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.
"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).
aGkuraan = accusative, plural of aGkura: a sprout , shoot , blade , a swelling , a tumour
pratanoti = 3rd person singular of pra-√ tan: to spread, continue, propagate; display
shiilam (nominative, singular): n. moral conduct/integrity, precept, discipline
aGkuraan (acc. pl): shoots
kaalaH (nominative, singular): the proper time or season
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
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.)
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.
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.