Tuesday, March 31, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.47: Direct Flow, Stop Leaks -- Not Spiritually

tasmaat paraM saumya vidhaaya viiryaM
shiighraM ghaTasv aasrava saMkShayaaya
duHkhaan a-nityaaMsh ca nir-aatamakaaMsh ca
dhaatunn visheSheNa pariikShamaaNaH

Therefore, good man, direct all your energy

And strive quickly to stop energetic leakage,

Examining in detail
-- as suffering and impermanent and devoid of self --

The elements.

Line 1 and Line 2 can be read as expressing the same thing from opposite viewpoints -- for example, directing the flow of energy up one's spine, which may be a very good way of stopping it flowing where it ought not to go. "Direction is the truest form of inhibition," as is said in the world of Alexander work.

With respect to the word shiigram, "quickly," another favourite saying of FM Alexander may be relevant, namely that "The conscious mind must be quickened!" The reason FM used to emphasize that the conscious mind must be quickened, I think, is that the unconscious misdirection of energy is prone to happen extremely rapidly. A person has got to be really on the ball to stop it. Recently I have been observing this on TV in Cesar Millan's work with dogs. A bulldog can go from a calm-submissive 0 to a red-eyed killing-mode 10 in just a couple of seconds. So Cesar endeavors to stay on the ball and nip the unwanted response in the bud before it gets to 1 or 2. My wife and I shared a poignant moment a few weeks ago when Cesar was explaining all this while correcting a bulldog. We looked at each other and smiled wryly, exchanging no words but sharing the same recognition that in describing the tendency of the bulldog Cesar was just exactly describing the tendency of yours truly.

In Line 3, suffering, impermanence and absence of self are three characteristics of what is real, but in Line 4 the elements -- as investigated by scientists, and as prone to be overlooked by workers in the spiritual sphere -- are just what is.

So with this translation I have struggled to maintain the essence of the original four-phased expression that may be observed within the verse.

tasmaat: from that, therefore
param: utmost, in a high degree, completely
saumya (voc.): " O gentle Sir! " " O good Sir! " " O excellent man! " as the proper mode of addressing a Brahman
vidhaaya = absolutive of vidhaa: to give out, supply, effect, make ready, direct
viiryam (accusative): manliness , valour , strength , power , energy

shiighram: quickly
ghaTasu = imperative of ghaT: to be intently occupied about , be busy with , strive or endeavour after , exert one's self for (loc. dat. acc.)
aasrava: leakage
saMkShayaaya = dative of saMkShaya: complete destruction or consumption , wasting , waning , decay , disappearance

duHkhaan (acc. pl. m.): uneasy , uncomfortable , unpleasant , difficult
a-nityaan (acc. pl. m.): not everlasting , transient , occasional , incidental; irregular , unusual; unstable; uncertain
ca: and
nir-aatamakaan (acc. pl. m.): having no separate soul or no individual existence
ca: and

dhaatuun = acc. pl. dhaatu: m. element , primitive matter
visheSheNa (inst. visheSha): particularly, especially, in detail
pariikShamaaNaH = nom. sg. m. present participle of pari-√iikSh: to look round , inspect carefully , try , examine , find out , observe , perceive

EH Johnston:
Therefore, applying your utmost energy, strive quickly for the destruction of the infections, and in especial examine the elements which are full of suffering, impermanent and devoid of self.

Linda Covill:
Therefore apply your utmost energy, dear friend, and be quick to strive for the eradication of the rebirth-producing tendencies, investigating in particular the elements, which are full of suffering, impermanent and without self.

Monday, March 30, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.46: The Evidence of Ending of Energetic Leakages

yathaa-svabhaavena hi naama-ruupaM
tadd-hetum ev' aasta-gamaM ca tasya
vijaanataH pashyata eva c' aaham
braviimi samyak kShayam aasravaaNaam

For in him who sees a separate bodily form as it is,

And who sees its origin and passing away,

From the very fact of his knowing and seeing,

I declare energetic leakages to be totally ended.

A person's ability to see, as it is, the transient existence of any entity -- whether it be a flower, or a weed, or a dog, or another person, or a pool of water, or a house, or indeed a work like a translation -- is a function not only of the person's top two inches but of energetic conditions throughout the person's organism.

That is why, I think Ashvaghosha is saying here, if a person is truly able to see what is, without optimism or pessimism, that can only mean that the person is free from energetic imbalances.

Conversely, when a person is unable to to see things as they are, when a person is suffering from what FM Alexander called "faulty sensory appreciation," it is fundamentally not an intellectual problem but a problem of misdirected energy.

And at the root of the misdirection of energy, as we have found to be true in not a few children and adults who have come to us at the Middle Way Re-education Centre, is the problem that FM Alexander called "unduly excited fear reflexes."

yathaa: as, according to
svabhaavena = inst. sg. svabhaava: own condition or state of being , natural state or constitution , innate or inherent disposition , nature , impulse , spontaneity
hi: for
naama-ruupam (accusative): an individual being, a distinguishable form, a separate bodily form

tat: that, its
hetum = accusative, hetu: " impulse", motive , cause
eva: (emphatic)
asta-gamam = accusative from astaM- √gam: to go to one's eternal home , cease , vanish , perish , die
ca: and
tasya (genitive of saH): of him, in him

vijaanataH = abl. sg. pres. participle vijNaa: to distinguish, know
pashyataH = abl. sg. pres. participle pash: to see
eva: (emphatic), the very
ca: and
aham: I

braviimi = 1st person singular of bruu: to speak , say , tell (with two acc. also = declare or pronounce to be, call); proclaim
samyak: well and truly, properly, fully
kShayam (accusative): end, termination
aasravaaNaam = genitive, plural of aasrava: a door opening into water and allowing the stream to descend through it [hence leakage of energy]; distress, affliction

EH Johnston:
For I say that for him who recognises and understands the nature of corporeality, its cause and its disappearance, the infections are abolished.

Linda Covill:
For I proclaim the total annihilation of rebirth-producing tendencies in a man who knows and sees psycho-physical existence just as it is, and its cause and its disappearance.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.45: Dropping Off a Duality

tayosh ca nandii-rajasoH kShayeNa
samyag vimuktam pravadaami cetaH
samyag vimuktir manasash ca taabhyaaM
na c' aasya bhuuyaH karaNiiyam asti

By the ending of the duality
which is optimism and pessimism,

I submit, his mind is fully set free.

And when his mind is fully liberated from that duality,

There is nothing further for him to do.

I am fairly confident that previous translations, much as I appreciate them, missed the opposition which is at the centre of this verse.

The duality in question, as I see it, is the opposition between bright red optimism and black pessimism, between over-exuberance and gloom.

From the standpoint of mind, or psychology, the ending of this duality is the ultimate. But without being underpinned by matter, i.e. the flow of energy, the ultimate aim of psychology is only so much hot air.

FM Alexander understood this point clearly, as Cesar Millan (The Dog Whisperer), together with his pack of dogs, also clearly understands it, as also a child with vestibular dysfunction clearly understands it, and a nervous swimmer who can't put her face in the water also understands it. It is no use showing an aggressive bulldog or an autistic child or an aqua-phobic your Ph. D. in psychology. But those guys are all interested in how your energy is and what direction it is flowing in.

So the mental understanding, awakening, insight, and freedom from duality that Buddha/Ashvaghosha have been describing in the last four verses are but one side of the story. When the mind is fully liberated from duality, we are told, there is nothing further for us to do. But no mind has ever been fully liberated from optimism, pessimism, and every other -ism, only through the means of reading psychology or any other -ology.

The great thing, the thing that we want to build, or re-build, is real confidence -- the kind of confidence that a very experienced Alexander teacher has in her teaching room, the kind of confidence that the Dog Whisperer has when introducing a troubled dog into his own balanced pack, the kind of confidence that my wife and brother have in the swimming pool when liberating a nervous swimmer from her fear of the water.

Real confidence in no way impedes humility, as humility in no way impedes real confidence. People who are really confident, when we observe their behaviour, are both humble and open-minded.

What seemed to be confidence, on the contrary, when examined closely over a long period of time in the mirrors of self and others, sometimes turns out to have been a kind of insecure optimism, leading inevitably to its opposite.

So it seems to me, on the basis of many failures, that dropping off optimism and pessimism is never such an easy thing.

Beware people of of scant experience and unreal understanding who write Buddhist books, blogs, et cetera expressing optimism. Beware especially those who market their peculiar brand of optimism as "realism."

tayoH (genitive, dual of saH): of those two, of that duality
ca: and, moreover
nandii = joy, delight, happiness
rajasoH = genitive, dual of rajas: vapour , mist , clouds , gloom , dimness , darkness; the " darkening " quality , passion , emotion , affection
kShayeNa = instrumental of kShaya: ending

samyak: fully, truly
vimuktam (acc. sg. n.): unloosed , unharnessed; set free , liberated
pravadaami = 1st person singular of pra-√ vac: to proclaim , announce , praise , commend , mention , teach , impart , explain
cetaH = acc. sg. cetas: n. consciousness , intelligence , thinking soul , heart , mind

samyak: fully
vimuktiH = nominative, singular of vimukti: f. disjunction; release , deliverance , liberation
manasaH = gen. sg. manas: mind
ca: and
taabhyaam (ablative, dual of saH): from them, from those two, from that duality

na: not
ca: and
asya = genitive, singular of ayam: this, this one (sometimes used enclitically in place of the third personal pronoun)
bhuuyas: further, more, again
karaNiiyam = acc. sg. karaNi: doing, making
asti: there is

EH Johnston:
I lay down that by the destruction of complaisance and passion his mind is rightly liberated, and, if his mind is rightly liberated from these, he has nothing further to accomplish.

Linda Covill:
I declare that the mind is completely liberated by the ending of these two things -- passion, and pleasure in worldly objects. When the mind is perfectly free of these two things, there is nothing further that one must do.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.44: Accurate Insight As a Passion-Killer

yad" aiva yaH pashyati naama-ruupaM
kShay' iiti tad darshanam asya samyak
samyak ca nirvedam upaiti pashyan
nandii-kShayaac ca kShayam eti raagaH

When a man sees a separate bodily form

As decrepit, that insight of his is accurate;

In seeing accurately he is disenchanted

And his optimism ends,
as a result of which redness fades away.

The last word of the first line, ruupam, carries a connotation of beauty of form or loveliness of figure. I think that Ashvaghosha may have in mind the kind of beauty and loveliness that young women's make-up and mannerisms are designed to accentuate, and that young men's brains are biologically programmed to be enchanted by.

Maybe the biological programming is stronger still that causes a baby to be enchanted by his mother, and the first great disenchantment that we all experience -- though some more devastatingly than others -- is the impermanence of our original relationship with our mother. Eihei Dogen and Kodo Sawaki are two Zen masters who experienced this disenchantment particularly acutely, history records, as young orphans.

In the last year or two before I left Japan at the end of 1994, several times I visited a dojo in Ohito, in the Izu peninsular, where some personal effects of Master Kodo Sawaki were stored. The dojo belonged to a Zen Master by the name of Tsunemasa Abe, whose father was a great friend of Master Kodo. Among Master Kodo's personal effects I found a book of cartoons that began with a depiction of a gorgeous young Japanese woman dressed in traditional finery; the cartoons progressed to showing her in old age, death, and beyond death -- rotting skin falling from her old bones. How much attention Master Kodo paid to these pictures, and whether he found it useful to look at them, I don't know. I only know that the book was still there, 30 years after the Master's death, among his personal effects.

What is also known is that Master Kodo expressed his frank disenchantment in his old age in many ways, for example, by his description of the ways of Japanese society as "gurupo boke," group idiocy; and by his calling himself Masu-O, the King of Masturbation.

When the old man called himself Masu-O, was he expressing the continuation of something that should not exist? Or was he expressing the fact that something that should not exist had completely faded away?

As the bastard grandson of Kodo, I do not have any more grounds for optimism than he did.

At the core of my being is an aberrant Moro reflex that made me burn in the past, is making me burn in the present, and will make me burn in the future. Being like this is nothing to celebrate. It is no matter for joy, delight, or happiness. There are no grounds for optimism.

yadaa: when
eva: [emphatic]
yaH: [he] who
pashyati = 3rd person singular of dRSh: to see
naaman: a characteristic mark or sign; name
ruupa: n. any outward appearance; handsome form , loveliness
naama-ruupam (acc. sg. n.): "name and form" = an individual being;
a distinguishable form, a separate bodily form

kShayi = acc. sg. m. kShayin: mfn. wasting , decaying , waning ; perishable
iti: thus, that, as
tad: that, in that [regard]
darshanam (nom. sg.): n. seeing , observing , looking , noticing , observation , perception; n. apprehension , judgement; discernment , understanding; n. view
asya (gen. sg.): of him
samyak: true, correct, accurate

samyak: truly, correctly, accurately
ca: and
nir: being without
veda: knowledge , true or sacred knowledge or lore , knowledge of ritual; name of certain celebrated works which constitute the basis of the first period of the Hindu religion; feeling , perception; property , goods
nirvedam = acc. sg. nirveda: not having the vedas , infidel , unscriptural; complete indifference, disregard of worldly objects
upaiti = 3rd person singular upa-√i: to go or come or step near , approach , arrive at , meet with; enter into any state , fall into
pashyan: nom. sg. m. pashyat: seeing , beholding , rightly understanding

nandii = f. of nanda: joy, delight, happiness ,
kShayaat = abl. sg. kShaya: m. ending
ca: and
kShayam (acc. sg.): m. ending; loss , waste , wane , diminution , destruction , decay , wasting or wearing away
eti = 3rd person singular aa-√i: to reach, attain, enter
raagaH (nom. sg.): m. colour , hue , tint , dye , (esp.) red colour , redness; any feeling or passion , (esp.) love , affection or sympathy for , vehement desire of , interest or joy or delight in

EH Johnston:
For when anyone sees that corporeality is impermanent, his views are correct, and seeing correctly he attains complete detachment and by the abolition of complaisance (in the things of this world) his passion is abolished.

Linda Covill:
When someone sees that pyscho-physical existence is imbued with decay, his insight is correct; with this correct vision he becomes disinterested in wordly objects and from the ending of pleasure in worldly objects his passion comes to an end.

Friday, March 27, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.43: Being Awake in the Burning World

shirasy atho vaasasi sampradiipte
saty' aavabodhaaya matir vicaaryaa
dagdhaM jagat satya-nayam hy adRShTvaa
pradahyate samprati dhakShyate ca

Though your head and clothes be on fire

Direct your mind so as to be awake to the truths.

For in failing to see the purport of the truths,
the world has burned,

It is burning now, and it will burn.

Being on fire is no time for philosophical thinking about a doctrine of four truths.

But, this verse seems to say, being on fire is just the time to be awake to the four truths, which has got nothing to do with philosophical doctrine.

The purport of the truths, again, is not to get something like philosophical understanding. It is to get rid of something -- to eliminate faulty sensory appreciation and the associated faults of hypertonus and hypotonus, greed, hatred, ignorance, and so on.

To live consciously in the burning world, again, is never a philosophical problem. It is the much more challenging problem of how, day by day, a person responds or reacts to the stimulus of living -- either by joining in with the blind reactions of the burning world or by continuing to come back to conscious, simple living.

So the thrust of this verse, as I read it, is anti-thetical to the previous verse; and the two verses can be seen as the first and second verses in another series of four verses, consisting of:
1. a general conception of the four truths (16.42);
2. the contrary exhortation to wake up from such abstract thinking (16.43);
3. the synthesis, which is accurate insight (16.44); and
4. the liberation of the mind, going beyond plus and minus (16.45).

The theme of the present set of four verses from 16.42, then, is mental.

From 16.46 there are three verses touching on energetic leakage, and the six elements of the material world.

From 16.49 there are four verses setting the scene for the practice of Yoga itself, i.e., the formal practice of abandoning the faults.

And from 16.53 the Buddha describes in exact detail what stimuli to choose to respond to, and what stimuli to decide not to react to, in the actual moment-by-moment practice of inhibiting faults.

shirasi = locative of shira: the head
atha (introductory or connecting particle): now, next, then
vaasasi = locative of vasa: garment, dress, clothes
sampradiipte = locative of sampradiitpa: blazing or flaming up

satya: truth
avabodha: waking, being awake
saty'aavabodhaaya (dative): so as to awaken to the truths
matiH (nominative, singular): f. thought, mind
vicaaryaa = nom. sg. f. vicarya: (from vi-√car) to be deliberated or discussed
vi-√car: to act , proceed , behave ; to practise , perform , accomplish , make , do ; to move hither and thither (in the mind) , ponder , reflect , consider ; to examine , investigate , ascertain

dagdham = nom. sg. n. dagdha (fr. past participle √dah, to burn): mfn. burnt , scorched , consumed by fire
jagat (nom. sg.): n. people, mankind; the world
satya: truth
nayam (acc. sg.): m. (from (√nii, to lead) leading (of an army); conduct , behaviour , (esp.) prudent conduct or behaviour , good management ; wisdom , prudence , reason ; plan , design; leading thought , maxim , principle , system , method , doctrine
hi: for
a- (negative suffix): not
dRShTvaa = absolutive of dRSh: to see

pradahyate (3rd person singular, passive of pra-√dah, to burn): to take fire , be burnt , burn
samprati: now , at this moment , at present
dhakShyate = 3rd pers. sg. future of √dah: to burn
ca: and

EH Johnston:
The mind should be directed to the comprehension of the Truths even though one's head or clothing is on fire. For mankind through not understanding the doctrine of the Truths has been burnt, is being burnt now and will be burnt.

Linda Covill:
Though your head and clothes be on fire, direct your mind towards the comprehension of the Truths, for in its failure to perceive the doctrine of the Truths, the world was burned, is burning now, and will burn in the future.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.42: Forward and Backward Steps

tasmaat pravRttiM parigaccha duHkhaM
pravartakaan apy avagaccha doShaan
nivRttim aagaccha ca tan-nirodhaM
nivartakaM c' aapy avagaccha maargaM

Accordingly, comprehend suffering as end-gaining,

And understand the faults as doing.

Realise the stopping of all that as non-doing,

And understand the path as a turning back.

The first difficulty with this verse has been plucking up the courage to translate pravRtti as "end-gaining," instead of a less overtly Alexandrian term such as "progressive striving."

A second difficulty has been deciding what is the object of nirodha in the 3rd line. Does tan-nirodha mean the inhibition/suppression/stopping of those [faults], the stopping of that [suffering], the stopping of that [end-gaining], or the inhibition/stopping of all that [stuff in the first two lines]?

My ears are, I hope, open to feedback.

Notwithstanding the above difficulties, I am very happy to have arrived at this translation of this verse. My sense is that the argument I have been struggling to make for 15 years has, with this translation of this verse, already become obsolete -- because this verse is just Ashvaghosha's teaching, just the Buddha's teaching, just the teaching of all the ancestors in India, and there is not any room for argument.

This verse is also just the teaching of FM Alexander. There is, as I see it, no contradiction at all.

That being so, I would like to illustrate the meaning of each of the four lines of this verse with some quotes from FM Alexander and some of the teachers he taught.

Whenever a person sets out to achieve a particular end his procedure will be based on one of two principles which I have called "end-gaining" and the "means-whereby" principles. The "end-gaining" principle involves a direct procedure on the part of the person endeavouring to gain the desired "end." This direct procedure is associated with dependence upon subsconscious guidance and control, leading, in cases where a condition of mal-coordination is present, to an unsatisfactory use of the mechanisms and to an increase in the defects and peculiarities already existing.

(FM Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual)

When a person has reached a given stage of unsatisfactory use and functioning, his habit of end-gaining will prove to be the impeding factor in all his attempts to profit by any teaching method whatsoever. Ordinary teaching methods, in whatever sphere, cannot deal with this impeding factor, indeed, they tend actually to encourage 'end-gaining.'

(FM Alexander, The Use of the Self)

"In most people their direction of the use of themselves is habitual and instinctive... Unfortunately, with the increasing prevalence of untrustworthy sensory appreciation, this instinctive direction of use tends, as time goes on, to become more and more a misdirection, having a harmful effect, as was proved in my own case, upon functioning and consquently, upon the reactions which result."

"The wrong inner patterns are the doing which has to be stopped."

(Marjory Barlow, 1965 Memorial Lecture)

Non-doing is, above all, an attitude of mind. It's a wish. It's a decision to leave everything alone and see what goes on, see what happens. Your breathing and your circulation and your postural mechanisms are all working and taking over. The organism is functioning in its automatic way, and you are doing nothing.

If you're going to succeed in doing nothing, you must exercise control over your thinking processes. You must really wish to do nothing. If you're thinking anxious, worried thoughts, if you're thinking exciting thoughts that are irrelevant to the situation at hand, you stir up responses in your body that are not consistent with doing nothing. It's not a matter of just not moving--that can lead to fixing or freezing--it's a matter of really leaving yourself alone and letting everything just happen and take over.

This is what we're aiming at in an Alexander lesson, and if we're wise, and we understand, it's also what we aim at in our own practice of non-doing. It is something that requires practice. Like most other things in life, it isn't some-thing that you can achieve by simply wishing to do so, by just thinking, 'Well, I will now leave myself alone and not do anything.' Unfortunately, it doesn't work out like that. The whole process requires a lot of practice, and a lot of observation. Out of this process a tremendous lot of experience is to be gained...

(Walter Carrington, Thinking Aloud)

Of course, non-doing is a kind of doing, but it is very subtle. The difference is that, in doing, you do it, whereas in non-doing, it does you.

(Patrick Macdonald, The Alexander Technique As I See It.)

It is owing to this habit of rushing from one extreme to another -- a habit which, as I have pointed out, seems to go hand in hand with subconscious guidance and direction -- to this tendency, that is, to take the narrow and treacherous sidetracks instead of the great, broad, midway path, that our plan of civilization has proved a comparative failure.

(FM Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual)

I venture to predict that before we can unravel the horribly tangled skein of our present existence, we must come to a full STOP, and return to conscious, simple living, believing in the unity underlying all things, and acting in a practical way in accordance with the laws and principles involved. (Ibid.)

tasmaat: from that, on that account, therefore
praVrttim (accusative): moving onwards , advance , progress; active life (as opp. to ni-vRtti [q.v.] and to contemplative devotion)
parigaccha = imperative of pari-√ gam: to go round or about or through , circumambulate , surround , inclose; to come to any state or condition , get , attain (acc.)
pari: ind. round , around, fully

pravartakam (acc. sg.): acting , proceeding; setting in motion or action , setting on foot , advancing , promoting , forwarding
api: also
avagaccha = imperative of ava-√ gam: to understand
ava: ind. off , away , down
doShaan (accusative, plural): m. faults

nivRttim (accusative): returning; ceasing , cessation; ceasing from worldly acts , inactivity , rest
aagaccha = imperative aa-√ gam: to come, arrive at , attain , reach ; to fall into (any state of mind) , have recourse to
aa: near, near to towards; with roots like gam it reverses the action ; e.g. aa-gacchati , " he comes "
ca: and
tat: those [faults]; that [suffering/end-gaining]; [all] that; the
nirodhaM (accusative): suppression, inhibition, stopping

nirvartakam (acc. sg.): turning back ; causing to cease , abolishing , removing; desisting from , stopping , ceasing
ca: and
api: also
avagaccha (imperative): understand
maargam (acc. sg.): m. the path

EH Johnston:
Accordingly recognise suffering to be identical with active being and understand that the faults are the cause of active being; realise that inactivity is the suppression of active being and understand that it is the Path which leads to inactivity.

Linda Covill:
Therefore accept that active life is suffering, and understand faults as being related to active life; recognize cessation of suffering to be the ceasing of active life, and know the path as being related to cessation.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.41: A Medical Metaphor for the Four Truths

tad vyaadhi-saMjNaaM kuru duHkha-satye
doSheShv' api vyaadhi-nidaana-saMjNaaM
aarogya-saMjNaaM ca nirodha-satye
bhaiShajya-saMjNaaM api maarga-satye

So with regard to the truth of suffering,
see suffering as a disease;

With regard to the faults,
see the faults as causes of disease;

With regard to the truth of inhibition,
see inhibition as freedom from disease;

And with regard to the truth of a path,
see a path as a remedy.

The philosophy of action is not a translation but is one man's subjective interpretation of the meaning of nirodha-satya. The philosophy of action has become a term that is redolent with suffering for me. Maybe I would be wiser not to dwell on it at all, but the philosophy of action was a kind of thesis to which I reacted in many ways. One way I reacted was by pursuing the most literal translation of Shobogenzo I could manage. The philosophy of action was a thesis, a starting point. It was part of a kind of bubble that I was part of, pumped up with subjective meaning during the period of Japan's post-war bubble economy.

The truth of cessation is closer to the literal meaning of nirodha as defined below in the Monier-Williams dictionary -- a definition which is full of scary words liable to win the disapproval of feminist vegans, such as "suppression" and "destruction." The truth of cessation , feeble though it seems to me now, is the translation I favoured when working on the Nishijima-Cross Shobogenzo translation. But what does the truth of cessation mean in practice? Cessation of what, in practice? Let nobody try to tell me. Who can actually show me?

Ray Evans & Ron Colyer showed me. Marjory Barlow showed me. Nelly Ben-Or showed me.

So quash the thesis and deliver the anti-thesis to the dustbin. The truth of inhibition is the translation that hits the target -- insofar as the truth of inhibition is what real people actually struggle to see and to practice in Alexander work, as also in neuro-developmental work. We struggle, on many levels, to inhibit, to suppress, to destroy the unconscious misdirection of energy that blights our life, and thereby to become more conscious, more free, more whole, more healthy.

So see inhibition, the Buddha says through Ashvaghosha's mouth, as freedom from disease -- as a bit of freedom, a bit of nothing.

To see inhibition as a bit of nothing. That is why a friend of mine who shall remain nameless, grounded now in years of Alexander work, aware of the imperfect integration of his own Moro reflex, walks shaven-headed through the forest, alone, unbeknowns to anybody, looking for a place to see inhibition as a bit of nothing. Looking for a good place to allow the whole body to come undone, allowing the head out and the arms and legs out -- out of a bit of nothing.

tad: so, therefore
vyaadhi: disease, illness
saMjNaam (accusative): consciousness , clear knowledge or understanding or notion or conception; (with Buddhists) perception (one of the 5 skandhas)
kuru = imperative of kR: make
duHkha-satye (locative): with regard to the truth of suffering

doSheShu (locative, plural): faults
api: also, again
vyaadhi: disease
nidaana: cause
saMjNaam (accusative): conception

aarogya: freedom from disease, health
saMjNaam (accusative): conception
ca: and
nirodha-satye: (locative): with regard to the truth of inhibition
nirodha: [Monier-Williams definitions, verbatim] m. confinement , locking up , imprisonment; investment , siege ; enclosing , covering up ; restraint , check , control , suppression , destruction ; (in dram.) disappointment , frustration of hope; (with Buddh. ) suppression or annihilation of pain (one of the 4 principles)

bhaiShajya: n. curativeness , healing efficacy; any remedy , drug or medicine; n. the administering of medicines
saMjNaam (accusative): conception
api: also, again
maarga-satye: (locative): with regard to the truth of a path

EH Johnston:
Therefore in the first Truth think of suffering as disease, in the second of the faults as the cause of disease, in the third of the destruction of suffering as good health and in the fourth of the Path as the medicine.

Linda Covill:
So with regard to the Truth about suffering, think of suffering as a disease; with regard to the faults, consider them as the cause of illness; concerning the Truth of cessation, think of it as good health, and as for the Truth about the path, regard it as the remedy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.40: Appreciating One's Own Illness, Tended by Friends in the Know

yo vyaadhito vyaadhim avaiti samyag
vyaadher nidaanaM ca tad-auShadhaM ca
aarogyam aapnoti hi so 'cireNa
mitrair abhijNair upacaryamaaNaH

He who fully appreciates his illness,
as the illness it is,

Who sees the cause of the illness
and its remedy:

It is he who wins, before long,
freedom from disease --

Attended by friends in the know.

Love sickness, sea sickness, glandular fever, and hay fever are four illnesses I have experienced, if not always fully appreciated -- mental sickness, physical sickness, a serious illness, and an illness that is real here and now, by whatever name it goes.

The cause in each case, as I see it, has to do with lack of inhibitory circuits in the brain and nervous system. Where there is a lack of inhibition, the consequence tends to be undue activity, or over-excitement, in the nervous system, which in turn tends to weaken the functioning of the immune system.

I sort of knew this on some level as a teenager when, not wishing to be seen as the kind of wimpy guy who suffered from hay-fever, or fear of girls, I used to drink large quantities of beer, lift weights to build myself up, and direct a lot of energy into playing rugby... but then when I was 17 I got glandular fever and stayed wimpishly in bed for weeks, growing thin.

Twenty years later, when I walked into the teaching room of Marjory Barlow, the niece of FM Alexander, she seemed to know all this background without ever being told. She then proceeded to demonstrate to me how she understood the practice of inhibition, as it had been demonstrated to her by her uncle FM Alexander. Marjory was indeed a true friend in the know.

I have another friend in the know, a homeopath by vocation, to whom also this verse might mean something.

yaH: [he] who
vyaadhi: disorder , disease , ailment , sickness
-taH: (ablative suffix) "in accordance with," "in respect of"
vyaadhitaH: as disease, as the illness
vyaadhim = accusative vyaadhi: illness
avaiti = 3rd person singular of ave: to perceive , conceive , understand , learn , know
samyak: correctly , fully, truly , properly , fitly

vyaadheH (genitive): of the illness
nidaanaM (accusative): the cause
ca: and
tat: it, that
auShadham (accusative): n. herbs collectively, a herb; n. herbs used in medicine , a medicament , drug , medicine in general
ca: and

aarogyam (accusative): freedom from disease, health
aapnoti = 3rd person singular aap: obtain, gain
hi: for, because, on account of; (or emphatic) indeed , assuredly , surely , of course , certainly
saH: he
acireNa: not long, not for long

mitraiH (inst. pl.): with friends
abhijNaiH (inst. pl.): mfn. knowing, skilful, clever
upacaryamaaNaH = nom. sg. m. present passive participle upa-√car: to attend on (a patient)

EH Johnston:
For instance, he, who understands disease correctly as disease, its cause and its cure, quickly regains sound health, being treated by skilful friends.

Linda Covill:
The sick man who understands his disease correctly, and its cause and its remedy will, when tended by knowledgeable friends, soon win good health.

Monday, March 23, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.39: Only Knowing One's Own Suffering, Along with Good Friends

yaathaatmyato vindati yo hi duHkhaM
tasy' odbhavaM tasya ca yo nirodhaM
aaryeNa maargeNa sa shaantim eti
kalyaaNa-mitraiH saha vartamaanaH

For he who knows suffering as it really is,

Who knows its arising and its inhibition:

It is he who reaches peace by the noble path --

Going along with friends in the good.

The Non-Preaching of Ashvaghosha is always like being hit by a bit of nothing.

In this verse as I read it, the Master of Indirectness (Non-Preachiness) seamlessly introduces the social dimension. The punch in the punch line is delivered with such subtlty and sleight of hand that you might not notice being hit.

What the first three lines of this verse say to me, following on from the previous verse, is that one who reaches peace by the noble path is primarily attentive not to social concerns but to processes that he can only truly know first-hand, in himself.

The point is to keep on working on oneself, in a modest, unassuming way.

And the totally natural, unforced, indirect result of that kind of self-centred effort, in accordance with the law that birds of a feather flock together, is very likely to be a harmonious going together with other like-minded people -- a rolling along with friends in the good.

Recently I have been watching three or four episodes a week of "The Dog Whisperer" on TV. One of the interesting things to observe is what happens energetically when a calm-submissive dog joins a calm-submissive pack -- nothing.

yatha: in which manner or way, according as, as, like; as it is
aatman: the breath, self, essence, nature
yaathaatmya: n. (fr. yath'aatman) real nature or essence
- taH: (ablative/adverbial suffix)
vindati = 3rd person singular, vind: to know , understand , perceive , learn , become or be acquainted with , be conscious of , have a correct notion of; to mind , notice , observe ; to experience , feel (acc. or gen.)
yaH (relative pronoun; correlative of saH in 3rd line): [he] who
hi: for, because, on account of; [thus]
duHkham (accusative): suffering

tasya (genitive): of it, its
udbhavam = accusative of udbhava: m. existence , generation , origin , production , birth
tasya (genitive): of it, its
ca: and
yaH (relative pronoun; correlative of saH in 3rd line): [he] who
nirodham = accusative of nirodha: cessation, suppression, inhibition, stopping

aaryeNa = instrumental of aarya: noble
maargeNa = instrumental of maarga: path
saH: he
shaantim (accusative): peace, extinction
eti = 3rd person singular of aa- √i: to come near or towards , go near , approach ; to reach , attain , enter , come into (a state or position)

kalyaaNa: beautiful , agreeable; illustrious , noble , generous; excellent , virtuous , good ; beneficial , salutary , auspicious; happy , prosperous , fortunate , lucky , well , right; n. good fortune , happiness , prosperity; n. good conduct , virtue
mitraiH = instrumental, plural of mitra: friend
saha: together with
vartamaanaH = nom. sg. m. present participle vRt: to roll; to move or go on , get along , advance , proceed

EH Johnston:
For he, who perceives suffering as it really is, its origin and its destruction, attains peace by the noble Path and associates with auspicious friends.

Linda Covill:
He who discovers the true nature of suffering, and its arising and cessation will, proceeding together with wise friends, reach peace by the noble path.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.38: Ten Attendant Virtues

asy' opacaare dhRtir aarjavaM ca
hriir apramaadaH praviviktataa ca
alp'ecchataa tuShTir asaMgataa ca
loka-pravRttaav aratiH kShamaa ca

Attendant on it are constancy and straightness;

Modesty, caution, and reclusiveness;

Wanting little, contentment,
and freedom from forming attachments;

No fondness for worldly activity, and forbearance.

Looking backwards for the broader context of the progression of this Canto, after the climax of reaching the Ultimate Step on the Noble Eightfold Path, this verse can be taken as a reminder that the ultimate step is not necessarily attended by a fanfare of trumpets, and much less by an imitation of a lion's roar. It is maybe more conducive to enjoyment of the ultimate step to be less like a scary lion in a big circus, and more like a shy wren -- perching incognito in a quiet place, where nobody is around. That is how I read this enumeration of ten very unassuming virtues -- in the spirit of Tendo Nyojo's admonition not to get carried away by the twirling of a flower.

Looking forwards, it may be significant that the word upacaara which appears in the first line also appears in forthcoming verses of this Canto (e.g. 16.40d), where it describes the medical use of remedies in Aryuvedic treatments. So here also asy'opacaare, "attendant on it," seems to point to a medical connotation, as if Ashvaghosha wished gently to introduce the medical theme.

The sense I get is of these ten unassuming virtues, personified, waiting attentively on a patient who is being nursed towards the ultimate well-being described in 16.37.

For that reason, I think Linda Covill's translation "ancillary to it" is a nice one. "Ancillary" derives from the Latin ancilla, which means a female servant, and brings to mind the relatively humble work of a nurse or midwife -- as opposed, say, to a pompous alpha-male of a consultant obstetrician.

Not all consultants are pompous, I suppose, nor all nurses humble. In the end it might be down to the individual, more than down to the job. But there again, some jobs are more conducive to humility than others.

Translation work is inherently humbling, if one is conscientious about it -- it is a constant process of finding that, no, that wasn't it. I missed the point there. I didn't understand what the Master really meant.

Writing a commentary, in contrast, is not always conducive to humility! Quite the opposite is true.

Marjory Barlow used to emphasize that teaching the FM Alexander Technique is very modest work. "You have got to be very humble about it." That doesn't mean that a good Alexander teacher lacks confidence; she has the confidence that comes from knowing what really works -- the kind of confidence that Cesar Millan (aka The Dog Whisperer) shows in rehabilitating dogs and training their owners, or the kind of confidence that my wife and brother have in being able to help nervous swimmers overcome their fear of the water.

This verse raises the question for me of what it means to work in a modest way.

I think it means constantly going back and attending to the integrity (or lack of it) in the use of one's ear/voice/body. Before balance and before wisdom, there is that simple, practical, most basic matter to be attended to of how one is using oneself. So I think modesty has to do with attending first to this most basic matter.

Above all, I think modesty means remaining open, not committing the sin of certainty -- which I, for one, still too often tend to do.

asya = genitive of ayam: this
upacaare = locative of upacaara: service , attendance; treatment; attendance on a patient , medical practice , physicking
dhRtiH (nom. sg.): f. firmness, constancy
aarjava (nom. sg.): n. straightness , straight direction; rectitude , propriety of act or observance; n. honesty , frankness , sincerity

hriiH (nom. sg.): f. shame , modesty , shyness , timidity
apramaadaH (nom. sg.): m. care, vigilance
pramaada: m. intoxication ; madness , insanity; negligence , carelessness
pra: (as a prefix to substantive) forth , away; (as a prefix to adjective) excessively , very , much
vivikta (past participle of vi-√vic, to sift): separated , kept apart , distinguished , discriminated ; isolated , alone , solitary; clear, distinct; discriminative, judicious; n. separation , solitude , a lonely place
pravivikta [Apte dictionary]: 1.very solitary; 2.separated;
- taa: (suffix used to create a substantive) - ness, -tion, etc.
viviktataa [MW]: f. separation , isolation ; clearness , purity; an empty or free place , loneliness; distinction, discrimination
ca: and

alpa: small, little
icchaa: wish, desire
alpeccha: having little or moderate wishes
-taa: (abstract noun suffix)
alpecchataa: f. wanting little [first of the eight great human truths]
tuShTiH (nominative, singular): f. satisfaction , contentment
asaMgataa (nom. sg.): f. not being attached
a: (negative prefix) not
saMga: m. sticking , clinging to , touch , contact with (loc. or comp.) ; relation to , association or intercourse with ; addiction or devotion to , propensity for , (esp.) worldly or selfish attachment or affection
-taa: f.(abstract noun suffix)
ca: and

loka: world, human society
pravRttau = locative pravRtti: rolling on, progressive activity, continual doing
aratiH (nominative, singular): dissatisfaction, discontent
a: (negative prefix) no
rati: pleasure , enjoyment , delight in , fondness for (locative)
kShamaa (nom. sg.): f. patience, forbearance
ca: and

EH Johnston:
In following it are required steadfastness, simple-mindedness, self-respect, heedfulness and discrimination, desire for little, contentment and lack of attachment, patience and dislike of mundane activity.

Linda Covill:
Ancillary to it are firmness, sincerity, modesty, heedfulness and solitude, minimal wishfulness, contentment, freedom from forming attachments, patience, and no fondness for active life in the world.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.37: The Ultimate Step in Dropping Off the Faults

tri-skandham etaM pravigaahya maargam
prapaShTam aShT'-aaNgam a-haaryam aaryam
duHkhasya hetuun prajahaati doShaan
praapnoti c'aatyanta-shivam padam tat

Giving oneself to this path with its three divisions

And eight branches
-- this straightforward, irremovable, noble path --

One abandons the faults,
which are the causes of suffering,

And comes to that step which is total well-being.

The three divisions are integrity (shiila), balance (samaadhi), and wisdom (prajnaa).

The eight branches are insight, thinking, initiative (prajnaa); use of voice, use of body, livelihood (shiila); mindfulness, balance (samaadhi).

The faults, which all begin with thirsting are, for example: (1) undue excitement in the nervous system, or hyper-tonus vs (2) the opposite state of mental sluggishness, or hypo-tonus; (3) greed, (4) hatred, and (5) ignorance/delusion.

That step which is total well-being, as I understand Ashvaghosha's words, is the same step that Master Dogen exhorted us to learn, which he called EKO-HENSHO NO TAIHO, or "the backward step of turning one's light and letting it shine."

tri-skandham (acc. sg. m.): consisting of three skandhas
tri: three
skandha: part, division
etam (acc. sg. m.): this
pravigaahya = absolutive of pra-vi-√gAh: to dive into , enter (acc.)
pra: (prefix indicating forward motion)
vi-√gaah: to plunge or dive into , bathe in , enter , penetrate , pervade , betake one's self into (acc. or loc.)
maargam (acc. sg.): m. path

pra: (suffix indicating forward motion)
spaShTam (acc. sg. m.): clearly perceived or discerned , distinctly visible , distinct , clear , evident , plain , intelligible; straight (opp. to " crooked "); real , true , correct
aShTaaNgam (acc. sg. m.): eight-limbed
aShTa: eight
aNga: a limb , member; any subdivision
ahaaryam (acc. sg. m.): not to be stolen , not to be removed; unalterable
aaryam (acc. sg. m.): noble

duHkhasya (genitive): of suffering
hetuun (acc. pl.): cause
prajahaati = 3rd person singular of pra-√ haa: to leave ; to desert , quit , abandon , give up , renounce
doShaan (acc. pl.): faults

praapnoti = 3rd person singular of pra- √Ap: to reach, arrive at, find; to obtain , receive;
ca: and
atyanta: beyond the proper end or limit; excessive , very great , very strong; endless , unbroken , perpetual; absolute , perfect; to the end
shivam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. auspicious , propitious , gracious , favourable , benign , kind , benevolent , friendly , dear ; happy , fortunate; m. happiness , welfare, liberation; n. welfare , prosperity , bliss
well-being, happiness
padam (acc. sg.): n. step, footing, foundation, stage, state
tat (acc. sg. n.): that

EH Johnston:
By entering on this straight, noble, incorruptible Path with its three divisions and eight members, one eliminates the faults which are the causes of suffering and reaches the supremely blessed stage.

Linda Covill:
On penetrating this clear and irremovable noble path, with its three divisions and eight branches, one abandons the faults, which are the causes of suffering, and reaches the state of utter happiness.

Friday, March 20, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.36: Wisdom Destroys Faults Without Trace

prajNaa tv a-sheSheNa nihanti doShaaMs
tiira-drumaan praavRShi nimnag" eva
dagdhaa yayaa na prabhavanti doShaa
vajr-aagnin" ev' aanusRtena vRkShaaH

But wisdom destroys faults without trace,

Like a mountain stream in the monsoon
mowing down trees on its banks.

Faults burnt up by it stand not a chance,

Like trees struck and burnt by a thunderbolt.

The third quarter of this Canto can be seen in essence as a description of how a man of wisdom is to proceed with regard to the faults. Specifically, Ashvaghosha cites antidotes to the faults of over-excitement (16.54), lethargy/depression (16.56), lust (16.60), malice (16.62), and ignorance (16.64). The final quarter of the Canto is then devoted mainly to extolling the virtue, in abandoning the faults, of manly vigour (viirya) -- which may also be regarded as an offshoot of wisdom.

So the order of progression, in combating the faults, is set out for us clearly: (1) The practice of integrity (shiila) leads indirectly to (2) balance (samaadhi), which provides the basis for (3) the wisdom (prajnaa) whose virtue is emphasized so much in the rest of this Canto.

Shiila. Samaadhi. Prajnaa. Integrity. Balance. Wisdom. In that order.

The practice of integrity enfeebles the faults, weakening their grip on us.
Balance holds faults at bay.
But wisdom destroys the faults without a trace.

And this wisdom works through (a) seeing a fault as a fault, (b) thinking straight in regard to its antidote, and (c) vigorously taking the initiative in eliminating the fault.

Integrity. Balance. Wisdom. One after another. In that order.

This is one side of the story. The other side of the story, more difficult to put into words, might be Integrity/Balance/Wisdom all together.

The wisdom, in eliminating faults, of "all together, one after another" belongs to FM Alexander.

Consequently, on the subject of eliminating faults, a protege of FM Alexander named Patrick Macdonald wrote the following words of real wisdom:

"Do not forget that right and wrong change, and should change as your body and co-ordination change. What is right for you today should be wrong for you tomorrow. Do not, therefore, try and fix a picture of a specific co-ordination in your brain as the right one; it will have to be modified, perhaps many times, over a long period. You must learn to think in trends and tendencies, and not in fixed positions. Everything (so they say) is relative, not least the proper relationship of the neck to the head, the neck and head to the back and neck, and the head and back to the rest of the body. If you can learn to think in tendencies (which is the way I teach you) you may continue to teach yourself.

Remember, you are slowly eliminating the wrong. Finality, for most of us, and that includes me, is not in sight."

prajNaa (nominative, singular): f. wisdom, intuitive wisdom
tu: but
a-sheSheNa: without remainder, entirely, perfectly, completely
nihanti = 3rd person plural of nihan: to strike or hew down, kill , overwhelm, destroy
doShaan (accusative, plural): faults

tiira: a shore, bank
drumaan = accusative, plural of druma: tree
praavRShi = locative of praavRSha: the rainy season , the rains
nimnagaa (nominative, singular): f. " going downwards , descending " , a river , mountain-stream
iva: like

dagdhaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. burnt , scorched , consumed by fire
yayaa (inst. sg. f. yat): by which, by that [wisdom]
na: not
prabhavanti = 3rd person plural of prabhuu: to come forth, occur, spring up; to rule , control , have power over
doShaaH (nominative, plural): m. faults

vajra: thunderbolt
agninaa = instrumental of agni: fire
iva: like
anusRtena = instrumental of anusRta (agreeing with agninaa): followed; the [fire] following after [the thunderbolt]
anu-√ sR: to go after
vRkShaaH (nominative, plural): trees

EH Johnston:
But intuitive wisdom completely cuts away the faults, like a river the trees on its banks in the rains. Burnt up by it, the faults cease to grow, like trees burnt by the fire of the thunderbolt which strikes them.

Linda Covill:
And wisdom destroys faults without a remainder, as a river in the rainy season destroys the trees on its bank. Faults burned up by it cannot prevail, like trees burned up by the fire ensuing from a thunderbolt.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.35: Balance Holds Faults At Bay

kleshaaMs tu viShkambhayate samaadhir
vegaan iv' aadrir mahato nadiinaaM
sthite samaadhau hi na dharShayanti
doshaa bhujaMgaa iva mantra-baddhaaH

Then balance repels afflictions

Like a mountain the mighty torrents of rivers;

For, as long as a man remains in balance,
faults do not venture to attack him:

The faults, like charmed snakes, are spellbound.

What is emerging clearly from this Canto is that the teaching of the four noble truths, for Ashvaghosha, all comes down to (1) preventing the growth of, (2) defending stoutly against, and (3) setting out to destroy, the faults like greed, anger, and ignorance that all begin with thirsting.

My head is befuddled this morning and my immune system is struggling -- whether against a virus or against tree pollen, or against a combination of both, I do not even know. But even in this befuddled state I cannot fail to notice the relevance of the order in which Ashvaghosha presents his strategy for combating the faults: (1) prevent, (2)defend, and (3) attack. The order of this progression seems to me, as I write this now, to be of very great importance.

It makes perfect sense -- of course it does -- that effort to maintain integrity, in using voice and body and in earning a living, belongs to the preventive stage, and that this stage should come first.

The progression to this verse is a progression from the preventive maintainance of integrity (shiila), a matter of use of the SELF, to the defensive allowing of balance (samaadhi), a condition of NATURE.

What is required of us in this verse, then, goes beyond our autonomous use of ourselves and enters into the area of allowing autonomic functioning, because that is what the balance or harmony of samaadhi basically is: a function of systems which operate wholly or mainly below the level of consciousness, in the cerebellar/vestibular system, in the action of stretch reflexes mediated at the level of the spinal chord, in the autonomic nervous system, in the endocrine/immune systems, and so on.

Part of the progression between the previous verse and this verse is less tolerance towards the faults. Still, the existence of balance, in the form of a mountain or in the form of a man abiding in samaadhi, does not preclude the co-existence of voilent rapids or of reptilian faults. The mountain/practitioner remains immune to the torrents/snakes, but the perilous rapids and poisonous snakes are still very much in the picture. The potentially harmful objects have no power to harm the subject who is defended and protected by his balanced state, but those dangerous objects still exist.

When autonomic functions related to balance are allowed to work, then, a practitioner becomes resilient to faults. But this resilience is not pro-active. No initiative is taken yet in the direction of setting out to destroy faults, which is the theme of the next verse.

Ashvaghosha thus seems to be guiding the reader to an understanding of what the Buddha's teaching requires of the practitioner, that I for one have never come across before so explicitly, either in Alexander work (where the emphasis is very much on restoring integrity through preventive means and thereby allowing the right thing to do itself), or in Zen practice as I was taught it (where everything was reduced to autonomic balance). Ashvaghosha's teaching seems to be on the point of affirming, in a definite order, not only (1) the preventive value of maintaining integrity and (2) the defensive value of allowing balance, but also (3) the destructive value of exercising aggressive intent towards the faults.

This threefold progression mirrors Nanda's progress in life, towards the exercise of greater initiative and assertiveness in his own combating of the faults. Ashvaghosha uses the military metaphor advisedly, because in the end Nanda's task is a destructive one -- requiring an aggressive attack on the obstacles to liberation. But before aggression there must be balance, and the proper route to balance is an indirect one, beginning with preventive means to maintain integrity in the use of the self.

If we take a direct approach to pursuing balance, for example, trying to keep "the correct posture" by doing this and that -- pulling the chin in, and the rest of it -- the whole enterprise will be doomed to failure. That much, brain befuddled or not, I really do know. I know because, very assiduously and zealously, for 13 years while living in Japan, I practised that mistake -- chest puffed up like a red-eyed bulldog. What my sitting practice in essence was, to tell the truth, was the very diligent practice of the fault of ignorance.

kleshaan (accusative, plural): afflictions
tu: but, and, then
viShkambhayate = 3rd person, singular of viShkambh: to hurl, cast; escape
samaadhiH (nominative, singular): balance, coming together, union, harmony

vegaan = accusative, plural of vega: violent agitation; a stream , flood , current, torrent
iva: like
adriH = nominative, singular of adri: stone, rock, mountain
mahataH = accusative, plural of mahat: great, mighty
nadiinaam = genitive, plural of nadii: river

sthite = locative of sthita: standing, remaining, abiding
samaadhau = locative of samaadhi: balance
hi: for
na: not
dharShayanti = 3rd person plural of dhRSh: to dare or venture; to dare to attack, treat with indignity (acc.)

doShaaH: (nominative, plural): m. faults
bhujaMgaaH (nominative, plural): m. a serpent , snake , serpent-demon
iva: like
mantra: " instrument of thought " , speech , sacred text or speech , a prayer or song of praise;
a mystical verse or magical formula (sometimes personified) , incantation , charm , spell
baddhaaH (nom. pl. m): bound

EH Johnston:
But concentration of mind repels the vices like a mountain the mighty currents of rivers ; for the faults, like spellbound snakes, are unable to attack the man who abides in concentration of mind.

Linda Covill:
But concentration casts off the defilements like a mountain casts off the mighty torrents of rivers; for the faults, like snakes transfixed by a magic formula, do not venture to attack a man who is fixed in concentration.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.34: Integrity Enfeebles Faults

klesh'-aaGkuraan na pratanoti shiilaM
biij'-aaGkuraan kaala iv' aativRttaH
shucau hi shiile puruShasya doShaa
manaH sa-lajjaa iva dharShayanti

Integrity causes the shoots of affliction not to flourish,

Like the shoots of a seed that sprouted too late.

The faults, as long as a man's integrity is untainted,

Venture only timidly to attack his mind.

More literally:
"Integrity does not develop the shoots of affliction,
As a season that has passed [does not develop] the shoots of a seed."

But Ashvaghosha's image, as I see it, is not of a seed that never sprouted. The image is rather the image of a seed that did indeed sprout, but in climactic conditions that made it difficult for those sprouts to keep growing.

The 3rd and 4th lines are in the same vein: they do not say that if only we act with integrity we won't be bothered by faults like greed and anger; they say that so long as our integrity is untainted, faults like greed and anger will not bother us so much.

If we look for a four-phased progression through this verse:
The 1st line introduces the principle.
The 2nd line presents an exact and concrete image.
The 3rd line is an expression not from cloud cuckoo land but from real life in which faults persist. (That is why I wanted to keep "the faults" in the 3rd line rather than moving the subject maybe more elegantly to the 4th line.) Still, notwithstanding the continuing existence of faults, we endeavour to act with integrity, in the spirit of polishing a tile and not worrying about having failed to make a mirror.
The 4th line is the punch line.

Shuci means pure, and shiila is generally defined as moral conduct. But what does it mean for moral conduct to be pure? Don't ask me. If I have ever experienced anything in the way of moral purity, either in the world of sitting Buddha or in the world of Alexander work, what that moral purity was escapes me now.

But if you ask me what it means for integrity to be untainted, then I have got a bit of something to go on. Because the tainting of integrity is just what Marjory Barlow taught me to investigate for myself, as I endeavoured to describe in this article.

It seems to me that when I really work on myself well, as Marjory taught me to work on myself, recovering the integrity of the use of the head, neck and back, I find that even the noise of planes and helicopters flying overhead does not bother me so much.

Most of the time, however, this kind of low-frequency buzzing bothers me a lot. Probably I should be grateful for the reminder of how far I generally am from the extinction of afflictions.

Marjory often used to remind me that being wrong is the best friend we have got in the work of working on the self. Not being pure. Being wrong.

I think the reminder is timely at this point, lest in our effort to pursue the freedom to which Ashvaghosha is pointing, we go down the conventional religious route of trying to be, or worrying about being, morally or spiritually pure.

This verse that I have just commented on so long-windedly, can be seen as the first verse in another series of four verses, describing how faults are to be progressively enfeebled, dropped off, eliminated, and abandoned by:

* Threefold integrity (sila, 16.34);
* Twofold balance (samadhi, 16.35);
* Threefold wisdom (prajna, 16.36); and
* All eight branches and three divisions in their entirety, as a path to the backward step of total well-being (atyanta-shiva pada, 16.37).

klesha: affliction
aGkuraan = accusative, plural of aGkura: a sprout , shoot , blade , a swelling , a tumour
na: not
pratanoti = 3rd person singular of pra-√ tan: to spread, continue, propagate; display
shiilam (nominative, singular): n. moral conduct/integrity, precept, discipline

biija: seed
aGkuraan (acc. pl): shoots
kaalaH (nominative, singular): the proper time or season
iva: like
ativRtta = past participle of ati-√vRt: to pass beyond , surpass , cross

shucau = locative of shuci: shining; brilliantly white; clear, clean, pure (lit. and fig.); holy , unsullied , undefiled
hi: for
shiile = locative of shiila: integrity, moral conduct
puruShasya = genitive of puruSha: a man
doShaaH (nom. pl.): m. faults

manaH (acc. sg.): mind
sa-lajjaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. feeling shame or modesty , bashful , embarrassed
iva: like, as if; just, only (especially after words which involve some restriction)
dharShayanti = 3rd person plural of dhRSh: to dare or venture; to dare to attack, treat with indignity (acc.)

EH Johnston:
Discipline no more develops the shoots of the vices than the wrong season will bring out shoots from a seed; for the faults attack but halfheartedly the mind of a man, when his discipline is pure.

Linda Covill:
Moral self-restraint does not grow offshoots of defilement, just as a season which has passed does not grow shoots from a seed. Given that his moral self-restraint is pure, the faults of a man venture only timidly to attack his mind.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.33: Mastery of the Thinking Mind

nyaayena saty'-aabhigamaaya yuktaa
samyak smRtiH samyag atho samaadhiH
idaM dvayaM yoga-vidhau pravRttaM
sham'aashrayaM citta-parigrahaaya

Harnessed methodically so as to lead one to the truth

Is true mindfulness, which goes with true balance:

These two, forming the protocol on formal practice,

Are for mastery, based on peace, of the thinking mind.

A methodical approach to the harnessing of mindfulness is presented by Ashvaghosha in his description of the four dhyaana in Canto 17. How to harness the energy of true MINDFULNESS in order to approach the truth of extinction, as described in Line 1, is what we have been studying and are continuing to study.

In Line 2, in contrast, there are times when true BALANCE takes care of itself.

In Line 3, as I read it, formal practice means SITTING practice.

In Line 4, then, mastery of the thinking mind expresses a kind of REALISATION.

It might mean a realisation like this:

Sitting on a round cushion, each foot on the opposite thigh, and thinking the head and limbs out of the lengthening and widening back, so that the head and limbs do actually release out of the lengthening and widening back.

If anybody doesn't like this use of the word "thinking," please could they complain to Ashvaghosha about it. He is the one who put the word citta in the fourth line. And as the Sanskrit-English dictionary tells us, and as Dogen also tells us in Shobogenzo, citta means the thinking mind.

nyaayena = instrumental of nyaaya: that into which a thing goes back i.e. an original type , standard , method , rule , (esp.) a general or universal rule , model , axiom , system , plan , manner , right or fit manner or way , fitness , propriety (nyaayena "in the right manner, regularly, duly")
satya: the truth, reality
abhigamaaya [or adhigamaaya, depending on which text is followed] = dative of abhigama: approaching, visiting
[or dative of adhigama]: m. the act of attaining , acquisition; acquirement, mastery
yuktaa (feminine, agreeing with smRti): yoked or joined or fastened or attached or harnessed to (loc. or instr.); set to work; furnished or endowed with, accompanied by, possessed of (instr. or comp.)

samyaJc: going along with or together, turned together or in one direction , combined , united; entire , whole , complete , all ; lying in one direction , forming one line (as foot steps); correct , accurate , proper , true , right
smRtiH = nominative, singular of smRti (f): remembering, mindfulness, awareness
samyaJc: true, right
atha: (connective particle) then, along with
samaadhiH (nom. sg.): m. putting together; coming together, balance, setting to rights, union, harmony, concentration [of energy]

idam (nom. sg. n.): this
dvayam (nom. sg. n.): couple, pair
yoga: use, performance; exertion, endeavor, attention; work; any junction, union; a means , expedient , device , way , manner , method; any simple act or rite conducive to yoga
vidhau = locative of vidhi: protocol
pravRttam (nom. sg. n.): circulated; arisen, produced; set out

shama: tranquillity , calmness , rest , equanimity ; peace
aashrayam (nom. sg. n.): that to which anything is annexed or with which anything is closely connected or on which anything depends or rests
citta: thinking, mind, the thinking mind
parigrahaaya = dative of parigraha: laying hold of on all sides; comprehending; getting , attaining , acquisition , possession , property (ifc. " being possessed of or furnished with ")

EH Johnston:
Right attention used in accordance with the plan in order to approach the Truths and right concentration of thought, these two, based on tranquillity, should be practised in the department of Yoga for the mastery of the mind.

Linda Covill:
Right mindfulness conjoined to the plan for the discovery of the truth, and right concentration -- these two occur in the ordinance on yogic practice, and are a basis for peace in order that one's thoughts may be circumscribed.

Monday, March 16, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.32: Getting Rid of Illusions

satyeShu duHkh'-aadiShu dRShTir aaryaa
samyag vitarkash ca paraakramash ca
idaM triyaM jNaana-vidhau pravRttam
prajN"-aasrayam klesha-parikShayaaya.

Nobility of insight into the truths,
beginning with the truth of suffering,

Along with thinking straight, and initiative:

These three, forming the protocol on knowing,

Are for dissolution, based on wisdom, of afflictions.

An affliction, klesha, in the context of this verse seems to mean what obstructs us from truly seeing what is. In this sense the word is very profoundly related, as I understand it, with what FM Alexander called faulty sensory appreciation.

Because I know that Alexander work is real and true -- it works -- in endeavoring to understand the real meaning of the recorded words of ancestors like Dogen, Ashvaghosha, and Gautama, I am mindful of the reailty and truth of Alexander work.

A real instance of an affliction might be malice. In that case, what is the real meaning of (1) insight, (2) thinking straight, and (3)initiative? How do those three actually work to dissolve the affliction of malice?

Insight might be to see malice as malice.

Thinking straight might be to come back to clarity in regard to what one really wants, which is not to be poisoned by malice, but to be, along with all living beings, free from suffering. In Alexander work that wish is sometimes expressed by the words, "I wish to let the neck be free to let the head go forward and up."

Initiative seems to become a very great stumbling block. With too much of it, the practitioner ends up trying to make the head go forward and up, which only creates more tension. With too little initiative, the practitioner only thinks the word "let" but fails actually to allow anything, fails actually to direct the flow of his energy, fails either to piss or get off the pot. This, I think, is what Marjorie Barstow is discussing on this video clip.
Another kind of initiative which may be taken as an antidote to malice, as indicated by Ashvaghosha in verse 16.62, is consciously to introduce into the situation some goodwill that one genuinely feels for, say, a friend, teacher, or relative.
Again, my old teacher Marjory Barlow's oft-repeated exhortation that being ready to be wrong is "the golden key," is pointing the way to a kind of initiative. A positive will to see one's own faults, a genuine appetite for finding out where things tend to go wrong, is all part of initiative as I see it. (Religious and political groups, needless to say, tend in precisely the opposite direction of denial, cover-up, suppressing history, spin-doctoring, et cetera.)

One affliction in particular that I am acutely mindful of is a misconception about sitting posture that has invaded the world of Japanese Zen, arising from a certain rigidity of outlook, a certain formalism, a certain lack of capacity for originality and initiative, that has characterized Japanese culture since even before the time of Master Dogen.

That Japanese misconception about "correct sitting posture," I am afraid, is both a symptom and a cause of trouble. I was at fault ever to get involved in it in the first place, and I was stupid to expect people of scant initiative to be grateful to me for pointing out their cherished misconception.

A misconception is something that has no substance and yet it can really cause a lot of trouble. Even though it has no substance, it is not easy to get rid of.

As one truly wise person observed a long time ago:
"The most difficult things to get rid of are the ones that don't exist."

satyeShu = locative, plural of satya: truth
duHkha: suffering
aadiShu = locative, plural of aadi: beginning with
dRShTiH = nominative, singular of dRShTi: (f.) seeing , viewing , beholding (also with the mental eye); sight , the faculty of seeing; the mind's eye , wisdom , intelligence; (with Buddhists) a wrong view
aaryaa (feminine, agreeing with drShti): noble; (with Buddhists, a man who has thought on the four chief truths of Buddhism and lives accordingly); behaving like an Aryan , worthy of one , honourable , respectable , noble;

samyak: true, full, straight
vitarkaH = nominative, singular of vitarka: thought, reasoning
ca: and
paraakramaH = nominative, singular of paraakrama: bold advance , attack , heroism , courage , power , strength , energy , exertion , enterprise
ca: and

idam (nom. sg. n.): this
triyam (nom. sg.): n. three, triad, threesome
jNana: knowing
vidhau (loc.): protocol
pravRttam(nom. sg. n.) : rolled out, produced, formed

prajNaa: wisdom; intuitive wisdom
aasrayam (nom. sg. n.): forming a basis
klesha: affliction ; worldly occupation , care , trouble
parikShayaaya = dative of parikShaya: disappearing, ceasing, dissolution, decay, destruction

EH Johnston:
The noble doctrine with respect to the Truths regarding suffering etc, right thought and exertion, these three, resting on intuitive wisdom should be practised in the department of knowledge for the abolition of the vices.

Linda Covill:
The noble doctrine concerning the Truths of suffering etc., as well as right thought and right effort -- these three occur in the ordinance on knowledge, and are a basis for wisdom in order that one's defilements may be annihilated.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.31: Mastery of One's Actions

vaak-karma samyak saha-kaaya-karma
yathaavad aajiiva-nayash ca shuddhaH
idaM trayaM vRtta-vidhau pravRttaM
shiil'aashrayaM karma-parigrahaaya

Using the voice and using the body well

And making one's living in a pure and suitable manner:

These three, forming the protocol on conduct,

Are for the mastery, based on integrity, of one's actions.

To sit well on a round cushion is to recover one's fundamental integrity. The great difficulty then is not to lose it.

This verse can be seen as the second in a series of four verses in which Ashvaghosha enumerates the eight branches of the noble path.

Verse 16.30 describes all eight branches of the path as having to do with the awakening of CONSCIOUSNESS.

From the opposite standpoint of 16.31, human life may be seen objectively as nothing but A SERIES OF CONCRETE ACTIONS, in which the practitioner either does or does not maintain a certain integrity in the alignment of the head, neck and back -- in (1) using the voice, (2) using the body, and (3) all the activities of living.

The standpoint of 16.32, as I read it, is that of the moment of the present, i.e, a moment of action itself, in which THE MIND HERE & NOW is required (4) to be insightful, (5) to think straight, and (6) to show initiative.

The theme of 16.33 is that which provides the ultimate standard for the whole eightfold path; namely, the FORMAL SITTING PRACTICE whose elements are (7) true mindfulness, and (8) true balance.

vaac: speech , voice , talk , language
karma = nominative, singular of karman: action, performance, work, activity
samyaJc: going along with or together, turned together or in one direction, combined, united; entire, whole, complete, all; lying in one direction, forming one line (as foot steps); correct, accurate, proper, true, right
saha: together with, along with, and; in common , in company , jointly , conjointly , in concert (often used as a prefix in compounds, expressing "community of action")
kaaya: body
karma: action

yathaavat: duly , properly , rightly , suitably , exactly
aajiiva: livelihood
nayaH = nominative, singular of naya: leading (of an army);conduct , behaviour
ca: and
shuddhaH = nominative, singular of shuddha: cleansed , cleared , clean , pure , clear; cleared , acquitted , free from error , faultless , blameless , right , correct , accurate , exact , according to rule

idam (nom. sg. n.): this
trayam (nom. sg.): n. triad, threesome
vRtta: conduct
vidhau = locative of vidhi: a rule, formula, direction, et cetera; [protocol]
pravRttam (nom. sg. n.): circulated; arisen, produced; set out

shiila: moral conduct, integrity, rules of discipline, self-restraint
aashrayam (nom. sg. n.): that to which anything is annexed or with which anything is closely connected or on which anything depends or rests
karman: action
parigrahaaya = dative of parigraha: laying hold of on all sides; comprehending; getting , attaining , acquisition , possession , property (ifc. " being possessed of or furnished with ")

EH Johnston:
Right actions of voice and body and right livelihood, these three, based on discipline, should be practised in the department of conduct for the mastery of the actions.

Linda Covill:
Right verbal and bodily actions, and making one's living in a pure and suitable manner -- these three occur in the ordinance on behaviour, and are a basis for moral self-restraint in order that one's actions may be circumscribed.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.30: The Conscious Eightfold Path

asy' aabhyupaayo 'dhigamaaya maargaH
prajNaa-tri-kalpaH prashama-dvi-kalpaH
sa bhaavaniiyo vidhivad budhena
shiile shucau tri-pramukhe sthitena.

A means of gaining that end is the path

Of threefold wisdom and twofold peace.

It should be cultivated, using conscious means,
by a wakener of consciousness --

Abiding in the purity of threefold integrity.

This verse introduces the noble eightfold path, consisting of three branches relating to the practice of wisdom (insight, thinking, initiative); two branches relating to the formal practice of inhibition (mindfulness, balance); and three branches relating to the practice of integrity in three spheres (use of the voice, use of the body, and earning of a living).

My translation of the third and fourth line reflects my understanding that this path Ashvaghosha is describing has to do with the growth of consciousness, which happens through the often discouragingly difficult practice of inhibiting those unconscious patterns of thought and action which tend towards the dis-integration of the human organism.

Again, I submit that the growth of consciousness has to do with inhibition of unconsciousness.

I submit that consciousness cannot be awakened by unconscious means -- although that doesn't stop me trying.

Conversely, the teaching that prevails in Japan, that sitting-dhyaana is a kind of "physical gymnastics," involving pulling the chin in, in order to stretch the neck bones, et cetera, is a very partial, very one-sided, and to be frank a very ignorant description of sitting-dhyaana.

The means that Ashvaghosha expressed in the 3rd line by the word vidhivat, as I read it, is precisely the same means that FM Alexander termed "conscious inhibition and direction." Vidhivat means "with conscious inhibition and direction" as opposed to unconscious reliance on unconscious means -- which is how we usually tend to go about practising anything.

The 4th line, "Abiding in the purity of threefold integrity," expresses, as I read it, consciously using the self well, as a whole, instead of end-gaining blindly. The nobility of the noble eightfold path, I think, comes from rising above the lowly-evolved end-gaining principle which is followed by the great mass of unconsciously-controlled humanity. If we could succeed in this for one minute, or for one bow, or for one movement of the leg, that might be a good start.

When I came back to England at the end of 1994 with a view to learning, under the guidance of Alexander teachers, what FM Alexander meant by "constructive, conscious control of the individual," I expected that the task of liberating the self from unconsciousness might be easier than it has in fact turned out. After 14 years of struggle, I honestly do not feel that I have got very far at all. Sometimes I secretly think that my life might have been much easier (and I might be respected a lot more in the world too), if I had never heard of the bloody Alexander Technique. It is not a noble thought, and I don't really mean it. But sometimes I secretly think it. How pregnant with suffering is the expectant mind.

asya = genitive, singular of asau: that
abhyupaayaH (nominative, singular): means, expedient
adhigamaaya = dative of adhigama: m. the act of attaining; acquirement , mastery , study , knowledge
maargaH (nominative, singular): path

prajNaa: wisdom
kalpa: (ifc.) having the manner or form of anything
tri: three
tri-kalpaH (nominative, singular, agreeing with maargaH): threefold
prashama: calmness , tranquillity (esp. of mind) , quiet , rest , cessation , extinction , abatement; peace
dvi-kalpaH: twofold

saH (nominative, singular): it
bhaavaniiyaH = nom. sg. m. bhaavaniiya (gerundive of bhaavana): to be cherished or nourished [or cultivated]
vidhi: a rule , formula , injunction , ordinance , statute , precept , law , direction (esp. for the performance of a rite); method , manner or way of acting; a means , expedient for
-vat: (possessive suffix) with, having
vidhivat: according to rule, duly
budhena = instrumental, singular of budha: awaking; intelligent, clever, wise; m. a wise or learned man, sage

shiile = locative of shiila: habit , custom , usage , natural or acquired way of living or acting , practice , conduct ; good disposition or character , moral conduct , integrity , morality , piety , virtue; shiila "moral conduct," is one of the 6 or 10 perfections or paaramitaas); a moral precept
shucau = locative of shuci: pure; purity
tri: three
pramukhe = locative of pramukha: heap, multitude
tripramukha: group of three
sthitena = instrumental of sthita: standing, resting, remaining, abiding

EH Johnston
The means to attain this end is the Path with its threefold wisdom and double transquillity. It should be duly cultivated by the prudent man, governing himself by the pure threefold discipline.

Linda Covill:
The means to reach it is the path of threefold wisdom and twofold peace. It should be cultivated as instructed by a wise man abiding in the pure threefold moral self-restraint.

Friday, March 13, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.29: A Saved Person Attains Nothing But Extinction (4)

evaM kRtii nirvRtim abhyupeto
n' aaiv' aavaniM gacchati n'aantarikSham
dishaM na kaaM cid vidishaM na kaaM cit
klesha-kShayaat kevalam eti shaantim

In the same way,
a man of action who has found salvation

Reaches neither to the earth nor to the sky,

Nor to any cardinal nor to any intermediate point:

From the ending of his afflictions
he attains nothing but extinction.

Nothing to attain but extinction.
We are here in diligent pursuit of a bit of nothing.

Up is nothing but up -- it is just a direction, not something that can be done. Back is nothing but back. The backward step is not a route to anything. The backward step is a route to a bit of nothing.

But a bit of nothing is a lot.
A bit of nothing is the lifeblood.
A bit of nothing is Ashvaghosha's gold.
A bit of nothing is the pot of gold at the end of this epic tale of Hansome Nanda's journey, which is, in the end, a success story, a story of redemption.

Should we reach outside of ourselves for this pot of gold? In the past, I have done that, repeatedly -- with an expectant mind, pregnant with suffering.
Should we reach out to others, like evangelists, in our desire to share with them what we believe in our minds to be the good news? In the past, I have done that too, travelling over the ocean from Japan to America, for example, weighed down with a heavy load of books.
Should we, even though we are not yet fully enlightened, and even though we have never truly met a person who was fully enlightened, take it upon ourselves to instruct others in what we have not yet mastered? I have done that, in spades, and am still tempted to do it.
Or should we simply devote ourselves, as simply and single-mindedly as we are able, to the backward step of turning light and shining? This is the preaching I have heard and have endeavored to live by, but all too often while preaching with one ear I have failed to listen with the other ear.

The above verse is Ashvaghosha's concluding expression on the 3rd noble truth, the truth of inhibition. From the next verse he turns our attention to the inhibitory eightfold path itself, on which we are truly to master, sooner or later, the backward step of turning light and shining.

evam: thus, in this way
kRtii (nominative, singular, masculine): one who acts, a man of action
nirVrtim = accusative, nirVrti: f. complete satisfaction or happiness , bliss , pleasure , delight; emancipation , final beatitude; attainment of rest; extinction (of a lamp)
abhyupeta: arrived at, attained

na: not
eva: at all
avani: the earth
gacchati (3rd person singular, gam): goes
na: not
antarikSha: the sky

disham = accusative, plural of dish: f. quarter or region pointed at, direction, cardinal point (E,W, S, N)
na kaaM cit: not any of them
vidisham = accusative, plural of vidish: f. an intermediate point of the compass (as south east)
na kaaM cit: not any of them

klesha: affliction
kShayaat = ablative of kShaya: loss , waste , wane , diminution , destruction , decay , wasting or wearing away (often ifc.)
kevalam: only , merely , solely
eti: reaches, attains, enters, comes into
shaantim (accusative): peace; extinction (of fire &c )

EH Johnston:
So the Saint who has reached Nirvana does not depart to the earth or the sky or any of the quarters or intermediate quarters but from the exhaustion of the vices merely goes to peace.

Linda Covill:
so he who has reached nirvana travels not to the earth, not to the sky, nor to any of the directions or intermediate directions, but, because his defilements have ended, just attains peace.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.28: A Spent Lamp Reaches Nothing But Extinction (3)

diipo yathaa nirvRtim abhyupeto
n' aaiv' aavaniM gacchati n' aantarikSham
dishaM na kaaM cid vidishaM na kaaM cit
sneha-kShayaat kevalam eti shaantim

A lamp that has gone out

Reaches neither to the earth nor to the sky,

Nor to any cardinal nor to any intermediate point:

Because its oil is spent it reaches nothing but extinction.

This verse, and the verses which follow it, reverberate deeply with Master Dogen's teaching of the backward step.

Picture a baby, its eyes wide, its face flushed, and its arms splayed out in distress, reaching out, as if to plead, "Pick me up, mummy!"

In very many of us, a trace of that infantile redness remains, like emotional fuel. Many is the moment during a day when I would like to throw my toys out of the pram.

But a lamp that has gone out is not like that. A lamp that has gone out emits no trace of that.

diipaH (nominative, singular): m. light, lamp, lantern
yathaa: (correlative of evam in the next verse) just as
nirVrtim = accusative, nirVrti: f. complete satisfaction or happiness , bliss , pleasure , delight; emancipation , final beatitude; attainment of rest; extinction (of a lamp)
abhyupetaH = nom. sg. m. past participle of abhyupe: to go near , approach , arrive at , enter; to enter a state or condition , obtain , share

na: not
eva: at all
avanim (accusative): to the earth
gacchati (3rd person singular, gam): goes, reaches
na: not
antarikSham (accusative): to the sky

disham = accusative, plural of dish: f. quarter or region pointed at, direction, cardinal point (E,W, S, N)
na kaaM cit: not any of them
vidisham = accusative, plural of vidish: f. an intermediate point of the compass (as south east)
na kaaM cit: not any of them

sneha: oil
kShayaat = ablative of kShaya: loss , waste , wane , diminution , destruction , decay , wasting or wearing away (often ifc.)
kevalam: ind. only, merely, solely
eti = 3rd person singular (aa- √i): to come near or towards , go near , approach; to reach , attain , enter , come into (a state or position)
shaantim (accusative): peace; extinction (of fire &c )

EH Johnston:
Just as a lamp, which has reached the stage of extinction, does not depart to the earth or the sky or any of the quarters or intermediate quarters but from exhaustion of the oil merely goes out.

Linda Covill:
Just as a light which is extinguished does not travel to the earth or the sky, nor to the directions or any intermediate directions but, because its oil is used up, merely ceases,

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.27: Reaching Extinction (2), Not a Positive Step

yasmin na jaatir na jaraa na mRtyur
na vyaadhayo n'aa-priya-samprayogaH
n'ecchaa-vipanna priya-viprayogaH
kShemaM padaM naiShThikam a-cyutam tat.

In which there is no becoming, no aging, no dying,

No illnesses, no being touched by unpleasantness,

No disappointment, or separation from what is pleasant:

It is a fundamental step -- ultimate and indestructible.

If the ending of suffering were a position in a community, then it could be taken away. Somebody might come along thinking "You are not yet senior enough to sit there," or somebody might come along saying, "You have become too senior to stay here." If the ending of suffering were a condition of harmony within a community, again, some troublemaker could come along and disrupt that harmony. So a community might not always be an ultimate and indestructible place to seek the ending of suffering.

If the ending of suffering were an experience or a state of being -- for example, a state of enlightenment, a state of Buddha -- that state also could easily be taken away, by sickness, aging, or death. So a state of enlightenment might not always be an ultimate and indestructible place to seek the ending of suffering.

But insofar as the ending of suffering is a step, once that step has been realised as the ending of suffering, nobody can take it away. Not even time can take it away.

That is why, here, as also in verse 3.7, I have stayed with the very literal translation of padam, as a step. Not a stage. Not a place. Not a state. A step.

A step is not static. A step has direction -- for example:
up, as opposed to gravity; and
back, as opposed to progressive striving; and
away, as opposed to trouble.

A step is a bit of a process of following a path that leads in a certain direction, which is not necessarily always forward.

Thus, even if foreign invaders and exotic ideas laid to waste the whole of a great Aryan civilization in India, destroying Buddhas and breaking up Sanghas, up is still up, back is still back, and away is still away. This, as I read it and as I endeavor to sit it, is the ultimate, indestructible Dharma of Ashvaghosha. This is Ashvaghosha's gold.

yasmin (locative): in which
na: no
jaatiH (nominative, singular): birth, becoming
na: no
jaraa (nominative, singular): growing old, old age
na: no
mRtyuH (nominative, singular): death, dying

na: no
vyaadhayaH = nominative, plural of vyaadhi: disorder , disease , ailment , sickness
na: no
a-priya: disagreeable , disliked ; unkind , unfriendly
samprayogaH (nominative, singular): joining together , attaching , fastening ; conjunction , union , connection , contact with

na: no
icchaa: wish , desire , inclination ,
vipanna: mfn. gone wrong , failed , miscarried
priya: beloved , liked , favourite , wanted; love , kindness , favour , pleasure
viprayogaH (nominative, singular): disjunction , dissociation , separation from

kShemam (acc. sg. n.): (from √kSi) habitable; giving rest or ease or security; at ease , prosperous , safe; m. basis , foundation; residing , resting , abiding at ease; safety , tranquillity , peace , rest , security , any secure or easy or comfortable state
kSi: to abide , stay , dwell , reside (used especially of an undisturbed or secret residence)
padam (acc. sg.): n. step, footing, state
naiShThikam (acc. sg. n.): forming the end , final , last; definitive , fixed , firm; highest , perfect , complete
acyutam (acc. sg. n.): not fallen; firm , solid; imperishable , permanent; not leaking
cyuta: mfn. moved , shaken ; disappeared
tat: it, that [referring back to dharma in 16.26(b)]

EH Johnston:
The stage in which there is neither birth, old age, death, disease, nor contact with what is disagreeable, neither failure of wishes nor separation from the agreeable, which is peaceful, final and imperishable.

Linda Covill:
in which there is no birth, no old age, no death, no sickness, no association with anything unpleasant, no failure of wishes and no separation from anything pleasant; it is an ultimate, unfallen state of ease.