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

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