Monday, August 31, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.56: Heeding Faulty Sensory Appreciation

tasmaad eShaam a-kushala-karaaNaam ariiNaam
sarv'-aavasthaM bhava viniyamaad a-pramatto
m" aasminn arthe kShaNam api kRthaas tvaM pramaadaM

saundaranande mahaakaavye shiil'-endriya-jayo naama trayodashaH sargaH

= = = = - - - - - = = - = =
= = = = - - - - - = = - = =
= = = = - - - - - = = - = =
= = = = - - - - - = = - = =

= - - = = - = = = = = - - - = = = - = - = = =

So towards those mischief-making foes --

Seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, and feeling --

In every situation show a vigilance born of restraint.

You are not for an instant to be heedless in this matter.

The 13th Canto of the epic poem Handsome Nanda, titled 'Thwarting the Power of the Senses through Practice of Integrity'

Shravana means hearing as the sense which is centred on the ear. That sense is the sense of movement, whether the movement be a relatively rapid movement like the sound of a computer whirring through the air at around 1,500 cycles per second, or whether the movement be a relatively slow one like one's own body being propelled round a bend on a motorbike at 60 miles per hour. What I am getting it, in other words, is that I would like to understand shravana as including both the auditory sense (sense of faster moving sound vibrations) and the vestibular sense (sense of the body's relativelly slower movement or non-movement in space).

Sparshana, similarly, I would like to understand as including not only the superficial touching felt through the skin, but also the deeper proprioceptive sensing done through muscle spindles, joint capsules, and Golgi tendon organs.

In other words, I would like to understand that the lost sixth sense, the compound sense of proprioception in which the vestibular system plays a central integrating role, is included implicitly within the five senses listed in the 2nd line. Because when we talk about fauly sensory appreciation misguiding us in the matter of upright sitting posture, we are talking mainly about proprioception.

Speaking of sitting posture, yesterday was an interesting day. With my wife and older son I drove down to London for the afternoon and spent a few hours wandering around the vicinity of the Natural History Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum. In the latter I was especially struck (apologies for not having a photo) of a Buddha sculpture from the 4th or 5th century from the area which is modern-day Pakistan. Even though it was scuplted in stone, the image had a tremendously strong dynamic sense of the head going forward and up. Also impressive was a wooden arhat carving from China, from maybe the 7th or 8th century, which showed no concern at all for correct sitting posture but was tremendously life-like. The arhat, leaning his arm on one leg, seemed to be engaged in animated debate.

When we re-joined our younger son for dinner, the conversation got round to the topic of posture in connection with their recent trip to Japan. My younger son, though a keen player of football and cricket, tends to sit at the table as if he had no backbone. He is a slumper. Mindful of Marjory Barlow's injunction never to use the Alexander Technique as a stick to beat children with, I make a point of never getting on my son's case about his posture -- as far as I am concerned it is his choice how he sits. In Japanese culture, however, to hold oneself upright is regarded as a kind of politeness, and certain stiffness is even regarded as a virtue. So it seems my wife and older son were putting a certain pressure on my younger son to put on a bit of a show for his grandfather, and stiffen up a bit, at least when they were eating out in public, or sitting at the table with other relatives. My younger son, who is neither fool nor fighter, did not react one way or the other. He neither stiffened up as requested, nor fought against the social pressure. When he got back home to Aylesbury, however, I noted that he seemed mightily relieved to get back to his X-box, his own room and his good mate over the road.

When I saw my son this morning, having slept on this problem of posture, I asked him, "When somebody puts pressure on you to sit up straight, what is the enlightened thing to do?" His instant answer was: "Say No." Good answer, I thought. But often when people say No, their conception is that they are saying No to the stimulus, which isn't quite it. The truly enlightenened thing to do is to say No to one's own reaction to the stimulus. So I asked again, "Say No to what?" My son paused for a couple of seconds, "To fixing."

Viniyamaad a-pramatta, vigilance born of restraint, as I understand the phrase, relates to the virtuous circle that spontaneously forms around a person's saying the magic word "No." It is a virtuous circle of stopping and becoming aware. I have never tried to guide my 16-year-old son in the matter of posture, but I have tried to teach him through deed and word the virtue of saying No, and my sense this morning is that I have not done too bad a job of it.

Viniyamaad a-pramatta, vigilance born of restraint, is required in every situation (sarv'-aavastham) because faulty sensory appreciation is an ever-present. So it is necessary that at least a part of me remembers at every moment, it is necessary that I do not completely forget even for a moment (kshanam api), that I do not want to fix. I do not want to stiffen my neck, pull my head back and down, compress my spine into itself, and hold everything in so that my breathing is restricted.

The problem that the Buddha has addressed in this canto, the problem of circumventing the power of the senses through the mindful practice of integrity, is not similar to the problem that FM Alexander devoted his life to addressing. The problem, as I see it, is just exactly the same problem.

When so-called Zen masters instruct others in the matter of 'correct sitting posture,' without ever having truly understood or even recognized this problem, their fault is not their failure to embrace the teaching of FM Alexander. Their fault is their ignorance in regard to the most fundamental teaching of the Buddha Gautama.

The most fundamental fault to fight against, mischief-making enemy number one, in every situation (sarv'-avastham), internally and externally, might be the ignorant fixing that is tied up with faulty sensory appreciation.

EH Johnston:
In all circumstances, therefore, you should be attentive to restraining these sin-causing enemies, namely, sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. In this matter do not be neglectful even for a moment.

Linda Covill:
In every situation, therefore, be careful to place restrictions on those enemies -- sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch -- which produce unwholesome states. Don't be negligent about this even for an instant!"

tasmaat: from that, on that account, therefore
eShaam (genitive, plural): of these
a: not
kushala: good, healthy; n. welfare , well-being , prosperous condition , happiness
a-kushala: mfn. inauspicious , evil ; not clever ; n. evil
karaaNaam = gen. pl. of kara: a doer , maker , causer
ariiNaam = gen. pl. of ari: an enemy

cakShus: n. the act of seeing; n. faculty of seeing , sight ; n. the eye
ghraaNa: m. n. smelling , perception of odour; n. the nose
shravaNa: n. hearing; m. the ear
rasana: n. tasting , taste , flavour ; n. the tongue as organ of taste
sparshanaanaam = gen. pl. of sparshana: n. the act of touching , touch , contact ; n. sensation , sense of touch , organ of sensation or feeling , sensitive nerve

sarva: all, every
avastha: state , condition , situation
bhava = 2nd person, imperative of bhuu: to be, become
viniyamaad = ablative of viniyama: m. limitation , restriction to (loc.); restraint , government
a: not
pramatta: mfn. excited , wanton , lascivious , rutting ; drunken , intoxicated ; mad , insane ; inattentive , careless , heedless , negligent
apramatta: mfn. not careless , careful , attentive , vigilant
a-pramattaH (nom. sg. m.): a man who is not careless

maa: a particle of prohibition or negation, most commonly joined with the Subjunctive... rarely with the augmentless impf.
asmin (locative): in this
arthe (locative): aim, purpose, thing, matter
kShaNam: an instant
api: even
kRthaaH = augmentless impf. of kR: to do, make
tvam (nom.): you
pramaadam (acc.): m. intoxication ; madness , insanity ; negligence , carelessness about

saundaranande mahaakaavye (locative): in the great poem Handsome Nanda

shiila: practice of integrity, discipline, good conduct
indriya: sense, sensory power
jayaH (nom.): m. conquest , victory , triumph , winning , being victorious (indriyaanaam-jaya victory over or restraint of the senses)

naama: named, by name
trayodashaH sargaH (nom.): 13th Canto

Sunday, August 30, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.55: Who Let These Snakes In?

kaamabhoga-bhogavadbhir aatma-dRShTi-dRShTibhiH
pramaada-naika-muurdhabhiH praharSha-lola-jihvaiH
indriyoragair mano-bila-shayaiH spRhaa-viShaiH
sham-aagadaad Rte na daShTam asti yac cikitset

= - = - = - = - = - = - = - =
- = - = - = - = - = - = - = =
= - = - = - = - - - = - = - =
- = - = - = - = - = - - - = =

Coiling in sensual enjoyment,
for eyes they have selfish views;

Their many heads are heedlessness
and their flickering tongues excitement:

The snaky senses lurk in mind-pits,
their venom eager desire,

And when they bite there is no cure,
save the antidote of cessation.

In however many hundred years there were between the time of the Buddha Gautama and the time of the Buddha's 12th-generation descendant Ashvaghosha, the Buddha's verbal teachings were preserved firstly through an oral tradition; then at some point those verbal teachings were written down in Sanskrit by anonymous scribes. A Sanskrit text of the Saddharma-puNDariika-suutra (Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the True Dharma) discovered in 1931 at Gilgit in Kashmir is estimated to have been copied in the fifth or sixth century, but there is no record of the name of the person who originally transcribed the text (much less copied it). The idea, presumably, was that the Sutra consisted of the golden words of the Buddha himself, and the name of the person who wrote those words down in Sanskrit form was of no consequence.

Some time around the first century, however, an individual by the name of Ashvaghosha wrote, and took individual responsibility for, the two Sanskrit epic poems Buddhacarita (The Buddha's Career) and Saundarananda (Handsome Nanda). EH Johnston stated in his 1928 preface to the Sanskrit text of Saundarananda, "It is a mistake for the scholar of Buddhism to ignore the Saundarananda, as has been the case in the past. It is the earliest Buddhist work by a writer whose name is known to us."

Never mind about the scholar of Buddhism. It might be a mistake for any spade-wielding miner who wishes to dig out the original truth of Buddha to ignore the Saundarananda. Because Ashvaghosha was much more than an acclaimed Sanskrit poet.
Still, Johnston's point, and it was a true one, was that "it is desirable to establish the text of the poem so far as possible."

Johnson continues:

Though it is better preserved than that of the Buddhacarita, there is no Tibetan translation to help in its correction and the most careful scrutiny of the manuscript is called for... The purpose of the present edition [Johnston's publication of the Sanskrit text] is twofold, to give a complete description of the material available in the manuscript, so as to facilitate further work by others on the text, and to provide a good a text as possible. There are only two known manuscripts of the Saundarananda, both in the Library of H.H. the Maharaja of Nepal, who most generously allowed me the loan of them. The earlier... dates from about 1165 AD and consists of thirty-five long palm leaves, in a clear and good handwriting, with six lines of writing on each side divided into three sections. The manuscript has been so badly eaten into by white ants that in the middle of each leaf usually some three lines of writing, occasionally as many as five, are missing, though the damage at the ends is less and sometimes ni. Leaf 34 has one end missing, holding about one-sixth of the text, and leaf 35 is a mere fragment.... The leaf manuscript (L) is undoubtedly a very good manuscript and has an excellent text. It has, however, been a good deal altered, apparently by different hands at different times, and not always for the better.... The other manuscript, which I call the paper manuscript (P), is a paper manuscript of 73 leaves, placed by H.P. Shastri in the eighteenth century. The slovenliness of the handwriting is only too true an index of the carelessness and inaccuracy of the copyist, but, as it is our only authority for a good third of the text, it is no waste of labour to record its many mistakes. It has at least the virtue that the copyist was content to make nonsense instead of substituting his own conjectures. It has also been a good deal corrected and omissions have been supplied several times in entirely different hands; but the correctness of the additions where they can be checked with L shows them to have been taken from another manuscript, and not to be mere conjections.... To produce a perfect text from such material is impossible... I must admit that there are only too many passages in which the text I have adopted or the explanation I have given is only tentative... Though the text is not perfect, it has been less tampered with than that of the Buddhacarita, possibly as the less popular poem. Only three verses (11.56, 11.57 and 13.55) are obvious interpolations as against a dozen at least in that portion of the Buddhacarita which is extant in Sanskrit.

Johnston decided to omit 13.55 from his main Sanskrit text in devanagari script. Johnston includes the romanized version, however, in a footnote to his Sanskrit text:

This verse, whose metre does not seem to occur elsewhere, is so obviously spurious that I have withdrawn it from the text. It runs as follows:

kaamabhogabhogavadbhir aatmadRShTidRShTibhiH
pramaadanaikamuurdhabhiH praharShalolajihvaiH
indriyaoragair manobilashayaiH spRhaaviShaiH
shamaagadaad Rte na daShTam asti yac cikitset

Subsequently, in his footnotes to his English translation, Johnston adds:

This verse, which I consider spurious, runs as follows:

Nothing except the antidote of tranquility can cure the bite of the snakes of the senses, whose coils are the enjoyments of the passions, whose eyes are the beliefs in self, with the many heads of heedlessness, the flickering tongues of raptures and the poison of longings, and who lurk in the lairs of the mind.

LC follows EHJ in skipping 13.55, noting that "Johnston does not supply the text for this verse as he considers it spurious."

For me, whether or not Ashvaghosha himself wrote it, 13.55 seems to drive home the point made in 13.54, reminding me what I need constantly to be reminded of: that if our worst evil is the habit of fixing upon an object, then the kind of effort required in practising integrity is not primarily an effort to do; rather, it is primarily an effort NOT to do. It is effort of a higher order. It is primarily an effort of cessation.

kaama: desire, longing, love, sensuality
bhoga: (1) m. (from √bhuj) any winding or curve , coil (of a serpent); the expanded hood of a snake ; a snake ; the body
(2) m. ( from √bhuj) enjoyment , eating , feeding on
√bhuj: to bend, curve ; to enjoy, enjoy a meal, eat
kaama-bhoga: m. pl. gratification of desires , sensual gratification
bhogavadbhir = inst. pl. (agreeing with indriya-oragaiH in line 3) of bhogavat: (1) mfn. furnished with windings or curves or rings , ringed , coiled (as a serpent); furnished with a hood ; a serpent ; (2) mfn. furnished with enjoyments , having or offering enjoyments , delightful , happy , prosperous
aatma: self
dRShTi: f. seeing, view; sight , the faculty of seeing ; the mind's eye ; eye ; the pupil of the eye
dRShTibhiH = inst. pl. of dRShTi: f. eye

pramaada: m . intoxication ; madness , insanity ; negligence
naika: mfn. not one , more than one , various , manifold , numerous , many
muurdhabhiH = inst. pl. of muurdhan: m. the forehead , head in general , skull , (fig.) the highest or first part of anything , top , point
praharSha: erection of the hair , extreme joy , thrill of delight , rapture
lola: mf(A)n. moving hither and thither , shaking , rolling , tossing , dangling , swinging , agitated , unsteady , restless
jihvaiH = inst. pl. of jihva: m. the tongue

indriya: sense, power of sense
uragaiH = inst. pl. of uraga: m. snake, serpent
manas: mind
bila: n. a cave , hole , pit
shayaiH = inst. pl. of shaya: mfn. lying , sleeping , resting , abiding
spRhaa: f. eager desire , desire , covetousness , envy , longing
viShaiH = inst. pl. of viSha: n. poison , venom

shama: m. tranquillity , calmness , rest , equanimity , quietude ; pacification , allayment , alleviation , cessation , extinction
agadaad = abl. of agada: m. a medicine , drug , (especially) antidote
Rte: ind. under pain of , with the exclusion of , excepting , besides , without , unless (with abl.)
na: not
daShTa: mfn. bitten, stung
asti: there is
yat: which
cikitset = 3rd. pers. optative (?) from cit: to treat medically, to cure

Saturday, August 29, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.54: Not Any Old Effort, Please

kaaryaH parama-yatnena
tasmaad indriya-saMvaraH
indriyaaNi hy aguptaani
duHkhaaya ca bhavaaya ca

= = - - - = = -
= = = - - = - =
= - = = - = = -
= = - - - = - -

Through effort of the highest order,

Therefore, contain the power of the senses;

For unguarded senses

Make for suffering and for becoming.


From The Alexander Technique As I See It, by Patrick MacDonald:

In learning the Technique, considerable effort on the part of the pupil is required. A first step is to learn what sort of effort is necessary. The first essay nearly always produces more muscular tension, particularly in the neck, and this is exactly the opposite of what is required. The pupil must learn to stop doing, "to leave himself" in the hands of the teacher, neither tensing nor relaxing. Further, any emotional involvement in trying to learn what to do, or in what is going on, should be avoided. The best results are gained when a pupil can dissociate himself from what is happening, as if standing on one side watching someone else being taught. If he can do this for a time he will find himself taking his proper part in the process, with an awareness that is quite different and greatly enhanced. Alexander named the opposite of this kind of behavior "end-gaining" (i.e. the desire to bring about the end in view however wrong the means might be). He demonstrated that the quality of means employed brings about the kind of end arrived at, and that poor means invariably bring about a mediocre end. He showed that if a new kind of result was wanted, a new set of means would have to be used. This was not a startling new discovery; it had been said before. But it needs constant repetition, as there is still world-wide belief, against all evidence, that new results can be brought about by the same old methods.

EH Johnston:
Therefore one should strive one's hardest for the control of the senses ; for unguarded senses lead to suffering and the continuance of existence.

Linda Covill:
For this reason you should control your senses with the maximum of effort, for ungoverned senses make for sorrow and rebirth

kaaryaH (nom. sg.): to be made
parama: (superlative of para) mfn. utmost, the highest
yatnena (instr.): with effort, strenuously

tasmaad: therefore
indriya: sense
saMvaraH = nom. sg. of saMvara (from saM-√vR): mfn. keeping back , stopping ; m. a dam , mound , bridge; m. shutting out the external world (with jainas one of the 7 or 9 tattvas) ; n. (with Buddhists) restraint , forbearance
saM-√vR: to cover up , enclose , hide , conceal; to put together or in order , arrange; to gather up (snares) ; to ward off , keep back , restrain , check , stop

indriyaaNi (nom./accu., plural): senses
hi: for
agupta: mfn. unhidden , unconcealed; unprotected ; unguarded

duHkhaaya (dative): for suffering
ca: and
bhavaaya (dative): for becoming
ca: and

Friday, August 28, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.53: The True Cause of Arrested Development

ato na viShayo hetur
bandhaaya na vimuktaye
saNgo bhavati vaa na vaa

- = - - - = = =
= = - - - = - =
- - = - - = = -
= = - - - = - =

Thus, an object is not the cause

Of bondage or of liberation;

It is through a particular kind of fixing

That sticking occurs or does not.

Exactly what kind of fixing is it that causes a person to become emotionally stuck? What causes life to be experienced as one emotional snag, or sticking point, after another?

I think it has to do with trying to be right, on the basis of feeling that is wrong, due in particular to unduly excitable fear reflexes.

If I am allowed to use technical jargon, I think it has to do with end-gaining, on the basis of faulty sensory appreciation centred on a dysfunctional vestibular sense, associated with aberrant vestibular reflexes.

Speaking of the vestibular system (which Marjory Barlow admittedly never does, not directly), in the passage from Marjory's book quoted in the comment to 13.51, I missed a few sentences out which relate to the vestibulo-ocular reflex, and I would like to quote them now. So here is the passage again, quoted verbatim from pp. 156 :

Q: How do you address the use of the eyes?

MB: I say, I want you to look at something, but see it. That's the great secret. Because you can be looking at that picture and not seeing it at all. Ask them, "What were you looking at?" It isn't a question of staring, it's a question of consciously directing the eyes, so that they are seeing. Some teachers don't use their eyes at all. It's terrible. FM used to say that a lot -- "Look at what you're doing, you've got to use all your senses," he used to say. They eyes are so important, because they are awfully mixed up with the head direction, and if you've got someone with a stiff neck and you can't undo it, get them to look at something and turn the head and you'll find the neck comes undone immediately -- but immediately! It's all part of the fixing. That's our biggest evil, fixing. FM used to say that. "You all fix." See, it's the desire to hold onto something. You've got to let it go and be in danger. You know how I put my hand down the spine and free that little bit through there just below the 'hump', and with some people if you do that too soon they look absolutely panic stricken. Their whole security is bound up just in that little bit below the hump and if you begin to free that, goodness, it's as if your taking away their whole security. That's one thing FM used to say, "What we're doing here is interfering with a person's sense of security -- what we're giving them is something much more secure, but they can't feel it so they don't know it yet. They will in time."

Marjory does not mention "the vestibulo-ocular motor reflex arc" in this passage any more than Ashvaghosha does in this verse. Marjory detested scientific-sounding jargon. She didn't like the habit among Alexander teachers, for example, of describing lying down work as "lying semi-supine." So she didn't talk, as I am always talking, about "the vestibular system." But in the above passage on the subject of fixing, when she talks about looking at something and turning the head, Marjory is just talking about the vestibular-ocular motor reflex arc.

One of the good things about being back in Aylesbury is that there are many good teachers here waiting to deepen my understanding of how aberrant vestibular reflexes influence human behaviour -- or at least waiting to falsify my former views on human growth and development. Among those good teachers, the best tend to be aged around 8 or 9 years old.

None of these teachers is perfect. Their mums bring them to see us knowing that something is wrong, something is stuck. So none of them is perfect. But some of them are happier than others. And the ones that are happier, it seems to me, are free of -- how can I put it without using technical sounding jargon? -- a particular kind of fixing.

EH Johnston:
Hence an object of the senses is not of itself a determining cause either of bondage or of emancipation. Association with a special imagination may make it such or it may not.

Linda Covill:
It follows that sense objects are not the cause of bondage or liberation; whether attachment arises or not is due to specific imaginings.

ataH: hence, from this
na: not
viShayaH (nom.): an object
hetuH (nom.): cause

bandhaaya (dative): for bondage
na: not
vimuktaye (dative): for liberation

parikalpa: fixing
visheSheNa = instr. sg. of visheSha: characteristic difference , peculiar mark , special property , speciality , peculiarity ; a kind , species , individual (e.g. vRkSha-visheSha , a species of tree , in comp. often also = special , peculiar , particular , different , e.g. chando-visheSha , " a particular metre ")

saNgaH (nom): m. sticking , clinging to , touch , contact with ; addiction or devotion to , propensity for , (esp.) worldly or selfish attachment or affection , desire , wish , cupidity; relation to , association or intercourse with (gen. instr. with and without saha loc. , or comp.)
bhavati: it becomes, is
vaa na vaa: or not

Thursday, August 27, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.52: Building the Case against Enemy Number One

dRShTv" aikaM ruupam anyo hi
rajyate 'nyaH praduShyati
kash cid bhavati madhya-sthas
tatra' aaiv' aanyo ghRNaayate

= = = = = - = = -
= - = = - = - -
= = - - - = = =
= = = = - = - =

On seeing one and the same form

This man is enamoured, that man disgusted;

Somebody else remains indifferent;

While yet another feels thereto a human warmth.

The 2nd line could be translated:

This man is turned on, that man off;

That translation might if anything be more exact. But would the register in that case be too colloquial? This is the kind of problem that an editor might help with. At primary school I was a precocious reader and at secondary school I was good at doing translations -- from Latin and from Spanish in particular. But I was never particularly good at English.

Anyway, the purpose of this verse is to establish facts in support of a pivotal statement made in the following verse about what causes us to get stuck and to get free.

And nobody needs to find four other people to corroborate the facts of this verse.

If I wish to remain permanently turned on by a woman's form, that is impossible. If I wish to always be turned off by a woman's form, that also is impossible. If I remain indifferent towards a woman's form, that is only a momentary state. If I say on the basis of a momentary state that I have become indifferent to a woman's form, I am deluding myself. If I try to be, or pretend to be, a man at the fourth level -- a man of true benevolence and compassion who on looking at a woman's form feels only human warmth -- that is just the essence of fixing.

The greatest threat to a man's integrity, as I see it, is neither a woman's form nor his own emotional reaction to a woman's form. The greatest threat to a man's integrity is trying to be, or pretending to be, something that he is not. Our greatest evil, as FM Alexander truly observered, is fixing.

EH Johnston:
On seeing a certain form one man is attracted, another dislikes it and a third is indifferent, while yet another feels compassionate disgust for the same object.

Linda Covill:
Upon seeing one and the same form, one person desires it, another repulses it, yet another remains indifferent, while someone else will feel compassion.

dRShTva (absolutive of dRsh): seeing, after seeing
ekam (acc.): one
ruupam (acc.): n. form
anyaH (nom. sing. m.): another, the other man
hi: for

rajyate = 3rd pers. sing. of raJj: to redden , grow red , glow ; to be affected or moved , be excited or glad , be charmed or delighted by (instr.) , be attracted by or enamoured of , fall in love with (loc.
anyaH (nom. sing. m.): another
praduShyati = 3rd pers. sing. of pra-√duSh: to become worse , deteriorate; to be defiled or polluted , fall (morally); to become faithless, fall off

kash cid: someone
bhavati: is, becomes
madhya-sthaH (nom. sing. m.): being in the middle; standing between two persons or parties mediating , a mediator ; belonging to neither or both parties , (only) a witness , impartial , neutral , indifferent

tatra: therein; for that object
eva: (emphatic) that same one
anyaH (nom. sing. m.): another
ghRNaayate = 3rd pers. sing. of verb from ghRNaa: f. a warm feeling towards others , compassion , tenderness
ghRNa: m. heat , ardour , sunshine

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.51: Fixing vs Seeing

abhuuta parikalpena
viShayasya hi badhyate
tam eva viShayaM pashyan
bhuutataH parimucyate

- = - - - = = -
- - = - - = - =
- = - - - = = =
= - = - - = - =

For by the unreal means of fixing

One is bound to an object;

Seeing that very same object

As it really is, one is set free.

In this verse unreal parikalpa is contrasted with, or opposed to, seeing an object as it really is. It is a situation of either A or B; A vs B. To use a term from probability theory, A and B are "mutually exclusive" events.

So here is the puzzle: A and B are totally opposed to each other. B is seeing as on object as it really is. A is unreal. So what is A?

The obvious answer is that A is illusion, false conception, unreal imagining. B is seeing an object as it really is, and A is illusion.

The unobvious answer that emerges upon deeper investigation of the problem, however, is that A is not so much illusion as fixing. It has less to do with my conception of an object than it has to do with how I use myself.

When a person fails to see an object as it really is, the most fundamental factor is how a person uses his or her eyes. Even a person with 20/20 vision sometimes fails to see, because of the way he or she uses her eyes.

A colleague of mine named Jane Field, a leading though not well-known expert in the area of inhibition of vestibular reflexes, wrote for parents and teachers of dyslexic children a pamphlet titled "My vision is perfect: why don't I see?" The answer, as I understand it, is that I don't see because of the way I use my eyes.

And the way I use my eyes, in turn, depends on the way I use myself. The way I use my eyes, for example, depends on how I approach sitting upright:

When I practise sitting upright, am I able to allow all the natural mechanisms to work freely? Or is it necessary for me to intervene, to put a spanner in the works and fiddle about?

Am I an allower? Or am I a fixer? B or A?

Am I a fixer? Or am I an allower? A or B?

Do I have to be the one who is in control? Or can I truly welcome the insecurity of not knowing, of having nothing to hold onto, of letting go? A or B?

Am I the end-gainer? Or can I follow, even for one moment, the true means-whereby? A or B?

If A is fixing, if parikalpa means fixing, then why does the Buddha call it abhuuta, not real?

The Buddha calls fixing unreal because when a sitting posture is arranged, or held, by some clever human being who is putting a spanner in his own works, thinking that he knows what the right posture is, then that sitting 'posture' lacks something natural or spontaneous.

This I think is why the Buddha is saying that, as a means of practising integrity, fixing is not real.

At the end of a lesson, Marjory Barlow once looked me in the eyes and said, "It has to be real." There was something in the way she said that sentence that has caused me never to forget it.

Just because fixing is not real does not mean that it is an easy habit to be free of. As a wise man once said, "The most difficult things to get rid of are the ones that don't exist."

Marjory Barlow's book An Examined Life contains the following passage in which she contrasts fixing and really seeing. Marjory is answering a question specifically about how, in giving an Alexander lesson, she addresses the use of the eyes.

I say, I want you to look at something, but see it. That's the great secret. Because you can be looking at that picture and not seeing it at all. Ask them, "What were you looking at?" It isn't a question of staring, it's a question of consciously directing the eyes, so that they are seeing. Some teachers don't use their eyes at all. It's terrible. FM used to say that a lot -- "Look at what you're doing, you've got to use all your senses," he used to say.

It's all part of the fixing. That's our biggest evil, fixing. FM used to say that. "You all fix." See, it's the desire to hold onto something. You've got to let it go and be in danger.

The intention of the phrase "consciously direct the eyes" in this passage should not be understood as an exhortation to do something specific with the muscles of the eye. (As always, beware the written word.) Marjory is talking about the eyes in this passage because she was specifically asked about the eyes.In fact, in the 30 or 40 lessons I had with Marjory, I don't remember her once mentioning the eyes. But she spoke constantly of letting the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, while sending the knees away.

So pashyan in this verse, as I read it, does not mean seeing only with the eye. As discussed previously in connection with the golfer who couldn't keep his eyes on the ball, truly to see an object as it really is may be a function of the co-ordination of one's whole body-mind. And a particularly important role within this overall co-ordination, as far as my present understanding goes, is played by vestibular reflexes beginning with the Moro reflex. So the way I use my eyes depends to a large extent on the way my ears use me.

EH Johnston:
For a man is chained by the false conception of an object, while by seeing the same object as it really is he is liberated.

Linda Covill:
For a man is imprisoned by unreal imaginings about a sense object, but when he sees that very same sense object as it really is, then he is freed.

abhuuta: mfn. whatever has not been or happened
parikalpena (inst.): through fixing

viShayasya (genitive): of an object
hi: for
badhyate = 3rd pers. sing, passive of bandh: to bind , tie , fix , fasten , chain , fetter

tam eva: that very
viShayam (acc.): object
pashyan: seeing

bhuuta: n. that which is or exists
-taH: (adverbial/ablative suffix) as is, in accordance with
parimucyate = 3rd pers. sing, passive of parimuc: to unloose , set free

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.50: The Roots of Abnormality

indhane sati vaayau ca
yathaa jvalati paavakaH
viShayaat parikalpaac ca
klesh'-aagnir jaayate tathaa

= - = - - = = -
- = - - - = - =
- - = - - = = -
= = = = - = - =

Where fuel and air co-exist,

Just as there a fire burns,

With an object and through fixing,

So a fire of affliction arises.

If we interpret parikalpa to mean illusion, invention, imagining, this verse, the previous verse, and following verse all sound reasonable enough, as in the translations of EHJ and LC.

But how do afflictions like greed and anger actually arise? As a result of illusion or imagination? Or as a result of some deeper psycho-physical abnormality?

In the context of this canto, whose title is Thwarting the Power of the Senses through Practice of Integrity, fixing rather than imagining is the translation of parikalpa which, in my book, fits better and also which has the more profound meaning, touching on the problem of unduly excited fear reflexes.

Consider, for example, how greed for food arises. Does it arise primarily because of some illusion we have about food or some imaginations or imaginings about food? Or does it arise primarily become something is stuck, because of some arrested development of our psycho-physical mechanisms?

Here is how FM Alexander addressed that question in his book Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, at the end of a chapter whose title, very appropriately for our present discussion, is UNDULY EXCITED FEAR REFLEXES, UNCONTROLLED EMOTIONS, AND FIXED PREJUDICES:

Fundamental desires and needs must be satisfied; if they are not, serious results must follow sooner or later, and the fact that the attempt to satisfy desires and needs leads many individuals to indulge in abuse and excess does not affect this conclusion. Abuse and excess are always associated with abnormality, and abnormality is due to abnormal conditions in the psycho-physical functioning of the organism, and this applies in the matter of abuse and excess in eating, as well as in drinking and in connexion with any other needs and desires. Abuse or excess is an attempt to satisfy a need or desire which, originally normal, has become abnormal, and as long as this abnormal desire or need remains, it is useless to deny a man the "means-whereby" to his excesses and abuses. Our energies should instead by applied to attempts to eradicate the abnormal conditions responsible for the excess and abuse, and so to restore the normal psycho-physical functioning of the organism and the reliable sensory appreciation which ensures the maintenance of normality in our desires and needs.

Yesterday was my last day in France after 5 weeks here alone (the rest of the family has been in Japan for the summer), and I was in a funny, retrospective mood. I hope that it was part of a very long term process of wobbling back towards the Buddha's truth of normality. Afflictions, beginning with the three root afflictions of greed, anger, and ignorance, are abnormal states. If I could go back 30 years to where my elder son is now, looking forward to starting university, I would really make a point of aspiring toward normality -- as opposed, for example, to aspiring for enlightenment through Zen and the martial arts.

Being Alexander teachers, along with sitting every day, I am sure, has helped my wife and I do a good job of bringing up our two sons. Despite being half-English and half-Japanese they could not have had a more normal upbringing and people generally remark what pleasant, confident and well-balanced lads they are. From where I was at the end of my 20s, just before meeting my wife, I haven't done a bad job of turning things around, and coming back to a more normal way of life. Backward being the operative direction. I hope my sons don't stray as I did. I hope they continue to aspire to normality.

By aspiring to normality can we avoid aging, sickness, and death? I suppose it depends on what the nectar of deathlessness means. But the simple answer is that No, if we aspire to normality we are still going to age, get ill, and die. Even so, the Buddha's teaching as I hear it is to aspire toward normality. The backward step is a step back in the direction of normality. Deathlessness cannot be other than our normal state.

In my youth I turned my back on normality through a big ambition to make great waves in the world. I went to Japan seeking enlightenment, met Gudo Nishijima, and believed him when he said that it was up to our small group -- we four 'Ejos' of Bailey, Zacchi, Luetchford and Cross -- to save the world from the conflict between idealism and materialism, by clarifying the realism of the philosophy of action. His arguments were so coherent. It all seemed to make such sense philosophically. And geopolitically my teacher made it seem that world history was hanging in the balance, and so the need to spread the gospel of realism was extremely urgent. On top of that, "If you can transcend family life," he told me, "you will be the most excellent Buddhist master in the world. This is my expectation." It was a strong stimulus, and I was not man enough to treat a small person's egoistic hope with the contempt it truly deserved.

Moreover, the key practice at the centre of it all, I was taught, was so simple: just keep sitting upright in the right posture, four times a day if you can, concentrating all effort on keeping the spine straight vertically. All the rest will take care of itself.

No mention was ever made of the problem of faulty sensory appreciation. The problem of faulty sensory appreciation seemed to go unrecognized.

Truly, it was like dry firewood and a favourable wind; and the abnormally great fire of abnormality that arose then still hasn't gone out. So if my comments sometimes seem off-beat, forgive me. I am working on it.

Where fuel and air co-exist

Just as there a fire burns,

With ambition, and through fixedness,

So normality one spurns.


EH Johnston:
As fire flames when wind and fuel are both present, so the fire of sin arises when the objects of the senses and imaginations about them are both present.

Linda Covill:
Just as a fire burns when it has both fuel and air, so too does the fire of defilement arise when both sense objects and imaginings about them are present.

indhane (locative): n. kindling , lighting ; fuel ; wood , grass &c used for this purpose
sati (locative): there being
vaayau (locative): wind, air
ca: and

yathaa: just as
jvalati: it blazes, flames, burns brightly
paavakaH (nom.): m. fire

viShayaat (ablative): from sense object
parikalpaat (ablative): from fixing
ca: and

klesha: affliction
agniH (nom.): m. fire
jaayate: is born, arises
tathaa: so, likewise

Monday, August 24, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.49: Enemy Number One?

n' endriyaM viShaye taavat
pravRttam api sajjate
yaavan na manasas tatra
parikalpaH pravartate

= - = - - = = =
- = - - - = - =
= = - - - = = -
- - = = - = - =

The power of the senses, though operative,

Does not become glued to an object,

So long as in the mind, with regard to that object,

No fixing goes on.

According to the Monier-Williams dictionary, parikalpa has a technical 'Buddhist' meaning, namely, "illusion."

Thus far in Saundarananda, however, I have not noticed the Buddha or Ashvaghosha resorting to technical Buddhist terms.

So, setting aside 'Buddhist' interpretations, what might be the real, original meaning of parikalpa in the fourth line of this verse? The first non-Buddhist definition given in the dictionary is "fixing." And that definition, to me, makes a lot of sense.

If we understand, following on from the previous verse, that we are in the business of constructive conscious control of the individual for the individual by the individual, then enemy number one might be fixing.

A sense getting glued to an object, or the combined power of the senses becoming stuck on an object, can be understood as a general expression of the end-gaining attitude, i.e. the desire to go directly for a specific end, without conscious consideration of the means and the wider side-effects. So the object in question could be understood as the completion of some task, like this translation project for example, or it could be the acquistion of knowledge on some subject, like the Buddha's teaching.

Alternatively, the object in question can be understood more literally as a sensory object upon which a man's sensory system is liable to fixate -- an object like an aircraft buzzing overhead, or like a snake shuffling about in the loft, or a raging fire, or that most dangerous of all objects, another man's wife (3.32).

Either way, whether the object is understood as a mental aim or as a physical thing, fixing on an object was, in the view of FM Alexander, our greatest evil. To illustrate the general aspect of FM's opposition towards fixing, here is an excellent passage from the end of his 2nd book, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, in which the object in view is knowledge.

We find that the people who are satisfied that they "know" are the least observant people, and at the same time the most unhappy and discontented. Most people will admit that realization too often is not equal to anticipation, but this again is in consequence of the psycho-physical conditions present. If realization is not only to equal but even sometimes to surpass anticipation, our psycho-physical plan of development must be fundamentally one of continuous growth and of new experiences, and consequently we never reach the point when we may be said to finish learning. This connotes a continuous anticipation of new experiences in growth and development, so that the realization of some new experience in psycho-physical functioning does not bring a sense of finality, with a consequent loss of interest, but is a clear indication that a step forward has been made in growth and development, which again is a stepping-stone to the next stage of advancement, and so on.

Here is another illustration of the evil of fixing, from my own experience in the distant past, given the immediate sensory object of an opponent's fist: If two martial artists are competing, one of them may mount a diversionary attack. If the defender falls for the ploy, he will focus his senses on the diversionary attack and thereby leave an opening for a real attack. The freer in mind, the less fixed in attitude, the defender is, the less likely it is that the power of his senses will be glued to the diversionary object. If the mind of the defender is truly free from fixing, his senses will register a feint as a feint, and he won't react to it. If, however, the attacker comes in for a real attack, and the defender's mind is free, then it is possible that a counter-attack will take place, as if by itself, as an instantaneous manifestation of prajna, or mirror-wisdom.

Finally, and for me most tellingly, here is still another illustration, this time from recent experience in Alexander work, of how fixing in the mind can prevent a person from gaining new sensory experience: A few months ago I was doing some Alexander work with a friend and fellow sitting practitioner whose sitting practice is impeded by a certain stiffness, this stiffness being most evident in his hip joints (where his legs are supposed to be separate from his head/neck/back). I wanted to give him the experience of his whole torso being taken back and up off his hips, so that simply by allowing his knees to bend, he might experience a new quality of ease and lightness in the process of moving towards the chair -- going up and bending his knees in order to arrive at the chair, instead of contracting down towards the chair in his habitual manner. In fact, as soon as I began to take my friend back and up, that is, off balance, he tightened his knees and hips as if his life depended on it. So I asked him why he was doing that. "Because otherwise I wouldn't be in control," he said.

Voila! His vestibular system was stuck, glued to an object (i.e. what he understood to be a state of being in balance or control). And the root of the sticking was a fixed conception in his mind ("I have to be always in control"), which, in turn was rooted in fear (i.e. fear of not being in control). And not only this particular friend is like that. In my experience, beginning with myself, everybody is a little bit like that. Or a lot like that. Because, at the deepest level of the fear reflexes, everybody is prone to lack integrity. Precisely because we are all like that, as I hear him, the Buddha is exhorting each individual to work on his or her own integrity, relying on conscious awareness and reason, and treating the senses with vigilance at every moment, as if they were enemies.

What I would like to suggest with these layers of my dust & fluff, then, is that the mirror-wisdom of buddha is not necessarily a state of freedom from intellectual illusions and fanciful imaginings, but real wisdom is always a state of freedom from fearful fixing. So when I wish to allow my neck to be free, that is the first freedom I am wishing for: freedom from fearful fixing.

Direction of Energy.
Freedom from Fearful Fixing.
And so Finally, F.... well, work it out for yourself.

EH Johnston:
The senses, even though in activity, do not adhere to their objects, so long as imaginations about the latter are not conceived in the mind.

Linda Covill:
So long as fanciful imaginings do not operate in the mind, the senses, though operational, will not be glued to sensory objects.

na: not
indriyam (nom.): n. sense power
viShaye (locative): to sense object
taavat: so long

pravRtta (past part. of pra-√vRt): come forth , resulted , arisen , produced ; commenced , begun ; acting, proceeding, existing
api: though
sajjate = 3rd person singular, passive of saJj: to cling or stick or adhere to , be attached to or engaged in or occupied with (loc.)

yaavat (correlative of taavat): as long as
na: not
manasaH (genitive): of/in the mind
tatra: therin

parikalpaH = nom. sg. of parikalpa (from pari-√klRp): (1) = parikalpana: n. fixing , settling , contriving , making , inventing , providing , dividing , distributing; (2) m. illusion (Buddhist)
pari-√klRp: to fix , settle , determine , destine for ; to choose ; to perform , execute , accomplish , contrive , arrange , make ; to distribute , divide ; to admit or invite to (loc.) ; to suppose , presuppose
pravartate = 3rd person singular of pra-√vRt: to roll or go onwards (as a carriage) , be set in motion or going ; to come forth , issue , originate , arise , be produced , result , occur ; to act

Sunday, August 23, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.48: Emotionality Writ Large

shiit'-oShNaabhyaam iv' aarditaH
sharma n'aapnoti na shreyash
cal'-endriyam ato jagat

- - = - - = = =
= = = = - = - =
= - = = - - = =
- = - - - = - -

When, by getting and not getting his way,

A man is pained as if by cold or heat,

He finds no refuge; nor reaches higher good:

Hence the fluctuating sense-power of the masses.

By "sense-power" as a translation of indriyam, I would like to convey the meaning of physical power, or the energy of doing, as opposed to the energy of conscious awareness, or the power of not doing. Judging from the fact that indriyam was used in Sanskrit in the singular, its original meaning may have been closer to Alexander's concept of "sensory appreciation," than the conventional plural translation of "senses."

Again in this verse I think that the Buddha is laying the foundations for his preaching of the noble truth of suffering in Canto 16. In so doing he is pointing in the direction where higher good (shreyas) resides -- up on the noble plane of conscious control.

It is the lower level, the instinctive plane, the plane of blind emotional reaction, where dwell the mass of humanity whom FM Alexander described as lowly-evolved swine. Through the combination of our end-gaining and our faulty sensory appreciation we are pushed and pulled, out of touch with our reasoning faculties, on the endless swing of samsara.

"It is owing to this habit of rushing from one extreme to another -- a habit which, as I have pointed out, seems to go hand in hand with subconscious guidance and direction -- to this tendency, that is, to take the narrow and treacherous sidetracks instead of the great, broad, midway path, that our plan of civilization has proved a comparative failure."

-- FM Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual

What FM saw, as the Buddha saw before him, is that the great mass of humanity is enslaved by reacting blindly and emotionally to the world as we experience it through the senses. What the Buddha seems to be saying here to Nanda is that if Nanda wishes to transcend mass reaction and reach the plane of higher good, as a true individual, ironically, it is necessary for him not to care about getting or not getting his own way.

This is a difficult balancing act, extremely difficult to solve on an individual basis, but I suspect impossible to solve on a group or societal basis. A group or society organized on the principle of individuals not caring about getting their own way is not a group or society that I, for one, would want to align myself with. North Korea springs obviously to mind, or Nazi Germany. But in many ways the Japan I knew of the 1980s, as exposed brilliantly in Karel von Wolferen's book The Enigma of Japanese Power, also functioned along totalitarian lines.

The individual wish for freedom, as I see it, has to come first. Even with the best will in the world, freedom cannot be imposed from the outside. Not even the Buddha could make Nanda free. What the Buddha could do, and what the Buddha is doing in this verse, is to guide Nanda's own discovery, given Nanda's autonomous statement of his confidence in the existence of higher good and his wish to pursue it.

So Constructive, Conscious Control -- yes. But not imposed by America, or anybody else, as the world's policeman. Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual for the Individual by the Individual. This was the teaching of FM Alexander and I think it was also the Zen teaching of Master Kodo Sawaki. Sadly, one or two of Master Kodo's followers, possibly blinded by their own position of privilege in the authoritarian upper echelons of Japanese society, may not quite have got Master Kodo's fundamental point.

EH Johnston:
The man who is harassed by likes and dislikes, as by heat and cold, obtains neither peace nor the supreme good ; hence the instability of men's senses.

Linda Covill:
When a man is tormented by likes and dislikes as by cold and heat, he finds no relief, nor does he find Excellence; hence the restlessness of a person's senses.

anurodha: m. obliging or fulfilling the wishes (of any one); obligingness , compliance
virodhaabhyaam = inst. dual of virodha: m. opposition , hostility ; (logical) contradiction , contrariety , antithesis , inconsistency , incompatibility ; hindrance , prevention

shiita: n. cold , coldness , cold weather
uShNaabhyaam = inst. dual of uShNa: mn. heat , warmth , the hot season (June , July)
iva: like
arditaH (nom. m.): a man who is injured , pained , afflicted , tormented , wounded

sharma (acc.): n. shelter , protection , refuge , safety ; joy , bliss , comfort , delight , happiness
na: not
aapnoti = 3rd person singular of aap: to reach , overtake , meet with , fall upon etc. ; to obtain , gain , take possession of
na: not
shreyaH (acc.): higher good

cala: moving , trembling , shaking , loose ; unsteady , fluctuating indriyam (nom. sg.): n. sense, faculty of sense
ataH: from this, hence, from this or that cause or reason
jagat (nom.): n. that which moves or is alive , men and animals , animals as opposed to men , men; n. the world , esp. this world , earth

Saturday, August 22, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.47: Guarding Against Dejectedness

daurmanasy'-aabhidhaanas tu
pratigho viShay'-aashritaH
mohaad yen' aanuvRttena
paratr' eha ca hanyate

= - = = - = = =
- - = - - = - =
= = = = - = = -
- = = - - = - =

What is called dejectedness, conversely,

Is, in connection with an object, a contrary reaction

By going along with which, in one's ignorance,

One is smitten thereafter, and smitten there and then.

My first draft of a comment on this verse consisted of only three words: Quad Erat Demonstrandum.

The teaching of FM Alexander may be regarded as an exercise in finding out how all too true this verse is, on multiple levels.

The challenge in translating a verse like this is to find a translation that is open enough to allow the full range of intended meanings, which may be more numerous than we can imagine.

I associate dejectedness in the first instance with failure to achieve an object in the sense of an ambition, an end, a goal in life. This kind of failure is liable to be followed by a dialectic swing of the kind FM Alexander described in his famous quote pertaining to the middle way: "It is owing to this habit of rushing from one extreme to another -- a habit which, as I have pointed out, seems to go hand in hand with subconscious guidance and direction -- to this tendency, that is, to take the narrow and treacherous sidetracks instead of the great, broad, midway path, that our plan of civilization has proved a comparative failure."

Again, hostility against or 'repulsion' (as per EHJ and LC) from a noxious sensory stimulus, that is, an object directly perceptible by the senses, can also be associated with a kind of dejectedness. The contrary reaction that certain wimpish individuals are liable to experience every time a noisy aircraft flies overhead, might be a case in point. Guarding against dejectedness, in such instances, might mean refusing to let the blighters get you down. Or at least, if they have got you down already, then it might mean starting afresh from there.

On a more subtle level, as a method of working on his own integrity, a person might, say, form the intention to join hands and bow without stiffening the neck and tightening in various joints. In this case, the conscious intention is not to be drawn into end-gaining for a particular object, but rather to attend to the means-whereby of directing muscles not to contract unduly. But notwithstanding this conscious desire, unconsciously a reaction is likely to take place which is contrary to the practitioner's intention. That is to say, when he actually goes into movement, he is liable to do just the opposite of what he was intending. So instead of his head being allowed to release out of the body as he inclines forward, his unconscious end-gaining attitude may cause the person in question actually to pull his head in, like a frightened tortoise. And this contrary reaction may also be understood as a very subtle form of dejectedness.

Lest all this sounds like too much doom and gloom, I'll finish by remembering how Marjory Barlow responded when, called upon to extend my leg on her teaching table while directing my neck to be free, my head to go forward and up, and my back to lengthen and widen, I in fact made a horlicks of it and gained the end of extending my leg only at the expense of stiffening and twisting horribly. "At least you know you made a mess of it!" Marjory said encouragingly. In the same vein, Nelly Ben-Or once told me, when I expressed to her my anxiety about taking people's money for purporting to transmit to them what FM Alexander taught: "As long as you know you are a fraud, you are not a true fraud."

In order not to be a fraud, I begin every day by sitting in lotus and wishing to be free. And the wish has to be real. It can't be just a question of merrily observing how fixed I am. The first thing has to be a genuine wish to be free. Then I observe how fixed I am.

Maybe the most insidious form of dejectedness is that sometimes very subtle fixing which is associated, on so many levels, with trying to be right. In the end, being fixed is the greatest evil to guard against, as the Buddha, if I hear him correctly, indicates from 13.49.

In order to steer an exact middle course, it is no use being fixed: one has to be free to change direction at every moment. And the best way to study this in practice for oneself is to keep totally still, being totally ready to move. (Even in a swimming, I suppose, such a moment might be possible? My brother may confirm.) I first realised this for myself a long time ago in the context of competition karate. But then I got bogged down in a couple of heavy emotional attachments -- I got well and truly smitten, by a double punch -- and it has taken me more than 30 years to come back to this most basic and simple of truths: the best way to study what freedom is, the best way to experience non-dejectedness, is to keep totally still, being totally ready to move.

EH Johnston:
But what is known as the desire of avoidance is repulsion with regard to any object ; by giving way to it out of delusion a man is ruined in this world and hereafter.

Linda Covill:
What is termed aversion is the repulsion of a sensory event, to which acquiescence, out of delusion, brings ruin in both this life and the next.

daurmanasya: dejectedness
abhidhaanaH (nom): n. telling , naming; a name , title , appellation ,
tu: But

pratighaH (nom.): m. ( √han) hindrance , obstruction , resistance , opposition ; struggling against (comp.) ; anger , wrath , enmity ; combat , fighting ; an enemy ; opposition , contradiction
viShaya: object, sense object
aashritaH (nom.): attaching one's self to , joining; relating or belonging to , concerning

mohaad = abl. of moha: m. ( √1. muh ) loss of consciousness , bewilderment , perplexity , distraction , infatuation , delusion , error , folly ; ignorance
yena (inst.): by which
anuvRttena = inst. of anuvRtta: obedience , conformity , compliance
anu: after , along , alongside
vRt: to roll along, go
anuvRt: to go along with, follow, obey, assent

paratra: ind. elsewhere , in another place , in a future state or world , hereafter
iha: in this place , here ; in this world
ca: and
hanyate = 3rd pers. sing., passive of han: to smite , slay , hit , kill , mar , destroy

Friday, August 21, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.46: Guarding Against Longing

abhidhyaa priya-ruupena
hanti kaam'-aatmakaM jagat
arir mitra-mukhen' eva
priya-vaak kaluSh'-aashayaH

- = = - - = = -
= - = = - = - -
- = = - - = = =
- - = - - = - =

Longing, using cherished forms,

Smites the sensual masses:

A foe who has a friendly face,

She's fair of speech and foul of heart.

Who would like to be a person of integrity? Everybody, surely. Then apart from wishing for it, what practical means are available for going in that direction?

In the passage I quoted yesterday, FM Alexander wrote of a condition of co-ordination of the entire psycho-physical mechanism being (a) restored and (b) maintained.

The restorative aspect has to do with setting time aside to pay attention to how one uses body and voice -- "working on the self."

In this verse, again, I see the Buddha laying down -- on broad, general lines -- the preventive principles by which Nanda is to maintain integrity, as a condition of co-ordination of the entire psycho-physical mechanism. The maintaining aspect has a lot to do with being mindful, being constantly on one's guard.

Like a father concerned for the welfare of his son going on a dangerous journey, or like a commander concerned for the welfare of a soldier going into battle, the Buddha seems here to be taking pains to point out to Nanda the broad dangers to guard against. One way in which a practitioner is liable to be smitten, hit, or slain is by falling prey to the allure of some cultural mirage of happiness. This is a danger for those who tend to long for their creature comforts, trappings of status, name in lights or on the front cover of a book, etc. The danger on the other side, for the more goal-driven type, as described in the following verse, might be the danger of giving in to disillusionment on failing to achieve a perceived objective.

The translation of this section ceases to be such hard going for me on stepping back and seeing the section in its broader context: The Buddha, as I hear him, is laying down the preventive principles by which Nanda is to maintain that condition of psycho-physical integrity which is going to be necessary in his coming confrontation with the grim truth of suffering. It somehow cheers me up to remember that this battle against faulty sensory appreciation is but one battle in a campaign whose ultimate prize is possession of the four noble truths. But even in being cheered up like this, it strikes me on reflection, I might be in danger of taking at least one eye off the ball.

If one is truly to be a person of integrity, then overcoming the powerful influence of faulty sensory appreciation has to be seen as an end in itself, a ball away from which one cannot afford to take one's eye -- even, as the Buddha reminds us in the concluding verse of this canto, for an instant (ksanam api).

EH Johnston:
The desire of possession destroys the passion-filled world by means of attractive forms, like an enemy with friendly face, having pleasant words on his lips and evil in his heart.

Linda Covill:
Like an enemy with a friendly face, fair of speech but foul at heart, attraction with its pleasing form destroys people of passionate nature.

abhidhyaa: f. wish , longing for , desire
priya (from √prii): mfn. beloved , dear to , liked , favourite , wanted
√prii: to please , gladden , delight, gratify , cheer , comfort , soothe ,
ruupena = instrumental of ruupa: n. any outward appearance or phenomenon or colour (often pl.) , form , shape , figure (ruupeNa ifc. in the form of); dreamy or phantom shapes (pl.)

hanti = 3rd pers. sg. of han: to smite , slay , hit , kill , mar , destroy
kaama: wish , desire , longing ; pleasure , enjoyment ; love , especially sexual love or sensuality
aatmakam (acc.): having or consisting of the nature or character of (in comp.)
jagat (acc.): n. that which moves or is alive , men and animals ; n. the world , esp. this world ; n. people , mankind ;

ariH (nom.): m. an enemy
mitra-mukhena (inst.): with a friendly face
iva: like

priya: beloved , dear to (gen. loc. dat. or comp.) , liked , favourite , wanted
vaak = vaac: speech, voice
kaluSha: mfn. turbid , foul , muddy
aashayaH (nom. sg.): m. the seat of feelings and thoughts , the mind , heart , soul

Thursday, August 20, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.45: Always in Sensory Territory

evaM te pashyatas tattvaM
shashvad indriya-gocare
bhaviShyati pada-sthaanaM
n' aabhidhyaa-daurmanasyayoH

= = = = - = = =
= - = - - = - =
- = - - - = = =
= = = = - = - =

In your observing what is, like this,

Always in the territory of the senses,

There will be no foothold

For longing and dejection.

In this canto, as I read it, the Buddha is laying the foundations upon which Nanda will make the four noble truths his own. The Buddha is laying down for Nanda, on broad, general lines, the preventive principles whereby integrity may be maintained, even in the face of the grim truth of suffering. The Buddha is not at all concerned in this canto, as I hear him, with gaining the end of realising big-R Reality. He is thinking out, rather, a reasonable means whereby Nanda may eventually make the noble truths his own. So tattvam in the first line, as I read it, means not big-R Reality but this mundane painful reality, what really is.

Alexander work and Zen sitting practice are both nominally concerned with real integrity -- i.e. not intellectual integrity, but integrity in the use of the whole body-mind. But we are all prone to lie to ourselves, to delude ourselves, to believe in fantastic stories about our own lives. Inspired by the image of a moon reflected in a dewdrop, we wish to identify ourselves with it. And in so wishing, we are prone to fail to notice what is actually going on with our own end-gaining and faulty sensory appreciation. This is the painful, shocking truth of how we really are -- tattvam -- what is.

I wanted to quote a passage at this point from FM Alexander's book Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, in which he describes life as a constant process of reacting to stimuli perceived through the senses. I couldn't find the particular passage, but the whole book is full of passages that are totally relevant to the present discussion of faulty sensory appreciation.

The truth is, we have not given sufficient consideration to this essential matter. We have merely acted on the presumption, in the usual subconscious way, that if we have a potentiality such as sensory appreciation (feeling), it must as a matter of course be reliable. (pp 24)

To sum up, we have seen how, in his choice of "physical exercises" as a remedy for what he recognized as physical deterioration, man overlooked certain important facts. Firstly, he left out of account the fact that he had developed a state of unreliability in his sensory appreciation, which was therefore no longer a reliable guide in psycho-physical activity. Secondly, he did not think of his body as a co-ordinated mechanism, and was therefore misled into choosing a specific remedy for a specific malcondition, instead of laying down on broad, general lines preventive principles, by which a condition of co-ordination of the entire psycho-physical mechanism could be restored and maintained. Above all, he did not apply to his problem the one great principle on which I claim man's satisfactory progress in civilization depends -- namely, the principle of thinking out the reasonable means whereby a certain end can be achieved, as opposed to the old subconscious plan of working blindly for an immediate "end." (pp. 42)

The moon reflected in a dewdrop is all very well, but here we all are, in fact, with faulty sensory appreciation. Recognizing just this mundane reality, the two buddhas, Gautama and FM, are saying nothing about meditating, visualizing a balloon floating up to the ceiling, or establishing a new school of philosophy. They are talking about being always in the territory of the senses.

As regards the overall logic of the verse, rationally thinking, the observer of what is cannot be the one who longs for, and who is dejected about, what is not.

As Marjory Barlow once taught me when I described myself to her as a terrible end-gainer: "It is up to you. Either you end-gain or you follow the means-whereby. Your choice!"

EH Johnston:
If you thus regard persistently the reality in the sphere of the senses, you will give no foothold to desires to possess or avoid.

Linda Covill:
If, in the realm of the senses, you continuously observe what is real, then neither attraction nor aversion will leave a footprint in your mind.

evam: thus
te (genitive): of you
pashyataH = gen. sg. of pashyat (pres. part. of pash): seeing, beholding, etc.
pash: to see , behold , look at , observe , perceive , notice &c ; to be a spectator , look on (esp. part. e.g. tasya pashyataH , while he looks on , before his eyes)
tattvam (acc.): n. true or real state , truth , reality

shashvat: ind. perpetually , continually , repeatedly , always
indriya: sense, power of the senses
gocare = loc. of gocara: range , field for action , district (esp. ifc. " abiding in , relating to " ; " offering range or field or scope for action , within the range of , accessible , attainable , within the power ")

bhaviShyati = 3rd person singular, future of bhuu: to become, be, arise
pada: n. a step , pace , stride ; a footstep , trace , vestige , mark , the foot itself ; a footing , standpoint
sthaana: n. the act of standing , standing firmly ; position or posture of the body (in shooting &c )
pada-sthaana: n. footprint, footmark

na: not
abhidhyaa: f. wish , longing for , desire
abhi: (a prefix to verbs and nouns , expressing) to , towards , into , over , upon.
dhyaa: f. thinking, meditation
√dhyai: to think of , imagine , contemplate , meditate on , call to mind , recollect; to brood mischief against
daurmanasyayoH = genitive, dual of daurmanasya: n. dejectedness , melancholy , despair

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.44: Reality With Nothing Added or Taken Away

n' aapaneyaM tataH kiM cit
prakShepyaM n' aapi kiMcana
draShTavyaM bhuutato bhuutaM
yaadRshaM ca yathaa ca yat

= - = = - = = =
= = = = - = - -
= = = = - = = =
= - = - - = - -

Nothing, then, is to be taken away

And nothing is to be added:

One must investigate the reality, really,

Both what and how it is.

As I predicted, I am finding the present series of verses hard going.

Where to begin grappling with this one, wherein negative gives way to a positive imperative? The main difficulty is what kind of reality is expressed in the 3rd line by bhuutam.

Is the Buddha saying that “Reality [with a capital R] is to be seen/realised as it really is”?

That might be asking a lot.

If he is saying that the whole of Reality is to be seen/realised as it really is, does he mean for Nanda to realise it all right now, in one gigantic gulp of Zen ‘satori’? Or is it that in a few cantos time, at the end of his present campaign of many battles, the Buddha expects Nanda to Realise Reality?

Or is the Buddha saying, more modestly and manageably, that “one real fact is to be investigated in accordance with what actually happened,” in the manner of a scientist or historian or detective or judge & jury; or maybe in the manner of a mindful Theravada monk? If so, is there any particular fact that the Buddha has in mind?

Is the Buddha saying, following on more explicitly from the previous verses, that the real human being with hair, teeth, and the rest is not to be gawped at as a beauteous object of sensual desire, but is to be observed, in the detached manner of a clinician or plastic surgeon, as the smelly bag of aging human skin she really is?

Having given serious consideration to each of the above, I think the clue to exactly what the Buddha is intending with this verse may lie in the remaining verses of the canto. These verses seem to be leading Nanda gradually in the direction of liberation from “suffering and becoming“ (13.54). The closing verses of this canto might therefore be seen as precursors of the following verses from Canto 16:

From then on, through investigation of what is,

He applies his mind to stopping off energy leaks,

For on this basis, fully, suffering and the rest --

The four truths -- are understood as fundamental steps:

This is suffering, which is constant and akin to trouble;

This is the cause of suffering, akin to starting it;

This is cessation of suffering, akin to walking away.

And this, akin to a refuge, is a peaceable path.

Understanding these noble truths, by a process of reasoning

While getting to know the four as one,

He contains all leaks, through the means of directed thought,

And, on finding peace, is no longer subject to becoming.

For by failing to wake up and come round

To this four, whose substance is what is,

Mankind goes from existence to existence without finding peace:

The world is hoisted in the swing of mass unconscious reaction.

The reality in question, then, can be understood as the whole painful situation -- not yet a bright pearl -- that has been under discussion since 13.31. It is the reality of the suffering of one who, in his hankering after objects, is besieged by the enemy-like senses. The description of this suffering touches on aspects of unconsciousness (13.39); insatiability (13.40); the slavery of being manacled to feelings (13.41); the state of grace implied in being not originally separate from forms seen with one’s eyes (13.42), and the fall from grace implied in becoming subject to the intrusion of notions of separation, based on male vs female sexuality (13.43).

A friend of mine studied with a Gurdjieff teacher who used to quote the phrase, “You all want to get to heaven with your boots on.” I think there is a lot of that in the world of Zen, too -- people wanting to get to heaven wearing their muddy boots. Zen practitioners browse the chapter of Shobogenzo called “One Bright Pearl,” and they fancy themselves to be already sailing in the vast ocean of enlightenment. I have surely been in that boat, although on some level I somehow always knew that I was lying to myself and wished to bail out (while also wishing, neurotically, to take the helm). Digging deeply on dry land as I am endeavoring to do now, in the muddy boots of end-gaining and faulty sensory appreciation, might be the best possible antidote to all that. But it is not easy. It sometimes feels like it is killing me.

My old Zen teacher, Gudo Nishijima, spent years and years preaching for my benefit on the subject of Reality with a capital R. When I endeavoured to report back to him on the more mundane reality FM Alexander had discovered, however, relating to suffering arising from end-gaining and faulty sensory appreciation, my teacher’s response was this: “If AT is the same as Buddhism, it is needless for me to study it. If AT is different from Buddhism, I do not have any interest at all in studying it.” That was not Reality with a capital R. That was Ignorance with a capital I. Some enlightened witness he turned out to be! In certain respects, as I see it now, Gudo Nishijima was even more ignorant, even less willing to recognize his own faulty sensory appreciation, than my biological father, and that is saying something. Out of the suffering of his own end-gaining mind and faulty sensory appreciation, Gudo built his little self a little empire, which he called Dogen Sangha, and I in my own stupidity and arrogance devoted my youth to helping him build it. But the foundation of the empire is ignorance, not truth, not true integrity. What true integrity is, I do not know. But, having waited and waited and waited until I was truly sure, I know it is not that. So this post, in a manner of speaking, is a counterpunch that I am allowing to do itself.

In conclusion, then, I understand bhuuta, the reality referred to in this verse, as the reality of the suffering whose main components are (1) faulty sensory appreciation, and (2) end-gaining. The point of this verse as I understand it is to investigate the reality of this suffering, nothing more and nothing less -- pure wholesome muddy boot, with nothing added on (e.g. by exaggerating the problem of one’s vestibular dysfunction), and nothing taken away (e.g. by denying it). To investigate what kind (yaadRsha) this suffering is, we study the words of buddhas like Gautama and Alexander. To investigate how (yathaa) it is, mainly, as followers of Gautama, we sit. And conversely, when we truly sit as followers of Gautama we sit, not as an expression of formalized Japanese ignorance, but to investigate how this suffering is.

Sitting in lotus, I think the words: Let the neck release to let the head be released out of the grip of the fear reflexes, forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, while releasing the legs and arms out. And while thinking like this, generally I know or at least suspect that I am pulling my head back and down in some vestige of fear. For, deeply implicated in both faulty sensory appreciation and end-gaining is the baby panic reflex, whose direction is head back and down. But that is no good. Forward and up has to really mean forward and up, not back and down in fearful trying to be right. The breath of life depends on it. The lifeblood depends on it. This, mostly, is how I investigate it.

And so, as I finally sign off this post, and read back through another great layer of dust and fluff that has accumulated too thickly, I remind myself of a character from the Fast Show, about to go back into his shed.

EH Johnston:
Nothing should be subtracted from the object, nothing added to it ; it is to be seen as it really is according to its nature and kind.

Linda Covill:
Nothing should be taken away, nothing should be added: whatever the kind of object, it should be seen as it really is.

na.... kim cit: not anything
apaneya = gerundive of apa-√nii: to lead away or off ; to rob , steal , take or drag away ; to remove , frighten away ; to put off or away (as garments , ornaments , or fetters) ; to extract , take from ; to deny
tatas: from that place, from there, from that [object]; from that [reason; therefore

prakShepya (gerundive from pra-√kShip): mfn. to be thrown or put on (as an ornament)
na kiMcana: not anything
api: also

draShTavya: mfn. (fr. √ dRsh) to be seen , visible , apparent ; to be examined or investigated
bhuuta: mfn. become , been , gone , past; actually happened , true , real (n. an actual occurrence , fact , matter of fact , reality); n. that which is or exists; any living being (divine , human , animal , and even vegetable)
-taH: ablative/adverbial suffix
bhuutataH: in accordance with what actually happened, on a factual basis, as it really is, on the basis of reality, really
bhuutam (acc..): n. actual occurrence, fact, reality; that which exists; a living being

yaadRsham = accusative, singular of yaadRsha: rel. adj. of which kind
ca: and
yathaa: ind. in which manner
ca: and
yat = accusative, singular of ya: rel. pron. which, what; it being [of which kind and in which manner]

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.43: Don't Dilly Dally On the Way

sacet strii-puruSha-graahaH
kva cid vidyeta kash cana
shubhataH kesha-dant'-aadiin
n' aanuprasthaatum arhasi

- = = - - = = =
- - = = - = - -
- - = = - = = =
= = = = - = - -

If a notion of woman or man intrudes

At any time in relation to anyone,

Upon hair, teeth, and the rest, for their beauty,

You should not linger.

The negative directions are building.

In verse 13.41, the subject of vartitavyam may be better understood, as indicated by jiblet, not as the senses themselves but as the person himself, i.e., Nanda, or us. In that case, the meaning is stronger than “the senses must function.” The meaning is that “one must function through the senses.” This is precisely in line with what Marjory Barlow took pains to teach: that one cannot control the feelings; the feelings control us. This is something about which we cannot do anything.

Even in those circumstances (tatra), even though we cannot do anything to change the human condition of being controlled by our sense of feeling, we can practise NOT doing -- not holding on to sensory impulses and not trusting our faulty sensory appreciation. So I would like to revise the translation of 13.41 as follows:

It is necessarily through the senses,each in its own sphere,

That one must function in this world.

But no impulse, in those circumstances, is to be held onto,

Nor any associated impression.

In 13.42, again, first a reality is described: when we are in our original state and we open our eyes and look, there is originally no separation between beholder and beheld. We are not asked to do something to bring about that reality. Rather, in order to prevent it from being lost to us, we are asked NOT to do something. We are asked, namely, not to barge in with our own prejudiced views.

And in this verse, 13.43, again, first a real eventuality is posited: a false conception has intervened between beholder and beheld. In that case, again, we are not called upon to do something to make the situation right. Rather we are called upon NOT to do something to make it worse. We are called upon not to stand by idling gawping at how incredibly beautiful a person’s hair, teeth and other features may be -- although there may be times when a man in a relationship finds himself in deep trouble if he fails to make a polite show of doing just this.

In practice, how does one go about not dilly-dallying? If somebody says, for example, "Don't think about a pink elephant," how does one avoid falling into the trap of standing there gormlessly meditating on the subject of a pink elephant?

One way might be to think the words: "I wish to allow my neck to release, to allow the head forward and out, to allow the back to lengthen and widen, while the legs release out of the pelvis... altogether, one after another."

Marjory Barlow used to say: "Say No, think those words, and go into movement without a care in the world. Let it come out in the wash."

Working in that way doesn't make a person a saint but at least it may help a person, quoting Marjory again, "to avoid my worst excesses."

EH Johnston:
If in relation to any object some perception of a woman or a man does present itself, you must not look on their hair, teeth, etc. as beautiful.

Linda Covill:
If any perception of a woman or man does occur, don't linger over their hair, teeth and so on as beautiful.

sacet (3rd person singular, optative of sac, to have to do with): if.... [apparently used at beginning of an optative sentence]
strii: woman, female; the feminine gender
puruSha: man, male
graahaH (nom.): m. seizure , grasping , laying hold of; m. conception , notion of (in comp.)

kva cid: anywhere ; in any case , at any time
vidyeta = 3rd person singular, passive, optative of vid: to find , discover , meet or fall in with , obtain; Passive vidyate to be found , exist ; (esp. in later language) vidyate , " there is , there exists "
vidyeta: there might be, it might occur
kash cana: anyone

shubha: n. beauty
-taH: (ablative/adverbial suffix) in accordance with, as
kesha: the hair of the head
danta: an elephant's tusk, tooth
aadiin = accusative, plural of aadi: beginning with, and so on

na: not
anu: ind. (as a prefix to verbs and nouns , expresses) after , along , alongside , lengthwise
pra-√sthaa: to stand or rise up (esp. before the gods. an altar &c )
anuprasthaatum = infinitive of anuprasthaa: 'to [keep] standing up alongside,' to linger (?)
arhasi: you should

Monday, August 17, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.42: Containment

aalokya cakShuShaa ruupaM
dhaatu-maatre vyavasthitaH
strii v" eti puruSho v" eti
na kalpayitum arhasi

= = - = - = = =
= - = = - = - =
= = - - - = = -
- = - - - = - -

On seeing a form with your eye

You are contained in the sum of the elements:

That 'it is a woman' or 'it is a man'

You should not interpose.

Thirty years ago when I was learning karate in Sheffield University Karate Club, I went into karate training with the same stupid all-out sincerity I used to bring to all-male rugby training. Because of that I didn't initially notice how sexually attractive some of the girls I was training with were. Later on, after I had realised how very attractive one or two of the girls were, I remember wondering how come I hadn't noticed before.

What the Buddha is describing in the first half of this verse, as I read it, is related to that kind of in-the-moment sincerity of a committed sportsman, a psychological phenomenon which, again, is based in integrity. Integrity means co-ordinated activity of the whole psycho-physical organism in using body and voice, and in living life.

What does it mean to allow the head out of the grip of the fear reflexes, to allow the back to lengthen and widen, so that the activity of breathing is well co-ordinated? I do not know. I am working on it every day.

But I do clearly understand, thanks to FM Alexander, which way round it is. I understand what is primary. It is not a question of practising mindfulness of breathing in order to co-ordinate one's activity. It is primarily a question of co-ordinating one's activity. Then mindfulness of free breathing, and mindfulness of the truth expressed in this verse, are liable to follow by accident. This is what I learned on the rugby pitch and in the karate dojo, and this is the central principle of the teaching work that I now do: that co-ordinated activity comes first. Any psychological or other benefits that accrue do so indirectly.

I am not sure how many readers are keeping up to date with this blog these days, apart from my brother. So I'll finish by writing something that I know will at least interest him.

Following on from what I wrote yesterday about fighting ignorance, I thought back to the circumstances of my conception, during the first sexual experience of two young university students, and of my early years living in a police house under a father who had flunked out of university and, in order to support a young family, had signed up to join an organisation, the West Midlands Police Force, which made a virtue out of institutionalized ignorance.

Ignorance is end-gaining and it is rife everywhere -- primarily, lest I forget, in me. At least the old "dying breed" of police officer made a conscious virtue of it, never shirking from calling a person of colour a "jungle bunny," or from dispensing a bit of instant justice with the trusty old truncheon. In Buddhist circles people practice their ignorance more unconsciously, calling it Buddhist compassion, mindfulness, concentration, et cetera. In Soto Zen, above all, they call it correct posture. Much as I am indebted to EH Johnston, I think his translation of this verse was sheer ignorance, not based on co-ordinated activity as a translator, but based on a view on Buddhist concentration. And Linda Covill, lovely poet though she is, followed him like a sheep.

A couple of weeks before coming to France for August, when, over dinner, I wrang my father's neck to see if would "put his hands up," he, being completely au fait with the rules of physical violence, left his hands resolutely and fearlessly down on the table. Afterwards he told me that he had been aware that if I had hit him it would have hurt, but he had never been afraid of physical violence. And I perceived in the old man's attitude, in this respect at least, a certain degree of integrity.

Ignorance does most damage when it does not know itself. Being bopped over the head by an ignorant policeman's truncheon may leave a bump that will take days or weeks to heal. But the ignorance of a parent or teacher who insists that a child or student "pull your shoulders back" or "tuck your chin in" or "breathe from your abdomen," or "keep your spine straight vertically," while understanding nothing of the underlying co-ordination involved, does much more damage over the course of a lifetime.

Maybe I was lucky to have a father who made it so easy for me to see that ignorance, in all its guises, is enemy number one.

EH Johnston:
When you see an object with your eye, you should concentrate on the basic elements in it only and not form any conception of it as, say, a woman or a man.

Linda Covill:
When seeing a shape with your eyes, pay attention only to its primary elements; do not conceptualize it as 'woman' or 'man.'

aalokya: ind.p. having seen or looked at , beholding
cakShuShaa = inst. sg. of cakShus: n. the act of seeing; faculty of seeing, sight ; a look ; the eye
ruupam (acc. sg.): n. any outward appearance or phenomenon or colour ; form , shape , figure; (with Buddhists) material form i.e. the organized body

dhaatu: m. layer , stratum; element, a constituent element or essential ingredient of the body
maatre = loc. of maatra: n. an element , elementary matter ; n. (ifc.) measure , quantity , sum
vyavasthitaH (nom. sg): mfn. placed in order , drawn up (in battle) ; placed , laid , put , stationed ; contained in (loc.) ; used in the meaning of (loc.) , signifying (as a word) ; one who has waited or stayed ; based or dependent on (loc.) ; resolved upon (loc.) ; persevering in , sticking or adhering to (loc.); settled , established , fixed , exactly determined , quite peculiar or restricted to (loc.)

strii (nom. sg.): f. a woman
vaa... vaa: either... or
iti: "...." ; that it is
puruShaH (nom. sg.): a man

na: not
kalpayitum (infinitive, causitive of √klRp, to be well ordered): to set in order , arrange , distribute , dispose ; to bring into suitable connection with ; to prepare , arrange ; to fit out , furnish with (instr.); to fix , settle ; to make , execute , bring about
arhasi: you should