Sunday, October 25, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.1: Aligning the Body

yatra tatra vivikte tu
baddhvaa paryaNkam uttamaM
RjuM kaayaM samaadhaaya
smRty" aabhimukhay" aanvitaH

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

In whatever solitary place you are,

Crossing the legs in the supreme manner,

Aligning the body,

And thus being attended by mindfulness
that is directed...

"Here I am" is who saying what? It could be Gautama openly expressing his enlightenment. It could be a laughing child playing hide & seek. The phrase could even be spoken with sinister intent.

Similarly this verse, and particularly the 3rd line, could be saying everything, or it could be saying nothing; it could be a tile, or it could be a jewel, depending on who and how the speaker is.

There is alignment of the body expressed by a sergeant major on a parade ground, for example, or by a ballet dancer. There is alignment of the body by a Buddhist who is trying to be right. There is alignment of the body by a non-Buddhist who is exploring being wrong. There is alignment of the body by a non-Buddhist who has been taught to explore being wrong but who can't stop trying to be right.

It might be that, in crossing the legs in the supreme manner, as if to express "Here I am," the body of a buddha spontaneously aligns itself in an upward direction.

Or it might not be that. Sometimes I think I have understood this point well, as a result of 30 years of sitting practice and 15 years in Alexander work. And sometimes it bothers me, as I go back to the drawing board yet again, that I don't seem to have got the point at all.

What does it mean to cross the legs in the supreme manner and align the body?

What does it mean, literally, "to together-place/put (sam-aa-√dhaa) the body (kaaya) in a straight-tending direction (Rju)"?

In the end, I don't know. I only know that this is the fundamental question my sitting practice has asked, and the asking of this question eventually brought me to the discoveries of FM Alexander, which are too bloody true for words. The essence of it, whether one is crossing the legs in the supreme manner and sitting, or whether one is sitting at a desk translating golden words of buddha, is to stop doing the wrong thing and let the right thing do itself.

The theme of this Canto is the dropping off of thoughts, ideas, fancies, false notions, misconceptions (vitarkaa). But the discussion progresses in a certain order, beginning with crossing the legs and aligning the body.

Within this verse itself, a certain order of proceedings is indicated by the use of the absolutive endings -vaa and -ya: first cross the legs, and then attend to aligning the body, and then/thus (as per 14.41) mindfulness follows.

In other words, in this and the following verse as I read them, crossing the legs in the supreme manner and aligning the body is primary; mindfulness follows.

Aligning the body is primary. But how?

I don't know what the answer is. But I do know what it is not.

What I used to think it was, I now know definitely was not it. What I used to think was it, wasn't the right thing being allowed to do itself. It was a whole lot of trying to be right, rooted in a quasi-religious fear of being wrong.

EH Johnston:
Taking up the best posture of meditation in some solitary place, setting your body upright and keeping your attention present,

Linda Covill:
"In whatever secluded place you are, sitting with your legs crossed, holding your body erect, keeping mindfulness to the fore,

yatra tatra: anywhere whatever
vivikte = loc. vivikta: n. separation , solitude , a lonely place
tu: but, now, then, etc.

baddhvaa = abs. bandh: to bind , tie , fix , fasten , chain , fetter ; to join , unite , put together or produce anything in this way , e.g. fold (the hands) , clench (the fist) , knit or bend (the eyebrows) , arrange , assume (a posture) , set up (a limit) , construct (a dam or a bridge) , span , bridge over (a river) , conceive or contract (friendship or enmity) , compose , construct (a poem or verse) ;
paryaNkam (acc.): m. a bed , couch , sofa ; a partic. mode of sitting on the ground (a squatting position assumed by ascetics and Buddhists in meditation)
pari: ind. round , around , about , round about ; fully , abundantly , richly
aNka: m. a hook; a curve ; the curve in the human , especially the female , figure above the hip (where infants sitting , astride are carried by mothers hence often = " breast " or " lap ") ; the side or flank ; the body ; a curved line
uttamam (acc. sg.): mfn. (superlative fr. ud) , uppermost , highest , chief ; most elevated , principal ; best

Rjum = acc. sg, Rju: mfn. tending in a straight direction , straight (lit. and fig.) , upright , honest , right , sincere
kaayam (acc. sg.): m. the body
samaadhaaya = absolutive sam-aa-√dhaa: to place or put or hold or fix together ; to compose , set right , repair , put in order , arrange , redress , restore ; to kindle , stir (fire) ; to place , set , lay , fix , direct, adjust

smRtyaa = inst. sg. smRti: f. mindfulness; remembrance , reminiscence , thinking of or upon (loc.)
abhimukhayaa = inst. sg. f. abhimukha: mfn. with the face directed towards , turned towards , facing ; (ifc.) going near , approaching ; (ifc.) disposed to , intending to , ready for
anvitaH = nom. sg. m. anvita (from anv-√i): gone along with ; joined , attended , accompanied by , connected with , linked to ; having as an essential or inherent part , endowed with , possessed of , possessing
anv-√i: to go after or alongside , to follow ; to seek ; to be guided by ;
to fall to one's share

No comments: