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


Raymond said...


I found this paragraph of yours very interesting:

" 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. "

I think we know what the real work is but at the moment of doing it, or inhibiting its opposite, it can seem altogether too hard. I think this may be why Dogen emphasized that a three year old can say it but a man of seventy cannot do it. I choose to go the wrong way because the right way's too hard about 99% of the time.

Take care.

Mike Cross said...

Hi Raymond,

When a person's sense of feeling is faulty, what he feels to be right is wrong absolutely 100% of the time.

So we need to think seriously about what the Buddha meant by indriya-jaya, defeating the power of feeling.

It might be that you haven't really understood anything yet, and me neither.

All the best,