Friday, December 18, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.55: The Observant Expect Not Much

kShetra-bhuutam an-arthaanaaM
shariiraM parikarShataH
svaasthy-aashaa jiivit'-aashaa vaa
na dRShT'-aarthasya jayate

= - = - - = = =
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As he drags about that field of misfortunes

Which is a body,

Expectations of well-being or of continuing life

Do not arise in one who is observant.

Human life is a delicate balancing act whose uncertain foundations, I found out along the way, are four vestibular reflexes.

To help us survive and develop as a baby, each of us was born with (1) a fear reflex, (2) a head-balance reflex, and (3) a twist reflex. Then, at around 6 months, if all went well, (4) a cat-sit reflex emerged. These four reflexes, called by neuro-physiologists the Moro Reflex, TLR, ATNR and STNR, are very fundamental. But they are not always very reliable: they might be compared to a pot of four snakes tangling with each other.

I think for the same reason that there are these four main reflexes, there are four main Alexander directions, namely: to let the neck release, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, while releasing the limbs out of the torso.

Similarly, there are four noble truths, four abodes of mindfulness, and four stages of sitting-dhyana.

The prejudice or knowledge that I bring to this translation is expressed in the URL at the top of this screen:

My confidence -- be it a prejudice which I should drop off or be it pra-jNaa ("pre-knowing") for which I should be grateful -- is that the lifeblood is sitting-dhyana and sitting-dhyana is the lifeblood.

This lifeblood was transmitted from the Buddha through 12 generations to Ashvaghosha, through a further 16 generations to Bodhidharma, through many generations in China to Dogen, and then through many generations in Japan to yours... truly?

So what has this verse got to do with the lifeblood?

In Canto 17 Ashvaghosha describes Nandas progression (or regression) through four dhyanas. The first stage of realisation, or the first level of thinking (because dhyaana literally means "thinking") has to do with the joy that follows from letting go of end-gaining. It has to do, in other words, with the joy that follows from giving up trying to be right. It corresponds, in Alexandrian terms, with the joy associated with letting the neck be free. The second dhyana, in Alexandrian terms, corresponds to the more one-pointed awareness associated with directing the head where it wants to go, out of where it needs to release out of. The third dhyana has to do with the psycho-physical ease, for example ease of breathing, associated with a lengthening and widening torso. And the fourth dhyana is just sitting, like a great big cat before its mountain stronghold.

The Buddha here expressing human life as the dragging around of a field of misfortunes seems to me to relate to negation of the idea of me being right, or to express it positively, self-acceptance, belonging to the first dhyana.

Any expectation, be it realistic or unrealistic, is liable to cause the neck to stiffen. So letting the neck release, as an observant man named FM Alexander observed, may depend in the first instance on giving up the expectation of being anything other than a fragile human being, the four cornerstones of whose existence are like a pot of four tangling snakes.

EH Johnston:
The man who understands the facts entertains no hope of well-being or of life, as he drags round a body which is merely a field for calamity.

Linda Covill:
Expectations of well-being or continuing life do not occur to a truly seeing man as he drags around his body, that field of misfortunes.

kShetra-bhuutam (acc. sg. n.): consisting of a field
kShetra: a field
bhuuta: (ifc.) being or being like anything , consisting of
an-arthaanaam = gen. pl. anartha: m. non-value , a worthless or useless object ; disappointing occurrence , reverse , evil

shariiram (acc. sg.): n. body
parikarShataH = abl. sg. n. pres. part. pari-√kRSh: to draw or drag about

svaasthya: n. (fr. sva-stha) self-dependence , sound state (of body or soul), health , ease , comfort , contentment , satisfaction
svastha: being in one's self, doing well, being at ease

aashaa (nom. sg.) or aashaaH (nom. pl): f. wish , desire , hope , expectation , prospect
jiivita: living
aashaa (nom. sg.) or aashaaH (nom. pl): f. wish , desire , hope , expectation , prospect
vaa: or

na: not
dRShTa: n. perception , observation ; n. a real or obvious danger
aarthasya = gen. sg. m./n. aartha: mfn. (fr. artha) relating to a thing or object; material , significant ; resulting from or based on the possession of a thing
jayate = 3rd pers. sg. jan: to be born or produced , come into existence

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