Monday, October 12, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.41: Mindfulness Follows After Integrity [Indirectly]

sva-bhuumiShu guNaaH sarve
ye ca shiil'-aadayaH sthitaaH
vikiirNaa iva gaa gopaH
smRtis taan anugacchati

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

When, each standing on its own patch,

The virtues which begin with integrity are engaged,

Then as a herdsman follows his scattered cows,

Mindfulness follows after those virtues.

To understand this verse it might help to understand how a farmer tends a herd of cows. Farming practices may have changed over the last two thousand years, but I don't suppose that the basic nature of farm animals has changed very much. Sheep, for example, are easy for a farmer with a well-trained dog to round up. The farmer controls the actions of the dog directly with whistles and visual signals, and the dog exerts similarly direct control over the movements of the sheep. Cows, in contrast, cannot be controlled so directly. So the farmer takes a less direct, more accommodative attitude towards his cows than he does to his dog or to his sheep -- as Shuryu Suzuki memorably pointed out, the best way to control a cow is to give it a wide field.

Scattered cows (and heavily concentrated bull) in my neighbour's wide field.

The job of the farmer who raises cows, like my neighbour in France Farmer Louvelle, is still primarily to protect and preserve his herd. But with cows, as compared with a more controllable animal like a dog, this seems to be mostly a question of letting each cow do her own thing, and monitoring from a distance. So what the Buddha might be indicating in this verse, as I read it, is that when mindfulness protects and preserves the many virtues that stem indirectly from the fundamental practice of integrity, mindfulness does so indirectly, as if from a certain distance.

Furthermore, one of the virtues that stem indirectly from the fundamental practice of integrity is mindfulness itself. So, just as the relationship between herdsman and cows is mutually supportive -- the herdsman protecting his cows, and the cows providing for the herdsman -- in the same way, mindfulness protects the practice of integrity, and the practice of integrity promotes mindfulness.

And this, at the risk of beating again on the same old drum, is precisely what I experienced on the teaching table of Marjory Barlow: the practice of integrity promoting (by the indirect means of inhibition and direction) that mindfulness which pervades the body.

EH Johnston:
And it is attention which, like a herdsman after his scattered cows, goes after all the virtues, discipline etc., where they are, each in its own domain.

Linda Covill:
When every virtue such as moral self-restraint has settled on its own patch, mindfulness follows them like a cowherd goes out after his straying cows.

sva-bhuumiShu = loc. pl. sva-bhuumi: f. one's own land , own estate ; one's own or proper place
sva: own, one's self
bhuumiShu = loc. pl. bhuumi: f. the earth , soil , ground ; a territory ; a place , situation &c ; position
guNaaH = nom. pl. guNa: m. good quality , virtue , merit
sarve (loc.): all, every

ye (nom. pl.): which
ca: and
shiila: integrity, discipline, etc.
aadayaH = nom. pl. aadi: beginning with, et cetera,
sthita: mfn. standing (as opp. to " going " , " sitting " , or " lying "); standing firm ; standing , staying , situated ; engaged in , occupied with , intent upon , engrossed by , devoted or addicted to (loc.); abiding by , conforming to , following (loc.); settled , ascertained , decreed , established ; being there , existing , present , close at hand , ready ; turned or directed to , fixed upon (loc. or comp.)

vikiirNaaH = acc. pl. f. vikiirNa: mfn. scattered , thrown about , dispersed &c ; dishevelled (as hair)
iva: like
gaaH = acc. pl. f. go: m. an ox; f. a cow , (pl.) cattle , kine , herd of cattle
gopaH: m. a cowherd , herdsman ,

smRtiH (nom.): f. remembrance, mindfulness, etc.
taan (acc. pl. m.): them
anugacchati = 3rd pers. sg. anu-√gam: to go after , follow , seek
anu: ind. (as a prefix to verbs and nouns , expresses) after , along , alongside , lengthwise , near to , under , subordinate to
gam: to go

1 comment:

Mike Cross said...

Again, when each individual virtue, beginning with integrity, is standing on its own patch,/
Mindfulness brings together those virtues, like a herdsman rounding up his scattered cows.//

The point might be that true mindfulness is not, as people are prone to think, a state of narrow concentration. On the contrary.