Under the rose-apple tree

Under the rose-apple tree

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." 

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