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


Jordan said...

Undeniably, however, I am not at all good at practicing it.So how do you improve on that situation?

Mike Cross said...

There are problems like faulty sense of feeling, aberrant primitive reflexes, and maybe even slight autistic tendencies, along with bad habits, misconceptions, fixed prejudices, not to mention the aging process that is already under way and the ever-present threat of disease and premature death. There are no grounds at all for optimism.

Anonymous said...