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

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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


Jordan said...

Hi Mike,

I've been staring at his comment box for a while now.
I think the best I can do is say thanks.

So thanks!


Mike Cross said...

Thanks Jordan