Wednesday, December 23, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.60: Making of Ends vs Flowing of Lifeblood

prasuutaH puruSho loke
shrutavaan balavaan api
na jayaty antakaM kash cin
n' aajayan n' aapi jeShyati

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

No man born into the world,

However endowed with learning and power,

Ever defeats Death, maker of ends,

Nor has ever defeated him, nor ever will defeat him.

Here is a strong statement that, in the history of human beings since the Buddha made it, nobody has so far falsified. He who was born, invariably, has died.

As an example of a man who was plentifully endowed with power but could not defeat Death, in spite of efforts that spared nobody, there is the Yellow Emperor (Qin Shui Huang) who united China in around 200 BC (between the eras of Buddha and Ashvaghosha). The Taoist teachers who he entrusted to find for him the elixir of immortality could not, in the end, come up with the goods. Foreshadowing the behaviour of modern dentists, they poisoned their emperor instead with mercury.

Gautama the Buddha, Ashvaghosha, Bodhidharma, and Dogen are notable example of great listeners/learners, who looked that old bugger Death in the eye. They neither expected to defeat him nor in fact defeated him. And so they are all long gone.

But has their lifeblood stopped flowing, or not?

Alexander work can be a very useful tool for observing how easy it is to believe that one is allowing flow when in fact one is just blocking the flow -- generally in response to some end-gaining idea.

Can an effort like this to translate into English the words of dead ancestors help the lifeblood to keep flowing?

On its own, undoubtedly not, because the lifeblood is sitting-dhyana.

That my sitting-dhyana has been, is, or will become the lifeblood, however, is just a flow-blocking idea, an idea to be given up.

How might my sitting be if I truly gave that idea up? How would my sitting be if I had no wish to make my own great mark on the world, no sense of self-importance?

So far I'm not sure if I know. Maybe joining the over-50s club of sitting-zen wrinklies will help.

EH Johnston:
No man born in the world, however strong he may be, however learned in religion, conquers or has conquered or will conquer Death.

Linda Covill:
No man born into the world, though he be learned and mighty, can defeat Death, maker of ends, nor has ever defeated him, nor will defeat him.

prasuutaH(nom. sg. m.): mfn. procreated , begotten , born , produced
puruShaH (nom. sg.): m. a man
loke (loc.): in the world

shrutavaan (nom. sg. m.): mfn. one who has heard ; possessing (sacred) knowledge , learned , pious ; connected with or founded on knowledge
balavaan (nom. sg. m.): mfn. possessing power , powerful , mighty , strong , intense
api: even

na: not
jayati = 3rd. pers. sg. ji: to win or acquire (by conquest or in gambling) , conquer (in battle) , vanquish (in a game or lawsuit) , defeat
antakam = acc. sg. m. antaka: m. border , boundary; mfn. making an end , causing death ; m. death ; m. yama , king or lord of death
kash cid (nom. sg. m): anyone

na: not
ajayan (3rd pers. sg. imperfect): he defeated
na: not
api: also
jeShyati (3rd pers. sg. future): he will defeat


Tallis Grayson said...


I very much appreciate your work. (I’ve almost finished reading your past posts on this and your other sites. There is a lot here/there!) On the subject of death – you are probably going to have to die before people notice your true greatness. Does that help stop end-gaining – accepting that you’ll be dead when it all comes to fruition? Maybe not. (If you die before me, which is likely since you are fifteen years my senior, I’ll do my best to tell ‘them’ about you.)

I suppose for now though I should just say Merry Christmas to you. (and Happy Birthday!)


Mike Cross said...

Hi Tallis,

First up, hearty congratulations on the birth of your new baby.

You must be a sucker for punishment, reading all my endless ramblings. The "less is more" principle is one I seem slow to pick up on. But thank you for listening.

I quoted the gist of your comment to my wife and elder son, who is back from university for the holidays, and, sad to report, was met by loud groaning and vomiting noises.

In the past I have been totally susceptible to being told how great my efforts are. That, more than anything, was how Gudo Nishijima kept me in Japan working for him all those years. He kept on telling me how great my efforts were -- until the pendulum swang the other way and he started calling me a non-Buddhist and telling me to stop disturbing true Buddhism with "Alexander theory"!

What I do see more clearly -- and I was seeing it just now while sitting, after going for a swim with the missus -- is that the way to peace lies in giving up ideas like how great I might be. Ashvaghosha's descriptions of the four dhyanas, which I have been re-reading with a view to making a start on Canto 17 in the New Year, start to make more and more sense in that light, especially the description of the first dhyana as having ideas (vitarka-vat), and the second dhyana as having the joy and ease that follows from giving up ideas.

Congratulations again, and thanks.