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


Anonymous said...

Wow, great verse.

Not this!

Mike Cross said...

I think so too -- a great verse.

Negativity comes easily to me. But the kind of negativity that comes easily, I fear, is never it. (See 15.20.)

Ray Guillette said...

I had a teacher, also a psychotherapist, who spoke of the path as being a series of narcissistic letdowns. When one is still smarting from an ego-wound (as I was then) his statement is a bit frightening. But as the years pass I've come to see how incredibly funny it is :)

The kind of negativity that does not come easy, is that not the essence of 'renunciation'?

Mike Cross said...

Hi Ray,

I am not sure whether whatever it is that doesn't come easily is a kind of negativity or not. Maybe not.

It might be a kind of freedom, or a kind of absence, like water that is clear so that fishes are seen swimming like fishes and the bottom is visible.

It might be like being a target that is hit -- thwack!

I honestly don't know, Ray. Coward that I am, I prefer to hide behind the 24-carat wisdom of the Buddha/Ashvaghosha.

All the best,


Ray Guillette said...

Thank you :)