Friday, April 10, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.57: Knowing This and That – Altogether, One After Another

[No Sanskrit text]

| ji ltar rig pa las gliṅ bu | | daṅ po’i tshigs ni bcad pa na |
| cho ga bźin du kun myur ’gro | | de ltar ye śes go rims so | 

ji ltar: just as
rig pa: knower; knowledge
gling bu: reed pipe, flute

tshigs: joints (Ch. )
bcad pa: cut

cho ga: rule; knowledge; method, technique, way
bzhin du: like, similarly
kun: all
myur: quickly

de ltar: just so
ye shes: wisdom
go rims: in proper order (krama)

EHJ's translation from the Tibetan:
57. Just as, if the first knot in a bamboo is wisely cut, everything quickly comes into order, so his knowledge advanced in proper order.

57. Just as, if the first knot in a bamboo is wisely cut, everything quickly comes into order, so his knowing advanced in proper order.

如破竹初節 餘節則無難
既見生死因 漸次見眞實

then, as one who breaks the first bamboo joint finds all the rest easy to separate, Having discerned the cause of birth and death, he gradually came to see the truth ; (SB)
If one cuts through the first knot of the bamboo, the other knots then pose no difficulty. After he had seen the cause of birth and death, he gradually saw the truth. (CW)

Weller suggests, according to a note by EHJ, that the simile refers to cutting holes in a bamboo flute. EHJ, on the evidence of the Chinese, where  means a joint, takes the simile to mean the splitting of bamboo -- "a common operation in India, in which all depends upon accurate splitting of the first knot."

This splitting of bamboo is illustrated well enough by these short youtube clips:

The suggestion, then, if EHJ's reading is correct, is of a linear progression. At the same time, the suggestion might ultimately be of a holistic (as opposed to a linear or intellectual) kind of knowing.

Similarly, in relation to giving the directions to let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, while sending the knees forwards and away..., FM Alexander used the phrase Altogether, one after another.

In the verse quoted yesterday from SN Canto 17, then, tat-tat, this one and that one, might be: 
becoming [10] and taking hold [9],
on taking hold [9] and thirsting [8].

Alternatively, this one and that one might be: 
becoming [10] and thirsting [8],
on doings [2] and divided consciousness [3]
– or on psycho-physicality [4] and doings [2].
yo hi pravṛttiṃ niyatām avaiti naivānya hetor iha nāpy ahetoḥ /pratītya tat-tat samavaiti tat-tat sa naiṣṭhikaṃ paśyati dharmam āryam //SN17.31
For he who understands that doing in this world is determined neither by any outside cause nor by no cause, / And who sees this one and that one depending on this one and that one: he sees the ultimate noble dharma.//

In this verse I have translated pravṛttim as doingBut pravṛtti is from pra- (forward, onward, [or for emphasis]) + √vṛt (to turn, roll, advance).

If we think about the wheel of saṁsāra, then, one way of understanding pravṛtti is as progression around the rim of the wheel, whereby ignorance [1] gives rise to doings [2] and so on through to the sufferings of aging and death [12].

This takes me back to the lines from the Lotus Sutra that I discussed on March 27th and March 29th , viz:
pratītya-samutpāda-pravṛttiṃ ca vistareṇa saṃprakāśayām āsa -- iti hi bhikṣavo ’vidyā-pratyayāḥ saṃskārāḥ,   
And he clarified in full detail the active practice (pravṛttiṃ) of dependent arising [or complete springing up, by coming back] – “For, beggars!, with ignorance as grounds there are doings....

I complained that Kumārajīva neglected to translate the word pravṛttiṃ.
And he expounded extensively the law of the twelve causal connections – “Ignorance leads to action....”

If we read pravṛttim as indicating progression from one link in the next of the twelvefold chain, then a better translation of the Lotus Sutra might be:
pratītya-samutpāda-pravṛttiṃ ca vistareṇa saṃprakāśayām āsa - 
And he clarified in full detail the progression which is dependent arising.

In other words, he clarified in full detail dependent arising as a progression

I, in contrast, have been doing my best to understand pratītya-samutpāda in terms of nivṛtti – i.e. that practice of non-doing which is, having come back, a complete springing up.

In my effort to make things clear have I just been muddying the waters for self and others? 

When I thus find myself in times of trouble and doubt, and ask myself from within the cloud of unknowing what the Buddha's teaching originally is, I generally come back as I did this morning to the eight truths that the Buddha is said to have enumerated on the night before he died.

Those eight truths are contained in Chinese characters in the final chapter of Shobogenzo, and in Canto 26 of the 28 cantos of Buddhacarita.

The seventh truth in Chinese is 修智恵 (Jap: SHU-CHIE), cultivation of wisdom.
This could be a translation into Chinese of the words bhāvana (cultivating) and jñāna (knowing, wisdom) that Nāgārjuna uses in MMK26.11:
avidyāyāṁ niruddhāyāṁ saṁskārāṇām asaṁbhavaḥ |
avidyāyā nirodhas tu jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt ||11|| 
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.

In Nāgārjuna's verse, bhāvana, bringing-into-being, is opposed to asaṁbhava, non-coming-into-being. At the same time bhāvana sometimes means meditation itself.
So avidyāyā nirodhas tu jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt could be translated (though the opposition between bhāvana and asaṁbhava is thus lost in translation):
“the destruction of ignorance, however, is through the meditation which belongs to just this knowing.”

Thanks partly to the Islaamic terrorists at whom I pointed the finger yesterday, we don't know what word for knowing (EHJ: knowledge) Aśvaghoṣa used in today's verse. 

Neither do we know how cultivation of wisdom was rendered in Sanskrit in BC Canto 26. 

Wisdom in Sanskrit could be prajñā, and wisdom could be jñāna. The latter, being an -na neuter action noun, has a more active feeling; hence “knowing” or "act of knowing," but jñāna too, like prajñā, means real wisdom.

A distinction can be drawn in passing between pra-jñā and jñā-na, which mean real wisdom, and the vi-jñāna which is link no. 3 around the rim of the wheel of saṁsāra, represented by a monkey. (It is not clear from this depiction whether the monkey in question is carrying an old mirror on his back.)

Any way up, the conclusion I have come to this morning, mainly for my own benefit, is that all arrows are pointing, from the Buddha, from Aśvaghoṣa and from Nāgārjuna, to the primacy of that knowing, or that wisdom, through which ignorance is destroyed and pots are not manufactured  doings are not done. 

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