Thursday, March 29, 2012


I’m hip-deep in Gudo Nishijima’s translation of the “Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way” by Nagarjuna.

(Published by Monkfish.)

I understand (based on Amazon comments) that Nishijima’s translation, as well as his understanding and presentation of Buddhism, may be non-traditional, perhaps even a bit iconoclastic.

However, I find that he speaks simply and plainly about what can often be abstruse.

His reading of verse 7 of the Skanda Pariksa section was of interest to me, especially as how it relates to our establishment of sankalpa (intention) at the beginning of our Ashtanga practice.

People often establish private, personal intentions for their practice, which can be done by verbalizing a sentence or flashing on an image. 

Patanjali lists some great suggestions for this, by the way.

I personally find it easier and more resonant to “sprinkle” myself with seed-sounds that constitute various archetypal figures. (Okay, you caught me: bijas that make up various deities).

However, even if one doesn’t call to mind a mantra, inspiring figure, or deity, among others, to merely recite pranava (om) and the Ashtanga opening invocation is to establish an intention of sorts.

The opening invocation is also just that: an invocation, a ritual summoning that calls together thoughts and intentions that will shape, direct, and guide our practice.

We then end our practice by banishing or dispersing those energies when we reciting the closing chant.

The opening and closing chants of Ashtanga mark out the boundaries of our practice and therefore give it shape, duration and, as a result, meaning and value.

Anyway, Nishijima speaks simply and powerfully about the role of intention during practice, as it turns out that our intention (coupled with action) can affect the entire universe:
“When we want to acquire knowledge about anything, the intention of that study is always included within the study itself. Thus our intention will always color the outcome of that study, no matter how carefully we try to avoid doing so … Furthermore, all action is very much related with the inclusive totality, or the entire universe. No action takes place without affecting the entire universe in some way, and no object exists by itself unrelated to the rest of the universe …”