Wednesday, September 30, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.29: Reptilian Faults & Overcoming Fear

doSha-vyaalaan atikramya
vyaalaan gRha-gataan iva
kShamaM praajNasya na svaptum
nistitiirShor mahad bhayam

To neglect the reptilian faults,

As if ignoring snakes in the house,

And thus to slumber on,
does not befit a man of wisdom

Who wishes to overcome the great fear.

Training to be an Alexander teacher at the Alexander Re-education Centre run by Ray Evans, I first heard of the importance of primitive vestibular reflexes.

These reflexes, which are deeply implicated in the problem of faulty sensory appreciation, are housed in the deepest centres of the old reptilian brain.

So when I first read Linda Covill's translation of doSha-vyaalan, "the reptilian faults," I was struck by LC's phrase.

Among many reptilian faults, the main fault line might be profoundly related with fear paralysis and its antagonist the Moro reflex (also known on this blog as the Mara reflex).

When there is unresolved conflict between this pair -- when paralysis vs panic are fighting it out for supremacy -- there is a feeling of something being wrong within the self, and there is irrational fear which need not be linked to any fearful object in the outside world. There is a fear of being wrong.

The great fear (mahad bhayam), then, might be an inner fear, the self fearing itself. Perhaps because he wished to de-personalize this fear, to indicate to us that it is nothing personal, the Buddha spoke of having defeated the king of demons, Mara:

Sitting there, mind made up,

As unmovingly stable as the king of mountains,

He overcame the grim army of Mara

And awoke to that step
which is happiness,
which nobody can take away,
and which can never be destroyed.

Sensing the completion of his task,

Beings in the sky minded towards the undying

Buzzed and fluttered about with unbridled joy,

While Mara and his crew departed, downcast and trembling.

If Mara is a symbol for every person's inner demons, then demon number one might be the fear of being wrong. It is the fear of being wrong that causes a person to try to be right. And it is just such thirsting, the Buddha suggests, that is the original trigger for all the faults:

And this suffering,
associated with continual doing in the world,

Has its cause in a cluster of faults
which start with thirsting --

Certainly not in God,
nor in primordial matter, nor in time;

Nor even in one’s inherent constitution,
and not in predestination or self-will.

By way of an antidote to the great fear of being wrong and the associated tendency to try to be right, Zen Master Dogen in his instructions for sitting exhorts us:
ZEN-AKU OMAWAZU. Don't think good, bad.
ZE-HI KANSURU KOTO NAKARE. Don't care right, wrong.
SA-BUTSU O HAKARU KOTO NAKARE. Don't try to become buddha.

The Alexander teacher Marjory Barlow, in similar vein, often used to say: "Being wrong is the best friend you have got in this work!"

This verse suggests that truly to overcome the great fear (rather than merely "sweeping the problem under the carpet" to use Ray Evans's phrase) requires us not to neglect the reptilian faults. Overcoming the great fear, rather, might necessarily involve awareness of the link between the reptilian faults and a faulty sense of feeling. But fear of being wrong blocks that awareness.

Why do I hammer on endlessly about the Alexander Technique? Am I out to prove something? To prove that in the rift between Gudo Nishijima and me, his position was wrong and mine was right? If that were so, and if Alexander's contention is true that "There is no such thing as a right position, but there is a right direction," then I would be totally wasting my time.

I would like to think that I hammer on about the Alexander Technique because, in my own efforts to overcome the great fear, I have found, over and over again, that Alexander's way of working on the self really works. So I would like to be clear in regard to what the method is, for the benefit of others, for the benefit of myself, and for the benefit of clarity itself.

The essence of the method, as I see it, is:
(a) to give up the desire to feel right in the gaining of an end, thereby not neglecting the problem of faulty sensory appreciation but making it possible to circumvent the problem by
(b) consciously directing the head, out from the depths of one's being, in a direction that Alexander called "forward" and "up", and then, while continuing to direct oneself up, and "without a care in the world" (i.e. still not trying to be right),
(c) to go into movement.

Alexander's method in short is: inhibit, direct, move. When I apply it, it always works to unblock my awareness. Sadly however, when I don't apply it, it never works.

And the reason I don't apply it, in general, is that I fail to inhibit my desire to feel right in the gaining of an end. In that case, I don't overcome the great fear, I don't defeat Mara. In that case, Mara defeats me.

EH Johnston:
It is no more fitting for the wise man who desires to escape from the great danger to sleep in neglect of the snakes of the vices than for a man to sleep in neglect of snakes in his house.

Linda Covill:
It is not right for a wise man anxious to avoid grave peril to go to sleep, side-stepping the reptilian faults as though ignoring snakes in his house.

doSha: fault
vyaalaan = acc. pl. vyaala: mfn. mischievous , wicked , vicious; m. a vicious elephant; m. a beast of prey ; m. a snake
atikramya = absolutive of ati-√kram: to step or go beyond or over; to pass by , neglect

vyaalaan (acc. pl.): snakes
gRha: house
gata: come to, being in
iva: like

kShama: bearable , tolerable ; fit , appropriate
praajNasya = genitive praajNa: m. a wise or learned man
na: not
svaptum = infinitive of svap: to sleep

nistitiirShoH = genitive of nistitiirShu (adjective from desiderative from nis-√tRR): wanting to pass over
nis: (as a prefix to verbs it has the sense of " out of " , " away from "; or the sense of a strengthening particle " thoroughly " , " entirely ")
√tRR: to pass across or over , cross over (a river) , sail across
nis-√tRR: to come forth from , get out of. escape from (abl.) ; to pass over or through , cross (sea &c ) , pass or spend (time) ; to overcome or master (an enemy)
mahat: great (in space , time , quantity or degree); violent (pain or emotion)
bhaya: n. fear , alarm, dread, apprehension; terror , dismay , danger , peril , distress

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.28: A Step in the Right Direction

evam-aadiH kramaH saumya
kaaryo jaagaraNam prati
vandhyam hi shayanaad aayuH
kaH praajNaH kartum arhati

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

Such a step must be taken, my friend,

In the direction of being awake;

For what wise man, out of sleep,

Makes a wasted life?

A turning phrase in this verse, as I read it, is jaagaraNam prati, lit. "in the direction of being awake."

Here are a couple of quotes that may serve to illustrate:

"There is no such thing as a right position, but there is a right direction."
FM Alexander, Teaching Aphorisms

"Remember, you are slowly eliminating the wrong.
Finality, for most of us, and that includes me, is not in sight."

Patrick Macdonald, The Alexander Technique As I See It

To translate jaagaraNam prati literally as "in the direction of being awake" may not win a prize for elegance, but it preserves the ambiguity which I perceive in the words of the Buddha. On one level, the Buddha is cautioning against being overly devoted to sleep as a normal night-time activity. On another level, he might also be cautioning against the mindless living of an unexamined life.

As an antidote to mindlessly repetitive ("Just do it") practice, learning of the FM Alexander Technique was a step that, in my life for one, simply had to be taken.

EH Johnston:
This and the like, my friend, is the course to be followed to keep awake. For what wise man would let his life become unproductive by lying down to sleep?

Linda Covill:
These are examples of the steps that can be taken to stay awake; for what wise man would waste his life in sleep?

evam: thus, such
aadiH (nom. sg.): et cetera
kramaH (nom. sg.): m. a step ; going , proceeding , course
saumya (voc.): my friend

kaarya: mfn. to be done, practised
jaagaraNam = acc. of jaagaraNa (neuter action noun from jaagR, to be awake or watchful): n. waking , keeping watch; (said of fire) going on burning
prati: ind. towards, in the direction of

vandhyam = acc. sg. of vandhya: mfn. barren , unfruitful , unproductive (said of women , female animals and plants) ; fruitless , useless
hi: for
shayanaat = abl. of shayana: n. the act of lying down or sleeping , rest , repose , sleep; n. a bed
aayuH = acc. sg. n. of aayus: n. life , vital power , vigour , health , duration of life , long life ; active power , efficacy

kaH (nom.): who?
praajNaH (nom. sg.): mfn. intelligent , wise , clever; m. a wise or learned man
kartum = inf. of kR: to do, make; to form or construct one thing out of another (abl.); to make , render (with two acc.)
arhati = 3rd pers. sg. of arh: to deserve , merit , be worthy of , to have a claim to , be entitled to (acc.) , to be allowed to do anything (Inf.) ; to be obliged or required to do anything (acc.) ; to be worth , counterbalance , to be able

Monday, September 28, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.27: You Should Feel the Real

bhayam aagamanaan mRtyoH
priitim dharma-parigrahaat
janma-duHkhaad a-paryantaac
chokam aagantum arhasi

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

You should feel the fear
that derives from death's approach,

The joy from grasping a teaching of Dharma,

And from the boundless suffering in a birth,

You should feel the anguish.

feel: 1a. to handle or touch in order to examine, test, or explore some quality

I do not need to manufacture fear, joy, and anguish in order to feel them, any more than I need to start breathing in order to feel the breath passing through the nostrils.

Fear, joy and anguish, as I feel them, are not only psychological phenomena.

In fear, my whole body is held in the grip of fear. I feel it with neck, head, back, arms, and legs.

A teaching of true Dharma might be: "You cannot do an undoing." And the joy of grasping it I feel as if flowing through neck, head, back, arms and legs.

And with respect to shokam , the anguish, Bob Dylan, sounding like he really meant it, asked a good question.

How does it feel?

EH Johnston:
You should foster fear of the approach of death, love in marriage with the Law and grief at the boundless sufferings from birth.

Linda Covill:
You should derive fear from the fact that death is getting closer, joy from your possession of the dharma, and grief from the boundless suffering attendant upon birth.

bhayam (acc.): n. fear
aagamanaad = abl. of aagamana: n. coming , approaching , arriving
mRtyoH = abl/.gen. of mRtyu: death

priitim (acc.): joy
dharma: Dharma, the teaching
parigrahaat = abl. of parigraha: m. laying hold of on all sides, comprehending; getting , attaining , acquisition , possession , property (ifc. " being possessed of or furnished with ")

janma: birth
duHkhaat = abl. of duHkha: suffering
a-paryanta: mfn. unbounded , unlimited

shokam (acc.): m. sorrow , affliction , anguish , pain , trouble , grief
aagantum = infinitive of aa-√gam: to come, to come near to (acc.), arrive at, reach; to fall into (any state of mind); have recourse to
arhasi: you should

Sunday, September 27, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.26: The War Against Sleep, Continued

bhaye priitau ca shoke ca
nidrayaa n' aabhibhuuyate
tasmaan nidr"-aabhiyogeShu
sevitavyam idaM trayam

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

In fear, in joy and in anguish,

One does not succumb to sleep;

Therefore against the onslaughts of sleep

Resort to these three:

What the Buddha seems to suggest here is that some other bloke who behaves disgracefully is not my true enemy, much as I may despise his behaviour. Interestingly, if I try to describe what it is about the other's behaviour that I object to, I find that I am only expressing what, at root, might be the fear of being wrong in myself. This is in accordance with the mirror principle by which, looking at the same enigmatic behaviour, one person says, "He is all talk and no action"; another person says, "He is a charlatan, a fraud, a liar"; and still another person says, "He is an ambitious political strategist out to usurp my position, my enemy."

But a truer enemy than any other person, this verse as I read it suggests, is the tendency in me to be asleep, so that when a noxious stimulus reaches my consciousness, more often than not I fail to inhibit an emotional reaction to that stimulus.

The portrayal of sleep as not a passive thing but an enemy is in keeping with the tradition of the epic poem, which helps to inspire emotion in us, to move us, to rouse us to action.

And that, in the end is the point: there have been in this world real examples of human beings truly called "eternal buddhas" -- whose mind was fences, walls, tiles and pebbles. In pursuit of the nectar of immortality which they possessed, yes, we need to endeavour to stop off at source our emotional reactions based on faulty feeling, and yes, we must continue to pay attention to maintaining our own integrity. But in the end we have to step out into action. And to that end, whether emotion per se is judged to be good, bad, or indifferent, emotion has its job, which is to get us going.

A final reflection on this verse is that it reminds me of advice that Ray Evans gave to the Alexander Technique teachers that he trained, including me. Ray told us that anything was OK to use in our teaching that promoted the proper use of the primary control -- i.e. that use of the head, neck, and back that conduces to moving, sitting, and being all of a piece. (But please don't call it "good posture.") Thus, in Alexander work at its best, there is a certain Zen-like simplicity.

EH Johnston:
Drowsiness has no hold on a man affected by fear, love or grief. Therefore practice these three feelings when drowsiness assails you.

Linda Covill:
Sleep cannot overwhelm someone in a state of fear, joy, or grief, so focus on these three during the onslaught of sleep.

bhaye (loc.): in fear
priitau (loc.): in enjoyment, joy, pleasure
ca: and
shoke (loc.): in grief
ca: and

nidrayaa = inst. of nidraa: f. sleep , slumber , sleepiness , sloth
na: not
abhibhuuyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive of abhi-√bhuu: to overcome , overpower , predominate , conquer , surpass , overspread

tasmaat: ind. from that , on that account , therefore
nidraa: sleep
abhiyogeShu = loc. pl. of abhiyoga: m. application ; energetic effort , exertion , perseverance in , constant practice (with loc. or inf.) ; attack , assault

sevitavyam: mfn. to be followed or practised, to be resorted to
idam: this
trayam: n. threesome, triad, three

Saturday, September 26, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.25: Feeling, Thinking, And Going into Movement -- Or Just Sitting Still

antar-gatair a-capalair
vasha-sthaayibhir indriyaiH
a-vikShiptena manasaa
caNkramyasv' aasva vaa nishi

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

By the means of inner senses that are not impetuous

But in a state of subjection,

By the means of a mind that is not scattered,

Walk up and down at night or sit.

Diving deeply and clearly into the depths of feeling, thinking, and action, the Buddha dropped a pebble whose ripples reached the remote and uncivilised island of Japan. There Zen Master Dogen wrote:


Practise full lotus sitting with the body.
Practise full lotus sitting with the mind.
Practise full lotus sitting as body and mind dropping off.

My Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima, having devoted his life to clarifying the teaching of Zen Master Dogen, did his best not only to explain but also to demonstrate to me in practice what Master Dogen meant. However, my teacher was generally blinded by a reductionist view which seemed to cause him to try to explain everything in terms of the autonomic nervous system, and so when he tried and failed to clarify to me what Master Dogen meant by the above three sentences, I knew that there was a problem here for me to solve for myself.

Antar-gatair indriyai, "by means of inner senses," refers primarily to the vestibular sense whose organ is the inner ear, and to the proprioceptive sense whose main organs are muscle spindles in the skeletal musculature. One of the great discoveries of FM Alexander was that these senses, in the vast majority of civilized people, have become unreliable. This is the problem Alexander called "faulty sensory appreciation" or "wrong sense of feeling." On one level, the job of an Alexander teacher is to help restore some reliability to a person's sense of feeling. Hence Alexander said, "As a matter of fact, feeling is much more use than what they call 'mind' when it's right."

Mindful of another level, Alexander also said, "When the time comes that you can trust your feeling, you won't want to use it." Alexander had in mind another means besides feeling, another means which is diametrically opposed to feeling, and that means is thinking -- the most mental thing there is.

Here is a clip of Alexander's niece Marjory Barlow on THINKING.

The Marjory Barlow I knew was an incredibly indirect and selfless teacher. It seems to me that she consciously created the conditions whereby her pupil might be able to work out for himself, eventually, what it meant
(a) to inhibit impetuousness on receipt through the senses of a stimulus,
(b) to think, and
(c) to keep thinking while going into movement, or keeping still.

EH Johnston:
Walk about or sit down at night, keeping your mind from wandering and your senses directed inwards, steady and under control.

Linda Covill:
With your senses still, controlled and directed inwards, you should walk or sit at night with a collected mind.

antar-gata: mfn. gone between or into , being in , included in
a-capala: mfn. not oscillating , not wavering , not fickle ; unmovable , steady
a: (negative prefix)
capala: impetuous, impulsive

vasha: m. will , wish , desire ; authority , power , control , dominion (acc. with verbs of going e.g. with √ i , aa√sthaa &c , " to become subject or give way to " ; loc. with √ kR , √ labh or Caus. of √ sthaa or saM- √sthaa , " to reduce to subjection , subdue "
sthaayibhiH = inst. pl. of sthaayin: mfn. standing , staying , being or situated in or on (comp.) ; being in a partic. place , resident , present ; being in a partic. state or condition
indriyaiH = inst. pl. of indriya: sense, power of senses

a-vikShipta: mfn. not frustrated
vi-√kSip: to throw asunder or away or about , cast hither and thither , scatter , disperse
manasaa = inst. of manas: mind

caNkramyasva (2nd. pers. imperative of intensive from √kram, to walk): to step to and fro, walk or wander about
caNkrama: m. going about , a walk ; a place for walking about
aasva = 2nd pers. imperative of aas: to sit, to sit quietly
vaa: or
nishi = loc. of nish: night

Thursday, September 24, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.24: Wanting to Be Awake, Always

prakledyam adbhir vadanaM
vilokyaaH sarvato dishaH
caaryaa dRShTish ca taaraasu
jijaagariShuNaa sadaa

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

Wet the face with water,

Look around in all directions,

And glance at the stars,

Wanting always to be awake.

This verse has to do with the face and eyes.

Wetting the face with water, for a start, may be a stimulus that -- probably through the dive reflex -- both calms and awakens.

This verse also touches on looking -- using the eyes to look out at the real world.

In general, when a person is staring at some specific object fixedly, using the eyes in that way is generally associated with a fixity or heaviness in the body.

In the little film clip we have of FM Alexander looking into a camera, he is pointedly not falling into this trap. Rather, he is letting his eyes flit around like a bird. Caarya dRShTiH, lit. "one's seeing being required to move," suggests to me this kind of use of the eyes, not letting the gaze be fixed, but glancing.

The literal meaning of the last line of this verse, "with the desire to be awake, always," is another indication, as I read it, that what the Buddha and Ashvaghosha are really interested in is not how little sleep a monk can get by on; what a buddha is really interested in is growth of consciousness, or in other words liberation from unconsciousness.

So again, whereas overtly the verse seems to be about making effort to stay awake at night, there might also be a deeper meaning to be dug out.

FM Alexander,
as his niece Marjory Barlow described him to me, was a man who truly spent his life wanting self and others to be awake.

So inspired by this verse, I shall make a particular effort today (including right now) to Let the neck be free to let the head go forward and up to let the back lengthen and widen, while directing legs and arms out, all together, so that the whole body might be informed with thought, all of the time.

EH Johnston:
In order to keep always awake, wet your face with water, look round in all directions and fix your gaze on the stars.

Linda Covill:
Wet your face with water, look around in all directions, and fix your eyes on the stars when you intend to stay awake.

prakledya = gerundive of pra-√klid: to become moist or humid , to become wet
adbhiH = inst. pl. of ap: f. (in Ved. used in sing. and pl. , but in the classical language only in pl.) water
vadanam (nom. sg.): n. the mouth, face

vilokyaaH = nom. pl. f of vilokya (gerundive of vi-√lok): to be looked upon
sarvata: mfn. all-sided
dishaH = nom. pl of dish: f. quarter or region pointed at , direction , cardinal point

caaryaa (nom. sg. f. causitive, gerundive of √car, to move): to be caused to move, to be directed
dRShTiH (nom. sg.): f. seeing , viewing , beholding (also with the mental eye); sight ; the mind's eye , wisdom , intelligence; eye, look , glance (dRShTiM daa with loc. turn the eye to , look at)
ca: and
taaraasu = loc. pl. of taaraa: f. a fixed star, asterism

jijaagariShuNaa = inst of jijaagariShu (desid. from jaagR, to be awake): wanting to be awake
sadaa: ind. always , ever , every time , continually , perpetually

SAUNDARANANDA 14.23: Clarifying Truths for Others and Self

aamnaatavyaash ca vishadaM
te dharmaa ye parishrutaaH
parebhyash c'opadeShTavyaaH
saMcintyaaH svayam eva ca

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

Recite clearly

Those teachings of Dharma that you have learnt;

Point others in their direction,

And think them out for yourself.

This verse, to my admittedly undeveloped Sanskrit ear, seems to have a simplicity and good sound to it.

As regards its content, among those teachings of Dharma that each is to think out for himself, the teachings I would most like to be able to cite clearly might be the ones delivered at the end and the beginning of the Buddha's teaching career, namely:

(a) Alpecchu, small desire, saMtuShta, contentment, and the other of the eight truths of a great human being recorded by Master Dogen in Shobogenzo chap. 95, Hachi-dainin-gaku, and by Ashvaghosha in Buddhacarita Canto 26. Sadly, the original Sanskrit of Buddhacarita Canto 26 appears to have been lost to the ravages of time.

(b) The four noble truths which the Buddha is going to expound shortly of duHkha, suffering; samudaya, the material cause thereof; nirodha, the stopping thereof; and maarga, a path. It seems to me to very fortunate indeed that we have got these teachings in Ashvaghosha's original Sanskrit, and incredible that more attention has not been paid hitherto to Ashvaghosha's words.

This and the previous verse, then, may be seen as presaging, for example, the following verses from Saundarananda 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.

Though your head and clothes be on fire

Direct your mind so as to be awake to the truths.

For in failing to see the purport of the truths,
the world has burned,

It is burning now, and it will burn.

EH Johnston:
You should repeat aloud those Scriptures you have studied, and you should teach them to others and reflect on them yourself.

Linda Covill:
Clearly recite those teachings that you have learned. Teach them to others, and contemplate them yourself.

aamnaatavyaaH = nom. pl. gerundive of aa-√mnaa: to utter , mention , allege ; to cite , quote ; to commit to memory , hand down in sacred texts
ca: and
vishada: conspicuous, pure; calm, easy, cheerful; clear , evident , manifest , intelligible

te (nom. pl; correlative of ye): those [which]
dharmaaH (nom. pl.): dharmas, teachings
ye (nom. pl; correlative of te): [those] which
parishrutaaH (nom. pl.): heard , learnt

parebhyaH (dative, plural): to others
ca: and
upadeShTavyaaH = nom. pl. gerundive of upa-√dish: to point out to; to indicate , specify , explain , inform , instruct , teach

saMcintyaaH = nom. pl. gerundive of saM-√cint: to think about , think over , consider carefully , reflect about (acc.)
svayam: ind. oneself
eva: [emphatic]
ca: and

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.22: What to Keep in Mind, In the War Against Sleep

dhaatur aarambha-dhRtyosh ca
sthaama-vikramayor api
nityaM manasi kaaryas te
baadhyamaanena nidrayaa

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

Initiative and constancy,

Inner strength and courage,

Are the elements to bear constantly in mind

While you are being oppressed by sleep.

Trying to be conscious is trying to be right, that is, unconscious behaviour associated with unduly excited fear reflexes and emotions. Having fallen into this trap once again, with my habitual grim determination, where do I start?

Aarambha-dhRti, initiative and constancy, as I read it, includes the meaning of constantly being prepared to go back to square one, to return again and again to the drawing board -- not with a view to trying again, only this time harder, but in order to think things through afresh.

Similarly, the kind of strength and courage expressed by sthaama-vikrama might be the strength and courage to dare to be wrong -- just precisely the opposite of the strength and courage that macho men habitually tend to try to manifest. Sthaaman, whose meanings include seat, and the neighing of a horse, suggests to me not so much muscular strength as energy coming from a deeper place. It might be the inner strength and courage of one who is able to drop off an old view, as opposed to the outer strength and courage of one who defends his view and his position to the end, wishing to be seen by self and others as right.

The phrase in the 3rd line manasi kR, lit. "to make in the mind," is given in the dictionary as to bear in the mind, to remember; and also as to determine. The same phrase appears in the 4th line of the previous verse, interpreted with the latter meaning (MC: "to be sure about"; EHJ: "deem"; LC "assume").

Baadhyamaanena nidrayaa, being oppressed by sleep, is being discussed here primarily in the context of continuing one's practice at nightfall. So overtly this section seems to be an encouragement, during one's last sitting of the day for example, when eyelids are liable to droop, not to give in to a temporary state of sleepiness, but to keep sitting till the end of the sitting.

But again, digging deeper, the word sleep might be taken to indicate the tendency in us that is constantly resistant to waking up -- the force of habit, which is there with us in sleep, in waking, in getting up, and in all our movement and rest. (Hence the rather enigmatic title of FM Alexander's fourth and final book: "The Universal Constant in Living.")

It is the force of habit which keeps us weighed down with all our heavy unconscious baggage. And among all that weighty baggage, the most oppressively heavy items of all might be held in the grip of the habit of trying to be right.

EH Johnston:
When overcome by drowsiness, always apply to your mind the principles of energy and steadfastness, of strength and courage.

Linda Covill:
When sleep threatens, always keep in mind the fundamental principles of initiative and determination, strength and courage.

dhaatuH = nom. sg. of dhaatu: m. layer; constituent part ; element
aarambha: m. undertaking, beginning; effort, exertion
dhRtyoH = gen. dual of dhRti: f. holding; firmness, constancy, resolution
ca: and

sthaaman: station, seat, place; strength, power ; the neighing of a horse
vikramayoH = gen. dual of vikrama: valour, courage, heroism, power, strength
api: also

nityam: always, constantly
manasi (loc. manas, mind): with √ kR , to bear or ponder in the mind , meditate on , remember
kaaryaH = nom. sg. gerundive of kR: to make
te = tava (gen. of tvam): of you, for you, your

baadhyamaanena = inst. sg. of pres. part of baadh: to press , force , drive away , repel , remove ; (with variiyas, [freedom]) to force asunder; to harass , pain , trouble , grieve , vex ; to resist , oppose , check , stop , prevent ; to suffer annoyance or oppression
nidrayaa = inst. sg. of nidraa: sleep, sleepiness

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.21: Being Sceptical in the War Against Sleep

hRdi yat saMjNinash c' aaiva
nidraa praadur-bhavet tava
guNavat-saMjNitaaM saMjNaaM
tadaa manasi maa kRthaaH

Since even when you are conscious

Sleep might be holding out in your heart,

Consciousness properly revealing itself

Is nothing to be sure about.

If I have understood this verse at all, it is not only because I sit four times a day but also because the FM Alexander Technique is all about consciousness. People think the Alexander Technique is all about posture, but it relates to posture only very indirectly. It is all about Constructive CONSCIOUS Control of the INDIVIDUAL.

In our everyday life we use words like "consciousness" and "sleep" all the time. But who really knows what consciousness is? Who even knows what sleep really is? Not me, for one. On a good day, somewhere from the inside of sitting, the question might ask itself.

What is it, deep within, that seems not to want to become conscious, but which seems rather to want to draw the covers over the head and say: "Leave me alone!"?

As I write, there are tumultuous unconscious reactions going on among a group called "Dogen Sangha." What can I do, as one individual, not to make things worse?

The true struggle, as I see it, for an individual as he or she goes into movement, is to be conscious, not to react unconsciously. And in this, we all fail. FM Alexander failed, in one particular episode that Marjory Barlow was reluctant to talk about, and subsequently, for the last six years of his life, Marjory never again spoke to her beloved uncle. My Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima failed in similarly spectacular fashion in 1997, after which our relationship never recovered. And I also fail, all the time.

When we meet a guru who seems to be capable of properly conscious action, it may always be wise to exercise a healthy scepticism -- especially if the guru in question is oneself.

EH Johnston:
And do not deem your consciousness to be then properly conscious, when during that consciousness drowsiness may make itself felt in your heart.

Linda Covill:
Don't assume that your consciousness at this time is a high quality consciousness, since when you are thus conscious, drowsiness may take shape in your heart.

hRdi = locative of hRd: the heart (as the seat of feelings and emotions) , soul , mind (as seat of thought and intellectual operations) , breast , chest, stomach , interior (also in older language , " interior of the body ")
yad: since, because [with correlative tad, therefore]
saMjNinaH = gen. sg. of saMjJin: mfn. having consciousness , conscious of (comp.); having a name , named , termed , that which receives a name or has a term given to it in grammar
saMjJaa: consciousness
-in: suffix indicating possession or presence
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)

nidraa (nom. sg.): f. sleep , slumber , sleepiness , sloth
praadur: ind. forth , to view or light , in sight (with √ bhuu , to become manifest , be visible or audible , appear , arise , exist)
bhavet (3rd pers. sg. optative of bhuu): might become, be
tava (gen. sg. of tvam): of you [being conscious]

guNavat: endowed with good qualities or virtues or merits or excellences , excellent , perfect
saMjNita: mfn. made known , communicated ; apprised by a sign or gesture ; called , named , termed (generally ifc.)
saMjNaam (acc.): f. agreement , mutual understanding , harmony; consciousness , clear knowledge or understanding or notion or conception ; direction (in a-kRtas° , " one who has received no direction") ; (with Buddhists) perception (one of the 5 skandhas)

tadaa: at that time , then , in that case (often used redundantly)
manasi = loc. of manas: mind; manasi with √ kR , to bear or ponder in the mind , meditate on , remember
maa: a particle of prohibition or negation , most commonly joined with the Subjunctive i.e. the augmentless form of a past tense
kRthaaH = 2nd pers. sg. subjunctive of kR: to make
manasi- √kR: to determine , purpose [ind.p. °si-kRtvA or °si-kRtya]

Monday, September 21, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.20: Towards Practising in One's Sleep

mano-dhaaraNayaa c' aaiva
pariNaamy' aatmavaan ahaH
vidhuuya nidraaM yogena
nishaam apy atinaamayeH

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

Having, through maintenance of the mind,

Passed the day self-possessed,

You may be able, shaking off sleep,

To spend the night-time too in a state of practice.

Change involves carrying out an activity against the habit of life.

Because in activities like eating and sleeping the habit of life invariably feels right, to go against the habit of life in carrying out those activities might inevitably depend on mano-dhaaraNaa, maintenance of the mind, and on vidhuuya nidraam, shaking off sleep, regardless of whether it is daytime or night-time.

The grammar of the final word of the verse atinaamayeH, "you might spend," suggests to me the difficulty of realizing the possibility that the Buddha is pointing to.

But if we can shake off sleep even for just one moment, that will be a start.

EH Johnston:
After passing the day self-controlled in the restraint of your mind, you should shake off drowsiness and spend the night too in the practice of Yoga.

Linda Covill:
Now, when you have spent the day self-possessed in pursuit of mental concentration, you should shake off sleep and pass the night too in yogic practice.

mano = in compounds for manas: mind
dhaaraNayaa = inst. sg, of dhaaraNaa: f. the act of holding , bearing , wearing , supporting , maintaining ; retaining , keeping back (also in remembrance) , a good memory ; collection or concentration of the mind (joined with the retention of breath)
ca: and
eva: [emphatic]

pariNaamya (absolutive, causitive of pariNam): after passing, bringing to an end
aatmavaan = nom. sg. m. of aatmavat: having a soul ; self-possessed , composed , prudent
ahaH (nom.): n. a day

vidhuuya = absolutive of vi-√ dhuu: to shake about , move to and fro , agitate , toss about; to shake off , drive away
nidraam (acc.): f. sleep , slumber , sleepiness , sloth
yogena = inst. of yoga: fitting together , fitness , propriety , suitability (yogena ind. and yogatas ind. suitably , fitly , duly , in the right manner); exertion , endeavour , zeal , diligence , industry , care , attention (yoga-tas ind. strenuously , assiduously ; puurNena yogena , with all one's powers , with overflowing zeal)

nishaam (acc.): f. night
api: also
atinaamayeH (2nd pers. sg. optative of causitive of ati-√nam: to bend aside, keep on one side): you might cause to be set aside, you might spend

Sunday, September 20, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.19: Feeding the Love of Practice

yog'-aacaaras tath" aahaaraM
shariiraaya prayacchati
kevalaM kShud-vighaat'-aarthaM
na raageNa na bhaktaye

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

So the devotee of practice

Tenders food to his body

Solely to stave off hunger,

Neither with passion nor as devotion.

If the essential elements of working on the self are
(a) inhibiting one's unconscious reaction to a stimulus,
(b) coming back to the fundamental matter of maintaining one's own integrity, and
(c) going into movement, then this Canto, as I read it, centres on (c), going into movement.

The theme of Canto 14, "Stepping Out," is stepping out into action, beginning practice in earnest. That the Canto begins with a long section on eating food seems to show the importance that the Buddha attached to eating food as a foremost practical matter in itself. At the same time, the discussion of eating food seems to highlight a general paradox for a yog'aacaraH, one who is devoted to the actual conduct of practice.

Speaking from the standpoint of my own faulty sensory appreciation, the matter of eating food is perhaps one of the few things -- unlike, say, sex and money -- that I have not tended to see out of perspective. I was probably fortunate in childhood that, though we never starved, there were occasions when housekeeping money ran out and food was scarce.

What has been more of a problem, and what continues to be a problem, is the paradox for the yog'aacaraH, devotee of practice, who is mumukShu, desirous of freedom/release (14.11). To get free means getting free of parikalpa, fixing (13.49 - 53). But in the matter of the practitioner's eating of food vikalpa, freedom of choice, picking and choosing, is vaaryate, prohibited (14.9).

Wanting to be a free and independent individual comes easily to me. But with the decision to give up certain freedoms for that very purpose of being free, I struggle. Alexander work, especially with a very demanding teacher named Nelly Ben-Or, highlighted for me what a struggle this decision can be. It is a decision to be not the one who knows, to give up on a very deep level a feeling of individual autonomy which is tied up with self-importance and with fear/survival reflexes.

For my wife who is Japanese, it often seems, the struggle is more the other way.

Having lived in Japan for 13 years and been married to a Japanese for nearly 20 years I have often been struck both by the lack of the Buddha's influence in Japanese culture and by the presence of it.

The lack relates to a tendency to shun independent thinking as an individual. The presence relates to a genuine and deep devotion to work, to training, to practice.

Japanese piano students at English music colleges, I am told, are notorious for their mindlessly repetitive practice, as opposed to "the whole body being informed with thought."

The challenge for both sides, English and Japanese, is to devote ourselves to practice which is not mindless but which is imbued with thought. And that devotion has to be a kind of true love.

Yog'aacaraH in the first line suggests to me a person who has such an attitude towards practice. I think in particular of a phrase I heard spoken by a Japanese practitioner of the martial arts whom I admired. In Japanese the phrase was keiko ga tsuki, "I love practice!"


Having translated the fourth line as
Neither with passion for food, nor for the love of body.

I had second thoughts.

Raaga , passion/colour, would seem to refer to passion for food. But should the object of bhakti, devotion/love be understood as one's own body; or, should the object of devotion be understood as hunger -- the enemy who is being warded off?

Certainly there are people, body-builders and the like, who seem to eat their protein pills as an act of self-love of their own bodies. But aren't there also people, anorexics, bulemics and the like, who seem to eat as an act of devotion to hunger?

And as I write down these second thoughts, I ask myself whether in fact my own perspective on eating food has always been so balanced!

Now I am in danger of rambling, but I never claimed this to be anything other than a work in progress. The true gold, as always, is in the bold.

EH Johnston:
So the Yoga adept tenders food to his body merely to suppress hunger, not out of gluttony or devotion to it.

Linda Covill:
likewise the practitioner of yoga gives food to his body, not because of greed or affection for his body but solely to remove hunger.

yoga: m. the act of yoking , joining ; a means , expedient , device , way , manner , method ; exertion , endeavour ; practice of yoga, practice
aacaaraH (nom. sg.): m. conduct , manner of action , behaviour , good behaviour , good conduct ; custom , practice , usage , traditional or immemorial usage (as the foundation of law) ; (with Buddhists) agreeing with what is taught by the teacher
tathaa (correlative of yathaa): so, likewise
aahaaram (acc.): food

shariiraaya (dative): to the body
prayacchati = 3rd pers. sg. of pra-√yam: to hold out towards , stretch forth , extend; to offer , present , give

kevalam: solely
kShud: hunger
vighaata: m. a stroke ; driving back , warding off ; removal , prohibition , prevention
artham: for the purpose of

na: not
raageNa = inst. of raaga: colour , hue , tint , dye , (esp.) red colour , redness; any feeling or passion , (esp.) love , affection or sympathy for , vehement desire of , interest or joy or delight in
na: not
bhaktaye = dative of bhakti: attachment , devotion , fondness for ; trust , homage , worship , piety , faith or love or devotion (as a religious principle or means of salvation , together with karman , " works " , and jNaana , " spiritual knowledge " )

Saturday, September 19, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.18: Surrendering to the Other for the Sake of Others -- And for the Breath of Life

shocataa piiDyamaanena
diiyate shatrave yathaa
na bhaktyaa n' aapi tarSheNa
kevalaM praaNa-guptaye

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

Just as one under siege, in sorrow,

Gives in to a rival king,

Not out of devotion, nor through thirsting,

But solely to safeguard life,

A literal translation of the first two lines of this verse (given that the instrumental case can denote the agent in a passive construction) might be "Just as the-sorrowing-and-being-pressed yields to the overthrower."

The verse suggests to me the response of a king of an ancient city-state who is concerned, as any true leader invariably is, not so much to save his own skin as to save the lives of those he leads.

In the same way, 14.16 could describe the wish of a raft-builder to cross over not only himself but also others.

Master Dogen's teaching is that the bodhisattva vow is to cause others to cross to the far shore before crossing over oneself. I would like to read these verses as a confirmation of my understanding of that teaching. But my wanting the Buddha to be saying that might be a kind of bias of which a translator should be wary. Implicit in this verse in particular, as I read it, is the primary concern for others before oneself. Still, in this metaphor of the beleaguered king and in the previous metaphor of the raft, there is no explicit distinction between saving self and saving others.

As I sat this morning, having prepared the above comment yesterday, the question arose of what gold might be buried in this verse for me, who is not a beleaguered king, but who is sitting as an individual citizen of a more-or-less free country.

At the same time, there was George's totally vital question of yesterday: "What is your intention when you sit? To what kind of stimulus you inhibit your faulty reaction?"

The praana which the protagonist of this verse wishes to safeguard is the breath of life, i.e., life itself. And when one examines honestly and in detail what oppressive force beleaguers the breath of life, what enemy prevents the breath of life being breathed as fully and freely as a baby breathes it, the original enemy might be tarSha, thirsting.

The literal meaning of tarSha is thirsting. In the search for understanding of what thirsting actually means in practice, in the moment of action and in the moment before action, my intuition from daily practice of sitting-zen in Japan led me back to study the Alexander Technique in England.

To say I have no regrets might not be the whole truth. To say that Alexander work has caused me to become free of thirsting for a kind of kingdom would not be the whole truth. But in the end what kingdom is more valuable than the breath of life? And what principle is more precious than the preventive principle of truly allowing the breath of life to be breathed?

EH Johnston:
Just as a man who is being oppressed gives in grief to an enemy, not out of devotion to him or of desire for anything, but merely to preserve his life,

Linda Covill:
Just as a grief-stricken man under duress hands over his goods to his enemy, not out of affection nor because he wants something but solely to safeguard his life,

shocataa = inst. of pres. part. of shuc: to shine , flame , gleam , glow , burn ; to suffer violent heat or pain , be sorrowful or afflicted , grieve ; to bewail , lament
piiDyamaanena = inst. of passive pres. part. of piiD: to press , squeeze ; to hurt , harm , injure , oppress , pain , vex ; to beleaguer (a city)
diiyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive of daa: to give , bestow , grant , yield , impart
shatrave = dative sg. shatru: " overthrower " , an enemy , foe , rival , a hostile king (esp. a neighbouring king as a natural enemy)
yathaa: just as

na: not
bhaktyaa = inst. of bhakti: f. attachment , devotion
n' aapi: not either, nor
tarSheNa = inst. of tarSha: m. (from √tRSh; to thirst for) thirst , wish

kevalam: ind. only , merely , solely
praaNa: m. the breath of life , breath ; life
guptaye = dative of gupti: f. preserving , protecting , protection

Friday, September 18, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.17: To Cross a Flood of Suffering

tath" opakaraNaiH kaayaM
dhaarayanti pariikShakaaH
na tat-snehena yaavat tu
duHkh'-aughasya titiiRShayaa

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

So too, by various means,

Do men of insight sustain the body,

Not because they are so fond of it

But because they mean to cross a flood of suffering.

The subject of the previous verse is kashcid , someone, anyone. The subject of this verse is pariikShakaaH, men of insight, men who look around them and look into what they see -- not human sheep who take things at face value, or who gullibly believe the conventional wisdom, but provers, examiners, judges, independent thinkers, individuals who test things out in their own experience.

A person in the former group -- someone, anyone -- would wish to avoid suffering. What ordinary person wouldn't wish to avoid suffering?

But men of insight eat food not with the intention of avoiding suffering, and not with the expectation of meeting a bit of suffering: they eat food to sustain the body because they mean to cross a veritable flood of it.

This verse also does not say, as I read it, that men of insight mean to cross, as if it were an abstract cliche, "the flood of suffering."

I would like to see myself as belonging to the latter category of man, the insightful as opposed to the superficial. But the truth, on closer inspection of my history and tendencies, might be that without this teaching of the Buddha my tendency would always be to be fond of my own body and to wish, as any ordinary person would wish, not to come across too much suffering in my life -- maybe a puddle or two, the odd meandering river would be all right. Most lakes of physical suffering I will have a go at swimming through. When I set off for Japan in 1982, packing my karate kit, it was with that kind of spirit of self-challenge. But a flood of emotional suffering? I wasn't prepared for that.

EH Johnston:
So men of insight support the body by the usual means, not out of love for it, but simply to cross the flood of suffering.

Linda Covill:
likewise clear-sighted men support the body with a means of subsistence, not because they are so fond of it but because they intend to cross the flood of suffering.

tathaa: so, likewise
upakaraNaiH = instr. pl. of upakaraNa (fr. upa- √kR, to bring near, furnish with): n. the act of doing anything for another , doing a service or favour , helping , assisting , benefiting ; instrument; expedient ; means of subsistence , anything supporting life
upa: towards , near to (opposed to apa , away) , by the side of , with , together with, under;
kR: to do; to bring
kaayam (acc.): the body

dhaarayanti = 3rd pers. plural causitive of dhR: to hold , bear (also bring forth) , carry , maintain , preserve
pariikShakaaH = nom. pl. of pariikShaka (from pari- √iikSh to look round , inspect carefully): m. a prover , examiner , judge

na: not
tat: it
snehena (inst.): out of fondness
yaavat: insofar as
tu: but

duHkha: suffering
aughasya (gen.): of the flood
titiiRShayaa = inst. of titiirShaa (from desiderative of tR): desire of crossing

Thursday, September 17, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.16: Parable of the Raft

plavaM yatnaad yathaa kash cid
badhniiyaad dhaarayed api
na tat-snehena yaavat tu
mah"-aaughasy' ottitiirShayaa

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

Just as someone might take pains

To build and then carry a raft,

Not because he is so fond of it

But because he means to cross a great flood,

This and the next verse bring to my mind a sentence in FM Alexander's writings that puzzled me greatly when I first read it. It has to do with getting means and end in proper perspective. Alexander's sentence is as follows:

I wish it to be understood that throughout my writings I use the term "conscious guidance and control" to indicate primarily a plane to be reached rather than a method of reaching it.

This sentence was written in the context of Alexander's singing the praises of the indirect means-whereby procedure, as opposed to direct end-gaining. So what was Alexander getting at?

Four essential elements of working on the self are:
(1) To have an intention to gain an end, e.g., standing up from a chair.
(2) To say no to acting on that intention on the basis of what feels right. This act of saying no, or inhibition, is the foundation stone of "thwarting the power of senses" (indriya-jaya).
(3) To think, to send directions from the brain to establish a better integration of the whole organism. E.g. "I wish to allow the neck to release, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, to let the limbs release out and lengthen."
(4) To keep thinking while giving consent to going ahead and gaining the end, i.e., going into movement.

When something goes wrong, insufficient attention has generally been paid to one of these four elements. And most often it is No. (2). When something goes wrong, it is generally a failure of inhibition. In general, what has happened when something goes wrong is that I have paid lip service to the principle of inhibition, while all the time at the back of my brain there was still an idea of doing something to gain an end.

Alexander said: It is not getting in and out of chairs, even under the best of conditions that is of any value: that is simply physical culture. It is what you have been doing in preparation that counts when it comes to making movements.

Conscientious students of Alexander, taking this on board, understanding that the secret is in the preparation, focus their attention on elements No. (2) and (3) -- inhibiting and directing.

In some instances, however, more attention needs to be paid to elements No. (1) and (4) -- really intending to move, and actually going into movement.

For example, as I sit, is it that I have truly given up the idea that puts me wrong, in order to be able to go into movement more freely? Or is it that I have simply given up all effort, and am on the verge of falling asleep?

In the case of the raft-builder in this verse, this question is clearly answered. It is with pains (yatnaat) that he builds his raft, and then carries it towards the waterfront, because he intends to cross a great flood. He intends to get across. He really means it.

So how can the parable of the raft help us who sit get a better perspective of means and end?

If one is intending to set sail across a great flood, it is not that the raft is not important. The raft is very important. The attention one pays to the job of binding together the raft and then carrying it safely to a suitable launching site may turn out to be a matter of life and death. So, at the preparatory stage of raft-building, it may be wise not to allow one's attention to be distracted by speculating about what may lie on the far shore, beyond the flood; it may be wise not even to worry about today's weather. It may be better just to give one's full attention to building and not dropping the raft.

Our tendency as subconsciously controlled human beings, however, is always to take things too far. As my grandmother tellingly remarked at a family get-together ten years ago, not long before she died, as if she were talking about a small child, "Michael always takes things too far."

Thus, stupid people who take things too far, when they hear how important the raft is, are liable to proclaim, "We are not interested in getting to the other side. Being interested in getting to the other side is end-gaining, or, to use the Japanese phrase, U-SHOTOKU. Whereas our practice is MU-SHOTOKU. We are only interested in raft-carrying."

What FM Alexander seems to be saying, and what the Buddha seems to be saying in this and the next verse, as I understand them, is something very different from the stupid view.

Though perhaps not as baffled by Alexander's statement as I once was, I think that I, in my daily ineptitude, am still very susceptible to the stupid view. A blinkered fondness for the familiarity of the raft offers a certain comfort to the inept, especially when a storm is blowing.

It is all too easy to take refuge in raft-building and raft-carrying, and to forget one's original intention to get to the far shore, by going into movement.

This translation work is just a raft-building exercise, as the Shobogenzo translation was also a raft-building exercise. But so far who is there that has used the raft to get to the far shore? Who is there that has truly made the nectar of immortality into their own possession?

I think that when the Buddha spoke of amrta, the nectar of immortality, the immortality of an acclaimed raft-builder was not the kind of immortality he had in mind. The true immortals, the eternal buddhas, are the ones who, after due preparation, dared to go into movement, and thereby made it to the other side.

EH Johnston:
As a man will construct a boat with great labour and even carry it, not because he loves it, but simply in order to cross a great flood,

Linda Covill:
Just as someone might effortfully construct a boat and even carry it, not because he is so fond of it but because he needs to cross a great flood,

plavam (acc.): mn. a float , raft , boat , small ship
yatnaat = abl. yatna: effort, pains, trouble
yathaa: just as
kash cid: someone

badhniiyaad = 3rd pers. sg. optative of bandh: to bind; to form or produce in any way
dhaarayed = 3rd pers. sg. causative optative of dhR: to carry
api: and, also

na: not
tat: it
snehena = instr. of sneha: oiliness; blandness , tenderness , love , attachment to , fondness or affection for (loc. gen. , or comp.) ,
yaavat: ind. in as much as, insofar as
tu: but

mahaa: great
aaughasya = gen. of augha: m. flood , stream
uttitiirShayaa = instr. of uttitiirShaa (from uttRR, to cross): the wish to cross

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.15: Eating to Postpone the Inevitable

dhaaraN'-aarthaM shariirasya
bhojanaM hi vidhiiyate
upastambhaH pipatiShor
dur-balasy' eva veshmanaH

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

For the upkeep of the body

Food is provided

As if to prop, before it falls,

A dilapidated house.

The truth described by the 2nd law of thermodynamics, the principle of impermanence, the certainty of aging, sickness and death, seems never to be far from the Buddha's thoughts.

Sustained by the energy in food, each individual has a possibility of being more or less up for a while, but gravity is going to get us all in the end.

The truth of impermanence, as I read it, is what this verse is about. The verse discusses a physical matter -- upkeep of the body through eating of food -- but along the way it quietly places a time-bomb under a mental idea we are liable to have about the body.

The idea of physical fitness that I used to have, as one who was very keen on physical fitness and who married a very fit Japanese P.E. teacher, is very far from the reality of a body as Buddha sees it here.

FM Alexander, like the Buddha before him, and as far as we know quite independently from the Buddha, came to the conclusion that change is the ultimate reality.

Hence, when asked what he believed in, FM replied, "I believe in everything. And I believe in nothing."

What Alexander work compells one to be increasingly clear about, year by year, is the wisdom, for one who wishes to maintain his body in relatively good order, of the indirect approach.

Direct intervention aimed at physical self-improvement, whether by cosmetic dentistry or by pounding a treadmill like a deranged hamster, is not going to lead anybody to drink the nectar of immortality. What might help, however, is giving up one's idea of physical perfection or physical fitness. And that kind of work, the work of giving up ideas, takes place not so much in the body as in the brain and nervous system.

As Marjory Barlow often reminded anybody who would listen, "The thinking re-educates the feeling, and the feeling re-educates the body."

When we sit with the mind, it is this way round.

Zen Master Dogen taught that there is sitting with the mind which is different from sitting with the body. But people today who are regarded as masters of "Soto Zen," I am afraid, do not understand what Master Dogen meant. My own teacher, Gudo Nishijima, certainly did not understand this point. And I am constantly liable to forget it myself. It goes against the grain of all the physical training I have mindlessly practised and enjoyed from an early age.

A few years ago, as I waited downstairs for an Alexander lesson in Marjory Barlow's 3rd-floor flat, I heard Marjory's voice and was struck by the extent to which her teaching was all about indirectness. She did not know I was listening, but the sound of her voice, and the spirit it expressed, changed my physical being at that moment, albeit very indirectly. So that I might not forget the moment, I tried to capture it in verse:

From downstairs I hear "Lucky me!"
And start letting baggage go.
The wisdom of the indirect
Has more power than we know.

EH Johnston:
For food is intended for the support of the body, like a prop for the support of a weak dwelling that is falling down.

Linda Covill:
For food is provided to support the body, just as a prop is provided for a dilapidated house on the point of collapse.

dhaaraNa: mfn. holding , bearing , keeping (in remembrance) , retention , preserving , protecting , maintaining , possessing , having (ifc. or with gen.)
artham: for the purpose of
shariirasya (gen.): of/for the body

bhojanam (acc.): food
hi: for
vidhiiyate = passive of vi-√ dhaa: to distribute , apportion , grant , bestow ; to furnish , supply ; to put in order , arrange , dispose , prepare , make ready ; to divide , parcel out ;
to ordain , direct

upastambhaH (nom.): m. stay , support , strengthening
pipatiShoH = gen. of pipatiShu (desiderative from √ pat, to fall): being about to fall

dur-balasya = gen. of durbala: mfn. of little strength , weak , feeble
eva: emphatic
veshmanaH = gen. of vesman: house

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.14: Eating Like This, Not Like That

evam abhyavahartavyaM
bhojanaM pratisaMkhyayaa
na bhuuSh"-aarthaM na vapuShe
na madaaya na dRptaye

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

So food should be eaten,


Not for display, not for appearance;

Not so as to excite hilarity, not to feed extravagance.

In this and the previous three verses the Buddha seems to be saying: Eat like this, for conscious healing of the soul, for conscious sustenance of the body, for conscious salvation of self and others; not like that, unconsciously, with an attitude in which eating food is got all out of perspective.

Consciousness, as a general rule, seems to relate with knowing what not to do.

FM Alexander understood, as clearly as anybody in recent times has understood, that one doesn't become more conscious by trying harder to be conscious. Trying harder is just unconscious behaviour, and practising unconscious behaviour does not make us conscious.

We become conscious by inhibiting unconscious behaviour. That means (a) seeing/knowing what not to do, and then not forgetting the all-important practical step of (b) not doing it.

This verse, then, may be seen as presaging the Buddha's exposition in Canto 16 of the noble truth of the cessation of suffering.

EH Johnston:
So food should be eaten with circumspection, not to obtain splendour or beauty of form or out of intoxication or wantonness.

Linda Covill:
that's how food should be eaten, with careful reflection, and not for display, not for one's appearance, nor for self-pride nor amusement.

evam: thus, in such a manner
abhyavahartavya = gerundive of abhy-ava-√hR: to take food , eat

bhojanam (acc.): food, meal
pratisaMkhyayaa = inst of pratisaMkhyaa (from prati-saM√khyaa, to count or reckon up) : f. consciousness
prati-: (prefix expressing direction towards)
saM-: (prefix expressing conjunction, union, thoroughness, intensity, completeness)
√khyaa: (the simple verb occurs only in the passive khyaayate , to be named , be known; and in the causitive khyaapayati , to make known)

na: not
bhuuShaa: f. ornament , decoration
artham: for the purpose of
na: not
vapuShe = dat. vapus: n. form , figure , (esp.) a beautiful form or figure , wonderful appearance , beauty (vapuShe ind. for beauty)

na: not
madaaya = dat. mada: m. hilarity , rapture , excitement , inspiration , intoxication; f. sexual desire or enjoyment , wantonness , lust , ruttishness , rut (esp. of an elephant) ; f. , pride , arrogance , presumption , conceit
na: not
dRptaye = dat. dRpti (>>pra-dRpti): f. haughtiness , arrogance , madness
dRp: to be mad or foolish , to rave ; to be extravagant or wild , to be arrogant or proud , to be wildly delighted ; to light , kindle , inflame

Monday, September 14, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.13: To Cross Each Other Over...

samatikramaN'-aarthaM ca
kaantaarasya yath" aadhvagau
putra-maaMsaani khaadetaaM
dampatii bhRsha-duHkitau

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

And just as two travellers

In order to cross a wilderness

Might feed upon the flesh of a child,

Though grievously pained to do so,
as its mother and father,

With respect to the struggle to cross over from the instinctive to the conscious plane of self-control, Marjory Barlow used to say, "This work is the most serious thing in the world, but you mustn't take it seriously."

Here the Buddha seems to encourage us also to realise it the other way round, as if to say: "This work of not taking oneself too seriously, you should realise, is really the most serious thing in the world."

In the same vein, here is a quote from Patrick Macdonald's book, The Alexander Technique As I See It:

The F. Matthias Alexander Technique is "like unto a treasure hid in a field, the which, when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath and buyeth that field." Note that he selleth all that he hath. He does not merely go without a television set or a holiday in France or, perhaps a fur coat for his wife. He selleth all that he hath! And, while a proper use of the self is not the Kingdom of Heaven, it is practically an indispensable means of approaching it.

The original comparison of the Kingdom of Heaven to a treasure hid in a field appears in the New Testament of the Christian bible (Matthew 13.34).

Whether or not one believes in the Kingdom of Heaven, what Patrick Macdonald is saying seems very relevant to the present themes of Canto 12 (confidence in a higher good), Canto 13 (practice of integrity), and Canto 14 (stepping out into the unknown).

This verse, as I read it, says something about the determination that is needed to get across, without counting the cost, when one steps out into the wilderness.

More than that, the metaphor as I understand it is particularly powerful because it is not only about getting myself across. Though the mother has failed to get across the baby that she bore, she can still desire to get the the other across. And so she might say to the other, for a start, "Don't worry about the rights and wrongs, but eat."

This verse, as I read it, has got nothing whatever to do with vegetarianism, Mahayana Buddhism, or any other kind of -ism. I read it as a record of the original teaching of Gautama the Buddha.

EH Johnston:
As parents on a journey, grievous though they would find it, would eat the flesh of their children to enable them to cross the desert,

Linda Covill:
In violent desperation parents on a journey might eat the flesh of their child to survive the wilderness;

samatikramaNa = action noun from sam-ati-√kram: to go or pass by entirely , cross or step over ; to step out of
artham: for the purpose of
ca: and

kaantaarasya (gen.): mn. a large wood , forest , wilderness , waste
yathaa: just as
adhvagau (nom. dual of adhvaga): two travellers

putra: son, child
maaMsaani = acc. pl. of maaMsa: n. sg. and pl. flesh , meat
khaadetaam = 2nd pers. dual, optative of khaad: to chew , bite , eat , devour , feed , prey upon

dampatii (nom. dual of dampati): " the two masters " , husband and wife
bhRsha: ibc. strongly , violently , vehemently , excessively , greatly , very much
duHkitau (nom. dual of duHkita): mfn. pained , distressed ; afflicted , unhappy

Sunday, September 13, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.12: To Bear a Material Burden...

bhaarasy' odvahan'-aarthaM ca
rath'-aakSho 'bhyajyate yathaa
bhojanaM praaNa-yaatr"-aarthaM
tadvad vidvaan niShevate

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

Just as, to ready it for bearing a burden,

The axle of a wagon is greased,

So, in order to journey through life,

The wise man utilizes food.

Hail to the bowl of brown rice topped with grated radish from the garden. Hail to the bacon butties my grandma used to make for breakfast. They let the spirit be willing (14.11), and prevent the flesh from becoming weak (14.12).

On the present subject of eating food, the three metaphors of verses 14.11, 14.12, and 14.13 seem to make up a mind-matter-reality triangle.

The previous verse is more white collar; it has to do with healing and with willing freedom -- the most mental thing there is. This verse is firmly based in working-class material practicality. And the next verse presents a human situation which, transcending collar-colour or creed, is desperately serious and real.

EH Johnston:
And as the axle of a chariot is greased to enable it to bear a load, so the wise man employs food to enable his life to continue.

Linda Covill:
As a cart-axle is oiled to allow it to bear a heavy weight, so a wise man takes food to enable him to journey through life.

bhaarasya = gen. bhaara: m. (√bhR) a burden , load , weight
udvahana: n. the act of lifting or bringing up ; carrying , drawing , driving
artham: for the purpose of
ca: and

ratha: m. (√R) " goer " , a chariot , car , wagon, cart
aakShaH (nom. sg.): m. an axle , axis
abhyajyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive of abhy-√aJj: to smear , anoint
yathaa: just as

bhojanam (acc.): n. the act of eating; a meal, food
praaNa: breath, life
yaatraa: f. going , setting off , journey; support of life
artham: for the purpose of

tadvad (correlative of yathaa): so, in like manner
vidvaan = nom. sg. m. of vidvas: one who knows; a wise man , sage , seer
niShevate = 3rd pers. sg. of niShev: (with acc.) to frequent , inhabit , visit , serve , attend , honour , worship , follow , approach , enjoy (also sexually) , incur , pursue , practise , perform , cultivate , use , employ

Saturday, September 12, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.11: Eating to Feed the Will to Freedom...

cikits"-aarthaM yathaa dhatte
vraNasy' aalepanaM vraNii
kShud-vighaat'-aarthaM aahaaras
tadvat sevyo mumukShunaa

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

Just as, for the purpose of healing,

One who is wounded puts ointment on a wound,

So, for the purpose of staving off hunger,

Food is eaten by one who wills freedom.

"Willing freedom" (or the alternative "willing release") as a translation of mumukShu reflects my practice and understanding of THINKING as I have experienced the experience of experienced Alexander teachers endeavouring to teach it.

In Alexander work we make effort to free ourselves from the tyranny of faulty sensory appreciation by means of THINKING.

It is not so much that we are desirous of emancipation, and still less that we are hopeful of liberation. We will it. We THINK it.

"Neck free, head forward and up, back to lengthen and widen, legs and arms releasing out and lengthening." These words can mean nothing. Or they can express a genuine will to freedom. They can be the will to freedom expressing itself.

On this video clip on THINKING Marjory Barlow says how THINKING can be used to bring about a very indirect control over the body. Marjory describes FM Alexander's discovery of how he was able by THINKING to free himself from wrong habits as "Probably one of the biggest discoveries ever made by a human being." This is quite a statement from a lady who was not given to wild statements.

EH Johnston:
As a wounded man applies a salve to his wound to heal it, so food is to be taken to destroy hunger by the man desirous of emancipation.

Linda Covill:
A man hopeful of liberation should take food in order to remove hunger, just as a man with an ulcer puts ointment on it to heal it.

cikitsaa: f. medical attendance , practice or science of medicine
artham: for the purpose of
yathaa: just as
dhatte = 3rd pers. sg. of dhaa: to put

vraNasya = gen. of vraNa: m. a wound , sore , ulcer , abscess , tumour , cancer , boil , scar
aalepanam (acc.): n. smearing , plastering , anointing ; liniment ; ointment
vraNii (nom. sg. m): one who has a wound, sore, ulcer etc.

kShud = in compounds for kShudh: f. hunger
vighaata: m. a stroke , blow ; breaking off or in pieces ; driving back , warding off ; destruction , ruin ; removal , prohibition , prevention , interruption
artham: for the purpose of
aahaaraH (nom.): m. taking food, food

tadvat (correlative of yathaa): so, in that manner
sevyaH = nom m. of sevya: to be resorted to; to be practised
mumukShunaa = inst. of mumukShu (from √muc: to release): mfn. desirous of freeing, eager to be free (from mundane existence)

Friday, September 11, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.10: Taking Refuge in the Fridge

na hy eka-viShaye 'nyatra
sajyante praaNinas tathaa
a-vijNaate yath" aahaare
boddhavyaM tatra kaaraNam

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

For on no other single object

Are sentient beings so stuck

As on the heedless eating of food.

To the reason for this one must be awake.

If we understand this verse in the context of the previous one, then the kind of heedless eating referred to here might be a top restaurant critic's eating of the choicest foods prepared by the most celebrated chefs in the restaurants with the most Michelin stars.

In that case, the lack of discernment is not a lack of discernment in that part of the gastronome's sensory cortex which is linked to his taste-buds. The lack of discernment might be a failure to heed, for example, the noble truth of suffering.

Failing to heed the truth of suffering, gastronomes and junk-food junkies alike turn for comfort to comfort food. Instead of looking forward to liberation from enslavement to faulty feeling, we look forward to a tasty morsel, or to a big portion of chips, that might just hit the spot. Instead of taking refuge in the teaching of cessation, we seek refuge in the refrigerator.

What is the reason for this tendency to get drawn to the fridge and stuck on food? And what does it mean to be awake to it?

The original reason for all such instances of being stuck might be a kind of fixing (parikalpa-visheSha 13.53), and the root causes of all such suffering might be the reptilian faults (dosha-vyaalaan; 14.29). But to know the causes and to understand the reason is one thing; really being awake to the reason is another. Really being awake might have to do with stopping off the causes at source, and that might be a function not so much of knowledge and understanding but more of integrity, balance, and wisdom (siila, samaadhi, prajna; 16.34-36).

The fourth line, then, seems to presage the exposition of the four noble truths which is to come in Canto 16.

If we were really awake to the reason for fixing, why would we waste so much time trying to be right and scoffing food,
instead of sleeping
and sitting upright
in freedom?

EH Johnston:
Since living beings are not so much attached to any other single object as to superfluous food. Know the reason for this teaching.

Linda Covill:
for living beings are not so attached to any other single sphere of activity as they are to indiscriminate eating. Make sure you understand the reason for this.

na: not
hi: for
eka: one, a single
viShaye = loc. viShaya: sphere, reach, object of sense; anything perceptible by the senses , any object of affection or concern or attention , any special worldly object or aim or matter or business , (pl.) sensual enjoyments , sensuality
anyatra = anyasmin, loc. of anya: other

sajyante = 3rd person pl. of saj: to cling or stick or adhere to
praaNinaH = nom. pl. of praaNin: m. a living or sentient being , living creature , animal or man
tathaa: so, as much, in like manner

avijNaate = loc. avijNaata: mfn. unknown; indistinct , doubtful ; not noticed , passed unawares (as the time)
a-: (negative suffix)
vijNaata: mfn. discerned , understood , known
yathaa (correlative of tathaa): as much as
aahaare = loc. aahaara: m. taking food, food

boddhavya (gerundive of √ budh) = mfn. to be attended to or noticed
√budh: to wake , wake up , be awake; to recover consciousness (after a swoon) ; to observe , heed , attend to; to perceive , notice , learn , understand , become or be aware of or acquainted with
tatra: therein
kaaraNam (acc.): n. cause , reason , the cause of anything

Thursday, September 10, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.9: Picky Eaters Will Be Prosecuted

yasmaan n' aasti vin" aahaaraat
sarva-praaNa-bhRtaam sthitiH
tasmaad duShyati n'aahaaro
vikalpo 'tra tu vaaryate

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

Since without food there is none that survives

Among those that bear breath,

Therefore eating food is not a sin;

But being choosy, in this area, is prohibited.

Vikalpa in the 4th line is, in the eating of food, just what is forbidden. I think that in this context it means fussiness, being a picky eater, being choosy.

At the same time, there might be some philosophical meaning to be dug out from the opposition between the parikalpa, "fixing, being set," proscribed at the end of Canto 13 as that which binds us to objects, and the vikalpa, "presence of options, not being set," proscribed here.

In the spirit of "less is more," I will leave you to dig it out for yourself, and remind myself that I am here primarily to dig it out for myself, not to keep on trying ad nauseam to nail down in words what cannot be nailed down in words. But I will add this, as a reflection:

When a forest monk is offered a biscuit with a cup of afternoon tea, in all probability, he will smile and say no thanks.

EH Johnston:
Since no creature drawing breath can exist without food, therefore to take food is not wrong, but a choice of foods is prohibited,

Linda Covill:
Since none who bear breath can continue to exist without food, eating is not wrong. However, a choice of foods is not permitted,

yasmaat (correlative of tasmaat): since
na: not
asti: there is
vinaa: without
aahaaraat = ablative of aahaara: food

sarva: all
praaNa-bhRtaam = genitive plural of praaNa-bhRti: breath-bearing
sthitiH (nom. sg.): f. standing upright or firmly , not falling ; continuance in being , maintenance of life

tasmaat: therefore
duShyati = 3rd pers. sg. of duSh: to become bad or corrupted , to be defiled or impure , to be ruined , perish ; to sin , commit a fault , be wrong
na: not
aahaaraH (nom. sg.): m. taking food, food

vikalpaH (nom. sg.): m. alternation , alternative , option ; variation , combination , variety , diversity , manifoldness ; indecision , irresolution, doubt ; false notion , fancy , imagination
atra: ind. (fr. pronominal base a ; often used in sense of loc. case asmin), in this matter , in this respect
tu: but
vaaryate = 3rd pers. sg. passive of vR: to prohibit, forbid

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.8: Fasting OK in Moderation

atyantam api saMhaaro
n' aahaarasya prashasyate
an-aahaaro hi nirvaati
nir-indhana iv' aanalaH

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

Excessive fasting, also,

Is not recommended;

For one who does not eat is extinguished

Like a fire without fuel.

Again, I think the Buddha is speaking from his real experience of taking fasting too far.

An intention implicit in this verse might be that a bit of fasting never did anybody any harm.

Being fixed in a view that fasting is necessarily wrong, however, might be harmful -- because to be fixed in any view is harmful, if not to others, then certainly to the growth of one's own consciousness. This is a reflection from my own experience.

To say that excessive fasting is not recommended is far from expressing a prejudice against fasting or from saying that fasting is prohibited. What is prohibited the Buddha is about to tell us, with remarkable sternness, in the next and subsequent verses.

EH Johnston:
Complete abstinence from food too is not recommended, for he who refrains from food is extinguished like a fire without fuel.

Linda Covill:
Total avoidance of food is not recommended, for a person who doesn't eat is extinguished like a fire without fuel.

ati: beyond
anta: m. end , limit , boundary
atyantam: ind. excessively , exceedingly , in perpetuity , absolutely , completely ; to the end
api: also
saMhaaraH (nom): m. bringing together; contraction (of the organs of speech); drawing in (of an elephant's trunk); destruction, end

na: not
aahaarasya = gen. of aahaara: m. taking food, food
prashasyate = 3rd per. sg. of pra-√shaas: to teach , instruct , direct ; to give instructions to ,

an-aahaarah (nom. sg. masc.): one who does not take food
hi: for
nirvaati = 3rd pers. sg. of nir-√vaa: to blow (as wind) ; to cease to blow, to be blown out or extinguished ;

nir-indhana: destitute of fuel
iva: like
analaH (nom. sg.): m. fire

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.7: Thermodynamics Revisited

atyaakraanto hi kaay'-aagnir
guruN" aannena shaamyati
avacchanna iv' aalpo 'gniH
sahasaa mahat" endhasaa

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

For the fire of the body is damped down

When it is burdened by a heavy load of food,

Like a small blaze suddenly covered

With a big heap of firewood.

Fuel can create an activation energy barrier to the burning of fuel.

That may be why old teachers much wiser than I am were sometimes heard to say, "Less is more."

If jiblet, kartikeya or any other pandit is passing, I would be grateful for clarification of the grammar of the final word of the verse, which seems to be an instrumental of a stem related to the root indh, to kindle.

EH Johnston:
For the fire of the body, if loaded with heavy food, dies down like a small fire covered all at once with a great load of fuel.

Linda Covill:
for when it is weighed down with heavy food, the fire of the body dies down like a small fire all at once covered with a lot of fuel.

ati: As a prefix to verbs and their derivatives , expresses beyond , over ; is often prefixed to nouns and adjectives , and rarely to verbs , in the sense excessive , extraordinary
aakraantaH (nom.): on which anything lies heavily , pressed by (instr. or in comp.) ; overcome , overrun , attacked , in the possession of (instr. or in comp.)
hi: for
kaaya; body
aagniH (nom.): fire ; the fire of the stomach , digestive faculty , gastric fluid

guruNa =inst. of guru: heavy, heavy in the stomach, difficult to digest
aannena (inst.): by food
shaamyati = 3rd pers. sg. of sham: to become tired , finish , stop; to cease , be allayed or extinguished

avacchanna: mfn. covered over , overspread , covered with (instr.)
iva: like
aalpaH (nom.): small
agniH (nom.): fire

sahasaa (instr. of sahas): forcibly , vehemently , suddenly , quickly , precipitately , immediately
mahataa (instr. of mahat): great
indh: to kindle , light , set on fire
indha [Apte dictionary]: m. fuel
indhana: n. kindling , lighting ; fuel ; wood , grass &c used for this purpose
indhasaa = instr. of ?[stem untraced]?

Monday, September 7, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.6: Each To His Own (Without Pride)

tasmaad abhyavahartavyaM
sva-shaktim anupashyataa
n' aatimaatraM na c' aatyalpaM
meyaM maana-vashaad api

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

So food is to be eaten,

Each reflecting on his own energy,

And none apportioning himself too much or too little

Under the influence of pride.

A key word in this verse might be sva-shakti, one's own energy. It suggests to me the principle of the individual.

Other key words in this verse, as I read it, might be anupashyat (reflecting) and maana (pride).

Reflecting on one's own energy, i.e. an individual looking at, noticing, or listening to how he or she really is, has to do with seeing things in a true perspective.

A certain kind of pride has a distorting influence on how one sees things; it might be both a cause and an effect of seeing things out of perspective.

There may be other kinds of pride that are not distorting -- for example, a worker's pride in his work, or a parent's pride in his children, or a teacher's pride in her students.

The kind of pride that is distorted and distorting, i.e. self-pride, as I have struggled to understand it over the many years since I first entered a dojo, has to do with vestibular dysfunction. It has to do with how the ears prevent the eyes from truly seeing.

Thus, when a person with a high opinion of himself feels justified in taking more than his fair share, or when a person with a spiritual agenda deprives himself of his fair share, such pride may in many cases be rooted in faulty functioning of the vestibular system.

EH Johnston:
Therefore you should eat, carefully considering your requirements, and should not measure out to yourself too much or too little under the influence of pride.

Linda Covill:
Therefore you should take food with due consideration for your own capacity. Don't apportion yourself too much or too little even if you have a strong opinion on this subject,

tasmaad: therefore
abhyavahartavyam = gerundive of abhy-ava-√hR: to take food, eat

sva-shaktim (acc.): f. own power or strength; own energy (of a god)
shakti: f. power , ability , strength , might , effort , energy , capability
anupashyataa = inst. of anupashyat (pres. part. of anu-pash): to look at , perceive , notice , discover ; to consider , reflect upon (acc.)

na: not
atimaatra: mfn. exceeding the proper measure
na ca: not either
atyalpa: very little

meya = gerundive of √3. maa: to measure out, mete out, apportion
maana: m. opinion , notion , conception , idea; purpose , wish , design; self-conceit , arrogance , pride
vashaat (ablative of vasha, will, desire; power, dominion): ifc. , " by command of , by force of , on account of , by means of , according to "
api: also

Sunday, September 6, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.5: Towards Balance

yathaa bhaareNa namate
laghun" onnamate tulaa
samaa tiShThati yuktena
bhojyen' eyam tathaa tanuH

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

Just as a weighing scale bends down with a heavy weight,

Bends upwards with a light one,

And stays in balance with the right one,

So does this body according to intake of food.

The literal meanings of the word nam in the 1st line and its antonym unnam in the 2nd line, are to bend downwards vs to bend upwards.

Sometimes it seems to be worth sticking with the first word given in the Sanskrit-English dictionary, even if it does not sound quite right to an English ear on first listening. We would normally say that a weighing scale falls or rises, goes down or goes up. We would not normally use the word "bend" which might tend to imply structural distortion, rather than free movement, of the beam of the weighing scale.

But down, up, and balance are very loaded words for us human beings with our unreliable senses of weight, and of balance and movement within the gravitational field. So caution might be called for. The Buddha might be pointing to a fact of which we, in our ignorance, are generally unaware. We need to dig deeper.

When people who are bent downwards in a slump try to make themselves upright, what they generally do is send to their body a direction that FM Alexander called "back and down." They bend backwards into a posture that they feel is more up but which, to the enlightened eye, is another kind of down. True up is nothing postural. True up is balance.

So what relation might the Buddha have observed between food intake and postural distortion?

When a man eats a heavy meal, his parasympathetic nervous system is prone to assume the ascendancy. Conversely, as Bob Marley said it, a hungry man is an angry man: when a man's body is deprived of food, his sympathetic nervous system is liable to assume the ascendancy.

These imbalances of the autonomic nervous system each has its own characteristic posture -- the parasympathetic slump vs sympathetic hyper-extension. Whereas balance of the autonomic nervous system might be characterized by dropping off of posture.

Master Dogen exhorted us to sit with body, to sit with mind, and to sit as body and mind dropping off.

My teacher, Gudo Nishijima, taught me that sitting with the body means sitting when the parasympathetic nervous system is in the ascendancy, sitting with the mind means sitting when the sympathetic nervous system is in the ascendancy, and sitting as body and mind dropping off means sitting with the autonomic nervous system in balance.

For all my faults, my brain is pretty good at knowing when I have not yet truly solved a problem. I experience the unresolved problem as a kind of suffering -- like when you can't remember something, or can't solve a riddle. And so more than 20 years ago I knew that my teacher's interpretation didn't quite hit the target, and this continued to bother me until, with the benefit of Alexander's insights into the mind-body problem, I finally understood to my own satisfaction what Master Dogen really meant.

Master Dogen meant sit on the basis of body-feeling, wrong though it may be. And sit on the basis of that which is dialectically opposed to body-feeling, which is mind-thinking, the wish for integrity. And finally, on the basis of balance of the autonomic nervous system et cetera, let sitting do itself. "Go into movement without a care in the world," as Marjory used to say.

So Master Dogen's words are pointing in the same direction as Nanda's journey: from the lower good of sensuality, with confidence, to a higher good based in integrity, and onward and upward into freedom in action.

Regrettably, on the way to solving the koan of physical, mental and transcendent sitting, and subsequently in my efforts to let everybody know about my brilliant solution, I caused quite a lot of collateral damage. So whether, on balance, any real good will come of my efforts very much remains to be seen. The scales might tip either way -- always assuming that I was able to let go of them.

Earlier this week an Alexander pupil phoned me up just a few hours before a lesson to cancel the lesson. She affected a light and breezy tone, inquiring about my stay in France, and then casually mentioned that she wouldn't be able to make the lesson, due to some pressing engagement, so how about Thursday. I was enraged. Why? Because she totally omitted to apologize for inconvenience caused.

I sat in my shed at the bottom of the garden, reflecting on my rage. Sadly, the mirror principle never fails at all.

That afternoon I wrote a letter to somebody who I need to apologize to -- an Alexander teacher of mine to whom I had been incredibly rude, like a frightened animal (to use Jordan's excellent analogy) snapping at the one who was trying to set it free. I didn't find it an easy letter to write. Something within me doesn't like to admit that I had any responsibility for what went wrong. Something within me would rather fight to the death. "It is all part of the fixing," Marjory Barlow would say.

Yesterday I found myself in a similarly uncomfortable position of needing to apologize for hurting the feelings of a family member who shall remain nameless. I just about managed to wring the word "sorry" out of myself, like trying to get a rusty pivot to move.

If somebody used a nut and bolt to fix a weighing scale at its fulcrum, so that the beam was level, and took a photo, the scale would seem to be in balance. But it wouldn't truly be in balance. For the balance to be true balance, the fulcrum would have not to be fixed. And that is a metaphor that resonates on many levels.

EH Johnston:
As the scales fall with too heavy a weight, rise with too light a one and remain level with the proper one, so is it with the body and its nourishment.

Linda Covill:
Just as the scales go down with a heavy weight and up with a light one, but stay level with the correct weight, so does this body with its food.

yathaa: just as
bhaareNa = inst. of bhaara: m. ( √ bhR) a burden , load , weight ; heavy work; a large quantity
namate = 3rd pers. sg. of nam: to bend or bow (either trans. or oftener intr. ) to bow to , subject or submit , one's self ; to yield or give way , keep quiet or be silent

laghunaa = inst. of laghu: light ; light in the stomach , easily digested

unnamate = 3rd pers. sg. of unnam (= ud, upwards + √nam, to bow): to bend upwards , raise one's self , rise , ascend
tulaa: f. a balance , weight

samaa: f. even , smooth , flat , plain , level ; equal ; constant ; having the right measure , regular , normal ; equally distant from extremes , ordinary , common , middling ; just , upright
tiShThati: it remains
yuktena = inst. of yukta: fit , suitable , appropriate , proper , right

bhojyena = inst. of bhojya: n. anything to be enjoyed or eaten , nourishment , food; n. the act of eating , a meal
iyam (nom. sg. f.): this
tathaa: so, likewise
tanuH (nom. sg.): f. the body , person , self