Saturday, May 9, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.86: Cutting a Path

etaany araNyaany abhitaH shivaani
yog'-aanukuulaany a-jan'-eritaani
kaayasya kRtvaa praviveka-maatraM
klesha-prahaaNaaya bhajasva maargaM

These salubrious wilds that surround us

Are suited to practice and not thronged with people.

Having furnished the body with ample solitude,

Cut a path to abandon afflictions.

"The path" or "a path"?

Pondering this verse in the light of what precedes it and what follows it, I think the Buddha is precisely NOT saying, "Follow the Buddhist Path that I have established." I think the Buddha is precisely telling Nanda NOT to get bogged down in some arcane thing beginning with a capital "B" or a capital "P"; he is telling Nanda to cut a path for himself, as an individual.

A favourite analogy of FM Alexander relating to the cutting of a path, and to the abandoning of old habits tied to a faulty sense of feeling, is recorded in this quotation from the book An Examined Life, by FM Alexander's niece Marjory Barlow:

He said it's like laying down railway lines along which the train will eventually go. That's one.

The other is that it's as if you live in a forest and you always go from point A to point B, and gradually wear away a little grass path. One day you think there must be a better way so you start going around another way. In time you've got two pathways. Then you decide the new one is much, much better so the grass grows over the old one.

Isn't that beautiful? I love the idea of the grass growing over the old pathways, because he talked about pathways the whole time, you're making new pathways in the nervous system.

While searching for the above quote, I happened on another section from Marjory's book which seems very relevant:

To me he was the most religious, truly religious person I've ever met, in the real sense, nothing to do with dogma, nothing to do with going to church, but a sort of reverence for the whole Universe really, it was as big as that. That is why he was able to do what he did, because he said, "If I hadn't gone through all of that, some other poor damn fool would have had to do it because humanity needs it so much." I'm not trying to make him out to be a Saint, because he was like all of us, but there was a certain integrity (and that is the exact word) and he was absolutely true to what he had discovered. Nothing could shake him on that. He knew. That was F.M. When people used to question him he'd say, "Yes, well, I believe in everything and I believe in nothing." He knew how to employ his time to good purpose, using what he knew, and he was always questioning what he was doing. That is why you can see the development if you read his books in order. You can see that lovely progression, quite unforced, based on his experience with people. True it was, absolutely true. He followed no tradition, never joined a 'club', and derived his knowledge from the raw experience of his life.

EH Johnston:
These forests on every side are auspicious, suited for Yoga and not thronged by man. Finding sufficient solitude for the body, enter the Path for the elimination of the vices.

Linda Covill:
These gracious forests around us are not teeming with people and are suited to yogic discipline. Give yourself enough solitude, and follow the path to abandon the defilements.

etaani = nom. pl. n. etat: this
araNyaani = nom. pl. n. araNya: a foreign or distant land; wilderness, desert, forest
abhitaH: around here, on every side
shivaani (nom. pl. n.): auspicious , propitious , gracious , favourable , benign , kind , benevolent , friendly , dear ; happy, fortunate

yoga: practice, formal practice
anukuulaani (nom. pl. n.): following the bank (kUla) or slope or declivity; according to the current ; favourable , agreeable ; conformable to; friendly , kind , well-disposed
a-jan'-eritaani (nom. pl. n.): not thronged with people
a: not
jana: man, person
irita (from ir, to go): thronged

kaayasya (genitive of kaaya): of/for the body
kRtvaa (absolutive of √kR, to do): having done, having prepared
praviveka: complete solitude
maatram (acc. sg.): measure, a certain amount, enough

klesha: affliction
prahaaNaaya = dative of prahaaNa: abandoning
bhajasva = 2nd pers. imperative bhaj: to divide; to partake of, enjoy; to turn or resort to; to engage in; to experience, go into; to pursue , practise , cultivate
maargam (accusative): path

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