Tuesday, October 20, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 14.49: Towards Less Effort

an-iiryamaaNas tu yath" aanilena
prashaantim aagacchati citra-bhaanuH
alpena yatnena tathaa vivikteShv
a-ghaTTitaM shaantim upaiti cetaH

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

But just as, when not fanned by the wind,

A bright fire dies down,

In solitary places, similarly, with little effort

An unstirred mind comes to quiet.

"Stop doing the wrong thing, and the right thing does itself."

The right thing doing itself is effortlessness, spontaneity. To stop doing the wrong thing, however, requires effort. When conditions are unfavourable, it requires a lot of effort, or it might be impossible -- in which case acceptance is the golden key. When conditions are favourable, it requires little effort. But to stop wrong doing always requires some effort, because of (1) faulty sense of feeling, (2) force of habit, and (3) false mental conceptions -- obstacles which the Buddha seems to be exhorting Nanda to overcome, in Saundarananda cantos 13, 14, and 15, respectively.

The tendency for sitting to do itself -- 'throwing away the habits of a lifetime' -- can be remarkably strong in the neck of the Normandy woods where I now am.

Can writing about it on this blog do any good?

Last Friday at an Alexander awareness event in Oxford I was able to have a brief talk with Elisabeth Walker who for 70-odd years has been using her hands to give people the experience of the right thing doing itself. I noticed that Elisabeth was wearing a hearing aid in her right ear, and my own condition amid the social hubub was very far from what Paul Madaule would call a good "listening posture." So I experienced the conversation as a bit of a struggle. But one point that Elisabeth made got through, and I was aware of it during half-sleep this morning: It is very valuable for people who don't have the experience to be given the experience.

To clarify the principle is important. And at the same time, if one can, to give the gift directly might be even more valuable:

"Stop doing the wrong thing, and the right thing does itself."

EH Johnston:
But as the brightly shining fire, when not fanned by the wind, dies down, so the thoughts, when not subject to any stimulus come to rest with little trouble in solitude.

Linda Covill:
But in solitude, the mind is not stimulated and subsides with little effort, just as a radiant fire subsides when unstirred by the wind.

an-: not
iiryamaaNaH (pres. part. causative passive nom. sg. of iir): being excited, caused to rise, brought to life
tu: but
yathaa: just as
anilena = inst. of anila: m. air or wind

prashaantim (acc.): f. sinking to rest , rest , tranquillity (esp. of mind) , calm , quiet , pacification , abatement , extinction , destruction
aagacchati: it comes to, it arrives at
citra: brightly-coloured
bhaanuH = nom. sg. of bhaanu: m. appearance , brightness , light or a ray of light , lustre , splendour &c ; the sun

alpena = inst. of alpa: small, little
yatnena = inst. of yatna: m. activity of will; effort , exertion , energy , zeal , trouble , pains
tathaa: so, likewise
vivikteShu = loc. pl. vivikta: n. separation , solitude , a lonely place; clearness , purity

a: not
ghaTTita: mfn. rubbed , touched , shaken
shaantim (acc.): f. tranquillity , peace , quiet , peace or calmness of mind
upaiti: it arrives at
cetaH = nom. sg. cetas: n. splendour ; consciousness , intelligence , thinking soul , heart , mind

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