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


warby said...

Hi Mike
I don't have your translation onhand , but here is Dogen in Mitsugo-
" You should study this point without fail, as if cutting through what is impossible to cut through. Investigate it in detail little by little, hundreds and thousands of times, instead of trying to understand it all at once. Do not think that you understand it right away. "
Nice parallel.

Mike Cross said...

Hi Warren,

And at the same time, sometimes I have to accept in myself a certain laziness.