Friday, February 6, 2009

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.

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