Thursday, March 5, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.21: Afflictions Develop Personality, Life by Life

krodha-praharSh'aadibhir aashrayaaNaam
utpadyate c'eha yathaa visheShah
tath" aiva janmasv api n'aika-ruupo
nirvartate klesha-kRto visheShaH

Just as the anger, lust, and so on
of sufferers of those afflictions

Give rise in the present to a personality trait,

So too in new lives, in various manifestations,

Does the affliction-created trait develop:

Ain't it funny how your new life didn't change things?
You're still suffering from the same old affliction you used to have.

It somehow doesn't scan as well as the old Eagles lyric, but I think it makes Ashvaghosha's point here.

As a translation of klesha, I like "affliction" because it means both SUFFERING itself and also a delusory tendency that CAUSES SUFFERING.

To be grumpy, to return to that example, is not only to suffer from grumpiness (suffering itself) but also to see the world as if through grumpiness-tainted spectacles (a cause of suffering to self and others).

And here again, a bit of knowledge about early vestibular reflexes may help to deepen our understanding of how afflictions afflict us.

If the Moro, or infantile panic/grasp reflex, fails to be INHIBITED during the initial window of inhibition lasting till around 6 months after birth, the reflex will tend to remain stuck in the system of the child and adult as a big obstacle to enlightened behaviour.

The affliction of an immature Moro reflex directly brings suffering itself, in the form of irrational fear, anger, over-excitement and hypersensitivity. But more than that, because of its wide-ranging effects on the functioning of the ears, eyes, vestibular/proprioceptive and other senses, an immature Moro reflex plays a big role in what FM Alexander called "faulty sensory appreciation." Faulty sensory appreciation is the antithesis of lucidity; it is akin to seeing the world through coloured and distorted lenses, and is thus the indirect cause of suffering.

FM Alexander was way ahead of his time in understanding the importance of the afflictions he termed "unduly excited fear reflexes and emotions" and "faulty sensory appreciation." Not only did he see the problem clearly, he also devised a MEANS-WHEREBY the misuse of the self associated with an immature Moro reflex might be inhibited, and the faulty sensory appreciation associated with it might be by-passed. Thus Alexander's MEANS-WHEREBY involved, as also the realisation of the four dhyaana as described by Ashvaghosha involved, at least in the early stages of their application, reliance on reason.

Specifically, Alexander taught verbal directions which point precisely away from the stiffening of the neck, holding of the head, narrowing and arching of the back, and holding in of the limbs, which characterizes the Moro pattern. Those verbal directions go something like this:

"I wish to let my neck be free,
To let the head go forward and up,
To let the back lengthen and widen,
Sending the legs and the arms out of the back...."

krodha: anger
praharSha: erection (or greater erection) of the male organ; erection of the hair, extreme joy , thrill of delight , rapture
aadibhiH = instrumental [indicating agent of passive construction], plural of aadi: beginning with, and so on
aashrayaaNaam = genitive, plural of aashraya: that to which anything is annexed or with which anything is closely connected or on which anything depends or rests ; a recipient , the person or thing in which any quality or article is inherent or retained or received

utpadyate = 3rd person singular passive utpad: to arise , rise , originate , be born or produced ; to come forth , become visible , appear ; to be ready ; to take place , begin ; to produce , beget , generate ; to cause , effect ; to cause to issue or come forth , bring forward
ca: and; (sometimes emphatic = eva) , even , indeed , certainly , just
iha: in this place , here ; to this place ; in this world; now
yathaa: (correlative of tathaa in the following sentence) just as
visheShah = nominative singular of visheSha: distinction , difference between ; characteristic difference, peculiar mark, special property, speciality, peculiarity ; a kind , species , individual

tathaa: similarly, in the same manner
eva: just so
janmasu = locative plural of janman: birth, production; origin; existence , life
api: and , also , moreover , besides
n'aika: not one, many, various
ruupaH = nominative, singular of ruupa: form, shape, figure

nirvartate = 3rd person singluar of nir- √ vRt: to cause to roll out or cast (as dice); to take place , happen ; to come forth , originate , develop , become; to be accomplished or effected or finished, come off ;
klesha: pain , affliction , distress , pain from disease , anguish; (the Buddhists reckon ten , viz. three of the body [murder , theft , adultery] , four of speech [lying , slander , abuse , unprofitable conversation] , three of the mind [covetousness , malice , scepticism])
kRtaH: done, made, created
visheShaH (see above): peculiarity, personality trait

EH Johnston:
And as the special character of the bodily constitution in this existence is brought about by anger, joy, etc., similarly a special character, effected by the vices, is developed in various forms in their (new) births also.

Linda Covill:
Just as the distinctive character of embodied individuals arises because of their anger, joy and so on, so does their distinctive defilement-created character develop in various formats in future births too.

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