
yāme = loc. sg. yāma
yāma: m. motion , course , going , progress
yāmā: f. a night-watch , period or watch of 3 hours , the 8th part of a day

pūrva-janma-paraṁparām (acc. sg. f.): the succession of previous births
janman: n. birth , production; life, existence ; re-birth
jāti: f. birth, production; re-birth
jan: to generate , beget , produce , create , cause
paramparā: f. an uninterrupted row or series , order , succession , continuation , mediation , tradition ; lineage , progeny

自在諸三昧 次第現在前
初夜入正受 憶念過去生

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