Tuesday, November 18, 2008


"But when the fault of ill-will is disturbing one's thinking, then [thinking] should be practised by supplying oneself with goodwill."

Saundarananda 16.62

This translation is a kind of groping in the dark. Please don't quote me.

Still, what is not in doubt is that Ashvaghosha is advocating, as an antidote to the fault of malice or ill-will (VYAAPAADA), the introduction of its opposite, which is goodwill (MAITRII).

MAITRII is conventionally translated, rather wetly to my ears, as "loving-kindness." Hence Linda Covill's translation of the above sentence is:

But when the mind is disturbed by the fault of malice, the loving-kindness meditation should be practised with reference to one's own position.

My understanding of Sanskrit grammar is not yet adequate to understand exactly in my own mind, or to explain for others, how each word of Ashvaghosha's relates to the others in this sentence, but I am able to look up each word in the dictionary, thus:

VYAAPAADA malice, ill-will, evil intent
DOSHA fault, defect, taint
KSHUBHITE (case?) shaken, agitated
TU but
CITTE (locative case of CITTA?) thinking, mind
SEVYAA practised [I am not sure about the grammar - can anybody help?]
SVA-PAKSHA one's own wing/side/half/place; oneself
UPANAYENA (instrumental case of UPANA) by supplying, by introducing
MAITRII goodwill, friendship

With each passing day I am more determined that I will learn Sanskrit properly (though my facility for picking up languages is not what it once was), and I will clarify for self and others what Ashvaghosha really meant. And this time I will do it independently, with the intention of serving nobody other than Ashvaghosha himself and whoever reads my stuff. Insofar as I am able to direct my energy simply towards this service of one who is truly worthy of being served, the Great Arhat Ashvaghosha, I think that I might be able to turn over a new leaf. I might manage to supply even myself with a bit of goodwill. I might feel that this field of misfortunes which is my body, insofar as it might become a kind of wheelbarrow for transporting the serviceable gold of Ashvaghosa, might be worth redeeming.

In so redeeming myself, however, I do not think that I will need to bother resorting to a meditational technique of loving kindness. I think Ashavghosha's message is not about a technique of meditation, but is, more directly and simply, about learning how to think.

I think that what Ashvaghosha is saying is along the lines of what FM Alexander used to say, as quoted to me by his niece Marjory Barlow, that "This work is an exercise in finding out what thinking is." And "In this work being wrong is the best friend you have got."

From this bias, I suspect that Ashvaghosha is saying that what is to be practised, by supplying oneself with friendship, is thinking itself, by which faults are eliminated and peace ultimately won.

Or this interpretation could be a prejudice which the process of approaching a direct and literal translation of Ashvaghosha's words will require me to drop off.

Translation as I enjoy doing it is like this. It is rather like Alexander work under a good teacher -- repeatedly finding that you were wrong; repeatedly finding that what you thought might be it, was in fact not it.

Translation as I enjoy doing it is like this -- a work in progress.

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