puurvaM yaamaM tri-yaamaayaaH
prayogeN' aatinaamya tu
sevyaa shayyaa shariirasya
= = = = - = = =
- = = = - = - -
= = = = - = = -
= = = = - = - =
But having spent the first of the three night-watches
Engaged in active practice,
You should go to bed to rest the body,
Pulling your own strings.
Two key words in this verse as I read it are prayogena, 'by means of active practice,' and sva-tantriNaa, 'acting with self-control, pulling one's own strings.'
The prefix pra-, meaning forward or forth, suggests positive activity. In several places in Canto 16, for example, pravRtti, doing, is opposed to nivRtti, non-doing. Hence I have translated prayoga here as 'active practice,' with an implicit sense that going to bed to rest the body can also be practice, but practice of a more passive kind. Even activities like walking and sitting might not be active practice if they are performed by people who have never kick-started the bodhi-mind. And even an activity like lying down asleep might be a kind of passive practice if, in the background, the will to shed unconscious patterns of reaction is still operating.
In order to learn how to pull one's own strings, it can be very useful to entrust oneself totally for a time to the hands of a skilled puppet-master.
The Alexander Technique teacher Patrick Macdonald was alluding to this kind of conscious entrustment in a passage I have quoted on this blog before:
In learning the Technique considerable effort on the part of the pupil is required. A first step is to learn what sort of effort is necessary. The first essay nearly always produces more muscular tension, particularly in the neck, and this is exactly the opposite of what is required. The pupil must learn to stop doing, "to leave himself" in the hands of the teacher, neither tensing nor relaxing.
Another relevant passage from Macdonald's book The Alexander Technique As I See It is as follows:
You must learn to get out of the teacher's way, learn to get out of your own way, then learn to get out of ITS way.
The Chinese Zen Masters who ate when hungry and slept when tired were totally obedient to the Buddha's teaching of pulling one's own strings, as were those who, after eating a meal, looked forward to a pleasant nap. The Chinese Zen Master who stretched out his neck as if towards the Emperor's sword was pulling nobody's strings other than his own.
In trying to be an English Zen Master who pulls his own strings, I have been known to use foul and abusive language. That kind of tactic has been party conscious and partly unconscious. To the extent that it is an unconscious emotional reaction, expressing my own self-doubt in accordance with the mirror principle, it is part of the wrong doing that I wish, through the means of active practice, to release out of. And to that extent I have felt over the past few days that I should apologize for it, to James Cohen in particular.
At the same time, I reserve the right, should any self-appointed, other-anointed, or democratically elected Buddhist authority try to tell me how to behave, to tell that Buddhist authority to go fuck him or her (she might be a feminist) self. I served my time having my strings pulled by another, and there are four whopping great volumes of the Nishijima translation of Master Dogen's Shobogenzo to prove it. These days I am always for the individual. Millions of Russians, Brits, Americans and others died in WWII to defend the rights and freedoms of the individual against German and Japanese totalitarianism. And the basic truth remains, whatever kind of spin historians with variegated views wish to put on it, that the side which stood up against fascist oppression, for the individual, won.
But after passing the first of the three night-watches in activity, you should lie down to rest your body in full control of yourself.
However, after spending the first of the night's three watches in a useful way, a self-controlled man should seek sleep in order to rest his body.
puurvam (acc. m.): first (in a series) , initial
yaamam (acc.): m. a watch
yaamaayaaH = gen. sg. yaamaa: f. a night-watch , period or watch of 3 hours , the 8th part of a day
prayogeNa = inst. prayoga: practice , experiment (opp. to , " theory ") ; ceremonial form , course of proceeding
atinaamya = gerundive of ati-√nam: to bend aside , keep on one side.
ati: ind. passing, going, beyond
√nam: bend or bow
sevyaa (gerundive f.): to be resorted to, to be practised
shayyaa: f. a bed; f. lying , reposing , sleeping
shariirasya = gen. shariira: the body
vishraama: m. rest , repose , quiet , relaxation
sva-tantriNaa = inst. of sva-tantrin: mfn. free , independent , uncontrolled
sva: one's own, one's self
tantrin: mfn. having threads , made of threads , spun , wove ; chorded (an instrument) ; m. a musician ; m. a soldier