Monday, February 23, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.9: All Karma In Saṁsāra Is a Drag

sattvānāṁ paśyatas tasya nikṣṭotkṣṭa-karmaṇām |
pracyutiṁ copapattiṁ ca vavdhe karuṇātmatā || 14.9

As he observed the relegation and promotion

Of living beings possessed of the karma

Of pulling down or pulling up,

His inherent compassion waxed greater.

Today's verse is a particularly difficult one to translate in such a way that the pāda by pāda progression is preserved.

One way would be to repeat the translation of paśyatas tasya; for example:

As he saw living beings by their actions,
Pulling down or pulling up,/
As he observed them dropping out, and presenting in the world,
His inherent compassion waxed greater.//

As he observed living beings possessed of the karma of pulling down and pulling up / Being relegated and promoted, his inherent compassion waxed greater. //

Here for reference is how EBC and EHJ handled today's verse:
As he saw the various transmigrations and rebirths of the various beings with their several lower or higher merits from their actions, compassion grew up more within him. (EBC)
His compassionateness waxed greater, as he saw the passing away and rebirth of all creatures according as their acts were lower or higher. (EHJ)

EBC and EHJ thus both translated nikṛṣṭotkṛṣṭa (= ni-kṛṣṭa + ut-kṛṣṭa ) simply as “lower or higher.” The root √kṛṣ, however, means to drag or draw or pull, so that ni-√kṛṣ means “to drag or pull down” and ut-√kṛṣ means “to draw or drag or pull up.”

The irony not to be missed in the background is that “higher merit from their actions” and “higher acts” refer in the present context to acts that lead to heaven. Heaven is the fifth of the five saṁsāric realms that the bodhisattva is about to describe. So heaven is also a place we go to as a result of doing the doings that one veiled in ignorance does do.

The point is not that we should fear hell and aspire to heaven. The point to recognize is that we drag ourselves down into hell by our ignorant doing, and equally we haul oursleves up in the direction of heaven, also by our ignorant doing. 

These doings are the doings that Nāgārjuna called the root of saṁsāra (saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān)
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//
What I would like to write about, then, again, is the one thing I think I have learned from the past 30-odd years of folly, which is that
(a) religious trying to be right is just ignorance; 
(b) in the destruction of this ignorance, there is the non-coming-into-being of doings.

In terms of Zazen sitting posture, which Japanese Zen masters of recent years, including my own teacher, have emphasized so strongly, to try to be right is to pull oneself up.

According to the teaching of the Alexander teacher Marjory Barlow, a wiser act than trying to pull oneself up is deliberately to pull oneself down. Having consciously pulled oneself down, and observed what the wrong thing is, one can learn to let the wrong thing be wrong, so that the right thing might have a chance of doing itself.

Thus, the Marjory Barlow I knew truly was a wise one, not a doer – because of the right thing doing itself.

The fit between Nāgārjuna's words and what Marjory Barlow taught, is incredibly exact. 

Nāgārjuna's words doubtless deal with other kinds  of ignorance as well, but for the particular igorance that Marjory addresssed -- the ignorance of trying to be right -- I am amazed at how well Nāgārjuna's words fit. 

sattvānām (gen. pl.): n. beings
paśyataḥ = gen. abs. pres. part. paś: to see
tasya (gen. abs.): him

nikṛṣṭotkṛṣṭa-karmaṇām (gen. pl. n.): debasing and elevating actions
ni-kṛṣṭa: mfn. debased , vile , low , despised , outcast
ut-kṛṣṭa: mfn. (opposed to apa-kṛṣṭa and ava-kṛṣṭa) , drawn up or out ; taking a high position ; excellent , eminent ; superior, best
kṛṣ: to draw , draw to one's self , drag , pull , drag away , tear
karman: n. act, action ; former act as leading to inevitable results , fate (as the certain consequence of acts in a previous life)

pra-cyutim (acc. sg.): f. going away , withdrawing , departing ; decay , fall , ruin
pra- √ cyu: to move , proceed , depart ; to swerve or deviate from (abl.) ; to be deprived of , lose (abl.) ; to fall down , drop , stumble ; to fall (scil. from heaven i.e. be born again)
ca: and
upa-pattim (acc. sg.): f. happening , occurring , becoming visible , appearing , taking place , production , effecting , accomplishing ; proving right , resulting ; ascertained or demonstrated conclusion , proof , evidence
upa- √ pad: to go towards or against , attack ; to approach , come to , arrive at , enter ; to reach , obtain , partake of ; to take place , come forth , be produced , appear , occur , happen ; to be present , exist ; to become , be suitable
ca: and

vavṛdhe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vṛdh: to grow, increase ; to rise, ascend ; to be exalted or elevated , feel animated or inspired or excited by (instr. loc. gen.)
karuṇātmatā (nom. sg. f.): compassion-nature, compassionateness, compassion
ātmatā: f. essence , nature

衆生生生死 貴賤與貧富
清淨不淨業 隨受苦樂報 

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