Since phenomena are ultimately without essence, distinctions are only conventional and hence contingent. — Georges Dreyfus
I'll limit myself to the 'man of wood' (shing-gi mi), and leave the 'man of stone' (rdo-yi mi) alone for now.
91. The wooden man cut off the elephant's head (variant: cut off the elephant's life). In what will the sin of it ripen?
91. The wooden man kills an elephant. Similarly the full knowledge (jñāna) that comes from realization kills ignorance. (Zhijé Collection I 452)
One's own benefit (as distinguished from benefit for others) is something the person of wood performed without having the idea [to obtain it].In it [the person of wood] there is no idea it did something, or that there is something to do.It has no need to distinguish between what is and is not Dharma, or what practices to take up and [which others] to renounce.One who recognizes this is living the intentions of the Buddha.
For example, even though that man of wood may have performed actions by means of its yantra, actions like getting fruit (or, achieving results),* however much its actions have taken hold (?), it doesn't have the least idea that this thing or the other is what needs to be done. Taking up good Dharma practices and giving up what isn't Dharma... Overcoming this dualistic vision and becoming free of prapañcas, the individual suited for the Path is liberated from dualistic perceptions, and [it is] in knowing this that they are living in the intentions of the Buddha. That is what the words [of the verse] are ultimately aiming at.
*The Tibetan at this point reads: dper na shing gi myi de 'khrul 'khor gyis 'bras sgrub la stsogs pa'i bya ba byas kyang...
"But in order to make this easy to comprehend, there is this analogy: A person of wood is devoid of I-&-mine in its actions, they say. You might then say, Well, how can it be, then, that there is no object of comparison for the Buddha's intentions? Wouldn't this analogy with the person of wood, for being without I-&-mine, contradict it? No, there is no contradiction. These two are in different realms. It's being beyond comparables is like this: On the one hand you have the intentions of the Buddha, [and on the other] you take this person of wood as an analogy, showing the manner in which Buddha activity is performed."The person of wood, using the power that comes from its yantra, performs such appearances of activities like those of humans: threshing grain, pressing sesame (for oil) and chopping grass. It's not something it thinks about in terms of "Well, I've done such a thing." There is no I and mine. Similarly, like the wooden yantra, it may be that the intentions of Buddha are devoid of thought, yet its deeds that originate from the yantra are unimpeded, and here (in this life) the force of prior aspirations appears in the forms of all kinds of activities. Like the deeds done by a man of wood, the two Form Bodies are performing deeds that benefit sentient beings, but you wouldn't think, 'It's the wood that thrashes the grain.' Similarly you wouldn't say that it is the Form Bodies that perform the deeds that benefit sentient beings."
hūṃ skyi ser rlung gi pha yul gad ||lag bskor mig gis ma lus bcom ||bu chung 'di yi gces 'dzin bor ||shing gi skyes bus dal [~ngal] dub spangs ||...
Hūṃ. The zephyr has the crack [in the wall] as its homeland.The eye of the hand-wheel [mill] overcomes all.Abandon attachment to this young child [you were?].The man of wood has been freed from painful tasks...
khyi phag gnyis kyis bram ze'i gsang tshig rlung la bskur ||mi mgo skam po la ni shing gi skyes bu dga' ||gyi ling sgrog dang bral na kun du rgyug par rigs ||kha ba'i nus pa mtsho la gnas par mi 'gyur ro ||
Both the dog and the pig load the secret words of the brahmin on the wind.[Even] a dried up human head [would be] a wooden man's delight.Remove the gyiling horse's hobbles and it runs all over the place.The power of the snow, when it gets to the lake, does not remain.
sgyu lus kyi rnal 'byor ma kun dha li'i zhal snga nas |
'khrul 'khor las dang shing gi mi ||bya ba rnams la 'dod pa med ||de bzhin 'dod pa'i blo bral ba ||'dzin med skyes pa 'phags pa'i lam ||
"The work done by a mechanism and the man of wood,in their actions there is no desire.Similarly, being without thoughts of desires,a person without grasping [is on] the Path of Saints."
rmongs pa'i yid khyod ci yi phyir | |shing gzugs gtsang ma gzung mi byed | |mi gtsang tshogs kyi 'khrul 'khor 'di | |rul ba bsrungs te ci zhig rung | |
na svīkaroṣi he mūḍha kāṣṭhaputtalakaṁ śucim|amedhyaghaṭitaṁ yantraṁ kasmādrakṣasi pūtikam||61||
You foolish mind! Why wouldn't you ratherpossess a pure wooden form?Instead you protect this rotten thing,this contraption of hosts of impurities. How is that right?
"Ach du Narr! Eine saubere Holzpuppe hältst du nicht für dich; warum hütest du diese aus Unrat geschaffene, stinkende Maschine?" (chapter 5, verse 61)
"For this, we cannot rely on modern ideas of what counts as 'mechanical.' The Greek equivalents – ta mêchanika or hê mêchanikê technê, 'the mechanical art' — are derived from a word for 'devices.' They are used of a body of work describing construction technology and the theoretical attempts to understand the powers of devices such as levers and pulleys, ballistic and hydraulic gadgets..." (Berryman, p. 347)
"Amongst historians of technology there seems always to have been private, somewhat peevish discontent because the most ingenious mechanical devices of antiquity were not useful machines but trivial toys."
(So, too, must magic, but I have enough on my plate as it is without even going there. That magic is a problem for many historians of science is proven by the cold responses and denials that greeted publication of the works of Frances Amelia Yates [1899-1981] of the Warburg Institute, London, so justly famous for her The Art of Memory. This and her other books, among other things, make the case that the histories of today's sciences run through magical lineages extremely well.)
(Ignoring that Heron, being very probably a Graeco-Egyptian, or an Egyptian well educated in Greek, was anyway an African... ignoring that most of Greek technology, itself in some areas strongly influenced by Babylon and Egypt, was revived thanks to preservation and innovation in the Muslim world... ignoring inventions of China [movable type, gunpowder, the belted fly-wheel] and India [the worm screw, scissors]... And if we accept Lynn White's ideas about Tibetan 'prayer wheel' technology bringing the ball-&-chain governor to Italian machine design, we surely must bring Tibet in here, too... See Aris...)
(Nah! Early Tibetans knew about wheeled transportation, sure enough. They just didn't find it practical. Just imagine trying to get those things to go on footpaths over high mountain passes.)
"A golden coral emitted a sound when the gate was opened."
"For the openings and closing of the entrance [to the chapel] a golden bird [flew up and] gave signal."
chu thams cad 'dril nas seng ge'i kha nas rus sbal gyi rgyab tu 'bab pa | goshir sha sgo yod pa | sgo 'byed gcod la gser gyi bye chung 'phar zhing skad 'don pa |
"All the water was collected and from a lion's mouth it fell on the back of a turtle. There was a door of white sandalwood. When this door was opened and closed a little bird of gold jumped up and sang."
*Heron Mechanicus, to use the Graeco-Latin name, also knew of hydraulic methods for making doors open automatically, which could be happening here, I'm not sure of it. For more on early automatic doors, see Needham, p. 162. Notice that water is pouring from the mouths of lions in the drawing.
* There are articles on these 'out of place' artifacts (some of the most interesting ones now kept in Cleveland, Ohio) by Czuma, Denwood, Heller & Shepherd, but my bibliography is already too heavy to hold them. **Al-Ma'mun's reign was very important for the translation of Greek systems of science, especially astronomy and medicine, into Arabic (Syriac was also involved here). *** I hesitate to mention all those fantastic wonder stories scattered about the internet about "advanced ancient technology" in Tibet. If you want you can schmoogle the words and find them for yourself.
(Bhoja, like Heron, recommends that the mechanism be concealed in order to increase wonder in the viewer.)
* Chalk lines are laid down using strings, and not only in drawing out building plans on the ground, but in other artisanal contexts as well, including carpentry. Some people might need reminding that the mandala is also an architectural structure, even if in art it is most often seen in two dimensions (three-dimensional blowups, called lolang [blos-bslangs] do exist). The first stage in the construction of a mandala is laying out the chalk lines, and these are the strings the string holder holds.
(The good that can be derived from drastic situations?)
"[T]he shadow-casting images used in the cave [in Plato's famous cave analogy in The Republic] are referred to as thaumata, here meaning puppets or fabrications, made by thaumatapoioi, here meaning puppet-makers or tricksters." (Danzig, p. 189)
"Ancient sources claim that it is only the inexperienced — those who do not perceive the cause — who feel the wonder."— Berryman, p. 347
*Mo Ti was an inventor [?] of automobiles in 4th century China; see Needham, p. 159.
A mechanical singing bird by Bontems of Paris dating from 1870.