Tuesday, May 5, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.82: Zero Tolerance of Unreal Thoughts

te ced a-labdha-pratipakSha-bhaavaa
n' aiv' opashaamyeyur a-sad-virtakaaH
muhuurtam apy aprativadhyamaanaa
gRhe bhujaMgaa iva n'aadhivaasyaaH

When it is impossible to realise their opposite side,

In which case unreal thoughts might not fade away,

They must not for a moment be left unchecked:

No whiff of them should be tolerated,
as if they were snakes in the house.

If the previous verse addressed faults centred in the reptilian/mammalian parts of the brain, not to mention faults centred in crucibles of hormonal activity such as the heart and the unmentionables, then this verse seems to address faulty activity in the top two inches.

The sat of a-sat is the true or the good of the true Dharma, that which is good in the beginning, middle, and end. So the opposite side of thoughts that are untrue, negative, unreal might be the Dharma which is true, good, real.

A negative or unreal thought might be like a hazard approaching on the road ahead, a mosquito about to bite your thumb, a snake on the path, a troublesome person -- a stimulus calling not for a lot of discussion about good and bad, but calling for a decision. It is not a matter of intellectual discrimination, but a matter of discernment.

Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night plagued by myriad thoughts, I focus on the next verse of this translation, or I mentally run through the eight great human truths -- I focus on something which, for me, is wholly good, wholly positive, with no negative associations. I see it as pure gold, with all impurities driven out of it.

I don't know what it was that I discerned in the eight great human truths that led me by some mysterious process back to Ashvaghosha. It was like being led in a dream back to a treasure that was buried long, long ago.

EH Johnston:
If evil thoughts are not allayed owing to failure to find out the correct counteragent, still they must not be tolerated for a moment without opposition, any more than snakes in the house would be.

Linda Covill:
If those bad thoughts do not subside because their counteragent cannot be found, still they must not be tolerated even for a moment without being repulsed, like snakes in the house.

te (nominative, plural): they, those
ced: when, if
a-labdha: unobtained, not found
pratipakSha: m. the opposite side , hostile party , opposition ; an obstacle; an adversary , opponent , foe
bhaavaaH = nominative, plural of bhaava: being

na: not
eva: (emphatic)
upashaamyeyuH = 3rd person plural, optative of upa- √zam: to become calm or quiet ; to cease , become extinct ; to make quiet , calm , extinguish ; to tranquillize , appease , pacify , mitigate
a-sat: not existing, false, unreal, untrue, wrong, bad, evil
virtakaaH (nominative, plural): m. ideas, fancies, thoughts

muhuurtam: a moment , instant , any short space of time
api: even
a: not, without
prativadhyamaanaaH = nom. pl. m. present participle passive prati-√vadh: to beat back, ward off,

gRhe (locative): in the house
bhujaMgaaH (nominative, plural): m. snakes
iva: like
na: not
adhivaasyaaH = nom. pl. m. gerundive from adhi-√vaas: to be scented


Raymond said...


One such idea for me is that there is something in the religious life other than very hard work. When I have a clear picture of why I am practicing, I feel secure in that practice. Inevitably, though, I forget why I practice and then my practice wanes and I am reminded again of why I practice. It is like a cycle in which no momentum can be built up.

I have a stuffed animal Nietzsche doll. Last night I sewed a rakusu on him. Why?...to remind myself that what I am doing is practicing to put a crazy person under some kind of control. I can't say whether this will work. We'll see.

Take care.


Mike Cross said...

I refer you, Raymond, to verse 16.84, in which the secret is expressed of how to deal with the kind of unreal thoughts you suffer from, like "feeling secure in the practice."

As always, the gold is in the bold.