Thursday, April 30, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.77: Getting On with Something Else

nirdhuuyamaanaas tv atha leshato 'pi
tiShTheyur ev' aakushalaa vitarkaaH
kaary-aantarair adhyayana-kriy"-aadhyaiH
sevyo vidhir vismaraNaaya teShaaM

If, though they are being shaken off,

There is any lingering trace of unhelpful thoughts,

One should get on with something else,
such as study or a physical task,

As a means of consigning those thoughts to oblivion.

Formal practice is time when one can devote oneself wholly to shaking off those unhelpful thoughts which are at the root of faulty reactions.

In getting on with something other than formal practice sometimes this very thought of shaking off thoughts is itself naturally shaken off.
Marjory Barlow used to say "Go into movement without a care in the world -- let it come out in the wash."

This verse is an explicit recognition of the importance of banishing unhelpful thoughts.

It is also an implicit recognition of the importance of formal practice, central to which is formal sitting practice -- because without formal practice, there can never be "something else." And without something else, there can never be formal sitting practice.

EH Johnston:
But if evil thoughts, though shaken off, should subsist even a little, you must labour for their obliteration by some other means such as study, action etc.

Linda Covill:
However, unwholesome thoughts may persist to a small extent, though they are being shaken loose; they should be obliterated by taking up different methods, such as study and work.

nirdhuuyamaanaaH = nom. pl. pres. passive participle nir-√dhuu: to shake , agitate , shake out or off , scatter , remove , destroy , expel , reject
tu: but, however
atha: (connecting particle)
leshataH: very slightly
lesha: m. a small part or portion , particle , atom , little bit or slight trace of
-taH: (ablative/adverbial suffix)
api: even

tiShTheyuH = 3rd person plural, optative of stha: to stand, remain
eva: (emphatic)
akushalaaH (nom. pl. m.): inauspicious, evil; not clever, not constructive
vitarkaaH (nom. pl): m. ideas, fancies, thoughts

kaarya: n. work or business to be done , duty , affair
antaraiH = inst. pl. antara: n. (ifc.) , different , other , another
adhyayana: reading , studying , especially the vedas (one of the six duties of a Brahman)
kriyaa: action , undertaking , activity , work , labour; bodily action , exercise of the limbs
aadhyaiH (inst. pl): being at the beginning , first (= aadi, et cetera)

sevyaH (nom. sg. m., from gerunidive of sev): to be resorted to; to be followed (as a path)
vidhiH (nom. sg.): m. method, manner of acting, means, expedient
vismaraNaaya = dative of vismaraNa: n. the act of forgetting , oblivion
teShaam (genitive, plural of saH): of them

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.76: Sources of Shame

vyapatrapante hi kula-prasuutaa
manaH-pracaarair a-shubhaih pravRttaiH
kaNThe manasv" iva yuvaa vapuShmaan
a-caakShuShair a-prayatair viShaktaiH

For those brought up well are ashamed

Of continued impure workings of the mind,

Like one who is bright, young and good-looking

Hanging ugly, scruffy things around his neck.

This teacher will seemingly stop at nothing to encourage us to endeavour in the direction of giving up our faults. Now he is appealing to any sense of shame we might have -- depending, as I understand the first line, on how well brought up we were.

Kula-prasuuta literally means "born into a family," and the dictionary gives "born in a noble family." But the latter translation carries a connotation of Brahmin snobbery, which I sense is totally inappropriate to the speaker's intention. I see nothing in what I have translated so far to lend support to the utterly false conception of karma and rebirth that has been used for centuries in countries like India and Thailand as a tool of political oppression.

"Born into a family," as I read it in this verse, refers to a person who was brought up well in whatever society, class or caste -- as opposed to the kind of uncivilized, feral children whose absent fathers and hapless mothers never laid down boundaries for them and who are consequently responsible for a lot of anti-social behaviour in Britain today.

Buddha/Ashvaghosha, I believe, would have judged whether or not a man was a true Aryan, not according to the social rank of the family he was born into, but according to whether or not he followed the noble principle. One who is a slave to mass unconscious reaction, even if he is a royal prince, is not noble. A person of whatever society or class who sits, in accordance with the Buddha's noble principle of inhibition, with right and left feet on opposite thighs, has in that very act of sitting already become a great and noble person in the house of Buddha & Ashvaghosha. This is the loud and clear message of Shobogenzo chapter. 72, The Samadhi that is King of Samadhis.

Setting aside the problem of nobility and turning to impurity, a-subha in the 2nd line might mean impure or unlovely in the sense of being tainted by that thirsting for objects, called by FM Alexander 'end-gaining,' which is said to be at the root of all faults.

For a more concrete illustration (literally) of impure workings of a mind, there is still plenty of cement in the shed but I am almost out of sand, whereas my absent neighbour has a big heap of sand in his drive. Would he mind if I took a bucket? Would he even notice....?

EH Johnston:
For men of noble birth are ashamed of the active workings of the mind towards impurity, the invisible, unholy desires, as a spirited and handsome youth is ashamed of unsightly and ill-arranged objects attached to his neck.

Linda Covill:
For nobly-born men are ashamed of the continuing impure movements of their minds, like a handsome and spirited young man is ashamed of unsightly and badly-finished chains round his neck.

vyapatrapante = 3rd person plural of vy-apa-√trap: to turn away through shame , become shy or timid
hi: for
kula-prasuutaaH (nom. pl.): those born in a noble family
kula: a herd; a race, family, community; a noble or eminent family or race; high station
prasuuta: procreated , begotten , born

manas: mind
pracaaraiH (inst. pl.): manifestation; application , employment , use ; conduct , behaviour
a-shubhair (inst. pl.): not beautiful or agreeable , disagreeable ; inauspicious; bad , vicious (as thought or speech)
pravRttaiH = instrumental, plural of pravRtta = past particple of pra-√ - vRt: to roll onwards, to keep on, to achieve, to do

kaNThe = loc. sg. kaNTha: the throat, the neck
manasvii = nom. sg. m. manasvin: full of mind or sense , intelligent , clever , wise ; in high spirits , cheerful , glad ; fixing the mind, attentive
iva: like
yuvaa = nom. sg. yuvan: m. young, youthful; a youth, young man
vapus: form , figure , (esp.) a beautiful form or figure , wonderful appearance , beauty
-mant: (possessive suffix)
vapusmaan (nom. sg. m.): good-looking, handsome

a: (negative prefix)
caakShuSha: proper or belonging or relating to the sight
acaakShuShaiH (inst., pl.): unsightly
a: (negative prefix)
prayata: outstretched; presented ; well prepared , ritually pure (also applied to a vessel and a place); self-subdued , dutiful , careful , prudent
aprayataiH (inst. pl.): not well prepared, scruffy
viShaktaiH (inst. pl.): hung to or on or upon, hanging on

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.75: Seeing a Fault as a Fault

na doShataH pashyati yo hi doShaM
kas taM tato vaarayituM samarthaH
guNaM guNe pashyati yash ca yatra
sa vaaryamaaNo pi tataH prayaati

When a man does not see a fault as a fault,

Who is able to restrain him from it?

But when a man sees the good in what is good,

He goes towards it despite being restrained.

Fixing is fixing, an unconscious reaction to a stimulus which is not "stillness," not "balance," not "good posture."

A slump is a slump, not "release," not "freedom," not "unlocking."

Weak energy is weak energy, not "compassion."

Sexual greed is sexual greed, not "love."
Financial greed is financial greed, not "risk management."

Ill-will is ill-will, not "constructive criticism."
Hatred of another is hatred of another, not "fighting spirit."
Self-hatred is self-hatred, not "humility."

Deluded worry is deluded worry, not anything else.
A teacher's delusion is a teacher's delusion, it is not that "he is testing me."
Group delusion is group delusion, not "solidarity," not "friendship," not "team spirit."

Getting in the way of the natural flow of one's own breathing is getting in the way, not "mindfulness."

Each of the above instances of not seeing a fault as a fault is an instance of ignorance. And a man's ignorance is just his own ignorance, not "lack of information."

The second line is a rhetorical question, the answer to which might be: nobody on God's earth! Insofar as a fault is an unconscious pattern of reaction to a stimulus, not even Gautama the Buddha could get inside a person's head and inhibit the fault for that person. If some optimistic person should step forward with the intention of sorting out another man's fault for him, I would like to whack that fatuous optimist with a big stick, particularly if his name is Mike Cross.

Fatuous optimist though I have too often been, on one point I congratulate myself. From my first few tastes of Alexander practice and theory in 1994, I knew immediately that here was something that was real and true. Here was something that demonstrably worked, that went to the very root of ignorance, that held a true mirror up to many and various deluded conceptions regarding posture, breathing, awareness, concentration, relaxation, feeling right, body and mind, thinking, the unconsciousness of reflexes and habits versus the possibility of consciousness, and so on and so on. Here was something genuinely good. That being so, wild horses could not stop me from coming back to England to plunge myself into Alexander work, and from there to clarifying the connection between the teaching of the buddha-ancestors and the teaching of FM Alexander. Myriad faults notwithstanding, that is what I have begun to do. On that point at least, well done me! And well done you who has found your way here, to this first meeting point of Ashvaghosha and Alexander.

EH Johnston:
For who is capable of holding back from vice a man who does not see it for what it really is? But he who sees the good quality in any good quality will set out for it despite all obstruction.

Linda Covill:
When a man does not see a fault as a fault, who is able to restrain him from it? But a man who sees the virtue in virtue moves towards it despite being restrained.

na: not
doSha: m. fault
-taH: (ablative/adverbial suffix)
doShataH: as a fault
pashyati = 3rd person singular of dRsh: to see
yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
hi: for
doSham (acc. sg.): m. a fault

kaH (nom. sg. m.): who?
tam (acc. sg. m.): him, to him
tataH: from that, in that, then, thereupon, there
vaarayitum = infinitive from vaarya: to be warded off or prevented or checked or impeded
samarthaH (nom. sg. m.): capable of, able to

guNam (acc. sg.): m. good quality, virtue, good
guNe (loc. sg.): good quality, virtue, good
pashyati = 3rd person singular of dRsh: to see
yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
ca: and; (sometimes used as disjunctive) but, on the contrary, again
yatra: in which case

saH (nom. sg. m.): he
vaaryamaaNaH (nom. sg. m. pres. passive participle vR): being restrained
vR: to obstruct; check , keep back , prevent , hinder , restrain
api: even
tataH: from that, in that, then, thereupon, there
prayaati = 3rd person singular of pra-√yA: to go forth , set out , progress , advance towards or against , go or repair to

Monday, April 27, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.74: Not Reacting to a Noxious Stimulus

yathaa kShudh-aarto 'pi viSheNa pRktaM
jijiiviSur n'ecchati bhoktum annam
tath" aiva doSh-aavaham ity avetya
jahaati vidvaan a-shubham nimittam

Even a starving man when given poisoned food

Refuses to eat it, wishing to live.

Likewise, observing that it triggers a fault,

A wise person leaves alone a noxious stimulus.

In this verse, as I read it, a fault (doSha) is synonymous with an imbalanced unconscious reaction, and a noxious stimulus (a-shubham nimittam) is any thought that is liable to trigger such a reaction.

The essence of the practice being described is inhibition of faulty unconscious reaction to a stimulus.

For several years now -- as a result of being introduced to Dogen's teaching by Gudo Nishijima, and as a result of the essence of the teaching being demonstrated to me in the very activity of sitting and standing by Ray Evans, Ron Colyer, Nelly Ben-Or, Marjory Barlow and others -- I have been fairly clear in seeing this as the mainspring of practice of the Buddha-Dharma.

Undeniably, however, I am not at all good at practicing it.


EH Johnston:
As the man who wishes to live, would not eat food infected with poison, however famished he were, so the wise man abandons an impure meditation, recognising that it brings about sin.

Linda Covill:
Just as a man who wants his life to continue avoids eating poisoned food even when he is starving, so too does a wise man leave aside an impure meditation, knowing that it brings corruption.

yathaa: just as
kShudh: hunger
aartaH (nom. sg.): m. one who is afflicted
api: even
viSheNa (inst. sg.): with poison
pRktam (acc. sg. n.): mixed with, full of

jijiiviSuH (nom. sg. m.): desirous of life
na: not
icchati = 3rd person singular of iSh: wish, want, intend
bhoktum = infinitive of bhuj: to enjoy , use , possess , (esp.) enjoy a meal , eat
annam (acc. sg.): n. food or victuals , especially boiled rice

tathaa: likewise, in the same way
eva: emphatic
doSha: fault; damage , harm , bad consequence , detrimental effect
aavaham (acc. sg. n.): bringing , bringing to pass , producing
iti: that
avetya: seeing, knowing

jahaati = 3rd person singular of haa: to leave , abandon , give up , renounce , avoid , shun , abstain or refrain from ; disregard, neglect
vidvaan (nom. sg.) vidvas: m. one who knows, a wise man
ashubham (acc. sg. n.): impure, disagreeable, unlovely
nimittam (acc. sg.): n. a cause, stimulus

Sunday, April 26, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.73: Watching Out for Wildlife

tath" aapy ath' aadhyaatma-nava-grahatvaan
n' aiv' opashaamyed a-shubho vitarkaH
heyaH sa tad-doSha-pariikShaNena
sa-shvaapado maarga iv' aadhvagena

Even then, stemming from
something inexperienced within the self,

A disagreeable thought might still not subside.

One should abandon the thought
by monitoring the fault therein,

As a traveller abandons a path
on which there is a wild beast.

This verse raises the question of the inter-connection between a thought and a fault.

The point seems to be that the danger lies not so much in the disagreeable thought itself as in the deeper fault to which it is linked. A disagreeable thought may be seen as linked at the level of the reptilian brain with immature vestibular reflexes, and at the level of the mammalian brain with the three emotional poisons of greed, ill-will, and delusion.

As a general rule, it seems to me, optimistic thoughts tend to be tied up with greed; pessimistic thoughts tend to be tied up with ill-will, especially in regard to oneself; and the realistic thoughts of politicians, businessmen and the like tend to be tied up with delusion, ignorance and arrogance.

In this verse, the connection between a thought and a fault is represented by the metaphor of a path, and a wild beast of prey -- a man-eating tiger, say -- on that path.

The tiger can be seen as representing something unconscious, wild, not susceptible to suppression or inhibition from the top two inches of a human brain. For an extreme example, think of an out-of-control autistic child whose senses have been overloaded. Then remember that we are all somewhere along the autistic spectrum, which ranges from pervasive developmental disorder at the less normal end, to commonplace testosterone-induced behaviour at the more normal end.

FM Alexander spoke of the danger of being out of touch with one's reason, due to unduly excited fear reflexes and emotions. This is a condition which those with autistic tendencies are experiencing much of the time, but which even the coolest of cats is bound to encounter at least some of the time.

At such a time, disagreeable thoughts never subside but pile in one after another. Those thoughts all stem originally, I would suggest, from something which is imperfectly integrated and hence more or less out of control, deep within the self. That something seems to have to do with how one uses the head, neck and back in relation to each other, and seems also to do with the cluster of vestibular reflexes centred on the Moro reflex.

EH Johnston:
Or if nevertheless impure thoughts are not allayed owing to the inexperience of the mind, they should be eliminated by examining the faults inherent in them, as a traveller goes away from a road infested by wild beasts.

Linda Covill:
Even so, an impure thought might not subside because of the individual's inexperience; it should then be abandoned by an examination of its faults, like a traveler leaves a road beset by wild beasts.

tath"aapi: even so, nevertheless,
atha: (connective particle) then, but
adhyaatma: own, belonging to self
nava: new , fresh , recent , young ; a young monk, novice
grahatvaat (ablative of grahatvam) = from grah: to grasp, to lay hold of

na: not
eva: (emphatic)
upashaamyet = optative of upa-√zam: to become calm or quiet ; to cease , become extinct
a-shubhaH (nom. sg. m.): impure, disagreeable, unlovely
vitarkaH (nom. sg.): m. idea, fancy, thought

heyaH (nom. sg. m.): to be left or quitted or abandoned or rejected or avoided
saH (nom. sg. m.): it, that [thought]
tad: it, its
doSha: fault, imbalance
pariikShaNena = inst. sg. pariikShaNa: trying , testing , experiment , investigation (from √pariikS: to look round , inspect carefully , try , examine , find out , observe , perceive)

sa: with, having, possessing
shvaapadaH (nom. sg.): m. a beast of prey , wild beast; a tiger
maargaH (nom. sg.): m. path, road
iva: like
adhvagena = instrumental of adhvaga: road-going , travelling; m. a traveller

Saturday, April 25, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.72: Fighting Fire with Fire

aNvyaa yath"aaNyaa vipul-aaNir anyaa
nirvaahyate tad-viduShaa nareNa
tadvat tad ev' aakushalaM nimittam
kShipen nimitt'antara-sevanena

Just as a deep splinter,
by means of the point of another sharp object,

Is removed by a man skilled in that task,

Likewise an unfavourable stimulus

May be despatched through the use of a different stimulus.

An unfavourable stimulus, in this context, may be understood as synonymous with what is described previously and in the following verse as an unlovely or disagreeable thought; i.e. the thought that gets you down -- the human relationship that gives you grief, the investment that crashed, the mistake you made yesterday, et cetera.

A different stimulus might be "Take the backward step of turning light and shining, so that body and mind spontaneously fall away and your original features emerge," or might simply be "Just sit upright!" or might be "Allow the neck to release, to allow the head to go forward and up, to allow the back to lengthen and widen."

Using thought like this, as a stimulus to action, is a kind of thinking. It is a kind of thinking the state of not-thinking. It is a kind of thinking into the zone of not thinking.

If we call it "meditation," we should understand it not as meditation which is separate from sitting -- i.e. not as the kind of meditation characterized by techniques of meditation, the kind of meditation that is learned -- but should understand it as sitting-meditation, one thing with a physical and a mental aspect which are totally opposed but never separate.

I think this is what Master Dogen meant when he wrote IWAYURU ZAZEN WA SHUZEN NIWA ARAZU, "What is called sitting-dhyana is not meditation to be learned."

EH Johnston:
As a man, skilled in the job, uses a small wedge to knock out another bigger one, so a subject of meditation that has bad results should be driven out be selecting another one.

Linda Covill:
Just as a man expert in such matters removes a large pin by means of a smaller pin, likewise one should drop an ineffective meditational subject by focusing on a different one.

aNvyaa = inst. aNii: f. the point of a needle or of a sharp stake
yathaa: just as
anyaa anyaa = nom. sg. f. anya, anya: the one, the other
vipula: large, extensive , wide , great , thick , long
aNiH = nominative, singular of aNi: m. the point of a needle or of a sharp stake

nirvaahyate = passive of nir vah: to lead out, carry off; remove
tad: it, that
viduShaa = instrumental of vidvas: one who knows , knowing , understanding , learned , intelligent , wise , mindful of , familiar with , skilled in
nareNa = instrumental of nara: a man

tadvat (correlative of yathaa): likewise
tad: that
eva: (empathic)
akushalam (acc. sg. m.): inauspicious, evil; not clever
nimittam (acc. sg.): m. stimulus, cause

kShipet = 3rd person singular, optative of kShip: to throw , cast , send , despatch; to strike or hit (with a weapon) ; to put or place anything on or in (loc.) ; to direct (the thoughts) upon (loc.); to throw away , cast away , get rid of
nimitta: stimulus, cause, antidote
antara: different from
sevanena = instrumental of sevana: practise or employment of (gen. or comp.)

Friday, April 24, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.71: Time Is of the Essence of the Contract

an-aadi-kaal' opacit'-aatmakatvaad
baliiyasaH klesha-gaNasya c'aiva
samyak-prayogasya ca duSh-karatvaac
chettuM na shakyaaH sahasaa hi doShaaH

Because of the instinct-led accumulation,
from time without beginning,

Of the powerful mass of afflictions,

And because true practice is so difficult to do,

The faults cannot be cut off all at once.

I would like to comment on this verse by quoting a passage that I think is relevant from the writings of FM Alexander, in which he uses the term “non-doing.” But before that I will describe my a priori experience of what non-doing means. (A priori means before I ever heard the Zen term “body and mind dropping off” or the Alexander term “non-doing.”)

Thirty years ago I began competing, at a very low level, in competition karate. I pretty much had only one technique -- a reverse counter-punch with my right fist. But I found myself able to use this technique to an effect that surprised me -- especially the first time I tried it out in earnest, when my opponent, a brown-belt from Leeds University whose disconcerting nickname was “killer,” went down like a deck of cards. Much to my own astonishment, I, an extremely nervous and lanky white-belt on his first outing, had winded him with a shot to the floating ribs. Having been keen on sports from an early age, I suppose that (in spite of congenital vestibular problems, received from my father, having been accumulated by his ancestors from time without beginning) my timing was not bad. I would wait and wait and wait for my opponent to leave himself open when he came in for an attack, ignoring his feints, waiting for a true opening. Then when the opening came I would sometimes experience my counter-punch doing itself, seemingly before I was even conscious of it, like a coiled spring suddenly freeing itself. The effect, I remember, was particularly strong when I was participating as the captain of a five-man competition team. And the effect was sufficiently strong to make me think that academic stuff that I was supposed to be studying at university was of zero importance in comparison. That’s why despite doing a degree in Accounting & Financial Management, I have ended up living such an alternative life, never really entering the corporate world but going instead to Japan with the intention of investigating Zen in the martial arts, and then coming back to England to investigate the discoveries of FM Alexander. Which brings me back to that quote:

I can assure my readers that anyone who will follow me through the experiences I have set down, especially with regard to 'non-doing', cannot fail to benefit; but I must emphasize that they will not be following me unless they recognize:
(1) that knowledge concerned with sensory experience cannot be conveyed by the written or spoken word, so that it means to the recipient what it means to the person who is trying to convey it:
(2) that they will need to depend upon new 'means - whereby' for the gaining of their ends, and that they will 'feel wrong' at first in carrying out the procedures because these will be unfamiliar:
(3) that that attempt to bring about change involving growth, development and progressive improvement in the use and functioning of the human organism, calls necessarily for the acceptance, yes, the welcoming of the unknown in sensory experience, and this 'unknown' cannot be associated with the sensory experiences that have hitherto 'felt right.'
(4) that to 'try and get it right' by direct 'doing' is to try and reproduce what is known, and cannot lead to the 'right', the as yet 'unknown.'

To anyone who accepts these points and sees the reason for keeping them in view whilst working to principle in employing the technique, I would say: 'Go ahead, but remember that time is of the essence of the contract.'

FM Alexander, Preface (1941) to The Use of the Self.

So what?

So, the key to understanding this section of the Canto, is not to fall at the stumbling block of nimitta -- a word which EH Johnston and Linda Covill have, quite forgivably, understood as having to do with meditation. I say quite forgivably, because people generally assume that Buddhist practice has to do with meditating. But what I have learned in the last 30 years of trying to make sense of a counter-punch that seemed miraculously to do itself, is that a moment of sitting-buddha has to do with a stimulus, the inhibition of one’s habitual reaction to that stimulus (not doing), and the allowing of action (non-doing). I still don’t claim to be more than a beginner in these matters -- because the true practice of allowing is so bloody difficult to do -- but this much at least I have understood. So my translation of the next verse, and of others verses in this section, will reflect my understanding that nimitta has nothing to do with meditation but nimitta means a stimulus, or starting point of action.

Thus, even though the faults cannot all be struck down at once, a deck of cards comes tumbling down, and those cards are on the table.

(But they are always liable to be reshuffled....)

EH Johnston:
For the faults cannot be extirpated all at once, partly because the troop of the vices are very strong, having from their nature accumulated from time without beginning, and partly because right practice is difficult.

Linda Covill:
The faults cannot be cut off all of a sudden, partly because the powerful mass of defilements has by nature been accumulating from beginningless time, and partly because the correct practice is so difficult to do.

an-aadi: without beginning
kaalaH (nom. sg.): m. time
upacita: heaped up , increased; thriving , increasing , prospering , succeeding ; big , fat , thick
aatmakatvaat = ablative of aatmakatvam:
aatmaka: having or consisting of the nature or character of (in comp.); consisting or composed of
-tvam = suffix for abstract nouns

baliiyasaH = genitive of baliiyas: more or most powerful , or mighty or strong or important or efficacious
klesha: affliction
gaNasya = genitive of gaNa: a flock , troop , multitude
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)

samyak: true, proper, out and out
prayogasya = genitive of prayoga: practice
ca: and
duSh-karatvaat = ablative of duSh-karatvam: being hard to do

chettum = infinitive of chid: to cut off
na: not
shakyaaH (nom. pl. m.): able , possible , practicable , capable of being (with infinitive in passive sense)
sahasaa (instrumental of sahas, powerful): forcibly , vehemently , suddenly , quickly , precipitately , immediately , at once , unexpectedly , at random , fortuitously , in an unpremeditated manner
hi: for
doShaaH (nom. pl.): m. faults, imbalances

Thursday, April 23, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.70: Keep On Keeping On

ekena kalpena sacen na hanyaat
sv-abhyasta-bhaavaad a-shubhaan vitarkaan
tato dvitiiyaM kramam aarabheta
na tv eva heyo guNavaan prayogaH

“It may not be possible,
following a single method, to destroy

Inauspicious ideas that habit has so deeply entrenched;

In that case, one might commit to a second course

But should never give up the practice and its merits.

The final word of this verse, prayoga, seems to mean the practice (as opposed to theory) of working on the self to eliminate faults which (tackled in order of grossness, as per 16.80) may be reptilian, mammalian, or human -- having to do with energy, emotion, and thought. In the section that begins with this verse, particular intention is given to faulty thought.

In the 2nd line, as I read it, unlovely thoughts, a-shubhaan vitarkaan, means in other words negative thoughts -- negative in the sense of unhelpful, not constructive. For the practice now under discussion, any thought might be considered unhelpful that can be described by an adjective ending in -istic. So a pessimistic thought is an unlovely, negative thought, and so is an optimistic thought. And so is a realistic thought.

“I wish to allow the neck to be free, to allow the head to go forward and up, in such a way that the back lengthens and widens, while the limbs are released out of the body,” is a thought, or a series of thoughts, which is not necessarily optimistic, or pessimistic, or realistic. It is a thought that can be thought for the sake of thinking itself. But this kind of thinking is not what people usually understand by thinking. So it is maybe better to express this kind of thinking with a word other than thinking -- “non-thinking” for example.

Non-thinking like this it seems to me, can act as either a calming stimulus or a garnering stimulus, and also a starting point of not interfering: When the system is tense or over-excited, the wish for freedom in the joints facilitates freer breathing, and calming mindfulness thereof. When the system is too relaxed or under-excited, the wish to go up can be a garnering stimulus. The wish to allow, meanwhile, is synonymous with the decision not to interfere.

The 4th line as I read it is a confident statement intended to inspire confidence. This practice (as opposed to theory) of working to eliminate the faults, the Buddha seems confidently to be telling us, is what is truly good; it is where merit resides.

What kind of confidence is the Buddha expressing?

FM Alexander used to say, “To know we are wrong is all we shall ever know in this world.” This, I think, is where true certainty and true confidence lie, and this is where the merit of practice primarily lies: in seeing, and in endeavouring to eliminate, one’s own faults -- reptilian, mammalian, and human.

This, it seems to me, is where Buddha/Ashvaghosha found the confidence to encourage us never to give up, but to keep on keeping on with this practice. Theirs was not the confidence of fatuous optimism. Theirs was the confidence of truly knowing what trouble is, how it starts, and how to walk away from it -- in backward steps.

In a past life I learned that traditional interpretations of the four noble truths are rather pessimistic, whereas the true Buddhism of Master Dogen, as expressed for example in the opening paragraph of Fukan-zazengi is both optimistic and realistic. That, it seems to me now, was just faulty thinking. It is already clear from these first few months of translating Saundarananda that Dogen’s ancestor Ashvaghosha championed nothing but the traditional understanding of the four noble truths, in which optimism, pessimism, and realism are all just unlovely thoughts that cultural habits tend deeply to entrench.

EH Johnston:
'If by one means impure thoughts cannot be rooted out because the habit has become too strong, then another course should be tried, but in no circumstances is the meritorious practice to be abandoned.

Linda Covill:
"If one cannot destroy impure thoughts by this first method, because they have become so habitual, then one should try a second way; but the good practice should certainly not be given up.

ekena = instrumental of eka: one, solitary , single , happening only once , that one only
kalpena = instrumental of kalpa: sacred precept , law , rule , ordinance (= vidhi , nyaaya) , manner of acting , proceeding , practice (esp. that prescribed by the vedas); one of two cases , one side of an argument , an alternative
sacet (3rd person singular, optative of sac: to have to do with, to belong to , be attached or devoted to , serve , follow) = if (?)
na: not
hanyaat = 3rd person singular, optative of han: to smite , slay , hit , kill , mar , destroy

su: (laudatory prefix) much, greatly
abhyasta: accumulated by repeated practice; practised , exercise; learnt by heart , repeated
bhaavaad = ablative of bhaava: being
a-shubhaan (acc. pl. m.): not beautiful, disagreeable, inauspicious ; bad , vicious (as thought or speech)
vitarkaan (acc. pl.): m. ideas, fancies, thoughts

tatas: in that place , there; in that case
dvitiiyam (acc. sg. m.): second
kramam (acc. sg.): m. a step, course, procedure, method
aarabheta = 3rd pers. sg. optative aa-√rabh: to lay or take hold of , keep fast , cling to ; to gain a footing ; to enter , reach , attain; to undertake , commence , begin

na: not
tu: but
eva: (emphatic) by any means, at all
heya: : to be left or quitted or abandoned or rejected or avoided
guNavaan = nominative, singular, masculine of guNavat: endowed with good qualities or virtues or merits or excellences , excellent , perfect
prayogaH = nominative, singular of prayoga: practice , experiment (opp. to , "theory")

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.69: Constructive Prescription for the Individual

yathaa bhiShak pitta-kaph'aanilaanaaM
ya eva kopaM samupaiti doShaH
shamaaya tasy' aiva vidhiM vidhatte
vyadhatta doSheShu tath" aiva buddha

Just as a physician,
for a disorder of bile, phlegm, or wind,

-- For whatever disorder of the humours
has manifested the symptoms of disease --

Prescribes a course of treatment
to cure that very disorder,

So did the Buddha prescribe for the faults:


“I drive a gold Rolls-Royce, ‘cuz it’s good for my voice,” sang Marc Bolan circa 1970. I like that lyric. Everybody should do WHATEVER it is that causes his or her original features to appear.

I have a friend who is a homeopath and who tends to observe the individual peculiarities of others in an interested but non-judgemental way, through the eyes of a homeopath. People who are familiar with the principles of homeopathy will know what I mean. If you are a drill-and-fill dentist who believes in amalgam fillings for all, then you will wonder what the hell I am talking about.

When FM Alexander was searching for a title for his second book, he came up with: Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual. Somebody complained that it was a bit of a mouthful, and so how about dropping the last three words? “Oh no!” FM protested, “Don’t you see? That is the most important part!”

This and the previous verse are not in the form of a quotation of the Buddha’s instruction. These two verses are Ashvaghosha himself speaking.

In this verse Ashvaghosha seems to me to drive home the point made in the 3rd and 4th line of the previous verse, that the Buddha knew Nanda, as an individual person, inside and out. The Buddha knew Nanda’s peculiarities and his personal history, and the Buddha instructed Nanda on that individual basis.

The thrust of Ashvaghosha’s message, it seems to me, is totally antithetical to what Master Kodo Sawaki called gurupo boke, “group delusion.”

Master Kodo, by all accounts, was himself a very unique individual. The fact that I know, not only on the basis of the Sanskrit dictionary but also with my skin, flesh, bones and marrow, that nimitta does not mean either “subject of meditation” or “meditational technique,” is mainly thanks to Master Kodo -- a man who was truly not interested in meditation and who, I think, was never afraid to be seen by Buddhist scholars, Buddhist monks and Buddhist students as a non-Buddhist. When he felt like a swim, into his swimming costume the old man changed and into the sea he went -- and I have seen the photo to prove it. If driving a gold Rolls-Royce had been good for his voice, I have a feeling Master Kodo might have driven one.

Master Kodo was a truly remarkable individual, and all the more so considering that he was born into Japanese society -- that most conformist of all societies. In a previous post, I expressed criticism of Master Kodo, because I think a lot of bad, doing habits (viz. pulling in the chin to stretch the back of the neck) are traceable back to his wrong instructions. I don’t retract those criticisms. But at the same time, I think Master Kodo was a true individual.

In this verse, “disorder of the humours” and “faults” are the same word: dosha. The faults referred to in the 4th line seem to refer back to the lust, ill-will and delusion that the Buddha has just discussed -- i.e. the three gross faults -- and at the same time to refer forward to the subtler patterns of negative mental chatter that the Buddha is about to discuss.

EH Johnston:
As the physician prescribes the treatment for the cure of disease according to which one of the three humours it is that has become deranged, so the Buddha prescribed the treatment for the faults :-

Linda Covill:
Just as a doctor prescribes a treatment to alleviate whichever among the humors of bile, phlegm, and wind has become irritated, so too has the Buddha prescribed concerning the faults.

yathaa: just as
bhiShak = nom. sg. bhiShaj: m. a healer, physician
pitta: bile, the bilious humour
kapha: phlegm
aanilaanaam = genitive, plural of anila: wind as one of the humors or rasas of the body; rheumatism , paralysis , or any affection referred to disorder of the wind

yah (nominative, singular): [that] which
eva: (emphatic)
kopam (acc. sg.): m. morbid irritation or disorder of the humors of the body
samupaiti = 3rd person singular, sam-upa- √i: to approach, go to (acc.); to occur , happen , appear
doShaH = nominative, singular doSha: m. fault , vice , deficiency , want , inconvenience ; alteration , affection , morbid element , disease (esp. of the 3 humours of the body, applied also to the humours themselves)

shamaaya (dative of shama): for the appeasing, curing
tasya (genitive of sa): of it, of that [disorder]
eva: (emphatic) the same, that very
vidhim = accusative of vidhi: any prescribed act, instruction, formula, method, course
vidhatte = from vidh (weak form of √vyadh): to rule, prescribe

vyadhatta: prescribed
doSheShu = locative, plural of doSha: fault, imbalance, disorder
tath"aiva: so too
buddha (voc. sg. m.): O Buddha! O Awakened One!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.68: Retreating from Endgaining & Coming Back to Principle

ity evam a-nyaaya-nivartanaM ca
nyaayaM ca tasmai sugato babhaaShe
bhuuyash ca tat-tac caritaM viditvaa
vitarka-haanaaya vidhiin uvaaca

Thus, on retreat from muddling through

And on the principle to come back to,
the One Who Went Well spoke to him;

And knowing the ins and outs of his career,

He instructed him further on giving up thoughts.

The antonyms a-nyaaya in the first line and nyaaya in the second line could easily be translated "wrong methods" and "the right method."

But when one reflects on the content of the preceding verses, the whole point is that a stimulus that is appropriate for one individual may not be appropriate for another individual, and what is appropriate for one individual at one moment will not be appropriate for the same individual at another moment.

That being so, the fundamental principle of what EH Johnston calls "the right plan," and the essence of what Linda Covill calls "right method," might be the principle that there is no such thing as "the right method."

"The right method" exists only as a figment of the imagination of an optimistic seeker, such as I have zealously been, who would like to grasp "the right method."

What can truly be relied on, what is always available to come back to, is what FM Alexander called "the means-whereby principle." The word nyaaya seems to me to express the means-whereby principle. The opposite conception, a-nyaaya, which means disorder, irregularity, or lack of method, suggests to me the disorder which invariably accompanies blind end-gaining, i.e. muddling through without conscious reliance on a guiding principle.

The 4th line refers to instructions the Buddha is going to give Nanda from now onwards, on alternative methods for eliminating negative thoughts. The instructions, as I understand them, are not to eliminate thinking in general, but to give up certain negative or disagreeable (asubha) ways of thinking -- “the negative mental chatter” (to quote Jordan Fountain from his 2009 New Year’s Resolution) which, like impurities remaining in worked gold, are not compatible with an individual's pursuit of his or her peaceable path.

EH Johnston:
Thus the Blessed One spoke to him of the right plan and of abandoning the wrong one and, knowing all the varieties of behaviour, He further explained the processes for the elimination of thought.

Linda Covill:
In this way the Sugata spoke to him concerning right method and the retreat from the wrong method; and knowing all the various behavioural types, he gave further instructions for abandoning opinionated thought

iti: [end of quotes]
evam: thus
anyaaya: unjust or unlawful action ; impropriety , indecorum; irregularity , disorder
nivartanam (acc. sg.): n. turning back , returning , turning the back i.e. retreating , fleeing; ceasing , not happening or occurring , being prevented; desisting or abstaining from (abl.)
ca: and

nyaayam (acc. sg.): m. that into which a thing goes back i.e. an original type , standard , method , rule , (esp.) a general or universal rule , model , axiom , system , plan , manner , right or fit manner or way
ca: and
tasmai (dative): to him
sugataH (nom. sg. m.): One Who Fared Well, Buddha
babhaaShe = 3rd person singular, perfect of bhan: to sound , resound , call aloud , speak , declare

bhuuyas: further
ca: and
tad tad: this and that , various , different; respective
caritam (acc. sg.): n. going, moving, course; doing , practice , behaviour
viditvaa = absolutive of vid: to know; to mind , notice , observe

vitarka: conjecture , supposition , guess , fancy , imagination , opinion ; doubt , uncertainty; reasoning , deliberation , consideration
haanaaya = dative of haana: n. the act of abandoning , relinquishing , giving up , escaping , getting rid of
vidhiin (acc. pl.): rules, directions, instructions, formulae
uvaaca = 3rd person singular, perfect of vac: to speak

Monday, April 20, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.67: Attending to the Means-Whereby

sampragrahasya prashamasya c'aiva
tath"aiva kaale samupekShaNasya
samyaN nimittaM manasaa tv avekShyaM
naasho hi yatno 'py an-upaaya-puurvaH.

Likewise, for garnering as also for calming,

As also when appropriate for leaving well alone,

One should consciously attend to the proper stimulus;

Because even diligence is destructive
when accompanied by a wrong approach."

Garnering is like blowing molten gold, accelerating an energetic reaction by providing more oxygen.
Calming is like dousing gold in water, intervening to cool it.
Leaving oneself be is like leaving molten gold to dissipate its energy naturally.

Garnering, calming, leaving oneself be: how can we understand these three on the basis of actual human activity?

A garnering stimulus might be a sumo wrestler before a bout, slapping his belly and squatting and tasting salt; or the pre-match warm up of a rugby team.
A calming stimulus might be an old teacher demonstrating with sure, intelligent hands a principle of non-doing that she has spent her life exploring; or it could be turning down the lights and lighting a stick of incense.
Leaving well alone might be a point reached (temporarily) when in a rhythmic activity like walking or running, or chanting or swimming or drumming, a person has got himself or herself in the groove -- a condition which might also be described as a spontaneous flow of energy characterized by ease and efficiency (minimal leakage).

Garnering, calming, leaving be: Buddha/Ashvaghosha have been describing these three as three kinds of stimulus or starting point (nimitta) in formal practice (yoga).

As devotees of sitting-dhyaana, how are we to understand these three in the context of formal sitting practice?

The very act of sitting in lotus it seems to me, can encompass all three of the above stimuli or starting points, viz:
Garnering of one's energy in certain directions (mainly upward).
Inhibition of wrong inner patterns, resulting in the experience of calm or stillness (but do not call it fixity).
Allowing the right thing to do itself.

Just sitting, then, in its true meaning, is not one or two out of three, but three out of three.

So Zen Master Dogen wrote:
Practise full lotus sitting with the body.
Practise full lotus sitting with the mind.
Practise full lotus sitting as body and mind dropping off.

There is not a hair's breadth of contradiction here between Ashvaghosha and Dogen. What Dogen expressed was nothing but the lifeblood of Buddha/Ashvaghosha.

In general, however, Dogen, was writing in Japanese for a Japanese audience, with self-consciousness of starting a new movement in Japan, and in a style suited for a Japanese audience -- "Do it like this." It was as I see it, a more direct and authoritarian style, suited to a people who were not already steeped in the original teaching of the Buddha, a people who were used to copying and imitating Chinese ways, a people never generally noted for originality of individual thought. Dogen saw it as part of his mission to establish a new movement in his homeland, Japan. Ashvaghosha, in contrast, was writing in Sanskrit, a lingua franca for educated people already steeped in the original teaching of the Buddha.

But in not proselytizing not to a Japanese audience, Ashvaghosha recorded in this verse a truth that is totally pertinent to Zen practice in Japan today.

What Ashvaghosha recorded in the 4th line of this verse is exactly what I experienced, with my skin, flesh, bones, and marrow, during 13 years in Japan.

When followers and teachers of Dogen's teaching today blindly and relentlessly pursue "the correct physical posture," disdaining mindfulness, we are liable to do harm to self and others. That is a fact.

And in this regard, Master Kodo Sawaki, much as I revere him, also has a lot to answer for. Master Kodo criticized the Japanese tendency towards gurupo boke, group delusion, and he endeavoured heroically to make a stand against that tendency. He tried but, it seems to me, the delusive Japanese tendency was too strong, even in him, and so he ultimately failed, as his students and non-students also have failed.

Sitting with the body, in a physical, doing way, in an end-gaining way, as I see it, is not totally without merit. There is a time for sitting with the body. Buddha/Ashvaghosha are telling us that wisdom, and moment-by-moment mindfulness, are required in seeing:
(1) when it is time for doing and when it is NOT time for doing;
(2) when it is time for not doing and when it is NOT time for not doing;
(3) when it is time for non-doing and when it is NOT time for non-doing.

EH Johnston:
But one should consider in the mind the proper subject for meditation, whether of effort, or tranquillity, and similarly at the proper time of indifference. For even effort, if not regulated by the proper method, leads to destruction.'

Linda Covill:
Likewise the correct meditational subject of an energy, calm or equanimity meditation should at times be mentally reviewed, for even diligence is destructive if it is accompanied by the wrong method."

sam: (used as prefix) together, altogether
pragraha: holding in front , stretching forth; seizing , clutching , laying hold of
sampragrahasya (genitive): for the extension of oneself, for the garnering of one's energy
prashamasya = gen. sg. prashama: calmness
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)

tath"aiva: exactly so, in exactly that manner, in just the same way [as the goldsmith]
kaale (locative): at the proper time, when appropriate
samupekShaNasya = gen. sg. samupekShaNa (action noun from sam-upa-viikS): leaving be, neglecting [see 16.65]

samyak: proper, correct, true
nimittam (nom. sg.): n. target, cause, stimulus, starting point
manasaa (instrumental of manas): in the mind ; in thought or imagination ; with all the heart , willingly
tu: but, and, then
avekShyam = nom. sg. n. from gerundive of ava-√iikSh: to look towards , look at , behold; to perceive , observe , experience ; to have in view , have regard to , take into consideration

naashaH (nom. sg.): m. the being lost , loss , disappearance , destruction , annihilation , ruin , death
hi: for
yatnaH (nom. sg.): m. activity of will , volition , aspiring after ; performance , work ; effort , exertion , energy , zeal , trouble , pains , care ,
api: even
anupaaya: wrong method, wrong means
puurvaH (nom. sg. m.): (at end of compounds) accompanied by, attended with

Sunday, April 19, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.66: What the Goldsmith Ought Not to Do

dahet suvarNaM hi dhamann akaale
jale kShipan saMshamayed akaale
na c'api samyak paripaakam enaM
nayed akaale samupekShamaaNaH

For he might burn the gold
by blowing at the wrong time,

He might make it unworkable
by plunging it into water at the wrong time,

And he would not bring it to full perfection

If at the wrong time he were just to leave it be.

Again, the inhibitory or precautionary side is not left unspoken.

The point that is being emphasized through repetition is the importance of knowing, at a particular time in a particular situation, what is NOT to be done. There are times when doing something, even something that might have worked in the past, is not appropriate. And lest this seems to lend one-sided support to a rigid philosophy of non-doing (inexperienced Alexander teachers beware), this metaphor brilliantly reminds us that there are also times when it is not appropriate not to do.

Ashvaghosha is like an accountant doing double-entry book-keeping, or drawing up a balance sheet. He seems ever wary of advocating positive awareness of what is required to be done, without adding, on the negative side of the ledger, a stimulus for preventive awareness of what is required NOT to be done, and what is required NOT to be not done, in the pursuit of full perfection.

What is there in the realm of human experience that corresponds to the full perfection of refined gold?

Master Dogen wrote that we should learn the backward step of turning light and shining, in which case body and mind spontaneously drop off, and the original face emerges.


Inspiring words. But the metaphor of the goldsmith reminds us that a lot of work is required to be done both before and after a point where the right thing can be left to do itself -- temporarily.

EH Johnston:
For by using the bellows at the wrong time he would burn the gold, by throwing it into the water at the wrong time he would make it too soft and by letting it cool off at the wrong time he would not bring it to maturity properly.

Linda Covill:
For in blowing at the wrong time he might burn the gold; casting it into water at the wrong time he would make it cool down; and in merely observing it at the wrong time, he might not bring it to perfect readiness.

dahet = 3rd person singular, optative of dah: to burn
suvarNam (acc. sg.): n. gold
hi: for
dhaman = nom. sg. m. present participle dham: to blow
akaale (locative): at the wrong time

jale (locative): in water
kShipan = nom. sg. m. present participle of kShip: to put or place anything on or in (loc.)
saMshamayed = 3rd person singular, optative of saM-√sham: to be or become ineffective; to calm , allay; to extinguish ; to bring to rest , remove , destroy , kill
akaale (locative): at the wrong time

na: not
ca: and
api: also
samyak: full, proper, correct
paripaakam = accusative of paripaaka: ripening , maturity , perfection
enam (acc. sg. m.): it

nayet = 3rd person singular optative of nii: to lead ; bring to any state or condition
akaale (locative): at the wrong time
samupekShamaaNaH = nom. sg. m. present participle sam-upa-viikS: to look completely over or beyond , take no notice of , disregard , neglect , abandon

Saturday, April 18, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.65: A Goldsmith's Three Main Options

ulkaa-mukha-sthaM hi yathaa suvarNaM
suvarNa-kaaro dhamat' iiha kaale
kaale pariprokShayate jalena
krameNa kaale samupekShate ca

Holding gold in the mouth of his furnace,

A goldsmith in this world blows it at the proper time,

Douses it with water at the proper time,

And gradually, at the proper time, he leaves it be.

The goldsmith attaches to no dogma of "just blowing";
Nor any dogma of "just dousing";
Neither is he a non-interventionist.
For him, the gold is in the gold.

EH Johnston:
Compare the goldsmith in this world who, placing gold in the mouth of the forge, applies the bellows at the proper time, wets it with water at the proper time and gradually at the proper time allows it to cool off.

Linda Covill:
In this world a goldsmith at times blows the gold placed in the furnace, at times uses water to sprinkle it, and at times watches it.

ulkaa: a firebrand, a torch; a fire
mukha: mouth
stham = acc. sg. n. stha: (only at end of compounds) standing , staying , abiding , being situated in , existing or being in or on or among
hi: for
yathaa: just as [correlative of tathaa in 16.67]
suvarNam = acc. sg. suvarNa: n. gold

kaara: maker
suvarNa-kaaraH (nom. sg.): m. goldsmith
dhamati = 3rd person singular of dham: to blow; to melt or manufacture (metal) by blowing
iha: in this place, in this world
kaale = locative of kaala: time, the proper time

kaale (locative): at the proper time
pari: roundly, fully
prokShayate = 3rd pers. sg. causitive of pra- √ukS: to sprinkle
jalena (instrumental): with water

krameNa (instrumental): in regular course , gradually , by degrees
kaale (locative): at the proper time
samupekShate = 3rd person singular of sam-upa-√iikS: to look completely over or beyond , take no notice of , disregard , neglect , abandon
ca: and

Friday, April 17, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.64: Delighting in Delusion

moh'-aatmikaayaaM manasaH pravRttau
sevyas tv idaM-pratyayataa-vihaaraH
muuDhe manasy eSha hi shaanti-maargo
vaayv-aatmake snigdha iv' opacaaraH

When the working of one's mind
is dominated by delusion,

One should delight in the causality
which is this condition;

For this is a path to peace
for a deluded mind,

Like treatment with oil
for a patient with a wind condition.

"The causality which is this delusion" might mean, in other words, the Lotus Universe turning.

"Delight in" might mean 'allow to turn.'

EH Johnston:
When the working of the mind is affected by delusion, the subject of reflection should be causality ; for this is the path to peace for the deluded mind, like unctuous treatment for the man of windy temperament.

Linda Covill:
When the activities of the mind are confused in nature, an analysis of causality should be undertaken; for this is the path to peace for a deluded mind, like treatment with oils in the case of a patient with a wind condition.

moha: delusion, ignorance
aatmikaayaam = loc. sg. f. aatmakaa: having or consisting of the nature or character of (in comp.)
manasaH = genitive of manas: n. mind
pravRttau = locative of pravRtti: f. rolling onward, continued doing, activity

sevyaH (nom. sg. m.): to be practised, resorted to, etc.
tu: but, and, then
idam (nom. sg. n.): this , this here , referring to something near the speaker; what is present, what is known
pratyaya: fundamental notion or idea; ground , basis , motive or cause of anything
- taa: (noun suffix) -ness, -ity
pratyayataa: f. the being grounded or based in; causality
vihaaraH = nom. sg. vihaara: m. walking for pleasure or amusement , wandering , roaming; sport , play , pastime , diversion , enjoyment , pleasure (at end of compounds also = taking delight in)

muuDhe = locative of muuDha: stupefied , bewildered , perplexed , confused ; stupid , foolish , dull; a fool , dolt; confusion of mind
manasy = locative of manas: mind
eSha (nom. sg. m.): this, what is near at hand
hi: for
shaanti: peace
maargaH (nom. sg.: m. path

vaay-aatmake (locative): towards / in the case of a windy type
snigdhaH (nom. sg. m.): oily
iva: like
upacaaraH (nominative, singular): approach, service, treatment, attendance on a patient

Thursday, April 16, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.63: Again, What Not to Do

moh-anubaddhe manasaH pracaare
maitr-ashubhaa c'aiva bhavaty ayogaH
taabhyaaM hi saMmoham upaiti bhuuyo
vaayv-aatmako ruukSham iv' opaniiya

Where there is wandering of the mind, tied to delusion,

Both love and unpleasantness are unsuitable,

For a deluded man is further deluded by these two,

Like a windy type given an astringent.

Being deeply deluded, the primary thing, I have found, is NOT to try to be anything other than deluded. This verse, as I read it, supports that conclusion.

Moha means ignorance or delusion. Milking a cow by the horn, in which context moha is used in 16.50, I would see as primarily an instance of ignorance, that is, lack of knowledge or intelligence or open-minded awareness.

This verse, as I read it, is about delusion rather than ignorance. Although there is obviously considerable overlap between the two, ignorance and delusion can also be somewhat contradictory tendencies -- the less ignorant (in the sense of more intelligent) human beings have become, the more prone we seem to have become to delusion. This is the basic thesis of FM Alexander's second book, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (CCCI).

Alexander saw human delusion as intimately related with the problem of reliance on unreliable feeling. Ignorant animals, Alexander pointed out, at least in their wild state, generally enjoy reliable feeling -- monkeys do not generally fall from trees -- and therefore they do not tend to suffer from the kind of mind-wandering that is tied to human delusion.

Alexander work, in a nutshell, is a method for dealing with deluded human reaction. Hence it is mainly through Alexander work, applied to sitting practice, that I have understood (at least a bit, in my own experience) that the primary thing, in dealing with one's own delusion, is NOT to try to be anything other than deluded. Again, the first thing to be aware of, is what NOT to do. That is the point of verses 16.53, 16.55, 16.57. 16.59, 16.61, and 15.63: Do not, by intervening to try to make things better, actually make things worse. Better to let delusion play itself out -- let the Lotus Universe turn itself, to paraphrase Daikan Eno.

As regards the particular problem of mind-wandering, and its intimate relation with the general problem of delusion, FM Alexander addressed exactly this in the opening chapter ("Sensory Appreciation in its Relation to Man's Evolutionary Development") of CCCI. If your eyes are beginning to glaze over as blocks of italicized Alexander loom, may I politely invite you to wake up and pay attention as Alexander explains what delusion is -- in terms that made total sense to non-ignoramuses of his day such as the father of modern neuro-physiology Charles Sherrington and the American philosopher John Dewey, and which I am sure would have made total sense to Ashvghosha too. In a section of CCCI sub-titled "Mind-Wandering Recognized as a Shortcoming -- Its Relation to Self-Preservation," Alexander writes:

Most of us are aware of the marvellous accuracy in the use of the organism manifested by the wild animal or the savage in the various familiar spheres of activity concerned with self-preservation. The civilized creature does not manifest anything like the same standard of accuracy in the employment of the organism in the spheres of activity concerned with self-preservation. In other words, the civilized human being does not enjoy the same standard of effective direction and control as the savage and the wild animal, and it is the lack of this adequate standard in the human creature which manifests itself as a shortcoming in some sphere of activity, and, as I have said, in the sphere of learning something and learning to do something, the shortcoming most frequently recognized is that known as "mind-wandering."

Now there exists a close connexion between the shortcoming which is recognized as "mind-wandering" and the shortcoming which manifests itself as a seriously weakened response to a stimulus to an act (or acts) of self-preservation. To make this connexion clear, we have only to consider the psycho-physical processes involved in these two shortcomings to realize that in both cases these processes are the same.

For the lack underlying these two shortcomings is the lack of an adequate standard of direction and control in the human creature, manifesting itself, in the one case, in the broad sphere of self-preservation and, in the other, in the specific sphere of learning something or learning to do something....

As a matter of fact, the defective use of the mechanisms which is responsible for such conditions cannot be adequately described as "mind-wandering," seeing that it is the manifestation of harmful and misdirected action and reaction, not only in connexion with those processes commonly spoken of as "mind" but throughout the whole psycho-physical organism. It is the manifestation of that imperfectly co-ordinated condition which is associated with an unreliable sense of feeling (sensory appreciation)....

When people suffering from unreliable sensory appreciation attempt to practice just sitting, what happens? They notice their mind wandering. Then what do they do? They try to put the problem right by doing something specific, by end-gaining. They try to concentrate their minds.

The seriousness of this inability of the human creature to "keep his mind on" what he is doing is widely recognized, and this recognition has led to the almost universal adoption of what is called concentration as the cure for "mind-wandering." Unfortunately, this remedy, as I shall show later, is in itself a most harmful and delusive psycho-physical manifestation, and has been adopted without any consideration being taken of its effect upon the organism in general or of the psycho-physical processes involved in what is called "learning to concentrate."

Thus, if you follow Alexander's argument, you might conclude that when there is wandering of the mind, tied to delusion, one would be wise not only to shun loving-kindness meditation and impurity meditation, but also to shun every other kind of end-gaining approach too. When deluded, in short, the last thing to do is to try by direct means to gain the end of not being deluded.

"You are an inveterate worrier, aren't you?" FM Alexander's niece Marjory Barlow once said to me. "I know, because I am too," she added. And when Marjory said she knew, she really did know. She may have been prone to delusion, but she was not ignorant.

EH Johnston:
When the working of the mind is subject to delusion, the subjects of benevolence and impurity are unsuitable ; for from them a man is overtaken by further delusion, as a man of windy temperament is overtaken by further unconsciousnes, if given astringent treatment.

Linda Covill:
When the activities of the mind are related to delusion, neither the loving-kindness nor the impurity meditation is suitable; for a deluded man is further dazed by these two, like a patient with a wind condition treated with astringents.

moha: delusion, ignorance
anubaddha: bound to , obliged to , connected with , related to , belonging to
manasaH = genitive of manas: mind
pracaare = locative of pracaara: roaming , wandering ; manifestation , occurrence , existence, application , employment , use; conduct , behaviour

maitra = vRddhi form of maitrii: friendship, goodwill, loving-kindness, love
ashubhaa (nom. sg.): f. non-beauty, disagreeable, unpleasant
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
bhavati = 3rd person singular of bhuu: become, turn into
ayogaH (nom. sg): m. unfitness , unsuitableness

taabhyaam (ablative, dual): because of/from those two
hi: from
saMmoham (accusative): stupefaction , bewilderment , confusion , insensibility , unconsciousness , ignorance , folly , illusion of mind
upaiti = 3rd person singular of upe (upa-√i): meet with, reach, enter into any state
bhuuyas: still more, further

vaayv-aatmakaH (nom. sg. m.): a windy type
vaayu: (in medicine) the windy humour or any morbid affection of
aatmaka: having the nature of
ruukSham (nom. sg.): n. an astringent
iva: like
upaniiya = absolutive of upa- √nii: to bring near, bring, offer

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.62: Love as Antidote to Hate

vyaapaada-doSha kShubhite tu citte
sevyaa sva-pakSh'-opanayena maitrii
dvesh'-aatmano hi prashamaaya maitrii
pitt'-aatmanaH shiita iv' opacaaraH

When the mind is agitated by the fault of ill-will,

Love should be practised, through self-acceptance;

For love is calming to a hate-afflicted soul,

As cooling treatment is to a man of bilious nature.

The 2nd line literally reads:
"Love/goodwill is to be practised with/by/through one's-own-side-bringing-near."

After a lot of thought about what this means since first reading Linda Covill's translation of it a few months ago, I provisionally concluded that it refers not so much to self-love, but more to love of friends who are fellow strugglers -- others in the same boat as me. So: "Love should be felt, through fellow-feeling;"

The spirit of the 2nd line, in that case, is similar to the spirit of verse 3.35:

Nobody showed any hostility towards the other,
In fact they looked on others with positive warmth,
As mother, father, child or friend:
For each person saw in the other himself.

But Linda Covill's translation "with reference to one's own position" still makes sense to me -- particularly in light of Marjory Barlows oft-repeated reminder that "Being wrong is the best friend you have got in this work."

So "Love should be practised, through self-acceptance," is a translation that also seems to work. But the love which is self-acceptance, I think, is more an antidote to trying to be right, whereas the love which is fellow-feeling is maybe a more effective antidote to target at ill-will or hatred.... unless one's hatred tends to be primarily self-directed.

In conclusion, then, what is the translation of sva-pakSh'-opanayena that hits the target?
(1) through self-acceptance i.e. "by the bringing near [of love] to/for oneself."
(2) through fellow-feeling i.e. "by the bringing near of [the memory/awareness of] friends / those on one's own side."
(3) another translation that hasn't occured to me yet, in which the question of whether to lean towars self or towards others is solved or transcended.

So far I cannot reach a clear decision, which is just a kind of delusion...

EH Johnston:
But when the mind is troubled by the vice of malevolence, practise thoughts of benevolence by considering the application (of hurt) to yourself ; for benevolence tends to tranquillising the nature full of hate, like cooling treatment the man of bilious temperament.

Linda Covill:
But when the mind is disturbed by the fault of malice, the loving-kindness meditation should be practiced with reference to one's own position; for loving-kindness calms a hate-filled man, like treatment with cooling remedies for a patient with a bile condition.

vyaapaada: evil intent or design , malice
doSha: fault
kShubhite = locative of kShubhita: agitated , shaken, set in motion; agitated (mentally) , disturbed , frightened ; angry , enraged
tu: but
citte = locative of citta: mind, thinking mind, thinking

sevyaa = nom. sg. f. from gerundive of sev: to serve , wait or attend upon , honour , obey; to cherish , foster; cultivate , study , practise , use
svapakSha: m. one's own wings; one's own party; a man of one's own party , friend
sva: one's own
pakSha: wing; the flank or side or the half of anything
upanayena = instrumental of upanaya (from upa- nii: to bring near, bring, offer): m. the bringing near , procuring ; attaining , obtaining ; employment , application
upanayana: leading or drawing towards one's self
maitrii (nom. sg.): f. friendship , friendliness , benevolence , good will

dvesha: hatred
aatmanaH = genitive of aatman: the individual soul, the person; self, nature, character
hi: for
prashamaaya = dative of prashama: calmness , tranquillity (esp. of mind), quiet , rest , cessation , extinction , abatement
maitrii (nom. sg.): f. love, goodwill

pitt'aatmanaH (gen. sg.): to the bilious
shiitaH (nom. sg. m.): cold, coldness; camphour
iva: like
upacaaraH (nom. sg.): m. treatment

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.61: Again, What Not to Do

vyaapaada-doSheNa manasy udiirNe
na sevitavyaM tv a-shubhaM nimittam
dvesh'-aatmakasya hy a-shubhaa vadhaaya
pitt-aatmanas tiikShNa iv' opacaaraH

When a mind is wound up, however,
with the fault of ill-will,

A disagreeable stimulus is not to be dwelt upon;

For unpleasantness is destructive to a hating type,

As acid treatment is to a bilious type.

Can a deeply-rooted tendency like hatred that obscures a human being's true nature be given up?

The likes of professional therapists and counsellors, along with religious believers, are prone to answer, optimistically, on the basis of some theory or other: yes. Optimistically thinking, the answer is always: yes.

Pessimistically thinking, however, the answer, based on actual experience of failed personal endeavour, or based on objective consideration of the slaughter bench of human history, tends to be: no.

In the thinking of Buddha/Ashvaghosha, evidently, the first thing, in any event, is NOT TO DO anything to make the problem worse.

So the first practical step, as the bulldog locks onto his intended target and his hate-ometer begins to rise from 0 towards 10, is not to try to bring out his inherent Buddha-nature (at least not yet), but the more modest one of distracting the blighter's attention before his eyes turn red and he charges in for the kill.

Similarly, when I recognize that my mind has been dwelling on some unpleasantness, just at that moment of cognition the option exists of not dwelling on the disagreeable stimulus -- providing that I am able, like a good human pack leader to give a swift correction to the inner bulldog. This is not easy, but neither is it impossible. And every day provides ample opportunities to hit the target.

In his original instructions for sitting, Zen Master Dogen wrote that when a thought arises in the mind, just wake up. And in the waking up to it, it vanishes.

There is no grounds there for that fool's gold which is optimism. Rather, one senses in the background, as with Ashvaghosha's writings, the presence of true gold.

EH Johnston:
But when the mind is agitated by the vice of malevolence, do not choose the subject of meditation known as 'impure'; for that meditation tends to the destruction of the man whose nature is full of hate, just as pungent treatment does for the man of bilious temperament.

Linda Covill:
When the mind is agitated by the fault of malice, the impurity meditation should not be undertaken, for the impurity meditation destroys a hate-filled man, like treatment with acids in the case of a patient with a bile condition.

vyaapaada: evil intent or design , malice
doSheNa = instrumental of doSha: fault
manasi = locative of manas: mind
udiirNe = locative of udiirNa: issued out , excited , increased , elevated

na: not
sevitavyam (nom. sg. n. from gerundive of sev): to be dwelt on, resorted to, cultivated , practised , used
tu: but
a-shubham (nom. sg. n.): not beautiful or agreeable , disagreeable; impure
nimittam (nom. sg.): n. cause, stimulus, antidote

dvesh'-aatmakasya (genitive): to a hating type
dvesha: hatred , dislike , repugnance
hi: for
ashubhaa (nom. sg.): f. non-beauty
a: (negative prefix)
shubhaa: f. light , lustre , splendour , beauty
vadhaaya = dative of vadha: the act of striking or killing , slaughter , murder , death , destruction

pitt-aatmanaH (gen. sg. m): to a bilious type
pitta: bile , the bilious humour (one of the three humours [cf. kapha and vaayu] or that secreted between the stomach and bowels and flowing through the liver and permeating spleen , heart , eyes , and skin ; its chief quality is heat)
aatman: the individual soul , self , abstract individual ; essence , nature , character , peculiarity ; the person
tiikShNaH (nom. sg. m.): sharp , hot , pungent , fiery , acid
iva: like
upacaaraH (nom. sg.): m. treatment

Monday, April 13, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.60: Pick Your Own Passion-Killer

raag'oddhate cetasi dhairyam etya
niShevitavyam tv a-shubham nimittam
raag'-aatmako hy evam upaiti sharma
kaph'-aatmako ruukSham iv' opayujya

Steadiness lies, when one's mind is stirred up by lust,

In coming back to a disagreeable stimulus;

For thus a passionate type obtains relief,

Like a phlegmatic type taking an astringent.

A-subha, literally "not beautiful" or "not agreeable," was generally translated into Chinese with two characters read in Japanese as FU-JO, not pure, impurity.

But impurity is somewhat abstract. Whether a stimulus is pure or impure is something of a relative, philosophical problem... Is a sewage works impure? If a pub or restaurant charges a customer for a glass of tap water, is the water pure? Discuss. Or, much better, don't discuss.

Whether a person finds a stimulus agreeable or disagreeable, in contrast, is a concrete, individual matter leaving less room for discussion. Do you want salt and vinegar on your chips, love?

So when I seek steadiness by coming back to a disagreeable stimulus, what that disagreeable stimulus is, is none of your business; and, vice versa, what you find disagreeable is none of my business.

A general point that emerges out of considering how to translate a-subha is that I stupidly somehow expected Ashvaghosha's teaching, before I started studying it in detail, to be more authoritarian, more patriarchal, more prescriptive, altogether less democratic and less modern, and further away from my original culture, than the teaching of Zen Masters in China and Japan with which, from translating Shobogenzo, I was more familiar. But the picture which is emerging from this present translation work is 180 degrees opposite from my expectation. It seems to me that there is more, not less, latitude for individual freedom in Ashvaghosha's approach. His teaching, for me, is not further but closer to home.

Salt and vinegar on your chips, love?
Yes please.
Do you fancy a pickled onion?
Why not?

Ashvaghosha was in no way a product of Confucianist Chinese or insular and nationalistic Japanese culture. I, sadly, have been deeply influenced, for the worse, by certain Japanese habits, of the end-gaining variety, and I know that I am not the only one. (Hi, Plato!) For any follower of Zen Master Dogen, to separate the original wheat from Japanese chaff is no easy thing. Or, to use a more apt metaphor, to separate the Buddha's original gold from Confucianist Chinese and Japanese ore is no easy thing. But that is what this effort is all about -- mining and refining Ashvaghosha's gold.

EH Johnston:
But when the mind is excited by passion, the subject of meditation called 'impure' should be selected so as to reach steadfastness; for thus the man of passionate nature obtains relief, like the man subject to phlegm who uses astringent remedies.

Linda Covill:
When the mind is stirred up by passion, one should find stability and practice the impurity meditation, for that is how a man of passionate nature finds relief, like a patient with a phlegm condition using astringent treatments.

raaga: colour , hue , tint , dye , (esp.) red colour , redness; inflammation; any feeling or passion , (esp.) love , affection or sympathy for , vehement desire
uddhata: raised (as dust) , turned up; lifted up , raised , elevated , high; violent , intense; puffed up , haughty , vain , arrogant ; rude , ill-behaved; exceeding , excessive ; abounding in , full of; stirred up , excited , agitated
dhairyam (nom. sg.): n. firmness , constancy , calmness , patience , gravity , fortitude , courage
etya = absolutive of aa-√i: to reach , attain , enter , come into (a state or position)

niShev: (with acc.) to practise , perform , cultivate , use , employ
niShevitavyam (nom. sg. n. from gerundive of niShevita): to be practised , observed , resorted to
tu: but
a-shubham (nom. sg. n.): not beautiful or agreeable , disagreeable; impurity
nimittam (nom. sg.): n. cause, stimulus, antidote

raag-aatmaakaH (nom. sg. m.): a passionate type
hi: for
evam: thus
upaiti = 3rd person singular upe (upa-√i): to reach, obtain, to enter a state
sharma = accusative of sharman: shelter , protection , refuge , safety; comfort

kaph'-aatmakaH (nom. sg. m.): a phlegm type, one whose nature is phlegmatic
ruukSham (nom. sg.): n. an astringent
iva: like
upayujya = absolutive of upa- vyuj: to harness to; to use , employ , apply; to have the use of

Sunday, April 12, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.59: Again, What Not to Do

raag'-oddhava vyaakulite 'pi citte
maitr'-opasaMhaara-vidhir na kaaryaH
raag-aatmaako muhyati maitrayaa hi
snehaM kapha-kShobha iv' opayuja

Again, when the mind is muddled by lust,

The practice of inviting in love
is not to be undertaken;

For a passionate type is stupefied by love,

Like a sufferer from phlegm taking oil.

Calming, garnering, and letting be (discussed in verses 16.53 - 16.58) are, as I see them, the three basic options for regulating the flow of one's energy.

Buddha/Ashvaghosha now turn our attention to dealing with the three root faults that are understood to corrupt, taint or muddle up a person's energy; namely, lust, ill-will, and ignorance/delusion. To this end, the metaphor used in this and the next five verses (16.59 - 16.65) relates to Aryuvedic medicine, in which disease is understood to be a function of three humours: phlegm, wind and bile. The metaphor is particularly apt since the word dosha, fault, is not only used to express the three root afflictions that cloud our sensory appreciation, but is also used to express a disease of the three humours.

In the metaphor which is about to unfold, phlegm corresponds to lust/passion, bile to ill-will/hate, and wind to ignorance/delusion.

A phlegm condition is said to be aggravated by oil and remedied by astringents. So this verse, yet again, first sounds an inhibitory or precautionary note, warning us when in lust not to do anything, for a start, to make things worse. It is the preventive principle again: think first what NOT to do.

This verse seems to be saying, then, in other words, when in lust do not render yourself susceptible, for example, to the influence of Hollywood romances or pop classics or Christian hymns that celebrate the power of love.

For me maitra means not so much loving-kindness, which sounds like a technical word used in Buddhist meditation, but simply love -- as in "Love thy neighbour" or as in "All you need is love." Shortly before she died my grandmother told me, as I was leaving, "Remember you were loved." She didn't say, "Remember you were treated with loving-kindness."

Love is one of those words, like inhibition, or mindfulness, that has got very many barnacles attached to it, so that it elicits deluded reactions in people. But the fault in that case is not in the word; it is in people's reactions to the word.

Just because love is central to the Christian message, and has so many Christian barnacles attached to it, should I veer away from translating maitra as love? I don't think so. Just because love and sex can be closely related and are very often confused with each other, should we seek some special word, other than love, for maitra? I don't think so.

We don't talk of filling the kettle with H20; we say that we fill it with water. Similarly, we don't talk of loving-kindness making fools of men; we say that love makes fools of men.

Speaking of the Christian message, this being Easter weekend my beloved BBC Radio 4 seems to have been hi-jacked by Christian preachers, and I have never felt so clear about the difference between the teaching of Buddha and the extreme pessimism and optimism of the Christian church. The Christian message, it seems to me, is one of the centrality of love and the ultimate triumph of optimism. Whereas Ashvaghosha's message is that love has its place, as an antidote to hate, but that place is never central. And the ultimate triumph might be not the triumph of optimism but rather the triumph over optimism, along with pessimism.

Some say that Buddhism offers a middle way between religion and science. To those who say so, I say you can keep your Buddhism, along with optimism, pessimism, pacificism, and every other kind of -ism. The teaching of Buddha/Ashvaghosha, as I read it, is the giving up of all -isms.

Thus, on this Easter Sunday, from my seat by an upstairs window, I have pontificated for the benefit of a great audience of twittering spring birds and miscellaneous insects and spiders. As I sign off, a wood pigeon is coo-ing and in the distance a cuckoo is intermittently calling.

EH Johnston:
When the mind is disturbed by the excitement of passion, the method of cultivating the idea of benevolence should be avoided; for the man of passionate nature goes wrong through benevolence, like a man disturbed by phlegm through unctuous treatment.

Linda Covill:
When the mind is disordered due to the excitement of passion, the prescription for cultivating loving-kindness should not be followed; for a man of passionate nature is debilitated by loving-kindness, like a patient with a phlegm imbalance using oil treatments.

raaga: redness, passion, love
uddhava: sacrificial fire; festival, holiday; joy, pleasure
vyaakulite (loc.): perplexed , bewildered , distracted , alarmed; confused , disarranged , disturbed , corrupted
api: also, again
citte = locative of citta: mind, the thinking mind

maitra: coming from or given by or belonging to a friend , friendly , amicable , benevolent , affectionate , kind; a friend (= mitra); friendship
upasaMhaara: m. the act of withdrawing , withholding , taking away; drawing towards one's self , bringing near; summarizing , summing up
vidhiH = nominative, singular of vidhi: m. formula; method; prescription
na: not
kaaryaH (nom. sg. m.): to be done, to be practised

raag-aatmaakaH (nom. sg. m.): a passionate type
aatmaka: having or consisting of the nature or character of (in comp.)
muhyati = 3rd person singular of muh: to become stupefied or unconscious , be bewildered or perplexed , err , be mistaken , go astray ; to become confused ,
maitrayaa = instrumental of maitra: friendship, loving-kindness, love
hi: for

sneham (acc. sg.): m. oil
kapha: phlegm (as one of the three humors of the body » also vaayu and pitta)
kShobhaH (nom. sg.): m. shaking , agitation , disturbance
iva: like
upayujya = absolutive of upa- √yuj: to harness to; to use , employ , apply; to have the use of , enjoy (e.g. food or a woman or dominion); to come into contact

Saturday, April 11, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.58: To Work, with Normal Mind

yat syaad upekShaa niyataM nimittaM
saamyaM gate cetasi tasya kaalaH
evaM hi kRtyaaya bhavet prayogo
ratho vidhey'-aashva iva prayaataH

What one has ascertained to be
a starting point of not interfering,

Has its time when one's mind is in its normal state;

For thus one can set about the work to be done,

Like a wagon setting off with well-trained horses.

What kind of starting point can lead (in the words of FM Alexander) to "the right thing doing itself," or (in the words of Zen Master Dogen) to "body and mind naturally dropping off, and the original face appearing"?

When I asked my brother to ask his teacher Elizabeth Walker what, after 70+ years in the Alexander work, her starting point was, she replied, "How am I? Where am I?"

When I asked Marjory Barlow what, after 70+ years in the Alexander work, her starting point was, she replied "I start with the orders, because I know that works." (The orders means ordering the neck to be free, to allow the head to go forward and up, to allow the back to lengthen and widen, et cetera.)

When Marjory reciprocated by asking me what my starting point was, I said that I started by endeavouring to be clear about the distinction between end-gaining and the means-whereby. Marjory said, "Good!"

When I have the good sense to start again from scratch, in other words, I endeavour to be clear whether or not I am trying to milk a cow by the horn. Surprisingly often the answer is yes. That is what I have been trying to do for the best part of 30 years -- in which case, how can I take myself too seriously? How can I take my Japanese ancestry too seriously?

Another teacher with going on for 50 years experience in Alexander work, Nelly Ben-Or, speaks of going back to the drawing board and asking herself, "What does it mean to allow?" (The answer to this question, whenever I endeavoured to answer it in Nelly's presence, was invariably: Not that!)

So four people with the same aim of leaving oneself alone and allowing the right thing to do itself, can have four different starting points. And this is how I understand the word niyatam, ascertained or established, in the first line. Niyatam does not mean established by somebody else!

The starting point Buddha/Ashvaghosha are referring to is nothing that was revealed up a mountain and carved into clay tablets. It is up to each individual to ascertain, or to establish, for himself or for herself, what works for him or her as a starting point in working towards that condition of spontaneous flow which Chinese masters called "body and mind dropping off."

Master Dogen said, "Learn the backward step of turning light and shining. Body and mind will naturally drop off, and your original face will emerge."

So the direction in which the horses are ultimately to pull the wagon might be backwards.

But on that backward path, there may be bandits... such as lust, malice, and ignorance.

EH Johnston:
When the thoughts have attained equilibrium, then is the time for the subject of meditation inducing indifference; for thus there would be application to the duty in hand, like a chariot starting off with well-trained horses.

Linda Covill:
When the mind is in equilibrium, it is time for the meditation prescribed for equanimity, for thus it can apply itself to its job, like a chariot setting off with well-trained horses.

yat (nom. sg. n.): [that] which
syaat = 3rd person singular, optative of as: to be
upekShaa (nominative, singular): f. overlooking , disregard , negligence , indifference , contempt , abandonment
niyatam (nom. sg. n.): determined, established
nimittam (nom. sg.): n. cause, stimulus, starting point

saamyam (acc. sg.): equality , evenness , equilibrium , equipoise , equal or normal state
gate = locative of gata: gone to, in the state of
cetasi = locative of cetas: mind
tasya (genitive): of it
kaalaH (nominative, singular): is the time

evam: thus
hi: for
kRtyaaya = dative of kRtya: to be done; thing to be done
bhavet (optative of bhuu): there might be
prayogaH (nominative, singular): undertaking , beginning , commencement; a design , contrivance , device , plan; application , employment, use; practice , experiment (opp. to , " theory ")

rathaH (nominative, singular): m. chariot, wagon, cart
vidheya: docile , compliant , submissive , liable to be ruled or governed or influenced by , subject or obedient to (gen. or comp.)
aashvaH (nom. sg. m.): drawn by horses (as a chariot)
iva: like
prayaataH (nom. sg. m.): set out , gone , advanced

Friday, April 10, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.57: Again, What Not to Do

aupekShikaM n'aapi nimittam iShTaM
layaM gate cetasi s'odbhave vaa
evaM hi tiivraM janayed anarthaM
upekShito vyaadhir iv' aaturasya

Nor is leaving oneself alone a valid starting point

When one's mind is either lifeless or excited.

For that might result in severe misfortune,

Like the neglected illness of a sick man.

The meaning of leaving oneself along is clarified, in verses 16.65 to 16.67, with the analogy of a skilled goldsmith who, at times, neither intervenes to heat his gold nor intervenes to cool it, but simply leaves it be.

In the context not of gold refining but of formal practice, and in particular of formal sitting practice, what does it mean to "leave oneself alone" or "not to interfere"?

What Buddha/Ashvaghosha are indicating in this verse is that this is no question for a lifeless mind or an excited mind to even begin to ask.

So when I find myself in times of trouble, and Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom.... even those words of wisdom "Let it be" are a stimulus that should be labelled in big red letters: DANGER! HANDLE WITH CARE!

I am labouring the point, but so it seems did Buddha/Ashvaghosha: of primary importance is not what one does, but what one does not do.

One end-gaining Alexander pupil who went directly for the target of leaving himself alone, rather than more modestly attending to the inhibitory means-whereby, attracted FM Alexander's disapproval with these famous words:

"You are doing what you call leaving yourself alone!"

EH Johnston:
The subject of meditation inducing indifference is not recommended when the thoughts are either sluggish or excited ; for thus it might bring about a grievous calamity, like the illness of a sick man if it is neglected.

Linda Covill:
The meditational technique of equanimity is not recommended when the mind is either over-excited or depressed, for this may produce serious mishap, like the neglected disease of a sick man.

aupekShikam (nom. sg. noun from upa- √iikS: to overlook , disregard , neglect , abandon): n. indifference, leaving oneself alone
na: not
api: also, again
nimittam (nom. sg.): n. stimulus, antidote
iShtam (nom. sg. n.): sought, desired , regarded as good , approved , valid

layam (accusative): sluggishness, lethargy, mental inactivity
gate = loc. gata: gone to a state or condition
cetasi = locative of cetas: mind
sa: it
udbhave = loc. udbhava: existence , generation , origin , production , birth; springing from , growing
vaa: or

evam: thus, in this manner
hi: for
tiivram (acc. sg. m.): strong , severe , violent , intense , hot , pervading , excessive , ardent , sharp , acute , pungent , horrible
janayed = 3rd person singular, optative from √jan: give birth, be born, bring about
anartham (acc. sg.): m. disappointing occurrence , reverse , evil

upekShitaH (nom. sg. m.): overlooked, disregarded, neglected
vyaadhiH (nominative, singular): m. disorder , disease , ailment , sickness ,
iva: like
aaturasya = genitive of aatura: suffering , sick (in body or mind)