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

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