Monday, October 5, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.34: Options (including Sitting)

yaame tRtiiye c' otthaaya
carann aasiina eva vaa
bhuuyo yogaM manaH-shuddhau
kurviithaa niyat'-endriyaH

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

Again, by getting up in the third watch

And going into movement,
or indeed just sitting,

You might renew your practice,
with mind refreshed,

And power of the senses curbed.

KurviithaaH in the fourth line is the 2nd person singular optative of kR, to do -- 'you might do.'

Coulson's Teach Yourself Sanskrit explains that while a prescriptive usage ('he shall do') is common in lawbooks and similar texts, the prevalent sense of the optative in Classical literary texts is potential, to express what 'may' or 'might' be the case now or in the future.

KurviithaaH in this verse, as I read it, carries this latter potential sense, so that the tone is not so much God speaking to prophet ('Thou shalt') but more man to man ('You might' -- or might not).

Somewhere in the middle way between too little and too much individual freedom, there is the freedom of Sitting-Buddha, pulling his own strings. Those strings are neither too tight nor too loose, because of the proper working of what FM Alexander called 'the primary control' -- essentially a person's use of head, neck, and back in relation to each other. What Alexander meant by proper employment of the primary control can't be defined adequately in words. It can't be set in stone. But that hasn't stopped people trying.

To describe the Buddha as "seated in meditation," to my ear does not do justice to Buddha or to Sitting or to Sitting-Buddha. The word the Buddha himself uses in this verse is not 'seated' but 'sitting' -- the present participle of aas, to sit.

How can the dynamism of Sitting-Buddha be expressed in words? It can't. But "letting the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen" was the closest that FM Alexander thought he could get.

How can the dynamism of Sitting-Buddha be sculpted in stone? It can't. But this sculpture, to my eye, is about as close as anybody could get.

After nearly 30 years of daily practice of this thing called in Japanese Zazen, or sitting-dhyaana, I am still not even sure how to translate 'sitting-Zen' into English. "Sitting-meditation" might not be too far from the mark -- though I don't really know what meditation means. There again I don't know what sitting means either.

EH Johnston:
Rise up in the third watch and, either walking or sitting, practise Yoga again in purity of mind with your senses under guard.

Linda Covill:
Get up in the third watch of the night, and either walking or sitting practice yogic discipline again with pure mind and controlled senses.

yaame = loc. yaama: m. a watch
tRtiiye = loc. tRtiiya: the 3rd
ca: and ; [you might do A] and [you might do B]
utthaaya = abs. utthaa: to stand up , spring up , rise

caran = pres. part. (nom. sg. m.) of car: to move one's self , go , walk
aasiinaH = pres. part. (nom. sg. m.) of aas: to sit
eva: [emphatic]
vaa: or

bhuuyas: more, further; once more, again, anew
yogam (acc.): m. practice
manas: mind
shuddhau = loc. shuddha: mfn. cleansed , cleared , clean , pure , clear

kurviithaaH = 2nd pers. sg. optative of kR: to do, make
niyata: mfn. held back or in; restrained , checked , curbed , suppressed , restricted , controlled; contained
indriyaH (nom. sg.): power of the senses


warby said...

I wish to say that your work here is just excellent. It fits so nicely with practice as you uncover these hints in the text. The photos of the Buddha and especially the side view
are so clear. I have never seen anything like it.

Mike Cross said...

Many thanks for this encouragemennt, Warren. If something is being unearthed and brought to light, in spite of my faulty sensory appreciation, that is great.