Thursday, December 10, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.47: Getting It in Movement (Anyone for Pilates?)

yatra gacchati kaayo 'yam
duHkhaM tatr' aanugacchati
n' aasti kaa cid gatir loke
gato yatra na baadhyate

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

Where this body goes

There suffering follows.

There is no way in the world

On which, being in movement, one is not afflicted.

To think that freedom from suffering might reside in some place, somewhere over the rainbow, is just an airy-fairy idea. A more practical idea is that freedom from suffering is to be found, not statically at some destination, but rather in movement along a way.

In this verse, then, the latter, more practical idea also appears to get the negative treatment.

Understanding, accepting, and allowing are either three aspects of the same thing or are at least closely mutually dependent -- like three jewels reflecting each other in Indra's net. In Alexander work there is a lot of emphasis on allowing, as embodied in the Alexander directions "to allow the neck to release, to allow the head out, to allow the back to lengthen and widen." And in this work of allowing release, or allowing greater ease, FM Alexander insisted, "We get it in movement."

What seems bound to happen more and more, as Alexander's shadow lengthens, is that would-be followers of Alexander's principles will easily subscribe to Alexander's ideas and emptily parrot the words "I wish to allow my neck to be free.... etc." From this kind of empty parroting of Alexanders words and holding onto Alexandrian ideas, what we actually get in movement, when we observe each other honestly, is not real allowing of ease or release, but rather stilted variations on the original theme of trying to be right which got me in trouble in the first place.

In the next Canto, the Buddha points Nanda in the direction of stopping off suffering at its source. So this verse cannot be negating the existence of a way out of suffering. This verse cannot be a negation of the fourth noble truth. What the Buddha seems instead to be negating in this verse, again, is an idea. He seems to be negating the idea that a route out of suffering might exist in movement itself.

I hesitate for fear of hypocrisy to write this conclusion, as one so easily prone to suffer, but it seems to me that, in following the way out of suffering, what counts is not so much movement itself but the work one does preparatory to going into movement. In the Alexander procedure of moving a leg which I describe in this article, for example, moving the leg itself is neither here nor there. What counts is (a) accepting the self, in all the wrongness of one's trying to be right, (b) directing a new use of the self on the basis of real understanding of how the bad old use of the self, synonymous with suffering, gets triggered by an idea of doing something; and on that basis (c) really allowing (as opposed to having an idea about) greater ease in movement.

May all stiff necks and frozen shoulders everywhere come undone in movement, as a result of truer understanding and acceptance of this human condition.

EH Johnston:
Where this body goes, there suffering follows after. There is no road in the world, by going along which one can avoid affliction.

Linda Covill:
Where this body goes, it is followed by sorrow. There is no route in the world on which a man is not wounded.

yatra: where
gacchati: it goes
kaayaH (nom. sg.): m. body
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this

duHkham: n. suffering, hardship, trouble
tatra: there
anugacchati: it goes alongside, it follows

n' aasti: there is not
kaa cit (nom. sg. f.): any
gatiH: f. going , moving; manner of going; procession , march , passage , procedure , progress , movement; path , way , course ; possibility , expedient , means; way or art , method of acting , stratagem
loke (loc.): in the world

gataH = nom. sg. m. gata: mfn. gone; come to , approached , arrived at , being in , situated in , contained in (acc. or loc.); walked (a path)
yatra: ind. in or to which place , where , wherein
na: not
baadhyate (3rd pers. sg. passive baadh): to be pressed, forced, stressed, harassed, afflicted etc.


warby said...

"...what counts is not so much movement itself but the work one does preparatory to going into movement."
My AT teacher often says "step aside" or "get out of your way"
I like these hints during the lesson. It is like most activities
we humans do. For example, I frequently will catch myself faking my life in 'listening' to another person.
Ignoring the act of listening while secretly preparing my own response.

Mike Cross said...

Thanks Warren.

It's no easy thing to be woken up to the falsity of our habitual responses, is it? But it is a great blessing.

Sounds like you have found yourself a good teacher there. Good for you!