Tuesday, March 31, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.47: Going with the Flow

[No Sanskrit text]

| ’khor ba’i chu bo rten med du | | ’di ni ’chi bas bskor ba ste |
| tsam tsom du ni bskor ba yi | | ’gro bas gnas ni thob ma yin | 

chu bo: river, stream
rten med: no support

bskor ba: circulate, cycle, to rotate, 

tsam tsom: doubt
bskor ba: circulate, cycle, to rotate

gnas: abode, state (bhavana)
thob: reached
ma yin: is not

EHJ's translation from the Tibetan:
47. This stream of the cycle of existence has no support and is ever subject to death. Creatures, thus beset on all sides, find no resting-place.

衆生沒長流 漂泊無所依

All flesh immersed within its waves cast here and there without reliance! (SB)
Beings drown in an unceasing current. They are tossed about, without anything to rely upon. (CW)
In today's verse the sense of going with the flow is conveyed by the Tibetan chu bo (river, stream) and the Chinese 長流 (long flow; unceasing current).

The stream of saṁsāra has one direction, towards all the sufferings of aging and death.

Yesterday in the line quoted from the Mahākhandhaka in the Vinaya Piṭaka of the Pali Suttas,  the Buddha, in contrast, applied his mind thoroughly, going with the flow (anulomamand against the flow (paṭilomaṁ), to dependent arising - 

paṭiccasamuppādaṁ anulomapaṭilomaṁ manasākāsi

So this description means that for the Buddha, in applying his mind to dependent arising, there was not only one direction. There may in fact have been many directions. There may have been shining of light in all directions. But two directions, at least were specified in the Sutta -- anulomam, and paṭilomam.

The Pali anulomam is spelled the same in Sanskrit, and is defined in the MW dictionary as : “with the hair or grain”, in a natural direction , in order , regular , successive.

The Pali paṭilomam is pratilomam in Sanskrit and is defined in the MW dictionary as :
against the hair or grain,” contrary to the natural course or order , reverse , inverted ; adverse , hostile , disagreeable , unpleasant.

For loman, the MW dictionary gives: the hair on the body of men and animals (esp. short hair , wool &c ; not so properly applicable to the long hair of the head or beard , nor to the mane and tail of animals).

Anulomam, then, conveys a sense of going with the grain or going with the flow. That is the direction of travel which today's verse seems to be describing – as in saṁsāra one is pushed unceasingly along, as if in a stream, in the direction of the suffering of aging, death, and all the rest of it.

As Ānandajoti Bhikkhu clarifies on this page, in the exposition of pratītya-samutpada in such texts as the Exalted Utterances (Udāna; lit. “Breathing Upwards”), anulolam, or “going with the grain” can be represented thus: 

→ ignorance
→ doings
→ discriminating/divided/divisive consciousness
→ psycho-physicality [division into body and mind]
→ six senses
→ contacting
→ feeling
→ thirsting
→ clinging
→ becoming
→ being born
→ all the sufferings of aging and death.

Conversely, paṭilomam, or “going against the grain,” means
→x ignorance
→x doings
→x consciousness
→x psycho-physicality
→x six senses
→x contacting
→x feeling
→x thirsting
→x clinging
→x becoming
→x being born
→x aging, death, sufferings

These two directions, lit. “with and against the hair,” i.e, with and against the flow, or with and against the grain, ironically, might both be relevant in Dogen's backward step of turning light around and letting it shine.

Which is to say that the backward step sounds like an effort to oppose habitual end-gaining, which it is. It is an effort of turning the light of attention around and in, away from external objects (paṭilomaṁ). But at the same time this backward step includes a letting out, an allowing of light to shine outwards, or to reflect back out (anulomaṁ). 

In Saundarananda, for example, the journey of Nanda -- Beautiful Joy by name and nature -- is broadly a journey back to himself. But this journey involves sometimes making effort to turn around against the flow, and sometimes effortless going with the flow. 

As a specific example of Nanda making effort to turn the light around, i.e. to turn the light of his attention inward, I think of Nanda following the Buddha's advice to go and practice in solitude, deliberately separating himself from external distractions. 

As a specific example of Nanda going with the flow, I think of Aśvaghoṣa's description of Nanda passing from the first to the second dhyāna: 
kṣobhaṃ prakurvanti yathormayo hi dhīra-prasannāmbu-vahasya sindhoḥ /
ekāgra-bhūtasya tathormi-bhūtāś-cittāmbhasaḥ kṣobha-karā vitarkāḥ // SN17.45 //
For, just as waves produce disturbance 
in a river bearing a steady flow of tranquil water,
So ideas, like waves of thought, disturb the water of the one-pointed mind.

"You are all perfect, apart from what you are doing," the Alexander teacher Marjory Barlow used to say. The backward step, then, in these terms, is going back to perfection. But perfection is not a static state. Rather, perfection itself might be a work in progress, like a clear river calmly flowing. 

In writing such pretentious-sounding stuff, I must admit that I feel like something of a hypocrite. In the last couple of weeks, since the stream of Aśvaghoṣa's Sansrit verses ran dry, any light that I have seems to have started to sputter and flicker, and may be in danger of going out at any moment. 

I'm sure there must be a manuscript out there somewhere that has preserved the second half of Buddhacarita in Aśvaghoṣa's original Sanskrit. It would be very good if somebody could dig it up, or find it concealed behind a secret panel, or blow the dust off of it, and duly publish the Sanskrit text like EHJ did all those years ago. Then I might be able to get back into the mindless flow of simply translating one verse of Sanskrit per day. 

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