Saturday, October 31, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.7: Enemies & Friends

arjan'-aadiini kaamebhyo
dRShTvaa duHkhaani kaaminaam
tasmaat taan muulatash chindhi
mitra-saMjNaan ariin iva

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

Witness troubles, such as acquisition,

Arising from the desires of men of desire,

And on that basis cut off at root those troubles

Which are akin to enemies, whose name is "friend."

On the surface, the dualities of darkness vs light, fire vs water, and seed vs nothing are being extended in this verse by another duality, namely, enemies vs friends. But digging deeper, the real point of this verse might be not to extend, but rather to subvert, the duality of the previous three verses.

On the surface, an enemy that needs to be cut off at root might seem to be desire. In practice however, trying to cut off desire is a recipe for double trouble.

So again, to identify what really needs to be cut off, or cut out, or given up, we are required to dig deeper.

Digging deeper, how did the Buddha see the problem of friends and enemies? Was the fact lost on him that friends become enemies, and enemies become friends? Clearly not -- as the discussion of stranger and kinsman later in this canto demonstrates.

The world at the beginning of the 21st century, more than a hundred years after Einstein's theory of relativity, is still a world in which people's habits of thought, when it comes to identifying friends and enemies, are stuck. And real change in this world can only happen when trouble is truly cut off at its root. So in this divided world, where is the real root of trouble? Where is the root that the Buddha is exhorting Nanda to cut out?

At one level of thinking, Judaism seems to have a lot to answer for, with its division of the world into God's own chosen people and the rest of us. But digging deeper, Judaism and other even more primitive forms of tribalism might be not so much a cause as a symptom of a tendency that lies deep in every human heart -- certainly including my own.

Digging deeper, therefore, the fourth line might be suggesting that seeing others as my enemies is just a trouble (arising from a desire to be on the side of right), that must be cut off at root.

In other words, the real root of the trouble is not out there in an enemy, not even a two-faced one; the real root of trouble is right here in me, and in my idea of me. The real root of the trouble might be in the deep human tendency to see the world in terms of my friends and my enemies, the right and the wrong, good guys and bad guys, God's chosen people and the rest, friends and enemies of the state of Israel, true Muslims and infidels, ware-ware Nihonjin ('we Japanese') and henna gaijin (strange foreigners), true Buddhists and non-Buddhists.

Finally, digging deeper still, in the fourth line we strike a kind of gold. We arrive at what Marjory Barlow told me was the golden key -- being prepared to be wrong.

Marjory Barlow, as described HERE, taught me to witness the arising of trouble, out of my own desire, as a man of desire, to feel myself right in the gaining of an end (moving of a leg). More than teaching me, she guided me by the hand as if I were a helpless infant: she set the whole thing up like a laboratory experiment in her teaching room so that I could not fail to witness the trouble arising. And on that basis (tasmaat), on the basis of that witnessing, she taught me to cut off at root all troubles. How? In essence, by giving up an idea (vitarka-prahaana), as in the title of this canto. And the first idea she encouraged me to give up was the idea of me being right. When we truly witness, first in ourself and then in others, the troubles that arise out of people's desire to feel right, on that basis (tasmaat), we can begin to see that the name of one who we formerly saw as our enemy might truly be 'friend.' Because the ones we see as our enemy are, in truth, acting as very wonderful mirrors for the wrongness we fear within ourselves.

"Remember," Marjory used to say, "being wrong is the best friend you've got in this work."

EH Johnston:
Realise therefore what sufferings are caused by the passions in their acquisition etc. to those subject to them and cut them off, root and all, like enemies who style themselves friends.

Linda Covill:
So observe the sufferings of passionate men arising from their passions, beginning with the acquisition of wealth, and cut them off at the root, as though they were enemies calling themselves friends.

arjana (verbal noun from arj): n. procuring , acquiring , gaining , earning
arj: to procure , acquire
aadiini = acc. pl. n. aadi: ifc. beginning with , et caetera , and so on
kaamebhyaH = abl. pl. kaama: m. wish , desire , longing; object of desire

dRShTvaa = abs. dRsh: to see
duHkhaani = acc.. pl. duHkha: n. uneasiness , pain , sorrow , trouble , difficulty
kaaminaam = gen. pl. m. kaamin: mfn. desirous ; loving , fond , impassioned , wanton ; amorous , enamoured , in love with m. a lover

tasmaat: ind. from that, on that account, therefore
taan (acc. pl. m.): them, those [sufferings]
muula: n. a root
-taH: ablative suffix
chindhi = 2nd pers. imperative chid: to cut off , amputate , cut through , hew , chop , split , pierce

mitra: friend; n. friendship ; n. a friend , companion ; n. an ally (a prince whose territory adjoins that of an immediate neighbour who is called ari , enemy.)
saMjNaan = acc. pl. m. saMjNa: mfn. (ifc. for saM-jNaa, e.g. labdha-saMjNa , " one who has recovered consciousness ")
saMjNaa: f. agreement , mutual understanding , harmony ; consciousness , clear knowledge or understanding or notion or conception ; a sign , token , signal ; f. a name , appellation , title , technical term (ifc. = " called , named ")
ariin = acc. pl. ari: m. an enemy
iva: like, as if

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