Monday, October 19, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.48: A Non-Buddha in Non-Solitude

a-dRShTa-tattvena pariikShakeNa
sthitena citre viShaya-pracaare
cittaM niSheddhuM na sukhena shakyaM
kRShT'-aadako gaur iva sasya-madhyaat

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

For a seeker who is not seeing reality,

Standing in the tawdry playground of objects,

It is no easier to rein in his mind,

Than to drive a foraging bull away from corn.

How am I to understand this verse?

A non-Buddha in non-solitude, with faulty sensory appreciation, not seeing reality, should I turn 'Buddha in solitude seeing reality' into another flashy object in the tawdry playground of objects?

To tell the truth, I don't have to decide to turn 'Buddha in solitude seeing reality' into an object. It seems to happen spontaneously, out of the habit of a lifetime, without any conscious decision on my part -- so that there is person number one, plagued here with various difficulties, and a second person over there, in the other monastery, seeing reality, in blissful solitude.

But to think like this is never solitude. It might be the essence of duality.

Does Buddha seek to see himself on the side of the Buddha, the ultimate good guy who is always right? Or is it that a true seeker of the Buddha's truth is inevitably encouraged by the Buddha's teaching in the direction of seeing the truth that we are all in the same big wrong boat?

When somebody behaves as a social pest, telling the members of some group, "I am one of the good guys, but you are the bad guys!" and members of the group respond as if to say, "No! He is the one who is wrong. He is the liar, the charlatan, the cruel man, the bad-mouther, the big mouth who is all talk and no action, the attention-seeker ..." isn't there wrongness on both sides? Isn't there wrongness not only in the original delusion and the anti-social behaviour associated with it, but also in the disparaging response which demonizes an individual rather than simply chastising him for his mistakes? (Mind you, chastizing others for their mistakes can also be very thorny ground.)

It is a cliche that Zen practice is supposed to take the practitioner beyond duality. But truly to transcend duality requires us to throw away the thinking habits of a lifetime, and this may be nigh on impossible -- unless we use our brain.

When things go wrong, it is the easiest thing in the world for me to blame somebody else. On a very mundane day to day level I ask my wife: "Where the hell have you hidden my pen/key/socks/diary....?!" But if I use my brain and take myself for a moment into the playground of solitude, I can see that I always bear some responsibility for what went wrong, be it a minor loss or a big one. When I use my brain, I see that there is always something for me to apologize for -- not necessarily on the basis that the other was right and I was wrong, but just on the basis that the bad actions I myself have done have stemmed from times without beginning from greed, anger and delusion.

To give up my habitual dualistic way of thinking in which I am right and others are wrong, and use my brain in this new way is no easier than, say.... (pause to think of a suitable metaphor).... controlling my French neighbour's bull.

One day soon I will go to France to be by the forest stream from which this muddy-pawed bull is emerging. But for the past few days I have been staying here, in non-solitude. I have definitely, deliberately, not been going to the other playground in France.

Previously I expected that being in solitude by the forest in France would be a good base from which to translate and comment on the present series of verses. But not for the first time, my expectation may have been wrong. The best playground in which to stand reflecting on the truth of solitude, looking squarely at the deluded dualistic end-gaining of others and self, might be right where I am.

EH Johnston:
If an enquiring man has not visualised the truth and is surrounded by the varied manifestations of sensual objects, he cannot easily restrain his mind, just as a crop-eating bull is not easily to be kept out of a field of corn.

Linda Covill:
An enquirer who has not seen reality cannot easily restrain his thoughts when he is placed among the glittering show of sense objects, just as it is hard to drive a bull from corn when he is grazing on farmland.

a-dRShTa: mfn. unseen , unforeseen , invisible , not experienced , unobserved , unknown
tattvena = inst. sg. tattva: n. true or real state , truth , reality
pariikShakeNa = inst. sg. pariikShaka (from pari-√iikSh) : m. a prover , examiner , judge; seeker (see 14.17).
pari- √iikSh): to look round , inspect carefully , try , examine , find out

sthitena = inst. sthita: mfn. standing , staying , situated , resting or abiding or remaining in
citre = loc. citra: mfn. conspicuous , excellent , distinguished ; bright , clear , bright-coloured ; variegated ; strange , wonderful
viShaya: object, sense object
pracaare = loc. pracaara: m. roaming , wandering ; coming forth , showing one's self , manifestation , appearance , occurrence , existence ; a playground , place of exercise

cittam (acc.): n. thinking , reflecting , imagining , thought ; intention , aim , wish ; the heart , mind ; intelligence
niSheddhuM = infinitive of niShidh: to drive away ; to ward off , keep back ; to forbid , prohibit ; to keep down , suppress ; to deny
na: not
sukhena (inst.): with ease, easily
shakya: mfn. able , possible , practicable , capable of being (with inf. in pass. sense)

kRShTa: mn. cultivated ground
adaka: mfn. chiefly ifc. , eating
gauH = nom. sg. of go: m. bull ; f. cow
iva: like
sasya: n. corn , grain , fruit , a crop of corn
madhyaat: ind. from the midst of, out of, from among

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