Sunday, February 22, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.8: Investigation of Spotlessness

tatas tena sa divyena pariśuddhena cakṣuṣā |
dadarśa nikhilaṁ lokam ādarśa iva nirmale || 14.8

On that basis, by the means of that divine seeing,

That fully cleansed organ of sight,

He saw the whole Universe

As if in a spotless mirror.

Belief in spotlessness, in general, equates to idealism or perfectionism, or religious fundamentalism. Belief in spotlessness, in general, is a kind of ignorance, in which case its inevitable result is the doings which are the root of saṁsāra.

So in general, for those of us who are ever prone, being veiled in ignorance, to do the doings which are the root of saṁsāra, the principle to study might be this: there is no such thing as spotlessness.

Except when it comes to cause and effect. 

In other words, there are no absolutes. Except when it comes to the reality of cause and effect. 

Read in that light, “a spotless mirror” means in other words, an absolute standard, such as the law of cause and effect is.

So I think that today's verse means that the bodhisattva saw that the whole world, or the whole Universe, as being absolutely governed by cause and effect. “As if in a spotless mirror” means that he did not have even in a teeny bit of a doubt about it.

Read like this, today's verse, since it is mainly concerned with causality, belongs within the wider scheme to the second of four phases.

At the same, within today's verse itself, the four pādas as I read them also have an underlying four-phased logic. So...
  1. divinity belongs to the first phase;
  2. the physical eye – or a whole human body-mind – as an organ of sight, belongs to the second phase ; 
  3. seeing the Universe belongs to the third phase, where subject and object meet; and
  4. a spotless mirror, suggesting reality itself (the reality of cause and effect) as the absolute standard, belongs to the fourth phase.

In my twenties, when my contemporaries were building careers and having fun, I was in Tokyo feeling sorry for myself, most of the time, in four phases. I grew so accustomed to thinking in four phases that Gudo Nishijima himself, king of the four philosophies, criticised me for it. Which I felt was rich coming from him.

When I first visited Gudo in his office in the summer of 1982, I entered his office like I was accustomed to entering a karate dojo. I wanted to be shown how to train, what to do -- doing being the operative word.

Instead of that he sat me down opposite him and gave me a lecture about idealism, materialism, action, and reality.

Regular readers of this blog will know that from time to time I analyze a verse, or a series of verses, into four phases. Then I go for a while without mentioning the four phases.

But in the present Canto, I think the four phases are useful for putting the twelve links into perspective.

Today's verse is leading to a description of how the bodhisattva sees cause and effect operating. So it belongs to the second phase.

The twelve links as part of the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda are also regarded as having to do with causality. This is how Gudo Nishijima discussed the twelve links in the book which led me to him, titled “How to Practise Zazen.”

But I want to emphasize that the real, practical purpose of the twelve links in the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, is to point us back in the direction of seeing the doings which the one veiled in ignorance does do. The point is to destroy ignorance. And destroying ignorance depends on the bringing-into-being of an act of knowing. But this act of knowing is more challenging than the kind of knowledge that a scientist gleans. The challenge is to be the wise one, who is not the doer, because of reality making itself known.

Today's verse, then, belongs broadly to the second phase. But the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda comes after the second phase, in this Canto, and in the overall scheme of the Buddha's teaching. 

The second phase is studied by scientists in the laboratory and in the field. But pratītya-samutpāda is to be realized with one's sitting bones digging holes in a round cushion, and one's knees on a mat.
The doings that lead to rebirth one veiled in ignorance, in the three ways, / 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//

tatah: then
tena (inst. sg. n.): that
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
divyena (inst. sg. n.): mfn. divine

pariśuddhena (inst. sg. n.): mfn. cleaned , purified , pure
cakṣuṣā (inst. sg.): n. sight, eye

dadarśa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. dṛś: to see
nikhilam (acc. sg. m.) mfn. complete , all , whole , entire
lokam (acc. sg.): m. the world

ādarśe (loc. sg.): m. a looking-glass , mirror
iva: like, as if
nir-male (loc. sg. m.): mfn. spotless , unsullied , clean , pure , shining , resplendent , bright
mala: n. dirt , filth , dust , impurity (physical and moral)

見一切衆生 如觀鏡中像

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