Thursday, May 21, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.98: In the End, Growth ...?

kRShTvaa gaaM paripaalya ca shrama-shatair ashnoti sasya-shriyam
yatnena pravigaahya saagara-jalaM ratna-shriyaa kriiDati
shatruuNaam avadhuuya viiryam iShubhir bhuNkte narendra-shriyaM
tad viiryaM kuru shaantaye viniyataM viirye hi sarva-rddhayaH

Saundaranande mahaa-kaavya aarya-satya-vyaakhyaano naama ShoDashaH sargaH

After ploughing and protecting the soil with great pains,
a farmer gains a bounteous crop of corn;

After striving to plumb the ocean's waters,
a diver basks in a bounty of coral and pearls;

After seeing off with arrows the endeavour of rival kings,
a king enjoys royal dominion.

So direct your energy in pursuit of peace,
for in directed energy lies all growth."

End of the 16th Canto of the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled "Exposition of the Noble Truths."

And so we come to an end, and as we do so we might question what that means.

After directing his energies in the dedicated manner that farmers around the world all still tend to do, to this day (I am thinking of my inspirationally hardworking neighbour in France), the farmer gains the end he has laboured to gain -- producing lots of food.

The pearl diver, likewise, gains an end that is not at all abstract. By his own independent efforts, he makes tbe ocean's riches into his own possession.

The king in the 3rd line enjoys royal dominion -- supreme authority, absolute ownership.

So, on first reading, the Buddha seems to be finishing this long monologue (which began back in 12.19), by pointing to the gaining of a definite end, which might be absolute ownership of the four noble truths. In coming to the translation of the final word of the Canto, Rddhi, therefore, my first thought was to translate it as success or accomplshment -- "In endeavour lies all success/accomplishment."

But if we dig deeper into the verse, one thing to notice might be a certain irony around the notion of endeavour. Hitherto the Buddha has heaped nothing but praise on the supreme and invincible virtue of viirya, manly endeavour. But the viirya in the 3rd line is the manly endeavour of rival kings which is defeated, by arrows. The point I take from this apparent irony of viirya being defeated is that endeavour as an abstract concept, or a concept connected to a puffed up, macho, sense of unreal self-confidence, is always liable to be trumped by the real direction of real energy, as manifested, for example, in flying arrows.

So when the Buddha speaks again in the 4th line of viirya, along with shaanti, peace, and Rddhi, success, the irony contained in the 3rd line might be a kind of clue not to react too quickly to those words, not to trust the intellect as it rapidly latches on and tries to convince that it knows. As FM Alexander used to say: "Be careful of the printed matter: you may not read it as it is written down."

Yes, the final word of the Canto, Rddhi, in the context of the previous three lines, seems to point to the gaining of a definite end, i.e. making the four noble truths into one's own possession, gaining full dominion over them. But the first meaning of Rddhi is growth. It is from the verb, Rdh, to grow. So, yes, Rddhi means success or accomplishment, the gaining of an end, but it can also be understood as pointing to growth as an ongoing process. Whether the ambiguity was deliberate, I do not know. But I suspect it was, and I have translated Rddhi accordingly as growth.

Because, in the end, what end have we got to look forward to? The long term outlook for us all, unless we meet a sudden and premature end, is sickness or old age, followed by death -- at which point corn, pearls, or royal power are absolutely no bloody good to us whatsoever. We know, if we open our eyes and look, that those who try to hold on to their corn or their pearls or their little kingdom, in that very effort to hold on, stop growing. That is the usual case. When people grow old, they stop growing. In contrast to that I have been priviliged to have worked with some elderly Alexander teachers who were without question still growing in the truth and toward the truth. Above all, I was privileged to visit my Alexander head of training Ray Evans shortly before he died. Even at death's door, Ray was evidently still working on himself as he had endeavored to teach me to work on myself, by directing my head to go forward and up out of a lengthening and widening back -- and not being too serious about it. As Ray drifted out of the here and now of directed consciousness, and back again, he reported, "I come and go. But that's OK."

From the privilege of meeting Ray in this state, I learned something that has informed my understanding of Alexander work and also, I hope, of this verse.

FM Alexander said, "The experience you want is in the process of getting it. If you have something, give it up."

Again, FM said, "Don't you see that if you get perfection today, you will be further away from perfection than you have ever been."

So in the end, to what end is the fourth line directing our attention? Success, or growth? In the end, I think what the fourth line is mainly directing our attention to is neither success nor growth. What the fourth line is directing our attention to, primarily, is the direction of our attention.

EH Johnston:
By ploughing the soil and by guarding (his field) with infinite pains man obtains a splendid crop ; by diving strenuously into the ocean he rejoices in splendid jewels; by overwhelming the might of his enemies with arrows he enjoys the splendour of sovereignty. Therefore show energy for the sake of tranquillity ; for of a certainty all prosperity lies in energy.

Linda Covill:
When a man has plowed the soil and protected it with infinite pains he earns a bounteous crop of corn; after labouring to plumb the ocean's waters he glories in his wealth of jewels; and when his arrows have driven off an enemy force, he enjoys royal sovereignty. So strive for peace, for all progress surely lies in endeavor."

kRShTvaa = absolutive of kRSh: to draw or make furrows , plough
gaaM (accusative): earth, soil, ground
paripaalya = absolutive of paripaal: to , guard , protect , defend
ca: and
shrama: exertion, pains
shataiH = instrumental plural of shata: a hundred ; any very large number
ashnoti = 3rd person singular of ash: to reach , come to , reach , come to , arrive at , get , gain , obtain
sasya: corn , grain , fruit , a crop of corn
shriyam = acc. sg. shrii: f. light , lustre , radiance , splendour , glory , beauty , grace , loveliness; prosperity , welfare , good fortune , success , auspiciousness , wealth , treasure , riches ; bounty

yatnena = instrumental of yatna: effort , exertion , energy , zeal , trouble , pains
pravigaahya = abs. pra-vi-√gaah: to dive into , enter (acc.)
saagara: the ocean
jalam (acc.): water
ratna: a jewel , gem , treasure , precious stone (the nine jewels are pearl , ruby , topaz , diamond , emerald , lapis lazuli , coral , sapphire , gomeda)
shriyaa = instrumental of shrii: f. splendour; wealth , treasure , riches ; bounty
kriiDati = 3rd person singular of kriiD: to play , sport , amuse one's self , frolic , gambol , dally (used of men , animals , the wind and waves , &c); to jest , joke with (instr.)

shatruuNaam = gen. pl. shatru: m. " overthrower " , an enemy , foe , rival , a hostile king (esp. a neighbouring king as a natural enemy)
avadhuuya = abs. ava-√dhuu: to shake off or out or down; to shake off (as enemies or evil spirits or anything disagreeable) , frighten away
viiryam (acc. sg.): n. manly vigour, valour, strength, power,
iShubhiH = inst. pl. iShu: an arrow
bhuNkte = 3rd person singular of bhuj: to enjoy
narendra: m. " man-lord " , king , prince
shriyaM (acc. sg.): f. splendour; wealth , treasure , riches ; high rank , power , might , majesty , royal dignity

tad: so
viiryam (acc. sg.): n. manly endeavour, energy
kuru = imperative of kR: to do, make
shaantaye = dative of shaanti: f. tranquillity , peace , quiet , peace or calmness of mind , absence of passion
viniyata: mfn. restrained , checked , regulated
viniyatam: ind. certainly, surely
viirye = locative of viirya: energy, endeavour
hi: for
sarva: all
RddhayaH = nominative, plural of Rddhi: f. increase , growth , prosperity, success , good fortune , wealth , abundance ; accomplishment

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