Wednesday, April 29, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.76: The Self-Reinforcing Circle (ctd.)

[No Sanskrit text]

| ji ltar lcags ni ’bar ba yis | | rtswa rnams ’bar bar byed na yaṅ |
| ’bar ba de yis de gduṅ ste | | de bźin phan tshun rgyu ñid do |

ji ltar: just as (yathā)
lcags: iron

rtswa: grass
rnams: [plural]

ba de: tree
gdung: torment; be tormented; be scorched;

de bzhin: so (tathā)
phan tshun rgyu: mutual cause

EHJ's translation from the Tibetan:
76. Just as redhot iron causes grass to blaze and as blazing grass makes iron redhot, of such a kind is their mutual causality.

EHJ notes that the Chinese translation omits this verse. It might be more accurate to say that in the Chinese translation of verses BC14.75-77 are conflated into 25 (5 lines of 5) Chinese characters. The principle of mutual causality conveyed in today's verse, the Chinese translator must have thought, had already been conveyed in the analogy of the bloke and the coracle.

The point, in any case, is that here in saṁsāra we are confronted with a vicious circle whereby divided consciousness and mind-body disunity reinforce each other.

In that situation, our instinct is to ask what to do about it. 

This is our instinct because this attitude – what shall I do to solve this problem? – represents evolutionary progress that is recapitulated in our reflex development.

The most primitive of all responses to a stimulus is not to do anything other than simply to withdraw, in fear paralysis, like an amoeba. Fear paralysis is opposed by the active panic of the Moro reflex, which is at the root of much unconscious doing. The Moro reflex, in turn, as a symmetrical pattern, is opposed by the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex, as vigorously demonstrated by guardians standing at temple gates in China and Japan. These guys, looking like body-builders on steroids, seem to be the very embodiment of doing. 

And so it goes on, with four vestibular reflexes, as I have described before on this blog, acting like four cornerstones for all of the doings which we, in our ignorance, go on developing and doing.

We have evolved to do. 

We have evolved to do. Our doings arise from instinct and from ignorance. As such, they cannot be abandoned by purely physical means.

In terms of today's verse, the mutual causality between glowing iron and burning grass cannot be interrupted by the addition of more and more dry straw.

How can the vicious circle of divided consciousness and mind-body disunity be broken?

Not always by purely physical means.

Hence Dogen said:

Physically sit in full lotus. 
Mentally sit in full lotus.
Sit in full lotus as dropping off of body and mind.

And this, I venture to submit, is what Nāgārjuna meant by “just this act of knowing.”

I've got nothing against working out in the gym. For the past three weeks I have been doing a lot of digging in the garden, and enjoying every moment of it. 

But real understanding of the Buddha's teaching also requires the right kind of mental effort. That's what I understood from Alexander work that I had not understood from Zen in Japan. 

Yesterday I received an email from a person who for many years has experienced so-called “sesshins." Sesshin  is not a word that Dogen ever used to mean a sitting retreat, but people today, even though they are not Japanese, like to use this stupid Japanese word to mean something along the lines of  "an intensive retreat for concentrated doing." 

The person who emailed me purported to agree with me about the desirability of progressively doing less in Zazen. But from where I sit his conceptions are all variations on the theme of doing – just as mine were before I came to the teaching of FM Alexander.

What I would like to say to him -- and all Zen practitioners like him whose doings in Zazen are born of ignorance -- is this:

Doings arise out of ignorance. This is the Buddha's teaching. We cannot abandon doings by purely physical means.

For me, there has to be some sense of Thy will be doneThy, in my case, as I write with the scent of apple blossom still in my nostrils, being nothing but benevolent nature.

Latest amendments to the translation of MMK chapter 26 have been made for ease of reading aloud: 
The doings that lead to yet further becoming, a person enclosed in ignorance, in three ways, does do – and by these actions, to a new sphere in the cycle of going, does go. Divided knowing, into the new sphere of going, does set, having doings as its causal grounds. And so with the setting in of this divided consciousness, psycho-physicality is instilled. 
There again: With the instilling of psycho-physicality, there is the coming about of six senses. Six senses having arrived, there occurs contact. Depending on eye, form, and the bringing of the two together – depending in other words on psycho-physicality – divided consciousness occurs.

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 taking hold is taking hold, the becoming arises of the taker – because becoming, if it were free of taking hold, would be liberated and would not become becoming. Five aggregates, again, are becoming itself. Out of the becoming arises birth. The suffering and suchlike of ageing and death – sorrows, accompanied by lamenting; downheartedness, troubles – all this arises out of birth. In this way there is the coming into being of this whole aggregate of suffering. 
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 being realized. In the clearing away of ignorance, there is the non-coming-into-being of doings. The clearing away of ignorance, however, is because of the bringing-into-being of just this act of knowing. By the stopping of this one and that one, this one and that one no longer advance. This whole aggregate of suffering is brought in this way to a complete full stop .

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