Sunday, May 3, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.80: Links 12, 11, 10 - Against the Grain

[No Sanskrit text]

| de nas ’di yi blo gros ṅes par soṅ ba ni | 
| skye ba zad las ’chi daṅ rga ba ’gags pa ste |
| srid pa ñams pa las kyaṅ skye pa ñams pa ñid | 
| len pa ’gags pa las ni srid pa rnam ldog ciṅ | 

de nas: then, from that
blo gros: understanding
nges par: definite
song ba: occurred

skye ba: birth (, jāti)
zad: extinction, removal, annihilation
las: from
shi: death ()
rga ba: aging ()

srid pa: existence, becoming
nyams pa: decline, degeneration
skye pa: birth ()
nyid: only, itself

len pa: taking hold
srid pa: srid pa: existence, becoming

EHJ's translation from the Tibetan:
80. Then this conclusion came firmly on him, that from the annihilation of birth old age and death are suppressed, that from the destruction of existence birth itself is destroyed, and that existence ceases to be through the suppression of appropriation.

80. Then this conclusion came firmly on him, that from the ending of birth, old age and death are ended; that from the ending of becoming, birth itself is ended; and that becoming ends through the ending of taking hold.

決定正覺已 生盡老死滅
... firmly established, thus was he enlightened; destroy birth, old age and death will cease; (SB)
[The Bodhisattva’s] right awakening was certain to be completed. The end of birth meant the extinction of old age and death. (CW)

From BC14.50 - 67, the bodhisattva went against the grain (pratilomam), starting with link no. 12, the suffering of aging and death, and getting back as far as the circular relation between link no. 4, psycho-physicality, and link no. 3, divided consciousness. 

Then from BC14.68 – 76 he observed this circular relationship, whereby divided consciousness and mind-body disunity depend on each other to keep going, like a Welsh bloke and his coracle floating down the River Taff. 

In the last three verses, BC14.77 – BC14.79, the bodhisattva has gone swiftly with the grain (anulomam), from psycho-physicality (3) to the suffering of aging and death (12). 

And now in today's verse he turns back again against the grain, going more swiftly now along a track that he has already opened up, like a facilitated pathway in the human nervous system, so that with this swifter momentum he is going to get beyond the circularity of psycho-physicality (4) and divided consciousness (3) and break through to the doings (2), born of ignorance (1), which are the root of saṁsāra.

This is how, as Aśvaghoṣa is telling it, the bodhisattva became the fully awakened Sambuddha. He sat and made an effort to get to the bottom of suffering, in ignorance. His direction was towards consciousness of ignorance. 

I have had a couple of enquiries in recent days from people who, for their sins, are attracted to Japanese Zen. They are impressed by photos of Zen practitioners who shave their heads, wear black robes, and devote themselves to pursuit of right posture. 

Ironically, it seems to me, these practitioners are going in exactly the opposite direction to the bodhisattva. Their starting point is the ignorance of "right posture" and the more they sit, feeling their posture to be right, the further and further they go from enlightened consciousness of ignorance. 

I am able to say this so provocatively, and with such cocksure confidence, sticking my tongue out at the whole "Soto Zen" tradition, because it is exactly what I did myself for the 13 years when I lived in Japan -- before I began to be turned around by Alexander's teaching that there is no such thing as right posture, though there might be such a thing as a right direction. 

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