Thursday, October 29, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.5: Fire vs Water -- More Metaphor

tiShTaty anushayas teShaaM
channo 'gnir iva bhasmanaa
sa te bhaavanayaa saumya
prashaamyo 'gnir iv' aambunaa

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

What lies behind them sleeps on,

Like a fire covered with ashes;

You are to extinguish it, my friend, using thinking,

As if using water to put out a fire.

What lies behind, or sleeps alongside, those desires which are fevers of the mind?
- An idea?
- The ego?
- Imbalance of the autonomic nervous system?
- An uninhibited Moro reflex?
- The wrong inner patterns which, in Alexander work, are the 'doing' that has to be stopped?
- None of the above -- is it one "not that" after another?
- Or all of the above -- is it, for example, that what lies behind includes both the idea itself and the pattern of misuse habitually associated with that idea?

My habit is to want to nail down in words what lies behind. But the Buddha never asks Nanda to define what lies behind. The Buddha uses metaphor.

Lying behind the desires of which we are aware, like fevers of the mind, is something that needs to be extinguished like a fire which, though covered with ashes, is still there, sleeping on.

And when this something that needs to be extinguished, like a fire which, though covered with ashes, is still sleeping on, where is it?

It might be in the brain and nervous system.

And when this fire which, though covered with ashes, is still there in the brain and nervous system, sleeping on, what are we going to use to put out the fire?

We are going to use water.

And when we are going to use water to put out the fire which, though covered with ashes, is still there in the brain and nervous system, sleeping on, where is that water to be found?

It might be nowhere in the bones and muscles of the body; rather, it might be inside the head, in between the eyebrows.

Just as four lines of the Buddha's metaphor is a million times more valuable than my own endless verbage, one simple gesture by Marjory Barlow can say much more about this than I could in a thousand blog posts. So I would recommend watching this video clip again -- and notice where Marjory points to, about 60 seconds into the clip. It is the clip I have included before, where Marjory Barlow discusses what her uncle FM Alexander called "Thinking in Activity."

Marjory Barlow on Thinking.

EH Johnston:
There remains a latent tendency towards them, like a fire covered up with ashes; it must be quenched by meditation, my friend, like fire by water.

Linda Covill:
A tendency towards the passions continues to exist, as does a fire covered over with ash. Extinguish this tendency with meditation, dear friend, as fire is extinguished with water.

tiShTati = 3rd pers. sg. sthaa: to stay, remain, continue to exist
anushayaH (nom. sg.): m. (from anu-√shii) close connection as with a consequence , close attachment to any object
anu-: ind. (as a prefix) alongside , near to
shaya: lying , sleeping , resting , abiding
anu-√shii: to sleep with , lie along or close , adhere closely to.
teShaam (gen. pl.): of them

channaH (nom. sg. m.): covered , covered over
agniH (nom. sg.): m. fire
iva: like
bhasmanaa = inst. sg. bhasman: n. " what is pulverized or calcined by fire " , ashes

saH (nom. sg. m.): it
te (gen. sg.): of/for you
bhaavanayaa = inst. bhaavanaa: f. forming in the mind , conception , apprehension , imagination , supposition , fancy , thought , meditation (bhaavanayaa ind. in thought , in imagination); f. reflection , contemplation (5 kinds with Buddhists);
saumya (voc.): my friend!

prashaamyaH (nom. sg. gerundive passive pra-√sham): requiring to be appeased, quenched, extinguished, terminated
pra-√sham: to become calm or tranquil , be pacified or soothed , settle down (as dust) ; to be allayed or extinguished , cease , disappear , fade away: Caus. -zamayati, to appease , calm, quench, allay , extinguish , terminate ; to make subject , subdue , conquer
agniH (nom. sg.): m. fire
iva: like
ambunaa = inst. ambu: n. water

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