Monday, June 30, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.39: What Do the Wise Enjoy?

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
duḥkha-pratīkāra-nimitta-bhūtās-tasmāt-prajānāṁ viṣayā na bhogāḥ |
aśnāmi bhogān-iti ko 'bhyupeyāt-prājñaḥ pratīkāra-vidhau pravttaḥ || 11.39

To the people, therefore, objects in the sensory realm

Are factors in counteracting pain and suffering, and not enjoyments.

What wise one would admit “I am relishing enjoyments,”

While engaged in the counteraction?

The rhetorical question in the second half of today's verse, as in the series of verses from BC11.22, seems to invite the answer: No wise person would! No person who was truly wise, truly in possession of himself, would admit to that!

On the surface the bodhisattva is continuing to put the blame on kāmeṣu and viṣayeṣu, desires and objects of desire, as per the Canto title. Therefore, to interpret his rhetorical question further, he is asking: “What wise person would consider himself to be relishing enjoyments while he is taking that bitter medicine which is the remedy to suffering?”

And the expected answer is along the lines of: “Nobody would. To take the bitter medicine is not to relish any kind of enjoyment.”

Hence in the Reflections (Paccavekkhaṇā) traditionally recited in Sri Lanka et cetera....

Paṭisaṅkhā yoniso cīvaraṁ paṭisevāmi,
With proper discernment I make use of the robe,
yāvad-eva sītassa paṭighātāya, uṇhassa paṭighātāya,
only to ward off the cold, to ward off the heat,
ḍaṁsamakasavātātapasiriṁsapasamphassānaṁ paṭighātāya,
to ward off contact with gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, the heat (of the sun), and creeping things,
yāvad-eva hirikopīnapaṭicchādanatthaṁ....
only as a cover for the shameful parts....

And similarly for food, for a dwelling, and for medicine.

But wait a minute. Even in the Pali recitation there is something that doesn't quite fit with this surface reading of today's verse in which counteracting suffering is identified with bitter medicine. The verse on how to make use of a dwelling finishes with the phrase paṭisallānārāmatthaṁ, “so as to delight in seclusion.”

When we stop and think about it, what is so bitter about being protected from extremes of cold and heat, and from contact with gadflies, mosquitoes and creepy crawlies?

Again, referring back to the material things cited in BC11.37, starting with water, what is inherently bitter about using those objects? What is so bitter, when we are thirsty, about being able to drink drinking water?

In his introduction to his translation of the Reflections (Paccavekkhaṇā), Ānandajoti Bhikkhu describes these recitations as encouraging frugality and contentment. So therein might lie an alternative answer to the bodhisattva's question –
Q: “Who would admit to relishing enjoyments while engaged in counteracting suffering?”
A: “A wise person in possession of himself, being frugal and content, might admit to relishing enjoyments just in that very moment when engaged in the work of counteracting suffering.”

There again, a verse recited after a meal eaten in the formal manner, in a Zen temple in Japan, begins:
This water I have used to wash my bowl,
Tastes like sweet dew from heaven...

As regards the second half of today's verse, for the moment, I rest my case.

Having understood the second half of today's verse like this, what are we to make of what the bodhisattva says in the first half?

One way of understanding is in terms of the distinction between the mass of living creatures or ordinary human beings (prajānām) who are not wise yet, and a wise man (prājñaḥ) who is wise already. For the former, simple material requisites like water, food, a dwelling and a robe have not yet become objects whose use is associated with true enjoyment. For the latter, to use those objects well, with frugality and contentment, in the context of the living of a simple life, might be the very essence of enjoyment.

For those of us still included in the former group, incidentally, i.e. for those for whom work on the self remains to be done, for those for whom developing remains to be developed, for those like Nanda was before his realization of the worthy state, the Buddha recommended the practice of bhāvana employing a variety of nimitta, usually translated “a subject of meditation,” but more literally “a cause,” “a factor” or (to borrow a key term from Alexander work on the self) “a stimulus.” So the appearance of the word nimitta in the 1st pāda may well be intended as an allusion to such work on the self.

To come back, however, to the main point...
Q: Why did Master Tendo Nyojo refuse from an appreciative donor a gift of gold bullion?
A: Because the Chinese Zen Master, in his real wisdom, being one who knew the score, was simply enjoying his simple life.

In today's verse the bodhisattva calls the wise one, the one who knows, prajñaḥ, whereas Nāgārjuna at the end of MMK chapter 26 calls him vidvān. But sitting on one round black cushion witnessing breath passing in and out of his nostrils, he might have been the same shaven-headed person. He might have been a prajñaḥ, a wise man, and a vidvān, one who knows, as a result of developing just this knowing...

saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ |
avidvān kārakas tasmān na vidvāṁs tattva-darśanāt ||10||
Volitional formations, the root of saṁsāra,

Thus the ignorant one forms.

The ignorant one therefore is the doer;

The wise one is not, because of reality making itself known.

avidyāyāṁ niruddhāyāṁ saṁskārāṇām asaṁbhavaḥ |
avidyāyā nirodhas tu jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt ||11||
In the ceasing of ignorance,

There is the non-coming-into-being of formations.

The cessation of ignorance, however,

Is because of the developing (because of the bringing-into-being)
of just this knowing.

tasya tasya nirodhena tat-tan nābhipravartate |
duḥkha-skandhaḥ kevalo 'yam evaṁ samyaṅ nirudhyate ||12||
By the ceasing of this one and of that one,

This one no longer advances and that one no longer advances.

This whole aggregate of suffering

In this way is well and truly ceased.

Just this knowing might be what the Buddha knew by sitting under the bodhi tree, and might be what the Buddha knew on the night before he died when, in teaching the truth of alpecchu-saṁtuṣṭi, “wanting little and being content,” the Buddha asserted that a person of small desire already has nirvāṇa.

I have again laboured the point. But the point I am making deserves to be laboured at least to the extent that previous translators have not got it. In Aśvaghoṣa's writing irony is every-present, and today's verse is no exception. But the irony is wicked, and so it has tended to be missed, almost completely, by Buddhist scholars who have seen Aśvaghoṣa as some kind of goody-goody Buddhist evangelist. (Thus, for example, EHJ: What wise man engaged in a remedial process would assume that he is partaking of enjoyments? PO: What wise man, while employing remedies, would think 'I am relishing enjoyments?')

The irony in today's verse, to sum it up, might be that the very thing that the wise relish most, is the work of counteracting suffering – while drinking their washing-up water, while entering a simple dwelling in a secluded place, while putting on a seven-stripe robe, and so on... but primarily with their sitting bones placed on a round meditation cushion.

duḥkha-pratīkāra-nimitta-bhūtāḥ (nom. pl. m.): being causes of counter-acting suffering ; EBC: means for remedying pain; EHJ: means for remedying [people's] suffering
pratīkāra: m. requittal, revenge ; opposition , counteraction , prevention , remedy
nimitta-bhūta: mfn. become or being a cause or reason or means
nimitta: a butt , mark , target ; cause , motive , ground , reason [but see SN Canto 16]
bhūta: mfn. actually happened , true , real (n. an actual occurrence , fact , matter of fact , reality); (ifc.) being or being like anything , consisting of , mixed or joined with

tasmāt: ind. therefore, from that
prajānām (gen. pl.): f. living creatures, mankind, people
viṣayāḥ (nom. pl.): m. objects, sensual enjoyments, objects of the senses
na: not
bhogāḥ (nom. pl.): m. enjoyment ; any object of enjoyment (as food , a festival &c )

aśnāmi = 1st pers. sg. aś: to eat, consume, enjoy
bhogān (acc. pl.): m. enjoyment ; any object of enjoyment (as food , a festival &c )
iti: “...,” thus
kaḥ (nom. sg. m.): who?
abhyupeyāt = 3rd pers. sg. opt. abhy-upa-√i: to go near ; to admit as an argument or a position
prājñaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a wise man

pratīkāra: m. requital ; revenge; opposition , counteraction , prevention , remedy
pratīkāra-vidhau (loc. sg.): the counteracting
vidhi: m. use , employment , application ; a means , expedient for ; (ifc. often pleonastically e.g. mathana-vidhi , the [act of] disturbing)
pravṛttān (acc. pl. m.): mfn. going to , bound for (acc. loc.); devoted to (loc.)
pravṛttaḥ [EHJ] (nom. sg. m.): mfn. purposing or going to , bent upon (dat. loc. , or comp.) ; engaged in , occupied with , devoted to (loc. or comp.); acting , proceeding , dealing with (loc.)

是故應當知 五欲非自在
如人得熱病 求諸冷治藥

Sunday, June 29, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.38: Towards Washing Pollutants Away

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Sālā)
nidrā-vighātāya tathaiva śayyā yānaṁ tathādhva-śrama-nāśanāya |
tathāsanaṁ sthāna-vinodanāya snānaṁ mjārogya-balāśrayāya || 11.38

A place to lie down [or the act of lying down],
likewise, for striking a blow against sleep;

A vehicle [or the act of going],
again, for taking the strain out of a journey;

A seat [or the act of sitting],
again, for revelling in the act of abiding;

And a bath [or the act of bathing],
as a means for cleansing, and for health and strength.

The hard work on today's verse has, I hope, was mainly done yesterday.

That being so, in the 1st pāda śayyā ostensibly means a bed, a place to crash out and snore; a place in EBC's words “for removing drowsiness” (EHJ: “for riddance of drowsiness”; PO: “to expel drowsiness”). But if, taking the hint from yesterday's verse, we understand that the bodhisattva is pointing to the cessation of suffering through destruction of all polluting influences, then śayyā, as a place to lie down, may better be understood as a place like the couch in Marjory Barlow's teaching room. That place was not a site for lying down and having a kip in order to remove drowsiness on a temporary basis; it was more akin to a battleground in the war against sleep, i.e. in the war against unconsciousness, or the war against ignorance.

Then in the 2nd pāda, again, a yāna ostensibly means a vehicle with two or four wheels, a cart or a wagon. But what Aśvaghoṣa might have in mind below the surface is the vehicle called in the Lotus Sutra 一仏乗, the one Buddha-vehicle. Thus:
Śariputra. The Tathāgata only by means of the one Buddha-vehicle preaches the Dharma for living beings. There is no other vehicle, neither a second nor a third. (LS1.90, Expedient Means).

In the 2nd, 3rd and 4th pādas, yāna and āsana and snāna are -na neuter action nouns, and so their original meaning is “the act of going,” “the act of sitting” and “the act of bathing.” For that matter, śayyā in the 1st pāda can mean “the act of lying down.” In today's verse, then, following on from the allusion in yesterday's verse to the use of the material requisites as a means of ridding oneself of polluting influences, the sense is to the fore of using not only material requisites but also actions as a means of ridding oneself of those polluting influences, or taints (āsrava).

The key to seeing these double-meanings in the -na action nouns, for this reader anyway, is āsana in the 3rd pāda. Aśvaghoṣa often uses āsana ostensibly to mean seat but below the surface to suggest sitting itself, as in the phrase used in the strap line to this blog, kāñcanam āsanam (golden sitting; see BC5.44).

In today's verse, then, the ostensible meaning of the 3rd pāda is something like “a seat for alleviating the pain of standing” (EBC); “thus too a seat for relief from standing” (EHJ); “a seat too as a respite from standing” (PO). But vinodana literally means diversion or play, and the real or hidden meaning, as I read it, is to point to sitting-meditation as Dogen described it, as 安楽法門 (ANRAKU [no] HOMON), a Dharma-gate which is easy, comfortable, peaceful, happy – in short, totally free from the taints of asceticism, religiosity, and trying to be right. (Just because I describe it like this doesn't mean that I always remember to practise and experience it like this.)

The question that then arises is why āsana, the act of sitting, is alluded to in the 3rd pāda rather than the 4th pāda – as might be expected in view of a Zen patriarch's reverence of sitting as the ultimate.

When I asked myself that question and -- after a sandwich and a nap – went to sit outside on a very quiet afternoon by the forest, the answer was too obvious for words. As obvious as the lavender-coloured lavender flowers whose lavender colour had been deepened by the afternoon showers. The 4th pāda is pointing in the right direction, which is towards freedom from the polluting influences. Polluting influences means, for example, wanting this and that, and aspiring to become this or that, and end-gaining in one's ignorance for this and that. And what better symbol to use, as a means for freeing the body-and-mind from such polluting influences, than a bath?

Shobogenzo chap. 7 is titled 洗浄, SENJO. And 洗浄 means washing, cleansing, bathing -- not only figuratively, but practically too, using water, soap, etc. The chapter begins like this: 
There is practice-and-experience that Buddhist patriarchs have guarded and maintained: it is called not being tainted.

What this not being tainted means can be understood on many levels, including the level of personal hygeine. But one of the reasons Master Kodo Sawaki was revered so highly in Japan as maybe the greatest Zen teacher of the 20th century is that he was, so they say, despite being a Zen monk, conspicuously free of any spiritual agenda. Hence the fondness of Taisen Deshimaru and his Zen followers in France for the phrase from the Heart Sutra 無所得 (Jap: MUSHOTOKU), having no agenda, having no sense of what's in it for me.

Again, however, it should be acknowledged, and confessed, that those who talk the talk do not always walk the walk.

Any way up, and in conclusion, the most important thing, with or without a personal or spiritual agenda, might be just to keep walking the walk, to keep on going (yāna) – while not neglecting other -na neuter action nouns like sitting (āsana) and bathing (snāna).

My final reflection today, having slept on the above and sat, is that I don't want to add much more in the way of a final reflection, since these comments have been from the beginning too wordy and long, and recently they are getting even worse. Except to add that each pāda in today's verse, as also in yesterday's verse, has as its main element a compound in the dative case. Moreover, the last three pādas in today's verse each ends with a word in the dative case. And the dative case conveys a sense of movement towards, of going in the right direction. So the grammar sort of reminds us, in Sanskrit if not so well in English, that there is such a thing as a right direction. And this truth helps me to get out of bed in the morning, helps me to stop worrying whether I have showed myself to be a bad guy with a personal agenda or a good guy without one... and get bloody on with it.

Causing ears vis-a-vis shoulders, and nose vis-a-vis navel, to be opposed, is vital.

When Dogen wrote this sentence he was not describing how to position the ears and shoulders out of some misguided notion of symmetry. He was, as I hear him, describing an antagonistic direction whereby the swathes of muscles between the left mastoid process and the right shoulder, and between the right mastoid process and left shoulder, are releasing, so that the back lengthens and widens, and mindfulness of breathing can really mean something.

nidrā-vighātāya (dat. sg.): for striking a blow against sleep
nidrā: f. sleep , slumber , sleepiness , sloth
vighāta: m. a stroke , blow with (comp.) ; driving back , warding off ; destruction ; removal
tathā: likewise
eva: (emphatic)
śayyā (nom. sg.): f. a bed, couch, sofa ; lying , reposing , sleeping ; resort, refuge

yānam (nom. sg.): n. going , moving , riding , marching &c; n. a vehicle of any kind , carriage , waggon , vessel , ship , litter , palanquin ; n. (with Buddhists) the vehicle or method of arriving at knowledge , the means of release from repeated births (there are either 3 systems , the śrāvaka-yāna , the pratyeka-buddha-y° or pratyeka-y° , and the mahā-y° ; or more generally only 2 , the mahā-yāna or " Great method " and the hina-y° or " Lesser method " ; sometimes there is only " One Vehicle " , the eka-yāna , or " one way to beatitude ")
tathā: likewise
adhva-śrama-nāśanāya (dat. sg.): for destroying the fatigue of a journey
adhva: m. a road ; a journey
śrama: fatigue , weariness , exhaustion ; exertion, toil
nāśana: n. destruction , removal

tathā: likewise
āsanam (nom. sg.): n. sitting ; a seat
sthāna-vinodanāya (dat. sg.): for diversion in abiding
sthāna: n. the act of standing ; staying, abiding ; continued existence , continuance in the same state (i.e. in a kind of neutral state unmarked by loss or gain) ; place of standing or staying , any place , spot , locality , abode ,
vinodana: n. diversion , play , amusement , pastime
vinoda: m. driving away , removal; diversion , sport , pastime , pleasure , playing or amusing one's self with (comp.)

snānam (nom. sg.): n. bathing, washing
mṛjārogya-balāśrayāya (dat. sg.): as an aid to cleanliness, health, and strength.
mṛjā: f. wiping , cleansing , washing , purification , ablution
arogya: mfn. healthy
bala: n. power, strength
aśraya: help , assistance , protection ; mfn. ifc. depending on , resting on , endowed or furnished with

行疲故求乘 立惓求床座

除垢故沐浴 皆爲息苦故

Saturday, June 28, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.37: Towards Clearing of Pollutants, by Diving into Water (& Biting into Food Etc.)

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
iṣṭaṁ hi tarṣa-praśamāya toyaṁ kṣun-nāśa-hetor-aśanaṁ tathaiva |
vātātapāmbv-āvaraṇāya veśma kaupīna-śītāvaraṇāya vāsaḥ || 11.37

For water is good for the purpose of allaying thirst;

Food, in a very similar way, for staving off hunger;

A dwelling for protection against wind, the heat of the sun, and rain;

Clothing for covering the private parts and protecting against cold.

Thinking exactly about what the bodhisattva is saying both on the surface and below the surface, though I may have been on the right lines yesterday I probably need to go back and tweak the translation. For example:

As for the view “But desires are enjoyments!”,

No desire is to be reckoned as “to be enjoyed.”

Clothes and other such material goods in the world,

Are rather to be seen in terms of counteracting pain.

The point to be clear about, in regard to yesterday's verse, is that the bodhisattva was ostensibly thinking light of enjoyment of material goods like clothes, since such enjoyment addresses only the symptoms of pain and suffering; but below the surface the bodhisattva might be suggesting something much more fundamental about the attitude towards material objects of a practitioner whose fundamental task is to cut off pain and suffering at the root.

In today's verse, then, the bodhisattva ostensibly is continuing to think light of what he has been calling kameṣu and viṣayeṣu, desires, pleasures, objects of the senses, objects of sensual enjoyment. These objects include material necessities like water, food, shelter and clothing which are iṣṭam, sought, desired, approved as good – in the same way that good medicine is sought, and approved as good, not because it is enjoyable to take but because it has utilitarian merit.

So on the surface the bodhisattva seems to be saying that water is desired, or approved as good (iṣṭam) in order to allay thirst – i.e. that water has the practical merit of allaying thirst, but no significance beyond that in terms of what really matters. What really matters, the bodhisattva has been suggesting, is nurturing the desire for freedom and rendering oneself immune to the pernicious influence of miscellaneous other desires.

But below the surface how buddhas and bodhisattvas feel about water has to run much deeper than dry appreciation of its utilitarian merit. So, on reflection, we are forced to think again about what the bodhisattva is really saying.

To what extent it is a native sensibility and to what extent a lasting influence of Dogen's teaching, I don't know, but in Japan water is revered as much more than a material substance that is good for allaying thirst. One manifestation of that reverence is the widespread use of the honorific o- before mizu, so that an ordinary Japanese woman in the kitchen is liable to talk not of mizu (water) but o-mizu (the honourable water). This is as per the teaching of Zen Master Dogen in Shobogenzo chap. 82, JI-KUIN-MON, Sentences to Be Shown in the Kitchen Hall.

One thinks again of the famous story of the half-dipper bridge at Eihei-ji temple, where Dogen, so the story goes, would take a dipper of water from the stream and pour half of the water back into the stream, out of some kind of unfathomable reverence for the stream and the water.

At the same time, I venture to suggest, buddhas and bodhisattvas are not beyond appreciating water from the point of view of atoms and molecules whizzing about, which is how my son, when studying for a Chemistry A level, deepened my own appreciation of water. While we tend to take water for granted (and as I write, in fact, it is absolutely pissing it down with rain), water turns out to have some unique and amazing chemical properties.

Do the Zen patriarchs have water in their dojos, their places of practice?, Dogen asks at the end of Shobogenzo chap. 14, SANSUIGYO, The Sutra of Mountains and Water. Dogen leaves the question unanswered. But the right answer, of course, is: You bet they do. And not because they appreciate water only for its utilitarian merit.

Again, what does the Buddha tell Rāhula about water? Does the Buddha tell his son that water is good only for allaying thirst? No, he does not. What he says about water is this:

Āposamaṁ Rāhula bhāvanaṁ bhāvehi
Develop developing, Rāhula, like water.

Just as, Rāhula, they wash away what is clean in the water, and they wash away what is unclean, and they wash away what has become dung, and they wash away what has become urine, and they wash away what has become spit, and they wash away what has become pus, and they wash away what has become blood, but the water is not distressed, or ashamed, or disgusted by it...

evam-eva kho tvaṁ Rāhula āposamaṁ bhāvanaṁ bhāvehi,
just so do you, Rāhula, develop the developing that is the evenness of water.

In these terms, water as the Buddha directs Rāhula's attention to it, is not an object of enjoyment, is not a thing “to be enjoyed” (bhogya); but water is very much a thing for a practitioner to use, and to appreciate -- for its evenness and for its other myraid virtues -- in the work of counteracting pain and suffering at the deepest levels of origination of pain and suffering 

The situation with food can be understood to be exactly the same (tathaiva) or to be very similar (tathaiva) as with water. What does the Buddha tell Nanda, in relation to eating and enjoyment of food, at the beginning of SN Canto 14?

cikitsārthaṃ yathā dhatte vraṇasyālepanaṃ vraṇī /
Just as one who is wounded, for the purpose of healing,
puts ointment on a wound,
kṣud-vighātārtham-āhāras-tadvat sevyo mumukṣuṇā // 14.11 //
So does one who wills freedom, for the purpose of staving off hunger, eat food.

bhārasyodvahanārthaṃ ca rathākṣo 'bhyajyate yathā /
Just as, in order to ready it for bearing a burden, 
one greases a wagon's axle,
bhojanaṃ prāṇa-yātrārthaṃ tadvad vidvān-niṣevate // 14.12 //
So, in order to journey through life, 
does the wise man utilize food.

samatikramaṇārthaṃ ca kāntārasya yathādhvagau /
And just as two travellers in order to cross a wasteland
putra-māṃsāni khādetāṃ dampatī bhṛśa-duḥkhitau // 14.13 //
Might feed upon the flesh of a child,
though grievously pained to do so, as its mother and father,

evam-abhyavahartavyaṃ bhojanaṃ pratisaṃkhyayā /
So food should be eaten, consciously,
na bhūṣārthaṃ na vapuṣe na madāya na dṛptaye // 14.14 //
Neither for display, nor for appearance;
neither to stimulate intemperance, nor to feed extravagance.

dhāraṇārthaṃ śarīrasya bhojanaṃ hi vidhīyate /
Food is provided for the upkeep of the body
upastambhaḥ pipatiṣor-durbalasyeva veśmanaḥ // 14.15 //
As if to prop, before it falls, a dilapidated house.

plavaṃ yatnād yathā kaś-cid badhnīyād dhārayed-api /
Just as somebody might take pains to build and then carry a raft,
na tat-snehena yāvat-tu mahaughasyottitīrṣayā // 14.16 //
Not because he is so fond of it but because he means to cross a great flood,

tathopakaraṇaiḥ kāyaṃ dhārayanti parīkṣakāḥ /
So too, by various means, do men of insight sustain the body,
na tat-snehena yāvat-tu duḥkhaughasya titīrṣayā // 14.17 //
Not because they are so fond of it
but because they mean to cross a flood of suffering.

śocatā pīḍyamānena dīyate śatrave yathā /
Just as a king under siege yields, in sorrow, to a rival king,
na bhaktyā nāpi tarṣeṇa kevalaṃ prāṇa-guptaye // 14.18 //
Not out of devotion, nor through thirsting, but solely to safeguard life,

yogācāras-tathāhāraṃ śarīrāya prayacchati /
So the devotee of practice tenders food to his body
kevalaṃ kṣud-vighātārthaṃ na rāgeṇa na bhaktaye // 14.19 //
Solely to stave off hunger, neither with passion nor as devotion.

The 2nd pada of today's verse seems to say that just as it is with water, exactly so (tathaiva) is it with food.

But is it? Is it exactly the same? Or is it very similar? I think it is very similar, with one important difference, which is that water in general cannot become the object of human greed. If drinking water causes a thirsty drinker to feel even more thirsty, that is a sign of dehydration, and so the drinker should carry on and drink more water. If drinking wine, beer or cider and eating delicious food causes the eater to want to eat and drink more and more, however, that is liable to be a case of greed, with potentially pernicious consequences to health and to practice. So I read tathaiva in the 2nd pāda as meaning “very similarly.”

Below the surface, philosophically thinking (in terms of a four-phased dialectic), it may thus be possible to read the 1st pāda as tending to suggest positive affirmation of value beyond the purely utilitarian, and the 2nd pāda as tending to suggest stoic negation of the positive.

In that case, how should we see a dwelling? Can a case be made for seeing a dwelling as residing in the middle way between water and food? Even in the Buddha's day, for example, there were vihāras, which might have been appreciated as more than utilitarian sheds. And even before there were vihāras, there were dwellings – old shrines and the like – that the Buddha describes in the Pali suttas as ramaṇīya, “delightful.”

Finally, at the fourth phase, we have the kaṣāya, the Buddha's robe, whose unfathomable merits, needless to say, go far beyond covering the private parts and protecting against cold.

As if this comment were not already long enough, EHJ adds in passing a brief footnote encouraging us to compare today's verse with Majjhima I, 10.

The section EHJ refers to is titled Sabbāsavasutta, translated in this version as “All the Taints.” In Sanskrit it would be sarvāsrava-sūtra, or “The Sutra of All the Pollutants” or “The Sutra of All the Polluting Influences.”

The specific passage is titled paṭisevanāpahātabbaāsava, “Taints to be Abandoned by Using” or “Polluting Influences to be Abandoned through the Use [of Material Things]":

Katame ca, bhikkhave, āsavā paṭisevanā pahātabbā? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu paṭisaṅkhā yoniso cīvaraṃ paṭisevati: ‘yāvadeva sītassa paṭighātāya, uṇhassa paṭighātāya, ḍaṃ­samaka­sa­vātāta­pa­sarīsa­pa­samphas­sā­naṃ paṭighātāya, yāvadeva hiri­kopī­nap­paṭic­chāda­nat­thaṃ’.What taints, bhikkhus, should be abandoned by using? Here a bhikkhu, reflecting wisely, uses the robe only for protection from cold, for protection from heat, for protection from contact with gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, the sun, and creeping things, and only for the purpose of concealing the private parts.
Paṭisaṅkhā yoniso piṇḍapātaṃ paṭisevati: ‘neva davāya, na madāya, na maṇḍanāya, na vibhūsanāya, yāvadeva imassa kāyassa ṭhitiyā yāpanāya, vihiṃ­sū­para­tiyā, brahma­cari­yā­nuggahāya, iti purāṇañca vedanaṃ paṭihaṅkhāmi navañca vedanaṃ na uppādessāmi, yātrā ca me bhavissati anavajjatā ca phāsuvihāro ca’.“Reflecting wisely, he uses almsfood neither for amusement nor for intoxication nor for the sake of physical beauty and attractiveness, but only for the endurance and continuance of this body, for ending discomfort, and for assisting the holy life, considering: ‘Thus I shall terminate old feelings without arousing new feelings and I shall be healthy and blameless and shall live in comfort.’
Paṭisaṅkhā yoniso senāsanaṃ paṭisevati: ‘yāvadeva sītassa paṭighātāya, uṇhassa paṭighātāya, ḍaṃ­samaka­sa­vātāta­pa­sarīsa­pa­samphas­sā­naṃ paṭighātāya, yāvadeva utuparis­saya­vinoda­na­paṭi­sallā­nā­rāmat­thaṃ’.“Reflecting wisely, he uses the resting place only for protection from cold, for protection from heat, for protection from contact with gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, the sun, and creeping things, and only for the purpose of warding off the perils of climate and for enjoying retreat.
Paṭisaṅkhā yoniso gilā­nappac­caya­bhesaj­ja­parik­khā­raṃ paṭisevati: ‘yāvadeva uppannānaṃ veyyā­bādhi­kā­naṃ vedanānaṃ paṭighātāya, abyā­bajjha­parama­tāya’.“Reflecting wisely, he uses the medicinal requisites only for protection from arisen afflicting feelings and for the benefit of good health.
Yañhissa, bhikkhave, appaṭisevato uppajjeyyuṃ āsavā ­vighā­ta­pari­ḷāhā, paṭisevato evaṃsa te āsavā ­vighā­ta­pari­ḷāhā na honti. Ime vuccanti, bhikkhave, āsavā paṭisevanā pahātabbā.“While taints, vexation, and fever might arise in one who does not use the requisites thus, there are no taints, vexation, or fever in one who uses them thus. These are called the taints that should be abandoned by using.”

At the conclusion of the Sutta, having described taints/pollutants to be abandoned by various means, including paṭisevanā (by using [material things]) and bhāvanā (by developing), the Buddha states:
yaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave: ‘bhikkhu sabbā­sava­saṃ­vara­saṃ­vuto viharati, acchecchi taṇhaṃ, vivattayi saṃyojanaṃ, sammā mānābhisamayā antamakāsi dukkhassā’”ti.[when the taints that should be abandoned... by using... by developing, etc. have been abandoned...... by using... by developing, etc.] then he is called a bhikkhu who dwells restrained with the restraint of all the taints. He has severed craving, flung off the fetters, and with the complete penetration of conceit he has made an end of suffering.”

What was it again that the Buddha told Nanda at the beginning of SN Canto 16 in the direction of destroying the polluting influences (āsrava-saṃkṣayāya)?

evaṃ mano-dhāraṇayā krameṇa vyapohya kiṁ-cit samupohya kiṁ-cit /
Thus, by methodically taking possession of the mind,
getting rid of something and gathering something together,
dhyānāni catvāry-adhigamya yogī prāpnoty-abhijñā niyamena pañca // SN16.1
The practitioner makes the four dhyānas his own,
and duly acquires the five powers of knowing...

ataḥ paraṃ tattva-parikṣaṇena mano dadhāty-āsrava-saṃkṣayāya /
From then on, through investigation of what is,
he applies his mind to destroying the polluting influences,
tato hi duḥkha-prabhṛtīni samyak catvāri satyāni padāny-avaiti // SN16.3
For on this basis he fully understands suffering and the rest,
the four true standpoints.

bādhātmakaṃ duḥkham-idaṃ prasaktaṃ duḥkhasya hetuḥ prabhavātmako 'yam /
This is suffering, which is constant and akin to trouble;
this is the cause of suffering, akin to starting it;
duḥkha-kṣayo niḥsaraṇātmako 'yaṃ trāṇātmako 'yaṃ praśamāya mārgaḥ // SN16.4 
This is cessation of suffering, akin to walking away.
And this, akin to a refuge, is a peaceable path.

ity-ārya-satyāny-avabudhya buddhyā catvāri samyak pratividhya caiva /
Understanding these noble truths, by a process of reasoning,
while getting to know the four as one,
sarvāsravān bhāvanayābhibhūya na jāyate śāntim-avāpya bhūyaḥ // SN16.5
He prevails over all pollutants, by the means of mental development,
and, on finding peace, is no longer subject to becoming.

In conclusion, then, today's verse, when we dive into it and bite into it and take refuge in it and envelop ourselves in it completely, might be a kind of dojo in which to understand the underlying dialectic of the four noble truths, and in which to get to know those four as one.

At the same time, insofar as it points us back to what the Buddha taught about using material things in such a way as to abandon the polluting influences (asravān), today's verse might be a kind of pointer in the direction of prevailing over those polluting influences.

The underlying suggestion might be that prevailing over those polluting influences -- in other words, eliminating suffering at root – is not accomplished by seeing material necessities as “things to be enjoyed” or “objects of enjoyment”; but such victory IS to be accomplished by using those material necessities in such a way that demonstrates true appreciation of them.

So apologies again for another unduly long post, but at present I am by the forest in France with plenty of time (when I am not chasing grass snakes out of the house) to ponder; and, as always, the more one digs into every verse that Aśvaghoṣa wrote, the more one realizes there is to dig for below the surface of each verse, and the more one realizes there is to research in the background to each verse.

no whiff of [unreal fancies] should be tolerated, as if they were snakes in the house (SN16.82)

In the background to much of what Aśvaghoṣa wrote, evidently, was material that is much more familiar to students of the Pali Suttas than it is to devotees of Chinese and Japanese Zen. I am thinking in particular about prevailing over pollutants by means of developing/meditation.

Though it was apparently very rare for Buddhist monks in Japan to discuss teachings regarded as belonging to the Hīnayāna, the small vehicle, Zen Master Dogen wrote a chapter of Shobogenzo, chap. 73, titled SANJUSHICHI-BON-BODAI-BUNPO, “The 37 Elements of Bodhi.” In Pali that would be Sattatiṁsā Bodhipakkhiyadhammā, 37 Things on the Side of Awakening.

Dogen wrote that those 37 were the very eyes and nostrils of Gautama Buddha. At the same time, he wrote in conclusion that we should forget all about them, cutting everything out by sitting. 

In order truly to appreciate where Aśvaghoṣa was coming from, and what direction Aśvaghoṣa was veering in, I venture to submit, we are called upon, even in a seemingly innocuous-looking verse like today's verse, to appreciate, for a start, both these aspects of the Zen patriarchs' teaching. The two mutually opposing aspects are like something very devoted to the teaching of Gautama Buddha co-existing with something very ironic and subversive. Like believing in absolutely everything and believing in absolutely nothing.

Mining Aśvaghoṣa gold is, among other things, a kind of training in dealing with this difficult opposition. 

Master Kodo Sawaki, who my teacher regarded as his teacher, even though Master Kodo didn't regard my teacher as his student, apparently used to say, "A buddha can do this" (joining hands and bowing), and "A buddha can do this" (touching his lower eyelash with his index finger and pulling the skin down). 

iṣṭam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. sought, wished for, desired ; liked ; agreeable ; reverenced ; regarded as good , approved
hi: for
tarṣa-praśamāya (dat. sg.): for allaying of thirst
toyam (nom. sg.): n. water

kṣun-nāśa-hetoḥ (gen. sg.): for the removal of hunger
kṣudh: f. hunger
nāśa: m. the being lost , loss; ifc. destroying
aśanam (nom. sg.): n. eating, food
tathā: ind. likewise
eva: (emphatic)

vātātapāmbvāvaraṇāya (dat. sg.): for protection against wind, heat, and water
vāta: m. wind
ātapa: m. heat (especially of the sun) , sunshine
ambu: n. water
āvaraṇa: n. the act of covering
veśma (nom. sg.): n. a house , dwelling , mansion , abode , apartment

kaupīna-śītāvaraṇāya: for covering private parts and protecting against cold
kaupīna: n. the pudenda , privities ; a small piece of cloth worn over the privities by poor persons ; a wrong or improper act , sin = kaupa, n. well-water
kaupa: mfn. (fr. kūpa) , coming from a well or cistern; n. well-water
śīta: n. cold , coldness , cold weather
āvaraṇa: n. the act of covering
vāsaḥ (nom. sg.): n. clothes, clothing

食以療飢患 除渇故飮水 

Friday, June 27, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 11.36: Glad Rags - for Symptomatic Relief of Suffering

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
kāmās-tu bhogā iti yan-matiḥ syād-bhogyā na ke-cit-parigaṇyamānāḥ |
vastrādayo dravya-guṇā hi loke duḥkha-pratīkāra iti pradhāryāḥ || 11.36

As for the view “But desires are enjoyments!”,

No desire is to be reckoned as enjoyable.

Clothes and other such material goods in the world,

Are rather to be regarded as pain relievers.

The key word in today's verse might be pratīkāraḥ in the 4th pāda, which each of the three professors translated as “remedies.” EBC and PO translated duḥkha-pratīkāraḥ as “remedies for pain,” and EHJ translated “remedies against suffering.”

This stimulated me to go back to Saundara-nanda and check exactly what vocabulary Aśvaghoṣa used in connection with the remedy for suffering, after which I felt as if another small bit of the jigsaw had fallen into place.

When in SN Canto 16 the Buddha, in order to clarify the fourth noble truth, uses the metaphor of a remedy, the word he uses for a remedy is not pratikāra but bhaiṣajya (from bhiṣaj, to heal):

tad-vyādhi-saṃjñāṃ kuru duḥkha-satye doṣeṣv-api vyādhi-nidāna-saṃjñām /
So with regard to the truth of suffering, see suffering as an illness;
with regard to the faults, see the faults as the cause of the illness;
ārogya-saṃjñāṃ ca nirodha-satye bhaiṣajya-saṃjñām-api mārga-satye // SN16.41
With regard to the truth of stopping, see stopping as freedom from disease;
and with regard to the truth of a path, see a path as a remedy.

As part of that healing process, the Buddha advises Nanda to take counter-measures against ideas, thoughts, and fancies. In so advising, the Buddha favours the word pratipakṣa (opposite side, opposition, antagonist, opponent):

tad buddhvā pratipakṣeṇa vitarkaṃ kṣeptum-arhasi /
Being awake to this, you must see off thought by antagonistic means,
sūkṣmeṇa pratikīlena kīlaṃ dārv-antarād-iva // SN15.29
As if using a finely-honed counter-wedge to drive a wedge from a cleft in a log....

tasmād-eṣāṃ vitarkāṇāṃ prahāṇārthaṃ samāsataḥ /
So for the giving up, in short, of all these ideas,
ānāpāna-smṛtiṃ saumya viṣayī-kartum-arhasi // SN15.64
Reflective awareness while breathing out and in, my friend,
you should make into your own possession.

ity-anena prayogeṇa kāle sevitum-arhasi /
Using this device you should take in good time
pratipakṣān vitarkāṇāṃ gadānām-agadān-iva // SN15.65
Counter-measures against ideas, like remedies against illnesses.

(In this verse "remedies" is agadān -- agada meaning a medicine or drug, but especially an antitdote.)

te ced-alabdha-pratipakṣa-bhāvān naivopaśāmyeyur-asad-vitarkāḥ /
If their counteragent cannot be found and unreal fancies do not subside,
muhūrtam-apy-aprativadhyamānā gṛhe bhujaṃgā iva nādhivāsyāḥ // SN16.82 
They must not for a moment be left unchecked:
no whiff of them should be tolerated, as if they were snakes in the house.

In SN Canto 17 the Buddha does use the word pratīkāra, but – as in today's verse – it is in a somewhat pejorative sense:

yataḥ prasūtasya ca karmayogaḥ prasajyate bandha-vighāta-hetuḥ /
Insofar as a creature's industry, 
motivated by bond-making or bond-breaking impulse,
duḥkha-pratīkāra-vidhau sukhākhye tato bhavaṃ duḥkham-iti vyapaśyat // SN17.19 
Is dependent on a prescription, named "pleasure," for symptomatic relief of pain,
he saw, on that account, that existence is suffering.

Exactly thinking, then, on the evidence of Aśvaghoṣa's choice of words in Saundarananda, and also following the gist of the argument that the bodhisattva is about to unfold, we should not understand pratīkāra in today's verse as meaning a remedy, in the sense of a medicine that promotes true healing. We should rather understand duḥkha-pratīkāra as meaning a painkiller, an analgesic or mild anaesthetic, something that gives temporary symptomatic relief from pain and suffering without going to the real root of the problem.

Read like this, then, today's verse gives me another excuse to carry on with what I hope is the good work of connecting root and branch.


Avijjāya tveva asesavirāganirodhā saṅkhāranirodho...
But from the complete fading away and cessation of ignorance
there is the cessation of (volitional) processes...

...jātinirodhā jarāmaraṇaṁ,
...from the cessation of birth, old age, death,

sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā nirujjhanti,
grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow, and despair (all) cease,

evam-etassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa nirodho hotī” ti.
and so there is a cessation of this whole mass of suffering.”


saṁsāra-mūlaṁ-saṁskārān-avidvān saṁskaroty-ataḥ 
Volitional formations, the root of saṁsāra, thus the unconscious one forms. 
avidvān kārakas tasmān na vidvāṁs tattva-darśanāt ||MMK26.10||
The unconscious one therefore is the doer; 
the conscious one is not, because of reality showing itself.

avidyāyāṁ niruddhāyāṁ saṁskārāṇām asaṁbhavaḥ |
In the inhibition of unconsciousness, 
there is the non-coming-into-being of formations.
avidyāyā nirodhas tu jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt ||MMK26.11||
The inhibition of unconsciousness, however,
is because of the bringing into being of just this knowing.

tasya tasya nirodhena tat-tan nābhipravartate |
By the ending of this and that [link] this and that [link] no longer continue.
duḥkha-skandhaḥ kevalo 'yam evaṁ samyaṅ nirudhyate ||MMK26.12||
This whole aggregate of suffering in this way is well and truly ended.


Learn the backward step of turning light and reflecting.

Body and mind will spontaneously drop off

And the original features will emerge.


A final reflection is that when we go back to the original root, by which I mean that original teaching of the Buddha which the Pali Suttas endeavor to transmit verbatim and in which the writings of Aśvaghoṣa are evidently firmly grounded, the original root is very much concerned with eradication of the original root of suffering, which is namely unconsciousness or ignorance – avidyā in Sanskrit, avijjā in Pali.

But when I observe my habitual pscychophysical tendency in response to a recognition like the above, my habitual tendency as one who like solving puzzles is to be too seriously focused – at least for a time – on the target I have identified. My vision thus tends to become tunnel vision, I lose touch with Aśvaghoṣa's ever-present sense of ironic humour, and forget what Marjory Barlow used to emphasize as rule number one in Alexander work, which is that it should be enjoyable. (“It has to be fun.”)

So in the specific context of today's verse, the way I took it yesterday, when preparing the above comment, before I slept on it and sat and observed my self-righteous self, was as expressing a “somewhat pejorative” judgement on aspirin, paracetomol, ibuprofen, and the like. But on reflection the 1st dhyāna is a stage which is defined as being enjoyable, and  also as containing thoughts, considerations, reflections. It is not always a question of sitting on a round black cushion and going directly to jail without passing Go. The 1st dhyāna, moreover, is defined as separated, secluded, or distanced from desires – even from the desire to get swiftly to the original root of suffering and eradicate it.

At least as a starting point, I reflected this morning, bring on a bit of pain relief !


kāmāḥ (nom. pl.): m. desires
tu: but
bhogāḥ (nom. pl.): m. enjoyment , eating ; sexual enjoyment ; enjoyment of the earth or of a country i.e. rule , sway ; experiencing , feeling , perception (of pleasure or pain)
iti: “..,” thus
yad (acc. sg. n.): which
matiḥ (nom. sg.): f. thought, design ; opinion , notion , idea , belief , conviction , view , creed
matam [EBC] (acc. sg. n.): mfn. thought , believed , imagined , supposed , understood
syāt = 3rd pers. sg. opt. as: to be

bhogāḥ (nom. pl.): m. enjoyment , eating ; sexual enjoyment ; enjoyment of the earth or of a country i.e. rule , sway ; experiencing , feeling , perception (of pleasure or pain)
bhogyāḥ [EHJ] (nom. pl. m.): mfn. to be enjoyed , to be used (in the sense " to be eaten " bhojya is more common) , what may be enjoyed or used , useful , profitable
na ke-cit (nom. pl. m.): none, not any of them
parigaṇyamānāḥ = nom. pl. pres. part. passive pari- √ gaṇ: to count over , reckon up completely , ascertain by calculation ; to calculate , reckon , consider , reflect

vastrādayaḥ (nom. pl. m.): clothes et cetera
vastra: n. cloth , clothes , garment , raiment , dress , cover
dravya-guṇāḥ (nom. pl. m.): the accessories of (i.e. unimportant) things, Bcar. xi, 36
dravya: n. a substance , thing , object ; the ingredients or materials of anything ; medicinal substance or drug ; object of possession , wealth , goods , money
guṇa: m. a secondary element , subordinate or unessential part of any action (e.g. sarva-guṇa mfn. " reaching to all subordinate parts " , hence " valid throughout ") ; good quality , virtue , merit , excellence ; an organ of sense
EBC: “only the accessories of things”; EHJ: “the material objects of sense”; FN: For guṇa in the meaning 'object of sense', cp. the Buddhist use of kāmaguṇa.
kāmaguṇa: m. " quality of desire " , affection , passion ; satiety , perfect enjoyment ; an object of sense ; m. pl. the objects of the five senses , sensual enjoyments
hi: for
loke (loc. sg.): in the world

duḥkha-pratīkāraḥ (nom. sg.): m. a remedy for pain, Bcar.
pratīkāra = pratikāra: m. requital , retaliation , reward , retribution , revenge ; opposition , counteraction , prevention , remedy
prati- √ kṛ: to do or make an opposition; to counteract , resist ; to treat , attend to , cure (a disease)
iti: “...,” thus
pradhāryāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. to be regarded as (nom.), Bcar.
pra- √ dhṛ: , to set the mind upon anything (dat.) , resolve , determine : Caus. P. -dhārayati , to chastise , inflict a punishment on any one (loc. ; cf. daṇḍaṁ- √dhṛ) ; to keep in remembrance ; to reflect , consider

觀察資生具 非爲自在法