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.


Harry said...


As it's St. Patrick's weekend:

I suspected for some time before you're disclosure that deep down you were Irish.

You're much too interesting to be an englishman.



Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Harry.

On my father's side I've got fighting Irish blood, but on my mother's side I come from a long line of Lancashire nobodies.

So when I am feeling all puffed up full of anger and short on goodwill, I sometimes remember my mother's grand-dad, Mr Nobody, sitting there quietly in the corner with hearing aid in ear and pipe of cheap, strong tobacco in hand. Thinking of old Bill Haworth, and remembering that is where I come from, somehow helps to deflate me.

Anyway, thanks again and happy St Paddy's weekend to you.


Mike Cross said...

pravṛtta: acting , proceeding , dealing with (loc.)

vidhi: work, business (ifc. often pleonastically e.g. mathana-vidhi , the [act of] disturbing)