Saturday, March 28, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.42-44: Paradise - A Passing Phase

[No Sanskrit text]

| las maṅ rnams kyis thob pa yis | | mtho ris mi brtan g-yo ba la |
| ’bral bas byas pa’i sdug bsṅal ni | | gaṅ du ’di ’dra thob par ’gyur |

| kye ma ded las khyad par du | | ’jig rten mdzad pa’i chos ñid de |
| ’dod chags bral ba thob nas kyaṅ | | gźan rnams lha nas ṅes par lhuṅ | 

| ’di ni rtag par gnas pa ste | | źes ni ṅes pa’i sems ldan rnams |

| ’jig rten ’di yi raṅ bźin ni | | ’di lta bur ni mthoṅ ma yin |

las: karma, action
mang; many
rnams: [plural marker]
kyis: [instrumental marker]
thob pa yis: for the attainment

mtho ris: high estate, heaven
mi brtan: transitory
ba la: strength
bas: since
byas: do; act; perform; fabricate
sdug bsngal: suffering, pain
ni: [separative particle]

gang du: wherein [Skt: yatra]
thob par: to attain

kye ma: Alas! = bata [EHJ]
las: karma, action
nges par : inexorably = dhruvam [EHJ]
khyad par du: especially = viśeṣataḥ [EHJ]

rten: basis
mdzad: action, deed, do
chos nyid: reality, real nature
de: that

chags bral ba: freedom from attachment/ desire/ bondage, indifference (離於愛)
thob nas: having gained/obtained/attained
kyang: though, even

gzhan rnams: all others
lha nas: grain offered to the gods, from the gods
nges par lhung: sure fall, sin  (墮落)

rtag par: eternal, always, forever
gnas pa: abide
ste: [gerundive connective particle]

zhes ni: such and such
nges: ascertain, understand, determine, be certain about (決定)
sems ldan: sensible
rnams: [plural marker]

rten: support, seat, station
yi rang: rejoicing
bzhin: face, likeness, similar to

lta bur: such as, similar
mthong: to see, perceive
ma yin: is not

EHJ's translation from the Tibetan:
42. Seeing that Paradise, obtained by many labours, is uncertain and transitory, and that such suffering will be caused by separation from it,
43. Alas, inexorably this is in an especial degree the law of action in the world; this is the nature of the world and yet they do not see it to be such.
44. Others, who have disjoined themselves from sensual passion, conclude in their minds that their station is eternal; yet they fall miserably from heaven.

積劫修苦行 永離於愛
謂決定長存 而今悉墮落
thro' lapse of ages bearing suffering, striving to crush [sic] desire and lust ,
Now certainly expecting long reprieve, and yet once more destined to fall ! (SB)
Practicing asceticism for eons and forever free from desire, one may think one will surely abide a long time, but in the present all miserably fall. (CW)

In a note to verses 43-44, EHJ says
the Chinese shows the Tibetan's order to be wrong here; my verse 43 is made up of Weller's 44ab, 45cd, and verse 44 of 45ab, 44cd. In the first line of 43 I read ṅes-par for des las [=ded las in the TLB version?] and understand something like lokakāryasya dharmo' yaṁ dhruvaṁ bata viśeṣataḥ. Verse 44 refers to the inhabitants of the Brahmā world.

So that is as clear as mud.

As far as I can tell, the four lines of Chinese (4 lines of 5 characters each) must have rendered only in summarized form the 12 pādas of original Sanskrit which, in verses 42-44, were represented by 12 lines of Tibetan.

積劫修苦行 (accumulated kalpas of practising painful practice)
seems to correspond in EHJ's translation to
obtained by many labours” (in EHJ's verse 42)

永離於愛欲 (forever separated from sensual desire)
seems to correspond in EHJ's translation to
who have disjoined themselves from sensual passion” (in EHJ's verse 44)

謂決定長存 (though they with certainty assumed a long existence)
seems to correspond in EHJ's translation to
conclude in their minds that their station is eternal” (in EHJ's verse 44)

而今悉墮落 (and yet now all fall down)
seems to correspond in EHJ's translation to
yet they fall miserably from heaven” (in EHJ's verse 44).

The Chinese thus seems to offer a scant basis upon which to fiddle around with the order of the Tibetan text, as EHJ has done. 

But the gist of this part, in any event, was as per what Ānanda emphasized for Nanda's benefit in SN Canto 11:
Since in spiralling through saṁsāra you have gained celestial nymphs and left them / A hundred times over, what is this yearning of yours for those women? // 11.31 // A fire is not satisfied by dry brushwood, nor the salty ocean by water, / Nor a man of thirst by his desires. Desires, therefore, do not make for satisfaction. // 11.32 // Without satisfaction, whence peace? Without peace, whence ease? / Without ease, whence joy? Without joy, whence enjoyment? // 11.33 // Therefore if you want enjoyment, let your mind be directed within. / Tranquil and impeccable is enjoyment of the inner self and there is no enjoyment to equal it. // 11.34 // In it, you have no need of musical instruments, or women, or ornaments; / On your own, wherever you are, you can indulge in that enjoyment. // 11.35 // The mind suffers mightily as long as thirst persists. / Eradicate that thirst; for suffering co-exists with thirst, or else does not exist. // 11.36 // In prosperity or in adversity, by day or by night, / For the man who thirsts after desires, peace is not possible. // 11.37 // The pursuit of desires is full of suffering, and attainment of them is not where satisfaction lies; / The separation from them is inevitably sorrowful; but the celestial constant is separation. // 11.38 // Even having done action that is hard to do, and reached a heaven that is hard to reach, / A man comes right back to the world of men, as if to his own house after a spell away. // 11.39 // The backslider when his residual good has run out / Finds himself among the animals or in the world of the departed, or else he goes to hell. // 11.40 // Having enjoyed in heaven the utmost sensual objects, / He falls back, beset by suffering: what has that enjoyment done for him? // SN11.41 //

Ānanda's point is not to negate the possibility of sexual contact with nymphs in a heaven which is clearly a much sexier place than the Anglican heaven with which I am more familiar -- at least from second-hand descriptions of it on BBC Radio 4. Ānanda is rather emphasizing the ultimately transitory and unsatisfactory nature of enjoyment in heaven of the utmost sensual objects.

In making this point, Ānanda says:
riraṃsā yadi te tasmād adhyātme dhīyatāṃ manaḥ
Therefore if you want enjoyment, let your mind be directed within.

This line from SN11.34 might have provided a good segue into what I had planned to highlight in detail in today's comment, namely, pratītya-samutpāda not as a doctrine of depending origination, but rather as active practice of the backward step of turning light and letting it shine.

However, as the Japanese proverb goes, isogaba maware – When in a hurry, take the roundabout route.

The intention remains to connect
(a) pratītya-samutpāda as teaching and practice,
(b) Dogen's backward step,
(c) Alexander's teaching and practice of non-doing.

But the making of that connection involves, in practice, the growth of connections between zillions of neurons. And such growth cannot be hurried.

We will get there, slowly. In light of which intention, it does not matter that working on the three verses covered today has been like trudging through mud.

What I will add in closing, mainly for my own benefit, because I am so easily prone to forget, is Marjory Barlow's words: "You are all perfect, apart from what you are doing." 

How can we really know that? 

How can we know that we are perfect, when it so rarely feels that way?

Not by taking a religious leap of faith. Because to believe is not really to know. 

And not by reading and writing blog  posts like this, because intellectual knowing is not it. 

The answer must be by learning Dogen's backward step, and, equally, by steeping oneself in the practice of non-doing. 

Thus, it seems to me, pratītya-samutpāda was not primarily a doctrine about how the world arises from co-dependent causes and conditions. Pratītya-samutpāda-pravṛtti is not a doctrine or a law to be understood, but is teaching and practice -- an actual practice (pravṛtti)  to be learned in practice. 

But learning in practice takes the time it takes, and I for one continue to surprise on the downside, when it comes to showing myself to be slow on the uptake. 

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