Monday, December 7, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.44: No Happiness Out There

Rtu-cakra-nivartaac ca
kShut-pipaasaa-klamaad api
sarvatra niyataM duHkhaM
na kva cid vidyate shivaM

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

Again, from the turning of the circle of the seasons,

And from hunger, thirst and fatigue,

Everywhere suffering is the rule.

Not somewhere is happiness found.

Happiness, the Buddha taught, is to be found in wanting little.

So what is negated in this verse, as I read it, is not the possibility of happiness but rather the idea of finding it at some place -- for example, at the other monastery in Shangri La-La land.

Happiness, just over the hill, or just around the corner, is not to be found. That kind of happiness is like rightness. There is, in Marjory Barlow's words "no such animal."

In general, we are too quick to intervene to try to make things right. People who are supposed to be Zen Masters intervene to correct people's sitting posture, without understanding what they are doing. If they were wiser, they would stop first and examine whether their idea of correctness was correct or not.

There is, FM Alexander insisted, having investigated the matter in great detail, no such thing as a right sitting posture. But there is a right direction. And going in this right direction generally involves giving up an idea. Hence the title of this canto, vitarka-prahaaNa, Giving Up an Idea.

A certain dullard, in an email, asked me to spell out what is symbolized by the blue lotus that opens in fire. So in case there are other equally dull dullards out there, here goes:

In hot countries in the height of summer, out of mucky water, the blue lotus blooms. So the blue lotus is a symbol of coolness, detachment, and untaintedness. In short, it is a symbol of enlightenment.

When I go to stay alone by the forest in France, if I go with the optimistic expectation that the blue lotus flower will bloom, that is a recipe for misery and frustration. The Norman forest is not somewhere that the blue lotus can ever be expected to bloom.

The forest, on the other hand, is a very good place to look into fire. And in that heat is just the place where the blue lotus blooms.

What is true in the forest, moreover, is true wherever the fires of human delusion burn. So there is no place which is not a place to observe blue lotuses blooming in fire.

This verse, then, may sound pessimistic but in fact it is not pessimism. Still less is it cause for optimism. It belongs to the negation of all -isms.

EH Johnston:
Suffering from the return of the circle of the seasons and from hunger, thirst and fatigue is everywhere the rule. Nowhere is there happiness.

Linda Covill:
It's inevitable that suffering exists everywhere, whether from the turning of the cycle of the seasons, or from hunger, thirst and tiredness. Nowhere is happiness found.

Rtu: m: any settled point of time , fixed time , time appointed for any action; period, season
cakra: n. wheel, circle, cycle
nivartaat = abl nivarta: (from nivRt) mfn. causing to turn back
nivRt: to turn back , stop (trans. and intrans.) ; to return from
ca: and

kShut = in comp. for kShudh: f. hunger
pipaasaa: f. thirst
klamaad = abl. klama: m. fatigue , exhaustion , languor , weariness
api: and, also

sarvatra: ind. everywhere
niyatam: ind. always , constantly , decidedly , inevitably , surely
duHkham (nom. sg.): n. suffering, hard going

na kva cid: nowhere, not anywhere
na: not
kva: where? in what place?
kva cid: somewhere, anywhere
vidyate (3rd pers. passive vid): it is found, it exists
shivam (nom. sg.): n. welfare , prosperity , bliss

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