Monday, November 30, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.37: Unconditional Love? Nice Idea!

anukuulaM pravartante
jNaatiShu jNaatayo yadaa
tadaa snehaM prakurvanti
riputvaM tu viparyayaat

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

As long as relatives act agreeably

Towards each other,

They engender affection;

But otherwise it is enmity.

More than ten years ago an old Zen teacher, a kind of father to me, made a mistake that shook me to the core. He did something that, as I saw it, was quite spectacularly wrong and triggered in me a great deal of enmity. The cause of the old Zen master's mistake was an idea that he was not able, in light of new empirical facts, to give up. And the cause of my suffering, subsequent to the initial shock, was also an idea that, in light of new empirical facts, I have struggled to give up.

A nice idea is a nice idea. But even the nicest idea is ever liable to be falsified by an empirical fact.

That being so, did the Buddha teach us to be skepticists? Did he teach us to be empiricists? Did he even teach us to be Buddhists?

Not on your Nelly. Because ideas -- from skepticism and empiricism right through to Buddhism -- are just where human wrong-doing starts.

Not to do the wrong thing,

To allow the right thing to do itself,

To detoxify one's own mind:

This is the teaching of FM Alexander,
along with other buddhas.

EH Johnston:
When kinsmen behave agreeably to each other, they display affection, but in the opposite case enmity.

Linda Covill:
When family members treat each other well, they engender affection, but in the opposite situation they arouse enmity.

anukuulam (acc.): mfn. following the bank (kuula) or slope or declivity ; favourable , agreeable ; friendly , kind , well-disposed
pravartante = 3rd pers. pl. pravRt: to roll or go onwards (as a carriage) , be set in motion or going

jNaatiShu = loc. pl. jNaati: m. " intimately acquainted " , a near relation, kinsman
jNaatayaH = nom. pl. jNaati
yadaa: ind. (followed by tadaa), " as often as - so often " , " whenever "

tadaa: ind. then
sneham (acc. sg.): m. oil ; smoothness , glossiness ; blandness , tenderness , love , affection
prakurvanti = 3rd pers. pl. prakR: to make , produce , accomplish , perform , achieve , effect

ripu: m. an enemy , adversary , foe
tvam: (neuter abstract noun suffix)
riputvam (acc. sg.): n. enmity
tu: but
viparyayaat (abl. viparyaya, opposite): ind. in the opposite case , other wise

Sunday, November 29, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.36: Platonic Love? Or Tit for Tat?

bibharti hi sutaM maataa
dhaarayiShyati maam iti
maataraM bhajate putro
garbheN' aadhatta maam iti

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

For mother cherishes son

Thinking "He will keep me,"

And son honours mother

Thinking "She in her womb bore me."

The operative words in this verse, as I read it, are maam, "me," (twice) and the verbs bibharti, "she cherishes," and bhajate, "he honours."

Maam, appearing prominently, like a lamb's baa-ing, as the final long syllables in lines 2 and 4, seems to flag a certain interest of mother and son in What's in it for me?

Bibarti and bhajate seem intended to include a loving element, which is picked up by the mention of affection (sneha) in 15.37. At the same time, bibharti means not only to cherish emotionally but more literally to bear, support or nurture practically. Similarly, bhajate means not only to honour or revere emotionally but also more literally to give something to, or to serve practically. So in this verse, as I read it, the Buddha is considering love between family members not at all in the abstract but by looking at how family members actually behave towards each other.

In philosophical terms, Platonic Love is a nice idea, but empirical evidence to support it is thin on the ground.

When old couples who have been together for donkey's years are asked what is the secret of a lasting marriage, sometimes they talk about loving each other, but more often they talk about a sense of humour, and most often what they talk about is "give and take."

One human being with a true (non-Platonic) love for dogs might be Cesar Milan, a.k.a. TV's Dog Whisperer, who is currently spreading the good word in Britain. Cesar is conspicuously not like a typical American "dog lover," who is imbalanced himself and who overfeeds and pampers his imbalanced pooch while failing to give it exercise and discipline. Cesar's golden rules for a true dog lover are exercise, discipline, and affection. In the background to Cesar's recognition of the problem behaviour of imbalanced American and British dogs, is Cesar's recognition of the problem behaviour of imbalanced American and British dog-owners (and parents). Cesar's recognition and Cesar's message, in my view, are absolutely spot on.

Another thought-provoking piece of empirical evidence in the news this week has been the report on how the Catholic Church in Ireland conspired to cover up multiple scandals of sexual abuse in which priests purporting to be emissaries of a kind of Platonic Love, were, in empirical fact, having sex with children. Those original perpetrators of sexual abuse were living a lie, and their superiors perpetuated the lie with a policy of "Don't ask, don't tell." Successive archbishops seemed to have the idea that the reputation (and money) of the Catholic Church itself was the most important matter -- more important, apparently, than preventing further abuse of children.

What is the Buddha saying in this verse about the pure, unconditional Platonic love of a mother for her son, and about the pure, unconditional Platonic love of a son for his mother? What might the Buddha have advised those archbishops of Dublin who thought that the reputation of God's Church in Ireland was of paramount importance?

The clue, again, might be in the canto title: vitarka-prahaaNa, Giving Up an Idea.

Similar to "Don't ask, don't tell," the Japanese have a proverb: kusai mono ni futa, "Put a lid on that which stinks." But I have never bought that. I think it is just a Japanese idea, not the Buddha's teaching. I think the Buddha's teaching is that when something has a disgusting stink about it, then get to the bottom of what is causing that disgusting smell, and if it is an idea (even if the idea is Love, even if the idea is God), then let the idea be given up.

EH Johnston:
For the mother cherishes her son, thinking 'He will support me', and the son loves his mother, thinking 'She bore me in her womb'

Linda Covill:
For a mother loves her son with the thought 'He will support me,' and with the thought 'She bore me in her womb,' the son honours his mother.

bibharti = 3rd pers. sg. bhR: to bear , carry , convey , hold ; to support , maintain , cherish , foster
hi: for
sutam (acc.): m. a son
maataa = nom. sg. maatR: f. a mother

dhaarayiShyati = 3rd pers. sg. future causitive dhR: carry , maintain , preserve , keep
maam (acc.): me
iti: thus, " "

maataram = acc. maatR: mother
bhajate = 3rd pers. sg. bhaj: to divide, distribute, supply; to serve , honour , revere , love , adore
putraH (nom.): son

garbheNa = inst. garbha: womb
aadhatta = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect dhaa: to put; to make , produce , generate , create ; to accept , obtain , conceive (esp. in the womb)
maam: me
iti: thus, " "

Saturday, November 28, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.35: Love Will Keep Us Together?

loke prakRti-bhinne 'smin
na kash cit kasya cit priyaH
baalukaa-muShTivaj jagat

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

In this originally shattered world

Nobody is the beloved of anybody.

Held together by cause and effect,

Humankind is like sand in a clenched fist.

This verse makes one think of the Big Bang and the 2nd law of thermodynamics -- intuitive understanding of which the Buddha evidently had.

The verse also makes me think of a conversation I had around this time of the year in 1977, with an old school friend and then fellow worker at Rackham's department store in Birmingham. As we sat in the staff canteen eating cheap sausages and chips and looking out over Birmingham's pigeon-crapped city centre, my friend argued that romantic love was only an idea, a myth sustained by the Hollywood dream factory.

Nowadays my skeptical old mate is a partner in a private equity firm. His judgements over the years have proved to be fairly reliable.

When I met my friend in the 1980s, as his career was in the process of taking off, I bent his ear with a multiplicity of true Buddhist notions, centred on realism. "You seem to be using 'realism' as your latest buzz-word," my skeptical friend observed. I might have succeed in fooling myself, at least partially, but I hadn't succeeded in fooling him.

It may sound like the Buddha is opposing the romantic viewpoint in this verse with a skeptical viewpoint. What the Buddha is really advocating is not skepticism, however, but the abandonment of all -isms -- what Ashvaghosha called vitarka-prahaaNa, literally, "the Giving Up of Ideas."

Vitarka means thought, idea, conception, notion, fancy. And prahaaNa means the act of quitting, abandoning, giving up. So Linda Covill's translation of the canto title, vitarka-prahaaNa, is also a perfectly literal one: "Abandoning Notions." EH Johnston, uncharacteristically for him, seemed to want to tip-toe out of the library and into the ashram, by translating the canto title as "Emptying the Mind."

"Emptying the Mind," truly, is a rubbish translation of vitarka-prahaaNa, but there is something about the translation that I really like -- maybe reflecting the fact that, even as a pedantic Oxford scholar, EHJ was not immune from swallowing the bitter sugar-coated pill of the cunning Ashvaghosha. At the same time, if EHJ were really to give up the idea of being right and allow himself to stray down the interpretive route, he might as well have translated vitarka-prahaaNa as "Squashing a Round Black Cushion."

EH Johnston:
In this world, which is by nature separate, no one is really the beloved of anyone else ; it is cause and effect that hold the world together, like a hand holding a ball of sand together.

Linda Covill:
In this world, by nature separate, nobody is truly dear to anybody. The world is bound together by cause and effect, like sand held together in your fist.

loke (loc.): in the world
prakRti: f. " making or placing before or at first " , the original or natural form or condition of anything , original or primary substance
bhinne = loc. bhinna: mfn. split , broken , shattered , pierced ; divided into parts , anything less than a whole ; opened , expanded , blown ; detached , disjoined ; disunited , set at variance
asmin (loc.): in this

na kash cit (nom. sg.) nobody
kasya cit (gen. sg.): of anybody
priyaH (nom. sg.): mfn. beloved , dear to

kaarya: n. work, conduct ; effect, result
kaaraNa: n. cause , reason
sambaddham: mfn. bound or tied together , joined , connected ; connected in sense , coherent , having meaning ; shut , closed; connected or covered or filled with , belonging or relating to (instr. or comp.)

baalukaa: f. sg. and pl. sand , gravel
muShTi: the clenched hand , fist ; a handful
-vat: -like
jagat (nom. sg.): n. that which moves or is alive , men and animals ; the world; n. people , mankind

Friday, November 27, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.34: Relativity, Continued

pratishrayaM bhahu-vidhaM
saMshrayanti yath" aadvagaaH
pratiyaanti punas tyaktvaa
tadvaj jNaati-samaagamaH

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

Just as, under any old roof,

Travellers shelter together

And go again their separate ways,

So are relatives joined.

Whatever romantic idea Nanda may have had about family life, in encouraging him to give it up, the Buddha appears to be leaving little to chance.

EH Johnston:
As travellers come together at shelters manifold and part again to go their separate ways, so is the union of kinsfolk.

Linda Covill:
Just as travellers shelter together in a number of rest-houses, and in leaving them part company again, so it is with a group of family members.

pratishrayam (acc. sg.): m. refuge , help , assistance ; a place of refuge , shelter , asylum , house , dwelling
bhahu-vidham (acc. sg. m.): mfn. of many sorts or kinds , manifold , various

saMshrayanti = 3rd pers. pl. saM- √shri: , to join together with , to join or attach one's self to , go for refuge or succour to , resort or betake one's self to , cling to for protection , seek the help of (acc.)
yathaa: just as
advagaaH = nom. pl advaga: m. ("a road-goer") a traveller

pratiyaanti = 3rd pers. sg. prati- √yaa: to go or come back
punar: ind. back , home , in an opposite direction (with √ yaa , to go back or away); again, once more
tyaktvaa = abs. tyaj: to leave , abandon , quit ; to leave a place , go away from

tadvat: so, likewise
jNaati: m. " intimately acquainted " , a near relation, kinsman
samaagamaH (nom. sg.): m. coming together, union ; association , assembly of (comp.)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.33: Birds of a Feather

vihagaanaaM yathaa saayaM
tatra tatra samaagamaH
jaatau jaatau tath" aashleSho
janasya sva-janasya ca

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

Just as birds in the evening

Flock together at many separate locations,

So is the mingling over many generations

Of one's own and other people.

That birds of a feather flock together is not merely an idea: it is an empirical truth -- like the conspicuous gaggling together of Chinese students on a British university campus.

I think also of starlings, who used sometimes to come together in two big conifers in our front garden, before flying off to their night-time roost.

As a metaphor, that birds of a feather flock together might be used to justify a racist idea behind a system of apartheid or, equally, to justify the self-righteous 'humanist' idea under which banner convene a group united by their opposition to racism. (Or indeed sectarianism in any form?)

But in this verse, as I read it, birds of a feather flocking together is not cited in support of any political idea, one way or the other. It is cited in order to highlight a fact, reflection on which might help one individual practitioner, working on himself or herself, to drop off his or her idea.

Ideas can quickly win a mass following, and thereby change the world -- most likely for the worse. But giving up an idea is a different kettle of fish. What I am doing now is endeavoring to clarify, for a potential internet audience of millions (as opposed to the actual daily audience runnning on a good day into dozens), the Buddha's idea in regard to giving up an idea. But that is not the same as the effort that I make (or fail to make) on the round cushion, which is individual work to liberate sitting from all my ideas about it.

EH Johnston:
As at eventide birds collect some here, some there, so is the relation of kinsman and stranger from birth to birth.

Linda Covill:
Stranger and kinsman embrace each other, some in this birth, some in that, just as birds flock together in the evenings, sometimes here and sometimes there.

vihagaanaam = gen. pl. vihaga: m. " sky-goer " , a bird
yathaa: just as
saayam: ind. in the evening , at eventide

tatra tatra: in that and that place , here and there , everywhere
samaagamaH = nom. sg. samaagama (from sam-aa-√gam): m. coming together

jaatau = loc. jaati: f. birth , production ; re-birth ; the form of existence (as man , animal , &c ) fixed by birth
jaatau = loc. jaati: f. birth
tathaa: so, likewise
aashleShaH = nom. sg. aashleSha (from aa-√shliSh, to cling to, embrace): m. intimate connection , contact ; slight contact ; embracing , embrace ; entwining ; adherence , clinging to

janasya = gen. sg. jana: m. a person, any person
sva-janasya = gen. sva-jana: m. a person of one's own family
ca: and

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.32: Relatives & Strangers

atiite 'dhvani saMvRttaH
sva-jano hi janas tava
a-praapte c'aadhvani janaH
sva-janas te bhaviShyati

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

For one who turned on a bygone road

Into a relative, is a stranger to you;

And a stranger, on a road to come,

Will become your relative.

For example, in producing four children who are a nephew and three nieces to me, my brother's wife turned me many years ago into a relative of her parents and siblings, none of whom I have ever even met. I don't even know their names. If I bumped into any of them in the street, I would not have the first inkling that we were in any way related.

Again, those four Cross's produced by my brother, along with my own two sons, could cause my DNA to mingle in future with the DNA of anybody from an artic eskimo to a New Zealand maori.

So the Buddha in this verse is pointing to a truth that every human being on the planet can figure out for himself or herself, with reference to his or her family tree -- be it known or unknown.

And in the light of this truth a whole shit-pile of human ideas -- from African tribalism, to the caste system in India, to the Jewish (and later Scottish) story of God picking out a particular people with whom to enter into a covenant -- are seen for what they are: just unwholesome human ideas (ashubhaa vitarkaaH).

It is sometimes said that the existence or non-existence of God is not a matter for scientific investigation. But God, as I see it, is a human idea. And when God is investigated scientifically as such, in the laboratory of accepting and using the self, the wisdom becomes apparent of Ashvaghosha's choice of canto title: vitarka-prahaaNa, Giving Up an Idea.

EH Johnston:
For in the past your kinsman (in this existence) was a stranger and in the future a stranger (in this existence) will become your kinsman.

Linda Covill:
For on the road already traveled, someone who is now family was then a stranger, and on the road to come a stranger will be family.

atiite = loc. atiita: mfn. gone by , past , passed away , dead; n. the past
adhvani = loc. advan: m. a road , way , orbit ; a journey , course ; distance ; time
saMvRttaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. approached near to , arrived; happened , occurred , passed ; fulfilled (as a wish); become , grown (with nom.)
saM-√ vRt : to turn or go towards , approach near to , arrive at ; to meet , encounter ; to take shape , come into being ; to be , exist ; to become , grow , get (with nom.)

sva-janaH (nom. sg.): m. a man of one's own people , kinsman
saMvRttaH sva-janaH (nom. sg. m.): "one who has become a relative," a relative by marriage; an in-law
hi: for
janaH (nom. sg.): m. a person, a common person, one of the people
tava (gen. sg.): of you, your

a-praapte = loc. a-praapta: mfn. unobtained , unarrived
ca: and
adhvani = loc. advan: m. a road ,
janaH (nom. sg.): m. a person, a common person, one of the people

sva-janaH (nom. sg.): m. a man of one's own people , kinsman
te (gen. sg.): of you, your
bhaviShyati (3rd pers. sg. future bhuu): he will be, become

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.31: Us & Them

saMsaare kRSyamaaNaanaaM
sattvaanaaM svena karmaNaa
ko janaH sva-janaH ko vaa
mohaat sakto jane janaH
= = = = - = = =
= = = = - = - =
= - = - - = = =
= = = = - = - =

Among beings dragged by our own doing

Through the cycle of unconscious reaction

Who are our own people, and who are other people?

It is through ignorance
that people attach to their people.

Moha, translated here as "ignorance," is from the root √muh, to become stupefied or unconscious. Moha is the third of the three root afflictions (muula-klesha) -- greed, hatred, and ignorance. In the context of this canto, as I read it, moha is related with the harbouring of an unconscious idea, so I have translated moha as ignorance. But moha also means delusion.

So EHJ's translation of the 4th line, "It is only delusion that causes the attachment of one person to another," and LC's translation, "It's through delusion that people cling to each other," might be perfectly valid as literal translations. But as statements they seem to me to miss the point.

When mother and baby, for example, cling to each other, that is not through ignorance or through delusion; it is through biology. Mother and baby should be attached to each other. If some form of socialism, or fascism, or new-fangled Western Buddhism, or any other wretched -ism, dictates that mother and baby should not cling or be attached to each other, such an -ism might be the essence of ignorance.

What the Buddha is denying, as I hear him, is not human attachment, nor even human delusion, but the human ignorance which is rooted in ideas. This is important to understand in practice, because my human attachments and delusions, rooted as they are in brain chemistry, are not directly susceptible to my efforts as an individual on the round cushion. My ignorance, on the other hand, might be at least a bit susceptible. To give up the unconscious idea by which I am doing myself harm, though by no means easy, is not impossible. I know this giving up of an idea is not impossible because sometimes I succeed in it, at least partially. And when I succeed in it, sitting becomes a bit easier, and a bit more joyful.

Svena karmaNaa translates equally literally as "by our own doing," or "by their own doing." To translate it as "by their own doing," might itself be a kind of ignorance, rooted in an unconscious idea about the Buddha being different from ordinary beings. To translate svena karmaNaa as "by our own doing," could equally be a kind of ignorance, rooted in an iconoclastic unconscious reaction to an idea.

Any way up, the truth, which is not an idea, might be that we are all in the same boat. The truth might be that, when it comes to the profound difficulty of inhibiting one's unconscious reaction to a stimulus, we are all in the same boat.

EH Johnston:
Who is a stranger, who is a kinsman, among beings who are dragged along in the cycle of existence by their own actions? It is only delusion that causes the attachment of one person to another.

Linda Covill:
Among the beings whose own acts drag them through samsara, who is a stranger? Who is family? It's through delusion that people cling to each other.

saMsaare = loc. saMsaara: m. going or wandering through ; course , passage , passing through a succession of states , circuit of mundane existence
kRSyamaaNaanaam = gen. pl. pres. passive participle kRSh: to draw , draw to one's self , drag , pull

sattvaanaam = gen. pl. sattva: m. n. a living or sentient being
svena = inst. sva: one's own
karmaNaa = inst. karman: n. act , action

kaH (nom. sg. m.): who?
jana: m. creature , living being , man , person , race, people , subjects (the sg. used collectively); a common person , one of the people
janaH (nom. sg.): m. a person; a common person , one of the people
sva-janaH (nom. sg.): m. a man of one's own people , kinsman ; one's own people , own kindred
kaH: who?
vaa: or

mohaat = abl. moha: m. ( √muh ) loss of consciousness , bewilderment , perplexity , distraction , infatuation , delusion , error , folly ; (with Buddhists) ignorance (one of the three roots of vice)
√muh: to become stupefied or unconscious , be bewildered or perplexed , err , be mistaken , go astray
saktaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. clinging or adhering to , sticking in (loc.); belonging to (gen.); fixed or intent upon , directed towards , addicted or devoted to , fond of , engaged in , occupied with (loc. acc. with prati , or comp.)
jane (loc. sg.): to a person
janaH (nom. sg.): a person

Monday, November 23, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.30: Relative Worries

vRddhy-a-vRddhyor atha bhavec
cintaa jNaati-janaM prati
svabhaavo jiiva-lokasya
pariikSyas tan-nivRttaye

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

Should there be anxious thoughts, then,

About whether or not your family is prospering,

Investigate the nature of the world of the living

In order to put a stop to those thoughts.

In verse 17.12 Ashvaghosha writes of the practitioner's "desire for release/liberation" (vimokSha-kaama). So although desire (kaama), when it is tied up with an end-gaining idea, tops the list of those gross afflictions which are to be driven out like gross impurities from gold, it is not desire itself that the Buddha is asking us to see as the problem. What turns the biological fact of desire into something akin to poison is an end-gaining idea. This recognition, I think, is the key to understanding every verse in the present Canto. Our essential task, as we sit on a round cushion, engaging with the fundamental, is to get free of an idea.

With this verse, then, the Buddha sets his sights on the ideas we tend to have around family.

EH Johnston:
If your thoughts should turn to the prosperity and adversity of your kinsfolk, you should investigate the nature of the world of the living in order to stop such thoughts.

Linda Covill:
Now you might feel worried about whether your family is flourishing or not. You should put a stop to this by examining the true nature of the world of humankind.

vRddhi: f. growth , increase , augmentation , rise , advancement , extension , welfare , prosperity , success , fortune , happiness
a: (negative prefix) not
vRddhyor = gen./loc. dual vRddhi
atha: now, then etc.
bhavet = 3rd pers. sg. optative bhuu: there might be

cintaaH (nom. pl.): f. thought , care , anxiety , anxious thought about (gen. loc.)
jNaati: m. " intimately acquainted " , a near relation , kinsman
janam (acc. sg.): m. person, people
prati: ind. towards

svabhaavaH (nom. sg.): m. native place ; own condition or state of being , natural state or constitution , innate or inherent disposition , nature , impulse , spontaneity
jiiva-lokasya = gen. sg jiiva-loka: m. the world of living beings (opposed to that of the deceased) , living beings , mankind

pariikShyaH = nom. sg. gerundive pariikSh: to look round , inspect carefully , try , examine , find out , observe , perceive
tan: it, that
nivRttaye = dative nivRtti: (from ni-√vRt, to turn back , stop) ; f. returning , return ; ceasing , cessation , disappearance ; leaving off , abstaining or desisting from

Sunday, November 22, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.29: Using a Wedge to Remove a Wedge

tad buddhvaa pratipakShena
vitarkaM kSheptum arhasi
suukShmena pratikiilena
kiilaM daarv-antaraad iva

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

Antagonistically, being awake to this,

You should see off the idea,

As if using a finely-honed counter-wedge

To drive a wedge from a cleft in a log.

This verse might express the true essence of sitting-dhyaana.

In search of this essence, 15 years ago I came back from Japan looking to the teaching of FM Alexander, sensing that it had something to teach me about "correct posture."

Alexander work did, in fact, teach me a lot about "correct posture." Alexander work taught me that in my search for correct posture I was "cherising a lousy end-gaining idea" (cint ashubham; 15.27).

"Being awake to this" (tad buddhvaa), as I read it, means being awake to this end-gaining tendency. It means being awake to how harm arises, at the deepest level of a person's being, because of unconscious reaction to an idea.

"Being awake to this" (tad buddhvaa), and thinking "antagonistically" (pratipakShena), the Buddha set his followers on the path to enlightenment not by discussing enlightenment, but by investigating suffering.

"Being awake to this" (tad buddhvaa), and thinking "antagonistically" (pratipakShena), Zen Master Dogen wrote of sitting with the mind as opposed to sitting with the body, and of sitting with the body as opposed to sitting with the mind.

Alexander work hasn't taught me how to sit correctly. True Alexander work has no pretences in that direction. But what FM Alexander's niece Marjory Barlow did endeavour to teach me was how to think in a manner which is antagonistic to an end-gaining idea. A couple of years ago I recorded my impressions of how Marjory set about this task, IN THIS ARTICLE, which I hope is worth re-reading.

EH Johnston:
You should understand this and should cast out thoughts by their counteragents, as a wedge is driven out from a cleft in a log by a slender counter-wedge.

Linda Covill:
Take cognisance of this, and throw off distracted thinking by means of its opposite, like a wedge is prized out of a piece of lumber by a finer counter-wedge.

tad: (1) = tat (acc. sg. n.) it, that; (2) ind. on that account , for that reason , therefore
buddhvaa = abs. budh: to wake , wake up , be awake; to observe , heed , attend to (with acc.)
pratipakShena = inst. pratipakSha: m. the opposite side

vitarkam (acc. sg.): idea, thought
kSheptum = infinitive kShip: to throw , cast , send , despatch ; to strike or hit (with a weapon); to throw away , cast away , get rid of
arhasi: you should

suukShmena = inst. suukShma: small , fine , thin , narrow ; acute, precise ; acute , subtle , keen (understanding or mental operation)
pratikiilena = inst. pratikiila: m. an opposite post or peg
prati: ind. against, in opposition to
kiila: m. a sharp piece of wood , stake , pin , peg , bolt , wedge , &c

kiilam (acc. sg.): m. a sharp piece of wood , stake , pin , peg , bolt , wedge , &c
daarva: mfn. wooden
antaraad = ablative antara: n. the interior; n. a hole , opening
iva: like

Saturday, November 21, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.28: An Ignoramus Abroad (3), Herbs vs Weeds

himavantaM yathaa gatvaa
viSha bhuNjiita n'auShadhaM
manuShyatvaM tathaa praapya
paapaM seveta no shubhaM

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

Just as he might go to the Himalayas

And eat not herbs but poison,

So would one arrive at being a human being

And do not good but harm.

This verse, as I read it, is about the tragic ignorance of unconscious end-gaining.

The world is full of people (and I am always liable to be one of them) who, in meaning well, do harm, primarily to themselves.

How does this unconscious and unintended doing of harm come about?

It comes about, in the first place, because of a desire to go directly for an end without due consideration of proper means -- i.e. "end-gaining." It doesn't come about because a little boy (or an old Zen master) wakes up one morning and consciously decides "I am not going to do good; I am going to serve evil." The harm arises, as a rule, not because of intention to serve evil but in spite of the intention to do good.

The teaching of FM Alexander has been described as something true, good, and real. The foundation of the teaching is acceptance and investigation of one's own wrongness which is rooted in trying to be right.

And yet the British community of teachers of the Alexander Technique is presently split over the issue of voluntary self-regulation. Elements in each side, it seems to me, can see that elements on the other side are guilty of trying to be right, but these elements are less able to see their own trying to be right. Marjory Barlow said in her old age, "We are all, and I include myself, going around trying to be right." Marjory was honestly describing the fact. It shouldn't be like this. But it is. It is not that one side is right and the other wrong. The truth is that we are all, in our unenlightened wrongness, going around trying to be right.

Yesterday I was sitting on a chair at an Alexander training school and during a lull in a discussion I reflected on myself. I was totally in the grip of trying to be right.

Again, I am presently suffering from a niggling injury in my right shoulder that I inflicted on myself a few weeks ago while chopping down a conifer with a felling axe. Despite being 50 next month, I went at the job like I was 25, ignoring the fact that the muscles in my right shoulder were telling me to stop. Pure end-gaining.

You might say that, after all these years, I should know better. Well, so should the ignoramus who goes to the Himalayas with a view to eating medicinal herbs. He should know better, but in the vital moment of the present he doesn't. And therein lies the essence of the tragedy which is ignorance.

So in this verse, as I read it, the Buddha is not saying what on the surface he might seem to be saying. He is not saying, "Redouble your unconscious effort to do good, to try to be right."

The Buddha, as I hear him, is saying: "Be aware of what ignorance is. Be aware that the human tragedies we see all around us arise not out of bad intentions but out of our continuing human tendency, when we have an idea, to react to that idea unconsciously, on the basis of our unenlightened instincts."

EH Johnston:
The man who, having obtained the state of a human being, should follow sin and not good is like a man who should go to the Himalayas and eat poison and not health-giving herbs.

Linda Covill:
Just like a man who upon reaching the Himalayas swallows poison instead of medicinal herbs is he who wins a human state but serves evil, not goodness.

hima: m. cold, frost
himavantam = acc. sg. m. himavat: mfn. having frost or snow , snowy , frosty , icy , snow-clad ; m. a snowy mountain ; m. the himaalaya
yathaa: just as
gatvaa = abs. gam: to go, to go to

viSha: n. " anything active " , poison , venom , bane , anything actively pernicious RV. &c ; n. a partic. vegetable poison
bhuNjiita = 3rd pers. sg. optative bhuj: to enjoy , use , possess , (esp.) enjoy a meal , eat , eat and drink , consume
na: not
auShadhaM: n. herbs collectively , a herb ; n. herbs used in medicine

manuShyatvam (acc. sg.): f. manhood , humanity , the state or condition of man
tathaa: so, likewise
praapya = abs. praap: to attain to ; reach , arrive at , meet with , find ; to obtain

paapam (acc. sg. n): mfn. bad , vicious , wicked , evil , wretched , vile , low ; (in astrol.) boding evil , inauspicious; n. evil , misfortune , ill-luck , trouble , mischief, harm
seveta = 3rd pers. sg. optative sev: to remain or stay at , live in , frequent , haunt , inhabit , resort to (acc.); to serve , wait or attend upon , honour , obey , worship; to devote or apply one's self to , cultivate , study , practise , use , employ , perform , do
no: ind. and not
shubham (acc. sg. n.): mfn. splendid , bright , beautiful; n. anything bright or beautiful ; beauty , charm , good fortune , auspiciousness , happiness , bliss , welfare , prosperity ; benefit , service , good or virtuous action

Friday, November 20, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.27: An Ignoramus Abroad (2), Jewel vs Clod

tyaktvaa ratnaM yathaa loShTaM
ratna-dviipaac ca saMharet
tyaktvaa naiHshreyasaM dharmaM
cintayed a-shubhaM tathaa

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

Again, just as he might leave the jewel

And carry from the jewel-island a clod,

So would one leave the dharma that leads to happiness

And cherish a wretched idea.

The dharma that leads to happiness (naiHshreyasaM dharmam) can be understood on many levels, like a big onion of many layers. The process of going deeper towards the centre of it seems to involve a lot of saying "Not that!" to superficial layers. At the level I am at this morning, and in the context of the previous verse, what leads to happiness might be truly being a human being. (But please, do not call it "humanism.") Later, all being well, I will look back and think "No, that wasn't it."

To think or to have an idea (cint), that thought or idea being unlovely, evil, or inauspicious (a-shubha), can also be understood on at least three levels:

Thinking unlovely thoughts is as nothing -- just in the act of waking up to the thinking of those unlovely thoughts, one has already caused those thoughts to evaporate.

Cultivating evil thoughts is more deeply problematic, because bad habits require more time and effort to drop off -- a few minutes, at least, of using the brain.

But over the course of a lifetime or many lifetimes a wretched idea or wrong conception tends to be more deeply problematic than anything -- because the most difficult things to get rid of are the ones that don't exist.

In this verse, as I read it on the basis of my experience in life hitherto, carrying away a clod of earth is not a metaphor either for thinking unlovely thoughts or for cultivating evil thoughts: it is a metaphor for cherishing a lousy idea. "Humanism" along with "Realism" and "True Buddhism" are examples that spring readily to my mind. "Keeping the spine straight vertically" is another one, leading to stiffening, fixing, and stunted/frustrated growth as a human being.

EH Johnston:
And the man who, passing over the Law that leads to final beatitude, should cultivate evil thoughts is like the man who should pass over the jewels and take away lumps of earth from a jewel-island.

Linda Covill:
And the man who thinks unlovely thoughts while forsaking the unsurpassable dharma is like a man who takes away clods of earth from a jewel-island but leaves the jewel behind.

tyaktvaa = abs. tyaj: to leave , abandon , quit
ratnam (acc. sg.) n. a jewel , gem , treasure , precious stone
yathaa: just as
loShTam (acc. sg.): mn. a lump of earth or clay , clod

ratna-dviipaat = abl. ratna-dviipa: a jewel-island
ca: and, again
saMharet = 3rd pers. sg. optative saM-√ hR: to take or fetch from (abl.)

tyaktvaa = abs. tyaj: to leave , abandon , quit
naiHshreyasam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. leading to happiness or future beatitude
naiH (vRddhi form of niH in comp): out of, away from ; without ; thoroughly
shreyasa: n. welfare , happiness , bliss (mostly ifc)
dharmam (acc. sg.): m. law, practice, teaching

cintayet = 3rd pers. sg. optative: cint: to think , have a thought or idea , reflect , consider ; to think about , reflect upon , direct the thoughts towards , care for (acc.)
a-shubham (acc. sg. n. or acc. sg. m.): mfn. not beautiful or agreeable , disagreeable ; inauspicious ; bad , vicious (as thought or speech); m. misfortune , harm , mischief
shubha: n. splendid , bright , beautiful , handsome (often f. voc. , shubhe , " fair one! " in addressing a beautiful woman) ; pleasant , agreeable , suitable , fit , capable , useful , good (applied to persons and things)
tathaa: so, likewise

Thursday, November 19, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.26: An Ignoramus Abroad (1), Aloes vs Firewood

an-abhijNo yathaa jaatyaM
dahed aguru kaaShThavat
a-nyaayena manuShyatvam
upahanyaad idaM tathaa

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

Just as an ignoramus

Might burn as firewood the best aloes,

So would one, wrong-headedly,

Waste this state of being human.

This real state of being human is our original state. We undermine it or spoil it or waste it with inauspicious conceptions. We might return to it by truly learning the backward step of turning our light and letting it shine.

So this verse, as I read it, is nothing other than a description of the inevitable tendency of a sitting-dhyaana life -- in which mountains are originally mountains but then mountains cease to be mountains, until such time as mountains might be realized again as mountains.

EHJ and LC have translated this verse as if the Buddha were referring to some plan, or some method, but the Buddha as I hear him is not referring to any plan or method, other than just sitting as the giving up of one's own wrong-headed conceptions. Trying to sit in conformity with somebody's plan (like "true Buddhism saves the world from the conflict between idealism and materialism") or in accordance with some method (like "keeping the spine straight vertically" or "[fill in the missing word] meditation"), might be the original cause of the wrong-headedness that causes mountains to cease to be mountains.

When we see footage of goings-on in North Korea, who doesn't feel that what is going on there under the world's last surviving Stalinist regime is unjust, improper, indecorous, irregular, disordered (a-nyaya)? What is going on there, in a word, is wrongheaded. And does that disordered wrongheadedness principally derive (a) from not following any plan or method, or (b) from following somebody's plan or method?

EH Johnston:
Just as an ignoramus would burn costly aloe wood like ordinary fuel, so by not following the plan one would destroy one's existence here as a human being.

Linda Covill:
Just as an ignorant man might burn the best aloe-wood as if it were ordinary firewood, just so is one's human state destroyed by not following this method.

an-abhijNaH = nom. sg. m. an-abhijNa: mfn. unacquainted with , ignorant
yathaa (correlative of tathaa): just as
jaatyam (acc. sg. n.) jaatya: mfn of a noble family , noble; pleasing , beautiful ; best , excellent

dahet = 3rd pers. sg. optative dah: to burn
aguru (acc. sg. n.): mn. the fragrant Aloe wood and tree
kaaShTha: n. a piece of wood or timber , stick; n. wood or timber in general
-vat: like
kaaShThavat: ind. like a piece of wood , like a stick (as when petrified with fear , &c )

a-nyaayena = inst. a-nyaaya: m. unjust or unlawful action ; impropriety , indecorum ; irregularity , disorder
a-: negative prefix
nyaaya: that into which a thing goes back i.e. an original type , standard , method , rule , (esp.) a general or universal rule , model , axiom , system , plan , manner , right or fit manner or way , fitness , propriety
nyaayena: ind. in the right manner , regularly , duly
manuShyatvam (acc. sg.): n. manhood , humanity , the state or condition of man

upahanyaat = 3rd pers. sg. optative upa-√han: to hit , hurt , damage , visit , afflict , impede , spoil
idam (nom./acc. sg. n.): this , this here , referring to something near the speaker
tathaa: so, likewise

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.25: The Self Like a Good Sword vs Ideas Like Mud

tad vitarkair a-kushalair
n'aatmaanaM hantum arhasi
su-shastraM ratna-vikRtaM
mRdd-hato gaaM khanann iva

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

With inauspicious conceptions, then,

You should not mar your self

-- Which is a good sword and bejewelled --

As if you were digging the earth, spattered with mud.

In this verse, Nanda's self like a good sword adorned by the triple gem, is opposed to inauspicious conceptions like mud.

Forgive another unduly long post on this subject, but I think that to understand the meaning of "inauspicious conceptions" (akushala vitarka) is really vital, so as to be governed less by those conceptions in sitting and in life.

The translations of akushala vitarka offered by EHJ ("evil thoughts") and LC ("unwholesome musings") give the impression of a temporary mental activity. But the real meaning of akushala vitarka, as I read it, is inauspicious conceptions that are woven deeply into the fabric of a person's body-mind.

The first of those inauspicious conceptions, related to human desire, is end-gaining. Following the mirror principle, I unconsciously criticize the end-gaining that I see in others because I don't like to see it in myself. But in brighter moments, I accept that instinctive grasping for what one desires is a universal human tendency. It is not a thing out there to fight against; it is a conception, or a tendency, in me. As a conception, it is a conception to be given up, here and now. As a tendency, it is a tendency whose grip is to be loosened, gradually -- finality not being in sight for any of us.

The second of those inauspicious conceptions, related to ill-will and cruelty, is foul or vile prejudice. This tends to arise when unconsciously I fail to separate out things that I reject, or things I detest, or things that have offended me, from individual people or groups of people whom I associate with those things.

At the individual level, at the top of my unconscious hit list are people who have offended me very deeply by treating my translation of Shobogenzo as if it were not mine. Even if I have not bothered to fight them, but have rather endeavoured to walk away from trouble, I have not exactly wished them well. I have not been entirely free of a certain tendency to sit and wait for cause and effect to punish them. If I were able to transcend the unconscious habit of wishing to see people who hurt me get their just deserts, and opt instead for compassion, I might use the sword of wisdom to separate out a person's mistakes and the person himself -- some mother's son. My strong habit is that if you hurt me, I am going to form a very strong and vile prejudice against you as a person and draw satisfaction from seeing you hurt back. It is the instinct not of a dove but of a hawk, of a fighter. It is an instinct maybe born of a fighter's fear. But again, it is not something absolute: it is a conception that can be given up in a moment by a person in possession of his own brain, and at the same time it is a tendency whose grip is maybe loosening over time.

At the group level, my plodding along this way for the last 30 years has caused me to reject every -ism, under which banner people in their desire to feel right flock like sheep. My unconscious habit is not only to despise the -ism but also to despise the pacificists, pragmatists, feminists, Buddhists, and the like who flock together under their chosen -ism. So again, the inauspicious conception whereby the rational rejection of an -ism tends to become a vile prejudice, is unconscious association of the -ism with human proponents of it or adherents to it. Whereas in light of the Buddha's teaching to opt for compassion, it is perfectly possible to reject, say, the unhelpful idea of a God who formed a covenant with some ancient middle-eastern tribes, without being prejudiced against Jews, and Christians, and Muslims, every one of whom is some mother's son or daughter with his or her own individual story.

End-gaining for enlightenment was traditionally represented by the Chinese Zen patriarchs by the word ZENNA, being tainted. And in the previous verse, as I read it, the Buddha expresses prejudice as foulness itself (kaaluShya). So being spattered by mud (mRdd-hata) is a natural metaphor for being marred by conceptions like end-gaining and prejudice. And as a metaphor for the true, original human self that is marred by inauspicious conceptions, in this verse the Buddha uses a good sword that is adjorned by the three jewels of Buddha, Dharma, and Samgha.

And so begins a series of four verses featuring metaphors in which a treasure is opposed to an object of little or no value.

In each of the next three verses an ignorant man fails to make the enlightened decision when presented with contrasting alternatives: in 15.26 it is aloe wood vs ordinary timber; in 15.27 a jewel vs a clod of earth; and in 15.28 mountain herbs vs inedible weeds.

So this verse, 15.25, seems to be a bridge from the preceding discussion of inauspicious conceptions at the root of (1) troublesome desires and (2) ill-will & cruelty, to the forthcoming discussion of (3) ignorance (moha), as manifested by an ignorant person's inability to navigate a way through a succession of no-brainers.

The implication to draw might be that the kind of ignorance which the Buddha is concerned about is inability to decide between the real which (like sharp sword, aloe wood, gemstone, or Himalayan herb) is valuable, and an idea which (like mud, lump of wood or earth, or inedible plant) is cheap.

If the self is a good sword already, what is the secret of accepting and using it as such, for the making of clear-cut decisions? The hint, again, might be in the canto title, vitarka-prahaaNa, Giving Up an Idea.

To accept and use the bejewelled good sword of the self, giving up the mud of one's own ideas, is, in other words, just to sit. In that sense, this canto is expressing the essence of sitting-dhyaana -- which may be why the next canto opens with the statement:

"Thus.... the practitioner makes the four dhyaanas his own."

EH Johnston:
Therefore do not destroy yourself by evil thoughts, when you are well-armed and adorned with the Jewels, like a man who is digging up the ground casts earth on his well-armed and bejewelled body.

Linda Covill:
Don't harm yourself with unwholesome musings, as though a man in digging earth were to fling soil on himself, well-armed and jewel-adorned as he is.

tad: ind. then , at that time , in that case ; thus , in this manner , with regard to that ; on that account , for that reason , therefore
vitarkaiH = inst. pl. vitarka: m. conjecture , supposition , guess , fancy , imagination , opinion
akushalaiH = inst. pl. akushala: evil, unwholesome

na: not
aatmaanam = acc. sg. aatman: m. self ; essence , nature , character the highest personal principle of life , brahma
hantum = inf. han: to smite, strike, slay, hurt
arhasi: you should

su: ind. good , excellent , right , virtuous , beautiful , easy , well , rightly , much , greatly etc.
shastram (acc. sg.): m. a sword
ratna: jewel
vikRtam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. transformed , altered , changed &c; decorated , embellished , set with (comp.)

mRd: f. earth , soil , clay , loam
hataH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. hit by (instr. or comp.)
gaaM = acc. sg. go: f. the earth (as the milk-cow of kings)
khanan = pres. part. khan: to dig
iva: like

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.24: Not That Foul Prejudice!

sattvaanaam upaghaataaya
parikleshaaya c'aatmanaH
mohaM vrajati kaaluShyaM
narakaaya ca vartate

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

Tending to cause offence to living beings

And torment for oneself,

Foulness becomes ignorance

And leads to hell.

What kind of inauspicious conception (akushala vitarka) is the foulness (kaaluShya) that brings offence to others and torment on oneself, that becomes ignorance, and that leads to hell?

Really to answer that question, I have to dig deep and see this foulness (kaaluShya) as a tendency in myself.

It is easier for me to acknowledge defilement in the form of that end-gaining tendency in myself which, in combination with faulty sensory appreciation, leads me towards hell. It is not so easy for me to own up to a tendency to form vile prejudices -- a tendency literally to 'vilify' living beings.

My sense from the context, however, is that by "foulness" (kaaluShya), the Buddha here is pointing not to the defilement that is tied up with end-gaining desire. I think the Buddha is pointing to the universal human tendency to form the kind of vile prejudice that none of us like to see in the mirror of, say, Adolf Hitler. It is the kind of vile prejudice that is tied up with ill-will and cruelty.

If a Jewish lawyer is instrumental in the perpetrating of a white-collar crime against me, I can't control how I feel about that. If I feel hatred, I feel hatred. I cannot control my feelings. My feelings control me. So foulness in this verse, as I read it, is not expressing the hatred over which I have no direct control. By the word "foulness" (kaaluShya), I think the Buddha is rather pointing to an inauspicious conception around hatred, i.e, the forming of a vile prejudice, and this is something that it is within my power NOT TO DO.

The Taliban blew up the Buddhas of Bamiyan, justifying their action by the Islaamic prohibition against sacred images. Can we help ourselves from feeling hatred for the perpetration of that crime? Maybe not. But should we vilify Islaam, should we form an irrational and vile prejudice against all Muslims because of that act of destruction in the name of Islaam? No, we should not. To form such a foul prejudice is something NOT TO DO.

The practice of just sitting, as I see it, is antithetical to every kind of prejudiced view -- including the inherent prejudices of Judaism, Buddhism, and every other -ism.

Racism is the most obvious kind of foul prejudice. And unconscious reactions against racism might also turn into prejudiced -isms. And unconscious reactions to those unconscious reactions, and so on, all might be equally foul in their own water-muddying way.

There are foul prejudices that find favour among this group of people and opposite foul prejudices that find favour among that group of people. Each side sees the view of the other side as a prejudice, but fails to see their own view as a prejudice.

The original teaching is individual non-doing of one's own wrong and abandonment of one's own views. But would-be defenders of the original teaching divide into sects and schools, each with the prejudice that "Our way is right; and you are in the wrong." As has happened with the teaching of FM Alexander in the fifty-odd years since his death, so has happened with the teaching of Gautama Buddha in the centuries since his death.

There might not be many individuals today, even among those of us who sit, who realize the Buddha-Dharma as the giving up of our own prejudices.

EH Johnston:
A defiled state of mind involves delusion, resulting in the destruction of others and in one's own sinfulness, and leads to Hell.

Linda Covill:
Foulness of the mind leads to folly, damages other living beings and brings defilement for oneself. It leads to hell.

sattvaanaam = gen. pl. sattva: m. n. a living or sentient being , creature , animal
upaghaataaya = dat. upaghaata: m. (fr. upa- √han) ,a stroke , hurt , violation ; injury , damage , offence , wrong

parikleshaaya = dat. pariklesha: m. hardship , pain , trouble , fatigue
pari: ind. fully , abundantly , richly (esp. ibc. to express fulness or high degree)
klesha: m. pain , affliction , distress , pain from disease , anguish ; (in yoga phil. five klezas are named; the Buddhists reckon ten , viz. three of the body [murder , theft , adultery] , four of speech [lying , slander , abuse , unprofitable conversation] , three of the mind [covetousness , malice , scepticism] Buddh. Sarvad. ) ; wrath , anger ; worldly occupation , care , trouble
klish: to torment , trouble , molest , cause pain , afflict

ca: and
atmanaH = gen. sg. atman: self

moham (acc. sg.): m. ignorance, delusion
vrajati = 3rd pers. sg. vraj: to go , walk , proceed ; to undergo , go to any state or condition , obtain , attain to , become (esp. with acc. of an abstract noun)
kaaluShyam (nom. sg.): n. (fr. kaluSha) , foulness , dirtiness , turbidness , opacity ; disturbance or interruption of harmony
kaluSha: mfn. turbid , foul , muddy , impure , dirty ; n. foulness , turbidness , dirt , impurity (lit. and fig.); n. sin , wrath

narakaaya = dative naraka: mn. hell
ca: and
vartate = 3rd pers. sg. vRt: to turn, to tend or turn to , prove as (dat.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.23: Not That End-gaining Idea!

yaa tri-kaam'-opabhogaaya
cintaa manasi vartate
na ca taM guNam aapnoti
bandhanaaya ca kalpate

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

That anxiousness to enjoy the three desires

Which churns in the mind

Does not meet with merit,

But produces bondage.

EHJ notes: "I am not at all certain about the correct explanation of tri-kaama ('threefold passion'). Kaama is ordinarily fivefold, corresponding to the five senses..."

I think EHJ ran into this difficulty because he was stuck on the idea that kaama refers to sensual desire. I think EHJ maybe didn't appreciate the ambiguity and irony of the Buddha's words; he didn't appreciate that the Buddha is not only negating passion but is also investigating volition more broadly and deeply.

As I read it, tri-kaama ("the three desires") means the desire to get something, the desire to become something, and the desire to be rid of something.

And what the Buddha is negating in this verse is not those three desires, but rather the anxiety around those desires which is rooted in that most inauspicious and unhelpful of conceptions: the end-gaining idea.

It is anxious ideas of getting something, becoming something, or being rid of something, that tie a person to his or her wrong inner patterns of doing.

Hence the wisdom of truly just sitting.

On a technical point of translation, the word taM in the 3rd line is problematic. EHJ notes that saa would seem to be required as the correlative of yaa in the 1st line. I wondered if the Buddha might be pointing to the fact that that eagerness to enjoy a desire generally meets with disappointment, in which case the 3rd line might mean "It does not reap that [anticipated] reward." Since guNa is not given in the dictionary as "reward," however, I backed off from this interpretation.

What is not in doubt in this verse, as I read it, is the central message that anxiety produces bondage. Hence the wisdom of truly just sitting, based on the idea of body, based on the idea of mind, and as the giving up of all anxiety-producing ideas.

EH Johnston:
For the thought that works in the mind towards enjoyment of threefold passion both fails to attain excellence and also conduces to bondage.

Linda Covill:
When a thought in one's mind revolves around enjoyment of the three passions, it does not acquire virtue but produces bondage.

yaa (nom. sg. f.): [relative pronoun] which [thought]
tri: three
kaama: m. wish , desire , longing
upabhogaaya = dat. upabhoga: m. enjoyment , eating , consuming

cintaa: f. thought , care , anxiety
manasi = loc. sg. manas: mind
vartate = 3rd pers. sg. vRt: to turn , turn round ; take place ; dwell ; continue in force

na: not
ca: and
tam (acc. sg. m.): that, that [expected object]
guNam (acc. sg.): m. a single thread or strand of a cord or twine; a garland ; a secondary element , subordinate or unessential part of any action; an auxiliary act ; a quality , peculiarity , attribute or property ; good quality , virtue , merit , excellence
aapnoti = 3rd pers. sg. aap: to reach, meet with, fall upon; to obtain , gain , take possession of

bandhanaaya = dative bandhana: n. the act of binding , tying , fastening , fettering
ca: and
kalpate = 3rd pers. sg. klRp: to be favourable to , subserve , effect (with dat.)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.22: Not That Negative Conception!

manaH-karmasv a-vikShepam
api c'aabhyastum arhasi
na tv ev' aa-kushalaM saumya
vitarkayitum arhasi

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

Non-bewilderment in activities of the mind,

Also, you should practise.

But above all, my friend, nothing inauspicious

Should you conceive:

Somebody asked me yesterday for my opinion on a book called "The Posture of Meditation." My answer was that I am not interested in reading the book. Judging the book by its cover, I don't have any interest in reading it.

The essence of "just sitting," I used to think, was good posture. But that was just an inauspicious conception, leading ever deeper into end-gaining.

The essence of "just sitting," as I am coming to see it, is not doing wrong. And when I investigate in detail how my wrong doing starts, the root of the wrong doing is generally in some inauspicious conception.

The Buddha seems to begin this verse with his sights set on the third of the three fundamental symptoms of wrong doing. Those three, known as the three fundamental afflictions (muula klesha), are (1) undue positive emotion (passion), (2) undue negative emotion (hatred), and (3) confusion/delusion/ignorance.

So the Buddha is telling Nanda in this verse, as I read it, that in addition to eradicating (1) end-gaining desires, and (2) ill-will and cruelty, by practising their respective opposites, he should practise non-bewilderment (a-vikShepa) as the opposite of (3) confusion/delusion/ignorance.

But more than that, the Buddha, as I hear him in the 3rd and 4th line, is exhorting Nanda to steer clear of the most difficult things of all to get rid of -- i.e., the things that don't exist.

What mainly concerns the Buddha might be not so much the observable manifestations of wrong doing, but more the inauspicious conception, the unconstructive idea, the negative thought-habit that invisibly underlies the manifest wrong doing.

Why would the Buddha be concerned more about a mental conception than about the three poisons themselves? Because our transitory wrong-doing as unenlightened beings is just the inevitable symptom of a work in progress progressing. But a wrong conception fetters a person for a lifetime. A wrong conception of the Buddha's teaching, indeed, might be an obstacle that fetters entire nations for many lifetimes -- as had been happening for centuries in China already until the time that Master Bodhidharma arrived to cut the roots of the confusion, and as had been happening for centuries in Japan already until Master Dogen arrived to cut the roots of the confusion.

The next two verses offer a clue to what the Buddha has in mind by conceptions that he calls inauspicious (akushalam). The Buddha's intention might be that end-gaining ideas (15.23) and malevolent prejudices (15.24) are inauspicious conceptions.

So, again, I think the main clue to understanding this verse is contained in the canto title, vitarka-prahaaNa, Giving Up an Idea.

EH Johnston:
Moreover you should practise concentration in the workings of your mind, but in no circumstances should you think evil thoughts, my friend.

Linda Covill:
Practice being collected in your mental activities, my friend; and especially do not think unwholesome thoughts.

manas: mind
karmasu = loc. pl. karman: n. act, action; work, activity
a-: negative prefix
vikShepam (acc. sg.): m. (from vi-√kSip) the act of throwing asunder or away or about , scattering , dispersion ; letting loose , indulging ;letting slip , neglecting (time) ; inattention , distraction , confusion , perplexity
vi-√kSip: to throw asunder or away or about , cast hither and thither , scatter , disperse
vi: apart
√kSip: to throw , cast ; to move hastily (the arms or legs); to throw a glance (as the eye) ; to strike or hit (with a weapon) ; to put or place anything on or in (loc.) , pour on , scatter , fix or attach to (loc.); to direct (the thoughts) upon (loc.)

api: ind. and , also , moreover , besides , assuredly , surely
ca: and
api-ca: as well as
abhyastum = infinitive abhy-√as: to add; to concentrate one's attention upon (acc.) , practise , exercise , study &c ; to repeat , double ; to multiply
arhasi: you should

na: not
tu: but etc.
eva: (emphatic)
a-kushalam (acc. sg.): n. evil
saumya (voc.): my friend

vitarkayitum = inf. vi-√ tark: to reflect , ponder , think , believe , suppose , conjecture , consider
arhasi: you should

Saturday, November 14, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.21: Unhelpful Ideas (ctd.)

shreyaso vighna-karaNaad
bhavanty aatma-vipattaye
paatrii-bhaav'-opaghaataat tu

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

Because they create obstacles to the higher good,

They lead to the falling apart of the self;

And because they undermine the worthy condition,

They lead to the falling apart of the other's trust.

Shreyas, the higher good, as I read it, means the right thing that tends to do itself when I stop doing the wrong thing. That the right thing is being allowed to do itself -- in functions like breathing, sleeping, digestion, and circulation -- is the essence of health. The more a person does the wrong thing, the more his or her health suffers. And such doing of the wrong thing, when it is investigated in detail, can invariably traced back to some unhelpful idea.

Equally, patrii-bhaava, the worthy condition, as I read it, means the integrity which makes a person trustworthy. And interference with this integrity, when this interference is investigated in detail, again generally arises from the combination of faulty sensory appreciation and some unhelpful idea.

When it really comes down to it, what do I want?

First up, I want to stop doing the wrong thing.

And in the practice of the stopping of this wrong-doing, daily experience proves, one of the most constructive ideas I can have, benefitting in equal measure self and others, is the idea of giving up whatever unhelpful idea might be at the root of this wrong-doing.

EH Johnston:
They lead not only to one's own ruin by placing an obstacle in the way of the highest good, but also to the ruin of others' devotion by destruction of the state of grace.

Linda Covill:
Because they act as obstacles to Excellence, they cause personal failure; and because of the damage done to the worthy condition, they also lead to the failure in the loyalties of others.

shreyasaH = gen. sg. shreyas: n. the better state , the better fortune or condition; m. good (as opp. to " evil ") , welfare , bliss , fortune , happiness
vighna: m. a breaker , destroyer ; an obstacle , impediment , hindrance
karaNaad = ablative karaNa: n. the act of making , doing , producing , effecting (very often ifc.)

bhavanti = 3rd pers. pl. bhuu: to become, be
aatma: self
vipattaye = dative vipatti (from vi- √pad): f. going wrongly , adversity , misfortune , failure , disaster ; ruin, destruction
vi-√pad: to fall or burst asunder ; to come between , intervene , prevent , hinder ; to go wrongly , fail , miscarry , come to nought , perish die
vi: ind. (prob. for an original dvi , meaning " in two parts ") apart , asunder , in different directions
√pad: to fall , fall down or out , perish

paatrii: ind. in comp. for paatra
paatra: n. any vessel or receptacle ; (met.) a capable or competent person , an adept in , master of (gen.) , any one worthy of or fit for ; propriety , fitness
bhaava: m. (from √ bhuu) becoming; state , condition
upaghaataat = ablative upaghaata: m. (fr. upa- √han) , a stroke , hurt , violation ; injury , damage , offence , wrong
upa- √han, to beat , hit at , strike , touch; to stick on , put on , force in , ram ; to take hold of , seize , take out ; to hit , hurt , damage , visit , afflict , impede , spoil
upa: ind. towards , near to (opposed to apa , away) , by the side of , with , together with , under , down
√han: to strike , beat (also a drum) , pound , hammer (acc.) , strike &c upon (loc.) ; to smite , slay , hit , kill , mar , destroy
tu: but etc.

para: m. another (different from one's self)
bhakti: f. attachment , devotion , fondness for , devotion to (with loc. , gen. or ifc.) , trust
vipattaye (dative vipatti): for falling apart

Friday, November 13, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.20: Unhelpful Ideas

saMvardhante hy a-kushalaa
vitarkaaH saMbhRtaa hRdi
an-artha-janakaas tulyam
aatmanash ca parasya ca

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

For unhelpful ideas carried in the heart

Densely grow,

Producing in equal measure nothing of value

For the self and for the other.

This verse sheds further light on what a-kushala, unhelpful or unconstructive, means. The verse can be read as a kind of definition of a-kushala: unhelpful or inauspicious thoughts/ideas (a-kushalaa vitarkaaH) are those thoughts/ideas that produce nothing of value for self or others, i.e. thoughts or ideas that are in no way constructive.

The true meaning of SHIKAN TAZA, "just sitting," as I understand it, is very much connected with this teaching of the Buddha on unconstructive thoughts/ideas (a-kushalaa vitarkaaH).

For example, if teacher is not skillful and student is not ready, "just sitting" itself becomes a very unhelpful idea.

But if a student who is ready meets teachers who are skillful, then just sitting becomes the dropping off of all unhelpful ideas.

EH Johnston:
For evil thoughts gain in strength by being cherished in the heart and breed disaster alike for oneself and for others.

Linda Covill:
When unwholesome thoughts are carried in the heart they grow stronger and breed ill for both oneself and others.

saMvardhante = 3rd pers. pl. saM-√vRdh: to grow to perfection or completion , grow up , increase
hi: for
a-kushalaaH (nom. pl. m.): inauspicious, evil

vitarkaaH = nom. pl. vitarka: m. conjecture , supposition , guess , fancy , imagination , opinion; reasoning , deliberation , consideration ; purpose , intention
sambhRta : mfn. brought together , collected , assembled , accumulated , concentrated ; provided , stored , laden , filled , covered , furnished or endowed with , possessed of (instr. or comp.) ; carried , borne (in the womb) ; well maintained or nourished
hRdi = loc. sg. hRdaya: n. the heart (or region of the heart as the seat of feelings and sensations; soul , mind

an-artha: m. non-value , a worthless or useless object ; disappointing occurrence , reverse
janakaaH= nom. pl. m. janaka: generative , generating , begetting , producing , causing (chiefly ifc.)
tulyam: ind. equally , in like manner

aatmanaH = gen. sg. aatman: self
ca: and
parasya = gen. sg. para: the other
ca: and

Thursday, November 12, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.19: Reaching Ultimate Value, in small steps

tasmaad a-kushalaM tyaktvaa
kushalaM dhyaatum arhasi
yat te syaad iha c' aarthaaya
param'-aarthasya c' aaptaye

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

Therefore, abandoning the unhelpful,

You should think constructively,

Which might be valuable for you here and now

And might be for the reaching of ultimate value.

Although the dictionary gives a-kushala as "evil," this verse, as I read it, does not have any moralistic undertones of evil and good, or even of unwholesomeness and wholesomeness. This verse, as I read it, is supremely practical: it is about what does not work and what might work, here and now.

Chief among thoughts to be abandoned here and now as inauspicious, unconstructive or unhelpful (a-kushalam), is the idea that causes a person to try to be right. Thus:

Wanting complete ease before we get there is unconstructive.
Wanting to be Buddha before we are enlightened is unhelpful.
And it is not, as I see it, two teachings in parallel.

What it is to think of going well, or to think constructively, (kushalaM dhyaatum), even an Alexander teacher of 70 years experience cannot describe. If we cannot say what it is, maybe we can say what it is like. The thinking under discussion now might be like wishing for good weather tomorrow, because we want to go for a picnic. Or, it might be like the wishing of a very persistent person who won't take "no" for an answer. Again, the constructive thinking described in this verse might be thinking like a sticking plaster -- thinking that really works, where it is actually applied.

In the terms discussed yesterday, constructive thinking like this is thinking along the lines of "a little bit more ease" and "a little bit more ease" and "a little bit more ease" and so on, always veering in the right direction -- not wanting complete ease before you get it.

This kind of constructive thinking is practical, valuable, useful, helpful here and now. It is a practical means-whereby, a method that works.

But even more than he wished to draw our attention to the existence of such a method, FM Alexander said, he wished to point to what he called a plane of Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual -- a plane to be reached.

FM wrote, rather enigmatically: "I wish it to be understood that I use the term conscious guidance and control to indicate, primarily, a plane to be reached rather than a method of reaching it."

To reach this plane, it seemed to me, when I first became aware of Alexander's teaching, might be for a devotee of sitting-zen the ultimate purpose, ultimate value, and ultimate meaning (param-"aartham) of a life.

So what does it mean to reach this plane? Is my ultimate purpose to sit, even if only for a moment, with complete ease, body and mind having spontaneously dropped off, truly knowing that I am Buddha? Or do I realise ultimate value in, less ambitiously, just allowing a little bit more ease?

EH Johnston:
Therefore you should abandon evil and think only of what is good ; for it will redound to your advantage in this world and to the attainment of the supreme goal.

Linda Covill:
Therefore you must give up what is unwholesome and concentrate on the wholesome, since this will work both for your best interest in this world and for your attainment of the ultimate goal.

tasmaat: ind. (abl. of ta) from that , on that account , therefore
a-kushalam (acc. sg.): n. evil
tyaktvaa = abs. tyaj: to leave , abandon , quit ; to leave a place , go away from ; to let go , dismiss , discharge ; to give up , surrender , resign , part from , renounce

kushalam (acc. sg.): n. welfare , well-being , prosperous condition , happiness
kushalam: ind. well , in a proper manner , properly
dhyaatum = infinitive dhyaa / dhyai: to think of , imagine , contemplate , meditate on , call to mind , recollect
arhasi: you should

yat: which
te (gen): of/for you
syaat (3rd pers. opt. as): it might be
iha: here, now, in this world
ca: and
aarthaaya = dative sg. aartha: cause, purpose; advantage , use , utility

parama: chief , highest , primary ; best , most excellent
arthasya = gen. sg. aartha: cause, purpose; advantage , use , utility; thing , object; affair ; meaning
ca: and
aaptaye = dative sg. aapti: f. reaching , meeting with ; obtaining , gain , acquisition

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.18: What You Think Is What You Get

yad yad eva prasaktaM hi
vitarkayati maanavaH
abhyaasaat tena ten' aasya
natir bhavati cetasaH

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

For whatever continually

A human being thinks,

In that direction, through habit,

The mind of this person veers.

Going back to basics, while sitting in lotus engaging in the fundamental, the direction I wish to go in is the direction of undoing, which is up. I wish to go in the direction of "a little bit more ease."

Feeling cannot take me there. Feeling ties me to the doing I know, which is down.

Bad habits of thinking cannot take me there. Bad habits of thinking are tied up with feeling, and with trying to be right, which excites the fear reflexes, which takes me in precisely the wrong direction, which is down.

Is there a kind of habit of thinking I can cultivate to take me up, in the right direction?

In his instructions for sitting-zen, Zen Master Dogen, following Zen Master Yakusan Igen, said: KONO FUSHIRYO TEI O SHIRYO SEYO, "Think that state beyond thinking."

My teacher, Gudo Nishijima, asserted that no kind of thinking was suitable in sitting-zen, that Yakusan's words are not about thinking but about action.

FM Alexander described his work as an exercise in finding out what thinking is.

The particular Alexandrian phrase that this verse, 15.18, brought to my mind was "What you think is what you get." It is a phrase I associate with the teaching of the American Alexander teacher Marjorie Barstow (who memorably said of herself, "I'm so practical, I shouldn't be living!").

So I googled "What you think is what you get, Marjorie Barstow," and below are a couple of the links that came up.

In THIS VIDEO CLIP, a woman tells Marjorie that she is having difficulty in looking for complete ease. "That's the problem," Marjorie observes, "You want complete ease before you get it."

Among these TEACHING APHORISMS OF MARJORIE BARSTOW, one of several that might be very relevant to this and the previous verse is: "You have to do the brainwork."

From my experience of the last 30 years, I totally concur with Marjorie Barstow that the brainwork has to be done. If sitting for year after year after year dumbly trying to keep the spine straight vertically got me anywhere, it got me to the realization that there had to be something else, that a piece was missing from the jigsaw puzzle, that I had to learn what it meant "to do the brainwork." And I am still engaged in finding out what it means to do the brainwork, what it means to think. I don't know what it means. Bit by bit I see more clearly what it doesn't mean. For a start, it doesn't mean any kind of self-arrangement in the direction of what one feels might be the right posture.

EH Johnston:
For through habit a man's thoughts become inclined to whatever he reflects on continually.

Linda Covill:
Whatever it is that a man continually thinks about, his mind, through habit, will develop a leaning towards it.

yad yad: whatever
eva: (emphatic)
prasaktam: ind. continually , incessantly , eternally , ever
hi: for

vitarkayati = 3rd pers. sg. vi-√tark: to reflect , ponder , think , believe , suppose , conjecture , consider as or take for (acc.)
maanavaH (nom. sg.): m. a human being , man

abhyaasaat = abl. abhyaasa: m. the act of adding anything ; repetition ; repeated or permanent exercise , discipline , use , habit , custom
tena (instr. of sa): ind. in that direction , there (correl. to yena , " in which direction , where ") ; in that manner , thus (correl. to yena , " in what manner ") ; on that account , for that reason , therefore (correl. to yena, yad)
tena tena: (correlative of yad yad)
asya (gen. sg. m/n): of this one

natiH (nom. sg.): f. bending , bowing , stooping ; inclination ; curvature , crookedness
bhavati = 3rd pers. sg. bhU: to become, develop, show, exhibit
cetasaH = gen. sg. cetas: n. consciousness, heart, mind

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.17: The Basis of a Momentary Decision

tasmaat sarveShu bhuuteShu
maitriiM kaaruNyam eva ca
na vyaapaadaM vihiMsaaM vaa
vikalpayitum arhasi

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

On this basis, towards all beings,

It is love and compassion,

Not ill-will or cruelty,

That you should opt for.

This verse, as I read it, hinges on its first word, tasmaat ("on this basis").

The original basis of this canto, remember, is sitting in the supreme manner, engaging in the fundamental. And the essence of engaging in the fundamental, at least as Marjory Barlow taught me to practice it, is simply this:

"I think of doing nothing."

This was Marjory's simple idea: "Think of doing nothing."

"Then," Marjory added, "I ask myself: What kind of nothing am I doing?"

Tasmaat ("on this basis"), as I read it, means not so much on the basis of the idea "Think of doing nothing," but more on the basis of "What kind of nothing am I doing?"

Marjory took pains to distinguish between two kinds of thinking, namely:
(a) filling our heads with abstract ideas, which many of us tend to do too much;
(b) using the brain for the work of thinking, which we tend to avoid at all costs.

A nice idea, like "I am on the side of compassion towards all living beings," or "I am a Buddhist, an ordained monk in the lineage of Great Master X," or "I am an Alexander teacher, a practitioner of non-doing as taught by Marjory Barlow," might be forever, but it is also cheap.

The question "What kind of nothing am I doing?", in contrast, requires us to ask it afresh in a moment of non-doing practice. And it is on this basis, I think the Buddha is telling us, on the difficult basis of momentary practice, that we should opt for love and compassion towards all beings.

To opt for love and compassion on this basis turns out not to be so easy.

On this basis, sarveShu bhuuteShu ("towards all beings") might mean, for example, towards foxes and towards fox-hunters.

On this basis, the Buddha seems to be saying, right in the moment of the present, you should opt (vikalpayitum arhasi) -- not only before the event, when reading the golden words of the ancients, but also at the centre of the action, just in that moment when your progress up the motorway is being impeded by some half-asleep Mr Magoo dawdling along in the fast lane at a steady 65 mph.

I can decide here and now to devote the rest of my life to acting with love and compassion for all sentient beings. But what kind of decision is that? It is a decision to sign up to an idea which is highly likely to prove to be empty -- as the words "I love you" are ever prone to turn out to have been the expression of an empty idea. Having a nice idea isn't really engaging with the fundamental at all.

So tasmaat, "on this basis," as I read it, means not so much on the basis of the idea of love and compassion for all living beings, but more on the basis of giving up that idea, and using one's brain in this moment in a constructive manner.

EH Johnston:
Therefore you should cultivate thoughts of benevolence and compassion towards all beings, not of malevolence or the desire to hurt.

Linda Covill:
it follows that you should choose loving-kindness and compassion towards all living creatures as the alternative to malice and aggression.

tasmaat: ind. (abl. of ta) from that , on that account , therefore
sarveShu = loc. pl. n. sarva: all
bhuuteShu = loc. pl. bhuuta: n. (cf. above ) that which is or exists , any living being

maitriim (acc. sg.): f. friendship , friendliness , benevolence , good will
kaaruNyam (acc. sg.): n. compassion , kindness
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and

na: not
vyaapaadam (acc. sg.): m. destruction , ruin , death ; evil intent or design , malice
vihiMsaam (acc. sg.): f. injuring, hurting, harming
vaa: or

vikalpayitum = inf. vi-√klRp: to change or alternate ; to be undecided ; to choose one of two alternatives
arhasi: you should

Monday, November 9, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.16: Tainted Mind Consumed in the Heat of a Moment

duShTena c' eha manasaa
baadhyate vaa paro na vaa
sadyas tu dahyate taavat
svaM mano duShTa-cetasaH

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

And the mind which in such an instant is tainted,

May or may not impinge on the other;

But instantly burned up in this moment

Is the man of tainted consciousness's own mind.

Again, this verse might be inviting us to give up an idea. And the idea to be given up might be paraphrased as follows:

Whether or not a malignant mind gives others grief, the malevolent person's own mind is consumed by grief.

Translated like this, the verse seems to be expressing a general truth -- an idea -- about the ill-will and cruelty (vyaapaada, vihiMsaa) which are the manifest theme of the present series of verses.

And this general truth might be a very good idea -- as general ideas, or glib platitudes, go.

At the same time, I think that Ashvaghosha gave us a clear hint as to the real underlying point of the whole of this canto in his choice of the canto title, vitarka-prahaaNa, Giving Up Your Idea.

Read in that light, this verse has three key words which I deliberately omitted to translate in the above paraphrasing. Those three words are iha ("at this time"), sadyas ("in the very moment"), and taavat ("in that time," "now"). Each of these words, as I read them, is pointing not to an immutable truth about negative emotion, but to the complicated reality of self/others-tainted-consciousness which in THE VERY MOMENT of a noble person's action, is all burnt up.

Finally, setting aside such coldly analytical dust and fluff, let me ask, with regard to the hint of a metaphor linking this and the previous verse, one clean question:

Is there a relation between sa-ghRna, having warmth, and dahyate, being consumed by heat?

EH Johnston:
A man may or may not cause hurt to another by his malevolent mind in this world, but in either case the mind of the man of malevolent thoughts is forthwith burned up.

Linda Covill:
Another person may or may not be harmed in this world by a malicious mind, but the maliciously-disposed person's own mind is burned up straight away;

duShTena = inst. duShTa (past part. duSh): mfn. spoilt , corrupted ; defective , faulty ; wrong , false ; bad , wicked ; malignant , offensive , inimical
duSh: to become bad or corrupted , to be defiled or impure , to be ruined , perish ; to sin , commit a fault , be wrong
ca: and
iha: here, now, in this world; in this case; at this time
manasaa = inst. (indicating agent in a passive construction) of manas: mind

baadhyate = 3rd pers. passive baadh: to press , force , drive away , repel , remove ; to harass , pain , trouble , grieve , vex
vaa: or
paraH (nom. sg.): m. another (different from one's self) , a foreigner , enemy , foe , adversary
na: not
vaa: or

sadyas: ind. on the same day , in the very moment (either " at once " , " immediately " or " just " , " recently ")
tu: but
dahyate (3rd pers. sg. passive dah): is burnt , burns , is in flames; is consumed by fire or destroyed; is consumed by internal heat or grief , suffers pain , is distressed or vexed
taavat: ind. so long , in that time; meanwhile, at once , now , just; indeed , truly, really

svam (nom. sg. n.): one's own
manaH (nom. sg.): n. mind
duShTa-cetasaH = gen. sg. duShTa-cetas: mfn. evil-minded , malevolent
duShTa: mfn. spoilt , corrupted etc.
cetasaH = gen. sg. cetas: n. consciousness, heart, mind

Sunday, November 8, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.15: The Utmost Pain

duHkhitebhyo hi martyebhyo
aaryaH ko duHkham aparaM
sa-ghRNo dhaatum arhati

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

Upon mortal beings who are pained

By sickness, dying, aging, and the rest,

What noble person would,

With human warmth, lay the utmost pain?

This verse seems to ask a rhetorical question, to which a reader might be expected to answer glibly: "Nobody. No noble man of compassion would deliberately lay further pain upon mortal beings who are already in pain."

But this kind of unexamined idea, the idea that a noble man with a warm heart could never choose to inflict further suffering on people who are already suffering, might be precisely the idea that is referred to in the title of this canto vitarka-prahaaNa, "Giving Up an Idea."

If I say that I have glimpsed the ultimate aim/purpose/meaning of my life in moments when I somehow stopped doing the wrong thing, and thereby allowed the right thing to do itself, "ultimate aim/purpose/meaning" would be in Sanskrit param-artham.

Para means beyond; it also means supreme or ultimate. So param-artham means ultimate meaning.

The negative of para is a-para. A-para means having nothing beyond; and in this sense it too means supreme or ultimate. So the ultimate aim of life could equally be expressed as a-param-artham.

To make matters still more ambiguous, as an indeclinable form, aparam also means "again," "moreover" or "further."

So in this verse duHkham aparam can be interpreted as:
(1) the pain/suffering which is supreme, unsurpassed, unrivalled, of the highest order.
(2) further pain/suffering.

If we go with the former interpretation, what kind of pain might be pain of the highest order?

I think that duHkham aparam, "pain of the highest order," might be the pain that inevitably seems to accompany a person's endeavor to realize the truth expressed in 15.14 as nivRttam dauHshiilyam, "wrong-doing not being done."

And it is very difficult, if not impossible, for most of us to experience this supreme pain without the skilled guidance of a noble and compassionate teacher whose job, in the first instance, is to show us by skilfull means where we go wrong.

Is this not exactly how noble and warm-hearted Gautama the Buddha has guided Nanda through the first eleven cantos of this epic tale, bringing Nanda to the point at the beginning of canto 12 where he stands trembling and tearful, suffering acute shame?

Here is a passage that is totally relevant to this verse, as I read it, written by the Alexander teacher Patrick Macdonald, on the subject of "Alexander's Gloom":

As one's co-ordination improves there is usually a heightened awareness of what one is doing with oneself. In particular one notices, much more often, how frequently one is going wrong. This is disconcerting at first and brings about the condition known as "Alexander's gloom." Unpleasant as this is at first, it is a step in the right direction and, as such, is one to be welcomed.

EH Johnston:
For what religious man, instinct with compassion, would cause further suffering to mortals already suffering from disease, death, old age, etc.?

Linda Covill:
For what noble and compassionate person would lay further suffering on humanity already suffering from sickness, death, aging and more?

duHkhitebhyaH = dative pl. duHkhita: mfn. pained , distressed ; afflicted , unhappy
hi: for
martyebhyaH = dative. pl. martya: m. a mortal , man , person

vyaadhi: sickness, disease
mRtyu: death
jaraa: f. old age
aadibhiH = inst. pl. aadi: ifc. beginning with , et cetera

aaryaH (nom. sg. m.): a respectable or honourable or faithful man ; (with Buddhists) a man who has thought on the four chief truths of Buddhism and lives accordingly ,
kaH (nom. sg. m.): who?
duHkham (acc. sg.): n. suffering, pain, distress
aparam = acc. sg. n apara: mfn. having nothing beyond or after , having no rival or superior
aparam: ind. again , moreover

sa-ghRNaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. full of pity , compassionate
ghRNa: m. heat , ardour , sunshine ; f. a warm feeling towards others , compassion , tenderness
ghR: to shine , burn
dhaatum = infinitive dhaa: to put , place , set , lay in or on (loc.)
arhati = 3rd pers. sg. arh: to be allowed to do anything (Inf.)