Monday, December 21, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.58: Will Wonders Never Cease?

idam aashcaryam aparaM
yat suptaH pratibudhyate
svapity utthaaya vaa bhuuyo
bahv-amitraa hi dehinaH

- - = = - - - =
= = = - - = - =
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Here is another wonder:

That one who was asleep wakes up

Or, having been up, goes back to sleep;

For many enemies has the owner of a body.

Energy everywhere is spontaneously spreading out, unless something prevents it from doing so. Just like a page of my notebook which is dying to burn up, if only a match would get it started, every cell in this body would love to dissipate its energy all over the place, if the bio-chemical bonds of life (in possible association with some kind of will to live and be useful) were not doing their best to hold things together.

In this situation, as chemistry prof. Frank Lambert has eloquently explained in articles like this one, the wonder is not that things go wrong and people die earlier than expected: the wonder is that so many of us keep defying the 2nd law of thermodynamics for so long. That is to say, instead of dissipating our energy and dying this minute, as we easily might, we keep on breathing, keep on waking up and going back to sleep, keep on living from day to miraculous day.

As Frank Lambert asks: How knowledgeable are we in this modern era if our view of the physical world is so upside down that we consider anything that is disadvantageous to us to be unwarranted and unfair?

While the impermanent damming of energy that people call Mike Cross continues, is it true to say that I own a body? Or is my ownership of a body one of those troublesome ideas that causes me to have many enemies and prevents me from experiencing the fourth sitting-dhyana?

If some person comes along wanting to steal from me what I believe I own, then what? Then survival reflexes are liable to come into play, beginning with fear paralysis vs panic. And in that situation it is very difficult even to paddle in the shallow waters of the first dhyana.

Still, I am very determined to carry on with this translation of Saundarananda, like this, day by day, and I do not intend to share ownership of this translation with anybody else. Thinking like a Buddhist, I may be only one dewdrop in Indra's infinite web and not the true owner of this translation. At the same time, I know from bitter non-Buddhist experience that what is even more troublesome than the idea of owning what is mine, is the idea of not owning what is mine.

This body might truly belong not to me, but to the law and to the energy which is Dharma. At the same time, even though this body might truly belong not to me, this body as sure as hell does not belong to anybody other than me. So, for as long as the wonder of continuing life does not cease, I would like to continue owning this body, both for the purpose of doing this translation, and for the purpose of sitting it on a zafu and practising giving up the idea of ownership.

EH Johnston:
This too is another wonder that having slept he wakes up again or that after getting up he goes to sleep again ; for whoever has a body has many enemies.

Linda Covill:
Another thing of wonder is that a sleeper wakes up, or that after getting up a man later goes to sleep again; for embodied creatures have multiple enemies.

idam (nom. sg.): n. this , this here , referring to something near the speaker
aashcaryam (nom. sg.): n. a wonder , miracle , marvel , prodigy
aparam (nom. sg. n.): another

yat (relative pronoun): that
suptaH (nom. sg. m.): one fallen asleep
pratibudhyate = 3rd pers. sg. prati-√budh: to awaken (intr.) , awake , wake

svapiti (3rd pers. sg. svap): he sleeps
utthaaya (abs. utthaa): having risen
vaa: or
bhuuyaH: ind. once more, again

bahu: many, numerous
amitraaH (nom. pl.): enemies
hi: for
dehinaH = gen. sg. dehin: mfn. having a body , corporeal ; m. a living creature , man
deha: mn. ( from √ dih, to plaster , mould , fashion) the body


warby said...

Hi Mike,
What I hope for you to happen someday with this translation is to see it in print in a book to hold.
I imagine it laid out in full as the poem and then countered with your commentary and comparisons stanza by stanza. I like the format Red Pine
used in his trans. of Diamond Cutter Sutra. I really enjoy studying translations when all the 'guts' of the work are handily floating between the covers.
O well it is what you have going on here of course but there is something settling about a book in hand.
Wishing you holidays of good cheer and as I see it is near your birthday---enjoy your backward step into middle age!

Mike Cross said...

Many thanks, Warren.

In the manner of Ron Manager, I will take it one verse at a time. Tomorrow we have got 15.59 -- another relegation struggle which may turn out to be a six-pointer.

Wishing you an enjoyable backward step into Christmas too. Your comment reminded me of Dogen's words in Shobogenzo chap. 13, Sansui-gyo, that there should be both forward step and backward step.

But not sure if I am stepping into middle age... more like sinking deeper into it!

All the best,