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

1 comment:

Raymond said...

" As a general rule, it seems to me, optimistic thoughts tend to be tied up with greed;"


It is true for me that I am most optimistic, imagining the most resplendent God caring for me, when all other seas are calm. As soon as I have a stomach ache, I feel like an idiot for my former notions of fancy, and I just wish for the stomach ache to go away.

All the best to you, Mike.