Sunday, November 30, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.118: The Certainty of Buddhahood – Reptilian Wisdom, Ctd.

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
yathā bhramantyo divi cāṣa-paṅktayaḥ pradakṣiṇaṁ tvāṁ kamalākṣa kurvate |
yathā ca saumyā divi vānti vāyavas tvam adya buddho niyataṁ bhaviṣyasi || 12.118 

As surely as flocks of blue jays wheeling through the sky

Keep you, O lotus-eyed one!, on their right wing,

And as surely as in the sky gentle breezes blow,

You today will be an awakened one, a buddha.”


The Sanskrit word for omen is śakuna: n. any auspicious object or lucky omen; and as a masculine noun the same word is used to mean a bird – śakuna: m. (said to be fr. √ śak) a bird (esp. a large bird or one of good or bad omen). The vṛddhi form śākuna means derived from or relating to birds or omens.

In Roman times, similarly, augury was practised primarily with reference to birds and to the sky – as explained in this Wiki entry. Apparently the powers that be in Rome were not above fabricating omens out of political convenience, much as the authorities in various countries today tinker with the inflation and unemployment numbers. 

On the face of it, then, Kāla the cobra is making a prediction about the future, based on reading certain signs. This is as per my comment of yesterday, in which I suggested that this particular snake was capable of weighing up probabilities.

But on further reflection, I decided to change the translation of yathā in yesterday's verse and today's verse from “since” to “as [surely] as.” So yesterday's verse becomes:
“As surely as the earth, O sage!, pressed down under your footsteps, rolls like thunder, / And as surely as the light of you shines forth like the sun, you today will enjoy the longed-for fruit.”

In that way, I think the snake is conveying not so much a supposition about what he thinks will happen in future (e.g. that black cloud will rain on me, with a probability close to 100%) and more a statement of what is imminent and beyond doubt (e.g. that raindrop, for certain, will continue running down the window pane;  that rat, for sure, will be my lunch).

In that case yathā... dhruvam in yesterday's verse and yathā... niyatam in today's verse, both mean, in other words, “as sure as night follows day" -- as in the quote from Hamlet...

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Maybe in the background to today's verse was a pre-Darwinian intuition about the direction of evolution, that direction being bodhāya, away from unconsciousness and ignorance and towards the supreme integral truth of bodhi, conscious awakening – as realized by only a buddha, an awakened one, together with a buddha.

That direction might be, in one word, up.

In my teacher's teaching the ultimate deathless step was a state. Primarily it was a state of balance of the autonomic nervous system. The aim of just sitting was to come back to this state. KAI-IN-ZANMAI was this state, the state like the sea. And BUTSU-KOJO-JI was this state, the ascendant state of buddha. Everything in the Buddha's teaching came back in the end to the balanced state of the autonomic nervous system. The ultimate deathless step was thus taught as something very static.

Alexander work, even when it involves just sitting still, or just lying still, struck me when I met it as much less static. 

Before receiving Alexander's teaching I was always in my sitting following my feeling of what felt right. My sitting was based on a wrong conception of right posture, and that bit of ignorance (avidyā) was the source of all kinds of doings (saṁskārāḥ) -- pull in here, push out there, make this and that symmetrical, etc. etc. But the antidote to building an edifice of suffering on the base of such foolishness is contained in Alexander's famous aphorism, “There is no such thing as a right position, but there is such a thing as a right direction.”

The truth of my teacher's teaching was always there, in the emphasis on coming back – the pratītya of pratītya-samutpāda may be understood as the absolutive of prati-√i, which means to come back. In the compound pratītya-samutpāda,  pratītya acts like an adjective modifying samutpāda. So springing up  (samutpādais akin to a main verb which is modified by an auxiliary verb, the absolutive coming back (pratītya). By just sitting we come back, and by having come back [auxiliary verb] there is the total springing up [main verb].

When today's verse is read in this light, a snake, even with its reptilian brain, even from its lower step on the evolutionary escalator, because it is on the escalator, is able to express with certainty what direction the bodhisattva is going in.

The bodhisattva is going up, in the direction of buddhahood.

In my teacher's teaching the original mind that we come back to is static; it is a state of the autonomic nervous system. But the deeper truth might be that the original mind is not always static. The truth might be that the original mind is on a kind of escalator of swimming, crawling, slithering, flying, swinging through trees, sitting still as a conscious act of non-doing, and so on and so forth, onward and upward.

Did FM Alexander himself realize what the bodhisattva called the ultimate deathless step (param amṛtam padam)?

As far as I know, Alexander himself did not make that claim. He did talk of “coming to quiet,” which brings to mind the metaphor of a lamp that went out when all its fuel had been used up.

And the metaphor of a flame or a fire that has gone out does, I have to admit, suggest a certain state of finality. But there again, Alexander also said that “We have barely scratched the surface of the egg.”

All I know for sure is that the direction my teacher thought was up, ironically, was down. Seeing that irony is the basis for a lot of my effort. Just like in translating Shobogenzo thirty years ago, seeing where my teacher went wrong shows me where there is work for me to do.

So now I am endeavoring to clarify the connection between the Buddha's core teaching of pratītya-samutpāda, and Alexander's realization of the truth that There is no such thing as a right position, but there is such a thing as a right direction.”

The part of BC Canto 14 in which the Buddha realizes pratītya-samutpāda is lost to us in Aśvaghoṣa's original Sanskrit, but retained in the Tibetan translation, which EHJ rendered into English.

Judging from EHJ's translation, Aśvaghoṣa himself does not appear to use the term pratītya-samutpāda in BC Canto 14 -- just as he omits to use the term in Saundarananda. A phrase that Aśvaghoṣa does use in SN Canto 3, in describing the Buddha's teaching of four noble truths, is dvādaśa-niyata-vikalpam “with its statement of twelvefold linkage.”

In a footnote to BC14.52 EHJ refers to this twelvefold chain of causal connections as “the pratītya-samutpāda.” EHJ's note reads: 
“The following description of the pratītya-samutpāda is on perfectly orthodox lines.”

In his summary of EHJ's English translation, PO writes: 
During the third watch, he [Siddhārtha] meditates on the true nature of the world. This leads gradually to the discovery of the causal chain known as Dependent Origination (pratītya-samutpāda) that leads to old age, sickness, and death.

This is in line with the conventional wisdom. Understood like this, pratītya-samutpāda is the causal chain; it is one of those dharmas, or timeless teachings, discussed in BC12.106:
Through meditation's progress are obtained dharmas, timeless teachings, by which is realized the deathless – / That hard-won, quieted, unaging, ultimate immortal step. //

What I am suggesting is that  pratītya-samutpāda is not the causal chain but is practice itself.  Total springing up (by going back), in other words, is not a dharma obtained through a buddha's sitting-meditation; it is sitting-meditation itself.

I am suggesting that when sitting Buddha was sitting Buddha, everything sprang up together (by a process of having gone back, to the root of suffering).

If it were otherwise, how could a snake spring up and predict it?

EHJ translates BC14.83 (from the Tibetan) like this:
Similarly the great seer understood that the factors [saṁskārāḥ; doings] are suppressed by the complete absence of ignorance [avidyā]. Therefore he knew properly what was to be known and stood out before the world as the Buddha.

So for EHJ 'the pratītya-samutpāda' is the twelve links beginning with avidyā and saṁskārāh, and the twelve links are the pratītya-samutpāda.

But another way of understanding it is that the pratītya expresses the going back to ignorance as the cause of doings and the root of suffering, and the samutpāda expresses Buddha springing up as Buddha, and thus standing out before the world as the Buddha.

This imminent springing up, I suppose, is what Kāla, using his reptilian brain, was able to intuit and foresee.

Non-Doctrinal Samutpāda

yathā: ind. as
bhramantyaḥ = nom. pl. f. pres. part. bhram: to wander or roam about , rove , ramble ; to move to and fro or unsteadily , flicker , flutter , reel , totter
divi (loc. sg.): heaven, the sky
cāṣa-paṅktayaḥ (nom. pl.): f. flocks of blue jays
cāṣa: m. the blue jay
paṅkti: f. a row or set or collection of five , the number 5 ; any row or set or series or number , a group , collection , flock , troop , assembly , company

pradakṣiṇam: ind. from left to right , so that the reverential side is turned towards a person or object (also ibc. ; cf. comp. below ; with √ kṛ and pra- √kṛ as above )
pradakṣiṇa: mfn. turning the right side towards , circumambulation from left to right of a person or object (gen. or comp. ; with √ kṛ or √1. dā dat. gen. or loc.) as a kind of worship
tvām (acc. sg.): you
kamalākṣa (voc. sg.): O lotus-eyed one!
kamala: n. a lotus
kurvate = 3rd pers. pl. kṛ: to do, make

yathā: ind. as
ca: and
saumyāḥ (nom. pl. m.): gentle, moony
divi (loc. sg.): the sky
vānti = 3rd pers. pl. vā: to blow (as the wind)
vāyavaḥ = nom. pl. vāyu: m. wind

tvam (nom. sg.): you
adya: ind. today
buddhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. awakened , awake ; expanded, blown ; conscious , intelligent , clever , wise (opp. to mūḍha) ; m. m. a wise or learned man , sage ; m. (with Buddhists) a fully enlightened man who has achieved perfect knowledge of the truth and thereby is liberated from all existence and before his own attainment of nirvāṇa reveals the method of obtaining it , (esp.) the principal buddha of the present age (born at kapila-vastu about the year 500 B.C. his father , śuddhodana , of the śākya tribe or family , being the rāja of that district , and his mother , māyā-devī , being the daughter of rāja su-prabuddha MWB. 19 &c ; hence he belonged to the kṣatriya caste and his original name śākya-muni or śākya-siṁha was really his family name , while that of gautama was taken from the race to which his family belonged ; for his other names » ib. 23 ; he is said to have died when he was 80 years of age , prob. about 420 B.C. ib. 49 n. 1 ; he was preceded by 3 mythical buddhas of the present kalpa , or by 24 , reckoning previous kalpa , or according to others by 6 principal buddhas ib. 136)
niyatam: ind. certainly, without doubt
bhaviṣyasi = 2nd pers. sg. future bhū: to become, be

五百群青雀 右遶空中旋
柔軟清涼風 隨順而迴轉 
如斯諸瑞相 悉同過去佛

Saturday, November 29, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.117: Kāla - Smarter than the Average Cobra

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
yathā mune tvac-caraṇāvapīḍitā muhur-muhur niṣṭanatīva medinī |
yathā ca te rājati sūryavat prabhā dhruvaṁ tvam iṣṭaṁ phalam adya bhokṣyase || 12.117 

“Since, O sage!, pressed down under your footsteps,

The earth seems to roll like thunder,

And since the light of you shines forth like the sun,

Surely you will enjoy today the longed-for fruit.

The black cobra is said to be one of the most revered and highly worshipped snakes in Indian and Hindu mythology.

Though it is thus held in religious awe, and though we tend instinctually to fear it too, scientific observation confirms what a civilized sort of snake the black cobra really is. It tends to shy away from human contact and has the decency, in ninety percent of cases, even when it bites a human being who has intruded into its space, not to inject any venom. (Toward rats, however, it is less inclined to demonstrate reserve.)

Clever though the average cobra may be, this particular hissing Sid who is praising the Buddha-to-be is evidently smarter than the average cobra. He is evidently not only fluent in classical Sanskrit and conversant with the rules of vaṁśasta metre; he is also equipped with the power of reason, and is even able to weigh up the probabilities of future outcomes.

To express the future outcome he has in mind, Kāla uses the metaphor of enjoyment of a fruit. A more negative metaphor is the bringing down of the whole edifice of suffering. And because every reaction has an equal and opposite reaction, bringing something down is invariably a cause and an effect of something springing up -- hence pratītya-samutpāda, springing up by going back, in which compound the sam- of sam-utpāda means "together." So springing up together, by going back

Together might mean the whole body and mind, as an integrated unity, springs up. Or together might mean that not only the body and mind of the Buddha sprang up, but also four-legged friends like Kanthaka the horse sprang up together with the Buddha, and legless beings like Kāla the cobra also sprang up -- not to mention the denizens of heaven.

These meanings are suggested to me by the words that Kāla hisses, or growls, in the 1st pāda of today's verse in which he describes the fertile earth as tvac-caraṇāvapīḍitā, "pressed down by your feet," or "pressed down by your footsteps." The principle here might be the principle of wishing one's sitting bones to drill two holes in one's sitting cushion -- not out of any particular hatred for cushions, but based on the truth that every reaction has an equal and opposite reaction.  

So when my sitting bones are pressing down on the cushion, the cushion is pushing me up. And when the bodhisattva's feet pressed down on the earth, the earth pushed the bodhisattva in the direction of awakening, up. 

The flag counter on this blog indicates that the number of visitors has been falling off recently, not that it was ever very high. 

At the same time, the price of gold took another tumble yesterday. If the direction of the markets is anything to go by, US stocks and bonds continue to represent good value, whereas physical gold is still too expensive and so further correction is necessary. But I think the markets have been distorted by the effects of central bank money printing and bond buying. The distortion of markets causes misallocation of resources. This is something that has been observable in Japan since the time I lived there during the bubble years of the 1980s. During the bubble in equity and property prices, and the more fundamental bubble in capital investment, it was in vogue to talk of "Japan as Number One." The economic bubble was associated with the inflating of a bubble of Japanese confidence, or arrogance. Since the bursting of the bubble from around 1990, artificially low Japanese interest rates have allowed (a) the survival of, and misallocation of resources to, zombie companies in Japan, (b) a so-called "carry trade" in which investment banks and hedge funds have borrowed money cheaply in yen to make higher-yielding investments in other currencies, like US-dollar denominated stocks. 

So I come to the conclusion that there is an awful lot of distortion in the world, not a little of it originating in Japan. Markets are distorted and people's minds are distorted. 

Central banks all over the world, but especially the US Federal Reserve Bank, are concerned to prevent a loss of confidence. If we lose confidence in fiat currencies, and especially in the US dollar as the global reserve currency, then the conditions will be in place for a repeating of the history of the Stock Market Crash of 1929, followed by the Great Depression, and the Second World War. So the Fed does whatever it can do to keep inflated a bubble in which markets are distorted and people's minds are distorted. 

If people's minds were not so distorted, how could there not be less confidence in paper promises and more reliance on real money, which is physical gold? 

Again, if people's minds were not so distorted, how could there not be more interest in mining Aśvaghoṣa's gold? 

yathā: ind. in which manner or way , according as , as , like ; as, because, since
mune (voc. sg.): O sage!
tvac-caraṇāvapīḍitā (nom. sg. f.): pressed down by your feet
caraṇa: mn. foot ; n. going round or about , motion , course ; n. behaviour , conduct of life ; n. good or moral conduct
avapīḍita: mfn. pressed down

muhur-muhur: ind. now and again , at one moment and at another , again and again
niṣṭanati = 3rd pers. sg. niṣṭan: to roar , thunder , sound or cry loudly
stan: , to resound , reverberate , roar , thunder
iva: like
medinī (nom. sg.): f. " having fatness or fertility " , the earth , land , soil , ground

yathā: ind. as
ca: and
te (gen. sg.):
rājati = 3rd pers. sg. rāj: to reign , be king or chief , rule over (gen.) , direct , govern (acc.) ; to be illustrious or resplendent , shine , glitter; to appear as or like (iva)
sūryavat: ind. like the sun
prabhā (nom. sg.): f. light , splendour , radiance , beautiful appearance

dhruvam: ind. firmly , constantly , certainly , surely
tvam (nom. sg.): you
iṣṭam phalam (acc. sg. n.): the desired result
iṣ: to endeavour to obtain , strive , seek for ; to endeavour to make favourable ; to desire , wish , long for , request
adya: ind. today
bhokṣyase = 2nd pers. sg. future bhuj: to enjoy , use , possess

言曾見先佛 地動相如今
牟尼徳尊長 大地所不勝
歩歩足履地 轟轟震動聲

妙光照天下 猶若朝日明 

Friday, November 28, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.116: The Awake Snake Expressesssss Itself

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
tatas tadānīṁ gaja-rāja-vikramaḥ pada-svanenānupamena bodhitaḥ |
mahā-muner āgata-bodhi-niścayo jagāda kālo bhujagottamaḥ stutim || 12.116 

Just then the snake with the spirit of an elephant-king

Was awakened by the peerless sound of the sage's feet; 

Realizing that the great sage was set on awakening,

The black cobra Kāla, 
most excellent of serpents, sang his praisessss...

With today's verse the metre changes from the more commonplace 8-syllable śloka metre (also called anu-ṣṭubh), to the 11-syllable vaṁśastha metre. The śloka metre must have presented the composer of Sanskrit verse with less of a challenge, each two-pāda line allowing great liberty except in the 5th, 13th, 14th and 15th syllables (MW). The 11-syllable vaṁśastha metre is not so permissive and therefore would have required more of a conscious effort on the part of the poet. The effect of the change of metres must have been to alert the listener that this long Canto was finally approaching its climax.

EHJ translated the 3rd pāda of today's verse “realising that the great sage had determined on enlightenment...” and noted that the Tibetan translator also took āgata in this sense (of realising).

EHJ refers to two further examples of Aśvaghoṣa using ā-√gam (to arrive at) to express alighting on something with the mind:
'The seer, the hearer, the thinker, and the very act of doing of what is to be done – / All that is I.' Having fallen into such thoughts (ity evam āgamya), around and round he goes in saṁsāra. // BC12.38//
Comprehend, therefore, that suffering is doing; witness the faults impelling it forward; / Realise (āgaccha) its stopping as non-doing; and know the path as a turning back. // SN16.42 //

Ithe latter verse, EHJ noted, āgaccha – even though the use is unusual – can only mean “understand” (or “realize”).

EBC had translated āgata-bodhi-niścayaḥ “being sure that he was on the point of attaining perfect knowledge” and on my first attempt at translating today's verse, before considering EHJ's note, I also went with Sure that the great sage had come to the point of awakening,...”

Over the past six years, however, while the Chinese translation has shown itself in verse after verse to be not so much a work of translation as work of paraphrasing, EHJ's readings, taking account of the Tibetan translation, have shown themselves to be remarkably reliable.

As regards the meaning of today's verse, the main gist of the verse, if we take it literally, or take it seriously, is that a snake spoke a eulogy to the great sage. Since snakes don't generally speak Sanskrit, I think Aśvaghoṣa -- or the story-tellers who went before him -- must have been exercising a bit of poetic license. 

tataḥ: ind. then
tadānīm: ind. at that time , then
gaja-rāja-vikramaḥ (nom. sg. m.): with the power of a king of elephants
vikrama: m. step, stride; valour , courage , heroism , power , strength

pada-svanena (inst. sg.): by the sound of his feet
anupamena (inst. sg.): mfn. incomparable , matchless ; excellent , best
an-upamā: f. the female elephant of the south-east or of the north-east.
bodhitaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. awakened, woken up

mahā-muneḥ (gen. sg. m.) of the great sage
āgata-bodhi-niścayaḥ (nom. sg. m.): convinced about his arrival at awakening (EBC: being sure that he was on the point of attaining perfect knowledge) ; understanding his will to awakening (EHJ: realising that the great sage had determined on enlightenment)
āgata: entered (into any state or condition of mind) ;
ā- √ gam: to come , make one's appearance , come near from (abl.) or to (acc. or loc.) , arrive at , attain , reach
niścaya: m. inquiry , ascertainment , fixed opinion , conviction , certainty , positiveness ; resolution , resolve, fixed intention , design , purpose , aim

jagāda = 3rd pers. perf. gad: to speak articulately , speak , say , relate , tell
kālaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. black; m. the poisonous serpent Coluber nāga (= kālasarpa)
kālasarpa: m. the black and most venomous variety of the Cobra , Coluber nāga
bhujaga: m. (fr. bhuja + ga) " going in curves " , a snake , serpent , serpent-demon
uttama: mfn. uppermost ; best , excellent (often ifc. , e.g. dvijottama , best of the twice-born i.e. a Brahman
stutim (acc. sg.): f. praise , eulogy , panegyric , commendation , adulation

安祥師子歩 歩歩地震動
地動感盲龍 歡喜目開明 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.115: To the Foot a Big Fig Tree, Towards the Ultimate Step

vyavasāya-dvitīyo 'tha śādvalāstīrṇa-bhūtalam |
¦−⏑⏑−¦¦−−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑−   bhavipulā
so 'śvattha-mūlaṁ prayayau bodhāya kta-niścayaḥ || 12.115 

And so with resolve as his companion,

To where the earth was covered with fresh green grass,

To the foot of a fig-tree
– an aśvattha, 'under which horses stand,' –
he went, 

Setting his heart firmly in the direction of awakening.

Today's verse is another verse that is readily memorized in four phases, so that
  1. the 1st pāda describes the bodhisattva's mental state;
  2. the 2nd pāda describes his earthly environment;
  3. the 3rd pāda, describing his action, contains the important element in the narrative; and
  4. the 4th pāda points to anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, the supreme integral truth of full awakening, as the complete realization of all phases.
The tree referred to in the 3rd pāda EBC translates as an Aśvattha tree, EHJ as a pipal tree. I have no objection to either of these translations. I do object to the MW dictionary's the holy fig tree, and do object to its Latin designation Ficus Religiosa.

I am also inclined to quibble with PO's translation of aśvatta as a bo-tree. The bo of bo-tree stands for bodhi, awakening, and so the objection is that the kind of fig-tree known as an aśvatta (lit. “under which horses stand”), to which the bodhisattva went, had not yet become a bodhi-tree.

This objection – minor quibble though it is – is lent some weight by the reserve Aśvaghoṣa has shown in using the word bodhi in the story so far.

I noted in a previous comment that I thought it was significant that Aśvaghoṣa held off calling the Śākya prince “the bodhisattva” until as late as Canto 9.

Though verbs from the root √ budh, to wake up, are encountered often enough – for example in the imperative nibodha, “Listen up!” – words derived from the noun bodhi, awakening, have only appeared ten times so far in Buddhacarita. And four out of these ten examples are in the compound bodhi-sattva, viz:

bodhāya BC1.15
bodhāya BC1.18
bodhāya BC1.57
bodhi-sattvāḥ BC2.56
bodhim BC2.56
bodhi-sattvaḥ BC9.30
bodhi-sattvam BC10.18
bodhi-sattvaḥ BC12.88
na bodhāya BC12.101
bodhi-prāptau BC12.112

bodhāya BC1.15
“For awakening I am born, for the welfare of the world.”
bodhāya BC1.18
Heaven-dwellers… sang their best wishes for his awakening. 
bodhāya BC1.57
“Your son has been born for the sake of awakening.”

bodhi-sattvāḥ ; bodhim BC2.56
To the forest, nonetheless, went all bodhisattvas, all matchless beings on the way to awakening, who had known the taste of sensuality and produced a son./ Thus did he who had heaped up ample karma, even while the cause [of his awakening] was a developing root, partake of sensual enjoyment in the period before he took possession of awakening.//

bodhi-sattvaḥ BC9.30
He the bodhisattva, the buddha-to-be,....

bodhi-sattvam BC10.18
Then he saw, up above that hill, being in the nature of a peak, the bodhisattva, the power of his senses quieted, / Coming back to sitting with legs fully crossed, and shining forth, like the moon rising out of a thicket of clouds.//

bodhi-sattvaḥ  BC12.88
The bodhisattva left Udraka.

na bodhāya BC12.101
“This dharma is good neither for detachment, nor for awakening, nor for liberation.”

bodhi-prāptau BC12.112
And he became capable of attainment of awakening, his six senses now being fully appeased.

Thus, except for one instance at the end of Canto 2, bodhi has so far been used either in compounds (bodhi-sattvaḥ, bodhi-praptau)  or, in five instances including today's verse, in the dative case (bodhāya). 

The bodhisattva's own first guiding conception of bodhi, expressed in BC12.101, is a negative one -- na bodhāya

The point here might be that, before we have realized the supreme integral truth of full awakening, we cannot know what it is. But we can know what it is not. 

Unconscious grasping for an end, before being in possession of a means, might be the essence of what it is not. And so the bodhisattva knew that an ascetic dharma was na bodhāya,  no good for awakening, not leading in the direction of awakening.  

This consideration brings me back again to the four-verse dialogue by the bodhisattva, from BC12.103 to 106, which strikes me as being of the most vital importance, because it summarizes the means whereby the bodhi-sattva is going in the direction of awakening.
And so the sage whose body was evidently being tormented, to no avail, by pernicious austerities, / Formed – while being wary of becoming – the following resolve, in his longing for buddhahood. //12.100//
“This dharma is good neither for detachment, nor for awakening, nor for liberation. / What I realized back then, at the foot of the rose-apple tree – that is a sure method. //12.101// But that cannot be realized by one who is weak.”
Thus did he reflect. / Still more, with a view to increasing his bodily strength, on this did he meditate further: //12.102//
"Worn out by hunger, thirst and fatigue, with a mind that, from fatigue, is not well in itself, / How can one obtain the result which is to be realized by mental means – when one is not contented? //12.103// Contentment is properly obtained through keeping the senses constantly appeased; /By full appeasement of the senses, wellness of the mind is realized. //12.104//In one whose mind is well and tranquil, samādhi, balanced stillness, sets in. / In one whose mind is possessed of samādhi, dhyāna, meditative practice, progresses. //12.105// Through meditation's progress are obtained dharmas, timeless teachings, by which is realized the deathless – /That hard-won, quieted, unaging, ultimate immortal step.” //12.106//
Having therefore decided that eating food is the foundation of this means to an end...

Bodhi, evidently, means Awakening (PO) or enlightenment (EHJ) or the attainment of perfect knowledge (EBC), as an end. And yet the Chinese rendered bodhi into Chinese as  (tao; Jap: DO), which means the way. So this was a bit of Chinese ignorance. Or maybe it was a bit of Chinese wisdom.

It is easy for us to be fooled by our intellects -- especially if we have a religious tendency to believe in the Buddha and bow down before Buddha images -- into believing there is such an end as Buddhist enlightenment. But this religious tendency to believe in an ultimate end, which we haven't experienced yet, might be a kind of ignorance. And ignorance is the grounds for unconscious doings which are the very antithesis of awakened action. 

To paraphrase FM Alexander, the truth may be that, for a bodhisattva, or for one who so far is a non-buddha, there may be no such end as awakening. But there is such a thing as going in the direction of awakening.  

That direction, I submit, has a mental component which is primarily backward, to the original root of suffering in ignorance; and a physical component which is primarily upward, in opposition to the downward pull of mother earth. 

Hence, pratītya-samutpāda, springing up by going back

vyavasāya-dvitīyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): with Resolution as his companion
vyavasāya: m. strenuous effort or exertion ; settled determination , resolve , purpose , intention to ; Resolution (personified) R. Pur.
vy-ava- √ so: to determine , resolve , decide ; to make strenuous effort , labour or seek after
dvitīya: m. companion, fellow ; ifc. doubled or accompanied by , furnished with
atha: then, and so

śādvalāstīrṇa-bhūtalam (acc. sg. n.): where the ground was covered with green grass
śādvala: mfn. abounding in fresh or green grass , grassy , verdant , green ; n. sg. and pl. a place abounding in young grass , grassy spot , turf
ā-stīrṇa: mfn. spread , strewed , scattered; covered
bhū-tala: n. the surface of the ground , the earth

saḥ (nom. sg. m.): he
aśvattha-mūlam (acc. sg. n.): the root of a fig tree
aśvattha: m. (ttha = stha " under which horses stand ") the holy fig tree , Ficus Religiosa
mūla: n. " firmly fixed " , a root (of any plant or tree ; but also fig. the foot or lowest part or bottom of anything)
prayayau = 3rd pers. sg. perf. pra- √ yā: to go to

bodhāya (dat. sg.): mf. (with Buddhists or jainas) perfect knowledge or wisdom (by which a man becomes a buddha or jina) , the illuminated or enlightened intellect (of a Buddha or jina)
kṛta-niścayaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. determined or resolved on (dat.)
niścaya: resolution , resolve, fixed intention , design , purpose , aim (°yaṁ- √kṛ , to resolve upon , determine to)
niś- √ ci: to ascertain , investigate , decide , settle , fix upon , determine , resolve

菩薩獨遊行 詣彼吉祥樹
當於彼樹下 成等正覺道
其地廣平正 柔澤軟草生 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.114: Turning Back & Drifting Away

āvtta iti vijñāya taṁ jahuḥ paṇca-bhikṣavaḥ |
manīṣiṇam ivātmānaṁ nirmuktaṁ pañca-dhātavaḥ || 12.114 

Knowing that he had turned back,

The five bhikṣus left him

Like the five elements melting away

When a thinking self has been set free.

The ostensible meaning of today's verse is something along these lines:

Reaching the [wrong] conclusion that he had given up, the five bhikṣus left him as the five elements leave the thinking soul when it is liberated.

EBC: Thinking that he had returned to the world the five mendicants left him, as the five elements leave the wise soul when it is liberated.
EHJ: The five mendicants, holding that he had renounced the holy life, left himas the five elements leave the thinking soul when it is liberated.
PO: The five mendicants left him, thinking he had relapsed, as the five elements leave the wise and released soul.

Ostensibly, then, the five bhikṣus jumped to a wrong conclusion, and the metaphor of the five physical elements leaving the ātman – the disembodied soul, or spiritual essence – is used to illustrate the manner in which the bhikṣus drifted away from the bodhisattva.

To understand today's verse like this, however, is to have failed to understand Aśvaghoṣa's irony in using the word ātman hitherto in this Canto – from BC12.72 onwards.

As explained in previous comments, the bodhisattva seems on the surface to speak of the soul continuing to exist as if such a thing as a disembodied soul really could exist; whereas we are required to understand that the continued existence of the soul (saty ātmani) really means the continued existence of a disembodied soul as a false conception, existing in the minds of deluded people, which is the only place a disembodied soul can exist.

That being so, I think Aśvaghoṣa requires us to understand that ātmānam in today's verse is used like ātmanaḥ in BC12.95 where akarot kārśyam ātmanaḥ means “he wasted himself away."  Not “he wasted his disembodied soul away,” which would be nonsense, but he wasted himself away.

Thus seeing ātmanam in the 3rd pāda of today's verse as a red flag signalling us to be on the look-out for irony, let us go back and examine the meaning of āvṛttaḥ and vijñāya in the 1st pāda.

Both EBC and PO translated vijñāya as “thinking,” which accords with the ostensible meaning but is not a very literal translation of vijñāya, at least as Aśvaghoṣa has used vijñāya in the present Canto, to mean to investigate or to know. EHJ was closer to the original with “holding that.” Still, I think vijñāya is better understood as describing the knowing or investigation of a fact rather than the holding of a view.

In that case, the five bhikṣus knew for a fact that the bodhisattva had turned back from asceticism. And this “turned back” is the literal meaning of āvṛttaḥ. EBC's “returned to the world”, EHJ's “renounced the holy life”, and PO's “relapsed” are not so literal translations.

I think that today's verse, then, is much better translated as I have translated it (though admittedly I might not be an impartial judge, and at the same time my translation fails literally to convey that manīṣinam ātmānaṁ nirmuktam is originally accusative). 
Knowing that he had turned back, the five bhikṣus left him / Like the five elements melting away when a thinking self has been unloosed.//

Read like this, today's verse is another example of a verse in which ostensibly a metaphor is used to illustrate the narrative, but Aśvaghoṣa's real interest lies in the metaphor itself, which, below the surface, might be a description of what happens, when the conditions are right, when we are sitting in nature. 

The point, when we read today's verse like this, might be that true liberation is always a turning back. And in such a turning back, miscellaneous circumstances like the so-called “five elements” all evaporate. Those circumstances all evaporate like five commited ascetics drifting away from a former companion who has turned back from asceticism.

Read like this, in conclusion, today's verse brings us back to what Dogen called the secret of sitting-meditation, the vital art of sitting-zen:

forget all involvements - let miscellaneous circumstances melt away

right, wrong. Stop the driving movement of mind, will, consciousness. Quit weighing things up with ideas, thoughts, and views. When practising upright sitting, lay a thick mat and use a round cushion on top of that. Then sit in full lotus or sit in half lotus. To sit in full lotus first put the right foot on the left thigh and put the left foot on the right thigh. To sit in half lotus, just let the left foot press down on the right thigh. Let clothes hang loose and keep them neat. Then place the right hand over the left foot, and place the left hand over the right palm, with the thumbs meeting and propping each other up. Just sit upright, not leaning left, inclining to the right, slumping forward or arching backward. It is vital to bring about an opposition between the ears and the shoulders, and an opposition between the nose and the navel. Let the tongue rest against the roof of the mouth, with the lips touching and the teeth together. Keep the eyes open as normal. Having brought the physical form to stillness, let the breathing also be regulated. When an idea arises, just wake up. Just in the waking up to it, it ceases to exist. Taking plenty of time, forget all involvements and you will spontaneously become all of a piece. This is the vital art of sitting-zen. What is called sitting-... 

āvṛttaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. turned round , stirred , whirled ; reverted
ā- √ vṛt: to turn or draw round or back or near ; to turn round or back , return , revolve
iti: “...,” thus
vijñāya = abs. vi- √ jñā: to distinguish , discern , observe , investigate , recognize , ascertain , know , understand

tam (acc. sg. m.): him
jahuḥ = 3rd pers. pl. perf. hā: to leave, desert
paṇca bhikṣavaḥ (nom. pl. m.): the five bhikṣus

manīṣiṇam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. thoughtful , intelligent , wise , sage , prudent
manīṣā: f. thought , reflection , consideration , wisdom , intelligence , conception , idea (páro manīṣáyā , beyond all conception)
manīṣikā: f. wisdom , intelligence
manīṣi-tā: f. wisdom
iva: like
ātmānam (acc. sg.): m. the self ; the person ; the soul

nirmuktam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. loosed , separated , sundered , liberated or saved or escaped or free ; given up , lost , disappeared , vanished ; (a serpent) that has lately cast its skin ; free from every attachment (= niḥ-saṅga) ; deprived of all , possessing nothing (= niṣ-parigraha)
pañca dhātavaḥ (nom. pl. m.): the five elements (viz. kha or ākāśa , anila , tejas , jala , bhū) ; dhātu: m. element; or a constituent element or essential ingredient of the body (distinct from the 5 mentioned above and conceived either as 3 humours or as the 5 organs of sense , indriyāṇi [cf. s.v. and MBh. xii , 6842 , where śrotra , ghrāṇa , āsya , hṛdaya and koṣṭha are mentioned as the 5 dhātu of the human body born from the either] )

五比丘見已 驚起嫌怪想
謂其道心退 捨而擇善居

如人得解脱 五大悉遠離