Thursday, October 31, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.12: Don't Just Sit There, Do Something, Now!

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
athocur-adyaiva viśāma tad-vanaṁ gataḥ sa yatra dvipa-rāja-vikramaḥ |
jijīviṣā nāsti hi tena no vinā yathendriyāṇāṁ vigame śarīriṇām || 8.12

Or else they said: “Right now let us go into that forest,

Where he is, whose stride is the stride of a king of elephants;

For without him we have no wish to live on,

Like the sense organs when the embodied soul has departed.
[Or like embodied beings when the power of the senses has departed.]

If yesterday's verse describes Group A, religious self-blamers, today's verse as I read it describes another group within the category of common folk, Group B, doers. Or else today's verse describes another tendency within us who are not yet enlightened, that tendency being the tendency to rush in and do something.

When a young life is tragically cut short, a religious mother tries to cope with her grief by going to confession (Plan A), and a hard-working father tries to cope with his grief by throwing himself into his work (Plan B). I think I have seen examples like that on the TV news, and at the same time I recognize in myself those two kinds of opposing tendencies, towards two kinds of coping strategies.

So yesterday's verse describes one kind of unelightened reaction to grief, which is to blame oneself, directing negative emotion within (Plan A). And today's verse as I read it describes another kind of unenlightened reaction to grief, which is to re-direct that negative emotion into doing something or going somewhere in the world (Plan B).

What, then, might be an enlightened response to grief?

I don't know. But as a starting point, I think Aśvaghoṣa is suggesting, not necessarily to go to that extreme, and not necessarily to go to that extreme either.

The 4th pāda, I think, is deliberately ambiguous. Since both indriyāṇām (sense organs) and śarīriṇām (embodied souls) are genitive plural, the will to live having left the grieving me could be like (a) an embodied spirit/soul having departed from the physical organs of sense; or (b) the power of the senses having departed from human embodied souls.

In that case, the ambiguity might be designed to cause us to think – which way round do common folk see it? This would be the ostensible meaning, since common folk are ostensibly the authors of these words. And which way round would common folk fail to see it? This would be the hidden meaning, for which square brackets might be appropriate.

Among the three professors, EBC read vigame as governing śarīriṇām:
like the senses when the souls depart.” (EBC)

EHJ noted EBC's reading but opted (following Prasada) to read vigame as governing indriyāṇām. PO accepted EHJ's reading: 
like embodied beings, when the senses have decayed.” (EHJ)
like embodied beings when vital organs are gone.” (PO)

Which reading would Aśvaghoṣa have wished us to opt for?

I think the answer might be neither one nor the other. At the same time, I think Aśvaghoṣa might have wished us to understand that in the minds of common folk, the vital organs are subordinate to the temporarily embodied spirit or soul; whereas, in reality, what is truly primary in the lives of embodied beings is the power of the senses.

Reflecting on yesterday's verse and today's verse together, it seems to me that Aśvaghoṣa is suggesting that, as responses for coping with grief:
Plan A  is to blame our own mind,
whereas unspoken Plan A(2) is to train our own mind.
Plan B is “Don't just sit there, do something!”
whereas unspoken Plan B(2), conversely, is “Don't do something, just sit there!”

And whereas the relation between Plan A and Plan B is an “either or” relation, like flight vs fight, the relation between Plan A(2) and Plan B(2) is by no means a mutually exclusive relation. Rather, just sitting there might be a primary means of training our own mind, and having a trained mind might be the essential basis for enjoyment of just sitting there.

When recently I gleaned from youtube that Cesar Millan, aka the Dog Whisperer, had attempted suicide a couple of years ago, seemingly being overwhelmed by grief after the death of his pit bull sidekick Daddy, I knew that there was a big lesson here for me, that I could use Cesar as a mirror in which to see something about myself.

Cesar went to the United States with a strong intention of becoming. He wanted to become the best dog trainer in the world. Karmically, this was not the best of starting points. (And from my own experience of wanting to become the best in the world, I know whereof I speak.) When Cesar got to the US, to his surprise, he found that, whereas Mexican dogs tended to be skinny but balanced, American dogs tended to be well-fed but suffering from psychological problems. He realized that it was American dog lovers who needed training. So he gradually came to adopt a new motto: “I rehabilitate dogs and train people.” As part of the modus operandi he developed, Cesar acts as the pack leader who goes around all the time exuding “calm assertive energy.” Dogs respond to this with calm submissive energy, and Cesar trains humans to demand this calm energy from their dogs by projecting their human calm assertive energy. If you watch one of Cesar's shows on youtube, you will see that the method works spectacularly well. Cesar does really do what he claims to do, rehabilitating dogs and training people.

Cesar learned, he asks us to believe in one of his books (though it might go against the grain for a macho kind of a Mexican bloke), to develop a calm submissive attitude towards his wife. But in this regard, since his marriage ended in divorce, either Cesar was lying to himself or for some other reason the strategy of adopting a calm submissive attitude towards his wife didn't work.

When Cesar's pigeons came home to roost a couple of years ago, as pigeons are wont to do, with his wife asking for a divorce and Daddy dying, Cesar swallowed a bunch of pills and expressed his desire to be buried next to his erstwhile canine sidekick. This was not the act of a pack leader exuding calm submissive energy, and it was not the act of a trained mind. Attempting suicide, in my book, can never be the act of a trained mind. The impulse to put an end to one's own suffering by ending one's life is an end-gaining impulse, and a mind that gives in to that impulse is not a trained mind.

What the Buddha called bhāvanā, simply thinking, is training the mind. 

When called upon to translate bhāvanā when the word cropped up in Saundara-nanda, I struggled to know how best to translate it. In retrospect, I think the difficulty was symptomatic of a certain negligence on my part when it comes to bhāvanā. The truth might be that, while involved in a mission to teach others how to be balanced, I, just like Cesar, have been negligent in training my own mind.

In terms of the above analysis of Plan A and Plan B, I have never been slow to blame myself (as per Plan A), and as anybody can tell from the millions of words I have accumulated in print and on the internet, like a massive slag heap that keeps growing day by day, I have not been negligent in doing stuff  directed at the world (as per Plan B). Neither have I been negligent in implementing Plan B(2), sticking to my vow to set aside time, four times every day, for just sitting there. But as a means for training my own mind – as per Plan A(2) – how effective has my sitting been?

Since I have never attempted suicide, I am tempted to say: More effective than Cesar's way!

But still, Cesar is a human being who I hold up as a mirror, and not only as a mirror in which to see faults. If Cesar truly succeeded in training his own human mind, maybe he really could act as a global pack leader, causing calm assertive and calm submissive energy to spread throughout the world. There again, that might be true for any one of us who truly trained his or her own mind. But easier said than done.
In whatever place of solitude you are, cross the legs in the supreme manner / And align the body so that it tends straight upward; thus attended by awareness that is directed // SN15.1 // Towards the tip of the nose or towards the forehead, or in between the eyebrows, / Let the inconstant mind be fully engaged with the fundamental. // 15.2 //  If some desirous idea, a fever of the mind, should venture to offend you, / Entertain no scent of it but shake it off as if pollen had landed on your robe. // 15.3 // Even if, as a result of calm consideration, you have let go of desires, / You must, as if shining light into darkness, abolish them by means of their opposite. // 15.4 //  What lies behind those desires sleeps on, like a fire covered with ashes; / You are to extinguish it, my friend, by training the mind (bhāvanayā), as if using water to put out a fire. // 15.5 //  For from that source they re-emerge, like shoots from a seed. / In its absence they would be no more -- like shoots in the absence of a seed. // SN15.6 // 

atha: ind. and so, then,
ūcur = 3rd pers. pl. perf vac: to say, speak
adya: ind. today
eva: (emphatic)
viśāma = 1st pers. pl. imperative viś: to enter, go into
tad (acc. sg. n.): that
vanam (acc. sg.): n. forest

gataḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. gone
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
yatra: ind. wherein
dvipa-rāja-vikramaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. with the stride of a king of those who drink twice
dvipa: m. elephant (lit. drinking twice , sc. with his trunk and with his mouth)
vikrama: m. a step , stride , pace ; going , proceeding , walking , motion , gait ; valour , courage , heroism , power , strength

jijīviṣā (nom. sg.): f. ( √ jīv Desid.) desire to live
na: not
asti (3rd pers. sg. as): there is
hi: for
tena (inst. sg. m.): him
naḥ (gen. pl.): of/in us
vinā: ind. without

yathā: ind. as, like
indriyāṇām (gen. pl.): n. power , force , the quality which belongs especially to the mighty indra ; n. bodily power , power of the senses ; n. faculty of sense , sense , organ of sense
vigame (loc. sg.): m. going away , departure , cessation , end , absence
vi- √ gam: to go asunder , sever , separate ; to go away , depart , disappear , cease , die
śarīriṇām = gen. pl. śarīrin: m. an embodied being , creature , (esp.) a man ; m. the soul ; m. an embodied spirit

衆人咸議言 悉當追隨去
如人命根壞 身死形神離
王子是我命 失命我豈生 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.11: Some People Claim that There are Men's Minds to Blame

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
idaṁ vacas-tasya niśamya te janāḥ su-duṣkaraṁ khalv-iti vismayam yayuḥ |
patadd-hi jahruḥ salilaṁ na netra-jaṁ mano nininduś-ca phalārtham-ātmanaḥ || 8.11

When those common folk heard this utterance of his,

Because of its very great difficulty, they were dismayed;

For the eye-born flood of falling tears they had not averted,

And their own minds, taking account of karmic retribution,
they did blame.

In the 2nd pāda, the old Nepalese manuscript has iti niścayam yayuḥ (they came to the conclusion that... [EHJ]; they concluded: “....” [PO]). But Luders conjectured iti vismayaṁ yayuḥ, and this is supported by the Chinese translation, in which  means to be surprised, astonished, or dismayed. Besides that, reading vismayam rather than niścayam allows me to make better sense of the whole verse.

The logic, as I read it, is that those common folk were dismayed precisely because they were common folk (janāh; plural), as contrasted with the people (janaḥ; singular) of that city which Aśvaghoṣa identified with emptiness.

As common folk, they had no means-whereby they might avert the eye-born flood of their falling tears, and no means-whereby they might allow tears to fall. Since they were not in possession of a practical means-whereby, the truth expressed in Chandaka's words was too difficult for them – however well-informed they may have been in the realm of intellectual knowledge – and so they were dismayed.

As common folk, equally, they reacted to their grief and dismay by seeking to apportion blame. And in particular, as devout religious believers (bhaktimataḥ), in the time-honoured spirit of mea culpa, they blamed their own sinful minds.

A contrast may be drawn then, between (a) the practice suggested in yesterday's verse as I read it, namely, just sitting with the confidence to let it (= the child/embryo of a lord among men) be; and (b) the habits of religious believers who blame the problems of the world on original sin (or on the ancient Indian equivalent of that doctrine).

Again, then, today's verse can be read as one of those verses that encourages us to sit primarily by demonstrating how NOT to. And the great thing NOT to practice, today's verse as I read it reminds us, is blame.

The individual in Aśvaghoṣa's writing who is biggest on blame is the striver in SN Cantos 8 & 9. In process of translating and commenting on those cantos, I came back several times to the noble truth of Margaritaville “some people claim that there's a woman to blame, but I know, it's my own damn fault.” The folk described in today's verse don't put the blame on women, or anywhere outside of themselves, which is good. Still, they blame themselves, or blame their own minds, as religious folk are ever prone to do. And this blame, we are to understand, is not the same as seeing where faults originally lie, as the Buddha taught Nanda to do. Yes, the fault, dear Brutus, is in ourselves not in the stars. But seeing where the fault lies, in our own minds, need not be a prelude to blaming our own minds. 

If those of us who tend to apportion blame before we see faults as faults, could train our minds to blame less and see more, that for a start might be an example of the work on the self that the Buddha called bhāvanā.

Speaking for myself, I have observed over the years a tendency among women to put the blame on men – a tendency that some women and men have attempted to justify intellectually under the banner of an -ism – and equally the tendency among men to say that there's a woman to blame, instead of knowing that it's our own damn fault. And seeing through those two deluded tendencies, I have tended to ask myself the question: where, below surface appearances, does the blame really lie?

So today's verse, when I reflect on it, reminds me that the asking of such a question is not necessarily part of the solution – it might rather be part of the problem.

idam (acc. sg. n.): this
vacaḥ (acc. sg.): n. speech, words
tasya (gen. sg.): his
niśamya = abs. ni- √ śam: to hear, observe
te (nom. pl. m.): those
janāḥ (nom. pl.): m. people

su-duṣkaram (acc. sg. m.): mfn. very difficult to be done , most arduous
duṣkara: mfn. hard to be done or borne , difficult , arduous ; rare , extraordinary ; doing wrong , behaving ill , wicked , bad ; n. difficult act , difficulty ;
khalu: ind. (as a particle of asseveration) indeed , verily , certainly , truly
iti: “....,” thus
niścayam (acc. sg.): m. resolution , resolve, fixed intention , design , purpose , aim
vismayam (acc. sg.): m. wonder , surprise , amazement , bewilderment , perplexity ; doubt, uncertainty
yayur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. yā: to go , proceed , move ; to go towards or against , go or come to , enter , approach , arrive at , reach

patad = acc. sg. n. pres. part. pat: to fly , soar , rush on ; to fall down or off
hi: for
jahruḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. hṛ: to take away , carry off , seize , deprive of , steal , rob ; to shoot or cut or hew off , sever (the head or a limb); to remove , destroy , dispel , frustrate , annihilate ; to turn away , avert (the face)
vijahruḥ [EBC] = 3rd pers. pl. perf. vi- √ hṛ: to put asunder ; to carry away , remove ; to shed (tears)
salilam (acc. sg.): n. flood , surge , waves ; n. water, rainwater ; n. eye-water , tears ; mfn. flowing , surging , fluctuating , unsteady
na: not
netra-jam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. 'eye-born' ; n. a tear

manaḥ (acc. sg.): n. mind
ninindur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. nind: to blame , censure , revile , despise , ridicule
ca: and
phalārtham (acc. sg. n.): on account of retribution
phala: n. fruit ; fruit (met.) , consequence , effect , result , retribution (good or bad) , gain or loss , reward or punishment
artha: m. aim, purpose; cause , motive , reason (artham: for the sake of , on account of , in behalf of , for); thing, object ; affair, concern ; sense , meaning , notion
phalottham [EHJ]: arising from fruit
uttha: mfn. (generally ifc.) standing up , rising , arising; coming forth , originating , derived from
ātmanaḥ (gen. sg.): their own

衆人聞出家 驚起奇特想
嗚咽而啼泣 涕涙交流下 
各各相告語 我等作何計

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.10: Nowt As Queer As Folk

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
tataḥ sa tān bhaktimato 'bravīj-janān-narendra-putraṁ na parityajāmy-aham |
rudann-ahaṁ tena tu nirjane vane gha-stha-veśaś-ca visarjitāv-iti || 8.10

Then he said to those devout folk:

“No neglecter am I of the child of a lord among men.

On the contrary, by that child in the folk-free forest, the weeping I,

And the clothes of a householder, are both cast off together.”

There is the distressed mooing through the night of the cow whose calf has been stolen away to satisfy the French appetite for veal. And there is the tearful sobbing of the actor who, his wife having left him, catches sight of himself in the mirror and makes a mental note to himself, for future reference, that “This is what grief looks like.”

The neighing of Kanthaka described in BC8.4 was of the former kind. The weeping of Chandaka described in BC8.1 and in today's verse was of the latter kind.

To suppress instinctive loud neighing is not the aim. Neither is it the aim to banish human weeping. But belief in the weeping I might be something to cast off. 

That being so, today's verse challenges us to understand by who, and by what means, and at what time, the weeping I (rudann-aham) was or is cast off.

Ostensibly Chandaka is describing what did or didn't happen in the past, but literally na parityajāmi in the 2nd pāda is in the present tense (“I do not abandon/neglect the child/embryo of a lord of men”) and so visarjitau (“the two [are] abandoned”) is also logically read as being in the present tense. To translate Chandaka's words as such, however, would sound strange. Hence of the three professors only EHJ translated parityajāmi in the present – even if it did not sound quite right – and all three professors translated visarjitau as referring to the past ("were abandoned/dismissed"; "he forsook"): 

Then he said to those faithful ones, I have not left the king's son; but by him in the uninhabited forest I weeping and the dress of a householder were abandoned together.’ (EBC)

Then he said to those devoted people, “It is not I who am deserting the king's son. On the contrary, it was by him in the uninhabited forest that for all my tears I and the householder's garb were dismissed together.” (EHJ)

Then he said to those devoted people:
I've not forsaken the son of the king.
It is he who in the lonely forest
forsook me as I wept,
and the householder's garb.” (PO)

The reason the present tense might be significant is that, although ostensibly Chandaka is thus talking about something that happened in the past, Aśvaghoṣa's real intention, below the surface, might be to have Chandaka express a general principle about (1) the importance of each individual regularly not neglecting (atop a round black cushion) his or her own buddha-nature; (2) how, ultimately, it is not I who abandons the weeping I so much as it is the buddha-nature which casts off the weeping I.

Aśvaghoṣa himself, however, never resorts to philosophical jargon like "the buddha-nature" (buddha-tā). He only writes of rāja-putraḥ (the/a child/embryo of the king) and narendra-putram (the child/embryo of a lord/Indra among men), using those words to describe the Buddha-to-be. And the Buddha-to-be refers (at least ostensibly), not to any generic old body who sits, but specifically to the concrete individual human being called Prince Sarvārtha-siddha. 

In today's verse as I read it, the use of parityajāmi in the present tense is thus designed to draw our attention to, and to invite us to dig for, the hidden meaning that Aśvaghoṣa intended us to see. At the same time, the hidden meaning that Aśvaghoṣa intended might be called su-duṣkaram khalu, "very difficult indeed" or "very difficult indeed to do." (For further discussion of  su-duṣkaram khalu, see tomorrow's verse.)

In the final analysis, it might be that what Aśvaghoṣa is suggesting about abandonment of the weeping I is very difficult to understand... and totally impossible, for thinking man or instinctive beast, to do. 

Still, having slept on it last night, and sat this morning, I shall endeavour to answer the question of how to cast off the weeping I, in the manner that – whether for good or ill I don't know  – Gudo Nishijima showed me how to answer all the stupid questions that I asked him, in four phases. 

In the first phase, contemplation of all things as 1. free of self. 2. impermanent, and 3. full of suffering, might not be a bad starting point. Other objects of mental contemplation, like the eight great human truths, and the four noble truths, are also available. 

In the second phase, it may help to betake oneself to a forest that is free of folk (nir-jane). As discussed yesterday, I think Aśvaghoṣa's use of jana (people) in the plural suggests not so much human beings in general as this and that race or type, common sorts. To convey this sense I translated janāḥ yesterday as "common folk" and janāṇ today as "folk." In so doing, I am mindful of hearing the phrase, "There's nowt as queer as folk," in the front room of my great granny's house in Blackburn Road, Darwen, over the road from the Anchor Pub. My great granny, by the way, married my great grandpa Bill Haworth (aka Mr Nobody) on 25th December 1909. I remember the date since my own birthday came exactly 50 years later. Any way up, it might be a universal truth that there is indeed nowt as queer as folk; hence the merit of betaking oneself to a forest that is free of folk. 

In the third phase, it is a fact in everyday life that a person's mind can be changed by a change of clothes, or an action like putting on a traditionally-sewn robe. 

And the fourth phase might be compared to letting an embryonic Indra among men run around wherever he or she likes. 

This kind of anwering my own question in four phases is not something I do intentionally; after I have asked myself some kind of stupid philosophical question like I did yesterday in preparing the above comment, I seem unconsciously to spend hours chewing on it and digesting it... and then I sit for an hour or so in the morning, and then I come upstairs and crap out my answer on this blog. In so doing, I hope it is not my intention to show how clever I am... but it might be! In general, I tend to desire to show myself to be top of the class. But so to desire may be just to neglect the embryo of an Indra among men. The same feet used for treading on the heads of three professors might better be employed walking up the path to a meditation hut by the forest.  

tataḥ: ind. then
sa (nom. sg.): m. he
tān (acc. pl. m.): those
bhaktimataḥ (acc. pl. m.): mfn. accompanied by devotion or loyalty; religious 
bhakti: f.  attachment , devotion , trust , homage , worship , piety , faith or love or devotion (as a religious principle or means of salvation , together with karman , " works " , and jñāna , " spiritual knowledge ")
abravīt = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect brū: to speak , say , tell
janān (acc. pl.): m. people, races; common folks

narendra-putram (acc. sg. m.): the son/child/embryo of a lord among men
na: not
parityajāmi = 1st pers. sg. pari- √ tyaj : to leave , quit , abandon , give up , reject , disregard , not heed
aham (nom. sg. m.): I

rudan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. rud: to weep , cry , howl , roar , lament , wail
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
tena (inst. sg.): by him
tu: but
nirjane (loc. sg. n.): mfn. unpeopled , lonely , desolate; free of folk 
vane (loc. sg.): n. forest

gṛha-stha-veśaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the dress of a householder
ca: and
visarjitau (nom. dual): mfn. (fr. Caus. vi- √ sṛj) sent forth , emitted , dismissed , abandoned , left &c ; exposed (in a forest)
vi- √ sṛj: to send or pour forth , let go or run or flow , discharge ; to shed (tears); to send away , dismiss , repudiate , reject , throw or cast off
iti: “...,” thus

車匿抑悲心 而答衆人言
我眷戀追逐 不捨於王子
王子捐棄我 并捨俗威儀
剃頭被法服 遂入苦行林 

Monday, October 28, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.9: Following Behind Tensely, Asking About Him Over There

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
atha bruvantaḥ samupeta-manyavo janāḥ pathi chandakam-āgatāsravaḥ |
kva rāja-putraḥ pura-rāṣṭra-nandano htas-tvayāsāv-iti pṣṭhato 'nvayuḥ || 8.9

There again, speaking tensely,

Common folk afflicted by distress 
addressed Chandaka on the road –

“Where is the Child of the King, 
the joy of the city and of the kingdom?

You have stolen away that child!” they said, 
from the rear, following behind.

The people who are the subject of today's verse are described in tomorrow's verse as bhaktimataḥ, being possessed of bhakti. And bhakti is given in the dictionary as: attachment , devotion , trust , homage , worship , piety , faith or love or devotion (as a religious principle or means of salvation , together with karman , " works " , and jñāna , " spiritual knowledge "). That being so, my intuition is that these janāḥ (common folk; plural) and the nagaro janaḥ (people of the city; singular) of yesterday's verse, are different people. Ostensibly they are all the same people. But nagaro janaḥ, in my reading, means people abiding in emptiness, whereas these janāḥ are common or garden religious believers. Hence, whereas EBC saw atha as insignificant and left it untranslated, and EHJ translated as “Thereon,” and PO as “Then,” I think atha means “Or else” or “There again” – suggesting, below the surface, a change of subject.

At the end of the 2nd pāda the old Nepalese manuscript has āgatāsravaḥ, but all three professors have āgatāśravaḥ (EBC: “crying with tears”; EHJ: “burst into tears”; PO: “shedding copious tears”). If I am correct in thinking that the nominal plural masculine of āgatāsrava is āgatāsravāḥ, then I would prefer to amend the original āgatāsravaḥ not to āgatāśravaḥ (from āgata, entered into + āsru, tears) but rather to āgatāsravāḥ (from āgata, entered into + āsrava, distress, affliction, polluting influence). Ostensibly, then, āgatāsravāḥ would describe the common folk as “in distress” or “entered into a state of affliction,” but with an allusion below the surface to the Buddha's teaching around eradicating the polluting influences (āsrava):

Thus, by methodically taking possession of the mind, getting rid of something and gathering something together, / The practitioner makes the four dhyānas his own, and duly acquires the five powers of knowing: //SN16.1 // The principal transcendent power, taking many forms; then being awake to what others are thinking; / And remembering past lives from long ago; and divine lucidity of ear; and of eye. // 16.2 // From then on, through investigation of what is, he applies his mind (mano dadhāti) to eradicating the polluting influences (āsrava-saṃkṣayāya), / For on this basis he fully understands suffering and the rest, the four true standpoints: // 16.3 // This is suffering, which is constant and akin to trouble; this is the cause of suffering, akin to starting it; / This is cessation of suffering, akin to walking away. And this, akin to a refuge, is a peaceable path. // SN16.4 // Understanding these noble truths, by a process of reasoning, while getting to know the four as one, / He prevails over all pollutants (sarvāsravān), by the means of mental development (bhāvanayā), and, on finding peace, is no longer subject to becoming. // SN16.5 //
The Chinese translation 傾身, “with bent body,” if it supports either amendment, would seem to support mine – insofar as a bent body represents a state of distress or affliction. Certainly there is nothing about tears in the Chinese.

Reflecting on today's verse in light of SN16.1-5, I see it as significant that chandakam in the 2nd pāda and pṛṣṭhato 'nvayuḥ at the end of the 4th pāda are separated as they are. The gist is that the common folk followed after Chandaka, but the interposition of one and a half pādas of direct speech has the effect of giving added emphasis to the sense of the lack of initiative in those who  pṛṣṭhato 'nvayuḥ, “followed behind” – particularly since the sense of “behind” or “after” or “from the rear” in pṛṣṭhataḥ is already inherent in the anu- of anvayuḥ, “they followed after.”

The point, as I see it, is that these common folk, as opposed to those who abide in emptiness, are religious believers, trusting devotees, followers. They are not the kind of individual who, on his or her own initiative, makes the four dhyānas his or her own. They are not the kind of individual who applies his or her own mind (mano dadhāti) to eradicating the polluting influences (āsrava-saṃkṣayāya), by the means of mental development (bhāvanayā).

The term bhāvanā (lit. bringing into being, development, cultivation) was one that I struggled with the most in the translation of Saundara-nanda, partly since I did not see any direct link to a term that I was familiar with in Master Dogen's Shobogenzo. Gradually I have come to think that the Chinese character that comes closest to conveying the sense of bhāvanā might be 修行 (SHUGYO; training), and especially the of 修行, which is used in the sense of “to cultivate” for example in the phrase 修禅定 (SHU-ZENJO; “to cultivate Zen balance”) and 修智慧  (SHU-CHI-E; “to cultivate wisdom"). 

I have also come to think that what the Buddha meant by bhāvanā may be very similar to, if the not the same as, what FM Alexander called “the work” or “work on the self” – the point being, in conclusion, that this kind of work requires a certain initiative on the part of the individual, and cannot be done by slavishly following others.

Hence FM Alexander famously remarked that he didn't want a bunch of monkeys following him around imitating his every move.

And hence, I think, the Buddha told Nanda at the end of SN Canto 16:
So, in order to make the noble truths your own, first clear a path according to this plan of action, / Like a king going on campaign to subdue his foes, wishing to conquer unconquered dominions. // SN16.85 // These salubrious wilds that surround us are suited to practice and not thronged with people. / Furnishing the body with ample solitude, cut a path for abandoning the afflictions. // 16.86 // Kauṇḍinya, Nanda, Kṛmila, Aniruddha, Tiṣya, Upasena, Vimala, Rādha, / Vāśpa, Uttara, Dhautaki, Moha-rāja, Kātyāyana, Dravya, Pilinda-vatsa, // 16.87 // Bhaddāli, Bhadrāyaṇa, Sarpa-dāsa, Subhūti, Go-datta, Sujāta, Vatsa, / Saṁgrāmajit, Bhadrajit, Aśvajit, Śrona and Sona Koṭikarna, // 16.88 // Kṣemā, Ajita, the mothers of Nandaka and Nanda, Upāli, Vāgīśa, Yaśas, Yaśoda, / Mahāhvaya, Valkalin, Rāṣṭra-pāla, Sudarśana, Svāgata and Meghika, // 16.89 // Kapphina, Kāśyapa of Uruvilvā, the great Mahā-kāśyapa, Tiṣya, Nanda, / Pūrṇa and Pūrṇa as well as Pūrṇaka and Pūrṇa Śonāparānta, // 16.90 // The son of Śāradvatī, Subāhu, Cunda, Kondeya, Kāpya, Bhṛgu, Kuṇṭha-dhāna, / Plus Śaivala, Revata and Kauṣṭhila, and he of the Maudgalya clan and Gavām-pati-- // 16.91 // Be quick to show the courage that they have shown in their practice, working to principle. / Then you will assuredly take the step that they took and will realise the splendour that they realised. // 16.92 //  Just as a fruit may have flesh that is bitter to the taste and yet is sweet when eaten ripe, / So heroic effort, through the struggle it involves, is bitter and yet, in accomplishment of the aim, its mature fruit is sweet. // 16.93 // Directed energy is paramount: for, in doing what needs to be done, it is the foundation; without directed energy there is no accomplishment at all; / All success in this world arises from directed energy -- and in the absence of directed energy wrongdoing is rampant. // 16.94 // No gaining of what is yet to be gained, and certain loss of what has been gained, / Along with low self-esteem, wretchedness, the scorn of superiors, Darkness, lack of spirit, and the breakdown of learning, restraint and contentment: / For men without directed energy a great fall awaits. // 16.95 // When a capable person hears the guiding principle but realises no growth, When he knows the most excellent method but realises no upward repose, / When he leaves home but in freedom realises no peace: The cause is the laziness in him and not an enemy. // 16.96 // A man obtains water if he digs the ground with unflagging exertion, And produces fire from fire-sticks by continuous twirling. / But those are sure to reap the fruit of their effort whose energies are harnessed to practice/ For rivers that flow swiftly and constantly cut through even a mountain. // 16.97 // After ploughing and protecting the soil with great pains, a farmer gains a bounteous crop of corn; After striving to plumb the ocean's waters, a diver revels in a bounty of coral and pearls; / After seeing off with arrows the endeavour of rival kings, a king enjoys royal dominion. So direct your energy in pursuit of peace, for in directed energy, undoubtedly, lies all growth." // 16.98 //
Read in this light, asau "that child" or "that one over there" has meaning. Ostensibly asau simply means "him" but originally asau (that one, referring to something distant from the speaker) is opposed to ayam (this one, referring to something close to the speaker). The MW dictionary gives the examples of ayaṁ lokaḥ or idaṁ viśvam or idaṁ sarvam, this earthly world, this universe, and ayam agniḥ, this fire which burns on the earth; but asāv agniḥ, that fire in the sky, i.e. the lightning.

In conclusion, in Aśvaghoṣa's poems as I read them there are essentially two kinds of verses, one kind designed to inspire us how to sit, and the other designed to remind us how not to sit. Today's verse belongs to the latter category.

It is cautioning us against expecting, as religious believers are liable to expect, some hero regarded by his followers as a true son of the King of Dharma – like a Gudo Nishijima, or an Ajahn Sumedho, or a Tich Naht Hahn, or a Dalai Lama – to come along and save everybody. It is cautioning us against being prey to the mental and physical tension that invariably follows the disappointment of such an expectation. 

But being reminded how not to sit, in the final analysis, is no different from (except maybe more useful than) being encouraged how to sit. In those positive terms, today's verse is encouraging us to be pro-active in seeking the truth, by freeing our own Chandaka of ideas, expectations and attachments, by walking or riding our own Kanthaka, and thereby dropping off our own Chandaka and Kanthaka.... so that our own original features might be enabled spontaneously to emerge. Such emergence, even if it is only for a moment, is something, or is a bit of nothing, that, unlike the Golden Child, can never be stolen away (hṛtaḥ) from the individual who owns it. 

Perhaps, then, after all, there is only one kind of verse, encouraging each of us day by day to dig out for ourselves the true meaning of kāñcanam āsanam, golden sitting. 

atha: ind. and so, then, moreover, rather, but, else
bruvantaḥ = nom. pl. m. pres. part. brū: to speak , say
samupeta-manyavaḥ (nom. pl. m.): in a state of high spirit / zeal / anger
samupeta: mfn. come , arrived
manyu: m. spirit , mind , mood , mettle (as of horses) ; high spirit or temper , ardour , zeal , passion ; rage , fury , wrath , anger , indignation ; grief , sorrow , distress , affliction
manyu-tas: ind. from anger , in a rage
manyu-parita: mfn. filled with anger
manyu-mat: mfn. spirited , ardent , zealous , passionate , vehement , enraged
manyu-maya: mfn. formed or consisting of wrath , filled with resentment
manyú-ṣāvín: mfn. preparing soma in anger or with zeal

janāḥ (nom. pl.): m. creature , living being , man , person , race (páñca jánās , " the five races " = p kṛṣṭáyas RV. iii , viii ff. MBh. iii , 14160), people , subjects (the sg. used collectively); m. a common person , one of the people
pathi (loc. sg.): m. way, road
chandakam (acc. sg.): m. Chandaka
āgatāsravaḥ [or āgatāsravāḥ ?] (nom. pl. m.): in distress
āsrava: m. distress , affliction , pain ; (with Buddh. ) impurity, defilement, sin ; pollutant
āgatāśravaḥ (nom. pl. m.): in tears
āgata: mfn. come, arrived ; entered (into any state or condition of mind)
aśru: n. a tear

kva: ind. where?
rāja-putraḥ (nom. sg. m.): the son of the king
pura-rāṣṭra-nandanaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the joy of the town and kingdom
pura: n. a city, town
rāṣṭra: a kingdom , realm , empire , dominion ; a people , nation , subjects
nandana: n. gladdening or gladness ; a divine garden , (esp.) indra's paradise

hṛtaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. taken , taken away , seized ; ravished , charmed , fascinated
hṛ: to take away , carry off , seize , deprive of , steal , rob
tvayā (inst. sg.): by you
asau (nom. sg.): m. that one, he
iti: “...,” thus
pṛṣṭhataḥ: ind. from or on or behind the back , behind (with gen. or ifc.)
anvayuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf anv-√i: to go after or alongside , to follow

有人來路傍 傾身問車匿
王子世所愛 擧國人之命
汝輒盜將去 今爲何所在

Sunday, October 27, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.8: In Celebration of Disjointedness (Leaving Buddhism Behind)

 ¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
niśamya ca srasta-śarīra-gāminau vināgatau śākya-kularṣabheṇa tau
mumoca bāṣpaṁ pathi nāgaro janaḥ purā rathe dāśarather-ivāgate || 8.8

And seeing the pair with disjointed gaits,
their bodies hanging loosely,

Coming back without the bull of the Śākya herd,

The people of the city let their tears fall on the road –

Like in ancient times when the chariot of Rāma,
son of 'Ten Chariots' Daśa-ratha,
came back without Rāma.

To begin on a minor textual doubt, the first word of today's verse, according to the old Nepalese manuscript and EBC's text, is niśamya. For some reason EHJ amended this to niśāmya. Since the meter is unaffected I can't understand why EHJ saw fit to change it. EBC translated “having heard” and EHJ translated “when they saw” – so they both understood the word to be the absolutive of ni-√śam: to observe, perceive, hear, learn. To muddy the waters further, in the text of BC8.11, EHJ went the other way, amending niśāmya to niśamya.

Still in the 1st pāda, srasta, “hanging loose,” is a word on whose ambiguity Aśvaghoṣa has played before. Aśvaghoṣa has hitherto used srasta most commonly in describing the hanging or slipping down of straps or clothing (as in women's lingerie or a monk's robe) – e.g. BC3.14, BC4.33, BC5.49, and BC5.58:
One adorable woman, similarly, was otherwise, her hair being undone (śithila) and dishevelled [or her thoughts being occupied with undoing], and decorative threads having fallen (srasta) from her hips . / She had dropped off, sending her necklaces scattering [or propagating the Neck Sūtra], like a statue-woman, broken by elephants.//BC5.58//
But in BC Canto 3 the buddha-to-be uses the word srasta to describe the arms and shoulders of an old man (or an experienced/enlightened individual) who excites his fear reflexes :
“That individual with an expanded belly, whose body moves as he breathes, whose arms hang loose from his shoulders (srastāṁsa-bāhuḥ), whose limbs are wasted and pale, / And who keeps saying 'Mother!', pathetically, while leaning on others for support: This man is Who?” //BC3.41
Again, there are several verses where the similarly ambiguous śithila (loose, slack, lax, relaxed, untied, flaccid, not rigid) is used ostensibly in a pejorative sense but really in an affirmative sense. The two examples we have met so far are BC5.58 (quoted above) and BC3.28:
Who is this man, O master of the horses, that has appeared with hair all white, hand firmly gripping a staff, / Eyes concealed below his brow, limbs loose and bending (śithilānatāṅgaḥ): Is this strange transformation his original condition? Is it a chance occurrence?//BC3.28//
Is the one word srasta worthy of so much consideration? Yes, on the basis of my own experience, I think it is. Because for the 13 years I practised sitting in Japan, as I was encouraged to sit by my teacher, with maximum tension in my lower back, I would never have guessed in my wildest dreams that emptiness might lie in the direction of srasta, hanging loose, or śithila, being loose, not rigid.

Was Aśvaghoṣa himself aware of the irony whereby the same words, srasta and śithila, could equally well be used to describe women's lingerie and dishevelled hair, or an old man's flaccid body parts; and at the same time the lack of any undue tension and rigidity in the joints of thinking man and instinctive animal (like Cesar and Daddy) walking together, back to emptiness?

You can bet your bottom dollar he was.

Aśvaghoṣa was also well aware – it is equally sure, if the view of professors Gawronski, Johnston and Olivelle is accepted – of the story of Rāma as told in the Rāmāyaṇa.

In the introduction to his translation, PO writes:

As Johnston (1984: xvii, xlvii-l) has shown, Aśvaghoṣa knew the Rāmāyaṇa and presents the Buddha as the new Rāma. He acknowledges Valmīki as the “first poet” (BC1.43) and models the departure of the Buddha from his city to the forest after that of Rāma. Here the Buddha is explicitly compared to Rāma (BC8.8 ; BC9.9).

PO further speculates in his introduction that the Rāmāyaṇa itself was “perhaps taking a page from the early Buddhist works on the life and activities of the Buddha.”

The passages in Johnston's introduction  that PO refers to are as follows:

Turning back now to the colophons we can obtain a few hints of value. As belonging to Sāketa, Aśvaghoṣa is an Easterner, and his origin has left its trace in his work.... the lasting impression which the historical associations of Sāketa made on him is apparent both in the influence of the Rāmāyaṇa displayed by his works and also in the emphasis which he lays from the very start of both poems on the descent of the Śākyas from the Ikṣvāku dynasty.
[pp. xvii]

Many of the stories [Aśvaghoṣa] alludes to are not to be found in the Mahā-bhārata, and despite the many parallels we cannot establish that Aśvaghoṣa knew any portion of the epic in the form in which we know have it. But it does seem certain that he knew much literature dealing with the legends he quotes, possibly often in kāvya form, which is now irretrievably lost to us...

The case is entirely different with the Rāmāyaṇa, for which an inhabitant of Sāketa, the scene of its most poignant episodes and the capital of its dynasty, could not but keep a warm place in his heart, however his religious beliefs [sic] had changed. Aśvaghoṣa never wearies of reminding us that the Buddha belonged to the dynasty of his home and strikes this note in the very first verse of the Buddhacarita. He acknowledges Valmīki as the ādikavi (BC1.43) and calls him 'inspired' (dhīmān; SN1.26). We may therefore expect to find, and we do find, that he has been strongly influenced by it. In so far as this affects his poetic style, I reserve consideration for the next section, but here it is in place to enquire to what extent he knew the poem in its present form.

The late Professor Gawroski proved, conclusively as I hold, that Aśvaghoṣa knew certain portions of the second book [of the Rāmāyaṇa], the Ayodhyākāṇḍa, in very much the condition that we have them in today and that he took pleasure in drawing a comparison between the Buddha quitting his home and Rāma leaving for the forest.
[pp. xlvii-viii]

EHJ notes that the question of the relation of the Buddhacarita to the Rāmāyaṇa was raised by Cowell in the introduction to his edition. EHJ also references Walter (1905); Gawronski (1927); and Gurner (1930).

The passage in question in EB Cowell's introduction (copied and pasted from Ānandajoti Bhikkhu's website) is as follows:

In my preface to the edition of the Sanskrit text I have tried to show that Aśvaghoṣa's poem appears to have exercised an important influence on the succeeding poets of the classical period in India. When we compare the descriptions in the seventh book of the Raghuvaṁsa of the ladies of the city crowding to see prince Aja as he passes by from the Svayaṁvara where the princess Bhojyā has chosen him as her husband, with the episode in the third book of the Buddha-carita (ślokas 13-24); or the description's of Kāma's assault on Śiva in the Kumārasambhava with that of Māra's temptation of Buddha in the thirteenth book, we can hardly fail to trace some connection. There is a similar resemblance between the description in the fifth book of the Rāmāyaṇa, where the monkey Hanumat enters Rāvaṇa's palace by night, and sees his wives asleep in the seraglio and their various unconscious attitudes, and in the description in the fifth book of the present poem where Buddha on the night of his leaving his home for ever sees the same unconscious sight in his own palace. Nor may we forget that in the Rāmāyaṇa the description is introduced as an ornamental episode; in the Buddhist poem it an essential element in the story, as it supplies the final impulse which stirs the Bodhisattva to make his escape from the world. These different descriptions became afterwards commonplaces in Sanskrit poetry, like the catalogue of the ships in Greek or Roman epics; but they may very well have originated in connection with definite incidents in the Buddhist sacred legend.

So there is a lot of scope here for Buddhist scholars to formulate and express views and opinions on the relation between Buddhacarita and Rāmāyaṇa, and between Buddhism and Brahmanism more broadly.

But what is more important, at least in my book, is to know what Aśvaghoṣa was intending to suggest, below the surface, by the compound srasta-śarīra-gāminau (going with body disjointed / hanging loose).

Going further, having pondered the meaning of the 3rd pāda in the wee small hours, I think there may be meaning that should not be overlooked in mumoca baṣpam (letting tears fall).

In first preparing the vocabulary below I simply typed in for √muc “to shed,” knowing from memory, without recourse to the dictionary, that baṣpam √muc means “to shed tears.” I translated the 3rd pāda accordingly, “The people of the city shed tears on the road.” But in the silence of a rainy night, having got the scholarly stuff out of the way yesterday, I reflected further on the meaning of √muc and thought I had better go back to the dictionary after all, and consider its primary meanings: to loose , let loose , free , let go , slacken , release , liberate.

These people who are the subjects of the verb (the action word) mumoca, are nagaro janaḥ, "people of the city"  people of that city which Aśvaghoṣa has identified with śūnyam, emptiness.

Their expression of their emotion – especially when we compare it with the tears that Chandaka failed to banish in BC8.1, in spite of his effort to suppress his grief – might be designed to suggest to us something about how expression of emotion naturally is, in the state of emptiness.

My Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima once confessed, in one of his Saturday afternoon lectures, in answer to a question about the therapeutic value of weeping, that for himself he felt it was not seemly for a man to cry in public. Gudo affirmed that it was natural for a man to cry, but thought it best for him to do his crying “in his private room.” What is described in BC8.1, as I read it, is Chandaka's efforts – failed efforts – to follow this principle. Whereas what is described in today's verse, as I read it, is people of the city making no effort to suppress their emotion, but rather showing some emotion – if you're sad, just let those tears run down. (Though I come from the same neck of the woods as Joan Armatrading, I should add, we didn't go to the same school.)

Understood in this light, as part of the wider consideration of grief and how to express it, the 4th pāda is not so much designed as a stimulus for discussion about Buddhacarita vs Rāmāyaṇa, or Buddhism vs Brahmanism. The intention behind the 4th pāda might rather be to mean, simply, “as it was in the Golden Age” – in the age, that is, before the view came to be widely accepted, even by Zen masters, that big boys don't cry, at least not in public.

A final possibility to consider, bringing together the ambiguity of srasta in the 1st pāda, and the rest of today's verse, is that when the people abiding in the citadel of emptiness let their tears fall on the road, the tears might not necessarily be tears of grief. Rather, when they perceive emptiness being expressed in the loose-limbed movements of people who have left behind the bull of the Śākya herd, it might be that people of prajṇā let fall on the road tears of celebration.

In that case, the most important thing for us to understand might be that Buddha-carita, while it is ostensibly an epic tale, like the Rāmāyaṇa, of a single heroic human being – the bull of the Śākya herd (EBC: the pride of the Śākya race; EHJ/PO: the bull of the Śākya race) – is not what professors of Buddhist studies assume it to be. 

For EBC Buddhacarita means "Life of Buddha," for EHJ "Acts of the Buddha," and for PO "Life of the Buddha." This, to be sure, is the ostensible meaning of Buddha-carita. But I think Aśvaghoṣa's real intention was that we should make into our own possession the reality of Awakened (buddha) Action (carita), and thereby, ultimately, leave the Buddha behind – just like Nanda did in Aśvaghoṣa's other epic tale, the epic tale of Beautiful Happiness.  

In general, though there are certainly individual exceptions, professors of Buddhist studies, while imitating the objective standpoint of true sciences (like Chemistry for example), are full of erroneous beliefs; and, unlike true scientists, they have no wish for their erroneous beliefs to be challenged,  e.g., by the likes of me. Overarching many erroneous beliefs is one big one, which is namely belief in a religion called Buddhism, essential to which is worship of the Buddha.

Where in Aśvaghoṣa's writing is any suggestion that we should form ourselves into Buddhist congregations (samghas) for the worship of the pride/bull of an Āryan race?

The suggestion in today's verse, as I read it, on the contrary, might be that we also, like people abiding in the citadel of emptiness, should leave behind the bull of the Śākya herd and understand, in our own sitting and our own walking, the true meaning of disjointedness.

niśāmya = abs. ni- √ śam: to observe , perceive , hear , learn
ca: and
srasta-śarīra-gāminau (acc. dual m.): going with bodies relaxed / hanging loose
srasta: mfn. fallen , dropped , slipped off , fallen from (abl. or comp.); loosened , relaxed , hanging down , pendent , pendulous ; separated , disjoined
śarīra: n. the body, bodily frame
gāmin: mfn. going anywhere ; going or moving on or in or towards or in any peculiar manner

vinā: inst without , except , short or exclusive of (preceded or followed by an acc. instr. ,)
āgatau (acc. dual m.): coming, arriving
śākya-kularṣabheṇa (inst. sg. m.): the bull of the Śākya clan
kula: n. a herd , troop , flock , assemblage , multitude , number , &c ; a race , family , community , tribe
ṛṣabha: m. bull ; the best or most excellent of any kind or race
tau (acc. dual): the two of them
mumoca = 3rd pers. sg. perf. muc: to loose , let loose , free , let go , slacken , release , liberate ; to shed
bāṣpam (acc. sg.): m. a tear, tears
pathi (loc. sg.): m. way, road
nāgaraḥ (nom. sg. m.): of the town
janaḥ (nom. sg.): m. people

purā: ind. before , formerly , of old
rathe (loc. sg.): m. " goer " , a chariot , car
dāśaratheḥ = gen. sg. dāśarathi: m. 'descendant of daśa-ratha; patronymic of rāma
daśa-ratha: 'having 10 chariots'; N. of rāma's father (descendant of ikṣvāku , sovereign of ayodhyā)
iva: like
āgate (loc. sg. m.): coming, arriving

衆見車匿還 不見釋王子
擧聲大號泣 如棄羅摩還