Sunday, October 18, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.47: Rediscovering Solitude in a Playground

a-labhda-cetaH-prashamaH sa-raago
yo na pracaaraM bhajate viviktaM
sa kShaNyate hy a-pratilabdha-maargash
carann iv' orvyaam bahu-kaNTakaayaaM

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

The man of redness,
the tranquillity of his mind unrealized,

Who does not take to a playground of solitude,

Is injured as though, unable to regain a track,

He is walking on very thorny ground.

The first line of this verse (lit. "The tranquillity-of-mind-unobtained him of redness") could be interpreted as indicating a man, psychologically speaking, who is emotionally immature, and equally who, physiologically speaking, suffers from lack of adequate inhibition of the Moro reflex.

Emotional maturity, again, is relative. We all exist moment by moment somewhere along a sliding scale between an old Buddha's state of zero and the screaming rage of an unhappy baby. The baby panic reflex (aka Moro/Mara reflex) manifests itself differently in the same person on different days.

So the first line could be interpreted as relating to a problem which is relative and which has a very deep-rooted developmental basis. Seen like this, it is not a problem that a couple of weeks of solitary retreat is suddenly going to solve.

Alternatively, the problem could be seen as a yes or no problem, a problem of whether or not a person has really understood the principle of conscious inhibition: Stop doing the wrong thing and the right thing does itself. In other words, the human mind is always tranquil, but most of the time we are too busy to realize it. So how is the tranquillity of your mind, here and now: realized or unrealized? If unrealized, then the words of FM Alexander might be relevant: "You can throw away the habits of a lifetime in a few minutes -- if you use your brain."

In the 2nd line, a playground of solitude (pracaaram viviktam) could be a distant forest. Could it be a shed at the bottom of the garden? Could it be a quiet teaching room where one-to-one Alexander work is going on? Could it be a less quiet Alexander training school where people are milling around and conversing? Could it be a car speeding down the busy A34 towards Porstmouth? Could it be the crowded self-service restaurant of a car ferry? My own answer to the latter questions, on the basis of my own experience, experienced through the filter of my own faulty sensory appreciation, would be: probably not. For me, it is a whole lot easier to enjoy solitude when there is nobody else around -- even including Alexander students, or friends in sitting practice.

In the 3rd line the prefix prati in pratilabdha may have a significance deeper than simply adding two syllables to labdha, and thereby bringing the number of syllables in the line up to the requisite eleven. It might add to the meaning of finding or locating or gaining (labdha) a path, the sense that the finding or locating or gaining is a re- (prati) discovery, a regaining of something that is our birthright -- such as tranquillity of the mind, for example?

In the 4th line a thorn (kaNTaka) might suggest a stimulus that triggers an undue emotional reaction. Is the implication, in that case, that one should not be afraid of very thorny places, providing one is able to regain a track that leads safely through them? Is the implication that one should avoid thorny ground altogether? Or is there no such implication. Is the verse just stating the raw fact that a man of redness, unable to regain the right track, spits his dummy and throws his toys out of the pram when he can't remember where he put his favourite pen?

EH Johnston:
For the man filled with passion, who has not attained tranquillity of the feelings and does not adopt the solitary method, fails to find the Path and is hurt like a man walking on very thorny ground.

Linda Covill:
The passionate man who cannot find emotional peace and who does not take to solitary ways gets injured, as though walking over thorny ground when he can't locate the path.

a-labhda: mfn. unobtained
√labh: to take , seize , catch ; catch sight of , meet with , find ; to gain possession of , obtain , receive , conceive , get ; recover ; to gain the power of (doing anything)
cetaH = in comp. for cetas: n. consciousness , intelligence , thinking soul , heart , mind
prashamaH (nom. sg.): m. calmness , tranquillity (esp. of mind) , quiet , rest , cessation , extinction , abatement
sa-raagaH (nom. sg. m): one who has colour, a man of passion
sa-raaga: mfn. having colour (sometimes = " not quite clean "); reddened ; enamoured , impassioned , passionate

yaH (nom. sg. m.): who
na: not
pracaaram (acc. sg.): m. roaming ; coming forth , showing one's self , manifestation ; use ; conduct , behaviour ; prevalence , currency , custom , usage; a playground , place of exercise ; pasture-ground , pasturage
bhajate = 3rd pers. sg. of bhaj: partake of , enjoy (also carnally) , possess , have ; to turn or resort to ; experience, undergo, feel, go into
viviktam (acc. sg. m): mfn. separated , kept apart , distinguished , discriminated ; isolated , alone , solitary ; pure , clean , neat , trim ; clear , distinct

sa: he
kShaNyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive kShan: to hurt one's self , be injured or wounded
hi: for
a-pratilabdha: mfn. not obtained, not found
prati-√labh: to receive back , recover ; to obtain , gain , partake of (acc.)
prati: ind. (as a prefix to roots) towards , near to ; against , in opposition to ; back , again , in return
maargaH (nom. sg.): m. track , road , path , way

caran: going, moving, walking
urvyaam = loc. sg. uru: f. the earth
bahu-kaNTakaayaam = loc. sg. f. of bahu-kaNTaka: mfn. "many thorned"

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