Saturday, February 28, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.16: Existential Suffering, Here & Now

tan naama-ruupasya guN'-aanuruupaM
yatr" aiva nirvRttir udaara-vRtta
tatr' aiva duHkhaM na hi tad-vimuktaM
duHkhaM bhaviShyaty abhavad bhaved vaa

In conformity with its kind, then,
a distinguishable bodily form

Develops, wherein, O man of noble conduct,

Suffering exists, right there -- for nowhere else

Will suffering exist or has it existed or could it exist.

This, as I understand it, is Ashvaghosha’s last word on suffering itself at the end of this stream of ten verses (16.7 - 16.16) devoted to the first of the four noble truths, the truth of suffering. I (i.e. the distinguishable bodily form that, here and now, looking into a full-length Alexander teaching mirror, seems to be me) have found these past few verses tough going....

How pregnant with suffering

Is the expectant mind.

And how deflating for an ego

Is a long, slow slog
in the shadow of a horse’s whip.

From the next verse, our attention is turned toward the cause of suffering. Very close to the heart of the problem as I see it, primarily in myself, is the infantile panic/grasp reflex. This reflex is at the centre of a cluster of vestibular reflexes whose original purpose is to ensure the survival, in its early post-natal stages, of a separate self, i.e. a bodily form that is distinguishable from its surroundings.

tat: (connecting particle) then, so
naama = in compounds for naaman: a characteristic mark or sign, form, nature, kind, manner; name , appellation; merely the name (as opp. to reality); essence
ruupasya = genitive of ruupa: form, material form; any outward appearance or phenomenon or colour (often pl.) , form , shape , figure
guNa: subdivision , species , kind; a quality , peculiarity , attribute or property
anuruupa: following the form , conformable , corresponding , like , fit , suitable ; adapted to , according to

yatra: in which place, wherein
nirvRttiH = nominative, singular of nirvRtti: development, growth
udaara: noble , illustrious , generous; upright , honest; liberal, gentle , munificent; sincere , proper , right
vRtta: turned , set in motion; procedure , practice , action , mode of life , conduct , behaviour (esp. virtuous conduct , good behaviour)

tatra: there, in that place, therein
eva: the very [emphatic]
duHkham: suffering
na: not
hi: for
tad: that
vimukta: unloosed , unharnessed; set free , liberated (esp. from mundane existence) , freed or delivered or escaped from

duHkham: suffering
bhaviShyati (future of bhuu): will be
abhavad (past tense of bhuu): was
bhaved (optative of bhuu): could be
vaa: or

EH Johnston:
For where, O man of noble conduct, there is development of corporeality according to its qualities, there also is suffering; for apart from it suffering has not been and will not be nor can it be.

Linda Covill:
There where psycho-physical existence grows in conformity to its characteristics, right there, O man of noble conduct, is suffering, for without it suffering will not exist, did not exist, could not exist.

Friday, February 27, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.15: Suffering Will Be Suffering -- Like a Seed, Like Fire

biija-svabhaavo hi yath" eha dRShto
bhuuto 'pi bhavyo 'pi tath" aanumeyaH
pratyakShatash ca jvalano yath" oShNo
bhuuto 'pi bhavyo 'pi tath" oShNa eva

For just as it is evident to us now
what kind of thing a seed is,

We can infer that it was so in the past
and that it will be so in the future.

And just as fire burning before us is hot,

So was it and so will it be, hot.

Battered into submission by verse after unremitting verse on the subject of suffering, one is left with not much to say in response to Ashvaghosha's teaching of the noble truth of suffering, except "I surrender."

biija: seed
svabhaavaH (nominative singular): native place; own condition or state of being, natural state or constitution, innate or inherent disposition, nature, impulse, spontaneity
hi: for
yatha: just as
iha: in this place , here; now , at this time
dRShtaH = nominative, singular of dRShTa: seen, looked at, beheld, perceived, noticed; visible, apparent; evident

bhuutaH (nominative, singular): been, gone, the past
api: also
bhavyaH (nominative, singular): future, the future
api: also
tathaa: likewise
anumeya: to be measured; inferable, to be inferred, proved or conjectured

pratyakSatas: before the eyes , visibly , perceptibly; evidently , clearly , plainly
ca: and
jvalanaH (nominative, singular): fire
yathaa: just as
uShNa: heat , warmth , the hot season

bhuutaH: past
api: also
bhavyaH: future
api: also
tathaa: likewise
uShNa: heat, warmth, the hot season
eva: indeed

EH Johnston:
For as the nature of a seed is known by present experience in this world, it is to be inferred that its nature was the same in the past and will be the same in the future. And as fire in our presence is perceived to be hot, so also it has (always) been hot and will (always) be hot.

Linda Covill:
For just as the inherent nature of a seed is obvious here and now, its inherent nature in the past and the future can be inferred. And as there is heat from a fire burning in front of us, so was there also heat in the past and will be in the future.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.14: Suffering, Suffering, Suffering, Suffering

pratyakSham aalokya ca janma duHkhaM
duHkhaM tath" atiitam ap' iti viddhi
yathaa ca tad duHkham idaM ca duHkhaM
duHkham tath" an-aagatam apy avehi.

Seeing now before your eyes that birth is suffering,

Recognise that likewise in the past it was suffering.

And just as that was suffering and this is suffering,

Know that likewise in the future it will be suffering.

Birth, we can understand from the previous verses, means the birth of a body that feels pain and discomfort, and of an expectant mind, pregnant with dissatisfaction.

We experience the discomfort and dissatisfaction, or pain and anguish, in the present, as we have experienced it in the past. We cannot deny it. Ashvaghosha is not letting us deny it. That was suffering and this is suffering. But what can we expect in the future?

Ashvaghosha holds out the possibility of finding in sitting practice, at the level of the fourth realisation, a lucidity in which there is indifference and pure awareness.

Dogen, similarly, advocates learning a backward step of turning light and shining, such that body and mind will naturally drop off.

The point of this and the next verse, as I read them, is to scupper in advance any unrealistic expectations that such a teaching might engender. Drop off though they naturally will, the body will continue to feel pain, as it always has done, and the mind will continue to tend towards dissastisfaction, as it always has done.

What we can realistically hope for, I believe, is that through genuine and persistent learning of the backward step, our suffering can become more meaningful. For a start, we can understand more deeply in practice what the truth of suffering is.

This is what I am taking from this difficult section of verses in which Ashvaghosha seems to want to soak us ever more deeply and thoroughly in the truth of suffering -- leaving no room for even a shred of naive optimism to remain.

pratyakSa: present before the eyes, visible, perceptible; clear, distinct, manifest, direct, immediate, actual, real
aalokya (absolutive of aa-√ lok, to look at): having seen or looked at , beholding
ca: and
janma: birth
duhKham: suffering

duhKham: suffering
tathaa: likewise
aatiita: past
api: also
iti: that
viddhi = imperative of vid: to know, understand, perceive, learn; experience, feel; recognise

yathaa: just as
ca: and
tad: that
duhKham: suffering
idam: this
ca: and
duhKham: suffering

duhKham: suffering
tathaa: likewise
an-aagata: not come, not arrived; future; unknown; n. the future.
api: also
avehi = imperative of ave: to look upon, consider; to perceive, conceive, understand, learn, know

EH Johnston:
And seeing the suffering of birth present before your eyes, know that there has been similar suffering in the past ; and as suffering has been and is, understand that there will be similarly suffering in the future.

Linda Covill:
Having seen with your own eyes that birth is suffering, understand that past birth was suffering too. Just as that was suffering and this is suffering, be aware that future birth will also be suffering.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.13: Kinds of Physical, And of Mental, Suffering

kaaye sati vyaadhi-jar"-aadi duHkham
kShut-tarSha-varSh'-oShNa-himaaadhi c'aiva
ruup-aashrite cetasi s'-aanubandhe
shok-aarati-krodha-bhay'-aadi duHkham

Insofar as there is a body,
there is the suffering of sickness, aging and the like;

And also of hunger and thirst,
and of the rains, and summer heat and winter cold.

Insofar as a mind is bonded, tied to phenomena,

There is the suffering of grief, discontent, anger, fear
and so on.

Physical suffering like the discomfort of being too hot or too cold is a kind of feeling; and mental suffering like grief and anger is also a kind of feeling.

What is the difference? Maybe it has to do with physical suffering deriving more passively from sensory receptors, whereas mental suffering is generated by a reaction to phenomena perceived by the senses. The reaction would seem to rest on a mismatch between how phenomena are perceived, and how the survival-oriented, fear-reflex driven mind would want or expect things to be.

So, for example, physical suffering is pain in the legs, and mental suffering is worrying about it. Or physical suffering is the pain of having a tooth pulled out, and mental suffering is regretting the loss of a valuable molar, due to the incompetent work of a dentist more than 15 years ago in Japan, where the owner of the tooth was devoting himself more heroically than anybody appreciates.... and on and on and on.

The distinction between the physical and the mental is worth making for a sitting practitioner because of the existence of two different -- nay, opposite -- approaches that are available to us to choose in sitting practice.

The physical approach is just to sit upright, based on our feeling (i.e. propioceptive sense) of what it means to be upright. This is a starting point. This is how Nanda begins his ascent to the deathless (as related in verse 17.4: “Straightening all his body, he directed his attention on his body and, collecting all his sense-faculties in himself, he entered earnestly into the practice of Yoga.” [EHJ]).

The opposite approach -- opposed to blind, instinctive sitting that is reliant only on feeling -- is the mental approach. The mental approach is, having recognised one’s feelings to be unreliable, to decide not to try to improve one’s sitting posture by doing something, but rather, to proceed from the basis of reason.

The latter approach is a means-whereby bodily feelings may gradually become a matter of indifference, while reasoned thought initiates a process of release from mental bonds, on the way to pure awareness. This I think is what Master Dogen meant by sitting as body and mind dropping off, and it seems to be what Ashvaghosha is describing in verses 17.42 through to 17.55.

Paradoxically, in the face of physical suffering, like a stiff neck or frozen shoulder, relief sometimes comes when a person gives up trying to fix the problem by doing something physically, and instead resorts to the mental means of not doing.

And an effective response to mental suffering, like anger, can be to release into the physical -- just blindly doing some simple activity like going for a walk or digging a potato patch.

The point, contrary to fashionable wisdom, is that body and mind in the Buddha’s teaching are not always one. Sometimes, as in this verse, the physical and the mental are separated from each other. And sometimes, in practice, the physical and the mental are diametrically opposed to each other.

kaaye = locative of kaaya: the body
sati = locative of sat (pr. p. of √as): being, existing [used in locative absolute expressions -- ‘as long as there is...’]
vyaadhi: disorder , disease , ailment , sickness , plague
jara: growing old
aadi: beginning with, et cetera
duHkham: suffering

kShudh: hunger
tarSha: thirst , wish , desire for
varSa: raining, the rains
oShna: heat , warmth , the hot season (June , July)
himaa: the cold season , winter
aadi: et cetera
ca: and
eva: as well [emphatic]

ruupa: any outward appearance or phenomenon or colour; form, shape, figure; beauty, looks; material form, body
aashrite = locative of aashrita: attaching one's self to, joining, having recourse to; resorting to as a retreat or asylum; seeking refuge or shelter from; subject to; depending on; relating or belonging to; resting on; dwelling in; following; (with Buddhists) an object perceived by the senses and manas or mind.
cetasi = locative of cetas: mind
sa: with (possessive prefix)
anubandhe = locative of anubandha: binding , connection , attachment; encumbrance

shoka: greif, sorrow , affliction , anguish , pain
arati: dissatisfaction , discontent , dulness , languor; anxiety, distress, regret
krodha: anger
bhaya: fear
aadi: beginning with, et cetera
duHkham: suffering

EH Johnston:
The existence of the body involves suffering such as disease, old age, etc. and hunger, thirst, rain, heat and cold etc, and the existence of the mind with its concomitants, when incorporated in matter, involves suffering such as grief, dejection, anger, fear, etc.

Linda Covill:
So long as the body exists, there is suffering such as disease and old age, and also hunger, thirst, rain, heat and cold. And when there is a bonded mind dependent on the body, there is suffering such as grief, despair, anger and fear.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.12: Both Body, and Mind, Naturally Suffer

apaaM dravatvaM kaThinatvam urvyaa
vaayosh calatvam dhruvam auShNyam agneH
yathaa sva-bhaavo hi tathaa sva-bhaavo
duHkhaM shariirasya ca cetasash ca.

Fluidity of water, solidity of earth,

Motion of wind, and constant heat of fire,

Are innate in them; as also it is in the nature

Of both the body and the mind to suffer.

We live in an age of holistic hairdressing, where everyone from A to Z, from your local Aromatherapist to the stylist at the Zen Hairdressing Salon, is familiar with the principle of psycho-physical unity.

But nearly 800 years ago Dogen wrote of sitting with the mind, as opposed to sitting with the body, and of sitting with the body, as opposed to sitting with the mind.

In making this distinction, in setting up this opposition between body and mind, Dogen was evidently in the tradition of Ashvaghosha, about a thousand years before him.

The Soto Zen practitioners of today, by definition, are not in the tradition of either of these two great ancestors. They may delude themselves that they are, but truly they are not. Thinking and saying that "Zazen is a kind of physical gymnastics," and practising as such, they see only one side, and are blind to the other.

Gudo Nishijima, the Zen Master who introduced me to the teaching of the ancestors, had me understand that Master Dogen would be totally dissatisfied with all things and matters in the so-called Soto Zen Buddhism of today, and that our joint effort to translate Shobogenzo into English could be part of a solution.

But from where I sit now, Gudo’s understanding at a certain point itself became part of the problem, not part of the solution. When I began to investigate the area of sitting with the mind, which is sitting based on thinking as opposed to feeling, Gudo reacted to me as if I had become his enemy -- as if I had become a threat to his “true Buddhism,” at the centre of which is a philosophy of physical doing, as opposed to thinking, along with strong attachment to a physiological view about the autonomic nervous system.

Gudo’s reaction came as a terrible shock to me. A terrible, terrible shock. I knew from early on in our co-operation that Gudo was not perfect, and I did not expect him to be perfect. But certain things I did expect from him, and from his other disciples. When those expectations were spectacularly not met, I retreated into solitary sitting practice, and into denial. The denial prevented me from feeling the full force of my disappointed expectations. But recently I do feel that bitter disappointment, which all stems from the fact that, even though I lowered my expectations a lot, I failed to lower them enough.

I thought the teaching of pulling in the chin was a root cause of other problems. In fact, the teaching of pulling in the chin was merely symptomatic of views with deeper roots -- for example, in Japanese nationalism and even Japanese militarism.

Life has disappointed very severely expectations with regard to Japanese Zen that, even though I lowered them as low as they could go, still remained unrealistically high. In this way, life has forced me to understand not only in theory what Ashvaghosha meant by suffering of the mind, which in this verse and the following verse he separates from suffering of the body.

apaaM = genitive, plural of ap: water
dravatva: natural or artificial fluid condition of a substance , fluidity , wetness
kaThinatva: hardness , firmness , harshness , severity
urvyaaH = genitive, singular of urvii: the earth

vaayoH = genitive, singular of vaayu: wind
cala: moving
-tva: (suffix for abstract noun) -ness
calatva: motion, movement
dhruva: constant, permanent, eternal
auShNya: heat , warmth , burning
agneH = genitive, singular of agni: fire , sacrificial fire

yathaa: just as
sva-bhaavaH (nominative, singular): native place; own condition or state of being , natural state or constitution , innate or inherent disposition , nature , impulse , spontaneity
hi: for; surely [emphatic]
tathaa: so too, likewise,
sva-bhaavaH: own nature, inherent nature

duHkham: suffering
shariirasya = genitive of shariira: the body
ca: and
cetasaH = genitive of cetas: the mind; consciousness, intelligence, thinking soul, heart, mind
ca: and

EH Johnston:
And as liquidity is the specific essence of water, solidity of the earth, movement of the wind, constant heat of fire, so is suffering the specific essence of the body and mind.

Linda Covill:
As fluidity inheres in water, solidity in earth, motion in wind, and constant heat in fire, so does suffering inhere in the mind and body.

Monday, February 23, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.11: A Mindbody Pregnant with Suffering

aakaasha-yoniH pavano yathaa hi
yathaa shamii-garbha-shayo hutaashaH
aapo yath” aantar-vasudhaa-shayaash ca
duHkhaM tathaa citta-shariira-yoni

Thus, as wind is born from the air,

As fire sleeps in the womb of shami wood,

And as water gestates inside the earth,

So suffering is born from the body
of an expectant mind.

Any list of terms written by Ashvaghosha or by Dogen offers a chance to look into the mirror of two true ancestors, who were not only poets but also sitting buddhas, and who therefore did not decide the order of their words at random. So when Ashvaghosha enumerates a list of three or four items, it can be worth looking for meaning in the order he chooses.

In this verse, for example, as I read it: wind is fickle; fire is physical energy; and underground water tends to stillness.

In the fourth line citta-shariira could be understood as the conjunction of two elements, “mind and body,” or as a determinative compound in which the former element defines the latter element: “a thinking body” or “a mindbody.”

Either way, Asvhaghosha putting the mental before the physical in this verse is not incidental. The point, I think, following on from the previous verse, is that a mind inherently is an organ of expectation, and mental expectations are ever liable to be disappointed, giving rise to suffering.

So every mindbody, inherently, is “pregnant with suffering” -- a lovely and memorable phrase of Linda Covill’s.

aakaasha: a free or open space, vacuity; the ether, sky or atmosphere
yoniH (nominative, singular): the womb, female organs of generation; place of birth, source, origin
pavanaH (nominative, singular): " purifier", wind or the god of wind, breeze, air
yathaa: as, just as
hi: for; assuredly [indicating logical connection with previous verse, or just emphasis]

yathaa: as
shamii: shami wood [presumably a wood that makes good firewood]
garbha: the womb; the inside, middle, interior of anything
shayaH (nominative, singular): lying, sleeping, resting, abiding
hutaashaH: oblation-eater, fire

aapaH (nominative, singular): water, a quantity of water
yathaa: as
antar: within, between, amongst, in the middle or interior
vasudhaa: f. the earth, ground, soil
shayaaH (nominative, singular, feminine): a place of rest or repose
ca: and

duHkhaM: suffering
tathaa (correlative of yathaa): so too, likewise
citta: ‘noticed’; ‘aimed at’, longed for; thinking, imagining; intention, aim, wish; the heart, mind
shariira: body
yoni: womb

EH Johnston:
For as wind has its birthplace in the air, as fire lies in the womb of the shami wood, as water lies inside the earth, so suffering has its birthplace in the mind and body.

Linda Covill:
As wind is born from the air, as fire lies embryonic in shami wood, as water gestates in the earth’s interior, so are the mind and the body pregnant with suffering.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.10: The Suffering of Disappointments

jar"-aadayo n'aika-vidhaaH prajaanaaM
satyaaM pravRttau prabhavanty an-arthaaH
pravaatsu ghoreShv api maaruteShu,
na hy a-prasuutaas taravash calanti.

The many and various disappointments of men,
like old age,

Occur to them as disappointments
so long as their end-gaining goes on;

For even when violent winds blow,

Trees do not shake that never sprouted.

When we reflect on big disappointments, behind every one of them, if we are honest, was there not a strong and deep expectation of a different outcome?

If not for some end-gaining expectation, deeply buried though the expectation may have been, how could we ever have been disappointed?

Expectation of a desired outcome is the essence of end-gaining, and this is precisely what Ashvaghosha is describing in this verse, as I read it, with the word pravRtti.

Thus, in the Monier-Williams dictionary definition of pravRtti, the term is explained as: “active life, as opposed to contemplative devotion, and defined as consisting of the wish to act, knowledge of the means, and accomplishment of the object.”

What Ashvaghosha meant by pravRtti, which could be translated as “actively striving after ends” or “end-gaining” or simply as “doing,” should become gradually clearer as the term re-appears repeatedly in the verses of this canto.

In this particular verse, as I see it, Ashvaghosha is considering a very mental kind of suffering, which is disappointment. In the following verses, he will progress to psycho-physical suffering (16.11) suffering of body and mind (16.12; 16.13); past, present, and future suffering (16.14;16;15), and existential suffering here and now (16.16).

So, even though a fourfold progression within each verse is not easily discernible in the present section on suffering, a kind of fourfold progression can be observed through this and the next six verses, as follows:
(1) Suffering of MIND and body (16.10-11);
(2) Suffering of BODY and mind (16.12-13);
(3) Suffering in TIME (16.14-15).
(4) Suffering as REAL EXISTENCE itself (16.16)

jara: (from √ 1. jRR) " becoming old"; the act of wearing out , wasting
adayaH = nominative, plural of adi: beginning with, et cetera
naika: not one , more than one , various , manifold , numerous , many
vidhaaH: nominative, plural of vidhaa: form , manner , kind , sort [mani]-fold
prajaanaam = genitive, plural of prajaa: offspring, children, family, race, posterity, descendants, a creature, animal, man, mankind

satyaam (loc. sg. f. present participle as, to be): (locative absolute construction) [as long as it] persists, [insofar as it] continues
pravRttau = loc. sg. of pravRtti: f. moving onwards, advance, progress; coming forth, appearance, manifestation; activity, exertion, efficacy; active life (as opposed to ni-vRtti [q.v.] and to contemplative devotion, and defined as consisting of the wish to act, knowledge of the means, and accomplishment of the object)
nivRtti: ceasing from worldly acts, inactivity, rest, repose (opposed to pra-vRtti)
pravRtti is originally a verbal noun from pra- √ vRt: to roll or go onwards (as a carriage), be set in motion or going.
The root √ vRt literally means to turn.
prabhavanti = 3rd person plural of pra- √ bhU: to come forth, spring up, appear, become visible, happen, occur
an-arthaaH = nominative, plural of an-artha: non-value, a worthless or useless object, disappointing occurrence

pravaata: blown forward, agitated by the wind
ghoreShu = locative, plural of ghora: terrific , frightful , terrible , dreadful , violent , vehement
maaruteShu = locative, plural of mAruta: relating to or derived from the wind, windy; wind

na: not
hi: for
prasuutaaH = nominative, plural of prasUta: procreated, begotten, born, produced, sprung
a-prasuutaaaH: non-existent, not yet sprouted
taravaH = nominative, plural of taru: tree
calanti = 3rd person plural of cal: to be moved , stir , tremble , shake , quiver

EH Johnston:
So long as active being persists among creatures, calamities of many sorts, old age etc., are produced among them ; for trees that have not come into existence cannot be shaken, however fearful the winds that blow.

Linda Covill:
All kinds of troubles, old age for instance, will appear among mankind as long as life continues, for non-existent trees do not shake even when violent gales blow.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.9: All Birth Makes for Suffering

sad v" aapy a-sad v"aapi viSha-mishram annaM
yathaa vinaashaaya na dhaaraNaaya
loke tathaa tiryag upary adho vaa
duHkhaasya sarvam na sukhaaya janma

Good food or bad food, if mixed with poison,

Makes for ruin not for sustenance.

Likewise, whether in a world on the flat
or above or below,

All birth makes for hardship not for ease.

sad: good
vaa... vaa: whether... or
api: also, even
a-sad: not good, bad
viSha: poison
mishra: mixed
anna: food or victuals, especially boiled rice

yathaa... tathaa: just as... so too
vinaashaaya = dative of vinaasha: utter loss, annihilation, destruction, decay, death
na: not
dhaaraNaaya= dative of dhaaraNa: preservation, support, keeping, protecting, maintaining

loke = locative of loka: in a world
tathaa: so too, likewise
tiryag (in compounds for tiryaNc): going or lying crosswise or transversely; horizontal; "going horizontally", an animal (amphibious animal, bird, etc ); the organic world (including plants)
upari: above, upwards , towards the upper side of (opposed to adhas)
adhas: below, down, in the lower region
vaa: or

duHkhaaya = dative of duHkha: for suffering, for hardship
sarva: all
na: not
sukhaaya = genitive of sukha: for happiness, for ease
janma: birth

EH Johnston:
As food, whether good or bad in itself, tends to destruction, not to the support of life, when mixed with poison, so all birth in this world, whether among animals of above or below, tends to suffering, not to pleasure.

Linda Covill:
Food mixed with poison conduces to the loss of life and not to its preservation, whether the food itself be good or bad. Likewise, all birth makes for sorrow and not for happiness, whether the birth be among animals or in the worlds above or below.

Friday, February 20, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.8: Suffering Begets Suffering

yaj janma ruupasya hi s' endriyasya
duHkhasya tan n' aika-vidhasya janma
yaH sambhavash c'asya samucchrayasya
mRtyosh ca rogasya ca sambhavaH saH

The birth of a sentient bodily form, again,

Is the birth of suffering in all its varieties;

And he who begets such an outgrowth

Is the begetter of death and of disease.

yat (relative pronoun, correlating with tat in the 2nd line): [that birth] which
janma: birth
ruupasya = genitive of ruupa: form, shape, figure; material form, body
hi: for, assuredly, certainly, again, etc.
sa: (prefix expressing possession) with, endowed with
indriyasya = genitive of indriya: bodily power, power of the senses

duHkhasya (gentive): of suffering, of hardship
tat (correlative of yat): the [birth], that [birth]
na eka: not one, many
vidha: measure, form, kind
n'aika-vidhasya (genitive): of many varieties, manifold
janma: birth

yaH (relative pronoun): [he] who [is the begetter]; [that] which [produces]
sambhava: coming together, intercourse; birth, production, origin , source; cause,
sambhavaH (nominative, singular of sambhava): the source, one who produces, one who begets
asya = genitive of ayam: of this
samucchrayasya = genitive of samucchraya: who or what rises or grows up; an eminence, hill; growth, excrescence

mRtyoH = genitive of mRtyu: death, dying
ca: and
rogasya = genitive of roga: " breaking up of strength " , disease , infirmity , sickness
ca: and
sambhavaH: the source, producer, begetter
saH (correlative of yaH): he [who is the begetter]; that [which produces]

EH Johnston:
For the birth of form conjoined with the faculties of sense is identical with the birth of suffering in its many varieties, and that which produces the bodily complex produces (by that fact) death and disease.

Linda Covill:
For the birth of a body endowed with sense faculties is the birth of suffering in all its varieties, and the arising of this excrescence is the arising of death and disease.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.7: Birth Is Suffering

tasmaaj jar" aader vyasanasya muulaM
samaasato duHkham avaihi janma
sarv'-auShadhiinaam iva bhuur bhavaaya
sarv'-aapadaaM kShetram idaM hi janma

Therefore, at the root of a disaster like growing old

See, in short, that birth is suffering.

For, as the earth supports the life of all plants,

This birth is the field of all troubles.

tasmaat: from that, therefore
jaraa: the act of becoming old , old age
aadeH = genitive, singular of aadi: beginning with , et cetera , and so on
vyasanasya = genitive, singular of vyasana: moving to and fro; industry; addiction, evil passion, vice; evil predicament or plight , disaster , accident , evil result , calamity , misfortune; distress , destruction , defeat , fall , ruin
muulam (accusative): root

samaasatas: concisely, succinctly, briefly; in short
duHkham (acc. sg.): n. suffering
avaihi = imperative of ave: to look upon , consider; to perceive , conceive , understand , learn , know
janma = acc. sg. janman: n. birth

sarva: all
oShadhiinaam = genitive, plural of oShadhi: a herb, plant, especially any medicinal herb
iva: like
bhuuH (nom. sg.): f. the earth; earth, ground , soil , land
bhavaaya = dative of bhava: coming into existence, production, growth, life

sarva: all
aapadaam = genitive, plural of aapad: misfortune , calamity , distress , trouble
kShetram (nom. sg.): n. land , soil; field; a field; place of origin , place where anything is found; " fertile soil " , the fertile womb , wife
idam (nom. sg. n.): this
hi: for
janma (nom. sg.): birth

EH Johnston:
Therefore, to put it briefly, recognise suffering to be birth which is the root of the afflictions, old age etc; for as the earth is the place where all plants grow, so birth is the place where all calamities grow.

Linda Covill:
In short, you must therefore accept that birth, the root of miseries such as old age, is suffering; for this birth is the field of all adversity, as is the earth for all plants.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.6: The Swing of Samsara

a-bodhato hy a-prativedhatash ca
tattv'-aatmakasy' aasya catuSHTayasya
bhavaad bhaavaM yaati na shaantim eti
saMsaara-dolaam adhiruhya lokaH

For by failing to wake up and come round

To this four, whose substance is what is,

Mankind goes from existence to existence
without finding peace --

The world is hoisted in the swing
of mass unconscious reaction.

The standpoint of Line 1 is mental, as opposed to Line 2 which refers to what is substantially real.

With this verse, however, we seem to be entering a series of verses in which fourfold logic is as if swamped in a tide of sheer suffering. The attempt made hitherto, using reasoning processes, to identify progression in each verse through the four phases, suddenly seems not so relevant.

A funeral ceremony might not be a place to engage a grief-stricken mother in a discussion of dialectic philosophy. And now, like a grief-stricken mother, it seems to me, Ashvaghosha is beginning a kind of lament for the people of the world, the same people that FM Alexander called "lowly evolved swine" -- the great mass of subconsciously-controlled humanity.

So, for the next few verses it may be better just to let the sound of Ashvaghosha be heard, resonating down through the ages, like a grieving horse's whinny.

a-bodha: non-perception, ignorance, stupidity, failure to understand
-taH: ablative suffix
abodhataH: from failing to understand
hi: for
a-prativedha-taH (from prativid, to perceive, understand, become acquainted with): from failing to become acquainted with
ca: and

tattva: reality, what is
aatmakasya = genitive, aatmaka: being in the nature of; consisting or composed of
aasya = genitive of ayam: this
catuSHTayasya - genitive, catuSHTaya: the four, group of four, tetrad, set of four; square

bhava (from √ bhuu, to be): coming into existence, birth; becoming; being state of being, existence, life; worldly existence, the world (=saMsaara); (with Buddhists) continuity of becoming (a link in the twelvefold chain of causation)
bhavaat (ablative): from existence, birth, becoming
bhaavam (accusative): to existence, birth, becoming
yaati = 3rd person singular of yaa: to go, move, advance, proceed; enter, approach, arrive at
shaanti = accusative of shanti: tranquillity, peace, quiet
eti = 3rd person singular of i: go, go to or towards (with accusative); to arrive at, reach, obtain

saMsaara (from saM- √sR): course, passage , passing through a succession of states , circuit of mundane existence , transmigration , the world , secular life , worldly illusion
saMsR: to flow together with
dolaam (accusative): litter , hammock , palanquin , swing
adhiruhya = absolutive, adhi + √ ruh: ascend, mount
lokaH (nominative, singular): the world; the inhabitants of the world , mankind , folk , people

EH Johnston:
For by failure to understand and penetrate the group of four which constitutes reality, mankind, mounted on the roundabout of the cycle of the universe, goes from one existence to another and does not attain tranquility.

Linda Covill:
For in failing to understand and penetrate this tetrad which identifies reality, the world, hoisted in the swing of samsara, goes from existence to existence without finding peace.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.5: One After Another & All Together

ity aarya-satyaany avabudhya buddhyaa
catvaari samyak pratividhya c' aiva
sarv'-aasravaan bhaavanay" abhibhuuya
na jaayate shaantim avaapya bhuuyaH

Understanding these noble truths,
by a process of reasoning

While also befriending the four as one,

He contains all energetic leaks,
through the means of directed thought,

And, on finding peace,
is no longer subject to becoming.

Line 1, as I understand it, is an affirmation of knowing that 2 + 2 = 4, i.e. an affirmation of REASON.

Line 2 can be read as a NEGATION OF REASON. Reason deals in logical sequences of elements that come one after another, like 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10; or like (1) thesis vs (2) antithesis leading to (3) synthesis and (4) a real path transcending threefold dialectic . But reason cannot realise all things as part of one picture, which is the function of intuitive reflection. I know this paradox from Alexander work, where it is expressed in the phrase "all together, one after another." The four Alexandrian thought-directions, or orders, are to be given one after another in a certain order (which, as I see it, parallels the hierarchical development of four vestibular reflexes). The order of the orders is: (1) let the neck be free, (2) to let the head go forward and up, (3) to let the back lengthen and widen, (4) while releasing the limbs out. As verbal orders, however, these four orders cannot be thought all together. To think them all together requires an altogether different kind of thinking -- which might be called "non-thinking."

Line 3 describes the practice of INHIBITION, the truest form of which is direction of one's energy.

Line 4, following on from the previous verse, is an expression of a peaceable PATH.

iti: thus, what precedes
aarya: noble, aryan
satyaani (accusative, plural of satya): truth, reality
avabudhya = absolutive of avabudh: become sensible or aware of, perceive, know
buddhyaa = instrumental of buddhi: the power of forming and retaining conceptions and general notions, intelligence, reason, intellect, mind, discernment , judgement; understanding; presence of mind, ready wit
buddhyaa: ind. with the intention of, designedly, deliberately

catvaari: four
samyak: in one or the same direction, in the same way, at the same time, together
pratividhya = absolutive of pratividh: to perceive, understand; to become acquainted with
ca: and
eva: [emphatic]

sarva: all
aasravaan (accusative, plural aasrava): leakage, affliction
bhaavanayaa = instrumental of bhaavana: forming in the mind, conception, apprehension, imagination, supposition, thought, meditation
bhaavanayaa: in thought, in imagination; (with locative) direct one's thoughts to
abhibhuuya = absolutive of abhibhuu: to overcome, overpower, conquer, overspread; defeat

na: not
jaayate = present indicative of jan: be born, arise, become
shaantim = accusative, shaanti: tranquillity, peace, quiet; cessation, abatement, inhibition
avaapya = absolutive, avaap: reach, gain, get, arrive at, attain
bhuuyaH = nominative/accusative, singular bhuuyas: becoming; the act of becoming; 'becoming in a greater degree' i.e. more, further, once more, again, anew.

EH Johnston:
Thus understanding with his intellect the four Noble Truths and penetrating to their core, he overcomes all the infections by the cultivation of meditation and, arriving at tranquility, he is not born again.

Linda Covill:
By using his intellect to understand and completely penetrate the Four Noble Truths, and by using meditation to overpower all the rebirth-producing tendencies, he attains peace and is not born again.

Monday, February 16, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.4: The Four Noble Truths

baadh'-aatmakaM duHkham idaM praskataM
duHkhasya hetuH prabhav'aatmako 'yam
duHkha-kSHayo niHsaran'-aatamako 'yam
traaN-aatmako 'yaM prashamaaya maargaH

This is suffering, which is constant and akin to trouble;

This is the cause of suffering, akin to starting it;

This is cessation of suffering, akin to walking away.

And this, akin to a refuge, is a peaceable path.

Line 1 expresses the truth of SUFFERING.

Line 2 expresses the truth of the CAUSE of suffering.

Line 3 expresses the truth of CESSATION of suffering.

Line 4 is the expression of A PATH -- a path to peace and a path on which peace is each backward step.

baadha: annoyance, aggravation, trouble, strife
aatmaka: having the character of (in compounds); consisting or composed of; being akin to
duHkha (accusative, neuter): suffering, uneasiness, pain, sorrow, trouble, difficulty
idam: n. this, this here, referring to something near the speaker
prasakta: clinging to the world, mundane; continual, lasting, constant, eternal

duHkhasya (genitive): of suffering
hetu: cause, source
prabhava: m. production, source, origin, cause of existence, origination; birthplace, springing or rising or from; building up of power; instigation;
aatmaka: having the character of ; being akin to
iyam: f. this, this here
duHkha: suffering
kSHaya: loss , waste , wane , diminution , destruction , decay , wasting or wearing away (often ifc.); end , termination

niHsarana (= niH + saraNa): going out, egress
niH (prefix): out of, away from; without, free from
saraNa: going, moving, running; moving from one place to another
aatmaka: having the character of; being akin to
iyam: f. this, this here

traaNa: protecting, preserving, defence, shelter, help
aatmaka: having the character of
iyam: f. this, this here
prashamaaya = dative (expressing result and/or purpose) of prashama: calmness, tranquillity (esp. of mind), quiet, rest, cessation, extinction, abatement
maarga: the track of a wild animal, any track , road , path; a walk, journey
prashamaaya-maarga: (1) a path to peace -- a path whose end result is tranquility/peace/calmness/extinction; (2) a path for peace -- a path whose purpose is peace; (3) a path both to peace and for peace -- a path whose end and whose means is inhibition of the wrongness of blind reaction.

EH Johnston:
There is suffering which is continuous and whose essence is affliction; there is the cause of suffering whose essence is origination; there is the destruction of suffering whose essence is escape, and there is the path to tranquillity whose essence is rescuing.

Linda Covill:
--this is constant suffering, identifiable with affliction; this is the cause of suffering, identifiable with origination; this is the destruction of suffering, identifiable with escape; and this is the path to peace, identifiable with protection.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.3: Fundamental Steps

ataH paraM tattva-pariikShaNena
mano dadhaaty aasrava-saMkShayAya
tato hi duHkha-prabhRtiini samyak-
catvaari satyaani padaany avaiti

From then on, through investigation of what is,

He applies his mind to stopping off energy leaks,

For on this basis, fully, suffering and the rest --

The four truths -- are understood as fundamental steps:

Line 1 describes finding out what is, or finding out what does and doesn't work. This is a MENTAL effort in the true sense, as opposed to meaningless repetition. I heard from a graduate of the Trinity music college in London that Japanese piano students there were renowned for the latter kind of practice, robotically and unthinkingly playing the same score over and over again. That kind of attitude is actually a great strength of 'practical' and 'traditional' Japanese culture, as well as a weakness. But finding out what is, through the kind of investigation Ashvaghosha has in mind, I venture to suggest, also requires a totally opposite attitude to practice -- an open, questioning, attitude. A real and constant desire to find out what is may bring a person eventually to recognition of: the influence of misconceptions and fixed prejudices; the problem of unreliable feeling, usually associated with uninhibited infantile panic/grasp reflexes and other vestibular reflexes; and the force of habit. Such recognition, it is recognized in the world of Alexander work, is typically associated with a condition known as "Alexander gloom."

Line 2 is about ENERGY and about the ROOT CAUSES of its misdirection. To stop off energy leakages means to channel one's energy effectively in a direction of one's choosing -- "direction is the truest form of inhibition." The dog whisperer, Cesar Millan, strikes me as an absolute master at stopping off the energy leakages of dogs, taking the role of their pack leader. But whereas dogs don't think but simply react, you and I are faced with the added complication of a (more or less highly) developed thinking brain. Plus, if we look around, with due circumspection, for a truly enlightened person who might be willing and able to lead us, and to whom we might be willing and able to entrust ourselves, it is difficult to find one -- at least in the realm of the living. Cesar Millan, evidently, gets dogs to teach their owners what balance is, and what it is to be in the moment. In a similar way, some teachers of baby yoga seem to teach by enhancing the natural process whereby babies teach their mothers what balance is, and what it is to be in the moment. That kind of work, it seems to me, is very much about stopping off leaks of ENERGY.

In Line 3, samyak means well and truly, not in theory but in PRACTICE, properly, thoroughly, fully. The thoroughness is not necessarily the thoroughness of setting off from A and getting to B. The thoroughness might be the thoroughness of setting off from A and already being at A. "Fully" might describe a walk of the kind described by Tich Nat Hahn -- a walk that becomes so full of indifference and awareness that the walker in taking each step looks and feels like he has already arrived.

In Line 4 the word padaani suggests the four truths as not only (1) philosophical viewpoints but also (2) the concrete cornerstones of practice, (3) actual steps on a PATH of practice, and (4) the very footprints of the Buddha.

ataH: from then, thence
paraM: onward, afterward
tattva: it-ness, the nature of it; true or real state, truth; (in philosophy) a true principle
pariikSHaNena = instrumental of pariikSHaNa: trying, testing, experiment, investigation

manaH (accusative): mind
dadhaati = 3rd person singular of dhA: to put, place, set; to direct or fix the mind (manas) upon, think of (dative), fix or resolve upon (dative)
aasrava: a door opening into water and allowing the stream to descend through it; and (hence) leakage, leakage of energy.
saMkShayaaya = dative, saMkShaya: complete destruction or consumption, wasting, waning, disappearance

tataH: from there, from that, and so,
hi: for
duHkha: suffering
prabhRtiini = accusative, plural of prabhRti: beginning, commencement (at the end of a compound, 'commencing with')
samyak = (in compounds) samyaNc: correct , accurate , proper , true , right; in one line , straight; completely , wholly , thoroughly , by all means; correctly , truly , properly , fitly , in the right way or manner , well , duly

catvaari: four
satyaani = accusative, plural of satya: truth
padaani = accusative, plural of pada: step, pace, stride; footstep, the foot itself; footprint; footing, standpoint; quarter or line of a stanza
avaiti = 3rd person singular of ava + i: understand

EH Johnston:
Thenceforward by the investigation of reality he applied his mind to the abolition of the infections; for thus he understands rightly the four statements of the Truth, suffering and the rest.

Linda Covill:
From then on, by an examination of reality, he positions his mind to destroy the rebirth-producing tendencies, for it is then that he correctly understands the Four Truths starting with the statement about suffering--

Saturday, February 14, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.2: One Most Magical and Four Lesser Powers of Knowing

Rddhi-pravekaM ca bahu-prakaaraM
parasya cetash-carit'-aavabodham
atiita-janma-smaraNam ca diirghaM
divye vishuddhe shruti-cakShuShii ca

The most magical feat of all, which is adaptability;

Then being awake to what others are thinking;

And remembering past lives from long ago;

And divine lucidity of ear; and of eye.

Line 1 might more literally be translated: "The chief magic power, taking many forms." The first of the five powers is sometimes understood (as per the Monier-Williams definition of abhijnaa) as the super-human power of taking any form at will -- like Arnold Schwarzenneger’s Terminator; but I would prefer to understand it, if the Sanskrit permits, as the distinctly human ability of being versatile or adaptable, which, some say, is the secret of the success of our species. If the Sanskrit does not permit "adaptability" as a literal translation of bahu-prakaara in Line 1, I would be grateful as ever for the input of any pandit who may be reading this.

A fourfold progression, which I would like to identify in each verse insofar as one exists, can then be observed in the remaining four powers:
(1) knowing what is going on in another person’s MIND;
(2) remembering the CAUSAL/HISTORICAL FACTS of past lives;
(3) unimpeded, untainted functioning of the central organ of INHIBITION,
(4) and of the instrument of SEEING THE PATH.

In Shobogenzo, the eye, or eyeball -- in expressions like “gouging out Bodhidharma’s eyeball” -- means the eye as the instrument of seeing. What Bodhidharma’s eyeball represents, as I understand it, is not a viewpoint but sitting as an instrument of realisation.

Rddhi: growth, success; accomplishment, feat, perfection, supernatural power; magic
pravekam = accusative of praveka (from √ vic): choicest, most excellent, principal, chief (always at the end of compounds).
vic: to sift, separate (esp. grain from chaff by winnowing); discern, discriminate
ca: and
bahu: much, many
prakaara (from pra +√kR): manner, kind, sort; a kind of (mostly at end of compounds; tri-prakAraH of three kinds; bahu-prakaaraH, of many kinds); similitude or difference
pra- √kR: to make, produce, accomplish, perform, achieve, effect; to enable to, make fit for
bahu-prakaaram = accusative of bahu-prakaara: of many kinds; taking many forms [hence, capable of taking many forms, adaptable, versatile (?)]

parasya (genitive): of others
cetaH (in compounds for cetas): consciousness, intelligence, thinking soul, heart, mind
carita: going, moving, course
avabodha: waking, being awake, knowing

atiita = ati + ita [gone beyond]: past
janma = in compouds for janman: birth, existence, life; production, origin; re-birth
smaraNam (accusative): remembering
ca: and
diirgha: long (in space and time)

divye = accusative, dual of divya: divine, heavenly, celestial; supernatural, wonderful, magical
vishuddhe = accusative, dual of vishuddha: completely cleansed or purified
shruti-cakSHuSHii = accusative, dual of shruti-cakSHus: hearing and seeing
shruti: hearing, listening, the ear
cakSHus: seeing, the eye
ca: and

EH Johnston:
To wit, the most excellent magic powers of many kinds, awareness of the motions of others' thoughts, remembrance of past births far back, pure and heavenly sight and hearing.

Linda Covill:
all manner of wonderful psychic powers, knowing the movements of the minds of other people, remembering past births from long ago, and divine, purified hearing and sight.

Friday, February 13, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.1: A Methodical Process

evaM mano-dhaaraNayaa krameNa
vyapohya kim cit samupohya kim cit
dhyaanaani catvaary adhigamya yogii
praapnoty abhijNaa niyamena paNca

"Thus, methodically, by an act of stilling the mind,

With a certain amount of negation
and a certain amount of integration,

The practitioner comes to the four realisations

And duly acquires the fivefold power of knowing:

Line 1 describes an act of sitting-dhyana as the most MENTAL act there is -- not a doing that is accomplished solely by direct physical means.

Line 2, as I read it, has to do with regulation of ENERGY. What I have been struggling towards, in the very nearly 50 years since I was conceived, through a very slow and faltering process, is greater conscious control in directing the flow of that temporary concentration of energy which is me. So that's my basis for understanding Line 2. I think it expresses from a MATERIALISTIC standpoint what goes on in the sitting practitioner's brain and nervous system, through the re-direction of his ENERGY in sitting. The line can be understood as expressing, in even more explicitly neurological terms, the pruning out of certain circuits of neurones and the making of new connections between certain circuits of neurones. So the line could have been translated "Pruning bits here and connecting bits there." What this means in practice I endeavored to express, from the standpoint of a student of Master Dogen and FM Alexander, in this article. Energetic patterns to negate, or neuronal circuits to prune out, might be those associated with emotional clinging to relationships that belong to the past, or emotional grasping for outcomes that belong to the future -- together with all the other kinds of emotional habits associated with infantile fear reflexes. New connections to make, in the way of integration, might be those associated with a new and improved use of the head, neck and back. When this breaking and making of connections is investigated (as verse 17.50 says) "through experience, with the body," then (1) breaking away from unconscious reactions, and (2) making conscious connections between body parts, may turn out to be two ways of describing one process. Hence, "the truest form of inhibition is direction."

Line 3 describes what happens in PRACTICE.

Line 4 describes not the acquisition of knowledge but THE REAL power of knowing. The prefix abhi, which means "over" suggests what is transcendent, or real.

evam: thus
mano = (in compounds) manas: mind
dhAraNayA = instrumental dhaaraNa: holding, bearing, keeping (in remembrance), retention, preserving, protecting, maintaining, possessing; the act of holding, bearing; keeping in remembrance, memory; immovable concentration of the mind upon (locative); restraining, keeping back
kramena = instrumental of krama: step, course, method

vyapohya = absolutive of vya + apa + hRi: to cut off, take away, remove, destroy
kimcit: something, somewhat, a little, a certain amount
samupohya = absolutive of sam + uuh: to sweep together, bring or gather together, collect, unite
kim cit: something, somewhat, a little, a certain amount

dhyAnAni (accusative, plural): realisations, stages of Zen
catvAri (nominative, neuter): four
adhigamya (absolutive of adhi + gam): on coming to, obtaining, accomplishing
yogI = nominative, singular of yogin: a practitioner of yoga, a devotee of bodymind work

prApnoti: he/she acquires
abhijNA: (nominative, singular, feminine): knowing; supernatural science or faculty of a buddha (of which five are enumerated , viz. 1. taking any form at will ; 2. hearing to any distance ; 3. seeing to any distance ; 4. penetrating men's thoughts ; 5. knowing their state and antecedents).
niyamena (instrumental of niyama): as a rule, necessarily, invariably, surely
niyama: any fixed rule or law, necessity, obligation
paNca: five, fivefold

EH Johnston:
'Thus in due course by subtracting something and adding something through immobility of the mind and by attaining the four trances, the Yogin spontaneously acquires the five supernatural powers.

Linda Covill:
"So by using mental concentration to gradually take a little away and to add a little, the practitioner attains the four meditative states, and then inevitably acquires the five supernormal faculties:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA Canto 16: Exposition of the Noble Truths


Exposition of the Noble Truths.

Following on from the previous canto, Canto 16 begins in the style of a direct quotation of the Buddha's instructions to Nanda.

What we are getting here, then, is Ashvaghosha recording, in Sanskrit words of his own choosing, the understanding that had been transmitted to him, through only twelve generations in India, of the fundamental meaning of the Buddha's Four Noble Truths.

A few weeks ago I spoke on the phone to Will Tuladhar-Douglas of the Scottish Centre for Himalayan Research, who expressed to me the reassuring view, which struck me not only as reassuring but also as true, that it is natural and inevitable at this point in the history of the worldwide spread of the Buddha's teaching that there should be a lot of confused jostling.

Amid this confusion, an increasing number of people might benefit from looking to Canto 16 of Saundarananda as a kind of gold standard of the Buddha-Dharma. So I hope I will be able over the next few months, following in the footsteps of EH Johnston and Linda Colvill, to contribute something further to the opening up of this canto.

As a student of vestibular dysfunction, I know both professionally and from my own experience how harsh the suffering is of being lost, confused, disoriented. So, like a sea-sick person gratefully tottering back onto dry land, I feel grateful to Ashvaghosha himself, to the Nepalese kings who took pains to preserve and copy the manuscript of Saundarananda, to EH Johnston to whom the manuscript from Nepal was entrusted, and to the Oxford pandits like Monier Monier-Williams and AA Macdonell (whom Johnston called his guru), all of whom laid such stout foundations for the work of Sanskrit-English translation. In more recent years, the digitization of the Monier-Williams dictionary has been a tremendous boon, making the work of translation much easier. And I am especially grateful for the existence of the recent translations by Patrick Olivelle and Linda Covill, done for the Clay Sanskrit Library under the auspices of Richard Gombrich. Finding those translations I was indeed like the deprived person described in 17.43, finding something of great value.

aarya: noble, aryan
satya: truth
vyaakhyaanaH: explaining, exposition

EH Johnston:
Exposition of the Noble Truths

Linda Covill:
Explanation of the Noble Truths

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sitting-Dhyaana: The Four Realisations

Having nothing to do with emotional longings
or with practices that are tainted,

But having to do with reason
and methodical investigation,

Born of discernment and possessed of joy and ease,

Is the first realisation, to which he then came.

The burning fire of longing released him,

And the ease that came with the realisation
caused him to feel sublime refreshment,

Like the pleasure of a heat-exhausted man
diving into water.

Again, he was like a deprived person
finding something of great value.

At this level, though, thoughts about one’s practice

And investigations into what is or is not good,

Are causes of mental agitation;
they are not inhibitory, on seeing which,

He decided to cut loose from all that.

For, just as waves induce rippling

Upon a river bearing calm, clear water,

So too do thought waves, upon unitary awareness.

It is thoughts that cause ripples
upon the water of the thinking mind.

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

Just as noises cause bother to him,

To one experiencing inner unity,

Thoughts, similarly, are bothersome.

So gradually dropping thought and deliberation,

Mind calm and clear, because of unity of purpose,

He realised a second level of joy and ease, born of balance:

He realised that realisation which is inner well-being.

And after coming to that realisation
in which the thinking mind is silent,

He experienced a joy deeper than he had ever felt.

But he also found a fault here, in joy,

Just as he had in thoughts.

For when a man finds extreme joy in something,

Paradoxically, suffering for him is right there.

So seeing the pitfalls there, in joy,

He carried on upward with practice directed beyond joy.

The ease enjoyed by the noble ones,
from non-attachment to joy,

He then knew fully, through experience, with his body.

Going well, he remained indifferent, mindful,

And, having gained the third realisation, steady.

Since the ease here is greater than any other ease,

There is no progression of ease beyond it.

Therefore it was called
the condition of resplendent wholeness.

The knower of the superior and the inferior
called it superlative,
in a friendly kind of way.

Then, even at this level of realisation,
he found a fault:

He understood the ultimate to be quieted,
without any movement at all,

Whereas his mind was moving cyclically

And, due to the circular progression of ease,

Wherever there is a flicker of emotion,
mental activity is going on in there,

And wherever mental activity is going on
there is suffering,

Which is why, insofar as ease is emotive,

Strivers who wish for quiet give up that ease.

Then, because he had let go of ease and difficulty

And of mind-work, which now belonged to the past,

He realised a lucidity
in which he was indifferent and fully conscious:

Such, beyond suffering and happiness,
is the fourth realisation.

Since in this there is neither happiness nor suffering,

And the act of knowing abides here, being its own object,

Therefore utter lucidity
through equanimity and mindfulness

Is specified in the protocol for the fourth realisation.

Consequently, with the backing of the fourth realisation,

He made up his mind to win the worthy state,

Like a king joining forces with a strong and noble ally

And then aspiring to conquer unconquered lands.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 17.56: A Strong & Noble Ally

dhyaanam sa nishritya tatash caturtham
arhattva-laabhaaya matim cakaara
saMdhaaya maitram balavantam aaryam
raaj” eva deshan a-jitaaN jigiSHuH

Consequently, with the backing of the fourth realisation,

He made up his mind to win the worthy state,

Like a king joining forces with a strong and noble ally

And then aspiring to conquer unconquered lands.

In Line 1, the fourth realisation is clarity in one's own mind, to do with SELF.

The worthy state in Line 2 is the state of the arhat, represented in Chinese characters as O-GU, which means "one who is worthy of being served by others." So Nanda's decision here has to do with a wish to be useful to OTHERS. That Ashvaghosha was one worthy of being served, for example, even after nearly two thousand years, has been proving extremley useful to me.

The principle of Line 3 is UNION of self and others.

In Line 4, it is by means of the union of self and others that REAL CHANGE IS DIRECTED.

There may be meaning also in the chronological sequence of the king’s joining forces with a mighty and noble ally first, and then finding the will to build his empire after that. The common-sense idea is that the will comes first, after which a way is sought. But Ashvaghosha seems here to be turning that notion around, describing how Nanda, step by step, came into possession of the wherewithal, and then found the will, or the confidence, to aspire to the ultimate end.

Thus, running through the whole of this section of 15 verses on the four realisations, as I read it, is the principle of means before end -- the fourth realisation is realised as a result of a progression of steps, each representing a negation of the one before; and when the fourth realisation has finally been realised that also is not the end of anything.

dhyaanam (accusative): realisation
sa: he
nishritya (absolutive): relying on, having relied on, with the backing of
tataH: from there, and so
caturtham: the fourth

arhat: deserving, worthy
-tva (suffix for abstract nouns): the state of; -ship, -ness, -hood
arhattva: arhatship, arhathood; the worthy state, the state of one who has realised the fourth fruit of the Dharma = buddhahood
laabhaaya = dative of laabha: to gain, win, get
matim: mind, direction
cakaara (perfect of kR): made up, set

saMdhaaya = absolutive of saM- √ dhA: to put together, combine, join with
maitram (accusative): ally, friend
balavantam = accusative of balavat: possessing power, powerful, mighty, strong
aarya: noble

raajaa (nominative, singular): king
iva: like
deshaan (accusative, plural): regions, places; provinces, countries, kingdoms, realms
a-jita: unconquered
jigiSHuH (desiderative/adjective from √ ji): wishing to win, wanting to conquer

EH Johnston:
Then relying on the fourth trance, he set his mind on attaining Arhatship, like a king, wishing to conquer hitherto unconquered provinces, who unites himself with a strong and noble ally.

Linda Covill:
With the support of the fourth level of meditation, he made up his mind to win the worthy state, as a king joins with a mighty and noble ally when he wishes to conquer unconquered territories.

Monday, February 9, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 17.55: Clinical Clarity & Simplicity

yasmaat tu tasmin na sukhaM na duHkhaM
jNanaM ca tatr’ aasti tad-artha-caari
tasmaad upekSHaa-smRti-parishuddhir
nirucyate dhyaana-vidhau caturthe

Since in this there is neither happiness nor suffering,

And the act of knowing abides here, being its own object,

Therefore utter lucidity
through equanimity and mindfulness

Is specified in the protocol for the fourth realisation.

Line 1, as I read it, is saying that body and mind dropping off is neither something positive nor something negative.

And, Line 2 suggests, neither is it quite true to call it nothing.

The utter lucidity expressed in Line 3, then -- like fish swimming like fish, or like birds flying like birds -- is not really something and not really nothing.

In thinking how to translate Line 4, I remembered a recorded talk of Ajahn Sumedho that somebody gave me, on a cassette, when I was in Thailand in 1988. Sumedho joked that Theravada Buddhism was “a clinical religion.” Sumedho's wry humour may be somehow relevant to this line, in the sense that the path trodden by the elders was not wishy-washy philosophy: it was rather a path on which distinct, practical criteria were enumerated.

In a similar clinical spirit, I am going now to tick the final box on my four vestibular reflexes agenda. I have discussed already the relevance of the Moro Reflex as a centre of emotional desire/longing/grasping, the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex as having to do with balance, and the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex as having to do with pointing oneself in a particular direction; and I have related these functions to Ashvaghosha's description of Nanda's progress through the stages of realisation. The fourth of the four vestibular reflexes, to which I come now, is the Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex.

The mental sitting that Ashvaghosha has described from verse 17.42 onward, as I understand his description, is opposed to the kind of instinctive physical sitting that a monkey might practice.

One of the things that differentiates human beings and monkeys is inhibition of the cat-sit reflex (in neurology, the STNR: Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex). When the neck of a monkey, or a cat, or a 6-month old infant, is extended, the cat-sit reflex causes the hips and knees to want to bend. (For illustrations, follow this link.) The reflex therefore enables the infant to pull himself up into the cat-sit position. The same reflexive tendency prevents monkeys from being able to stand fully upright -- when a monkey’s neck is extended, its hips and knees tend to remain slightly bent. In the natural course of human development, the STNR becomes fully inhibited, mainly by the act of crawling on all fours, and then by cross-pattern walking and other upright activities, so that a mature person, unlike a monkey, becomes able to stand with 360 degree poise, fully upright.

What Ashvagosha is describing in this verse, as I read it, is the culmination of mental sitting, which is coterminous with inhibition of the four main vestibular reflexes and in particular with conscious inhibition of the fourth of the four reflexes, the STNR.

Until the STNR is fully inhibited, we are not fully liberated from monkey-like tendencies. In that case, we still have further to go before realising the fully conscious action that Ashvaghosha is describing here -- the clear and simple awareness of just sitting upright.

yasmaat: since
tu: but (or just for emphasis)
tasmin (locative): in it
na: neither
sukham: happiness
na: nor
duHkha: suffering

jNanam (accusative): knowing, the act of knowing
ca: and
tatra: there
aasti: exists
tad: its
artha: aim, meaning, object, thing, wealth, treasure, substance
caari = nominative/accusative of caarin: (at the end of a compound) moving, walking or wandering about, living, being, proceeding

tasmaad: therefore
upekSHaa: indifference, equanimity
smRti: mindfulness, attentiveness, awareness
parishuddhiH: complete purification; absolution, rightness
nirucyate = passive of nir + vac: to speak out, express clearly or distinctly, declare, interpret, explain
dhyaana: realisation
vidhau (locative of vidhi): direction, rule, formula, outline; any prescribed act
caturthe (locative of caturtha): in the fourth

EH Johnston:
And since in it there is neither bliss nor suffering and knowledge there fulfils its aim, therefore in the process of the fourth trance there is explained to be purification through indifference and attentiveness.

Linda Covill:
Since there is no bliss or sorrow at this level, knowledge lives here at one with its object; therefore in the description of the fourth level of meditation it is said that there is purification of equanimity and mindfulness.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 17.54: The Fourth Realisation

atha prahaaNaat sukha-duHkhayosh ca
mano-vikaarasya ca puurvam eva
dadhyaav upekSHaa-smRtimad vishuddhaM
dhyaanaM tath” aa-duHkha-sukhaM caturtham

Then, because he had let go of ease and difficulty

And of mind-work, which now belonged to the past,

He realised a lucidity
in which he was indifferent and fully conscious:

Such, beyond suffering and happiness,
is the fourth realisation.


In Line 1, following on from the previous lines, ease (1) as a concept, is the suffering of idealism, ease (2) as a feeling, is the suffering of sweet melons and bitter gourds, and ease (3) as a flow of endorphins, is the suffering of that which is not nothing. Difficulty, on the other hand, is (4) suffering as SUFFERING.

In Line 2 mind-work could mean the work of sitting with the mind, in accordance with the Buddha-ancestors' teaching, in which sitting is foremost; or it could mean working on the mind, in accordance with a teaching, like psychotherapy for example, in which the mind is foremost. In either meaning, insofar as mind-work is an effort to bring about change, mind-work is just a CAUSE OF SUFFERING.

In the work of FM Alexander, also, what is primary is not the mind but rather what Alexander called "the use of the self," that is, action. Even though action is primary in Alexander work, Alexander described his work as "the most mental thing there is." This mental work, as I have experienced it, involves a lot of being told by others, and telling oneself, "No, it is not that!" I am very heartened just now to have read Harry Bradley's comment on the previous post because, reading what Harry wrote, I see that Harry is expressing in his own words the mind-worker's path of "Not that." And I sincerely wish Harry well, if he decides to continue on this path, because it is no bed of roses, continuing with this mind-work whose constant refrain is: Not that!

Nanda's mind-work in the sense of sitting with the mind is just what the past dozen verses, as I read them, have been describing. What this line is describing, as I read it, is mind-work having stopped already. So the implicit message of Line 2 could be expressed in other words as: “Now! Let it be!”

Any twopenny-halfpenny Zen master, or wrinkly old Beatles fan, or half-baked Alexander teacher, can say the words “Let it be.” To let it be means to let go of any desire for self-improvement, to drop off all expectation of change, to completely to give up any last vestige of the end-gaining idea of working on the mind. Somebody wrote a book on the Alexander Technique called “The Art of Changing.” Maybe on a more profound level Alexander work is the art of NOT changing -- in other words, the art of letting it be.

But what do self and others actually do on receipt of an instruction like “Stop trying” or “Just relax” or “Let it be” or “Let it go”? We tend to be like nervous swimmers needless causing a commotion in a swimming pool, splashing about in an effort to conquer the water. If a swimming instructor tells us "Stop splashing and let the water support you," we are liable not to listen. Similarly, such simple and direct instructions as "Let it be," tend on their own to be worse than useless as instructions for sitting, because the reaction they stimulate is exactly the kind of mental activity described in the previous verse, which itself is the very CAUSE OF SUFFERING.

Thus, FM Alexander was overhead saying to one of his pupils, while practicing mind-work in the context of sitting and standing: “You are doing what you call leaving yourself alone.”

In practice, how do we stop doing that kind of self-arrangement which Alexander’s pupil called leaving himself alone, but which Alexander called ‘doing’? For a teacher just to tell the student that the aim is to leave himself alone, does not get to the root of the problem. A swimming instructor might as well stand by the poolside and yell, "Glide peacefully in the water!" Such a direct instruction is a kind of end-gaining on the teacher’s part, and end-gaining is itself a root cause of the problem. To oppose the end-gaining tendency, a wise teacher, as Alexander was a wise teacher, and as Ashvaghosha was a wise teacher, guides the practitioner in manageable steps, one by one.

Thus, for the practice of mental sitting, Ashvaghosha has painstakingly elucidated three steps already, by which Nanda has (1) opposed the tendency towards emotional reactivity through reliance on reason and thought-directions; (2) freed himself from the disturbance of thoughts; and (3) given up attachment to the ensuing joy. Now as Nanda comes to the fourth realisation, this line says, those three steps have already become things of the past. Nanda caused those steps to become things of the past by following those steps. He did not go straight from A to C without passing B. He started at A, which is sitting with the body, he proceeded through B, which is sitting with the mind, and so now he sits at the threshold of C, which is sitting as body and mind dropping off.

In Line 3 the word vishuddha, or lucidity, might be a pure expression of the state of INHIBITION itself. It might be what Master Dogen meant when he wrote of fish swimming like fish and birds flying like birds.

Line 4 expresses the fourth realisation in sitting/realisation as a stage on A PATH leading beyond suffering and happiness. A note of caution, however: if we made the mistake of thinking that the fourth realisation in sitting was not a stage on a path but the destination itself, namely the fourth fruit of the Dharma, arhathood, the worthy state, then we would be on the brink of finding that pride comes before a fall -- as in the case described in Shobogenzo chapter 90, Shizen-biku, “The Beggar of the Fourth Realisation.”

atha: then
prahaaNaat = ablative of prahaana: relinquishing, abandoning, giving up
sukha-duHkhayosh (genitive, dual): of ease and difficulty; of happiness and suffering
ca: and

mano = manas: mind
vikaarasya = genitive of vikaara: change of form or nature; alteration from any natural state; change, modification (esp. for the worse)
ca: and
puurvam: previously, already, had just
eva: [emphatic] already

dadhyau = perfect of dhyai: realise
upekSHaa: overlooking, disregard, negligence, indifference, contempt;
abandonment; endurance, patience; equanimity
smRti: recollection, remembrance, mindfulness, attentiveness
-mat: possessive suffix
smRtimat: having recollection or full consciousness
vishuddham (accusative): completely cleansed or purified, clean, clear, pure; free from vice; honest; cleared, exhausted, empty
dhyaanaM (accusative): realisation
tathaa: thus, likewise
a-duHkha-sukha: without suffering and happiness, beyond difficulty or ease
caturtha: the fourth

EH Johnston:
Then previously abandoning bliss and suffering and all alteration of the mind he entered the fourth trance, which is pure and possesses the qualities of indifference and attentiveness and is devoid of bliss and suffering.

Linda Covill:
Then, because he had just given up bliss and suffering as well as alteration of the mind, he attained the fourth level of meditation, which is pure, free from happiness and sorrow, and endowed with equanimity and mindfulness.

Friday, February 6, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 17.53: Giving Up, Letting Go, Dropping Off

yatr’ eNjitaM spanditam asti tatra
yatr’ aasti ca spanditam asti duHkham
yasmaad atas tat sukham iNjakatvaat
prashaanti-kaamaa yatayas tyajanti

Wherever there is a flicker of emotion,
mental activity is going on in there,

And wherever mental activity is going on
there is suffering,

Which is why, insofar as ease is emotive,

Strivers who wish for quiet give up that ease.

The second word in Line 1, if I have understood its literal meaning correctly, suggests to me a momentary furrowing of the brow, or almost imperceptible tightening of the neck, or reddening of the hands -- a hint of a movement, however subtle, that betrays a person’s SUFFERING. Professor Paul Ekman, who has latterly collaborated with the Dalai Lama, has been a pioneer in the field of observing in people's faces this kind of flicker of emotion.

The point of Line 2 is that the root CAUSE of the suffering is not in the red traffic light, or crashing computer, or tumbling market, or barking dog, or other noxious stimulus that confronts the suffering person. The real root CAUSE is rather in the mental activity that constitutes the person’s own emotional reaction to the stimulus.

The translation of Line 3 is very provisional, as I am not sure about the exact literal meaning of iNjakatvaat. Is Ashvaghosha saying here that what, in EH Johnston’s words, “brings about alteration,” is our attachment to the idea of ease? If so, then the line makes perfect sense to me, because it has been demonstrated to me, as I describe here, how troublesome an idea can be. In order to INHIBIT the mental activity associated with suffering, the secret often lies in the giving up of an idea.

Line 4 reminds us that the Way of Buddha, or a path of a non-buddha, is A PATH of giving up, letting go, dropping off -- a path of backward steps of turning light and shining. When the backward step is studied in detail, it generally seems, again, to depend on giving up an idea, that is, on letting go of attachment to an idea. We make ourselves unhappy in pursuit of the idea of happiness, like insomniacs worrying about getting enough sleep. Whereas the truest happiness, in the final analysis, may lie in completely giving up the idea of being happy, and just sitting. The truest ease, in the final analysis, may lie in totally letting go of the idea of ease, and just sitting. Only when the insomniac gives up the idea of sleep, does he finally drop off. Only when the striver gives up the idea of ease, can body and mind drop off.

We have arrived here, I believe (on the basis of studying the ancestors' own words for myself), at the ultimate teaching of Ashvaghosha and the ultimate teaching of Dogen concerning how to sit. But, please, do not call it the Zazen teaching of Soto Zen!

[If I have got any words wrong, I would very much welcome negative feedback from any pandits out there.]

yatra: in which, where, wherever
inJita = (?) iNgita: palpitation; change of the voice, internal motion, motion of various parts of the body as indicating the intentions; hint, sign, gesture; aim, intention, real but covert purpose
spandita (from spand = to quiver): quivering, trembling; pulsation, throb; movement or activity (of the mind)
asti: there is
tatra: there

yatra: where
asti: there is
ca: and
spandita: commotion
asti: there is
duHkha: suffering

yasmaat (ablative of ya): because of which
ataH: for this reason, from this, which is why
tat: that
sukham: happiness
iNjakatvaat = (?) inGa + ka + tvaat: ‘because it brings about alteration’ (EHJ); ‘insofar as it is emotive’ [provisional translation here, based on EHJ]
inGa: moveable, locomotive
ka: (?)
tvaat (ablative of abstract noun suffix -tvam) because of X-ness, because of X-tion, because of being X

prashaanti: sinking to rest, rest, tranquillity (esp. of mind), calm, quiet, pacification, abatement, extinction, destruction
kaama: wish, desire, longing
yatayaH = nominative, plural of yati: "a striver ," an ascetic, devotee, one who has restrained his passions and abandoned the world
yati = from the root yam: stretch out, give oneself up to, exert oneself
tyajanti: they give up, abandon, quit, leave be, let go; free oneself from

EH Johnston:
Seeing that where there is alteration there is motion and where there is motion there is suffering, ascetics who long for tranquillity give up that bliss because it brings about alteration.

Linda Covill:
Where there is fluctuation, there is motion, and where there is motion, there is suffering. Because of this fluctuation, ascetics who strive for peace give up that bliss.

SAUNDARANANDA 17.52: Not Even That! (Nothing Positive)

dhyaane 'pi tatr' aatha dadarsha doSHaM
mene paraM shaantam an-iNjam eva
aabhogato 'p' iiNjayati sma tasya
cittaM pravRttaM sukham ity ajasram

Then, even at this level of realisation,
he found a fault:

He understood the ultimate to be quieted,
without any movement at all,

Whereas his mind was moving cyclically

And, due to the circular progression of ease,

Line 1 expresses Nanda’s DISSATISFACTION.

Line 2 expresses the CAUSE of Nanda’s dissatisfaction -- a mismatch between what he had understood (based on the Buddha's guidance) his ultimate goal to be, and how he actually was.

Line 3 expresses what, in accordance with the third noble truth, remained for Nanda to INHIBIT -- the subtlest remnants of cyclical or habitual patterns ingrained in his brain and nervous system.

The wording of Line 4 somehow suggests, to a modern ear, the circulation of those ease-giving molecules of emotion called endorphins. Just as stress hormones and muscular over-tension are liable to form links in the vicious circle of emotional end-gaining, endorphins and muscular release are likely to be part of the virtuous circle of inhibition and awareness.

FM Alexander, as I understand his work, devised a MEANS-WHERBY anybody, by working to a definite principle, can stop the vicious circle at source and thereby allow the virtuous circle to get going.

And yet the practice of sitting in silence, upright and still with the legs crossed, guided by Ashvaghosha’s legacy of golden words, seems to open the possibility of a PATH OF INHIBITION which goes still deeper and is even more complete. Whether or not we have ever truly grimpsed this level of realisation, we cannot be totally sure. But, like Nanda, thanks to having met the Buddha's teaching, we can at least have a conception of what might be possible (even if that conception makes us suffer).

For a person stuck in the prison of habitual reaction, anything that gets the virtuous circle going, fuelled by flow of endorphins, is more valuable than gold -- up to a certain point. Beyond that point, I think Ashvaghosha is saying, even the security of reliance on reason (e.g. 2 +2 = 4), and the positive, endorphin-fuelled happiness of joy and ease, are just so much baggage to be dropped off.

Most of us, however, most of the time, are far from arriving at that point! That being so, Alexander might still have a lot to teach us about the earlier stages of realisation in our practice of sitting/realisation -- i.e., what it means to sit with the mind.

dhyaane (locative): in the realisation
api: also, again
tatra: there, in that one
atha: then (connecting particle)
dadarsha (perfect of dRsh): saw
doSHam (accusative): flaw, fault

mene = perfect of man: to think, believe, imagine, suppose, consider; (with accusative) to perceive, observe, know, understand, comprehend
param: the best
shaantam (accusative, from the root sham): appeased, pacified, tranquil, inhibited, abated; tranquility, contentment
sham: to toil at, exert oneself; to become tired, finish, stop, come to an end, rest, be quiet or calm or satisfied or contented
an-iNjam = (?) an + iNgam: without movement; ‘not subject to alteration‘ (EHJ); ‘without fluctuation’ (LC)
iNgam: moveable, locomotive
eva (emphatic): at all

aabhoga: bend, curve, roundness, circumference, (centrifugal?) force, multiplicity, serpent
taH (ablative suffix): through, due to, because of
aabhogataH: ‘through inflections’ (EHJ); ‘due to modulations’ (LC); cyclically
api: and, also, moreover, verily
iiNjayati (from iNg = stir, move, put in motion): it moves, stirs, alters, fluctuates
sma (emphatic particle): certainly, indeed, actually
tasya (genitive of sa): of him, of it

cittam (accusative): mind, thinking mind
pravRtta (from the root vRt, to turn): rotund; acting, proceeding, going round; causing a continuation [(with karman) of mundane existence]; set in motion, under way, in operation, current; flowing; activity, working
sukham (accusative): happiness, ease; running swiftly or easily (only applied to cars or chariots)
iti: thus, because of [the preceding]
ajasram (from jas = exhuast): perpetually, inexhaustibly, for ever; continuously, continually, untiringly

EH Johnston:
Then he saw a defect in that trance and deemed that the highest stage is tranquil and not subject to alteration, but his mind kept altering continuously through inflections because of the activity of bliss.

Linda Covill:
But since he considered the highest to be peaceful and without fluctuation, he detected a flaw even in meditation at this level -- that his mind fluctuated continuously due to modulations in the working of bliss.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 17.51: Superlative Ease

yasmaat paraM tatra sukhaM sukhebhyas
tataH paraM n'aasti sukha-pravRttiH
tasmaad babhaaSHe shubha-kRtsna-bhuumiM
par'-aapara-jNaH param' eti maitryaa

Since the ease here is greater than any other ease,

There is no progression of ease beyond it.

Therefore it was called
the condition of resplendent wholeness.

The knower of the superior and the inferior
called it superlative,
in a friendly kind of way.

Sometimes it is not so much what we say as the WAY that we say it, not so much what we do as the WAY that we do it. The last word of Line 4, as I read it, is a reminder of that.

yasmaat (abl. of ya): from which cause, since
param: beyond, greater than
tatra: there, in that state, at that level
sukham (accusative): ease, effortlessness, happiness
sukhebhyaH = ablative, plural of sukha: out of all kinds of ease/effortlessness/happiness

tataH: from there, from that, thereupon
param: beyond
na: not
aasti: there is
sukha: ease
pravRttiH: moving onwards, advance, progress, continuing

tasmaad (correlative of yasmaat): from that, therefore
babhaaSHe (perfect of bhaN): call, name (with accusative)
shubha: lovely, splendid, pleasant
kRtsna: all, whole, entire; the belly
bhuumi: ground, place, position, stage, situation

para: what is ascendant; better, superior, highest, supreme
a-para: what is not ascendant; inferior, lower (opposed to para)
jNaH (nominative, singular): knower, wise and learned man
parama (superlative of para): most ascendant, superlative
iti: [called] it
maitryaa (instrumental of maitri): because of friendliness, through loving-kindness, with affability, in an easy-going manner

EH Johnston:
Since the bliss reached at that point is the highest of all blisses, there is no continuance of bliss beyond it; therefore the Knower of the higher and lower stages called it the ShubhakRtsena stage as being supreme through benevolence.

Linda Covill:
Bliss does not operate beyond this level, since the bliss here is greater than any other bliss. Therefore the knower of the lower and the higher called it the stage of the entirely lovely, supreme through loving-kindness.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 17.50: The Third Realisation

priter viraagaat sukham aarya-juSHTam
kaayena vindann atha samprajaanan
upekSHakaH sa smRtimaan vyahaarSHiid
dhyaanaM tRtiiyam pratilabhya dhiiraH

The ease enjoyed by the noble ones,
from non-attachment to joy,

He then knew fully, through experience, with his body.

Going well, he remained indifferent, mindful,

And, having gained the third realisation, steady.

Line 1 describes a condition of MIND.

Line 2 describes learning through experience with the BODY.

Line 3 features the verb vihR, which featured often in Canto 3, where Ashvoghasha gave us a sense of observance of the precepts not as something gloomily restrictive but as an aid to roaming freely, to faring or going well. FM Alexander spent his life investigating how a person who habitually went badly might improve his use of himself so that he would gradually fare better. And the key to such improvement was stopping the wrong thing so that the right thing could do itself. The key, in short, was inhibition. So true INHIBITION, and FREEDOM IN ACTION, can be seen as two faces of the same coin.

In Line 4, as I read it, Ashvaghosha is hinting that the third realisation is not necessarily heralded by trumpets. The sense of A PATH continued quietly and with determination, as opposed to a thunderbolt heralded by trumpets, is conveyed both by the word dhiiraH, constancy or steadiness, and also (I think) grammatically by the gerundive (or 'future passive participle') ending -ya in pratilabhya. The gerundive ending -ya, if I understand correctly, conveys a wide, characterizing sense of what will duly happen to something in a natural course of events.

This verse, then, also reflects a four-phased progression, which is easily linkable to the fourfold noble truth of suffering, if one accepts the argument of the person who introduced me to the fourfold system, Gudo Nishijima, that (1) suffering is the philosophy of subjectivism, idealism, mind; and (2) effort to identify the cause of suffering arises from the standpoint of objectivism, materialism, body.

priiteH (ablative/genitive): from/of/to joy
viraagaat (ablative): through/from/because of dispassion, indifference,non-attachment, loss of colour, absence of redness
Lit. "because of absence of redness from joy" (?)
sukham (accusative): ease, happiness
aarya: a respectable or honourable or faithful man, an inhabitant of Aryavarta; name of the race which immigrated from Central Asia into Aaryaavarta; (with Buddhists) a man who has thought on the four chief truths of Buddhism and lives accordingly; behaving like an Aryan, honourable, respectable, noble
juSHTa: pleased, loved, agreeable, usual, practised, possessed of (in compounds)
aarya-juSHTa: enjoyed by noble ones

kaayena (instrumental): with/through the body
vindan (present participle of vid) finding, discovering, feeling, experiencing
atha: then
samprajaana: full consciousness [MW 1174]
samprajaanan = present participle (?) of sam + pra + jNa: distinguish, discern, know accurately or perfectly

upekSHakaH (nominative, singular): overlooking, indifferent, disregarding
sa: he
smRti: remembering, mindfulness, awareness, attention
-mant: possessive suffix
smRtimaan (nominative, singular): having mindfulness, being mindful
vyahaarSHiid = from vi + hR: to fare or fare well, rove or walk, spend or pass time, roam, wander; walk or roam for pleasure

dhyaanam (accusative): realisation, stage or level of Zen
tRtiiyam: the third
pratilabh: obtain, get back; (with accusative) partake of
pratilabhya = gerundive (expressing obligation, necessity, inevitability etc.) of prati + labh
dhiiraH: steady, constant, firm, resolute, brave, energetic, courageous, self-possessed, composed, calm

EH Johnston:
Then experiencing with his body through freedom from ecstasy that bliss which the Saints feel, and fully aware of all things, he remained indifferent and attentive and gained the third trance.

Linda Covill:
Through his non-attachment to joy he then discovered the physical bliss enjoyed by the noble ones, and with full comprehension he passed the time in equanimity, attentive and steady; and he attained the third level of meditation.