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.

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