Thursday, April 23, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.70: Psycho-Physicality Arises Depending on Divided Consciousness (4→3)

[No Sanskrit text]

| miṅ daṅ gzugs ni rgyu gaṅ źes | | de yi de nas gyur de nas |
| de yi skye ba rnam śes su | | ye śes pha rol son pas mkhyen | 

miṅ daṅ gzugs: name and form (名色)
rgyu gang: for what reason
zhes: [quotation particle]

de nas: then

skye ba: produced
rnam shes: [ordinary] consciousness (vijñana)

ye shes: wisdom ; cognition, knowledge
pha rol son pa: go beyond
mkhyen: knowing, seeing

EHJ's translation from the Tibetan:
70. Then the thought occurred to him, “What is the cause of name-and-form? ” Thereon he, who had passed to the further side of knowledge, saw its origin to lie in consciousness.

70. Then the thought occurred to him, “What is the cause of psycho-physicality? ” Thereon he, who had passed to the further side of knowledge, knew its origin to lie in divided consciousness.

name and thing are born from knowledge (vijñāna), (SB) 
Name-and-form are produced by consciousness, (CW)

The MW dictionary gives vijñāna as n. the act of distinguishing or discerning , understanding , comprehending , recognizing , intelligence , knowledge …. (with Buddhists) consciousness or thought-faculty (one of the 5 constituent elements or skandhas).

Like the jñāna (knowing, act of knowing) in MMK26.11, vijñāna is an -na neuter action noun, and hence accurately translated in the first instance as the act of [****]ing. MW gives “the act of distinguishing.” In the context of today's verse, distinguishing works well enough:

Q: What is the cause of psycho-physicality? 
A:  Distinguishing. 

In other words:
Q: What is the cause of an individual human being being construed dually as a mind and a body? 
A: Divided consciousness.

Division is suggested by the prefix vi-, which the MW dictionary gives as meaning apart, asunder, in different directions. MW indicates that, with these meanings, vi- probably stands for an original dvi, meaning "in two parts,” as opposed to sam-, which expresses togetherness, integration.

Further justification for translating vijñāna not simply as “consciousness” but as the more pejorative “divided consciousness” is once again provided by the Pratītya-samutpādādi-vibhaṅga-nirdeśa-sūtra:

vijñānaṁ katamat?
What is consciousness?
Ṣaḍ vijñāna-kāyāḥ: cakṣur-vijñānaṁ śrotra-ghrāṇa-jihvā-kāya-mano-vijñānam.Six bodies of consciousnesses are: eye-consciousness, ear-, nose-, tongue-, body-, and mind-consciousness.

Over the years, in using developmental movements to help especially children with immature vestibular reflexes, I have said many times that when in school we were taught of five senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch – the most important sense was left out, that sense being the compound sense of proprioception centred on the vestibular system. This “lost sixth sense,” I have opined, might correspond to what is called in the ancient sūtras mano-vijñānam, or “mind-consciousness.”

But in the context of the real purport of the teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, this kind of affirmation of the lost sixth sense might be more part of the problem than part of the solution. Which is to say that even emphasis of the foundational importance of the vestibular sense is, to borrow a phrase from Charles Sherrington “a convenient fiction.” Sherrington wrote of “the convenient fiction of the simple reflex” in a book whose thrust was well summarized in its title – The Integrative Action of the Nervous System (1905).

In a book he wrote nearly 40 years later, titled The Endeavour of Jean Fernel (1946), Sherrington paid the following tribute to the work of FM Alexander:
Mr. Alexander has done a service to the subject by insistently treating each act as involving the whole integrated individual, the whole psycho-physical man. To take a step is an affair, not of this limb or that limb solely, but of the total neuromuscular activity of the moment--not the least of the head and the neck.

Since originally each of us is a whole psycho-physical person, what is the cause of separation of a person into a psychological mind and a physical body? One proximate cause, the bodhisattva observed, is in the distinctions that we ourselves make.

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