Saturday, January 31, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 17.46: Thoughts vs Unity of Awareness

khinnasya suptasya ca nirvRtasya
baadhaaM yathaa saMjanayanti shabdaaH
adhyaatmam aik'-aagryam upaagatasya
bhavanti baadhaaya tathaa vitarkaaH

When a weary man, lain down to sleep,
has gone out like a light,

Just as noises cause bother to him,

To one who has recovered original unity of awareness,

Thoughts, similarly, are bothersome.

Line 1, as I read it, is in itself a kind of statement about SUFFERING . Its three elements are (1) a kind of exhaustion, weariness, depression, or distress, doubtless caused by end-gaining (2) a kind of submission, or temporary giving up of end-gaining, and (3) a kind of peace or Nirvana -- albeit a very temporary kind.

Line 2 cites what specifically to the broken man of the first line are a further CAUSE OF SUFFERING.

In Line 3, as in the previous verse, awareness is INHIBITION, and INHIBITION is awareness. This verse adds the description of unity of awareness as being a natural state (as natural as sleep is a natural state), and a state which is inherent or original -- a birthright. The description brings to mind Master Dogen’s famous sentence in his own instructions for sitting-realisation:
eko-hensho no taiho o gaku subeshi:
shinjin jinnen ni datsuraku shite,
honrai no menmoku genzen sen.

“Learn the backward step of turning light and shining:
body and mind will naturally drop off
and your original face will appear.”

Unity of awareness, then, is not something that we have to strive to manufacture, arrange, or manipulate. It is rather something like the stillness of deep water, so that when we stop trying and submit to it, it is already there -- at least in principle.

Line 4 expresses, as opposed to a principle, a real phenomenon that is observed without fail by everybody who actually endeavours in practice to tread A PATH OF INHIBITION. That phenomenon is bothersome thoughts and in particular, to use Jordan’s phrase, “negative chatter.”

England football legend Gary Lineker once said that a striker's life is 99% frustration. A striker means a goal scorer. Goal scoring is a striker's job. But when we listen to an actual striker talking from his real experience, he reports that almost all of a stiker's life is the frustration of not being able to score a goal. Maybe the same is true in a sitter’s pursuit of peace, as is true in a footballer’s pursuit of the back of the net -- complete quietness is always liable to be a frustrated ambition. This human world is a noisy place, and the negative chatter in me is all part of it.

This kind of recognition belongs to the fourth line, because -- though it may sound too cynical to the ears of the naive optimist -- it actually arises from the struggle, a largely unsuccessful struggle, to walk a PATH OF INHIBITION OF SUFFERING.

khinnasya (genitive): to him who is depressed, distressed, wearied, exhausted
suptasya (genitive): [and] asleep
ca: and (connecting suptasya with khinnasya)
nirvRtasya (genitive): to him who is extinguished, out like a light, fast asleep

baadhaam = accusative of baadhaa: pain, disturbance, harm, annoyance
saMjanayanti (causative of saMjan): cause to be born, generate, create, cause
shabdaaH (nominative, plural): noises

adhyaatma: own, belonging to self
eka: one
agrya: foremost, topmost; proficient, well versed in (with locative); intent, closely attentive
ekaagryam = accusative of ekaagrya: close attention
upaagatasya (genitive): to him who has reached, come towards, entered a state

bhavanti: they are, they become
baadhaaya (dative): for disturbance, for annoyance, annoying, bothersome
tathaa: likewise, so too....
vitarkaaH (nominative, plural): thoughts

EH Johnston:
As noises harass a man who is tired and soundly asleep, so thoughts harass the man who has attained internal concentration.

Linda Covill:
And just as noises disturb an exhausted person who is sleeping peacefully, so do thoughts become an irritant for someone who has reached inner one-pointedness.

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