Tuesday, December 31, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.73: One Steadfast Resolution

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
niśāmya ca chandaka-kanthakāv-ubhau sutasya saṁśrutya ca niścayaṁ sthiram |
papāta śokābhihato mahī-patiḥ śacī-pater-vtta ivotsave dhvajaḥ || 8.73

Having observed the two, Chandaka and Kanthaka,

While being well informed 
as to the steadfast unity of purpose of a son,

A lord of the earth had fallen down, toppled by sorrow,

Like the flag of Indra, Lord of Might, when the carnival is over.

Chandaka, the horse-master, can be taken in today's verse as in many previous verses as representing the thinking mind; while Kanthaka, the horse, can again be taken as representing the power of instinct.

Observing those two, then, might be a metaphor for being mindful of one's own mind and body.

A son can be read as meaning an offspring in the sense that the Buddha's brother Nanda became his offspring, in the sense that Nāgārjuna was the offspring of the offspring of Aśvaghoṣa, and in the sense that Aśvaghoṣa himself was the offspring of Puṇyayaṣaḥ. A son, in other words, might mean a Zen patriarch. 

Appreciating a son's steadfast resolve (acc. sg.), then, or appreciating a son's steadfast unity of purpose, might be a metaphor for following the Buddha's teaching in one direction – that direction being, in my book, or from the round black cushion upon which I park my backside, up.

But this up, I wish to clarify, is a totally different direction to the direction that I felt was up when, under the direction of a Zen patriarch in Japan, I used to make a big effort to sit up straight, pulling my head backward so that the neck bones might form something like a perfectly straight column with the rest of the spine.

The last 20 years, under the direction of Alexander teachers, has been a gradual process of, as it were, dismantling the false edifice of that up.

Read in this light, the second half of today's verse is an ironic metaphor for the kind of realization that Nanda describes in SN Canto 17 as “the loss of everything” (sarva kṣaya):
For through the liberating knowledge of the compassionate teacher who extracted a dart of passion that was lodged in my heart, /  Now such abundant ease is mine -- Oh! how happy I am in the loss of everything (sarva kṣaye)// SN17.65 // For, by putting out the burning fire of desires, using the water of constancy, as if using water to put out a blaze, / I have now come to a state of supreme refreshment, like a hot person descending into a cool pool. // SN17.66 //

“Let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up...,” said FM Alexander, and “Never let a day go by without coming back to those words.”

What a free neck feels like, or how the head goes forward and up, I don't know – and more and more these days I don't even want to know. Twenty years ago, when I first came back to England, I was desperate to know. I remember sitting in the very room I am writing in now, sitting in front of a mirror and being desperate to know. Nowadays I am not so interested in what is reflected in the mirror. What is reflected in the mirror is always a bit of something. Whereas the real joy of coming back to “neck free, head forward and up,” is in what those words represent in the way of a bit of nothing.

I don't know much. I haven't got much to teach or much to transmit. But I do know this: I know what it is to deliberately stiffen the neck (aka “keep the neck bones straight vertically”) by pulling the head back. That was something I was taught to do (to do being the operative word), and something that I practised very diligently.

Oh what a relief it is, Oh how happy I am, to be free, for a start, from all that.

Recently the flag counter indicates that the number of new visitors to this blog has been dropping off, and something contrary in me rejoices to observe it. Here I am giving away hard-dug gold for free, but the takers are relatively few. Never mind. Less and less does it give me grief that others will not listen to or cannot appreciate what I am saying. I am glad that I know what I mean.

When I reflect on what I have written above, and why I have written it, and why I feel the temptation to add something along the lines of "Go on you world of stupid fuckers, who are dazzled by Japanese words and exotic Zen paraphernalia, go on and keep doubting me for another year!", I am aware that something in me positively wants people to doubt me. It's part of the tendency that my wife describes to "drive people away."

Insofar as the tendency is unconscious and associated with pulling back of the head, I know that Marjory Barlow would not have approved of it. So my New Year's resolution for 2014 is to keep going up -- not doing at all what my Zen teacher taught me to do -- and to keep telling you all, with a free neck, to fuck off and leave me alone. 

On further reflection, in an irony that Aśvaghoṣa might have appreciated, I suspect that in writing the above I stiffened my neck. 

niśāmya = abs. ni- √ śam: to observe , perceive , hear , learn
ca: and
chandaka-kanthakau (acc. dual): Chandaka and Kanthaka
ubhau (acc. dual): both

sutasya (gen. sg.): m. son, child, offspring ; mfn. begotten
saṁśrutya = abs. saṁ- √ śru: to hear or hear from (e.g. mukhāt , " from any one's mouth ") , attend or listen attentively to (acc.) ; (A1.) to be distinctly heard or audible
ca: and
niścayam (acc. sg.); m. inquiry , ascertainment , fixed opinion , conviction , certainty , positiveness ; resolution , resolve, fixed intention , design , purpose , aim
sthiram (acc. sg. m.): mfn. firm , hard , solid , compact , strong; fixed , immovable , motionless , still , calm ; firm , not wavering or tottering , steady ; stern , relentless , hard-hearted ; constant , steadfast , resolute , persevering

papāta = 3rd pers. sg. perf. pat: to fall
śokābhihataḥ (nom. sg. m.): stricken with grief
śoka: m. grief, sorrow
abhihata: mfn. struck , smitten , killed ; afflicted with
mahī-patiḥ (nom. sg.): m. " earth-lord " , a king , sovereign

śacī-pateḥ (gen. sg.): m. lord of might or help (applied to indra and the aśvins)
śacī: f. the rendering of powerful or mighty help , assistance , aid (esp. said of the deeds of indra and the aśvins , instr. śácyā and śácībhis , often = " mightily " or , " helpfully ")
vṛtte (loc. sg. m.): mfn. turned , set in motion (as a wheel) ; completed , finished ; past, elapsed, gone
iva: like
utsave (loc. sg.): m. enterprise , beginning ; a festival , jubilee; joy , gladness , merriment ; opening , blossoming
dhvajaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a banner , flag , standard

見車匿白馬 廣問知出家
擧身投於地 如崩帝釋幢

Monday, December 30, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.72: Why A Protector of Men Trembled

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
samāpta-jāpyaḥ kta-homa-maṅgalo n-pas-tu devāyatanād-viniryayau |
⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦ ⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−
janasya tenārta-raveṇa cāhataś-cacāla vajra-dhvanineva vāraṇaḥ || 8.72

The protector of men, however,
having finished with muttering of prayers,
being through with oblations and benedictions,

Had got out from the temple, the abode of gods;

And yet, struck by that sound of people suffering,

He trembled like an elephant struck by the sound of a thunderbolt.

What is the action of a buddha? How is the awakened action, the buddha-carita, of the title of this work?

It turns out in practice to be the wrong kind of question. Even if we knew the answer, how could that help?

If I have learned anything in 30 years of wrongly asking the question, I have picked up one or two clues about what or how it is NOT. For example, it is not religious behaviour based on belief in something spiritual. And it is not what people think it is; it is not what I or others tend to expect it to be.

In general, when Aśvaghoṣa writes generically of “the women,” the striyaḥ, or the vanitāḥ of yesterday's verse, I think the women represent a collection or gathering of monks, or Zen practitioners. The king, in contrast, or as he is called in today's verse nṛ-paḥ, “protector of men,” stands for the king of dharma, Guatama Buddha, or a king of dharma, an individual buddha.

So in today's verse Aśvaghoṣa is ostensibly telling, poetically but quite innocently, the narrative of how King Śuddhodana, realizing that he had lost his son to the wandering life, lamented and felt sorry for himself. But as we have learned by now in verse after verse after verse, Aśvaghoṣa's poetry is never as innocent as all that. Below the surface, something is always afoot.

So what is afoot below the surface of today's verse, as I read it, is that Aśvaghoṣa is suggesting that, whereas people are prone to think that a buddha is a religious believer whose place is in a temple, in this example a protector of men has finished already with religious stuff and has got out of the area of the gods. And yet the sound of people suffering stimulates in him compassion for those people (as opposed to the surface meaning in which the king feels sorry for himself).

I have heard it said that the essence of all religion is compassion. Maybe that is a view shared by some of the women described in yesterday's verse as venting their sorrow. Today's verse as I read it suggests that the compassion of a true protector of men, however, is of a different order. He is through with religion... and yet is mightily moved by compassion.

On the surface, then, in summary, today's verse describes a protector of men trembling because the lamenting of women represents a personal disaster for him, the frustration of his royal agenda. But below the surface Aśvaghoṣa is describing something very different indeed – a protector of men, though he is through with religion, yet still being moved by compassion.

samāpta-jāpyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): having concluded his muttering of prayers
samāpta: mfn. completed, concluded, ended
jāpya: n. a prayer to be muttered , muttering of prayers
kṛta-homa-maṅgalaḥ (nom. sg. m.): having completed the auspicious oblations
homa: m. the act of making an oblation to the devas or gods by casting clarified butter into the fire (» deva-yajña and IW. 245) , oblation with fire , burnt-offering , any oblation or sacrifice
maṅgala: n. (fr. √ maṅg, to move?) happiness , felicity , welfare , bliss ; anything auspicious or tending to a lucky issue (e.g. a good omen , a prayer , benediction , auspicious ornament or amulet , a festival or any solemn ceremony on important occasions &c ; a good old custom

nṛ-paḥ (nom. sg. m.): protector of men, king
tu: but
devāyatanāt (abl. sg.): n. " the dwelling of a god " , a temple
deva: a god
āyatana: n. resting-place , support , seat , place , home , house , abode
viniryayau = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi-nir- √ yā : to go forth, to go out

janasya (gen. sg.): m. people
tena (inst. sg.): that
ārta-raveṇa: the distressed tumult
ārta: mfn. fallen into (misfortune) , struck by calamity , afflicted , pained , disturbed ; oppressed , suffering , sick , unhappy
rava: m. ( √ru) a roar , yell , cry , howl (of animals , wild beasts &c ); clamour, outcry, any noise or sound
ca: and
āhatah (nom. sg. m.): mfn. struck , beaten , hit , hurt

cacāla = 3rd pers. sg. perf. cal: to be moved , stir , tremble , shake , quiver , be agitated , palpitate
vajra-dhvaninā (inst. sg.): by the sound of a thunderbolt
vajra: mn. " the hard or mighty one " , a thunderbolt (esp. that of indra)
dhvani: m. sound , echo , noise , voice , tone , tune , thunder ; the sound of a drum
vāraṇaḥ (nom. sg. ): m. an elephant (from its power of resistance)

父王失太子 晝夜心悲戀
齋戒求天神 願令子速還
發願祈請已 出於天祠門
聞諸啼哭聲 驚怖心迷亂
如天大雷震 群象亂奔馳 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.71: Blue Lotuses Open in Fire

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
tatas-tathā śoka-vilāpa-viklavāṁ yaśodharāṁ prekṣya vasuṁ-dharā-gatām |
mahāravindair-iva vṣṭi-tāḍitair-mukhaiḥ sa-bāṣpair-vanitā vicukruśuḥ || 8.71

Then, seeing her thus undone by grief and lamentation,

Seeing Yaśodharā alighting on the ground,
– the Bearer of Glory on the treasure-bearing Earth –

The women,
with tearful faces like big lotuses battered by raindrops,

Vented their sorrow.

Picture this ancient Indian scene: a much loved man or woman, having met a premature demise, is being mourned by dozens of tearful-faced bereaved friends and relatives, in the company of a number of Zen practitioners who, with beautifully resonant voices, are reciting a canto of a beautiful Sanskrit epic verse written by Aśvaghoṣa.

What is being expressed there, in the midst of that most sorrowful of scenes, is the most beautiful teaching in the world in the words of a teacher regarded as one of the most gifted poets in the history of Sanskrit literature. Sublime beauty in the midst of abject grief.

In a verse like today's verse, as I read it, Aśvaghoṣa was pointing to the real existence in this world of such juxtapositions, so that – as Dogen would point out many centuries later – if we want to find blue lotus flowers, the place to look for them is in fire.

Zen patriarchs have said since ancient times that blue lotus flowers open in fire, in which case fire might mean the height of summer, when blue lotuses bloom in cool ponds. At the same time śoka, as in the opening pāda of today's verse, according to the MW dictionary, before it means sorrow or grief, means burning or heat. Śoka is from the verb √śuc, which means to shine, glow or burn, and thence to suffer violent heat or pain, to be sorrowful.

As a translation of śoka-vilāpa-viklavām in the 1st pāda, “undone by grief and lamentation” is EHJ's choice of words and in my book it is a very apt choice, since everything coming undone is what we human beings tend to fear, and at the same time for any of us who are truly devoted to sitting practice, it is what we ultimately want.

Another element of today's verse that relates, as I read it, to sitting-meditation is the final word of the verse vicukruśuḥ, lit. “they cried out.” Since √kruś can mean not only to cry out but also to weep or to lament, I felt justified in translating vicukruśuḥ as “they vented their sorrow” – wishing by that translation to convey some sense of finding release in breathing out.

At the beginning of sitting-zen, according to Dogen's instructions, we should kanki-issoku, which literally means something like “run out of steam for one breath” or “lack ki for one breath,” i.e. “make one complete exhalation” or “breathe out fully once.”

For people like me who are devoted not only to sitting but also to the teaching of FM Alexander, that is an opportunity to practise what Alexander called “the whispered ah!” And the whispered ah is an opportunity to come undone, venting as one breathes out anything that wishes to be vented.

'Dog-Whisperer' Cesar Milan describes how dogs can help to provide a kind of bridge between civilized human beings and wild nature. For those of us not in a position to keep a dog -- or to lead, as Cesar likes to lead, a pack of dogs -- I would suggest that we can also use our own breath as a kind of bridge back to wild nature.

Exercising the kind of breath control that would have been necessary to recite a verse like today's verse, is akin to walking a dog on a lead. But when we sit in full lotus, have a vent on one or two out-breaths if we feel like it, sway left and right, and then close our mouths and consciously quit trying, that is akin to going into an enormous field, closing the gate behind you, and saying to your four-legged friend, “Go on mate, go wild. Run wherever you like.”

tataḥ: ind. then
tathā: ind. thus, in such a manner
śoka-vilāpa-viklavām (acc. sg. f.): distressed in her lamentations of sorrow
śoka: mfn. ( √ śuc) burning , hot; flame , glow , heat ; m. sorrow , affliction , anguish , pain , trouble , grief
vilāpa: n. lamentation , wailing
vi- √ lap: to utter moaning sounds , wail , lament , bewail ; to speak variously , talk , chatter
viklava: mfn. overcome with fear or agitation , confused , perplexed , bewildered , alarmed , distressed
vi- √ klav: to become agitated or confused

yaśodharām (acc. sg.): Yaśodharā
prekṣya = abs. pra- √īkṣ: to look at , view , behold , observe
vasuṁ-dharā-gatām (acc. sg. f.): gone to the wealth-bearer; fallen on the ground
vasu: n. wealth , goods , riches , property; n. gold ; n. any valuable or precious object
vasuṁ-dharā: f. the earth ; the soil , the ground
gata: mfn. come to , approached , arrived at , being in , situated in , contained in; gone to any state or condition , fallen into (acc. or loc. or in comp. e.g. kṣayaṁ or kṣaye gata , gone to destruction ; āpad-g° , fallen into misfortune Mn. ix , 283)

mahāravindaiḥ (inst. pl. n.): great lotuses
aravinda: (fr. ara, wheel spoke/radius + vinda, getting) a lotus , Nelumbium Speciosum or Nymphaea Nelumbo
iva: like
vṛṣṭi-tāḍitaiḥ (inst. pl. n.): struck by the rain
vṛṣṭi: f. rain
tāḍita: mfn. struck , beaten , chastised

mukhaiḥ (inst. pl.): n. face
sa-bāṣpaiḥ (inst. pl. n.): tearful
vanitāḥ (nom. pl.): f. a loved wife , mistress , any woman
vicukruśuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. vi- √ kruś: to cry out , exclaim ; to raise or utter (a cry) ; to call to , invoke (acc.); to sound
√ kruś: to cry out , shriek , yell , bawl , call out , halloo ; to lament , weep ; to make a singing noise (as the ear)

惙惙氣殆盡 臥於塵土中
諸餘婇女衆 見生悲痛心
猶如盛蓮花 風雹摧令萎 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.70: Forgetting Constancy

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
itīha devī pati-śoka-mūrchitā ruroda dadhyau vilalāpa cāsakt |
svabhāva-dhīrāpi hi sā satī śucā dhtiṁ na sasmāra cakāra no hriyam || 8.70

Thus did a goddess here in this world,
being insensible with grief for her husband,
[being insensible with the sorrow of a master]

Repeatedly weep, reflect, and lament.

For, steadfast as she was by nature,
she in her pain

Was not mindful of constancy and made no show of modesty.

In the 1st pāda of today's verse pati-śoka is given in the dictionary as “grief for a husband” but literally it could also means “the sorrow of a master” – whatever that might be.

In the 3rd pāda, again, satī śucā is ambiguous. Satī could mean 1. being [steadfast by nature] (loc. sg. f. pres. part. as), or 2. a good wife (nom. sg. f.). Śucā could mean 1. with grief, i.e. in her sorrow/distress/pain (inst. sg. śuc), or 2. pure (nom. sg. f. śuca).

Thus EBC translated: 
self-possessed as she was [satī] by nature, yet in her distress [sucā] she remembered not her fortitude and felt no shame. (EBC)

EHJ evidently omitted to translate śucā; hence:
For, though steadfast by nature, she forgot the rules of decorum and felt no shame. (EHJ)

PO took satī not to be the present participle from as but rather to be the noun satī  “a good wife/woman,” and śucā to be the adjectival “pure”; hence:

though by nature steadfast, that good and pure woman [satī śucā] paid no heed to fortitude and she felt no shame. (PO)

PO's reading has the merit of avoiding the perhaps inelegant repetition of “in her grief/sorrow/pain/distress,” but the disadvantage of inferring that Aśvaghoṣa unambiguously affirmed Yaśodharā's purity.

If Aśvaghoṣa did intend śucā to mean “in her grief/sorrow/pain/distress,” as per the reading of EBC and me, the Sanskrit is not in fact so inelegantly repetitious since the original words śoka and śuca are different words from the same root.

But did Aśvaghoṣa intend in passing to refer to Yaśodharā's goodness and purity? My guess is that he might have done, but in a deliberately ambiguous manner.

Aśvaghoṣa's idea, I am guessing, might have been that there is a criterion for purity of human action, but that criterion is a million miles from traditional conceptions, in ancient India and elsewhere, of what makes a woman “a good and pure woman/wife.”

Apropos of that, I read the 3rd and 4th pādas of today's verse as pointer to what real and true purity is – and a reminder of what pure action is not.

Pure action is an expression of a person's original nature. That is why Aśvaghoṣa describes Yaśodharā as svabhāva-dhīrā, “spontaneously steadfast” or “steadfast by nature.” As the embodiment of what is divine down here on earth (iha devī), she didn't need to go around trying to be right, or trying to be a good woman, a true wife, being 'mindful' of the virtue of dhṛti (constancy, firmness), because that virtue of constancy or resoluteness was already inherent in her – naturally, spontaneously, originally.

A person who is constant might thus meet the criterion, and, equally, a person who is mindful of breathing or of standing or of walking might meet the criterion. But a person who is mindful of Buddhist virtues like dhṛti (constancy) or indeed like smṛti (mindfulness) might – in just that moment of self-consciousness – be totally failing to meet the criterion. Similarly a person who is shy, modest or ashamed may or may not meet the practical criterion of purity. But a person who makes a self-conscious show of his or her shyness or modesty or shame might be totally failing to meet the criterion.

I know I sound like a scratched vinyl record that got stuck, but what I have just written above is no different from what I wrote yesterday on the subject of postural adjustments, or so-called “corrections,” made under the sway of the delusion that good posture is something that we human beings can achieve through direct intervention, through trying to be right.

What proper posture is I have no clue. If I know anything, I know a bit about how NOT to sit in sitting-meditation. This is not much to show for 54 years of struggling to understand what I was placed on this earth to understand. And yet just this bit of knowing seems to provide me with a good basis for understanding a verse like today's verse as I think Aśvaghoṣa intended it to be understood – as laden with no little irony.

Did the three professors who have already translated Buddhacarita, namely, EB Cowell, EH Johnston, and Patrick Olivelle, catch this irony? Did they hell. They missed the irony because of thinking that Aśvaghoṣa's writing belonged in the library next to religious texts like the Old Testament, and the New Testament and the Quran – texts containing the Word of God, to be read by believers who are striving to be Right.

But verily brethren I am here to say unto you: Fuck that for a game of cards. Trying to be right like that is precisely NOT how to sit. Trying to be right means suppressing one's original nature, one's natural spontaneity – the very opposite of the direction that Aśvaghoṣa, below the surface of today's verse, is encouraging us to go in.

The metaphor of a scratched vinyl record would not have meant anything to the ancient Zen patriarch Aśvaghoṣa, but I think he knew what it was to have been caused repeatedly to weep, to reflect, and to lament – in which triad the root of the middle element, to reflect, is the dhyai of dhyāna.

Trying to be right, in all sorts of ways, causes the breathing not to be as free as it otherwise might be. This – and not Buddhist virtues – is, in my book, the first thing to be mindful of in sitting-dhyāna.

My parting shot is this: Zen in Japan, and Zen as it has been transmitted from Japan to France, America, and elsewhere, is totally corrupted by what FM Alexander called "trying to be right" and by what my teacher Gudo Nishijima called "idealism." And, though it has been a cause for much weeping and lamenting on my part, I have no hesitation in telling the truth on this blog that the teaching of my teacher, when push came to shove, was more part of the problem than it was part of the solution. 

The teaching of Marjory Barlow and FM Alexander, in contrast, is in my book very much part of the solution. But there again Marjory did say, "We are all going around trying to be right; and I include myself in that." 

Ah yes, Marjory. But you were one of the ones who was not blind to it in yourself. 

Gudo, if I am honest, seemed to have a talent in his own everyday life for not worrying about good and bad. His lifetime of sitting-zen practice and dealing with difficult problems as a pillar of society during Japan's post-war economic miracle, had equipped him well for disregarding rights and wrongs and getting on with doing the necessary. He was a maker of omelettes who didn't worry about how many eggs had to be cracked in the process. But when it came to correcting people's posture -- especially earlier on, when I was one of his earlier victims -- his teaching was so stupid, so direct, so bad, that I don't have the words, not even the swear words, to describe it. 

iti: thus
iha: ind. here, now, in this case
devī (nom. sg.): f. the goddess, queen
pati-śoka-mūrchitā (nom. sg. f.): insensible through grief for her husband ; insensible with a master's sorrow
pati: a master , owner , possessor , lord , ruler , sovereign ; a husband
śoka: pain , sorrow , grief or regret
pati-śoka = pati-śuc: f. grief for a husband
mūrchita: mfn. fainted , stupefied , insensible

ruroda = 3rd pers. sg. perf. rud: to weep , cry , howl , roar , lament , wail
dadhyau = 3rd pers. sg. perf. dhyai: to think of , imagine , contemplate , meditate on , call to mind , recollect ; (alone) to be thoughtful or meditative
vilalāpa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi- √ lap: to utter moaning sounds , wail , lament , bewail ; to speak variously , talk , chatter
ca: and
a-sakṛt: ind. not (only) once , often , repeatedly
sa-kṛt: mfn. (fr. sa + kṛt) acting at once or simultaneously ; ind. at once ; once

svabhāva-dhīrā (nom. sg. f.): steady by nature
svabhāva: ibc. from natural disposition , by nature , naturally , by one's self , spontaneously
dhīra: mfn. steady , constant , firm , resolute , brave , energetic , courageous , self-possessed , composed , calm , grave; well-conducted, well-bred
api: though
hi: for
sā (nom. sg. f.): she
satī [EBC] = nom. sg. f. pres. part. as: to be
satī [PO] (nom. sg. ): f. her ladyship , your ladyship ; a good and virtuous or faithful wife (esp. applied in later use to the faithful wife [popularly called Suttee] who burns herself with her husband's corpse
śucā [EBC] = inst. sg. śuc: f. flame , glow , heat ; f. (also pl.) pain , sorrow , grief or regret
śucā [PO] = nom. sg. f. śuca = śuci , pure RV. x , 26 , 6

dhṛtim (acc. sg.): f. holding , seizing , keeping , supporting , firmness , constancy , resolution , will , command
na: not
sasmāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. smṛ: to remember, be mindful of
cakāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. kṛ: to do, make
no: ind. in later language = na , " not " , for which it is generally used to suit the verse
hriyam (acc. sg.): f. shame , modesty , shyness , timidity

言已心迷亂 或哭或狂言
或瞪視沈思 哽咽不自勝

Friday, December 27, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.69: The Heart of Oneness

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
mamāpi kāmaṁ hdayaṁ su-dāruṇaṁ śilā-mayaṁ vāpy-ayaso 'pi vā ktam |
anāthavac-chrī-rahite sukhocite vanaṁ gate bhartari yan-na dīryate || 8.69

My heart too must be very hard

– Made of stone or else wrought of iron –

In that, left like an orphan,
now that its protector,
who was accustomed to comfort, has gone,
shorn of his royal glory, to the forest,

It does not split apart.”

In the 3rd pāda, śrī-rahite means, in one sense of śri, “shorn of the insignia of royalty,” or “shorn of high rank.” At the same time, as EHJ points out in a footnote,  Yaśodharā herself is compared in BC2.26 to Śrī, the goddess of beauty and fortune:

Then he summoned for him, from a family of steadfast integrity,
A true woman, the possessor of fine form, modesty and discipline, /
A woman full of glory whose name was Yaśodharā, “Bearer of Glory” –
In the shape of such a woman did the king invoke Śrī, goddess of fortune. //BC2.26//

So when Yaśodharā describes her husband in the 3rd pāda as going śrī-rahite, “shorn of his royal glory,” in EHJ's words, we get the antithesis, whereby she is without her nātha (protector), and he in a double sense is without his Śrī.

Below the surface of today's verse as I read it, what is being expressed is the wonder of having a healthy human heart.

There may be yoga-experts who can intervene so as to exercise a degree of direct control over the working of their heart. But even those of us who neither have that kind of expertise, nor are interested in having that kind of expertise, can witness on a daily basis the miracle whereby when we exert ourselves our heart beats faster, and then after that our pulse retains its more normal resting rhythm, when we lie down, or when we sit.

My Alexander head of training used to speak of the three H's: head, heart, and hara.

Sometimes, as a variation on that theme, I like to reflect on having one head, one heart, two hands, two knees, two sitting bones, and one hara.

To paraphrase Bob Marley:

One love.
One heart.
Let's start from separateness
And feel all right.

In Nanda's progress towards the worthy state of arhathood, via four stages of sitting-zen, as Aśvaghoṣa describes that progress in SN Canto 17, experiencing separateness and feeling all right is only a starting point, a first stage of sitting-meditation. Later on, a fourth stage is described in which knowing exists as its own object (jñānaṃ tad-artha-cāri; SN17.55) – a state of grace that presumably cannot prevail in the kind of advanced yoga wherein the heart becomes an object to be brought under the direct control of the consciousness of the controlling subject.

The principle I am alluding to here my Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima understood clearly enough when it came to breathing. So he taught me and his other students, in so many words, to concentrate on our posture and let the breathing take care of itself. 

When it came to the matter of posture, however, Gudo's teaching was not so clear. Or rather it was very clear, and at the same time very wrong. Gudo's teaching on right posture, in common with many Japanese Zen masters who were his contemporaries, was basically the teaching of the military parade ground, with one or two pernicious refinements....


Notice how undue tension in the muscles behind the spinal column is causing this soldier's head (in Alexander's words) to tend to pull “back and down” so that his chin is tending to raise up. This soldier's “position of attention” would be corrected a la Japanese Zen of Gudo and others by pulling the chin an inch or two backwards to cause the neck bones to become straight vertically... resulting over the years in such symptoms as neck and shoulder ache, back ache, head-aches, and over the very long term, I dare say, impaired functioning of the heart.

When I think back to the way I used to sit, following Gudo's instructions to do this, that, and the other in the interests of keeping the spine straight vertically, I feel with Yaśodharā it really is a wonder that – as a direct and indirect consequence of adhering so doggedly to that faulty standard – my heart didn't break. Thank you, Mother Nature! 

mama (gen. sg.): my
api: also
kāmam: ind. according to wish or desire , according to inclination , agreeably to desire , at will , freely , willingly; readily ; (as a particle of assent) well , very well , granted , admitted that , indeed , really , surely
hṛdayam (nom. sg.): n. the heart
su-dāruṇam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. very cruel or dreadful or terrible (n. " something terrible " or " a partic. mythical weapon ")

śilā-mayam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. made of stone
vā: or else
api: even, again
ayasaḥ (gen. sg.): n. iron , metal
api: even, again
vā: or else
kṛtam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. made

a-nāthavat (nom. sg. n. [agreeing with hṛdayam]): not having a protector or master
a- (negative prefix)
nāthavat: mfn. having a protector or master , dependant , subject ;
anātha-vat: ind. like an orphan; in an orphaned state
anātha: mfn. having no master or protector ; fatherless
-vat: ind. like
śrī-rahite (loc. sg. m.): devoid of his royal majesty
śrī: f. light , lustre , radiance , splendour , glory , beauty , grace , loveliness; prosperity , welfare , good fortune , success , auspiciousness , wealth , treasure , riches (śriyā , " according to fortune or wealth ") , high rank , power , might , majesty , royal dignity ; symbol or insignia of royalty; N. of lakṣmī (as goddess of prosperity or beauty)
rahita: mfn. deserted by , separated or free from , deprived or void or destitute of (instr. or comp.)
sukhocite (loc. sg. m.): mfn. accustomed to comfort or happiness
sukha: n. ease, comfort, happiness
ucita: mfn. delightful , pleasurable , agreeable ; used to

vanam (acc. sg.): n. the forest
gate (loc. sg. m.): mfn. gone, departed
bhartari (loc. sg.): m. a preserver , protector , maintainer , chief , lord , master ; m. husband
yat (relative pronoun): that
na: not
dīryate = 3rd pers. sg. passive dṝ: to be split , break open , fall asunder , decay

我亦無心腸 夫棄遊山林
不能自泯沒 此則木石人 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.68: Seeking Out Spontaneity

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
aho n-śaṁsaṁ su-kumāra-varcasaḥ su-dāruṇaṁ tasya manasvino manaḥ |
kala-pralāpaṁ dviṣato 'pi harṣaṇaṁ śiśuṁ sutaṁ yas-tyajatīdśaṁ svataḥ || 8.68

O how terribly hard and cruel is the mind

Of him, so full of mind, whose light is so gentle!

An infant son,
whose burbling would gladden even an enemy,

He leaves in such a manner, just as he likes.

As a general rule there is something in every verse Aśvaghoṣa wrote that stimulates and encourages a Zen practitioner's body and mind in sitting. That something, like a medicinal dose of tea or coffee, or like a needle, is generally hidden below the surface so that an extra shot of pleasure is to be derived from digging it out.

What that something is in today's verse – possibly as a result of a certain dullness of mind associated with over-indulgence on Christmas day – I have been struggling in vain to fathom.

The best candidate may be suggested by the final word of the Old Nepalese manuscript, which is vataḥ. EHJ amended this vataḥ to the emphatic bata, and translated “in sooth”:

...when in sooth he abandons such an infant son with his babbling talk, who would charm even an enemy. (EHJ)

In EBC's text the word in question is rendered as svataḥ (sva = self + taḥ = ablative suffix; hence svataḥ = from one's self, of one's own accord), translated by EBC as “of his own accord”:

...who can desert of his own accord such an infant son with his inarticulate talk, one who would charm even an enemy. (EBC)

All three professors took īdṛśam (such) as agreeing with śiśuṁ sutam (such an infant son).

But if the original reading was indeed, as per EBC's text, yas-tyajatīdṛśaṁ svataḥ, then I would like to take īdṛśam as adverbial (in such a manner, like that) and to take yas-tyajatīdṛśaṁ svataḥ as the kind of enigmatic phrase that was celebrated in Chinese Zen, along the lines of “here comes something ineffable, spontaneously coming like this,” or “there goes something ineffable, spontaneously leaving like that.”

aho: ind. a particle (implying joyful or painful surprise) Ah! (of enjoyment or satisfaction) Oh! (of fatigue , discontent , compassion , sorrow , regret) Alas! Ah!
nṛ-śaṁsam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. injuring men , mischievous , noxious , cruel , base
su-kumāra-varcasaḥ (gen. sg. m.): whose splendid form is very gentle
su-kumāra: mfn. very tender or delicate ; m. a delicate youth ; m. tenderness
varcas: n. vital power , vigour , energy , activity , (esp.) the illuminating power of fire or the sun i.e. brilliance , lustre , light; colour ; splendour , glory ; form , figure , shape

su-dāruṇam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. very cruel or dreadful or terrible (n. " something terrible " or " a partic. mythical weapon ")
dāruṇa: mfn. hard , harsh (opp. mṛdu); rough , sharp , severe , cruel , pitiless ; dreadful , frightful
tasya (gen. sg. m.): him
manasvinaḥ (gen. sg. m.): mfn. full of mind or sense , intelligent , clever , wise
manaḥ (nom. sg.): n. mind (in its widest sense as applied to all the mental powers) ; in high spirits , cheerful , glad ; fixing the mind attentive

kala-pralāpam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. speaking pleasantly, Bcar
kala: mfn. indistinct , dumb; indistinct or inarticulate (on account of tears) ; low , soft (as a tone) , emitting a soft tone , melodious (as a voice or throat) ; m. a low or soft and inarticulate tone (as humming , buzzing &c )
pralāpa: m. talk , discourse , prattling , chattering ; lamentation ; incoherent or delirious speech , raving [see BC8.59]
dviṣataḥ = gen. sg. m. dviṣat: mfn. (pres. part. of √dviṣ) hating or detesting , hostile , unfriendly , foe , enemy (with acc. or gen.)
api: even
harṣaṇam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. causing the hair of the body to stand erect , thrilling with joy or desire , gladdening , delightful , pleasant

śiśum (acc. sg. m.): m. a child , infant , the young of any animal ; a boy under eight years of age ; mfn. young , infantine
sutam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. begotten , brought forth ; m. a son
yaḥ (nom. sg. m.): who
tyajati = 3rd pers. sg. tyaj: to leave, abandon
īdṛśam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. such [a son]
īdṛśam (acc. sg. n.): in such a manner
bata: (emphatic)
svataḥ [EBC]: ind. of one's own self , of one's own accord (applicable to all three persons); by nature

嗚呼不吉士 貎柔而心剛 
勝族盛光榮 怨憎猶宗仰
又子生未孩 而能永棄捨