Saturday, May 2, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.79: Freedom First from Fearful Faults

yathaa hi bhiito nishi taskarebhyo
dvaaram priyebhyo 'pi na daatum icchet
praajNas tathaa saMharati prayogaM
samaM shubhasy' aapy ashubhasya doShaiH

For just as a man afraid of thieves in the night

Would not open his door even to friends,

So does a wise man withhold consent to the doing

Of anything bad or of anything good
that involves the faults.

In this metaphor, thieves in the night are faults, and keeping the door shut is withholding consent to the doing of an activity that might invite in the faults.

The effect of the verse is again to let us know, lest any smidgen of doubt should dare to remain, that the whole point of the four noble truths is the elimination of the faults.

Like the father for whom the safety of his family is a much more important aim than being able to see any friends that might visit, the overriding aim of the life of a follower of the Buddha is to keep the faults at bay, even if that might mean missing out on an end that could be agreeable and good.

If I have begun to understand this verse even a little, it is thanks to FM Alexander. This verse is very strong advocacy against what Alexander called end-gaining -- whether the aim in view be a worthy end or an unworthy one.

The whole basis of Alexander work is learning to withhold consent to the doing of an activity, until such time as the means have been established which may enable the activity to be done (or to do itself) without instigating habitual patterns of misuse; i.e,, faults.

People who know nothing about swimming and understand very little of the human condition -- doctors, physiotherapists and the like -- will often say that swimming is good exercise. But as my brother and wife spend their lives teaching people, if a person swims in a faulty way (in a way that involves them putting themselves under undue stress) then the first thing they must learn, in order to swim better, is to withhold consent to the activity of swimming. Even though swimming is good exercise, insofar as it involves the faults, people have to learn first not to swim but just to remain in the water, blowing bubbles or floating or gliding or engaging in some other form of non-swimming. After they have thus learnt to simply be in the water more or less free of their fearful faults, only then can the door to swimming (without stress) begin to open.

For an example still closer to home, in contrast to the Shobogenzo translation which was done with a sense of urgency that, in the run up to the publication of the first volume in 1994, brought me to the edge of ill-health, I am deliberately translating Ashvaghosha at the slow but relentless pace of one verse per day. This translation work, I hope, is something good and if I could get to the end of it that would be great, and wild horses won't stop me from doing that. But there is always the possibility that death will stop me. Even so, I am withholding consent. And from the withholding of consent comes a greater sense of being in the driving seat -- of relative freedom from the fearful faults that might otherwise drive me.

EH Johnston:
For as a man frightened of thieves will not grant entrance at night even to his friends, so the wise man represses the practice of good and evil (thoughts) alike together with the faults.

Linda Covill:
For just as a man fearful of thieves does not like to open his door at night, even to friends, likewise a wise man expels the activity of pure and impure thoughts alike, due to their faults.

yathaa: just as
hi: for
bhiitaH (nom. sg.): m. one who is frightened
nishi = locative of nish: night
taskarebhyaH = ablative plural of taskara: thief, robber

dvaaram (acc. sg.): n. door , gate , passage , entrance
priyebhyaH = ablative/dative, plural of priya: friend
api: also, even
na: not
daatum = infintitive of daa: to give, to permit , allow (with inf.)
icchet = 3rd person singular, optative of iSh: to wish, intend, be about to do something; to assent

praajNaH = nominative, singular of praajNa: a wise or learned man
tathaa: likewise (correlative of yathaa)
saMharati = 3rd person singular of saMhR: to bring or draw together , unite , compress ; to lay hold of , attract , take for one's self , appropriate ; to take away , carry off , rob ; to lay or draw aside , withdraw , withhold from (abl.) ; to restrain , curb , check , suppress ; to crush together , crumple up , destroy , annihilate
prayogam (acc. sg.): offering ; undertaking , beginning , commencement ; practice ; cause, motive ; course of proceeding

samam: ind. in like manner , alike , equally , similarly:
shubhasya = genitive of shubha: pleasant , agreeable , suitable , fit , capable , useful , good (applied to persons and things); auspicious , fortunate , prosperous ; good (in moral sense) , righteous , virtuous , honest ; pure (as an action)
api: and, also, even
ashubhasya = genitive of ashubha: not beautiful or agreeable , disagreeable, inauspicious , bad , vicious (as thought or speech)
doShaiH = instrumental, plural of doSha: fault

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