Thursday, April 2, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.49: The When & How of Giving Up Afflictions

klesha-prahaaNaaya ca nishcitena
kaalo 'bhyupaayash ca pariikShitavyaH
yogo 'py a-kaale hy an-upaayatash ca
bhavaty an-arthaaya na tad-guNaaya

One set on giving up the afflictions, then,

Should attend to timing and method;

For even formal practice,
done at the wrong time and relying on wrong means,

Makes for disappointment and not for the desired end.

This verse can be seen as the first verse in another series of four verses.
16.49 makes the point.
16.50 illustrates the point with a memorable metaphor that is iconoclastic in tone -- the metaphor of milking a cow by the horn.
16.51 illustrates the point further with a metaphor that resonates with everybody's everyday experience -- the metaphor of trying in vain to start a fire.
16.52 re-caps, and exhorts us to get on with practice itself.

What strikes me about these four verses, and what strikes me about the whole of Saundarananda, is Ashvaghosha's complete unwavering clarity in regard to the end, which is freedom from the afflictions. It might be argued that the whole point of Saundarananda is to cause the reader, you and me, to be that very one whose mind is set upon giving up the afflictions.

In this verse, 16.49, the desired end of being rid of afflictions is indicated directly.
In 16.50 the desired end is to get milk.
In 16.51 the desired end is to get fire.
16.52 is an exhortation, being clear in one's mind with regard to end and means, to devote oneself to the means.

Then, from verse 16.53 onwards, detailed consideration is given to the means. But before that Ashvaghosha is reminding us now that the means he is going to describe are a means-whereby we might progress towards a desired end, which is freedom from affliction.

Giving up affliction, it has been explained to us already, means not practising those causes of suffering (that begin with thirsting) such as greed, hatred, and ignorance, which prevent us from truly seeing what is.

So giving up affliction corresponds, as I see it, with giving up the misuse associated with what FM Alexander called 'faulty sensory appreciation.' This giving up of misuse of the self, in Alexander work, centres upon formal work on the self, in which the worker consciously inhibits his habitual unconscious reaction to a particular stimulus. The basic point of Alexander teacher training is to set aside a large number of hours over three years of a person's life that can be devoted to such formal practice of working on the self. But the three years are only a beginning, and the really difficult stimuli tend to arise outside of formal work on oneself.

I think Ashvaghosha, similarly, is talking here about finding the time and space in which to devote oneself to a true means-whereby for working on oneself, while not forgetting, even at times which are not suited to formal practice, the end to which one is working, which is elimination of the wrong.

If I had to sum up the teaching of Shobogenzo in six words it would be "Giving up body and mind, sit." Alexander work in three words is "Inhibit unconscious reaction." Ashvaghosha's teaching in three words would seem to be "Give up afflictions."

There is, as I see it, no contradiction. But, as Ashvaghosha reminds us in 16.71, and as FM Alexander wrote somewhere, "Time is the essence of the contract."

klesha: affliction
prahaaNaaya = dative of prahaaNa = action noun from pra-√hA: to desert , quit , abandon , give up
ca: (conjunctive or sometimes disjunctive particle) and, moreover; but
nishcitena = instrumental (indicating agent of passive construction with -tavya) of nishcita: one who has come to a conclusion or formed a certain opinion , determined to , resolute upon (dative)

kaalaH = nominative, singular of kaala: the proper time or season
abhyupaayaH = nominative, singular of abhyupaaya: a means, expedient
ca: and
pariikShitavyaH = nom. sg. m. from gerundive of pariikSh: to look round , inspect carefully , try , examine , find out , observe

yogaH = nominative, singular of yoga: formal practice
api: even
a-kaale (locative of a-kaala): at a wrong or bad time
hi: for
an (negative suffix, sometimes expressing disparagement): bad
upaaya: that by which one reaches one's aim , a means or expedient
-taH (ablative suffix): from, on the basis of, in accordance with
ca: and

bhavati = 3rd person singular of bhuu: to become, to be; to serve for , tend or conduce to (with dative)
an-arthaaya = dative of anartha: non-value , a worthless or useless object; disappointing occurrence , reverse , evil
na: not
tad: that, the one in question, the desired
guNaaya = dative of guNa: "the requisite"; a quality , peculiarity , attribute or property; good quality , virtue , merit , excellence

EH Johnston:
And he who has set his mind on the abolition of the vices must consider the time and the method ; for even Yoga, when practised out of season and by the wrong method, leads to calamity and not to the proper result.

Linda Covill:
When someone has formed a resolve to abandon the defilements, he should carefully consider the correct time and method to do so; for even yogic discipline can lead to failure, not success, if practiced at the wrong time or in the wrong way.

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