Tuesday, March 17, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.31: Being Present Here Among Hunan Beings, On the Impure Inside

ime 'nye naraka-prakhye garbha-saṁjñe 'śuci-hrade |
upapannā manuṣyeṣu duḥkham archanti jantavaḥ || 14.31

These different ones find themselves in a place that seems like hell,

A pool of impurity called “the insides”;

Fittingly, among human beings, they find themselves

As lowly creatures experiencing suffering.

In the 1st pāda of today's verse naraka-prakhye describes the pool of impurity in question as “like hell” or “seeming like hell” – so not hell, but a place that seems like hell. That could mean a place of training, I would suggest, like a karate dojo, or a Zazen hall, or an Alexander teacher training course, which, though it seemed like hell on the inside, now, looking back after the event – strangely – is recalled with happy memories.

In the 2nd pāda, garbha-saṁjñe ostensibly means “called the womb”; hence:
Others, having found a hell in an impure lake called the womb, are born amongst men and there suffer anguish. (EBC)
These other creatures take form again in the filthy hell-like pool called the womb and experience suffering amongst men. (EHJ)

But garbha also means the inside of anything, or the middle, and herein I think might lie the ironic hidden meaning.

Thus, for example, when buddhas are worshipped in the abstract, Buddhist devotees hope to be born somewhere out there over the rainbow, in the Pure Land of Akṣobhya Buddha. 

Again, when buddhas are studied from the outside, the whole point for students and teachers in the Buddhist studies departments of universities is to study buddhas from the outside -- maintaining as far as possible the pure objectivity of natural sciences. "Mindfulness" studied like this has lent itself easily enough to conflation with CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) as championed by doctors of pyschology whose knees have barely ever touched the ground. 

But when the Buddha's teaching is pursued from the inside, practice is tragically full of impurities and imperfections, and neither the Pure Land of Akṣobhya Buddha nor the pure objectivity of physics, are anywhere to be found.

As Dogen memorably observed with regard to purity and impurity, if a pool of water is too pure, fish cannot live in it.

ime (nom. pl. m.): these
anye (nom. pl. m.): others, ones who were different
naraka-prakhye (loc. sg. m.): hell-like
naraka: hell
prakhya: f. look , appearance (only ifc. = resembling , like)

garbha-saṁjñe (loc. sg. m.): called 'a womb'
garbha: m. the womb ; the inside , middle , interior of anything , calyx (as of a lotus) ;

saṁjñā: f. a name , appellation , title , technical term (ifc. = " called , named ")
aśuci-hrade (loc. sg. m.): an impure pool
aśuci: mfn. impure , foul
hrada: m. a large or deep piece of water , lake , pool

upapannāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. obtained ; happened , fallen to one's share , produced , effected , existing , being near at hand
upa- √ pad : to reach , obtain , partake of ; to enter into any state ; to take place , come forth , be produced , appear , occur , happen
manuṣyeṣu (loc. pl. m.): among men, human beings

duḥkham (acc. sg. ): n. suffering
archanti = 3rd pers. pl. ṛ: to go towards , meet with , fall upon or into , reach , obtain
(see also BC11.24)
jantavaḥ (nom. pl. m.): m. a child , offspring; a kinsman , servant ; a creature , living being , man , person ; any animal of the lowest organisation , worms , insects

或生人道中 身處於行厠


Rich said...

As Dogen memorably observed with regard to purity and impurity, if a pool of water is too pure, fish cannot live in it

My drinking water is produced by reverse osmosis. Whether it is too pure is something to investigate.

Mike Cross said...

Maybe being mindful of the eagerness with which fish seek out impurities in water, is a way for you to investigate your attachment to a human view of water.

In that case, which is closer to the true essence of Zen?

Your being mindful of opposing views?

Or the fishes' single-minded pursuit of their dinner?

Rich said...

My water is too pure for a fish 🐟 but I rely on food outside of water to get my organic minerals and nutrients. The inorganic rocks in regular water I can do without. That's my view based on the facts and info I believe is most true.

So, if I get a pet fish I won't put him in pure water.

Mike Cross said...

Fish don't hold views on water based on info they believe to be true.

But you or I will never know water from the inside like fish do!