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.


jiblet said...

Hi Mike,

Just wanted you to know that I'm watching, listening, and maybe learning as you walk peacably away.

Thanks again for the work.

lxg said...

Hi Mike, here's a relevant quote from FM Alexander's fourth and final book, 'The Universal Constant In Living':

"My technique is based on inhibition, the inhibition of undesirable, unwanted responses to stimuli and hence it is primarily a technique for the control of human reaction."

Personally I'd like to know what he meant by the word 'control'. It's seems to be a bit of a dirty word for some teachers.

Mike Cross said...

Hi Jiblet,

Thanks for the encouragement and for the reminder to walk the good walk.

Mike Cross said...

Hi Alex,

Reflecting on your comment this afternoon, and doing some Alexander work and some sitting as well, it struck me that there is a kind of freedom in sitting fixedly upright with like-minded people, pulling the chin back in a controlling way. Conversely, sitting upright in a more poised and free way, allowing the head forward and up et cetera, seems to require me to suppress the hell out of something within myself. So the whole thing is a bit of a mystery and not easy to put into words.

But that doesn't stop us trying!

Thanks for your comment.

lxg said...

Do you not find Mike that setting out to suppress, get rid of or destroy these 'unwanted responses' sets up more conflict in yourself?

Mike Cross said...

I find that to inhibit unwanted responses is an extremely difficult practice, and not one that lends itself well to verbal discussion.

But what we can notice, in the case of Ashvaghosha and also in the case of FM Alexander, is that they weren't afraid to use words like nirodha and inhibit, which describe the action of stopping something. Not only something stopping, but us stopping or suppressing something.

This is a point that Prof. Richard Gombrich impressed on me a few years when I asked him about it. Duhkha-nirodha-satya, Prof. Gombrich said, is the truth of stopping suffering -- with nirodha being used as a transitive verb whose object is duhkha.