Under the rose-apple tree

Under the rose-apple tree

Saturday, 13 May 2017

All Things Come to Those Who Wait...

On 24th March 2017 Christian Bennet published on Facebook the post copied below, with a link to bodhisvara.com.

I had been waiting for that announcement, somehow knowing that the next step forward for the MMK translation would follow from it 
Since then I have been parroting on a daily basis Kashinath Nyaupane's recitation of Nāgārjuna's Sanskrit -- but with emendations to the text as proposed by Anne Macdonald -- beginning with chapter 24, Investigation of the Noble Truths.
Having by now committed the forty verses of that chapter to memory (at least to short and medium term memory) and given them a chance of translating themselves into English, I will shortly post a work-in-progrress version of the text and translation of that chapter on this blog.

If I was tempted to ask myself, looking at the visitor numbers to this blog, "what is the bleeding point?," that question answered itself for me between 3 and 5 o'clock this Sunday morning, when I reviewed every post and realized that I, for one, am glad to be able to read the blog, even if nobody else appreciates it. 
The past year, as I look back on it, aided by the timeline of this blog, has been punctuated by three DIY disasters. 
In the second week of May 2016, I stupidly lopped down with an electric chain saw a tree that took down part of a power line, with the result that a massive surge of electricity blew up much of the electrical equipment at my bolt-hole in France, including my PC. I suppose I was lucky that the electricity didn't also surge through the chainsaw i was holding. The consequent lack of computer / internet connection then prompted me to return earlier than pllanned to England (where on 16 May I published the Ratnavali translation which, fortunately, had been saved to Dropbox). 
After I got back to England, my wife and I decided to move house to Norwich, where our younger son had won a place to study medicine... as a post-graduate, with what I feared might be dire financial consequences, for him and for us. 
While my wife attended to re-decorating the inside of the new house, I set to work building an out-building, which I initially conceived as a shed for storage, but which gradually evolved into an Alexander studio with v. small zendo. I never seem to work to any kind of a master plan. Rather, I tend to start, sit and look at what I have just done, and take it from there. The process of building the studio was one mistake after another, but the result is surprisingly good. 
On December 15th, however, after a long day in the garden, I foolishly got involved with shopping for an electrical wall light for the living room, and trying to wire the bloody thing up. The fitting was very badly designed. I was tired. The job was fiddly. I was no longer in my element, outside, alone in the garden, lugging things about. Suddenly unduly excited fear reflexes and emotions kicked in and, as if throwing toys out of a pram, I hurled the old light fitting down onto the floor, and generally behaved like a big baby....
No major damage was done to the new light fitting, for which Wickes gave me a refund. But emotionally it felt like another DIY disaster. 
The most recent DIY disaster took place yesterday, in process of tiling a small shower room. Confined in the small space, I got into a muck sweat and, knocking over one thing after another,  generally made a mess of the job. Again, no lasting damage was done on the outside -- it will just be a question of re-doing a few tiles. But on the inside it felt like another disaster, especially since in my blind end-gaining I exacerbated the pain in my right knee that has been bothering me recently. I felt a twinge there while laying paving slabs in the garden a couple of months ago, and sitting in full lotus probably prevented the knee from healing. 
So the pain in the knee might have been one thing that contributed to my insomnia, but the more likely cause was the emotional disturbance of the DIY faiil, compounded by an unduly large intake of sugar in its aftermath. 
I could do with a spell of solitude by the forest.

Having done the groundwork for a big crop of winter radishes, I wasn't able to get to France this winter to harvest them. By the time I do get back to France, hopefully in June, the grass will be waist-high and brambles and stinging nettles will be running riot. 
I like the relative lack of noise pollution in this part of Norwich (not so many light aircraft buzzing around). Air pollution is more of an issue -- due to too many people, like us, driving diesel cars. But I will happily choose Norwich's air pollution over the home counties' noise pollution any day, even if it kills me. 
Anyway, I am looking forward to a spell by the forest in France. Maybe my knee will heal there, as has happened before. Healing of the heart, of course, is another question.  And I suppose that that -- a heart and mind free from emotional pollutants -- is the ultimate criterion for whether the teaching of emptiness has truly been understood or not....

Dear friends,
We are very happy to announce the publication of our latest Bodhisvara project for the preservation of the tradition of reciting Classical Sanskrit Buddhist Literature.Please visit our Bodhisvara Website to listen to and read Nāgārjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā in Sanskrit.
http://www.bodhisvara.com/The Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (‘Root Verses on the Middle Way’) is the magnum opus of the Indian master Nāgārjuna (c. 150 – 250 CE). Generally regarded as one of the most influential works in the history of Mahayana Buddhism, this text delves into a thorough investigation of ultimate reality that revolutionized Indian Buddhist thought.
As with our previous project, the entire text is recited by Prof. Kashinath Nyaupane from Nepal Sanskrit University.
We thank the International Buddhist Academy, and the Khenchen Appey Foundation along with its IT team for the support in realizing this project.
Please kindly share these news with your friends and colleagues.
With our best wishes,
Christian Bernert

Sunday, 16 April 2017

MMK24.14, Owning Everything, Making Everything Work

sarvaṃ ca yujyate tasya śūnyatā yasya yujyate |
sarvaṃ na yujyate tasya śūnyaṃ yasya na yujyate ||MMK24.14||

Everything belongs to whom emptiness belongs. 
Nothing belongs to whom emptiness does not belong. 

Everything works for whom emptiness works. 
Nothing works for whom emptiness does not work. 

Which translation is closer to hitting the target depends on how one understands in this context the passive verb yujyate:
[MW:]  to be yoked or harnessed or joined &c; belong to or suit any one (loc. or gen.). 

Either way, the most powerful teaching in the world, and a brilliant verse. 

Friday, 24 February 2017

anekartham ananartham - Not singular in its meaning, not plural.

Today in a comment to a friend's facebook post, I wrote the following: 

 there is no such thing as a connected thing -- because no thing exists as a thing unto itself. There are only interconnections. Such is the Buddha's teaching of emptiness.

Afterwards while tiling the floor I wondered whether I might better have written, "there is only interconnection," in the singular. 

Then the negations with which Nagarjuna begins MMK came back to me: 

anekartham ananartham
Not singular in its meaning, not plural. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

What I have been reciting recently (3): English translation

[Fourteen verses on embracing the bodhi-mind]

3.1 The pain of hellish suffering is abated by an act of goodness, done by any being: in this truth, I quietly rejoice. May those who are suffering find lasting peace.

3.2 I rejoice that real, embodied beings have found freedom from the suffering of samsara. Again, I rejoice in the bodhisattva-hood and the buddha-hood of the protectors.

3.3. The vast teachings flooding forth from their minds bring happiness to all creatures, and give benefit to all creatures -- I rejoice in the oceans of the teachers.

3.4 With palms joined, I pray to the fully awakened buddhas in all directions: Act as lanterns of the dharma, for those who, through ignorance, have fallen into suffering.

3.5 Again, with palms joined I appeal to the victors whose desire is to be extinguished: Remain for endless aeons. Do not leave this world blind.

3.6 With any good I have gained like this, putting all this into practice, may I become for all living beings the allayer of every kind of suffering.

3.7 For the sick, I am medicine. May I become both a doctor and one who cares for them, until the illness is no more.

3.8 May I remove the hardship of hunger and thirst with showers of food and drink. In long periods of famine and drought, may I be food and drink.

3.9 Again, for beings living in poverty may I be an inexhaustible treasure. May I be there with them to provide many forms of assistance.

3.10 Incarnations of myself, enjoyments, and any good done in all three times -- these I give up without a second thought, if it will help all living beings to find meaning in their lives.

3.11 To let go of everything is nirvana, and it is nirvana that my mind seeks. If I am to let go of everything, it had best be given to living beings.

3.12 Again, I have put this self beyond pleasure into the hands of all embodied beings -- let them constantly beat it up, or let them put it down; let them cover it with shit.

3.13 Let them play with my body. Let them laugh at it and fool with it. I have already given it to them -- why should I worry about it?

3.27 Just as a blind man might find a jewel among heaps of rubbish so, somehow, has this bodhi-mind arisen in me.

[The first three pāramitās - 1. free giving, 2. ethical conduct, 3. tolerance]

5.10 From the mind to cede to all people all that one has, along with all reward, stems what is called the virtue of free giving. Therefore that virtue is the mind itself.

5.11 "Where should fish and the like be led so that I might not kill them?" Rather, when the mind of cessation is obtained, that is esteemed as the virtue of ethical conduct.

5.12 "How many shall I kill of those bad guys who are endless as the sky?" Rather, when the angry mind is killed, all enemies are killed.

5.13 Where will the leather be found to cover the whole earth? With only the leather of a pair of sandals, the earth is indeed being covered.

[tolerance continued]

6.1  All of this good conduct, free giving, honouring of the ones gone well, practised for thousands of aeons -- anger nullifies it all.

6.2 There is no evil like hatred, and no ascetic practice as tough as tolerance. Therefore one should make an effort to cultivate tolerance, by various methods.

[4. persevering effort]

7.1 The one who thus endures should practise persevering effort, in which direction enlightenment resides. For without persevering effort there is no merit, just as a there is no sailing without wind.

7.2 What is persevering effort? Persevering in the good. What is its opposite called? Laziness, attachment to base things, dejection, low self-esteem. 

[5. meditation]

8.1 Developing perseverance in this way, one should let the mind rest in the stillness of samadhi. A person whose mind is scattered, on the contrary, remains between the fangs of the afflictions.

8.2 With seclusion of the body and mind, scattering does not occur. Therefore, leaving the world behind, one should let fanciful thoughts flee away.

[6. wisdom]

9.1 All this groundwork the Sage set out only for the sake of wisdom. Therefore let wisdom be cultivated, with the wish that suffering should cease.

9.2 Conventional and ultimate [or concealing and ultimate]: these are esteemed as the two truths. Beyond the scope of human intelligence is reality. Intelligence is called the concealer.

9.3 Then the world is seen to be of two sorts: the yogi and the ordinary person, and the world of the ordinary is negated by the yogi's world.

9.4 When even yogis, with their particular differences in insight, negate one another, each side having something to prove, they are neglecting the point of practice.

9.5 Things are seen by the world and conceived of as real, instead of as like magic. Hence yogis and the world differ.

9.6 Visual forms and the rest, even when sensed directly, are provisionally assumed to be and not definitively proven. Like purity seen in what is impure, the assumption is false.

[From Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasuttaṁ]

Here, monks, a monk who has gone to the wilderness, or has gone to the root of a tree, or has gone to an empty place, sits. Folding his legs into the lotus posture, directing the body up, and thus establishing mindfulness to the fore, he, just being mindful breathes in, and just being mindful breathes out.
While breathing in long, he knows “I am breathing in long”,
or, while breathing out long, knows “I am breathing out long”;
or, while breathing in short, knows “I am breathing in short”,
or, while breathing out short, knows “I am breathing out short”.
“Being aware of the whole body, I will breathe in”: like this he trains;
“being aware of the whole body, I will breathe out”: like this he trains.
“Letting bodily doing cease, I will breathe in”: like this he trains;
“letting bodily doing cease, I will breathe out”: like this he trains.

[Beginning, middle and end of Nāgārjuna's Mūla-madhyamaka-kārikā]

1.1 Beyond cessation, beyond arising; beyond annihilation, beyond eternity;
Beyond singularity and multiplicity of meanings; beyond coming, beyond going,
1.2 The fully awakened Buddha taught the dependent arising which is the benign extinction of convenient fictions -- I praise him, the best of speakers.

26.1 The doings that lead to yet further becoming, a person engulfed in ignorance, in the three ways, does do – and by these actions, to a new sphere in the cycle of going, does go.
26.2 Divided consciousness, into the new sphere of going, does seep, having doings as its causal grounds. And so with the seeping in of this divided consciousness, psycho-physicality is instilled.
26.3 There again: With the instilling of psycho-physicality, there is the coming about of six senses. Six senses having arrived, there occurs contact.
26.4 Depending on eye, on form, and on the bringing of the two together – depending in other words on psycho-physicality – divided consciousness occurs.
26.5 When the threesome of form, consciousness and eye are combined, that is contact; and from that contact there occurs feeling.
26.6 With feeling as its causal grounds, there is thirsting – because the object of feeling is thirsted after. While thirsting is going on, taking hold takes hold in the four ways.
26.7 While taking hold is taking hold, the becoming arises of the taker – because becoming, if it were free of taking hold, would be liberated and would not become becoming.
26.8-9 Five aggregates, again, are becoming itself. Out of the becoming arises birth. The suffering and suchlike of ageing and death – sorrows, accompanied by bewailing and complaining; frustration, troubles – all this arises out of birth. In this way there is the coming into being of this whole aggregate of suffering.
26.10 The doings which are the root of saṁsāra thus does the ignorant one do. The ignorant one therefore is the doer; the wise one is not, because of the realisation of reality.
26.11 In the dispelling of ignorance, there is the non-coming-into-being of doings. At the same time, the dispelling of ignorance rests on the bringing-into-being of just this act of knowing.
26.12 By the stopping of this one and that one, this one and that one no longer advance. This whole aggregate of suffering in this way is completely prevented.

In the direction of abandoning all views
He taught the true dharma,
Putting compassion into practice --
I bow to him, Gautama.

What I have been reciting recently (2): A note on sarva and artha.

If you review the text reproduced in the previous post, and search for sarva, which means all or every, you will find it occurs 12 times in the first 12 verses.

This is one of the things I have noticed over the past few months, when I have been reciting these verses every day.

The past few months have been a fallow period for translation work, due to moving house followed by building work. So I have been getting my daily fix of Sanskrit mainly by reciting this selection of verses of Shantideva, inspired by the reciting on bodhisvara.com.

One of the things I noticed, day by day, while reciting these verses, and witnessing people's divisive responses to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, was the recurrence of the word sarva.

In the chapter on embracing or adopting the bodhi-mind, the word sarva appears seven times in the first six verses.

So we are reminded, especially in 3.3, that the teaching of buddhas in which the bodhisattva rejoices brings happiness to all and gives benefit to all.

Again, the bodhisattva vows to become for all living beings the allayer of all kinds of suffering (3.6).

All kinds of suffering include, for example, the suffering of sickness (3.7). I notice in passing that the bodhisattva doesn't express the hope that I will become a medicine. The bodhisattva recognizes that I already am medicine -- if I did but know how to take myself and let myself act as a remedy, not only for myself but also for every being with whom I am connected (which means all creatures everywhere).

Other kinds of suffering are the suffering of hunger and thirst (3.8), and the suffering of poverty (3.9). But the fourth and final category of suffering that Shantideva alludes to, is to be living a life without meaning.

As one of the aims of life, artha generally means wealth. But in 3.10 as I have translated that verse, artha means meaning, value, what makes life worth living.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

What I have been reciting recently (Sanskrit/Pali Text)

Thirty verses from Śāntideva's Bodhicaryāvatāra:

[Fourteen verses on embracing the bodhi-mind]

apāya-duḥkha-viśrāmaṃ sarva-sattvaiḥ kṛtaṃ śubham |
anumode prasannena sukhaṃ tiṣṭhantu duḥkhitāḥ ||BCV3.1||

saṃsāra-duḥkha-nirmokṣam anumode śarīriṇām |

bodhisattvatva-buddhatvam anumode ca tāyinām ||BCV3.2||

cittotpāda-samudrāṃś ca sarva-sattva-sukhāvahān |

sarva-sattva-hitādhānān anumode ca śāsinām ||BCV3.3||

sarvāsu dikṣu saṃbuddhān prārthayāmi kṛtāñjaliḥ |

dharma-pradīpaṃ kurvantu mohād duḥkha-prapātinām ||BCV3.4||

nirvātu-kāmāṃś ca jinān yācayāmi kṛtāñjaliḥ |

kalpān anantāṃs tiṣṭhantu mā bhūd andham idaṃ jagat ||BCV3.5||

evaṃ sarvam idaṃ kṛtvā yan mayāsāditaṃ śubham |

tena syāṃ sarva-sattvānāṃ sarva-duḥkha-praśānti-kṛt ||BCV3.6||

glānānām asmi bhaiṣajyaṃ bhaveyaṃ vaidya eva ca |

tad-upasthāyakaś caiva yāvad rogāpunar-bhavaḥ ||BCV3.7||

kṣut-pipāsā-vyathāṃ hanyām anna-pāna-pravarṣaṇaiḥ  |

durbhikṣāntara-kalpeṣu bhaveyaṃ pāna-bhojanam ||BCV3.8||

daridrāṇāṃ ca sattvānāṃ nidhiḥ syām aham akṣayaḥ |

 nānopakaraṇākārair upatiṣṭheyam agrataḥ ||BCV3.9||

ātma-bhāvāṃs tathā bhogān sarva-try-adhva-gataṃ śubham |

nirapekṣas tyajāmy eṣa sarva-sattvārtha-siddhaye ||BCV3.10||

sarva-tyāgaś ca nirvāṇaṃ nirvāṇārthi ca me manaḥ |

tyaktavyaṃ cen mayā sarvaṃ varaṃ sattveṣu dīyatām ||BCV3.11||

yaś cāsukhī-kṛtaś cātmā mayāyaṃ sarva-dehinām |

ghnantu nindantu vā nityam ākirantu ca pāṃsubhiḥ ||BCV3.12||

krīḍantu mama kāyena hasantu vilasantu ca |

dattas tebhyo mayā kāyaś cintayā kiṃ mamānayā ||BCV3.13||

andhaḥ saṃkārakūṭebhyo yathā ratnam avāpnuyāt |

tathā kathaṃ-cid apy etad bodhi-cittaṃ mamoditam ||BCV3.27||

[The first three pāramitās - 1. giving, 2. ethical conduct, 3. tolerance]

phalena saha sarva-sva-tyāga-cittāj jane ’khile |
dāna-pāramitā proktā tasmāt sā cittam eva tu ||BCV5.10||

matsyādayaḥ kva nīyantāṃ mārayeyaṃ yato na tān |

labdhe virati-citte tu śīla-pāramitā matā ||BCV5.11||

kiyato mārayiṣyāmi dur-janān gaganopamān |

mārite krodha-citte tu māritāḥ sarva-śatravaḥ ||BCV5.12||

bhūmiṃ chādayituṃ sarvāṃ kutaś carma bhaviṣyati |

upānac-carma-mātreṇa channā bhavati medinī ||BCV5.13||

[tolerance continued] 

sarvam etat sucaritaṃ dānaṃ sugata-pūjanam |

kṛtaṃ kalpa-sahasrair yat pratighaḥ pratihanti tat  ||BCV6.1||

na ca dveṣa-samaṃ pāpaṃ na ca kṣānti-samaṃ tapaḥ |

tasmāt kṣāntiṃ prayatnena bhāvayed vividhair nayaiḥ ||BCV6.2||

[4. persevering effort]

evaṃ kṣamo bhajed vīryaṃ vīrye bodhir yataḥ sthitā |

na hi vīryaṃ vinā puṇyaṃ yathā vāyuṃ vinā gatiḥ ||BCV7.1||

kiṃ vīryaṃ kuśalotsāhas tad-vipakṣaḥ ka ucyate |

ālasyaṃ kutsitāsaktir viṣādātmāvamanyanā ||BCV7.2||

[5. meditation] 

vardhayitvaivam utsāhaṃ samādhau sthāpayen manaḥ |

vikṣipta-cittas tu naraḥ kleśa-daṃṣṭrāntare sthitaḥ ||BCV8.1 ||

kāya-citta-vivekena vikṣepasya na saṃbhavaḥ |

tasmāl lokaṃ parityajya vitarkān parivarjayet ||BCV8.2||

[Insert section on non-doing from Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasuttaṁ; see below] 

[6. wisdom] 

imaṃ parikaraṃ sarvaṃ prajñārthaṃ hi munir jagau |

tasmād utpādayet prajñāṃ duḥkha-nivṛtti-kāṅkṣayā ||BCV9.1||

saṃvṛtiḥ paramārthaś ca satya-dvayam idaṃ matam |

buddher agocaras tattvaṃ buddhiḥ saṃvṛtir ucyate ||BCV9.2||

tatra loko dvi-dhā dṛṣṭo yogī prākṛtakas tathā |

tatra prākṛtako loko yogi-lokena bādhyate ||BCV9.3||

bādhyante dhī-viśeṣeṇa yogino ’py uttarottaraiḥ | 

dṛṣṭāntenobhayeṣṭena kāryārtham avicārataḥ ||BCV9.4||

lokena bhāvā dṛśyante kalpyante cāpi tattvataḥ |

na tu māyāvad ity atra vivādo yogi-lokayoḥ ||BCV9.5||

pratyakṣam api rūpādi prasiddhyā na pramāṇataḥ |

aśucy-ādiṣu śucy-ādi prasiddhir iva sā mṛṣā ||BCV9.6||

[Insert selections from Nāgārjuna's Mūla-madhyamaka-kārikā; see below]

[From Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasuttaṁ]

Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu araññagato vā, rukkhamūlagato vā, suññāgāragato vā, nisīdati. Pallaṅkaṁ ābhujitvā, ujuṁ kāyaṁ paṇidhāya, parimukhaṁ satiṁ upaṭṭhapetvā, so sato va assasati, sato va passasati.

Dīghaṁ vā assasanto “dīghaṁ assasāmī” ti pajānāti,
dīghaṁ vā passasanto “dīghaṁ passasāmī” ti pajānāti;
rassaṁ vā assasanto “rassaṁ assasāmī” ti pajānāti,
rassaṁ vā passasanto “rassaṁ passasāmī” ti pajānāti.

Sabbakāyapaṭisaṁvedī assasissāmī ti sikkhati,
sabbakāyapaṭisaṁvedī passasissāmī ti sikkhati;
passambhayaṁ kāyasaṅkhāraṁ assasissāmī ti sikkhati,
passambhayaṁ kāyasaṅkhāraṁ passasissāmī ti sikkhati.

[Beginning, middle and end of Nāgārjuna's Mūla-madhyamaka-kārikā]

anirodham anutpādam anucchedam aśāśvatam
anekārtham anānārtham anāgamam anirgamam ||MMK1.1||

yaḥ pratītya-samutpādaṁ prapañcopaśamaṁ śivam |
deśayām āsa saṁbuddhas taṁ vande vadatāṁ varam ||MMK1.2||

punar-bhavāya saṁskārān avidyā-nivṛtas tridhā |
abhisaṁskurute yāṁs tair gatiṁ gacchati karmabhiḥ ||MMK26.1||

vijñānaṁ saṁniviśate saṁskāra-pratyayaṁ gatau |
saṁniviṣṭe ‘tha vijñāne nāma-rūpaṁ niṣicyate ||MMK26.2||

niṣikte nāma-rūpe tu ṣaḍāyatana-saṁbhavaḥ |
ṣaḍāyatanam āgamya saṁsparśaḥ saṁpravartate ||MMK26.3||

cakṣuḥ pratītya rūpaṁ ca samanvāhāram eva ca |
nāma-rūpaṁ pratītyaivaṁ vijñānaṁ saṁpravartate ||MMK26.4||

saṁnipātas trayāṇāṁ yo rūpa-vijñāna-cakṣuṣām |
sparśaḥ saḥ tasmāt sparśāc ca vedanā saṁpravartate ||MMK26.5||

vedanā-pratyayā tṛṣṇā vedanārthaṁ hi tṛṣyate |
tṛṣyamāṇa upādānam upādatte catur-vidham ||MMK26.6||

upādāne sati bhava upādātuḥ pravartate |
syād dhi yady anupādāno mucyeta na bhaved bhavaḥ ||MMK26.7||

pañca skandhāḥ sa ca bhavaḥ bhavāj jātiḥ pravartate |
jarā-maraṇa-duḥkhādi śokāḥ sa-paridevanāḥ ||MMK26.8||

daurmanasyam upāyāsā jāter etat pravartate |
kevalasyaivam etasya duḥkha-skandhasya saṁbhavaḥ ||MMK26.9||

saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ |
avidvān kārakas tasmān na vidvāṁs tattva-darśanāt ||MMK26.10||

avidyāyāṁ niruddhāyāṁ saṁskārāṇām asaṁbhavaḥ |
avidyāyā nirodhas tu jñānasyāsyaiva bhāvanāt ||MMK26.11||

tasya tasya nirodhena tat tan nābhipravartate |
duḥkha-skandhaḥ kevalo ‘yam evaṁ samyaṅ nirudhyate ||MMK26.12||

sarva-dṛṣṭi-prahāṇāya yaḥ saddharmam-adeśayat |
anukampām upādāya taṁ namasyāmi gautamam || MMK27.30

Monday, 15 August 2016

Śāntideva's Bodhicaryāvatāra, Opening of Chapter 9

Falling Away into a Way of Awakening

by Śāntideva

prajñā-pāramitā nāma navamaḥ paricchedaḥ ||
Chapter 9: The Perfection of Wisdom 

imaṃ parikaraṃ sarvaṃ prajñārthaṃ hi munir jagau |

tasmād utpādayet prajñāṃ duḥkha-nivṛtti-kāṅkṣayā ||BCV9.1||

All this groundwork the Sage did preach
Only for the sake of wisdom.
So may it be cultivated
With the wish that sorrow should cease.

saṃvṛtiḥ paramārthaś ca satya-dvayam idaṃ matam |

buddher agocaras tattvaṃ buddhiḥ saṃvṛtir ucyate ||BCV9.2||
Conventional and ultimate
(or concealing and ultimate):
These are esteemed as the two truths.
Beyond the mind's grasp, is what is.
Intellect is the Concealer.

tatra loko dvi-dhā dṛṣṭo yogī prākṛtakas tathā |

tatra prākṛtako loko yogi-lokena bādhyate ||BCV9.3||
The world, then, clearly has two types:
Men of practice and commonfolk,
And the world of the common man
Is assailed by the yogi's world.

bādhyante dhī-viśeṣeṇa yogino ’py uttarottaraiḥ | 

dṛṣṭāntenobhayeṣṭena kāryārtham avicārataḥ ||BCV9.4||
Yogis who, each with his insight,
Assail even one another,
Since both sides have something to prove,
Are missing the point of practice.

lokena bhāvā dṛśyante kalpyante cāpi tattvataḥ |

na tu māyāvad ity atra vivādo yogi-lokayoḥ ||BCV9.5||
Things are seen by men of the world,
And treated as if they were real,
Instead of as like magic; hence
A yogi and the world differ.

pratyakṣam api rūpādi prasiddhyā na pramāṇataḥ |

aśucy-ādiṣu śucy-ādi prasiddhir iva sā mṛṣā ||BCV9.6||
Forms, even when sensed directly,
Are based on assumption not proof.
Like purity seen in what is
Impure, the assumption is false.

This as I read it forms the opening section of chapter 9. From verse 7, depending on how one reads that verse, the chapter consists of objections by opponents and responses to those objections. For a translator it is a minefield into which, for the moment, I hesitate to tread. 

The three words which make up the 3rd pāda of verse 2, buddher agocaras tattvam, can be translated in any number of ways. The discipline of sticking to eight syllables led me to translate above Beyond the mind's grasp, is what is. Whatever the English translation, the point is that reality is beyond the scope of our human intellect, however intelligent we might be.

Lionel Barnett's translation (1909) is published here by the University of Oslo's TLB. Barnett has: 
The Reality is beyond the range of the understanding. 

Parmananda Sharma's translation (1990) has:
Reality or 'tattva' being unattainable by intelligence...

The translation by Vesna and Alan Wallace (1997) has: 
Ultimate reality is beyond the scope of the intellect. 

Thus, when it came to  buddher agocaras tattvam, my impression is that Śāntideva stated the case so clearly that, in the spirit of hitting a barn door with a banjo, none of the above translators missed the target, but each hit it in his or her own way. 

buddher agocaras tattvam. 
Reality is beyond the scope, beyond the grasp, out of the range, of our human intellect. 
In this statement, my Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima -- who liked to paint with a broad brush -- used to emphasize, is the whole of Gautama Buddha's teaching. 

How to realize that teaching is the question. 

Or perhaps the question is better put: How to let that teaching realize itself? 
(Not so much "My will be done," then, as "Thy will be done.") 

How to prevent our human ignorance from hindering that teaching which is always waiting to realize itself. 

One kind of ignorance is the kind of intellectual arrogance against which Dogen cautioned in the opening part of Fukan-zazengi -- the intellectual arrogance of thinking that I know a thing or two about what enlightenment is.

To guard against such intellectual arrogance, my teacher recommended pulling in the chin so as to stretch the back of the neck. 

This, ironically enough, turned out to be another variation on the theme of ignorance.

This is the backround against which, sooner or later, one way or another, by hook or by crook, I would like to clarify how I have come to understand Nāgārjuna's words (MMK26.10) that 
saṁsāra-mūlaṁ saṁskārān, avidvān saṁskaroty ataḥ.
"The doings which are the root of saṁsāra thus does the ignorant one do." 

Or, alternatively, using a more conventional translation of  saṁskārān:
"The karmic formations at the root of saṁsāra thus does the foolish one form."