Friday, March 6, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.20: No Reason to Fear Being Wrong

yady eva pāpa-karmāṇaḥ paśyeyuḥ karmaṇāṁ phalam |
¦⏑⏑⏑−¦¦−−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑−    navipulā
vameyur uṣṇaṁ rudhiraṁ marmasv abhihatā iva || 14.20

If only wrong-doers could see

The result of their actions,

They might vomit warm blood

As if they had been struck in a vital part.

The old Nepalese manuscript and the Tibetan translation add the following spurious verse here:
śārīrebhyo 'pi duḥkhebhyo nārakebhyo manasvinaḥ |
anāryaiḥ saha saṁvāso mama kṛcchratamo mataḥ ||14.21 ||

In EBC's text the verse is BC14.21, and EBC translates it:
And worse still than all these bodily tortures in hell seems to me the association of an intelligent man with the base.

EHJ notes that this verse is so obviously out of place that there can be no doubt of the correctness of Luders' opinion rejecting it. 

EHJ notes further that the spurious verse is not in the Chinese translation.

Today's verse (BC14.20) is in the Chinese translation (see below), as well as in the Tibetan translation and in the old Nepalese manuscript, and nobody seems to have questioned its authenticity. The tone, however, seems different from the previous more nuanced descriptions of suffering in hell. And so the proximity of today's verse to the verse which EHJ conclusively rejects as spurious arouses some suspicion. 

But in conclusion, and on reflection, accepting today's verse as genuine, and following on from yesterday's comment, I read today's verse as inviting us, on the surface, to be afraid of being a wrong-doer. Whereas the point below the surface is that we are not here to try to change ourselves from sinners into saints; we are here to cultivate the wisdom, the knowing, by which ignorance is destroyed. 

Read like that, the bodhisattva's observations in today's verse are continuing to lay the ground for his practice and experience of pratītya-samutpāda....
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//

David Cameron has described people fighting on the side of  Islaamic State as "the embodiment of evil." So in that view, those individuals really are bad guys, wicked-hearted wrong doers. 

But today's verse may  more truly be read, below the surface, as inviting us to be clear that the problem is never that human beings are inherently evil. The problem is that when we are coccooned in ignorance we cannot help but do the doings which are the root of saṁsāra. 

The tragedy highlighted by "If only..." is not the tragedy of original sin, or intrinsic evil. The real tragedy is the tragedy of extrinsic ignorance. 

So David Cameron might be closer to the truth if he described the cruddy deeds of Islaamic State jihadists as "manifestations of sectarian ignorance" -- in which case that might be another example of the mirror principle at work. 

When it comes to this problem of being afraid of being wrong, nobody I have met has been more clear than FM Alexander's niece Marjory Barlow. 

My Zen teacher, Gudo Nishijima, was in general not a worrier, and he encouraged his students not to be afraid of making mistakes. Hinayana Buddhist monks, he thought, generally tended to be too afraid of making mistakes. But my Zen teacher was not so clear about the relation, in practice, between fear of being wrong and pursuit of "right posture" in Zazen. So he, in his own ineffable ignorance, encouraged his students to strive in pursuit of right posture, doing this, that, and the other. 

"You are all perfect, apart from what you are doing." 

The problem, today's verse below the surface is making clear, is not the original sin into which wrong-doers are born. The terrible thing is the blindness, the failure to see, the ignorance, of us who are not originally wrong-doers. 

Only because we are veiled in ignorance do we do the doings that are the root of saṁsāra. 

Only because we are veiled in ignorance, to put it another way, are we afraid to be who we really are. 

yadi: if
eva [old Nepalese manuscript / EBC]: (emphatic – “if only...”)
evam [EHJ]: ind. thus
pāpa-karmāṇaḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. " wrong-doing " , wicked , sinful ; m. an ill-doer , criminal , sinner

paśyeyuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. optative paś: to see
karmaṇām (gen. pl.): n. acts, deeds
phalam (acc. sg.): n. fruit, result

vameyuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. optative to vomit , spit out , eject (lit. and fig.) , emit , send forth , give out
uṣṇam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. warm, hot
rudhiram (acc. sg.): n. blood

marmasu = loc. pl. n. marman: ( √ mṛ) mortal spot , vulnerable point , any open or exposed or weak or sensitive part of the body
abhihatāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. struck , smitten , killed
iva: like

Living beings of bad karma,
If they saw their own retribution,
Would at once cut a vital blood vessel  –
Fearing ruin, blood, death.

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