Thursday, December 31, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 15.68: First Let Go of Faults ...

krameN' aadbhiH shuddhaM kanakam iha paaMsu-vyavahitaM
yath" aagnau karmaaraH pacati bhRsham aavartayati ca
tathaa yog'-aacaaro nipuNam iha doSha-vyavahitaM
vishodhya kleshebhyaH shamayati manaH saMkShipati ca

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

Just as gold, washed with water,
is separated from dirt in this world, methodically,

And just as the smith heats the gold in the fire
and repeatedly turns it over,

Just so is the practitioner's mind,
with delicacy and accuracy,
separated from faults in this world,

And just so, after cleansing it from afflictions,
does the practitioner temper the mind and collect it.

Stop doing the wrong thing, and the right thing does itself.

It is that way round. To start by trying to do the right thing is to put the cart before the horse.

That is why concentration on the breath is not a technique that has ever been advocated by any of the Buddha-ancestors in my lineage, up to an including my own teacher Gudo Nishijima.

Gudo was a very stupid man, but he wasn't so stupid as to advocate concentration on breathing. Gudo clearly understood that the primary thing was sitting itself, and that if sitting was not wrong then breathing would take care of itself. Gudo painted in very broad strokes and, though he was happy for me to tidy up the mess he had made of the Shobogenzo translation (so long as I did so in such a way that allowed him to delude himself that it was still his own translation), he wasn't open to the truth of FM Alexander's discoveries about "right sitting posture," which falsified his own crude understanding, on the basis of which he had taught me and others very badly -- without any delicacy or accuracy -- how to practice sitting-dhyana.

The point I am making is that even such an ignorant individual as Gudo Nishijima, at the end of a long line of Japanese ancestors, wasn't so stupid as to advocate concentration on breathing. So how much less should we who are not Japanese start concentrating on our breathing? To concentrate on breathing is to go against the most fundamental teaching of all the buddhas, which is first to stop doing the wrong thing.

This is the main point of this verse, as I read it. First, stop doing the wrong thing.

Kramena means gradually, methodically, in steps or in stages -- like the four stages of sitting-dhyana for example, which, as Ashvaghosha describes them in Canto 17, progress through a practitioner's ability to recognise a fault in his own practice.

AadbhiH means with water, using water. It includes as I read it the principle of allowing -- for it is truly not the dirt-washer who separates dirt from gold, it is rather that the dirt-washer allows water to do the work.

means in this world. It points to the fact that dirt actually exists in this world like human faults actually exist in this world. And it is because facts like dirt and human faults actually exist in this world that the Buddha's most fundamental teaching is never to concentrate on breathing. The most fundamental teaching of the Buddha is the not doing of wrong. I thought Jews were supposed to be clever. But it seems that there are some Jews for whom this teaching is just too difficult to understand. And if a person who I perceive to be like that gets on my nerves, it can only be the mirror principle at work -- because Jews who I perceive to be clever but lacking the Buddha's wisdom and lacking the Buddha's compassion for all living beings, are one of my favourite mirrors.

NipuNam in the 3rd line means in a clever or delicate manner. NipuNam also means completely, as in the EHJ and LC translations. In practice, however, even gold bullion that is refined using modern industrial processes is not completely free of impurities. Similarly, if a sitting-dhyana practitioner waited for his mind to be completely separated from faults before, let us say, breathing out fully and swaying left and right, then the practitioner would never get to the stage of breathing out fully and swaying left and right. He would be stuck waiting impossibly for complete separation from faults. So I have not translated nipuNam as completely. I have translated nipuNam as "with delicacy and accuracy," mindful of a famous conversation between two great teachers of the FM Alexander technique.

Teacher A described release of the head forward and up in terms of delicacy of movement. Teacher B observed, "And in that delicacy, there is very great accuracy, is there not?" Teacher A beamed from ear to ear and said: "Yes, there is!"

So this verse, as I read it, is about not putting the cart before the horse. When all is going well, horse and cart proceed together, and we might even talk of oneness of horse and cart -- though hopefully not in the manner of the holistic hairdresser.

Even though horse and cart may seem to be one, the Buddha's teaching here, as I read it, is not to put the cart before the horse. What that means, in other words, is the primary thing is not concentration or collection of the mind. The primary thing is to let go of the faults.

Mention of the gradual or methodical letting go of faults presages the detailed discussion of this topic in Canto 16, which I am intending to go through again in the first couple of weeks of the New Year, taking several verses per day.

EH Johnston:
Just as the goldsmith in this world heats in the fire and turns over repeatedly the gold, after it has been gradually separated from the dirt by washing it with water, so the Yoga adept cleanses his mind from the vices till it is completely separated from the sins in this world, and then he brings it to tranquillity and concentrates it.

Linda Covill:
Just as in this world a goldsmith takes gold that has been washed with water and separated from the dirt in gradual stages, and heats it in the fire and turns it frequently, so the practitioner of yoga, having first cleansed his mind of defilements so that it is completely separated from the faults in this world, then makes it calm and concentrated.

krameNa (inst. of krama): in regular course , gradually , by degrees
aadbhiH = inst. pl. ap: f. water
shuddham (acc. sg. n.): cleansed, cleared
kanakam (acc. sg.): n. gold
iha: in this world, here and now
paaMsu: m. dust , sand ,dirt
vyavahitam (acc. sg. n.): separated

yathaa: just as
agnau = loc. sg. agni: m. fire
karmaaraH (nom. sg.): m. an artisan , mechanic , artificer ; a blacksmith
pacati = 3rd pers. sg. pac: to burn, bake; to ripen , mature , bring to perfection or completion
bhRsham: ind. strongly , violently , vehemently , excessively , greatly , very much ; harshly , severely ; quickly , without hesitation ; often , frequently ; eminently , in a superior manner
aavartayati (3rd pers. sg. causitive aavRt): he causes it to turn over
ca: and

tathaa: so, likewise
yogaacaaraH (nom. sg. m.): a practitioner, a devotee of practice
yoga: practice
aacaara: m. conduct , manner of action , behaviour , good behaviour , good conduct ; custom , practice , usage
nipuNam: ind. in a clever or delicate manner ; completely , perfectly , absolutely , exactly , precisely
nipuNa: mfn. (said to be from a √ puN) , clever , adroit , skilful , sharp , acute
√ puN: to act piously or virtuously (invented to serve as base for puNya , ni-puNa &c ?)
puNya: mfn. (perhaps fr. √ pusk , from √ puu ; also √ puN) auspicious , propitious , fair , pleasant , good , right , virtuous , meritorious , pure , holy , sacred
iha: in this world, here and now
doSha: fault
vyavahitam (acc. sg. n.): separated

vishodhya = abs. vishud: to become perfectly pure (esp. in ritual sense); to become clear (said of the senses)
kleshebhyaH = abl. pl. klesha: m. affliction
shamayati = 3rd pers. sg. causitive sham: to toil at , fatigue or exert one's self (esp. in performing ritual acts); to prepare , arrange ; to become tired , finish , stop , come to an end , rest , be quiet or calm or satisfied or contented ; to cease , be allayed or extinguished
manaH (acc. sg. manas): mind
saMkShipati = 3rd pers. sg. saM-√kShip: to throw or heap together , pile up ; to concentrate (the mind) ; to suppress , restrain
saM: together
√kShip: to throw , cast ; to put or place anything on or in (loc.) , pour on ; to direct (the thoughts) upon
ca: and


gniz said...

"I thought Jews were supposed to be clever. But it seems that there are some Jews for whom this teaching is just too difficult to understand."

Mike, a racist scumbag like you is pretty far from understanding just about anything. Forget the mirror principle. Try the "spinning your wheels" principle.

You're still in the mud, spinning those wheels, angry at everybody and just KNOWING you are right and we are all wrong.


gniz said...

And another thing, use treating you as an adult, because you behave and write with the mind of a child. So, Mikey, I notice that you spend a lot of time going over all your old wounds, the mean things Gudo did to you, how you were mistreated in the past.

And yet your insight is so limited that you mistreat others right now, in the present, calling me a Jew and belittling who I am based on something that I was born into. You don't for a second see how hurtful your words are, and after you occasionally make a lame apology, you repeat the insult again and again in the future.

You are not the real dragon, Mikey. Just a pretender to the throne. Just another guy who thinks he knows a "secret" and has an axe to grind.

I admire or at least used to admire your discipline, but I'll find someone else to admire for that. You sir, don't deserve my respect because you have insulted me once too often.

Mike Cross said...

Hi Aaron,

The mirror principle ALWAYS applies in this kind of exchange, since I have never met you and you have never met me.

You have a Jewish name, and you are angrily calling me racist.

If we open our eyes and look at the globe today, which country in the world is the most overtly racist, operating a kind of apartheid system? On what basis?

If the basis is the idea that God promised Israel to a particular tribe, then what kind of idea is that?

I tend to use Jews as a mirror for myself, unconsciously, partly because I unconsciosly believe that I am especially clever, and partly because Old Testament Judaism is overly "us" vs "them," and that idea is an idea that I struggle to drop off.

I don't apologize for making you angry. Your anger is your problem.

I do regret the unconscious tendency that I have to use Jews, or people of Jewish heritage, as a mirror in which to see my own faults. But I am not afraid to look the bugger in the eye.

Happy New Year to you, too.


gniz said...

"I don't apologize for making you angry. Your anger is your problem."

Agreed. But you're still a racist who rationalizes his racism with a boatload of B.S.

"If we open our eyes and look at the globe today, which country in the world is the most overtly racist, operating a kind of apartheid system?"

And if I say "Israel", and even if I agree with you, what the fuck does that have to do with me, an American-born Jew who doesn't even practice the religion? And why should I have to be insulted by you (and others who share your twisted views) simply because of my name?

"But I am not afraid to look the bugger in the eye."

Of course you are, Mikey. You are terrified to "look the bugger in the eye," despite all of your bluster and bravado.

You just spent three paragraphs justifying your lame racist views and then have the gall to state that you aren't afraid. You hide away in your little cottage off in the country, hiding from work and family and god only knows what else. And you claim not to be afraid.

You are a fraud.

Mike Cross said...

The bugger that I am sometimes afraid and sometimes not afraid to look in the eye is my fear of being a fraud.

This fear is rooted in an aspiration to be "a true Zen Master" -- and the teaching of giving up an idea, for me, has a lot to do with giving up that idea.

My understanding of this canto is that it has primarily to do with giving up an idea, and mindfulness of breathing, though it is mentioned, is not primary but secondary.

Racism is included in ideas to be given up, so I think it is important not be afraid to investigate what racism is -- not in the interests of being politically correct, or keeping militant anti-racist Jews quiet, but in the interest of giving up ideas.

This is why I dare to discuss racism in general, and to discuss Jewish racism in particular -- which in the Old Testament, it seems to me, is very overt.

You say that, for you, to concentrate on one's own breathing is the important thing. Then why don't you do just that, instead of pestering me?

Is it possible that what is really of primary importance to you is not concentration on breathing, but old ideas around being or not being Jewish?

In that case, what the Buddha is saying, as I hear him is this: see if you can give up the idea, and notice what happens to your breathing.

gniz said...


I pester you because (in the past) I had quite a bit of respect for your discipline. You remind me of my own teacher and his disciplined nature--and although you practice differently than him (or myself), it is rare to find people to relate to on these subjects.

So i guess the answer is that I pester you because you are here and unfortunately--there aren't many others that I relate to even as poorly as yourself in this spiritual world.

You haven't ever seemed to believe this reason, although I think I've stated it on numerous occasions.

I sometimes hold differing views from you and have, on occasion, incurred your wrath by daring to voice those differing views (as I did a post or two ago about the breathing passage).

I've always noticed that I seem to irritate you, even before you knew I was Jewish (though maybe you suspected). Mostly I didn't care, but as you have continuously made comments about my Jewish background and said so many ignorant and hurtful things, I have begun to be irritated.

Alas, in my heart of hearts I can't hate you for this. I have recently experienced (in the real world) a bit of prejudice against my Jewishness from my wife's side of the family. She is not Jewish. Ironically, the person who said these prejudiced things about my Jewishness is someone who is gay...but that is all beside the point.

There is something in your seemingly sincere dedication and discipline that I find heartening and wish I could have in my own practice. THAT is the mirror which I am attracted to. Not this old Jewish crap you keep pulling me back into.

But if that is how you see me, Mike, far be it for me to change your opinions or assumptions.

gniz said...

BTW, just for clarification, the reason I found it ironic that the gay person made prejudiced comments about my Jewish background is simply because you'd think someone who has experienced so much prejudice directed (unfairly) at themselves would not be as prejudiced against others.

But in reality, there are bigots everywhere, from every culture and walk of life.

Mike Cross said...

By "the mirror principle," I mean the tendency that I observed in myself to react angrily against traits I saw in others, that I was afraid might exist in myself.

False pretences, affectation, not being true to oneself, insincerity, are close to the top of my list.

Bigotry, believe it or not Aaron, is not a problem I struggle with. I don't see bigots everywhere, although I do see a high concentration of them in Israel.

If you see bigots everywhere... well, work it out for yourself.

gniz said...

"I don't see bigots everywhere, although I do see a high concentration of them in Israel."

I would have to agree with this statement-having actually spent some time in Israel, which is something I reckon you haven't done, despite your apparent "expertise" on the subject.

Why you think that my being a Jew has anything to do with bigoted Israelis is beyond my grasp.

They are Israeli's, and I am an American who has little understanding of that culture and way of life. I imagine you have even less of a grasp than I, based on the tenor and simplicity of your comments about Israel in our conversations.

"If you see bigots everywhere... well, work it out for yourself."

I don't know if two people could possibly misunderstand each other worse than we've done here today.
It actually makes me sad because there seems like some kind of missed opportunity for actual common ground here, in this discussion...but I'm probably just being naive.

Best of luck to you, Mike--sincerely--in the New Year. And I will do my best to leave you and this blog to your own devices.

Mike Cross said...

Your protestation of sincerity, Aaron, really irritates me intensely.

If you were sincere you would shut the fuck up saying your own stupid useless opinion and just listen to what the Buddha is saying.

And so the mirror principle strikes again.