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.


Harry said...

Hello, Mike.

It's said that a common characteristic of great people ('self actualised' individuals as they say in psychobabble) is that they can count their friends on one hand.

Regards to you & yours,


Mike Cross said...

Thanks for this encouragement, Harry.

I had a friend in Japan, a habitually morose character called Stephen Harland, who suddenly got very enthusiastic about Dale Carnegie's book "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Steve zealously recommended the book to me, but I never got round to reading it.

Carnegie's title gives me an idea for my own autobiography: "How to Make Enemies and Antagonize People."

The title of Chapter One might be: "Going for the Jugular -- Attacking People's Most Cherished Misconceptions."