Monday, March 30, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.46: Suffering in Heaven - What the Buddha Taught

[No Sanskrit text]

| lha na sdug pa daṅ bral bas | | skyed pa’i sdug bsṅal phul byuṅ ste |
| bskor ba gson pa’i ’jig rten gyis | | gaṅ na źi ba ṅes par byed | 

lha: god
na:  [accusative, dative, locative particle]
sdug pa dang bral bas: separation from what one loves

skyed: produce, generate
sdug bsngal: suffering
phul byung: in the highest degree
ste [the gerundive connective particle]

bskor ba: circulate, cycle, to rotate
gson: warm blood or living animal ; to live
rten: dependence, support
gyis [instrumental particle]

gang na: place of residence, whereabouts
zhi ba: peace, calm
nges par byed: ascertain, determine, settle

EHJ's translation from the Tibetan:
46. In the heavens that are free from love the suffering of rebirth is excessive. For the ever-wandering world of the living there is most certainly no peace anywhere.

Revised version:
46. The suffering of rebirth in the heavens, when one is separated from what one loves, is excessive. For the ever-wandering world of living beings, there is no place to settle in peace.

雖云諸天樂 別離最大苦
迷惑生世間 無一蘇息處
嗚呼生死海 輪轉無窮已
although, they say, when born in heaven, ' then we shall escape these greater ills,'Deceived, alas ! no single place exempt, in every birth incessant pain ! Alas! the sea of birth and death revolving thus – an ever-whirling wheel – (SB)
One might mention the happiness of rebirth in heaven, but separation is a very great suffering.Being misled, one is reborn in the world and does not have any place to rest. Alas! In the sea of birth and death the wheel turns without end. (CW)

Verses 45 through to 48 round off the observation of suffering in the five realms of saṁsāra. From verse 49 onwards, the bodhisattva investigates the real nature of this world, and thereby gets to the bottom of twelvefold causation of suffering.

Yesterday's verse, then, spoke in the round of suffering in hell (1), and among animals (2), hungry ghosts (3), and human beings (4). Today's verse speaks of suffering in heaven (5).

I think the gist of this suffering in heaven might be expressed in the Chinese
and these five characters are best understood, simply, as per Charles Willemen's translation
“separation (別離) is a very great (最大) suffering ().”

According to the Tibetan to English Translation Tool helpfully provided by Andrés Montano Pellegrini, 
sdug pa dang bral bas 
“separation from what one loves.”
So this combined with the Chinese suggests that the original Sanskrit, like the Buddha in his first turning of the Dharma wheel, cited separation from what one loves as being a prime example of human suffering. 

The Chinese 
literally means  “There is not () one () recuperation-and-rest (蘇息) place ().”

The Chinese phrase, maybe better than EHJ's English, thus brings to mind what the Buddha taught Nanda in SN Canto 15:
Again, from the turning of the circle of the seasons, and from hunger, thirst and fatigue, / Everywhere suffering is the rule. Not somewhere is happiness found. // SN15.44 // Here cold, there heat; here disease, there danger / Oppress humanity in the extreme. The world, therefore, has no place of refuge. // 15.45 // Aging, sickness and death are the great terror of this world. / There is no place where that terror does not arise. // 15.46 //  Where this body goes there suffering follows. / There is no way in the world going on which one is not afflicted. // 15.47 // Even an area that is pleasant, abundant in provisions, and safe, / Should be regarded as a deprived area where burn the fires of affliction. // 15.48 //  In this world beset by hardships physical and mental, / There is no cosy place to which one might go and be at ease. // SN15.49 //

This gist of today's verse, then, is not only what the bodhisattva observed, but also what the Buddha taught.

What the Buddha taught is what the Buddha realized. And what the Buddha realized is what the bodhisattva at this stage of BC Canto 14 is about to realize, that is, pratītya-samutpāda. 

After realizing it as the bodhisattva, he taught it as the Buddha. Hence: 

a-nirodham an-utpādam an-ucchedam a-śāśvatam |
an-ekārtham a-nānārtham an-āgamam a-nirgamam ||MMK1.1||
Beyond closing down, beyond springing up, 
beyond discontinuity, beyond continuity,
Beyond identity, beyond distinctions, 
beyond coming near, beyond going away,
yaḥ pratītya-samutpādaṁ prapañcopaśamaṁ śivam |
deśayām āsa saṁbuddhas taṁ vande vadatāṁ varam ||MMK1.2||
There is the dependent arising which, as the welcome abatement of noise,
He the Fully Awakened Sambuddha taught. I praise him, the best of speakers.

In these opening verses of Nāgārjuna's MMK, 
pratītya-samutpādaṁ prapañcopaśamaṁ śivam 
can be translated in any number of ways. My first bash at this phrase last year, while being determined to come at it from the standpoint (or more accurately the sit-point) of the fourth phase, was:
Complete Springing Up, by coming back, as the wholesome cessation of spin.

On reflection that may have been me trying to put on the original teaching the spin of a self-styled iron man of Zen.

Japanese historians record that when Dogen came back from Japan in his mid-20s and strongly preached the truth of sitting-zen, one result was that the less practical Buddhists he had offended burned his temple down. Thereafter Dogen's tone, they say, over the years became more moderate.

A more compromising (or harmonized?) translation in this spirit might be: 
pratītya-samutpādaṁ prapañcopaśamaṁ śivam
dependent arising, as the welcome abatement of noise.

Just as there is no such thing as a right sitting position, there might be no such thing as one English translation of pratītya-samutpāda that is right in every context. 

There is no such thing as a right position, FM Alexander said, but there is such a thing as a right direction.

In a similar way, there might be no such thing as one correct translation of pratītya-samutpāda, but there might be such a thing as right effort in the direction of pratītya-samutpāda.

Except, of course, that the Buddha would not have spoken, in Sanskrit, of pratītya-samutpāda. He would have spoken in an Indian vernacular, or maybe in several Prakrit dialects, that would later be represented in Sanskrit, and equally in Pali.

Thus in the Pali Suttas what the Fully Awakened Buddha taught, as the wholesome cessation of spin, or as the welcome abatement of noise, was paṭiccasamuppādam:

Tena samayena Buddho Bhagavā Uruvelāyaṁ viharati,
At that time the Awakened One, the Gracious One, was dwelling near Uruvelā, 
najjā Nerañjarāya tīre Bodhirukkhamūle paṭhamābhisambuddho.
on the bank of the river Nerañjarā, at the root of the Awakening tree, 
in the first (period) after the complete and perfect Awakening. 
Atha kho Bhagavā Bodhirukkhamūle
Then at that time the Gracious One sat at the root of the Awakening tree 
sattāhaṁ ekapallaṅkena nisīdi vimuttisukhapaṭisaṁvedī.
in one cross-legged posture for seven days experiencing the happiness of liberation.
Atha kho Bhagavā rattiyā paṭhamaṁ yāmaṁ,
Then the Gracious One, for the first watch of the night,
paṭiccasamuppādaṁ anulomapaṭilomaṁ manasākāsi:
applied his mind thoroughly, in forward and reverse order, to dependent arising:

Avijjāpaccayā saṅkhārā,
With ignorance as grounds there are doings;
saṅkhārapaccayā viññāṇaṁ,
with doings as grounds, consciousness;
viññāṇapaccayā nāmarūpaṁ,
with consciousness as grounds, psycho-physicality,
nāmarūpapaccayā saḷāyatanaṁ,
with psycho-physicality as grounds, six senses;
saḷāyatanapaccayā phasso,
with six senses as grounds, contact;
phassapaccayā vedanā,
with contact as grounds, feeling,
vedanāpaccayā taṇhā,
with feeling as grounds, thirsting;
taṇhāpaccayā upādānaṁ,
with thirsting as grounds, clinging;
upādānapaccayā bhavo,
with clinging as grounds, becoming;
bhavapaccayā jāti,
with becoming as grounds, birth;
jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇaṁ,
with birth as grounds, old age, death,
sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā sambhavanti,
grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow, and despair come into being.
evam etassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti.
Thus there is an origination of this whole aggregate of suffering.

Avijjāya tveva asesavirāganirodhā saṅkhāranirodho,
But from the complete fading away and cessation of ignorance, 
there is the cessation of doings,
saṅkhāranirodhā viññāṇanirodho,
from the cessation of doings, the cessation of consciousness,
viññāṇanirodhā nāmarūpanirodho,
from the cessation of consciousness, the cessation of psycho-physicality,
nāmarūpanirodhā saḷāyatananirodho,
from the cessation of psycho-physicality, the cessation of six senses,
saḷāyatananirodhā phassanirodho,
from the cessation of six senses, the cessation of contact,
phassanirodhā vedanānirodho,
from the cessation of contact, the cessation of feeling,
vedanānirodhā taṇhānirodho,
from the cessation of feeling, the cessation of thirsting,
taṇhānirodhā upādānanirodho,
from the cessation of thirsting, the cessation of clinging,
upādānanirodhā bhavanirodho,
from the cessation of clinging, the cessation of becoming,
bhavanirodhā jātinirodho,
from the cessation of becoming, the cessation of birth,
jātinirodhā jarāmaraṇaṁ,
from the cessation of birth cease old age, death,
soka-parideva-dukkha-domanassupāyāsā nirujjhanti,
grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow, and despair.
evam-etassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa nirodho hotī” ti.
Thus there is the cessation of this whole aggregate of suffering.”

In terms of the phases discussed yesterday, this rendering, from the Great Chapter (Mahākhandhaka) in the Discipline Collection (Vinaya Piṭaka) of the Pali Suttas, seems to me to belong to the third phase more than it belongs to the second phase. Which is to say that it seems to be primarily concerned, in a practical way, with the cessation of suffering. 

And the key to this reading is in the two lines
paṭiccasamuppādaṁ anulomapaṭilomaṁ manasākāsi...
he applied his mind thoroughly, in forward and reverse order, to dependent arising
evam-etassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa nirodho hotī” ti.
...Thus there is the cessation of this whole aggregate of suffering.

Here, then, are some tentative conclusions so far about what the Buddha taught:
  • The Buddha taught, probably in some form of Prakrit, a teaching and practice that was rendered into Pali as paṭiccasamuppādaṁ  and into Sanskrit as pratītya-samutpāda. 
  • A definitive translation of these terms into English might not be easy, since they might mean different things at different phases. E.g. samutpāda is generally understood as meaning the arising of the world (at the 2nd phase), but I think it could also mean (at the 4th phase) the complete springing up of a person who is dropping off body and mind in sitting. 
  • Notwithstanding this ambiguity, what the Buddha taught has a single unifying direction. That direction is towards the abandoning of all views (sarva-dṛṣṭi-prahāṇāya; MMK27.30)
  • In transmitting  from China into Japan what the Buddha taught, Dogen spoke of learning a backward step -- a backward step of turning light and letting it shine. 
  • When the Buddha applied his mind to what he taught, which has one direction, that application of the mind had two directions -- called in Pali anulomam (lit. going with the hair/grain) and paṭilomam   (lit. going against the hair/grain).
To be continued...

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