Sunday, January 31, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.19: Karmic Chemistry of Suffering

yataH prasuutasya ca karma-yogaH
prasajyate bandha-vighaata-hetuH
duHkha-pratiikaara-vidhau sukh'aakhye
tato bhavaM duHkham iti vyapashyat

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

17.19
And since the yoke of a creature's karma

Is impulse (be it bond-making or breaking),
which is dependent

On a prescription -- named "pleasure" --
for counteracting pain,

He saw that, on that account, existence is suffering.



COMMENT:
The essence of a chemical reaction is the making and breaking of bonds between molecules. So the kind of impulse that is indicated by bandha-vighaata-hetu, "binding/breaking-impulse," as I read it, is a purely chemical impulse -- that is to say, a very primitive or primordial impulse, the kind of purely instinctive impulse that has continued to motivate living creatures ever since our emergence from the primeval swamp.

To what extent is it possible for an individual human being to transcend such instinctive impulses and live more or less consciously? That might be what each of us is here to find out.

On the basis of my first 50 years, I don't see any grounds for great optimism.

Still, the converse implication of this verse, as I have translated it, is that for a person whose action is liberated from, or transcendent over, instinctive impulses -- there being available to him a means other than the pleasure principle -- then existence is not necessarily duHkha , suffering, hard-going, a grind.


EH Johnston:
Since the union with karman of whatever is born is continually operative and is the cause of bondage and destruction, and since what is called pleasure is but the means of countering suffering, he saw that mundane existence is suffering.

Linda Covill:
Because karma is joined to a living being, and since the cause of bondage and destruction is linked to that drug for counteracting suffering which is called pleasure, Nanda saw that existence entails suffering.


VOCABULARY:
yataH: ind. (correlative of tataH) whence, since
prasuutasya = gen. sg. prasuuta: mfn. procreated , begotten , born , produced
ca: and
karma = karman: n. act, action ; former act as leading to inevitable results
yogaH = nom. sg. yoga: m. yoking; any junction , union , combination , contact with (comp.); a yoke, team ; partaking of , possessing (instr. or comp.); connection , relation (ifc. in consequence of , on account of , by reason of , according to , through)

prasajyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive pra-√saNj: to hang on , attach to , cling to (loc.) ; to result , follow , be the consequence of anything
bandha-vighaata-hetuH (nom. sg.): the binding/breaking impulse
bandha: m. binding , tying
vighaata: m. a stroke ; breaking off or in pieces ; destruction , ruin
hetu: m. " impulse " , motive , cause , cause of , reason for, (ifc. hetu also = " having as a cause or motive " , " caused or effected or actuated or attracted or impelled by " e.g. karma-hetu , " caused by the acts [of a former existence] " ; maaMsa-hetu , " attracted by [the smell of] flesh " ; karma-phala-hetu , " impelled by [the expectation of] the consequences of any act "

duHkha-pratiikaara-vidhau (loc. sg. m.): a means for counteracting suffering
duHkha: suffering
prati-√kR: to do or make an opposition; to counteract , resist (acc. or gen.);
vidhi: m. a rule , formula , injunction ; any prescribed act; a means , expedient for (comp); a physician
sukhaakhye (loc. sg. m.): called "ease"
sukha: n. ease , easiness , comfort , prosperity , pleasure , happiness
aakhyaa: f. appellation , name ; appearance , aspect

tataH: (correlative of yataH) thence, in consequence of that
bhavam (acc. sg.): m. being, existence
duHkham (acc. sg. m.): mfn. not easy, uncomfortable, hard-going
iti: thus
vyapashyat = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect vi-√pash: to see in different places or in detail , discern , distinguish ; to observe , perceive , learn , know
vi: ind. apart , asunder , in different directions
√pash: to see

Saturday, January 30, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.18: Impermanence of the Disappearance-Caused World

yasmaad a-bhuutvaa bhavat'iiha sarvaM
bhuutvaa ca bhuuyo na bhavaty avashyaM
sa-hetukaM ca kShayi-hetumac ca
tasmaad a-nityam jagad ity avindat

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

17.18
Since everything, after not existing, now exists,

And after existing it never exists again;

And since the world is causal,
and has disappearance as a cause,

Therefore he understood that the world is impermanent.


COMMENT:
There is thinking and thinking. There is thinking that shakes the tree of afflictions, and there is thinking that fills the pages of books of Buddhist philosophy -- philosophical thinking, for example, about "emptiness" (shuunyataa).

The understanding that Ashvaghosha describes here might be not the latter but just the former kind of thinking -- thinking that causes the tree of afflictions to shake.

Because the world is causal, appreciating impermanence causes the tree of afflictions to shake.

And because the world has disappearance as a cause, when Nanda destroys the tree of afflictions through integrity, balance, and wisdom, then the tree of afflictions, having existed, will exist again for Nanda no more than a blossom returns to the branch whence it fell.

EH Johnston:
Since inevitably in this world all phenomena come into being from not-being and pass away again from being into not-being, and since they all have a cause and that a transitory cause, therefore he concluded that the world is impermanent.

Linda Covill:
Since everything that exists here and now did not exist before, and that having come into existence it will necessarily not exist in the future, and since it is dependent on a cause and yet that cause wanes, Nanda concluded that the world is impermanent.

VOCABULARY:
yasmaat: ind. (correlative of tasmaat) since
a-bhuutvaa (a + absolutive bhuu): not being, not becoming
bhavati (3rd pers. sg. bhuu): it exists
iha: ind. here, now, here and now
sarvam (nom. sg.): n. everything

bhuutvaa (absolutive bhuu): being, existing
ca: and
bhuuyas: ind. again, further on
na: not
bhavati (3rd pers. sg. bhuu): it exists,
avashyam: ind. necessarily , inevitably , certainly , at all events , by all means

sa-hetukam (acc./nom. sg. n.): mfn. having a cause or reason , well-founded , reasonable ; together with a reason
ca: and
kShayi-hetumat (acc./nom. sg. n.): decay-caused
kShayin: mfn. wasting , decaying , waning ; perishable
hetumat: mfn. having a reason or cause , proceeding from a cause
ca: and

tasmaat: ind. therefore
a-nityam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. impermanent
jagat (acc. sg.): n. that which moves or is alive , men and animals; n. the world , esp. this world , earth
iti: thus
avindat = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect vid: to know , understand , perceive

Friday, January 29, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.17: Shaking the Tree of Afflictions

a-nityatas tatra hi shuunyatash ca
nir-aatmato duHkhata eva c'aapi
maarga-pravekeNa sa laukikena
klesha-drumaM saMcalayaaM cakaara

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

17.17
For, on those grounds,
on the grounds of impermanence and emptiness,

On the grounds of absence of self, and of suffering,

He, by the most discerning empirical path,

Caused the tree of afflictions to shake.


COMMENT:
"Impure" (a-shuci) in the previous verse has become "empty" (shuunya) in this verse.

Without intestinal flora, I suppose, there would be nothing to call me. In the light of that reflection, a body being full of bacteria (a-shuchi) means much the same thing as the body being empty (shuunya) -- in the sense of having no independent real existence of its own.

And by a reflection like this, Ashvaghosha tells us, Nanda made the tree of afflictions shake. He didn't fell the tree. He didn't uproot it with one fell swoop. But he made a start on bringing it down, by causing it to shake.

EH Johnston:
For from a consideration of the body's impermanence, its absence of individuality, its lack of self and its liability to suffering he made the tree of the vices shake by the supreme mundane Path.

Linda Covill:
From his perception of the body as impermanent, empty, without a self, and also as suffering, by this most excellent ordinary worldly path he shook the tree of defilements.

VOCABULARY:
anityataH: as impermanent
a-nitya: impermanent
taH (adverbial/ablative suffix)
tatra: ind. in that , therein , in that case , on that occasion , in those circumstances , then , therefore
hi: for
shuunyataH: as empty
shuunya: mfn. empty , void, vacant
ca: and

nir-aatmataH: as without self
nir-aatman = nir-aatmaka: mfn. having no separate soul or no individual existence
duHkhataH: as suffering
eva: (emphatic)
ca api: as well, also

maarga: track, path
pravekeNa = inst. praveka: mfn. ( √ vic) choicest , most excellent , principal , chief (always ifc.)
saH (nom. sg. m.): he
laukikena = inst. laukika: mfn. (fr. loka) worldly , terrestrial , belonging to or occurring in ordinary life , common , usual , customary , temporal , not sacred

klesha: affliction
drumam (acc. sg.): m. a tree
saMcala: mfn. moving about , trembling , quivering
saMcalayaam kR: to cause to shake (??)
cakaara = 3rd pers. sg. perfect kR: to do, make

Thursday, January 28, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.16: Examining & Perceiving the Body

sa ruupiNaM kRtsnam a-ruupiNam ca
saaraM didRkSur vicikaaya kaayaM
ath' aa-shuciM duHkham a-nityam a-svaM
nir-aatmakaM c'aiva cikaaya kaayaM

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

17.16
Desiring to experience
its total material and immaterial substance,

He examined the body.

Then as impure, as suffering, as impermanent,
as without an owner,

And again as devoid of self, he perceived the body.


COMMENT:
I think asvam and nir-aatmaka are two expressions for the same perception: that a body is a body, without a separate self. So the list in line 3 and 4 as I read it contains not five elements but four elements, the last one of which is repeated for emphasis.

EH Johnston:
He investigated the body in order to see its entire material and immaterial substance. Then he deemed it to be impure, subject to suffering, impermanent, without owner or self.

Linda Covill:
He examined the body with the intention of viewing its entire material and immaterial substance; and he observed that the body was not pure, that it was prone to suffering, impermanent, without properties, and without self.


VOCABULARY:
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
ruupiNam = acc. sg. m. ruupin: mfn. having or assuming a partic. form or figure , embodied , corporeal ; having a beautiful form or figure , well-shaped , handsome , beautiful
kRtsnam (acc. sg. m.): all , whole , entire
a-ruupiNam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. shapeless
ca: and

saaram (acc. sg.): m. the core or pith or solid interior of anything ; firmness , strength, power , energy; the substance or essence or marrow or cream or heart or essential part of anything , best part , quintessence ; the real meaning , main point ; a chief-ingredient or constituent part of the body
didRkSuH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (from desid. dRsh, to see) wishing to examine or try
drsh: to see , behold , look at , regard , consider; to see with the mind , learn , understand
vicikaaya = 3rd pers. perfect vi-√ci: to discern , distinguish ; to make anything discernible or clear , cause to appear , illumine ; to search through , investigate , inspect , examine
kaayam (acc. sg.): m. the body

atha: then
a-shucim (acc. sg. m.): mfn. impure, foul
duHkham (acc. sg. m.): mfn. uneasy , uncomfortable , unpleasant , difficult
a-nityam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. not everlasting , transient
a-svam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. having no property
sva: m. one's self, the Ego; m. a man of one's own people or tribe , a kinsman , relative; n. one's own goods , property , wealth , riches

nir-aatmakam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. having no separate soul or no individual existence
nis: (privative prefix) without, free from, destitute of
aatamaka: mfn. belonging to or forming the nature of (gen.); having or consisting of the nature or character of (in comp.) ; consisting or composed of
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
cikaaya = 3rd pers. perfect √ci: to observe , perceive (with acc. or gen.) ; to fix the gaze upon , be intent upon ; to seek for , investigate , search through
kaayam (acc. sg.): m. the body

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.15: Investigating Things

saMbhaarataH pratyayataH svabhaavaad
aasvaadato doSha-visheShatash ca
ath' aatmavaan niHsaraN'-aatmatash ca
dharmeShu cakre vidhivat pariikShaam

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

17.15
On the grounds of their being held together,
their causality, and their inherent nature,

Of their flavour and their concrete imperfection,

And of their tendency to spread out,
he who was now contained in himself,

Carried out a methodical investigation into things.


COMMENT:
The key element in this verse, as I read it, is niHsaraN'-aatmataH, the tendency to spread out.

With this verse, the field of awareness changes from Nanda's own mind to things in the non-perfect world -- to temporary concentrations of energy, that is, whose tendency to spread out is described by the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

When I look at a stick of incense burning down in front of me, something is holding it together, and at the same time something is causing the energy that is concentrated in that smoking stick of incense to spread out. As a stick of incense is now, so was a stick of incense in Ashvaghosha's time. The whole of the material world is poised between being held together by molecular bonds, and energy's tendency to spread out. And so was it. And so will it ever be.

The dual use of aatma in line 3 seems to me to be a further pointer that Ashvaghosha had in mind this kind of opposition. Nanda is described as aatmavat, "self-possessed, contained in himself." Things are described as being niHsarana, "outward spreading," in their aatma, "essence or nature."

I think the duality that is being signalled, again, is that between the tendency that all energy has to disperse, unless prevented from doing so, and the state of concentration of energy that Nanda has won. Concentration in this sense does not mean trying to focus the mind on some trifle; rather, at the centre of this kind of concentration might be a person's direction of his whole body up (as per 17.4).

Having thus contained himself in himself, Nanda is going to examine real things in the world -- as impermanent, devoid of self, and so on.

EH Johnston:
Then in possession of his soul and devoted to escape from being, he duly examined the elements of existence according to their prerequisites, their causation, their nature, the sensations with which they are experienced and their individual defects.

Linda Covill:
Self-contained, he carried out the recommended investigation into all phenomena, with reference to their prerequisites, their causes, their inherent nature, how they are experienced, their particular faults, and their termination.


VOCABULARY:
saMbhaara: m. bringing together , collecting ; preparation , equipment , provision , necessaries , materials , requisite , collection of things required for any purpose (with Buddhists twofold , viz. 1. puNya-s° , " meritorious acts " , and 2. jJaana-s° , " science ")
- taH: (ablative suffix) according to, with reference to
pratyaya: m. belief, firm conviction , trust ; proof , ascertainment ; (with Buddhists and jainas) fundamental notion or idea ; ground , basis , motive or cause of anything ; (with Buddhists) a co-operating cause
svabhaavaat = abl. svabhaava: m. native place ; own condition or state of being , natural state or constitution , innate or inherent disposition , nature , impulse , spontaneity ; (svabhaavaat: from natural disposition , by nature , naturally , by one's self , spontaneously)

aasvaada: m. eating with a relish , tasting , enjoying (also metaphorically); flavour , taste
aa- √ svad: to eat , consume
doSha: m. fault , vice , deficiency , want ; alteration , affection , morbid element , disease
visheSha: m. distinction ; characteristic difference , peculiar mark , special property , speciality , peculiarity
- taH: (ablative suffix) according to, with reference to
ca: and

atha: ind. then, now etc.
aatmavaan = nom. sg. m. aatmavat: mfn. having a soul ; self-possessed , composed , prudent
niHsaraN'aatmataH: in line with the character of going out
niHsaraNa: n. going forth or out ; issue , egress , gate ; means , expedient , remedy to get rid of (comp.); departure, death
aatma = aatman: essence , nature , character , peculiarity (often ifc. e.g. karm'aatman, mfn. one whose character is action , endowed with principles of action , active , acting );
niH- √ sR: to go out , come forth , depart , withdraw
nis: (prefix) out, forth, away
√ sR: to run , flow , speed , glide , move , go
-taH: (ablative suffix): according to
ca: and

dharmeShu = loc. pl. dharma: m. that which is established or firm ; law, practice, duty; nature , character , peculiar condition or essential quality , property; a thing
cakre = 3rd pers. sg. perfect kR: to do, make
vidhivat: ind. according to rule , duly
pariikShaam (acc. sg.): f. inspection , investigation , examination , test

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.14: A Man of the Bowl

yaH syaan niketas tamaso 'niketaH
shrutv" aapi tattvaM sa bhavet pramattaH
yasmaat tu mokShaaya sa paatra-bhuutas
tasmaan manaH sv'-aatmani saMjahaara

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

17.14
Heedless would be the unhoused man who,

Despite hearing the truth, housed darkness;

But since Nanda was a man of the bowl,
a receptacle for liberation,

He had collected his mind into himself.

COMMENT:
Heedlessly, I seem to have jumped the gun in my comment of yesterday. The first section of this Canto, which is a description of Nanda's state of mind, might more properly be seen as concluding with line 4 of 17.14, which tells us that Nanda had collected his mind into himself.

I take tamas (darkness) to mean unconsciousness. So the two halves of the verse contrast (a) a man who has the form of a monk but who is not on the plane of constructive conscious control -- who heedlessly accommodates darkness -- and (b) Nanda a man of the bowl who had collected his mind into himself.

Metaphorically, paatra in line 3 means a capable or competent person, a vessel fit to receive something, a receptacle for the teaching. At the same time, paatra is the word that was used to express the actual bowl that the Buddha used, for begging and for eating -- see Shobogenzo chap. 78, The Patra.

In Japan there are big stores selling Butsu-gu, Buddha-goods. My teacher took me to one once, towards the end of 1987, rather in the manner I felt of a father or grandfather taking a child around a toy shop. We looked around but did not buy anything.

It seems to me that in the Alexander world, there is little or no reverence for the Buddha's bowl, but there is a kind of exact scientific study, at least by certain individuals, of the processes involved when an individual collects his mind into himself or herself -- in the sense intended by Alexander's words "Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual." Whereas in Japanese Buddhism as I peeped it, there is plenty of the former kind of reverence, for ceremonial objects and forms, but a dearth of the latter individual endeavour.

Ashvaghosha, as I hear him, is holding up the mirror of Nanda, as a true man of the bowl, because in Nanda are present both reverence for the tradition and his individual effort to possess his own mind.

EH Johnston:
The homeless wanderer who should make himself into a home of mental darkness would, though he were taught the truth, be neglectful of it, but, since Nanda was a vessel fit for Salvation, he collected his mind in himself.

Linda Covill:
Heedless is the unhoused man who has heard the truth, yet houses ignorance; but since Nanda had become a vessel fit for liberation, he gathered his mind into his own self.


VOCABULARY:
yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
syaat (3rd pers. sg. optative √as): he might be, if he were
niketaH: a house , habitation
tamasaH = gen. sg. tamas: n. darkness; mental darkness, ignorance
aniketaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. houseless

shrutvaa = abs. shru: to hear, listen, learn
api: even
tattvam (acc. sg.): n. true or real state , truth , reality
saH (nom. sg. m.): he [who]
bhavet (3rd pers. sg. optative √bhuu): he would be
pramattaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. excited , wanton , lascivious , rutting ; drunken , intoxicated ; mad , insane ; inattentive , careless , heedless , negligent

yasmaat: ind. since
tu: but
mokShaaya (dative): for release
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
paatra-bhuutaH (nom. sg. m.): one made of the [begging] bowl
paatra: n. a bowl; any vessel or receptacle ; (met.) a capable or competent person
bhuuta (ifc.) being or being like anything , consisting of

tasmaat: ind. (correlative of yasmaat) therefore
manaH (acc. sg.): n. mind
sv'-aatmani = loc. svaatman: m. one's own self , one's self (= reflexive pron.)
saMjahaara = 3rd pers. sg. perfect saM-√ hR: to bring or draw together , unite , compress , collect , contract , abridge RV. &c ; to throw together , mix up ; to close , clench (the fist) MBh. ; to concentrate (the mind) on ; to lay or draw aside , withdraw , withhold from (abl.) ; to restrain , curb , check , suppress

Monday, January 25, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.13: Coming to Quiet, through Desire

sa duHkha-jaalaan mahato mumukShur
vimokSha-maarg'-aadhigame vivikShuH
panthaanam aaryaM paramaM didRkShuH
shamaM yayau kiM cid upaatta-cakShuH

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

17.13
Desiring release from the great net of suffering,

Desiring to enter into possession
of the pathways of release,

Desiring to experience the supreme noble path,

He got a bit of the Eye, and came to quiet.

COMMENT:
"May all living beings be released from the great net of suffering!" (Nice idea.)

In line 2, pathways of release might be those implicated, for example, in a baby's laugh. If you are a neuro-boffin, you probably know all about these pathways in terms of dendritic connections in the brain, flow of endorphins, et cetera. Is it possible for a mature person to come consciously into possession of such pathways? Probably to some extent it is, as represented by statues of the big fat laughing Happy Buddha. Speaking of pathways, Marjory Barlow passed on the advice to "never let a day go by without coming back to those words -- To let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, sending the knees forwards and away."

Line 3 refers to the noble eightfold path of practice, outlined by the Buddha in the previous Canto.

I have understood cakShuH in line 4 to be synonymous with the GEN ("Eye") in Dogen's SHOBOGENZO ("Treasure of the Eye of True Dharma").

So this verse contains the climax to the first section of the present Canto, which begins with Nanda making for the forest with the purpose of letting go of the afflictions (17.1), and then girding on the intention to come undone (17.3). This first section of thirteen verses is all about purpose, intention, volition, or, in short, Nanda's subjective desire. Now, with his getting a bit of the Eye, the perspective suddenly switches away from the fortress of the mind (whose four corner stones might be four vestibular reflexes, and whose building blocks might be inhibition and desire). The Eye, having been got a bit, loses self-consciousness of the fortress of the mind and looks out over the world of dharmas.

EH Johnston:
Desiring release from the mighty net of suffering, wishing to enter into possession of the Road of Salvation and desiring to see the supreme noble Path, he reached tranquillity by obtaining a certain degree of insight.

Linda Covill:
Wishing to be free of the great net of suffering, hoping to gain access to the road to liberation, wanting to see the sublime noble path, he attained some measure of insight, and grew peaceful.

VOCABULARY:
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
duHkha-jaalaat (abl. sg.): from the net of suffering
duHkha: suffering
jaala: n. a net (for catching birds , fish &c )
mahataH (abl. sg. n.): great
mumukShuH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (from desiderative √muc, to let loose) desirous of freeing ; eager to be free (from mundane existence)

vimokSha-maarg-aadhigame (loc. sg.): into possession of the path of coming undone
vimokSha: m. the being loosened or undone, release
maarga: path, track
adhigama: m. the act of attaining , acquisition ; acquirement , mastery , study , knowledge
vivikShuH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (from desiderative √vish, to enter) wishing or intending to enter (acc. , rarely loc.)

panthaanam = acc. sg. pathin: m. a way , path , road , course
aaryam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. noble, aryan
paramam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. supreme, most excellent
didRkShuH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (from desiderative √dRsh, to see) wishing to examine or try

shamam (acc. sg.): m. tranquillity , calmness, peace, quietness
yayau = 3rd pers. perfect yaa: to go, enter, reach
kiM cit: somewhat, a little
upaatta-cakShuH (acc. sg. n.): insight; gaining the Eye
upaatta: mfn. (contracted fr. upaa-datta) received , accepted , acquired , gained , obtained ; begun
cakShus: n. clarity ; faculty of seeing , sight ; the eye

Sunday, January 24, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.12: Really Desiring Release

vimokSha-kaamasya hi yogino 'pi
manaH puraM jNaana-vidhish ca daNDaH
guNaash ca mitraaNy arayash ca doShaa
bhuumir vimuktir yatate yad-arthaM

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

17.12
Because, for a practitioner whose desire is release,

The mind is his fortress,
the protocol for higher knowledge his rod,

The virtues his friends, the faults his foes;

And liberation is the territory for which he strives.



COMMENT:
Before delivering a lecture to my own stupid self on the subject of desire (kaama in line 1), a word on the elements of lines 2 and 3:

How can the mind (manas) be a fortress (puram)? I don't seem to have any feeling that my mind is a fortress..... except, on reflection, when things are not going well, in which case there is a sense of walls crumbling down, prisoners escaping from dungeons, and the battlements being in general danger of being breached.

"The protocol on knowing" (vijNaa-vidhi) is a phrase that appears in 16.32, where it expresses collectively the three branches of the eightfold path -- philosophical insight, straight thinking, and initiative -- which relate to knowing or wisdom. Alternatively, I thought about translating vijNaa-vidhi as "the exercise of conscience." But did I lose sleep, like an inveterate worrier, wimpishly trying to decide which translation is better? (Yes, I did.)

The virtues (guNaaH) are as listed for example in 16.38, or as listed in Shobogenzo chapter 95, beginning with wanting little and being content. The faults (doShaaH), starting with thirsting, are discussed at great length from 16.17.

In general, my sense is that the Buddha and Ashvaghosha allocate much more energy to discussion of the faults than they do to discussion of the virtues -- many of which, when investigated closely, are not anything at all, but just a bit of nothing. "Wanting little" (alpecchataa), for example, which features in 16.38 and is listed first in the description of a buddha's eightfold awakening, does not tend to announce itself loudly as a virtue. If it announced itself as a virtue, that self-announcement might be an instance of something other than wanting little.

But enough discussion of wanting little. What I want to lecture myself on now, what I wish to remind myself of, is the importance of desire (kaama), which, it seems to me, it is not always necessary to split in two, as if the desire to reproduce and the desire to obtain the nectar of immortality were two different kinds of desire. If they were two different kinds of desire, the Buddha and Ashvaghosha might use two different words for desire. But they don't use two different words. Whether discussing the desire for sex, or the desire for liberation, the Buddha and Ashvaghosha use the same word: kaama. And that is because, as I see it, desire is desire.

What brings you to my blog? What are you after? What is it that you desire?

Sometimes I ask myself in my sitting practice: What do you want? What is is that you want, you silly bugger, as you sit there worrying about this and that? What do you want: to get something, or to let go of something?

The answer, on a good day, is that I really do want to let go; I want release. If I desire other things, on a good day, I desire them less than I desire release.

In desiring release, on a good day, I want the neck to be free to allow the head to go forward and up, to allow the back to lengthen and widen, to allow the limbs out. I want that, and I am not fucking well going to take No for an answer!

MumukshoH in the previous verse is a desiderative form -- it expresses the practitioner's DESIRE for release. In the next verse the desiderative form is used at the end of each of the first three lines. And lest there be any doubt that he is talking about desire, Ashvaghosha in the first line of this verse uses not the desiderative form but the very word that is used to express sexual desire -- kaama.

For a practitioner who is striving for the territory of liberation, there has to be a real desire for release. When the practitioner walks, his desire to get from A to B has to be not so great that it outweighs his desire for release. When the practitioner writes, his desire to make his point has to be not so great that it outweighs his desire for release.

Without real desire for release, we just go through the motions of practice. Whereas if we are actually going to obtain what Ashvaghosha describes in this canto as the nectar of immortality, there has to be, Ashvaghosha seems to be saying in this section of verses, a real desire for release, a desire for letting go, a desire for liberation.

EH Johnston:
For the mind of the Yogin also who aspires to Salvation is his strong city, the way of knowledge his administration of justice, the virtues his allies, the vices his enemies and Salvation the land for whose conquest he strives.

Linda Covill:
For the mind of the liberation-seeking practitioner is his citadel, and the rules for gaining knowledge are his system of justice; his virtues are his allies, his faults his enemies, and liberation the new land for which he labours.


VOCABULARY:
vimokSha-kaamasya (gen. sg. m.): desiring undoing
vimokSha: m. the being loosened or undone, release, liberation
kaama: m. desire
hi: for
yoginaH = gen. sg. yogin: m. a follower of the yoga system ; a devotee of practice, practitioner
api: also

manaH (nom. sg.): n. mind
puram (nom. sg.): n. fortress, city
jNaana-vidhiH (nom. sg.): the protocol on knowing [see 16.32]; the exercise of conscience
jNaana: n. knowing , becoming acquainted with , knowledge , (esp.) the higher knowledge ; conscience
vidhi: m. a rule , formula, precept, law, direction ; method, means, expedient ; any act or action , performance , accomplishment , contrivance , work , business (ifc. often pleonastically e.g. mathana-vidhi , the [act of] disturbing)
ca: and
daNDaH (nom. sg.): m. a stick, the rod as a symbol of judicial authority and punishment; application of power ; power over (gen. or in comp.) , control , restraint ; embodied power , army

guNaaH (nom. pl.): m. good quality , virtue , merit , excellence
ca: and
mitraaNi (nom. pl.): n. friend, ally (a prince whose territory adjoins that of an immediate neighbour who is called ari , enemy)
arayaH (nom. pl.): m. enemy
ca: and
doShaaH (nom. pl.): m. fault

bhuumiH (nom. sg.): f. the earth, territory
vimuktiH (nom. sg.): f. disjunction; release , deliverance , liberation
yatate = 3rd pers. sg. yat: to endeavour to reach , strive after , be eager or anxious for (with loc. dat. acc. with or without prati ; also with artham)
yad-artham: for which purpose

Saturday, January 23, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.11: Constructive Practice & Undiscovered Country

puraM vidhaay' aanuvidhaaya daNDaM
mitraaNi saMgRhya ripuun vigRhya
raajaa yath" aapnoti hi gaam a-puurvaaM
niitir mumukShor api s"aiva yoge

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


17.11
For just as, by laying out fortifications
and laying down the rod of the law,

By banding with friends and disbanding foes,

A king gains hitherto ungained land,

That is the very policy towards practice
of one who desires release.

COMMENT:
Just as a king builds an empire, just as a businessman builds a business, and just as a celebrity builds a fan-base, a practitioner's attitude also is constructive (kushala)-- with regard primarily to the practitioner's own practice.

Being constructive for a practitioner, then, might not necessarily involve building a Buddhist empire or building a following among others. It might rather mean primarily building up what FM Alexander termed "a good manner of use of the self." The essence of yoga, translated in the fourth line as "practice" -- i.e. conscious practice that integrates body and mind -- might be the conscious building up of a good manner of use of the self.

As a metaphor for such constructive work on the self, the Buddha uses a king's methodical pursuit of hitherto unconquered territory.

Using the same metaphor, in the preface to his 3rd book, The Use of the Self, Alexander writes:

"The results of the series of experiences I have outlined in Chapter 1 seem to me to imply that in the process of acquiring a conscious direction of the use of the human organism, a hitherto 'undiscovered country' is opened up..."


The metaphor of undiscovered country is echoed again in Alexander's introduction to his 4th and final book:

"my experience may one day be recognized as a signpost directing the explorer to a country hitherto 'undiscovered,' and one which offers unlimited opportunity for fruitful research to the patient and observant pioneer."


In the fourth line of this verse, niitiH yoge means "a/the policy towards practice." And mumukshoH means "of one who desires release."

As we plod on verse by verse, certain words take on weight through constant repetition, as being really central to Ashvaghosha's thinking. One such word is yoga, by which Ashvaghosha seems to me to mean what Alexander meant by "constructive conscious control of the individual."

Another such word is mumukShu, "desiring release."

So negation of desire cannot be it. The vital thing for a practitioner, whether one is talking of buddha-yoga or talking of Alexander work, might be to keep other desires smaller than one's desire for release.


EH Johnston:
Just as a king obtains possession of lands not previously ruled by him by building strong cities, administering justice, making allies and repressing enemies, so is the policy in Yoga of the man who seeks Salvation.

Linda Covill:
When it comes to yogic practice, a man seeking liberation must adopt a policy like that of a king who wins previously unconquered territory by fortifying his city, administering justice, gathering allies and repulsing enemies.


VOCABULARY:
puram (acc. sg.): n. a fortress , castle , city , town
vidhaaya = abs. vi- √ dhaa: to put in order , arrange , dispose , prepare , make ready ; to form , create , build , establish , found
aanuvidhaaya = abs. anu-vi-√dhaa: to assign to in order ; to regulate , lay down a rule
daNDam (acc. sg.): m. a stick, the rod as a symbol of judicial authority and punishment; application of power ; power over (gen. or in comp.) , control , restraint ; embodied power , army

mitraaNi (acc. pl.): n. friend; an ally (a prince whose territory adjoins that of an immediate neighbour who is called ari , enemy)
saMgRhya = abs. saM-√grah: to seize or hold together , take or lay hold of ; to gather together , assemble, collect
ripuun (acc. pl.): m. a deceiver , cheat , rogue ; m. an enemy , adversary , foe
vigRhya = abs. vi-√grah: to stretch out or apart; to hold apart , separate , isolate ; to wage war , fight against (acc.)

raajaa = nom. sg. raajan: m. a king , sovereign , prince , chief
yathaa: just as
aapnoti = 3rd pers. sg. aap: to reach ; obtain , gain , take possession of
hi: for
gaam (acc. sg.): f. the earth (as the milk-cow of kings)
a-puurvaam (acc. sg. f.): mfn. not previously, not formerly

niitiH (nom. sg.): f. leading or bringing , guidance , management; policy (also personified) , political wisdom ; acquirement , acquisition
mumukShoH = gen. sg. m. mumukShu: mfn. desirous of freeing , eager to be free (from mundane existence); m. a sage who strives after emancipation
api: also
saa (nom. sg. f.): it, that [policy]
eva: (emphatic)
yoge (loc.): with regard to practice

Friday, January 22, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.10: End-gaining vs Means-whereby

sa tad-vighaataaya nimittam anyad
yog'aanukuulaM kushalaM prapede
aartaayanaM kShiiNa-balo bala-sthaM
nirasyamaano balin"aariN"eva

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

17.10
In order to fend against it
he went to the alternate starting point

-- To that which is constructive, favourable to practice --

Like an enfeebled prince
who goes to a powerful protector

When being overthrown by a mighty rival.


COMMENT:
I will endeavor to illustrate what I think this verse means out of my own practice and experience of sitting-dhyana. But first, following on from the question I posed yesterday as to whether there is one fundamental inauspicious conception and/or whether there are many, I will start with my tentative conclusion:

It seems to me that all inauspicious ideas are variations on the theme of one fundamental inauspicious conception, which the Buddha personified as Mara, and which Alexander called "end-gaining"; and that all alternate starting points are variations on the theme of one fundamental constructive conception, which is the means-whereby principle.

So the enfeebled prince being overthrown by a mighty rival is a metaphor for the practitioner who, fighting a losing battle against the accumulated might of his own end-gaining, seeks refuge in the means-whereby principle. (The enfeebled prince in question reminds me very much of yours truly, circa 1994 onwards....)

The means-whereby principle is a principle, a theory, but it is more than that: like its opposite, end-gaining, it is a conception, an idea that is as if woven into the fabric of a person's being. As FM Alexander wrote in his second book, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual: "The process of conception, like all other forms of psycho-physical activity, is a process the course of which is determined by our psycho-physical condition at the time when the particular stimulus (or stimuli) is received." Just as the end-gaining conception is very much tied up with unduly excited fear reflexes (aka Mara's retinue), the process of conceiving the means-whereby conception is a psycho-physical process.

So when Alexander wrote of end-gaining and means-whereby as opposite conceptions, he wasn't talking of them as philosophical constructs. Furthermore, in the opening chapter of his fourth book, he described them not only as opposite conceptions but also as different procedures....

END GAINING AND "MEANS-WHEREBY":

These terms stand for two different, nay, opposite conceptions and for two different procedures. According to the first or end-gaining conception, all that is necessary when an end is desired is to proceed to employ the different parts of the organism in the manner which our feeling dictates as necessary for the carrying out of the movements required for gaining the end, irrespective of any harmful effects due to misuse of the self during the process; a conception which implies the subordination of the thinking and reasoning self to the vagaries of the instinctive guidance and control of the self in carrying out the activities necessary to achieve the end. It will be seen therefore that end-gaining involves the conception and procedure of going direct for an end without consideration as to whether the "means-whereby" to be employed are the best for the purpose....


The opposition that FM is describing here, in other words, is that between "keeping the spine straight vertically" relying only on one's faulty sense of feeling (end-gaining), and allowing the spine to lengthen as an indirect result of conscious re-direction of one's energy (means-whereby). The difference may sometimes appear subtle, but actually it is like chalk and cheese.

So in the first line of 17.10, as I read it, nimittam anyat means a means-whereby procedure as an alternate starting point to end-gaining.

"Another subject of meditation," as per the translations of EHJ and LC does not mean anything to me as a translation of nimittam anyat, because in my practice of sitting-meditation, there is no other subject of meditation. The sitting is the meditation, and the meditation is the sitting. Another subject there is not.

Sitting-meditation is always just sitting-meditation, and not any other kind of meditation. Within the practice of sitting-meditation, however, different variations on the theme of end-gaining emerge, and for each variation there may be a particular starting point to go to -- as outlined by the Buddha from 16.53 onwards.

When I try to be right in my sitting-meditation, that is the end-gaining conception re-asserting itself, and in order to fend off that inauspicious conception, I take refuge in a different, nay opposite, conception, which is the means-whereby. In this case, the inauspicious conception could be summed up as "trying" and the alternate starting point as "allowing." But the allowing is not a separate "subject of meditation" -- allowing is not something separate from sitting itself. It is an allowing of the neck to release, to allow the head forward and up, to allow the spine to lengthen and the back to widen, while allowing the limbs out.

For another example, sometimes while sitting I am prey to deluded thoughts along the lines of "That was not fair. I did not deserve for that to happen to me.... and so on" -- thoughts along the lines of denying cause and effect. Again, these thoughts can be seen as rooted in the end-gaining conception that I am always right whereas others are prone to be wrong. So in this case, the inauspicious conception could be summed up as "denial" and the alternate starting point as "taking responsibility." But again the taking responsibility is not a separate "subject of meditation": it is taking responsibility for what is going on, here and now, in neck, head, back, and limbs -- altogether, and one after another.

For still another example, a small plane flies noisily overhead and I feel keen hatred for the person who is flying it. Though I have never met him, the pilot strikes me as a selfish end-gaining bastard pursuing his own self-important recreational agenda, and not really caring how his behaviour might impinge on others, especially those who he sees as below his exalted self. Now, who does that remind me of? In this case, the inauspicious conception could be summed up as "the problem is out there" and the alternate starting point as "the problem is in here." But again 'problem in here' is not a separate "subject of meditation": it is accepting one's own wrongness in terms of what is going on here and now in neck, head, back, and limbs -- altogether, and one after another.

I hope this long-winded analysis demonstrates why, for me, Alexander's discoveries do not offer a new "take" on how the Buddha taught us to sit. As I see it, it is discussion of "subjects of meditation" that introduce a new "take" on what the Buddha taught. What Ashvaghosha is describing here using the word kushala (constructive), as I read him, is nothing other than what Alexander called "constructive conscious control of the individual" as opposed to the lowly-evolved end-gaining conception.

EH Johnston:
To overcome it he had recourse to another good subject of meditation favourable to Yoga, as a man whose power has failed and who is being overthrown by a mighty enemy has recourse to a powerful protector of the oppressed.

Linda Covill:
To eliminate it, he started another subject of meditation, wholesome and favourable to yogic practice, as an enfeebled man harassed by a forceful enemy sets out for a secure refuge for the oppressed.


VOCABULARY:
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
tad: it, that
vighaataaya = dat. vighaata: m. a stroke ; driving back , warding off; destruction , ruin ; removal , prohibition , prevention
nimittam (acc. sg.): n. butt, mark, target ; cause , motive , ground , reason; [EHJ/LC: subject of meditation; MC: stimulus, starting point]
anyat (acc. sg. n.): other, different, alernate

yoga: m. the act of yoking; practice
anukuulam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. following the bank, favourable
kushalam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. right , proper , suitable , good
prapede = 3rd pers. perfect pra-√pad: to fall or drop down from (abl.); to throw one's self down (at a person's feet); to go forwards, set out for , resort to, enter (with acc.)

aartaayanam (acc. sg. n.): place [or person?] for the protection of the oppressed; protector
aarta: mfn. fallen into (misfortune) , struck by calamity , afflicted , pained , disturbed ; injured ; oppressed , suffering , sick , unhappy
ayana: n. walking a road a path (often ifc.) ; n. way , progress , manner ; n. place of refuge
kShiiNa-balaH (nom. sg. m.): [a man/prince] of diminished strength
kShiiNa: mfn. diminished , wasted , expended , lost , destroyed , worn away , waning (as the moon) ; weakened , injured , broken , torn , emaciated , feeble
bala: n. strength, power; mfn. strong , robust
bala-stham (acc. sg. n.): mfn. " being in strength or power " , strong , powerful , vigorous

nirasyamaanaH = nom. sg. m. pres. part. nirasya: mfn. to be expelled or driven out
nir-√as: to cast out , throw or drive away , expel , remove , banish from
balinaa = inst. balin: mfn. powerful , strong , mighty , stout , robust
ariNaa = inst. sg. ari: m. enemy
iva: like

Thursday, January 21, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.9: Return of the Inauspicious Idea

aarabdha-viiryasya manaH-shamaaya
bhuuyas tu tasy' aa-kushalo vitarkaH
vyaadhi-praNaashaaya niviShTa-buddher
upadravo ghora iv' aajagaama

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

17.9
But as he renewed the direction of his energy,
so as to allow the mind to be still,

An inauspicious idea reasserted itself in him,

As when, in a man intent on curing an illness,

An acute symptom suddenly reappears.


COMMENT:
The first thing to understand here is the meaning of the first line. The overriding importance of viirya, "direction of energy," is the conclusion, at the end of Canto 16, of the Buddha's great five-canto monologue. And the context here is that Nanda is sitting in full lotus, directing his whole body up (17.4). So the primary meaning of aarabdha-viirya, "his resuming of the direction of his energy," must be that Nanda renewed the direction of his whole body up.

This modus operandi is essentially the one that I was taught in Japan, the underlying wisdom of it being that direct intervention to try to still the mind -- by abdominal breathing or some such stupidity -- is just the playing out of an inauspicious idea. Rather, I was taught in Japan, by concentrating our efforts on "keeping the spine straight vertically," we allow the autonomic nervous system to balance itself, and balance of the autonomic nervous system equals a calm, quiet, still mind.

Sadly, it took me too many years of being 'tight and right' to begin to see that "keeping the spine straight vertically" is also liable to become the playing out of an inauspicious conception. The inauspicious conception in question is the end-gaining conception; that is, the idea that to direct the spine up is to do something. Whereas when the spine truly directs itself up, that is not the practitioner doing the right thing; it is the practitioner giving up an inauspicious idea and thereby allowing the right thing to do itself -- wherein the mind is allowed to still itself.

So the enemy in this verse is our old friend (see for example 15.19/15.20 ; 16.77) the a-kushala vitarka, i.e. the inauspicious or unconstructive idea or conception.

In sitting practice is there essentially just one inauspicious idea -- i.e. the end-gaining conception? Or are there many inauspicious ideas?

In Canto 15, the Buddha seems to list a series of inauspicious conceptions one by one, and close to the top of the Buddha's list of inauspicious conceptions seems to be the idea that I'm so special, or that my people are so special (see 15.30 - 15.41).

When one looks around, there is nothing very special about the idea that I am / we are very special -- millions of other damn fools are labouring under the same misapprehension. And yet the idea is difficult to give up: one might think one has got beyond it, but then it re-asserts itself in a manner that Ashvaghosha compares here to the appearance of an acute symptom of disease.

Framed in that way, the surfacing into consciousness of the most unwholesome of egoistic end-gaining ideas, might be something to welcome, as part of a healing process. Hence FM Alexander's famous aphorism "Being wrong is the best friend we have got in this work." And hence Patrick Macdonald's even pithier: "Look the bugger in the eye!"

The Japanese have a proverb kusai mono ni futa, "Put a lid on what stinks." But I disagree.

"Pulling in the chin to stretch the back of the neck," for example, even if the teaching originated with the great Kodo Sawaki, is a teaching that stinks. And my job is not to put a lid on it. My job is to help people see exactly why it stinks.

But before that, my job is to prevent that bloody awful end-gaining conception re-asserting itself in me!

The idea that I and my people are special is very closely allied, it seems to me, with the end-gaining conception that an upward lengthening of the spine depends on me intervening to do something. (Think of any narrow-minded fascist/nationalist you care to think of, and picture him on the parade ground.)

So maybe if we recognize the existence of many kinds of inauspicious ideas, we can at the same time recognize that they are clustered around the end-gaining conception, like Mara and his retinue. When I write "Mara," Mara is equated in my mind with "Moro" and the Moro reflex, which is the primary survival reflex, might just as well be called the end-gaining reflex.


EH Johnston:
But again an evil thought approached him, when all his energy was applied to attaining tranquillity of mind, like a fearful symptom coming on a man whose mind is set on the destruction of his illness.

Linda Covill:
But as he was commencing his endeavor to pacify his mind, again an offensive thought occurred to him, like a severe new symptom appearing in a man whose faculties are preoccupied with fighting off an existing disease.


VOCABULARY:
aarabdha: mfn. begun , commenced , undertaken
aa-√rabh: to lay or take hold of , keep fast , cling to ; to gain a footing ; to enter , reach , attain ; to undertake , commence , begin ;
viiryasya = gen. sg. viirya: n. manliness , valour , strength , power , energy
manas: mind
shamaaya = dative shama: m. tranquillity , calmness , peace

bhuuyas: ind. again
tu: but
tasya (gen.): to/of him
a-kushalaH (nom. sg. m.): inauspicious, evil, not clever
vitarkaH (nom. sg.): m. idea, thought, conception

vyaadhi: disease
praNaashaaya = dative praNaasha: m. vanishing , disappearance , cessation , loss , destruction
niviShTa: mfn. settled down , come to rest ; turned to , intent upon (loc. or comp.)
buddheH = gen./abl. buddhi: f. mind, intention, purpose

upadravaH (nom. sg.): m. that which attacks or occurs suddenly , any grievous accident , misfortune , calamity ; a supervenient disease or one brought on whilst a person labours under another
upa: towards etc.
drava: m. going , quick motion , flight ; m. (dram.) the flying out against one's superior
ghoraH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. terrific , frightful , terrible , dreadful , violent , vehement (as pains , diseases , &c )
iva: like
aajagaama = 3rd pers. sg. perfect aa- √gam: to come, make one's appearance ' ; (generally with p/unar) to return

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.8: Intolerance of Anomalies

sa paryavasthaanam avetya sadyash
cikShepa taaM dharma-vighaata-kartriiM
priyaam api krodha-pariita-cetaa
naariim iv' odvRtta-guNaam manasvii

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

17.8
Being instantly aware of incompatibilities,

He saw off that authoress of the dharma's downfall,

As a man whose mind is seized by anger

Shoos away a loved but excitable woman,
when he is trying to concentrate.


COMMENT:
Had Nanda cupped Sundari's breasts in his hands as he surveyed the wide and smooth expanse of her toned back? Had he watched those firm breasts jiggle up and down as she lay on her back before him? Had he kissed those breasts as Sundari's ear-rings jangled overhead?

We can only imagine what memories had been embedded in Nanda's mind by various aspects of the firm and full breasts of Sundari, jutting up like two lotus buds out of a pond. As one such memory re-surfaced in a blast from the past, on what basis was Nanda able to see it off?

Lest their be any doubt, Ashvaghosha supplies the answer in the metaphor of the angry man who shoos away his beloved, not because he does not desire her (for she, his beloved, is the very object of his desire), but because at that moment he is more interested in something else, and he wishes to give his attention not to her but to the other thing.

So Nanda did not see off the vestige of his old desire by trying to be a man of no desire. He did not try to become somebody's idea of Buddha. Rather he saw something: he saw the incompatibility of the old desire and the new desire that had awakened in him not to be a slave to desire, but to be free.

That Nanda no longer wanted Sundari, was not it. He did still want Sundari. But he saw that his old desire for Sundari was not compatible with the newly awakened desire -- namely, the desire to practise the truth that has no gaps, or, in other words, the desire to do practices favourable to release (17.5).

The problem one tends to come up against in desiring to do such practice is that evolution has already equipped us well to be slaves to instinctive desire, whereas the new desire, the desire to be free, needs to be nurtured again and again -- otherwise, it fades out and we are liable to backslide.

So it was not enough for Nanda to sit in the inspirational presence of his enlightened brother, the Buddha; and it was not even enough for Nanda to listen in person to the Buddha preaching the Dharma that Ashvaghosha has given us in writing in the past five cantos: Nanda had to go into the forest by himself, and work it out for himself. He had to see the incompatibilities for himself, and make the choice for himself. The Buddha, even with the best will in the world, could not make that choice for him.


EH Johnston:
He recognised the disturbance in his feelings and quickly threw off that idea so ruinous to the Law, like a man of spirit who with thoughts filled with wrath rejects an offending woman, however dear she be to him.

Linda Covill:
He discarded that thought, obstacle-maker to the dharma that it was, when he suddenly became aware of the impediment, as an excitable man throws off a loved but pushy woman when his mind is encompassed by anger.


VOCABULARY:
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
paryavasthaanam = gen. pl. paryavasthaa: f. opposition , contradiction
pari: ind. against , opposite to
avasthaa: f. state , condition , situation, circumstance of age or position , stage , degree; f. pl. the female organs of generation
avetya = abs. ave: to perceive , conceive , understand , learn , know
sadyas: ind. on the same day , in the very moment

cikShepa = 3rd pers. sg. perfect kShip: to throw , cast , send , despatch taam = acc. sg. f. tad: it, that
dharma: dharma, the teaching, the law
vighaata: m. a stroke , blow with (comp.) ; breaking off or in pieces ; driving back , warding off ; destruction , ruin ; removal , prohibition , prevention , interruption , impediment , obstacle
kartriim = acc. sg. f. kartR: mfn. one who makes or does or acts or effects , a doer , maker , agent , author (ifc.)

priyaam (acc. sg. f.): beloved, dear
api: even, though
krodha-pariita-cetaaH (nom. sg. m): mind seized with anger
krodha: anger
pariita: mfn. surrounded , encompassed , filled , taken possession of , seized (with instr. or in comp.)
cetas: consciousness , intelligence , thinking soul , heart , mind etc.

naariim (acc. sg.): f. a woman, a wife
iva: like
udvRtta-guNaam (acc. sg. f.): an exuberant type [of woman]
udvRtta: mfn. swollen up , swelling ; prominent ; excited , agitated , waving; extravagant , ill-behaved , ill-mannered , proud , arrogant ; turned up
guNa: subdivision , species , kind ; a quality , peculiarity , attribute or property
manasvii = nom. sg. m. manasvin: mfn. full of mind or sense , intelligent , clever , wise ; in high spirits , cheerful , glad ; fixing the mind, attentive

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.7: Desire Strikes Like Lightning

aatapta-buddheH prahit'-aatmano 'pi
sv-abhyasta-bhaavaad atha kaama-saMjNaa
paryaakulaM tasya manash cakaara
praavRTsu vidyuj jalam aagat" eva.

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

17.7
Though his judgement had been tempered
and his soul inspired,

Now a vestige of desire, arising out of habit,

Made his mind turbid --

Like lightning striking water in a monsoon.


COMMENT:
The first line, as I read it, alludes again to the metaphor of the goldsmith working gold.

With regard to the explicit metaphor of lightning striking, when lightning hits water, because water is a relatively good conductor of electricity (not as good as copper or gold, but much better than rubber or glass), the lightning will tend to zip across the surface of water in all directions, rather than penetrating to the bottom of deep water. This effect, called the "skin effect" is apparently what keeps us safe from lightning when we are inside a metal-topped car.

The water that lies on the ground during a monsoon will tend to be relatively shallow water -- shallower than the water in an ocean, at any rate -- and therefore, I am guessing, more liable to become turbid when struck by lightning.

What is not in doubt is how, in making the shallows of a man's mind turbid, desire can truly strike like a bolt of lightning...

4.4
She of laughs and smiles as white as swans,
and pupils like black bees,


Her firm breasts jutting up like lotus buds,

Was all the more a lotus-pool in female form

In the presence of her kindred spirit, the sun-like Nanda.





EH Johnston:
But then, despite the zeal of his mind and the resolution of his soul, the idea of love from constant habit found his mind, as a thunderbolt coming in the rains makes the water turbid.

Linda Covill:
Though burning zeal was in his mind and urgency in his inner self, a lustful thought occured to him as a result of his long-standing habits. It made his mind turbulent, like lightning striking water during the rainy season.

VOCABULARY:
aatapta: mfn. refined by heat (as gold)
aa- √ tap: to radiate heat ; (with tapas) to inflict (austerities) upon one's self
buddheH = gen./ab. sg. buddhi: f. the power of forming and retaining conceptions and general notions , intelligence , reason , intellect , mind , discernment , judgement; intention, purpose, design
prahita: mfn. urged on, incited , stirred up
pra- √ hi: to urge on, incite, direct, command
aatmanaH = gen./ab. sg. aatman: m. breath, soul ; self; essence , nature , character
api: even, even though

sv-abhyasta: mfn. much practised
su: ind. greatly, very well
abhyasta: mfn. accumulated by repeated practice (as food) ; practised , exercised ; learnt by heart , repeated , studied
bhaavaat (abl. sg. bhaava): from being, because of being
atha: (auspicious particle) now, then
kaama: m. wish, desire, longing ; love, sensuality
saMjNaa (nom. sg.): f. consciousness; a sign; a track, footstep ; (with Buddhists) perception (one of the 5 skandhas q.v.)

paryaakulam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. disordered , confused , excited , bewildered; turbid (as water)
pari: ind. round, fully
aakula: mfn. confounded , confused , agitated , flurried ; confused (in order) , disordered ; filled , full , overburdened with (instr. or generally in comp.) , eagerly occupied
tasya (gen. sg.): of him
manaH: (acc. sg.): n. mind
cakaara = 3rd pers. sg. perfect kR: to do, make

praavRTsu = loc. praavRT: f. (fr. pra- √vRS) the rainy season , wet season , rains
vidyut: f. lightning (rarely n.) , a flashing thunderbolt
jalam (acc. sg.): n. water
aagata: mfn. come, arrived
iva: like

Monday, January 18, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.6: Coming Back to Himself

saMdhaaya dhairyam praNidhaaya viiryaM
vyapohya saktiM parigRhya shaktiM
prashanta-cetaa niyama-stha-cetaaH
svasthas tato 'bhuud viShayeShv an-aasthaH

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

17.6
By holding firm, keeping direction of energy to the fore,

By cutting out clinging and garnering his energy,

His consciousness calmed and contained,

He came back to himself
and was not concerned about ends.


COMMENT:
Poetic elements like double use of the root dhaa (put) in the 1st line, in saMdhaaya (putting together, holding) and praNidhaaya (putting in front); and the rhyming of saktim and shaktim in the 2nd line, are lost in translation.

One of the things about the Buddha's teaching written in the form of metric poetry, I suppose, is that it conveys a certain unhurried rhythm. The aim of getting the Buddha's message across is not so pressing that there is no time to observe the basic 11-syllable metre of 2 long + 1 short + 2 long + 2 short + 1 long + 1 short + 2 long = 11 syllables (as in the first line of this verse). But neither is the basic form always adhered to with undue rigidity (as in the use of a short syllable to begin the second and third lines).

A non-Buddhist hero of mine named FM Alexander, when it came to food, for example, was not a greedy man; according to his niece Marjory Barlow, he always ate and drank in moderation. But he was a man of refined taste: he liked good food, and a drop of red wine with it. I think I am right in saying that FM worked for a while as a tea-taster. So if the criterion Ashvaghosha is expressing in the fourth line were absence of liking for sensual objects (as per EHJ's translation), or indifference to sensory experience (as per LC), then FM might not have fit the bill. But FM Alexander knew a thing or two about being true to oneself in a process, and not being unduly concerned about ends.

This cartoon is from a birthday card I got from student-teachers at the Alexander training school where, on most Fridays, we work together on "staying back in the back" and giving up "end-gaining" ideas (wherein it is not always clear who is teaching who)....




EH Johnston:
By assuming steadfastness, applying effort, driving away attachment and mastering his capacity, he caused his thoughts to be tranquil and to abide in the rule of abstinence, and being then at ease, he lost all liking for sensual objects.

Linda Covill:
Fastened to firmness, applying endeavor, repelling clinging and embracing capability, his peaceful thoughts rested within the rules of restriction; and being now healthy, he became indifferent to sensory experience.


VOCABULARY:
saMdhaaya = abs. saM-√ dhaa: , to place or hold or put or draw or join or fasten or fix or sew together , unite ;
dhairyam (acc. sg. ): n. firmness , constancy , calmness , patience , gravity , fortitude , courage
praNidhaaya = abs. pra-Ni- √ dhaa: to place in front, apply
viiryam (acc. sg.): n. manliness , valour , strength , power , energy

vyapohya = abs. vyapoh: to drive away , keep off , remove , destroy
saktim (acc. sg.): f. connexion , entwinement (of creepers) ; clinging or adhering to (loc. or comp.) , attachment , addiction (esp. to worldly objects)
parigRhya = abs. pari-√grah: to take hold of on both sides , embrace; to take possession of , master
shaktim (acc. sg.): f. power , ability , strength , might , effort , energy , capability

prashanta-cetaaH (nom. sg. m.): of tranquil mind
prashanta: mfn. tranquillized , calm , quiet , composed , indifferent ; extinguished , ceased , allayed
cetas: consciousness , intelligence , thinking soul , heart , mind etc.
niyama-stha-cetaaH (nom. sg. m.): mind being contained in limits
niyama: m. limitation , restriction
stha: mfn. standing , staying , abiding , being situated in
cetas: consciousness, etc.

svasthaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. self-abiding , being in one's self (or " in the self " Sarvad. ), being in one's natural state , being one's self uninjured , unmolested , contented , doing well , sound well , healthy (in body and mind) , comfortable , at ease ; relying upon one's self , confident , resolute , composed ; self-sufficient , independent
tataH: ind. thence, from that, then (often superfluous after an indeclinable participle [ = absolutive; e.g. saMdhaaya etc.] )
abhuut (3rd pers. sg. aorist bhuu, to be): he was, he became
viShayeShu = loc. pl. viShaya: m. object
an-aasthaH = nom. sg. m. an-aastha: indifferent, unconcerned (??)
aa- √sthaa: to stand or remain on or by; to take care for , have regard for
an-aasthaa: f. disrespect ; want of consideration ; unconcern , indifference.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.5: The Secret Is in the Preparation

tataH sa tattvaM nikhilaM cikiiShur
mokSh'-aanukuulaaMsh ca vidhiiMsh cikiirShan
jNaanena lokyena shamena c'aiva
cacaara cetaH-parikarma-bhuumau

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

17.5
Wishing to practise, on that basis,
the truth that has no gaps,

And wanting to do practices favourable to release,

He moved, using common sense, and stillness,

Into the stage of readying of consciousness.


COMMENT:
A gap arises when I try to be right, which I generally do.

Practices favourable to release, in contrast, invariably have an element in them of humour, enjoyment, playfulness.

At the Alexander training school where I work on Fridays, a teacher who has known me for a number of years said to me on Friday, "You don't take yourself as seriously as you used to." This was an encouraging remark. At the same time, as an indication of how far I still have to go, in making his remark the teacher in question expressed his fear that I might hit him for making it....

As an example of common sense applied to the readying of consciousness, there is Marjory Barlow's maxim that "you cannot do an undoing." Undoing means muscular release, whereas doing means muscular contraction. And release of a muscle is not achieved by contracting it. Release of a muscle is brought about, more like, by giving up the idea that is causing the muscle to stay contracted.

Throughout the preceding five cantos of the Buddha's great monologue, the Buddha has repeatedly pointed to the importance of a gradual, methodical approach. I have a feeling that I have used "The Secret Is in the Preparation" as the title for more than one previous post. The gradual process that the Buddha has described using the metaphor of a goldsmith bringing gold to readiness, Ashvaghosha now seems to be illustrating using Nanda's actual example.


EH Johnston:
Then in his desire to grasp the entire truth and to perform the practices favourable to Salvation, he passed along the stage of preparation of the mind through mundane knowledge and tranquillity.

Linda Covill:
Wanting to experience reality in its entirety, and with the intention of carrying out the prescribed practices conducive to liberation, he used ordinary worldly knowledge and peacefulness to move into the stage in which the mind is prepared.


VOCABULARY:
tataH: ind. thence, from that, in consequence of that
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
tattvam (acc. sg.): n. true or real state , truth , reality
nikhilam (ac. sg. n.): complete , all , whole , entire
ni: no
khila: gap
cikiirShuH = nom. sg. m. cikiirShu: mfn. (from desid. kR) intending to make or do or perform (with acc. or ifc.) ; wishing to exercise one's self in the use of (acc.)

mokSha: m. release, liberation
anukuulaan (acc. pl.): mfn. following the bank (kuula) or slope or declivity ; according to the current ; favourable , agreeable
ca: and
vidhiin = acc. pl. vidhi: m. rule, formula; any prescribed act or rite or ceremony ; use , employment , application ; method , manner or way of acting , mode of life , conduct , behaviour
cikiirShan (nom. sg. desid. pres. part kR, to do): wanting to do

jNaanena = inst. jnaana: n. knowing , becoming acquainted with , knowledge
lokyena = inst. lokya: mfn. granting a free sphere of action , bestowing freedom ; diffused over the world , world-wide ; conducive to the attainment of a better world , heavenly ; customary , ordinary, correct , right , real , actual ; usual , every-day
shamena = inst. shama: m. tranquillity , calmness , peace
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)

cacaara = 3rd pers. perfect car: to move one's self, go
cetas: n. consciousness , intelligence , thinking soul , heart , mind
parikarman: n. attendance , worship , adoration ; n. dressing , painting or perfuming the body (esp. after bathing) ; n. cleansing , purification ; n. preparation
bhuumau = loc. sg. bhuumi: f. the earth, ground ; territory ; (metaph.) a step , degree , stage ; (ifc.) a matter , subject , object , receptacle i.e. fit object or person for

Saturday, January 16, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.4: All-Out Effort

RjuM samagraM praNidhaaya kaayaM
kaaye smRtim c'aabhimukhiim vidhaaya
sarv'-endriyaany aatmani saMnidhaaya
sa tatra yogaM prayataH prapede

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

17.4
By first directing the whole body up,

And thus keeping mindfulness turned towards the body,

And thus integrating in his person all the senses,

There he threw himself all-out into practice.


DUST & FLUFF:
This is a long comment, not because it needs to be, but because I got up at 3.30 am, sat, and then found myself writing a long comment. I wouldn't bother reading it, if I were you. I would just focus on the verse, and begin to make the verse your own, by asking what it means for the whole body to tend in a straight up direction.

The meaning of √dhaa (put, place) is like the meaning of √ kR (do, make); it is like an auxiliary verb (a verb that helps other verbs, like am in 'I am swimming', or have in 'I have sat'). √dhaa does not necessarily mean to put something somewhere. Hence sam-aa-dhi ("putting together") means coming back to balance; it means putting/pulling oneself together only metaphorically, not literally putting something somewhere.

As a verbal root, √dhaa appears in each of the first three lines, in three absolutive forms: praNidhaaya, vidhaaya, saMnidhaaya. The absolutive form, expressed by the ending -ya, conveys a sense of action preceeding the action of the main verb. So the main verb in this verse is prapede, "he threw himself" in the fourth line,

Using these three √dhaa like this seems to me to indicate a certain order to be observed in sitting practice. pra-Ni-√dhaa-ya (putting down in front) means √dhaa-ing uprightness first, as the primary thing. If one attends to this as the primary √dhaa-ing, it may be that √dhaa-ing of mindfulness and √dhaa-ing of the senses will tend to follow, spontaneously, as a natural consequence of directing the body up.

Again, what is primary, what comes first and foremost, is indicated in the first line by pra-Ni-√dhaa (put down in front). What is primary in upright sitting is directing the body, as a whole, straight up.

As we have already been told in 14.41, as a herdsman follows his scattered cows, mindfulness follows after. We have already been told very clearly and explicitly by the Buddha that mindfulness follows after. But certain individuals, with their own "take" on practice, to do with mindfulness of breathing, prefer to stick with their own take on practice, not listening to the teaching of the Buddha. And if such an individual annoys the hell out of me, it must be because I am using that individual as a mirror for my own poor listening ability.

Mindfulness, the Buddha has told us, follows after. And mindfulness is like a suit of armour; it is like an insulating layer around us. As such it is not inside us but neither does it belong to the outside. So mindfulness is more in the middle, being neither the beginning nor the end of anything; accordingly, vi-√dhaa ('put in order') in the 2nd line is a more neutral form -- the prefix vi- does not necessarily express anything, and neither does the root √dhaa express anything too concrete and specific. Such is the practice of mindfulness: it is not something definite and directly do-able like concentration on breathing. It is less direct than than. Mindfulness follows after.

So first √dhaa the whole body up, and then vi-√dhaa the mindfulness which follows in such a way as that it remains turned inwards, towards the body.

Is it two acts of √dhaa-ing, or one act of √dhaa-ing?

In the 3rd line saM-ni-√dhaa (together-down put) points to integration as the immediate aim of sitting practice -- what Dogen as a young man expressed in his own words with the four Chinese characters
JI (naturally/spontaneously),
JO (becoming/realising),
IPPEN (one piece/integration).

JI-JO-IPPEN,
"spontaneously becoming one piece"....
"naturally realising integration" ....

If you can be bothered to google those words, you will doubtless be led to some dust & fluff that I deposited on another blog in the middle of some other sleepless night.

The meaning of this verse, having been transmitted through 12 generations from the Buddha to Ashvaghosha was transmitted through 16 ancestors in India from Ashvaghosha to Bodhidharma, and through many generations in China from Bodhidharma to Dogen. Dogen while still in his twenties came back from China to his native Japan and did his best to convey this meaning in words written in his native Japanese. Living in Japan and reading those words, endeavoring to understand them on the basis of my own sitting practice, and endeavoring to translate them truly into English, and yet somehow knowing that I hadn't really got to the bottom of them, I came back to England to investigate the discoveries of FM Alexander, who described his work as "an exercise in finding out what thinking is."

The first line of this verse seems to have to do with good posture; it seems primarily to be about the body. In fact, I submit, to study what the first line really means is to study what thinking is.

Because if we try to understand the first line only on the basis of physical practice, that trying is only emphasizing what we already know as uprightness -- which is liable to be not uprightness but just uptightness.

In the 4th line "all-out" (prayata) could be understood as meaning with an absolute maximum of effort, or it could be understood as meaning with an absolute minimum of effort -- depending on whether one conceives of sitting-dhyana as one of the most physical things there is, i.e. as a kind of "stationary physical gymnastics" or as the most mental thing there is, i.e. as definitely not that.

Speaking for myself, I don't know what sitting-dhyana is. I only know, as a result of very definitely going wrong in my own practice, that it is definitely not that.

When EHJ translated the first line as "Straightening all his body" and when LC translated the first line as "Holding his body completely straight," they were expressing their take on sitting practice. Because neither of them had glimpsed the true meaning of sitting practice for themselves, they had no choice but to express a take on sitting practice. Only a person who knows all-out practice of sitting practice knows what it is to be without any take on sitting practice. And only when all takes on sitting-practice are dropped off is all-out practice truly all-out practice.

When I translate the first line as "First directing the body, as a whole, up," am I expressing an Alexander take on sitting practice? Or is it that I am the one who has truly endeavored to listen, so that "First directing the body, as a whole, up," is not an expression of an Alexandrian take on practice but is just Ashvaghosha's gold literally shining through? I don't know. But I think that for my life to be truly meaningful and serviceable, it has to be the latter.

In the end what does it mean, as a student of the Buddha, to throw oneself all-out into practice? Whether the practice is sitting-dhyana or translation, it might mean to do less and listen more.

If I have not truly been listening, then this whole blog is just a waste of time. If I have truly listened, then all this commentary is so much dust and fluff on top of gold. May the latter be the case! May the gold truly be in the bold.


EH Johnston:
Straightening all his body, he directed his attention on his body and, collecting all his sense-faculties in himself, he entered earnestly into the practice of Yoga.

Linda Covill:
Holding his body completely straight, directing his attention toward his body, and centering all his senses on himself, he began yogic practice in earnest.


VOCABULARY:
Rjum (acc. sg. m.): mfn. tending in a straight direction , straight (lit. and fig.) , upright
samagram (acc. sg. m.): mfn. all , entire , whole , complete
sam: ind. together, altogether
agra: mfn. foremost , anterior , first ; n. foremost point or part ; tip
praNidhaaya = abs. pra-Ni- √dhaa: to place in front ; to put down , deposit ; to put on , apply ; to turn or direct (the eyes or thoughts) upon (loc.)
pra: in front
ni: down, in
ni√dhaa: to put or lay down
√dhaa: to put, place
kaayam (acc. sg.): m. the body

kaaye (loc.): to the body
smRtim (acc. sg.): f. mindfulness, attention
ca: and
abhimukhiim (acc. sg. f.): mfn. with the face directed towards , turned towards , facing
vidhaaya = abs. vi- √ dhaa: to put in order , arrange , dispose , prepare , make ready ; make , do (like √ kR to be translated variously in connection with various nouns)

sarva: all
indriyaani = acc. pl. indriya: n. power of the senses, sense
aatmani = loc. sg. aatman: self ; the person or whole body considered as one and opposed to the separate members of the body; the body
saMnidhaaya = abs. saM-ni-√dhaa: to put or place down near together; to place together , collect , pile up

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
tatra: ind. there, then
yogam (acc. sg.): m. the act of yoking, practice
prayataH = nom. sg. m. prayata: mfn. outstretched , far-extended ; piously disposed , intent on devotion , ritually pure (also applied to a vessel and a place ), self-subdued , dutiful , careful , prudent; m. a holy or pious person
prapede = 3rd pers. sg. perf. pra-√pad: throw one's self down (at a person's feet) ; to go forwards set out for (with acc.); to undertake , commence , begin , do

Friday, January 15, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.3: Washing Feet & Crossing Legs; Tying Up to Come Undone

sa paadayos tatra vidhaaya shaucaM
shucau shive shriimati vRkSha-muule
mokShaaya baddhvaa vyavasaaya-kakShaaM
paryaNkam aNk'-aavahitaM babandha

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

17.3
Having washed his feet in that water,

He then, by a clean, auspicious, and splendid tree-root,

Girded on the intention to come undone,

And sat with legs fully crossed.


COMMENT:
The verb bandh, which appears in both the 3rd and 4th line means to bind or fasten. In the 3rd line it means to establish fixity of purpose as if binding or fastening on a girdle. In the 4th line it means to put the right foot on the left thigh and the left foot on the right thigh, so that the legs are as if all fastened together.

So there is an intentional irony in Ashvaghosha's description of Nanda binding himself for the purpose of coming undone (mokShaaya).

This intention to come undone, at least as I understand the Buddha's teaching of wanting little, is not necessarily tainted by the expectation of winning Salvation with a capital "S." It might have more to do with pursuit of what the American Alexander teacher Marjorie Barstow used to describe as "a little bit more ease." British Alexander teacher Marjory Barlow, again, used to speak of a "a little bit more lengthening, and then a little bit more widening, and a little bit more lengthening...." and so on.

Sitting on a round cushion with the legs fully crossed, compared with teetering about on two feet, drastically reduces a human being's mechanical degrees of freedom. But, engineers report, freedom and fixity go together. Something very free, like the freedom to turn of a well-oiled wheel, exercises its freedom around an axis which has to be relatively firmly fixed. If the axis if not firmly fixed, the result will not be a smoothly turning wheel (= sukha); the result will be hard going ( = duHkha).

So we restrict ourselves by this artificial manner of sitting -- a manner of sitting for which evolution did not equip us, a manner of sitting which is the culmination of conscious practice ( = yoga) -- in order to pursue a little bit more human freedom.

EH Johnston:
There by the clean, auspicious and splendid root of a tree, after bathing his feet and putting on the girdle of resolution for Salvation, he took up the Yogin's posture, bent over his lap.

Linda Covill:
He washed his feet there, and at a tree root, pure, auspicious and glorious, he girded himself with the resolve to win liberation and sat with his legs crossed and his hands in his lap.


VOCABULARY:
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
paadayoH = loc./gen. dual pada: m. foot
tatra: there
vidhaaya = abs. vi- √ dhaa: to put in order , arrange , dispose , prepare , make ready ; make , do (like √ kR to be translated variously in connection with various nouns)
shaucam (acc. sg.): n. cleanness , purity , purification

shucau = loc. shuci: mfn. gleaming; clear , clean , pure
shive = loc. shiva: auspicious , propitious , gracious , favourable , benign
shriimati = loc. shriimat: mfn. beautiful , charming , lovely , pleasant , splendid , glorious
vRksha-muule (loc. sg.): at/by the root of a tree
vRkSha: tree
muula: root

mokShaaya = dative mokSha: m. emancipation , liberation , release
baddhvaa = abs. bandh: to bind , tie , fix , fasten ; to join , unite , put together or produce anything in this way , e.g. fold (the hands) , clench (the fist) , knit or bend (the eyebrows) , arrange , assume (a posture)
vyavasaaya: (from vy-ava-√ so): m. strenuous effort or exertion ; settled determination , resolve , purpose , intention to
ava- √ so: to unharness (horses) , put up at any one's house , settle , rest to take , one's abode or standing-place in or upon (loc.)
√ so: (usually with prepositions ; » ava- , vy-ava- &c ), to destroy , kill , finish
ava: off, away, down
kakShaam = acc. sg. kakShaa: f. the armpit (as the most concealed part of the human body) , region of the girth; a girdle , zone , belt , girth

paryaNkam (acc. sg.): m. a particular mode of sitting on the ground
pari: ind. round , around , about , round about ; fully, abundantly, richly
aNka: m. a hook ; a curve ; the curve in the human , especially the female , figure above the hip (where infants sitting , astride are carried by mothers hence often = " breast " or " lap "); the bend in the arm ;any hook or crooked instrument ; a curved line ; any mark , line , stroke , ornament , stigma
avahitam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. plunged into (loc.) ; fallen into (as into water or into a hole of the ground); placed into , confined within ; attentive
babandha = 3rd pers. perf. sg. bandh: to bind, fasten etc; to join , unite , put together or produce anything in this way , e.g. fold (the hands) , clench (the fist) , knit or bend (the eyebrows) , arrange , assume (a posture)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.2: The Silent Stream

tatr'aavakaashaM mRdu-niila-shaShpaM
dadarsha shaantaM taru-ShaNDa-vantaM
niH-shabdayaa nimnagay"opaguuDhaM
vaiDuurya-niil'-odakayaa vahantyaa

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

17.2
There he saw a clearing,

A quiet glade, of soft deep-green grass,

Kept secret by a silent stream

Bearing water blue as beryl.


COMMENT:
"Soft deep-green grass " (mRdu-niila-shaShpam) EHJ identifies as durva grass, i.e. cynodon dactylon.

I think what Ashvaghosha is describing as "quiet" (shantam) and "silent" (nir-shabdayaa) is not absence of sound, but freedom from noise.

A "stream" (nimnagaa) Ashvagosha expresses as "running deep" (nimnagaa).

"Kept secret" (upaguuDham) might include the meaning "made magical" -- hence, he writes of "water blue as beryl" (vaiDuurya-niil'-odakam).

There may be many layers of secret meaning in this one verse that ask a practitioner of sitting-dhyana to keep going deeper, not being satisfied with the simplistic understanding of the Western punk rock venue, or the Eastern Zen temple, or military parade-grounds everywhere, that "It is not thinking," but to keep going deeper and asking first of all what thinking is.

Don't fix or pull down
But think, one-pointedly, up!
Then breath can be a silent stream
Going deeply down, in secret.




EH Johnston:
There he saw a quiet glade in a group of trees with soft duurvaa grass and surrounded by a stream running noiselessly with water blue as beryl.

Linda Covill:
There within a grove of trees he saw a peaceful clearing of soft dark grass, enfolded by a silent stream whose waters flowed beryl-blue.


VOCABULARY:
tatra: ind. there
avakaasham (acc. sg.): m. place , space ; room , occasion , opportunity
mRdum: mfn. soft , delicate , tender , pliant , mild , gentle
niila: mfn. of a dark colour , (esp.) dark-blue or dark-green or black ; dyed with indigo; n. dark (the colour) , darkness ;
shaShpam (acc. sg.): n. young or sprouting grass , any grass ; loss of consciousness

dadarsha: he saw
shaantam (acc. sg.): mfn. (fr. √ sham) appeased , pacified , tranquil , calm , free from passions , undisturbed
taru-ShaNDavantaM = acc. sg. m. taru-ShaNDavant: having a group of trees; a glade
taru: m. a tree
ShaNDa: a group of trees or plants , wood , thicket (always ifc.)
-vant: (possessive suffix)

niH-shabdayaa = inst. f. niH-shabda: noiseless, silent, still
nimnagayaa = inst. nimnagaa: f. " going downwards , descending " , a river , mountain-stream
nimna: mfn. deep (lit. and fig.) , low , depressed , sunk
upaguuDham (acc. sg. ): mfn. hidden , concealed , covered ; clasped round , embraced
upa: towards, under
guuDha: mfn. covered , hidden , concealed , invisible , secret , private ; disguised

vaiDuurya-niil'-odakayaa (inst. sg. f.): having beryl-blue water
vaiDuurya: a cat's-eye gem (ifc. " a jewel " , = " anything excellent of its kind "); beryl
niila: mfn. of a dark colour , (esp.) dark-blue or dark-green or black
udaka: n. water
vahantyaa = inst. sg. f. vahat (pres. part. of vah, to carry): bearing along

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.1: Walking the Walk to the Forest

ath'aivam aadeshita-tattva-maargo
Nandas tadaa praapta-vimokSha-maargaH
sarveNa bhaavena gurau praNamya
klesha-prahaaNaaya vanaM jagaama

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

17.1
Thus was the path to reality pointed out.

Then Nanda, a path of release receiving him in,

Bowed with his whole being before the guru

And, for the letting go of afflictions,
he made for the forest.


COMMENT:
For the past five cantos, the best of talkers has been talking the best of talks. Now Ashvaghosha resumes his narrative of how Nanda walked the best of walks.


EH Johnston:
So Nanda was thus instructed in the path to reality and then, entering the Path of Salvation, he did reverence to the Guru with all his heart and departed to the forest to eliminate the vices.

Linda Covill:
So, having had the path to reality pointed out to him, Nanda arrived at liberation's path; with his whole heart he paid homage to the guru and set out for the forest in order to abandon the defilements.

VOCABULARY:
atha: ind. inceptive particle
evam: ind. thus
aadeshitaH = nom. sg. m. past. part. causitive aa-√ diz: to aim at , have in view ; to hit ; to assign ; to point out , indicate ; teach
tattva: n. true or real state , truth , reality
maargaH (nom. sg.): m. m. (in most meanings fr. mRga , of which it is also the vRddhi form in comp.) seeking , search , tracing out , hunting ; the track of a wild animal , any track , road , path

NandaH (nom. sg. m.): Nanda
tadaa: ind. then, at that time
praapta: mfn. attained to , reached , arrived at , met with , found
praap: to attain to, reach, find; to obtain, receive ; to be present
vimokSha: m. the being loosened or undone ; release , deliverance
maargaH (nom. sg.): m. path

sarveNa = inst. sarva: all
bhaavena = inst. bhaava: being ; the seat of the feelings or affections , heart , soul , mind
gurau (loc.): to the guru
praNamya = abs. praNam (fr. √nam): to bend or bow down before

klesha: m. pain , affliction , distress
prahaaNaaya = dat. prahaaNa: n. relinquishing, abandoning
vanam (acc. sg.): n. forest
jagaama: he went