Thursday, September 24, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.24: Wanting to Be Awake, Always

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

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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


warby said...

Thanks for the brief footage of F.M.
I think it captures the essence of these lines.
I join you right now in these directions.
Enjoy the day

Mike Cross said...

Many thanks.

I can honestly report (as of 5.50 pm) that after a promising morning, this afternoon I have basically failed in my stated intention to keep the body informed with thought.

But the evening is still young!