Thursday, December 18, 2008


Mora (plural moras or morae) is a unit of sound used in phonology that determines syllable weight (which in turn determines stress or timing) in some languages. Like many technical linguistics terms, the exact definition of mora is debated. The term comes from the Latin word for "linger, delay", which was also used to translate the Greek word chronos (time) in its metrical sense.

A syllable containing one mora is said to be monomoraic; one with two moras is called bimoraic.

In general, moras are formed as follows:

1. A syllable onset (the first consonant(s) of the syllable) does not represent any mora.
2. The syllable nucleus represents one mora in the case of a short vowel, and two moras in the case of a long vowel or diphthong. Consonants serving as syllable nuclei also represent one mora if short and two if long. (Slovak is an example of a language that has both long and short consonantal nuclei.)
3. In some languages (for example, Japanese), the coda represents one mora, and in others (for example, Irish) it does not. In English, it is clear that the codas of stressed syllables represent a mora (thus, the word cat is bimoraic), but it is not clear whether the codas of unstressed syllables do (the second syllable of the word rabbit might be monomoraic).
4. In some languages, a syllable with a long vowel or diphthong in the nucleus and one or more consonants in the coda is said to be trimoraic (see pluti).

In general, monomoraic syllables are said to be light syllables, bimoraic syllables are said to be heavy syllables, and trimoraic syllables (in languages that have them) are said to be superheavy syllables. Most linguists believe that no language uses syllables containing four or more moras.

Japanese is a language famous for its moraic qualities. Most dialects including the standard use moras (in Japanese, onji) as the basis of the sound system rather than syllables. For example, haiku in modern Japanese do not follow the pattern 5 syllables/7 syllables/5 syllables, as commonly believed, but rather the pattern 5 moras/7 moras/5 moras. As one example, the Japanese syllable-final n is moraic, as is the first part of a geminate consonant. For example, the word NIPPON ('Japan' in Japanese) has four moras (NI-P-PO-N)

See Geiger p. 63 on the "Law of Mora":

In Pali, a syllable can contain only one mora or two moras but never more. The syllable is thus either 1. open with short vowel (one mora), or 2. open with long vowel (two moras), or 3. closed with short vowel (two moras). Every syllable with a nasal vowel is considered as closed. Due to this law, where Skt. has a long vowel before double-consonance, Pali has there either 1. short vowel before double-consonance or 2. long vowel with the following double-consonance simplified.

In Prakrit (Pali, etc.) there are not allowed more than two morae for one syllable. If a word has a long vowel (2 morae) and is followed by two consonants, the vowel is often shortened, i.e., Pali ettha-, etc. mārga- (Skt.) is not allowed in Pali for this reason.

Pendent Nominatives

A pendent nominative (nominative pendens, 不完全主格構文) is a type of grammatical construction found in Greek and other languages in which a nominative given at the beginning of a sentence is the logical rather than syntactical subject of the sentence. The nominative is later replaced in the sentence by a pronoun in the case required by syntax. It is given the name "pendent" (懸垂的) because it "hangs in midair," not having a finite verb.


Rev 3:12
The one who overcomes: I will make him a pilla. (The pendent nom. is replaced by the acc.)

Luke 8:21 (could be interpreted as a pendent nom.)
My mother and my brother are these: the ones hearing and doing the word of God.

RV 10.108.7
aya/ṃ nidhi/ḥ sarame a/dribudhno
go/bhir a/śvebhir va/subhir n(i/)yṛṣṭaḥ
ra/kṣanti ta/m paṇa/yo ye/ sugopā/
re/ku pada/m a/lakam ā/ jagantha

This treasure trove, O Saramā, having a rock as its bottom,
Filled with kine, horses, and wealth: that the Paṇis, who are cowherders, will guard...

A Web of False Assumptions

It is often said that questioning things is good, but we have to be careful that we are approaching things not just with questions but with the right questions.

Students often come away from a lecture on Buddhist thought saying, "That sounded so complex and difficult."

A asserts x
B also asserts x, but adds to x (x1, x2, x3...)
C refutes x2, for example, but accepts x, x1, x3, etc.
D comes along and redefines x as y
E adds onto y (y1, y2, y3...)
And so on...

Until you get a complicated web of speculations about A's original assertion of x and its later developments. These speculations are often extremely difficult to unravel, especially when they have happened over the course of hundreds of years. Simply unraveling such a mess could take you your whole life, but the important thing to note is that all of the complication is just smoke and mirrors that is preventing you from seeing that A's first assertion may be completely unfounded.

This reminds me of creationist arguments where so much misinformation is thrown out that an honest scientist has to work so hard to clear through the mess just to make a rebuttal. This is why some scientists believe that it may be a waste of time, or even worse, detrimental, to publicly debate with a creationist.

It is also a common tactic applied by pseudoscience and bad researchers: the argument ad footnotium! (what's it called?). It goes like this: when making an argument in text, include as many cherry-picked references to papers and research in your footnotes as possible. When applicable, go into great detail in your footnotes to obscure the issue. Having lots of detail, even if it's irrelevant, makes ones argument appear more convincing.

Buddhism and the Brain

Recent fMRI studies of the visual cortex: what is surprising is not that they were able to recreate these images, but that the images are so accurate a representation of the visual object.

Neural-plasticity and Buddhist arguments

The brain as a "magical" entity. Why do they want it to be this way?

Subjectivity and self-consciousness: Buddhist accounts

The Buddhist logicians and philosophers had no understanding of the brain or evolution.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Throwing it all away for the ideal

During my four years at Antioch, I have to admit that I felt quite wary of all the ultra-liberal political ideology that completely dominated the campus. There was something that didn't sit well with me, although I couldn't articulate what it was at the time.

I have since realized that what troubled me about Antioch was that it often put ideology before reason and empirical evidence. If you didn't accept the dogma you were branded as a racist/bigot/sexist. This fear of being rejected was sufficient to keep everyone in our smug little community in line. It also meant that we didn't have to provide real arguments in response to real criticisms. We could just lump our critics in with the evil "conspirators." Sounds cultish, eh?

Don't get me wrong--I am certainly not opposed to liberal ideas or movements such as feminism or gay rights. It's just that so much of the ultraliberal ideology is based on irrational arguments.

Gender differences is a good example. At Antioch we were led to believe that gender differences were largely the result of cultural conditioning. Some teachers and students even went so far as to say that gender differences were entirely socially constructed. While this may have some truth to it, we get nowhere when we try to ignore our obvious biological differences, our human nature.

Michael Goldfarb, an alumnus of Antioch, summed up these problems well in his June 17, 2007 opinion piece in the New York Times:

Antioch College became a rump where the most illiberal trends in education became entrenched. Since it is always easier to impose a conformist ethos on a small group than a large one, as the student body dwindled, free expression and freedom of thought were crushed under the weight of ultraliberal orthodoxy. By the 1990s the breadth of challenging ideas a student might encounter at Antioch had narrowed, and the college became a place not for education, but for indoctrination. Everyone was on the same page, a little to the left of The Nation in worldview.

Much of this conformist thinking focused on gender politics, and it culminated in the notorious sexual offense prevention policy. Enacted in 1993, the policy dictated that a person needed express permission for each stage in seduction. (“May I touch your breast?” “May I remove your bra?” And so on.) In two decades students went from being practitioners of free love to prisoners of gender. Antioch became like one of those Essene communities in the Judean desert in the first century after Christ that, convinced of their own purity, died out while waiting for a golden age that never came.
I was reminded of Antioch's lack of perspective once again this evening when I watched a video on Youtube about the Nonstop Institute, a movement by former Antioch professors and students to continue giving classes despite the loss of the campus.

The video (there are only four so far) I watched was on permaculture/organic gardening. Gardening's great, and be organic if that floats your boat! But what kind of audience is this going to appeal to? In your gardening workshop do you discuss the demerits of organic farming, the reasons why it is not feasible or even desirable for most of the world? Are the pseudoscientific arguments for organic foods debunked or blindly supported?

Most alumni and residents of Yellow Springs seem to support Nonstop's efforts. I'm not sure I'm convinced. At this point they are unaccredited, yet they are asking students to enroll, all the while falsely promising the students that their efforts may be credited sometime in the future. Is this an honest way to run an educational institution?

I understand that the courses may be of the same quality as Antioch college, and I feel bad about the despair the professors and students have had to go through.

The ship has sunk and it is time to let go and move on. It isn't ethical to draw young people, people who need an education to get ahead, under the waters with you as you go down. Responsible educators shouldn't be creating any more damage by madly clinging to something that is no longer. If the college is revived someday, then invite students to attend.

And if you do reopen your doors, Antioch, may you have learned your lesson that your ultraliberal conformist academic environment is only going to keep away students.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Some meme to die for?

I was flipping through a pamphlet I found the other day at my university and came across the following well known hymn written by the Buddhist thinker Shinran:



Such is the benevolence of Amida's great compassion,
That we must strive to return it, even to the breaking of our bodies;
Such is the benevolence of the masters and true teachers,
That we must endeavor to repay it, even to our bones becoming dust.

The introduction to the pamphlet states that this hymn expresses the fundamental spirit of Shin Buddhism. Read the hymn again carefully--do you feel a twinge of discomfort?

Doesn't anyone around me see that these ideas are only a few steps away from the death cult mentality? Are religious ideas worth dying for? I'm glad that the Shin Buddhists I know only play lip service to their religious beliefs. They sure get a kick out of propagating these memes though.

Maybe you think I'm going too far. What's wrong with repaying gratitude? I can comprehend working hard to repay the generosity of one's "master" or "true teacher," whatever that means, but the benevolence of Amida? Where is this benevolence? I haven't seen it. What does a statement like "the benevolence of Amida" even mean? Are empty concepts like Amida worth "breaking our bodies" for? Is this any different from saying you will die for the ideals of scientology?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Today's Rig Veda (RV 2.12.8)

RV 2.12.8

ya/ṃ kra/ndasī saṃyatī/ vihva/yete
pa/re a/vara ubha/yā ami/trāḥ
samāna/ṃ cid ra/tham ātasthivāṁsā
nā/nā havete sa/ janāsa I/ndraḥ

Traduction par Renou:

Celui que les deux armées-hurlantes, se heurtant, appellent de façon distincte,
étant (l'une) en deçà, (l'autre) au-delà, l'une et l'autre ennemies (entre elles),
--bien que les deux (hommes) soient montés sur un même char,
ils appellent (Indra) séparément-- celui-là, gens, c'est Indra.

Geldners Übersetzung:

Den zwei Schlachthaufen, wenn sie aneinander geraten, anrufen,
die beiderseitigen Feinde hüben und drüben--
auch die zwei, die den gleichen Wagen bestiegen haben,
rufen ihn jeder besonders an--der, ihr Leute, ist Indra.



My translation:

Whom the two roaring armies call on [in their various ways] when they clash;
[Whom] both foes, [being] far and near, [call on];
Though [they both] have mounted the self-same chariot,
They call [on him] in separate ways: He, O men, is Indra!

This verse reminds me of two sports teams (or two political parties!) who conceitedly pray to the same Christian god in the hope that he will bring about their victory. Isn't it odd that you never see the losers get pissed off at the sky daddy after the game--the hypocrisy is quickly and conveniently forgotten.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

White noise

Just got back this evening from a series of presentations at my university. Three 3rd-year PhD students gave their presentations on different aspects of Buddhist Studies. Some of the presentations were mildly thought-provoking but nothing really eye-opening.

Buddhism has a long history, and an incredible variety of philosophical speculation has been done in its name. But it strikes me that this speculation is nothing more than that--just empty speculation. The worldview of Buddhism could be seen as being internally consistent, but that is not saying much. One has to accept on face value the existence of certain propositions to make the system seem viable. This is what bothers me about Buddhism and the field of Buddhist Studies.

Another thing that gets on my nerves is that many scholars of Buddhism see it as something with great significance for our so-called "material" age. They have the attitude that there is something really meaningful that Buddhism has to say, and we should get down to the bottom of it. So many of us are programmed to see the "spiritual," whatever that is, as all that is meaningful and good in the world.

A surprising number of humanities scholars have views about human nature that don't stand up to what modern scientific research is uncovering about us. Buddhism essentially sees the human mind as something that can be freely molded through certain processes of mental training, a process that leads, according to some sects, to complete emancipation from subjective forms of suffering. But is this really how the mind and our subjective states really are? Are there actually "enlightened" people? It seems like so much empty speculation, but it is something that so many people want to believe is true. We want to believe that it all has a meaning and that we won't have to face annihilation.

The rhetoric of Buddhism is misleading. By creating a detailed fantasy realm with concepts about the world and human experience, by giving complex definitions and classifications of concepts that have no real referents and then debating and refining these concepts over the course of history, Buddhism gives the believer the illusion that these concepts are describing an actual reality. If you repeat the memes over and over again, they start to take on a life of their own!

But all of this is just white noise to me now. And it seems pointless to research white noise. While I grant that studying Buddhism academically is important to find out about how people have thought about things over time, in terms of relevance to real life, it is like painstakingly researching the history of the hobbit community in the Lord of the Rings series. I simply can't help but feeling this way about religious white noise such as this.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Today's Rig Veda (RV 2.12.7)

RV 2.12.7

ya/syā/śvāsaḥ pradi/ṣi ya/sya gā/vo
ya/sya grā/mā ya/sya vi/śve ra/thāsaḥ
ya/ḥ sū/r(i)yam ya/ uṣa/saṃ jajā/na
yo apā/ṁ netā/ sa/ janāsa I/ndraḥ

Traduction par Renou:

Celui sous le commandement duquel (sont) les chevaux, duquel les vaches,
duquel les fantassins, duquel tous les chars,
qui a engendré le soleil,
qui (est) le guide des eaux, celui-là, gens, c'est Indra.


Unter dessen Befehl die Rosse, die Rinder,
die Dorfmannschaften und alle Wagen stehen,
der die Sonne, die Morgenröte erschaffen hat,
der der Leiter der Gewässer--der, ihr Leute, ist Indra.



My translation:

Under whose command the horses, the kine,
The village troops, and all chariots [lie];
Who has engendered the sun and the [red] dawns;
Who is the leader of the waters: He, O men, is Indra!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Today's Rig Veda (RV 2.12.6)

RV 2.12.6

yo/ radhra/sya coditā/ ya/ḥ kṛśa/sya
yo/ brahma/ṇo nā/dhamānasya kīre/ḥ
yukta/grāvṇo yo/ avitā/ suśipra/ḥ
suta/somasya sa/ janāsa I/ndraḥ

Traduction par Renou:

Celui qui (est) l'incitateur du lent, qui (l'est) du maigre,
qui (l'est) du tenant de formules qui implore, étant faible(ment inspiré),
qui est l'auxiliaire de (l'homme) qui a attelé les pierres-presseuses,
qui a pressé le soma, (ce dieu) aux belles lèvres, celui-là, gens, c'est Indra.


Der dem Schwachen, der dem Kranken,
der dem notleidenden armen Priester Mut macht,
der dem beisteht, der die Preßsteine in Gebrauch nimmt und Soma keltert,
mit der schönen (Trinker-)Lippe -- der, ihr Leute, ist Indra.


ソーマを搾りたる者の、髯美しき支援者、〜 彼は、人々よ、インドラなり。

My translation:

Who is the inciter (prime mover?) of the obedient, who [is the inciter] of the feeble,
Who [is the inciter] of the poet priest [who prays] seeking aid,
Who, with beautiful [flushed] lips, is the protector of the joiner of the pressing stones,
He who has extracted the soma: He, O men, is Indra!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Today's Rig Veda (RV 2.12.5)

RV 2.12.5

ya/ṃ smā pṛcha/nti ku/ha se/ti ghora/m
ute/m āhur na/iṣo/ astī/ti enam
so/ 'rya/ḥ puṣṭī/r vi/ja ivā/ mināti
śra/d asmai dhatta sa/ janāsa I/ndraḥ

Traduction par Renou:

Lui sur lequel on s'interroge: "où est-il?"
et l'on dit de lui (en réponse): "il n'existe pas"
c'est lui qui amenuise comme des enjeux (mauvais) les prospérités de l'étranger,
faites lui crédit! celui-là, gens, c'est Indra.


Nach dem sie fragen: Wo ist er?
--nach dem Furchtbaren, und sie sagen von ihm: 'Er ist nicht'--
er läßt die Reichtümer des großen Herrn verschwinden wie (der Glücksspieler) die (schlechten) Würfel,
glaubt an ihn-- der, ihr Leute, ist Indra.


~しかして彼につき人々はいう、「彼は存在せず」と ~
彼を信ぜよ ~ 彼は、人々よ、インドラなり。

My translation:

The terrible one about whom they (unbelievers) [skeptically] ask: "Where is he?"
And the one about whom they have said: "He is not."
He, like a [lost] wager [of a gambler], whittles away the wealth of the enemy,
Place [your] trust in him--he, O men, is Indra!

Rig Veda 10.136.1-7

Recited from memory (I made a few mistakes, but this stuff is tough!)
Meter: Anuṣṭubh (iambic cadence)

My rough translation:

(1) The long-haired one [carries] the fire, the long-haired one [carries] the poison (potion), the long-haired one supports both heaven and earth (the "weepers"), the long-haired one shows the sunlight to all--[thus] the long-haired one is called this light.

(2) The ascetics, wind-belted, are wearing brown and dirty [garments]; they follow the rush of the wind as soon as the gods take possession [of them].

(3) Ecstatic in [our] state as ascetics, we are standing on the winds; You mortals look only at our bodies.

(4) He flies through the atmospheric space, peering down on all forms; the ascetic, companion of god after god, [is] fit for benevolent acts.

(5) The horse of the wind, the companion of the breeze, and also the ascetic sent by the gods. [He] dwells [in peace] over both oceans--that in the east and that in the west.

(6) Moving around the stomping grounds of the nymphs, the gandharvas, and the wild animals, the long-haired one knows [their] intention. He is the sweet companion, the most intoxicated one.

(7) The breeze churned [the soma] up for him. Kunamnamā used to grind [the grain for the drink]. The long-haired one just drank of the poison from [his] bowl, when Rudra [drank] with him.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Agua e Vinho

I recorded my arrangement of Egberto Gismonti's Agua e Vinho, a lovely ballad from his 1972 album of the same name.

Unfortunately, I have never heard the original composition. It's hard to get one's hands on older Gismonti recordings. I made this arrangement by ear based on some piano and guitar performances that I heard.

The piece is tricky to pull off well on the guitar, yet I believe it is relatively simple for the piano.

I'd like to do some other arrangements of Gismonti's music. Loro is one of my favorites right now.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Recent Performances

Our guitar duo had a couple of concerts over these last few days.

On Friday we played at the reception of Yamazaki Ryo's sculpture exhibition. It was at a gallery near Mototanaka Station called Sukaboro. Around 30-40 people showed up. We performed for about 20 minutes at the beginning of the reception. This was our program:

1. Granados: Spanish Dance No. 2
2. Morricone: New Cinema Paradise
3. Fujii Keigo (arr.): Jag vet in Delig Rosa
4. Fujii Keigo (arr.): Genkotsu Yama no Passacaglia

On Monday we played at Entokuin, a subtemple of Kodaiji. We played the same program as above before the priest's lecture. There were around 70-80 (?) people there. The setting was quite lovely. To our front was a smallish rock garden surrounded by mossy rocks and small trees.

It has been a while since we have played in public, so I felt a bit stiff. But the performance was fairly good overall. I was reminded of the importance of performing regularly in public.

Our next performance will be on the 25th of this month!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Today's Rig Veda (RV 2.12.4)

RV 2.12.4

ye/nemā/ vi/śvā cya/vanā kṛtā/ni
yo/ dā/saṃ va/rṇam a/dharaṃ gu/hā/kaḥ
śvaghnī/va yo/ jigīvā/ṁ lakṣa/m ā/dad
arya/ḥ puṣṭā/ni: sa/ janāsa I/ndraḥ

Traduction par Renou:

Lui par qui tous ces exploits (ont été) faits,
qui a fait (en sorte que) la race dāsa (fût) en bas (comme) en cachette,
qui, comme un joueur-heureux qui a vaincu (enlève) la mise,
a enlevé les prospérités de l'étranger, celui-là, gens, c'est Indra.


Durch den alle diese Umwälzungen geschehen sind,
der die dasische Rasse unterworfen und verdunkelt hat,
der die Reichtümer des großen Herrn wegnahm wie ein
siegreicher Glücksspieler den hohen Einsatz -- der, ihr Leute, ist Indra.


-- 彼は、人々よ、インドラなり。

My translation:

By whom all these transformations were made;
Who subjected and pushed into hiding the Dāsa race;
Who, like a victorious dice-player [winning] the prize,
Took the wealth of the enemy: He, O men, is Indra!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Today's Rig Veda (RV 2.12.3)

RV 2.12.3

yo/ hatvā/him a/riṇāt sapta/ si/ndhūn
yo/ gā/ udā/jad apadhā/ Vala/sya
yo/ a/śmanor anta/r agni/ṃ jajā/na
saṃvṛ/k sama/tsu sa/ janāsa I/ndraḥ

Traduction par Renou:

Celui qui ayant tué le dragon a fait couler les sept fleuves,
qui a poussé les vaches au-dehors, pour dé-couvrir Vala,
qui entre les deux pierres a engendré le feu,
lui qui rafle (l'enjeu) dans les combats, celui-là, gens, c'est Indra.


Der den Drachen erschlug und die sieben Ströme laufen ließ,
der die Kühe heraustrieb nach Beseitigung des Vala,
der zwischen zwei Steinen Feuer erzeugte,
der Spielgewinner in den Kämpfen -- der, ihr Leute, ist Indra.


戦闘における[獲物の]収斂者 -- 彼は、人々よ、インドラなり。

My translation:

Who, having slain the dragon, released the seven rivers;
Who drove the cows from the pen of Vala;
Who has given birth to fire between the two stones;
The appropriator in battles: He, O men, is Indra!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pāli Love Poetry from the Dīgha Nikāya

DN II: 265

vande te pitaraṃ bhadde, Timbaruṃ Suriya-vaccase |
yena jātā 'si kalyāṇi, ānanda-jananī mama ||

I laud your father Timbaru, O lovely Suriyavaccasā ("Radiant as the Sun"), who gave birth to you, [such] a lovely woman [who is] the source of my joy.

vāto va sedakaṃ kanto, pānīyaṃ va pipāsino |
aṅgīrasī piyā me 'si, dhammo arahatām iva ||

Like the pleasant wind to one who is perspiring, like drink to one who is thirsty, like the Dhamma to an arahant, you are my dear woman of the Aṅgiras ("Radiant Ones").

āturass' eva bhesajjaṃ, bhojanaṃ va jighacchato |
parinibbāpaya bhadde, jalantam iva vārinā ||

Like medicine for the sick, like food for the hungry, O lovely one, extinguish with [your] waters [my] burning [passion].

sītodakiṃ pokkharaṇiṃ, yuttaṃ kiñjakkha-reṇunā |
nāgo ghammābhitatto va, ogāhe te thanūdaraṃ ||

Like the elephant [that], overcome with heat, [plunges into] the cool waters of a lotus pool with its [lotus flowers with their] stamen and pollen (*image of the phallus; this is out of place here in this poem! Perhaps stamen and pollen is just a synecdochical expression for the lotus flower as a whole.), I plunge into your breasts and vagina (belly, insides?).

accaṃkuso va nāgo ca, jitaṃ me tutta-tomaraṃ |
kāraṇaṃ na ppajānāmi, sammatto lakkhaṇūruyā ||

Or like the unmanageable elephant [that knows] he has overcome the [elephant driver's] goad and lance, I am intoxicated by the sight of [your] thighs [and] know not what to do!

tayi gathita-citto 'smi, cittaṃ vipariṇāmitaṃ |
paṭigantuṃ na sakkomi, vaṅka-ghasto va ambujo ||

My mind is bound up in you, [my] mind is all bent out of shape [over you]; I cannot get away [from this passion], like a fish that has swallowed the hook.

vāmūru saja maṃ bhadde, saja maṃ manda-locane |
palissaja maṃ kalyāṇi, etam me abhipatthitaṃ ||

Embrace me, O lovely one with voluptuous thighs! Embrace me, O one with tender eyes! Completely embrace me, O beautiful one! That is what I wish for!

appako vata me santo, kāmo vellita-kesiyā |
aneka-bhāgo sampādi, arahante va dakkhiṇā ||

Aah! My desire for [this] woman with wavy hair knows little rest! Like the donations for arahants, [my desire] increases manifold.

yam me atthi kataṃ puññaṃ, arahantesu tādisu |
tam me sabbaṅga-kalyāṇi, tayā saddhiṃ vipaccataṃ ||

That merit that has been performed by me towards these sorts of arahants, that has ripened for me [in that I can be] together with you, O beautiful woman [who is] perfect in all aspects.

yam me atthi kataṃ puññaṃ, asmiṃ paṭhavi-maṇḍale |
tam me sabbaṅga-kalyāṇi, tayā saddhiṃ vipaccataṃ ||

That merit that has been performed by me on this piece of earth, that has ripened for me [in that I can be] together with you, O beautiful woman [who is] perfect in all aspects.

Sakya-putto va jhānena, ekodi nipako sato |
a-mataṃ muni jigiṁsāno, tam ahaṃ Suriya-vaccase ||

Like the son of the Sakyas [who], with meditative trance, is concentrated, wise, and mindful, a sage striving for immortality, [so] I [strive for] you, O Suriyavaccasā.

yathā pi muni nandeyya, patvā sambodhim uttamaṃ |
evaṃ nandeyyaṃ kalyāṇi, missī-bhāvaṃ gato tayā ||

And as the sage would delight, having attained highest awakening, so I would delight, O beautiful woman, having entered into sexual union with you.

Sakko ca me varaṃ dajjā, Tāvatiṁsānam issaro |
tāhaṃ bhadde vareyyāhe, evaṃ kāmo daḷho mama ||

If Sakya, the lord of the 33 gods, would grant me a wish, I would surely choose you, O lovely one, so steadfast is my desire!

sālaṃ va na ciraṃ phullaṃ, pitaraṃ te su-medhase |
vandamāno namassāmi, yassa s' etādisī pajā ||

O wise one, I shall reverently pay praise to your father, [who is as beautiful] as the sāla [tree that] will soon bloom, for [having] such offspring as you.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Yeti: Santa Claus for grown-ups?

I have been bedridden for the past few days due to a cold. I finally started feeling better today and should be on my feet tomorrow.

These past few days, I haven't been able to do much except surf the net, where I found some weird sites and lectures that I may blog about sometime. One of the amusing sites I came across this evening is the Yeti Project Japan. The first thing that caught my eye is that the project is backed by some major companies, which you can see at the bottom of the top page of their site.

According to their website, this year's project involved a team of seven guys who spent a couple of months in the mountains of Nepal trying to get a good shot of the elusive yeti. It is obvious from their site that they are true believers.

Looking at the official blog for their project, it appears that they have returned home with no good evidence other than something that looked like yeti footprints (whatever they may look like!). It seems like they got into this in 2003 when some people of their group spotted three human-like figures in the mountains and then rushed to the conclusion that they were indeed yeti.

The blog is a good example of the attitude of true believers: They have essentially returned empty-handed but consider their trip a complete success. They purport to have found more yeti-like footprints on this trip, and one of the members announced that (even though he has absolutely no convincing evidence) he still wants to believe (!) in the existence of yetis.

They report on their blog that NHK has done an interview with them that should be aired soon. With all the pseudo-science and fortune-tellers/aura-readers on TV in Japan these days, people will eat this up.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

More from Castelnuovo-Tedesco's Platero y yo

First movement of Castelnuovo-Tedesco's Platero y yo (op. 190), a collection of twenty-eight pieces written in 1960 for narrator and guitar. The donkey Platero makes his first entrance here, trotting along and enjoying the idyllic sights of the meadow.

The lyrics for the narrator (pasted below) were written by the Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881-1958).

Platero es pequeño, peludo, suave; tan blando por fuera, que se diría todo de algodón, que no lleva huesos. Sólo los espejos de azabache de sus ojos son duros cual dos escarabajos de cristal negro.

Lo dejo suelto, y se va al prado, y acaricia tibiamente con su hocico, rozándolas apenas, las florecillas rosas, celestes y gualdas... Lo llamo dulcemente: «¿Platero?» y viene a mí con un trotecillo alegre que parece que se ríe en no sé qué cascabeleo ideal...

Come cuanto le doy. Le gustan las naranjas mandarinas, las uvas moscateles, todas de ámbar; los higos morados, con su cristalina gotita de miel...

Es tierno y mimoso igual que un niño, que una niña...; pero fuerte y seco por dentro como de piedra. Cuando paso sobre él, los domingos, por las últimas callejas del pueblo, los hombres del campo, vestidos de limpio y despaciosos, se quedan mirándolo:

-Tien' asero...

Tiene acero. Acero y plata de luna, al mismo tiempo.


Some Pāli Poetry from the Dīgha Nikāya

DN III: 199-200

yen' Uttarakurū rammā, Mahā-Neru su-dassano |
manussā tattha jāyanti, a-mamā a-pariggahā ||

In the beautiful [land] of the Uttarakurus, [where] the majestic [mountain] Mahāneru [is found], there men are born, [men] free from selfishness [and] attachment to possessions.

na te bījaṃ pavapanti, na pi nīyanti naṅgalā, |
akaṭṭha-pākimaṃ sāliṃ, paribhuñjanti mānusā ||

They (those men) don't sow seeds, nor are ploughs drawn; the people [there] partake of rice that [can] mature [even] in unploughed [earth].

a-kaṇaṃ a-thusaṃ suddhaṃ, su-gandhaṃ taṇḍula-pphalaṃ |
tuṇḍikīre pacitvāna, tato bhuñjanti bhojanaṃ ||

[Those men], cooking in a gourd the kaṇa-less, husk-less, pure, aromatic [rice that] ripens [in a form] that doesn't need threshing, [they] then partake of [their] food.

DN III: 201-02

tattha nicca-phalā rukkhā, nānā-dija-gaṇāyutā |
mayūra-koñcābhirudā, kokilābhi hi vaggubhi ||

There, the trees are always in fruit, inhabited by flocks of various kinds of birds, filled with the songs of peacocks, curlews, [and] lovely cuckoos.

jīvaṃ-jīvaka-sadd' ettha, atho oṭṭhavacittakā |
kukkuṭakā kuḷīrakā, vane pokkharasātakā ||

There, the sounds of partridges, oṭṭhavacittakas, wild cocks, kuḷīrakas, and cranes [fill] the forest(s).

suka-sālika-sadd' ettha, daṇḍamānavakāni ca |
sobhati sabba-kālaṃ sā, Kuvera-nalinī sadā ||

There, [accompanied by] the songs of parrots, mynas, and daṇḍamānavakas, Kuvera's lotus pond is lovely at all times.

ito sā uttarā disā, iti naṃ ācikkhatī jano |
yaṃ disaṃ abhipāleti, mahārājā yasassi so ||

People [often] refer to that [location] (Uttarakuru) [by saying], "The area [that lies] north of here." [The person] who safeguards that area is a particularly illustrious king.

yakkhānaṃ ādhipati, Kuvero iti nāma so |
ramati nacca-gītehi, yakkhehi purakkhato ||

He is called Kuvera [and] is the lord of the yakkhas. [He] is revered by [those] yakkhas [and] delights in [their] song and dance.

Today's Rig Veda (RV 2.12.2)

RV 2.12.2

ya/ḥ pṛthivī/ṃ vya/thamānām a/dṛṃhad
ya/ḥ pa/rvatān pra/kupitāṁ a/ramṇāt
yo/ anta/rikṣaṃ vimame/ va/rīyo
yo/ dyā/m a/stabhnāt: sa/ janāsa I/ndraḥ

Traduction par Renou:

Celui qui a consolidé la terre vacillante,
qui a fait s'arrêter les montagnes qui s'étaient mises en mouvement,
qui a mesuré plus au loin l'espace-médian,
qui a étayé le ciel, celui-là, gens, c'est Indra.


Der die schwankende Erde festigte,
der die tobenden Berge zur Ruhe brachte,
der das Luftreich weiter ausmaß,
der den Himmel stützte -- der, ihr Leute, ist Indra.


天を支えたる彼 -- 彼は、人々よ、インドラなり。

My translation:

Who made fast the wavering earth,
who set to rest the raging mountains,
who meted out the atmospheric space more widely,
who supports Heaven: He, O men, is Indra!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Today's Rig Veda (RV 2.12.1)

RV 2.12.1

yo/ jāta/ eva/ prathamo/ ma/nasvān
devo/ devā/n kra/tunā parya/bhūṣat
ya/sya śu/ṣmād ro/dasī a/bhyasetāṃ
nṛmṇa/sya mahnā/: sa/ janāsa I/ndraḥ

Traduction par Renou:

Celui qui, à peine né, doué de pensée (sage), le premier,
en dieu, a environné les dieux par son pouvoir-spirituel,
lui devant la fougue duquel les deux Mondes ont eu peur,
par la puissance de sa force-virile, celui-là, gens, c'est Indra.


Der Gott, der eben geboren besonnen als Erster
mit Umsicht die Götter beschirmte,
vor dessen Wut beide Welten Furcht hatten
ob der Größe seiner Manneskraft--der, ihr Leute, ist Indra.


天地両界の怖れたる彼、-- 彼は、人々よ、インドラなり。

My translation:

Who, as the foremost celestial being [of those] endowed with powers of mind,
surpassed [all other] celestial beings in insight [even when he had] just [been] born;
at whose [hissing/terrifying] vehemence the two worlds (Heaven and Earth, "the weepers") were trembling,
[trembling at] the might of [his] manly power: He, O men, is Indra!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Today's Rig Veda (RV 1.1.9)

RV 1.1.9

sa/ naḥ pite/va sūna/v[e
A/]gne sūpāyano/ bhava
sa/casvā naḥ s(u/)vasta/ye

Traduction par Renou:

Tel (étant), sois nous d'accès facile
comme (l'est) un père pour le fils, ô Agni;
tiens toi à nos côtés, pour (notre) salut!


Sei du Agni uns zugänglich
wie ein Vater dem Sohne!
Sei mit uns zum Heile!



My translation:

As such, O Agni, be easily approachable to us,
like a father to his son.
Accompany us for [our] prosperity!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Today's Rig Veda (RV 1.1.8)

RV 1.1.8

rā/jantam adhvarā/ṇāṁ
gopā/m ṛta/sya dī/divim
va/rdhamānaṃ s(u/)ve da/me

Traduction par Renou:

...toi qui régis les rites
(comme) gardien de l'Ordre-sacré, (dieu) éclatant,
qui prends croissance en ta propre maison.


Dem Walter der Opferhandlungen,
dem Hüter des rechten Brauches, dem leuchtenden,
der im eigenen Hause heranwächst.



My translation:

[We respectfully approach thee], the ruler over the sacrifices,
the guardian of natural order, the radiant [celestial being],
[who] is growing in thine own house.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Today's Rig Veda (RV 1.1.7)

RV 1.1.7

u/pa tvāgne dive/-dive
doṣā/vastar dhiyā/ vaya/m
na/mo bha/ranta e/masi

Traduction par Renou:

Nous t'approchons jour après jour, ô Agni,
grâce à la vision-poétique, ô toi qui éclaires durant les nuits, nous-mêmes,
en t'apportant l'hommage,


Dir, Agni, nahen wir Tag für Tag,
du Dunkel-Erheller, mit Andacht,
Huldigung darbringend,



My translation:

O Agni, O illuminer of darkness,
by the [power of our] prayer
we [respectfully] approach thee day-after-day to convey [to you our] reverence.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Today's Rig Veda (RV 1.1.6)

RV 1.1.6

yad aṅga dāśuṣe t(u)vam
Agne bhadram kariṣyasi
tavet tat satyam Aṅgiraḥ

Traduction par Renou:

En vérité, quand tu décideras toi(-même),
ò Agni, de faire du bien à l'adorateur,
c'est à toi (qu'en reviendra le mérite) réel, ò Aṅgiras.


Wenn du wirklich dem Spender
Gutes tun willst, Agni,
so wird bei dir das wahr, o Aṅgiras.



My translation:

Indeed, O Agni, the good you [deem to] do
for the worshipper,
that [good] of yours [becomes] real, O Angiras.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Today's Rig Veda (RV 1.1.5)

RV 1.1.5

Agnir hotā kavikratuḥ
satyaś citraśravastamaḥ
devo devebhir ā gamat

Traduction par Renou:

Agni, oblateur ayant le pouvoir-spirituel d'un poète,
(Agni) réel au renom très éclatant,
dieu (lui-même), qu'il vienne avec les dieux!


Agni, der wahre Hotṛ mit Sehersinn
und am meisten ruhmglänzend,
der Gott soll mit den Göttern herkommen.



My translation:

O Agni, the sacrificer [endowed with] the spiritual power of the poet,
the true one of utmost brilliant glory,
the celestial being (Agni himself) shall come hither [to us] with the [other] celestial beings!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Daniel Dennett: Elbow Room

Daniel Dennett
Elbow Room
The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting

The following is a short summary of my impressions after reading Daniel Dennett's thought-provoking Elbow Room, a medium-length (172 pages) philosophical inquiry into the perennial problem of free will.

What I have always appreciated about Dennett's methodology is that he takes the findings of science seriously, using it to fuel much of his philosophical speculation. As he says:

"[The fear of science] survives on ignorance. It is fostered by oversimplified visions of what science has to tell us about ourselves and the rest of the universe, about causation, about time, about possibility. So long as we refuse to look closely at the details of what the scientific image of humanity might be—for fear of what we might find—the suspicion will always persist that abstract philosophical arguments purporting to prove the compatibility of freedom and science are just so much whistling in the dark." (p. 170)


"I know that the naturalistic attitude I have espoused, the attitude that encourages us to think of ourselves, imaginatively, as organic robots, as designed portions of the material universe, is odious to many humanists. I have tried to show them that in shunning it, they turn their back on a fruitful source of philosophical ideas." (p. 171)

Dennett's argument is that while "we are afraid of not having free will" (p. 5), when we examine the "bogeymen" (The Invisible Jailer, The Nefarious Neurosurgeon, The Cosmic Child Whose Dolls We Are, The Malevolent Mindreader, The Disappearing Self, The Dread Secret, as he calls them) a world devoid of free will is purported to entail, there is not as much cause for concern as we may think. Dennett urges us to think of the issue in the following way:

"Ask yourself: can I even conceive of beings whose wills are freer than our own? What regrettable feature of our lot as physical organisms is not a feature of their lot? If the ideal of freedom we hold out for is simply self-contradictory, we should hardly feel bereft when we learn we cannot have it. There's no sense wringing our hands because we can't undo the past, and can't prevent an event that actually happens, and can't create ourselves ex nihilo, and can't choose both alternatives at a decision point, and can't be perfect." (p. 172)

Another section I found interesting was Dennett's discussion of the issues of agency, deliberation, and the limits of self-knowledge. Micro-knowledge of how these processes occur within ourselves is likely impossible—indeed, these are areas to which we have "underprivileged access." Because of this, we are prone to attributing a center of agency (a self) to our mental processes:

"Faced with our inability to 'see' (by 'introspection') where the center or source of our free actions is, and loath to abandon our conviction that we really do things (for which we are responsible), we exploit the cognitive vacuum, the gaps in our self-knowledge, by filling it with a rather magical and mysterious entity, the unmoved mover, the active self." (p. 79)


"...there is something like an illusion of scale caused by magnification of effects by the nervous system. Whatever else we are, we are information-processing systems, and all information-processing systems rely on amplifiers of a sort. Relatively small causes are made to yield relatively large effects." (p. 76)

With regard to the mental activity of deliberation, which could be described as running various scenarios in our heads to determine optimal ways of acting (the "inner game of tennis" in which conflicting options compete in our heads), Dennett has some interesting things to say about why such a strategy may have arisen during the course of the brain's evolution:

"Under what conditions would the activity of asking oneself questions be useful? All one needs to suppose is that there is some compartmentalization and imperfect internal communication between components of a creature's cognitive system, so that one component can need the output of another component but be unable to address that component directly. Suppose the only way of getting component A to do its job is to provoke it into action by a certain sort of stimulus that normally comes from the outside, from another creature. If one day one discovers that one can play the role of this other and achieve a good result by autostimulation, the practice will blaze a valuable new communicative trail between one's internal components, a trail that happens to wander out into the public space of airwaves and acoustics." (p. 40)

Maybe this explains why our heads are filled with so many (often superfluous) thoughts!

Today's Rig Veda (RV 1.1.4)

RV 1.1.4

Agne yaṃ yajñam adhvaraṃ
viśvataḥ paribhūr asi
sa id deveṣu gachati

Traduction par Renou:

O Agni, le sacrifice, le rite
que tu environnes de toutes parts,
celui-là seul va chez les dieux.


Agni! Nur die Anbetung und das Opfer,
das du ganz zusammenhältst,
gelangt zu den Göttern.



My translation:

O Agni, the worship
[and] the sacrifice that you completely envelop,
only that [can] reach to the celestial beings.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Today's Rig Veda (RV 1.1.3)

RV 1.1.3

Agninā rayim aśnavat
poṣam eva dive-dive
yaśasaṃ vīravattamam

Traduction par Renou:

Grâce à Agni puisse (le sacrifiant) atteindre richesse
(et) prospérité jour après jour,
(richesse et prospérité) honorable, très abondante en hommes d'élite!


Durch Agni möge er Reichtum
und Zuwachs Tag für Tag erlangen,
ansehnlichen, der die meisten Söhne zählt.



My translation:

Thanks to Agni, [the sacrificer] will [surely] attain riches
day-after-day [and] nothing less than prosperity most abundant
in glorious offspring.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Today's Rig Veda (RV 1.1.2)

RV 1.1.2

Agniḥ pūrvebhir ṛṣibhir
īḷio nūtanair uta
sa devāṁ eha vakṣati

Traduction par Renou:

Agni est digne d'être invoqué par les Prophètes antiques
ainsi que par ceux de maintenant:
qu'il convoie les dieux ici!


Agni war von den früheren Ṛṣis
und ist von den jüngsten zu berufen;
er möge die Götter hierher fahren.



My translation:

Agni, worthy of being praised by the ancient Seers
and also [the Seers of] the present--
he shall [surely] lead the celestial beings here!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Melancolía

This is movement no. VII (Melancolía) from Castelnuovo-Tedesco's Platero y yo (opus 90), a set of pieces written in 1960 for narrator and guitar. The lyrics to be read by the narrator are from Juan Ramón Jiménez's poem of the same name. The Spanish poet Jiménez (1881-1958) received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1956. This poem was written in 1914 as a reflection on his hometown in Andalusia.

Tedesco's composition style is programmatic, and this movement depicts the narrator's visit to the grave of Platero, his beloved donkey. The narrator asks Platero if he still remembers him down here on earth. As a sign from heaven, a white butterfly flutters by. This is the "fluttery" passage that you can hear at the end.

Here is the section of the poem (section no. 135 of 138 sections) that goes with this movement:


Esta tarde he ido con los niños a visitar la sepultura de Platero, que está en el huerto de la Piña, al pie del pino redondo y paternal. En torno, abril había adornado la tierra húmeda de grandes lirios amarillos.
Cantaban los chamarices allá arriba, en la cúpula verde, toda pintada de cenit azul, y su trino menudo, florido y reidor, se iba en el aire de oro de la tarde tibia, como un claro sueño de amor nuevo.
Los niños, así que iban llegando, dejaban de gritar. Quietos y serios, sus ojos brillantes en mis ojos, me llenaban de preguntas ansiosas.
—¡Platero amigo!—le dije yo a la tierra— ; si, como pienso, estás ahora en un prado del cielo y llevas sobre tu lomo peludo a los ángeles adolescentes, ¿me habrás, quizá, olvidado? Platero, dime: ¿te acuerdas aún de mí?
Y, cual contestando a mi pregunta, una leve mariposa blanca, que antes no había visto, revolaba insistentemente, igual que un alma, de lirio en lirio...

The 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics

I just saw on the news this evening that three Japanese researchers, Yoichiro Nambu, Makoto Kobayashi, and Toshihide Masukawa have received the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics. This is great news! I hope this will inspire younger generations in Japan to pursue the sciences.

With the increasing number of pseudoscience/antiscience books seen on the market in Japan recently, it is refreshing to know that Japan can still kick some butt in these areas.

Today's Rig Veda (RV 1.1.1)

RV 1.1.1

agnim īḷe purohitam
yajñasya devam ṛtvijam
hotāraṃ ratnadhātamam

Traduction par Renou:

J'invoque Agni (en tant que) préposé (au culte),
dieu du sacrifice, officiant,
oblateur conférant les trésors par excellence.


Agni berufe ich als Bevollmächtigten,
als Gott-Priester des Opfers,
als Hotṛ, der am meisten Lohn einbringt.



My translation:

I praise Agni, the presiding priest,
the celestial ministrant of the sacrifice,
the sacrificer, the greatest bestower of treasures.

And here I start...

Had a good meeting today at Kyoto Univ. with the linguistics professor. I am hoping to get into the program next April if everything goes as planned.

I'd like to keep this blog as a record of my thoughts and experiences I'll have over the next few years. I made a big change in my life recently--that's a topic I'll write about later.

After the meeting, I came back to Otani and spent an hour or so reading Daniel Dennett's Elbow Room, a philosophical inquiry into the issue of free will. It looks like it should be interesting.