Friday, January 1, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 15.69: ... Then Direct the Mind Freely

yathaa ca sva-cchandaad upanayati karm'-aashraya-sukhaM
suvarNam karmaaro bahu-vidham alaMkaara-vidhiShu
manaH-shuddho bhikShur vasha-gatam abhijNaasv api tathaa
yath"-ecchaM yatr'-ecchaM shamayati manaH prerayati ca

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

saundara-nande mahaa-kaavye
vitarka-prahaaNo naama paNca-dashaH sargaH
= - - = = - = = =
- = = - = = = - = - - = = =

Again, just as the smith brings gold to a state
where he can work it easily

In as many ways as he likes into all kinds of ornaments,

So too a beggar of cleansed mind tempers his mind,

And directs his yielding mind
among the powers of knowing,
as he wishes and wherever he wishes.

The 15th canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda,
titled "Giving Up an Idea."

My New Year's resolution is that if and whenever an Alexander-based "take" on practice threatens to assert itself in me, I will dig deeper and give it up -- lest it causes me to fear my own insincerity.

"Digging deeper" belongs to the metaphor of mining for gold. It means going deeper within myself, so as more truly to let go of faults, so as to be able to direct the mind consciously, where I want it to go -- so as more truly to inhibit and direct.

In the end even the metaphor of mining, separating out, and smelting gold is a metaphor -- an expedient means, a white lie, an idea to be given up. But when I write of what FM Alexander called inhibition and direction, I am not using a metaphor. I am writing about real practice -- a practice of letting go of faults and of directing the mind -- that I came back to England 15 years ago to investigate.

I made this journey home not so that I might have my own Alexander "take" on practice, but because I understood that something about my Zen teacher's take on practice (with his "true Buddhism," "keeping the spine straight vertically" and the like) wasn't true, and I understood from a few lessons in Japan that there was something (or a bit of nothing) in Alexander work that was amazingly true.

With help from Alexander teachers in England, in particular a wise and wonderful teacher named Nelly Ben-Or, I began to understand that a take on the Buddha's teaching can never be true, and this Canto emphasizes that very point. The Buddha's teaching is, giving up all takes on practice, to let go of faults and direct the mind, in short, to inhibit and direct.

Inhibition and direction are in fact not separate things. As Nelly has said, "Direction is the truest form of inhibition." But direction without inhibition might be like trying to smelt gold before any dirt has been washed away.

A beggar has no cleansed mind to direct until he begins separating it from the faults. At the same time, a beggar of cleansed mind becomes a beggar of cleansed mind, and tempers his mind, in the very process of directing his mind.

So which is first: inhibition or direction?

Alexander's answer is in the question.
The Buddha's answer is in this and the previous verse.

EH Johnston:
And as the goldsmith at his will reduces the gold in many ways so as to be easy to work in the various kinds of ornaments, so when the mendicant's mind is cleansed and has also secured control of the super-natural sciences, he reduces it to tranquillity and employs it as he will and where he will.

Linda Covill:
And as the goldsmith brings gold to a good state for working at will into various ornaments of many kinds, so too the monk of cleansed mind pacifies his mind, so that it is under his control, and then directs it as he wishes, wherever he wishes among the supernormal faculties."
End of Canto 15: Abandoning Notions

yathaa: just as
ca: and
sva-cchandaat = abl. sva-cchanda: m. one's own or free will , one's own choice of fancy (sva-cchandaat , °dena , or °da-tas , " at one's own will or pleasure " , " spontaneously " , " independently " , " freely ")
upanayati = 3rd pers. sg. upa- √ nii: to lead or drive near , bring near , bring
karm'-aashraya-sukham (acc. sg. n.): easy to work
karma = in comp. for karman: n. action, work, activity
aashraya: mfn. ifc. depending on , resting on , endowed or furnished with
sukha: mfn. running swiftly or easily (applied to cars or chariots); agreeable , gentle , mild
sukham: ind. easily , comfortably , pleasantly , joyfully, willingly (with inf. = " easy to ")

suvarNam (acc. sg.): n. gold
karmaaraH (nom. sg.): m. craftsman, smith
bahu-vidham: ind. diversely , in several directions , up and down
alaMkaara: m. the act of decorating ; ornament , decoration
vidhiShu = loc. pl. vidhi: m. method, means

manaH-shuddhaH (nom. sg. m.): of cleansed mind
bhikShuH (nom. sg.): m. m. a beggar , mendicant , religious mendicant
vasha-gatam (nom./acc. sg. n.): mfn. subject to the will (of another) , being in the power of, obedient
vasha: m. will , wish , desire; authority , power , control , dominion (acc. with verbs of going e.g. with √ gam " to fall into a person's [gen.] power , become subject or give way to ")
abhijNaasu = loc. pl. abhijNa: f. f. remembrance , recollection ; f. supernatural science or faculty of a buddha (of which five are enumerated , viz. 1. taking any form at will ; 2. hearing to any distance ; 3. seeing to any distance ; 4. penetrating men's thoughts ; 5. knowing their state and antecedents).
api: also
tathaa: so, likewise

yath"eccham: ind. according to wish , at will or pleasure , agreeably
yatr'-eccham: wherever the wish
shamayati (3rd pers. sg. causitive sham): he appeases , allays , pacifies , calms , soothes , settles
manaH = acc. sg. manas: n. mind
prerayati (3rd per. sg. causitive pra- √iir ): he sets in motion , drives forwards , urges , stimulates , excites ; he sends , dispatches ; he turns , directs (the eyes)
ca: and

saundara-nande mahaa-kaavye (loc.): in the epic poem Handsome Nanda
vitarka-prahaaNaH (nom. sg. m.): Giving Up an Idea
naama: by name
paNca-dashaH sargaH (nom. sg. m.): 15th canto

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