Saturday, April 25, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.72: Circularity (3<>4)

[No Sanskrit text]

| de nas pa ni | | gaṅ las yin źes bsams par gyur |
| miṅ daṅ gzugs la brten nas de | | de nas de yi skya pha mkhyen | 

de nas: then, next

gang las: whence?
yin shes: to know something to be the situation
bsams pa: consider, think

ming dang gzugs: name and form
la brten nas: dependence

mkhyen: knowing, seeing

EHJ's translation from the Tibetan:
72. Next he considered, “From what does consciousness come into being?” Then he knew that it is produced by supporting itself on name-and-form.”

72. Next he considered, “From what does divided consciousness come into being?” Then he knew that it is produced by supporting itself on pscyho-physicality.”


Knowledge, in turn, proceeds from name and thing, (SB)

But consciousness comes from name-and-form. (CW)

The circular reasoning manifested in today's verse will later be mirrored by Nāgārjuna in MMK chapter 26, verses 3 and 4:

punar-bhavāya saṁskārān avidyā-nivṛtas tridhā |
abhisaṁskurute yāṁs tair gatiṁ gacchati karmabhiḥ ||MMK26.1||
vijñānaṁ saṁniviśate saṁskāra-pratyayaṁ gatau |
saṁniviṣṭe 'tha vijñāne nāma-rūpaṁ niṣicyate ||2||

niṣikte nāma-rūpe tu ṣaḍāyatana-saṁbhavaḥ |
ṣaḍāyatanam āgamya saṁsparśaḥ saṁpravartate ||3||
cakṣuḥ pratītya rūpaṁ ca samanvāhāram eva ca |
nāma-rūpaṁ pratītyaivaṁ vijñānaṁ saṁpravartate ||4||

saṁnipātas trayāṇāṁ yo rūpa-vijñāna-cakṣuṣām |
sparśaḥ saḥ tasmāt sparśāc ca vedanā saṁpravartate ||5||
vedanā-pratyayā tṛṣṇā vedanārthaṁ hi tṛṣyate |
tṛṣyamāṇa upādānam upādatte catur-vidham ||6||
upādāne sati bhava upādātuḥ pravartate |
syād dhi yady anupādāno mucyeta na bhaved bhavaḥ ||7||
pañca skandhāḥ sa ca bhavaḥ bhavāj jātiḥ pravartate |
jarā-maraṇa-duḥkhādi śokāḥ sa-paridevanāḥ ||8||
daurmanasyam upāyāsā jāter etat pravartate |
kevalasyaivam etasya duḥkha-skandhasya saṁbhavaḥ ||9||

saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ |
avidvān kārakas tasmān na vidvāṁs tattva-darśanāt ||10||
avidyāyāṁ niruddhāyāṁ saṁskārāṇām asaṁbhavaḥ |
avidyāyā nirodhas tu jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt ||11||
tasya tasya nirodhena tat tan nābhipravartate |
duḥkha-skandhaḥ kevalo 'yam evaṁ samyaṅ nirudhyate ||12||

The doings that lead to yet further becoming, the one enclosed in ignorance, in three ways, does do; and by these actions he goes to a sphere of existence. Divided consciousness, with doings as its causal grounds, seeps into the sphere of existence. And so, divided consciousness having seeped in, psycho-physicality is instilled.
Conversely, once psycho-physicality is instilled, there is the coming about of six senses; six senses having arrived, there occurs contact; and – depending upon an eye, upon physical form, and upon the two being brought together – depending thus upon psycho-physicality, there occurs divided consciousness. 
When the threesome of form, consciousness and eye are combined, that is contact; and from that contact there occurs feeling. With feeling as its causal grounds, there is thirsting – because the object of feeling is thirsted after. While thirsting is going on, taking hold takes hold in the four ways. While there is taking hold, the becoming arises of the taker – because becoming, if it were free of taking, would be liberated and would not become becoming. The five aggregates, again, are becoming itself. Out of the becoming arises birth. The suffering and suchlike of aging and death – sorrows accompanied by complaining; downheartedness, troubles – all this arises out of birth. In this way this whole aggregate of suffering comes into being. 

The doings which are the root of saṁsāra thus does the ignorant one do. The ignorant one therefore is the doer; the wise one is not, because of reality realizing. In the nullification of ignorance, there is the non-coming-into-being of doings. The nullification of ignorance, however, is because of the bringing-into-being of just this act of knowing. By the nullification of this one and that one, this one and that one no longer advance. This whole aggregate of suffering in this way is well and truly annihilated.
Let us review that second paragraph again:
Conversely, once psycho-physicality (4) is instilled, there is the coming about of six senses (5); six senses having arrived, there occurs contact (6); and – depending upon an eye (5), upon physical form (4b), and upon the two being brought together (4) – depending thus upon psycho-physicality (4), there occurs divided consciousness (3).

Divided consciousness (link no. 3) gives rise to psycho-physicality (4), which gives rise to six senses (5), which gives rise to contact (6). This is the standard linear progression, going with the grain. 

But the division in divided consciousness (3) depends upon a separate sense, like the eye (5) which upon meeting with a material physical form (4b), experiences eye-consciousness (3; 4a). Divided consciousness (3) thus depends on something psychological or immaterial (e.g. eye-consciousness; 4a) and something physical or material (e.g. a visible form; 4b). And so in this sense link no. 3 in the chain (divided consciousness) not only gives rise to link 4, but is also dependent on link no. 4 (psycho-physicality) – in just the same way as a chicken not only lays an egg but is originally hatched from an egg.

This circular  logic of chicken and egg is not difficult for us to get our heads around. The difficult connection to make – at least I have found it difficult in memorizing and translating Nāgārjuna's words – is Nāgārjuna's equation of psycho-physicality with separation and bringing together of eye and form. 

None of this is news to practitoners steeped in the Pali suttas, in countries where the 12 links are recited and learned along with ABCs, almost at the mother's knee, going with the grain, against the grain, and round and round in a circle

But, after more than 30 years practising sitting-zen as "dropping off of body and mind," this teaching of the circular relation between links 3 and 4 in the 12-fold chain, comes as news to me. So now I am working hard to get my 55-year-old brain around it. 

There is evidently a strange situation in the world today whereby Zen practioners, even having received the Buddha-dharma in a line from Bodhidharma, do not know this most fundamental teaching about body and mind. And at the same time Theravada monks who know this teaching well, though they embody an unbroken monastic tradition going back to the time of the Buddha, lack the one-to-one face-to-face transmission from the Indian patriarchs. 

The Tibetans might be the prime example of practitioners who know well the teaching of dependent arising (albeit not as clearly and accurately preserved in Tibetan translation from Sanskrit as it is in the original Sanskrit) and at the same time who have preserved a one-to-one transmission from the Buddha (though not via Bodhidharma). 

When we are able to go back to Aśvaghoṣa and Nāgārjuna, however, there might be nothing for Tibetans or Theravadins or Zen practitioners to disagree about, in terms of the original teaching and its one-to-one transmission.

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