Friday, January 8, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 16.43 to 16.52: Energetic Preparation

16.43
shirasy atho vaasasi sampradiipte
saty' aavabodhaaya matir vicaaryaa
dagdhaM jagat satya-nayam hy adRShTvaa
pradahyate samprati dhakShyate ca

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16.43
Though your head and clothes be on fire

Direct your mind so as to be awake to the truths.

For in failing to see the purport of the truths,
the world has burned,

It is burning now, and it will burn.



16.44
yad" aiva yaH pashyati naama-ruupaM
kShay" iiti tad darshanam asya samyak
samyak ca nirvedam upaiti pashyan
nandii-kShayaac ca kShayam eti raagaH

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16.44
When a man sees a separate bodily form

As decrepit, that insight of his is accurate;

In seeing accurately he is disenchanted

And his optimism ends,
as a result of which redness fades away.


16.45
tayosh ca nandii-rajasoH kShayeNa
samyag vimuktam pravadaami cetaH
samyag vimuktir manasash ca taabhyaaM
na c' aasya bhuuyaH karaNiiyam asti

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16.45
By the ending of the duality
which is optimism and pessimism,

I submit, his mind is fully set free.

And when his mind is fully liberated from that duality,

There is nothing further for him to do.


16.46
yathaa-svabhaavena hi naama-ruupaM
tadd-hetum ev' aasta-gamaM ca tasya
vijaanataH pashyata eva c' aaham
braviimi samyak kShayam aasravaaNaam

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16.46
For in him who sees a separate bodily form as it is,

And who sees its origin and passing away,

From the very fact of his knowing and seeing,

I predict the complete stopping of outflows.


16.47
tasmaat paraM saumya vidhaaya viiryaM
shiighraM ghaTasv aasrava saMkShayaaya
duHkhaan a-nityaaMsh ca nir-aatmakaaMsh ca
dhaatunn visheSheNa pariikShamaaNaH

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16.47
So my friend garner your energy greatly

And strive quickly to stop off outflows,

Examining in detail
-- as suffering and impermanent and devoid of self --

The elements.


16.48
dhaatuun hi ShaD bhuu-salil-aanal-aadiin
saamaanyataH svena ca lakShaNena
avaiti yo n'aanyam avaiti tebhyaH
so' tyantikaM mokSham avaiti tebhyaH

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16.48
For in knowing the six elements
of earth, water, fire and the rest,

Generically, and each as specific to itself,

He who knows nothing else but them,

Knows total release from them.


16.49
klesha-prahaaNaaya ca nishcitena
kaalo 'bhyupaayash ca pariikShitavyaH
yogo 'py a-kaale hy an-upaayatash ca
bhavaty an-arthaaya na tad-guNaaya

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16.49
One set on giving up the afflictions, then,

Should attend to timing and method;

For even formal practice,
done at the wrong time and relying on wrong means,

Makes for disappointment and not for the desired end.


16.50
a-jaata-vatsaaM yadi gaaM duhiita
n' aaiv' aapnuyaat kShiiram a-kaala-dohii
kaale' pi vaa syaan na payo labheta
mohena shRNgaad yadi gaaM duhiita

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16.50
If a cow is milked before her calf is born,

Milking at the wrong time will yield no milk.

Or even at the right time no milk will be got

If, through ignorance, a cow is milked by the horn.


16.51
aardraac ca kaaShThaaj jvalan-aabhikaamo
n' aiva prayatnaad api vanhim Rcchet
kaaShThaac ca shuShkaad api paatanena
n' aaiv' aagnim aapnoty an-upaaya-puurvaM

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16.51
Again, one who wants fire from damp wood,

Try as he might, will not get fire.

And even if he lays down dry wood,

He won't get fire from that, with bad bushcraft.

16.52
tad-desha-kaalau vidhivat pariikShya
yogasya maatraam api c'aabhyupaayaM
bal'-aa-bale c' aatmani sampradhaarya
kaaryaH prayatno na tu tad-viruddhaH

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16.52
Having given due consideration to the time and place

As well as to the extent and method
of one's formal practice,

One should,
reflecting on one's own strength and weakness,

Persist in an effort that is not inconsistent with them.


COMMENT:
16.43 can be read as a bridge between the two halves of this Canto, the more descriptive first half and the more prescriptive second half.

The second half of this Canto, as I read it, is all about direction of energy. And, because in the teaching of buddhas not doing the wrong thing always comes first, the Buddha's exhortation that Nanda should direct the flow of his own energy begins with an exhortation to stop off leaks of energy, or aasravas. Aasrava literally means "outflow." For me, verses 16.46 and 16.47 leave little room for doubt -- if there was any doubt already -- that when the Buddha spoke of "outflows," he was referring to leaks of energy.

A few weeks ago I saw an interview with the actress Jane Horrocks, who talked about how she mainly pays attention, during a day when she will be appearing on stage in the evening, to her energy levels.

Anybody who is engaged in a challenging form of practice, whether playig the lead in a stage play, or playing in a big rugby match, or looking forward to an evening traning session under a demanding martial arts instructor, will probably say the same: on big days (or indeed on nights before big days) energy can't afford to be wasted. And maybe this becomes even more true after one joins the over-50s club.

As an old surfer friend of mine told me from his experience: "Everything goes in waves" -- because everything is energy. And in this case everything means not only the Big Four but also space and consciousness.

The view that in the Buddha's teaching mindfulness (smRti) comes from concentrating on one's own breathing, is nothing other than a view. Mindfulness as the Buddha has been describing it in these cantos is a kind of energy, a protective force-field against faults. And this kind of mindfulness doesn't come from anything. It is there in everything.

I sincerely hope that in writing this, I have not replaced one wrong view with another. I fear that I have. At the same time, I know that Marjory Barlow taught me something about mindfulness as an energy, or protective force-field, that had got nothing to do with an end-gaining practice like concentrating on one's own breathing.

4 comments:

jiblet said...

Hi Mike,

I really don't know what Ashvasghosha's Buddha's view of the relation between 'smRti/mindfulness', 'dhyAna' and 'aan'-aapaana-smRtiM/mindfulness of inward and outward breathing' was, or what those ideas meant to him, or what his practice was. I know what my practice is (?), and it doesn't involve being pro-actively mindful of my breath.

But I can't help hearing this:

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

and this:

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

and this:

"So for the giving up,
In short, of all these ideas,
Mindfulness of inward and outward breathing, my friend,
You should make into your own possession."

as very pro-active recommendations indeed...to do with being mindful of the breath, so as to 'cleanse the mind' (which, as such, I'm not yet inclined to follow).

But that's just me. And I'm not so clever. Really.

Mike Cross said...

Thanks jiblet. Clever, or not clever, jew or non-jew, you have something I admire, in your dogged pursuit of the truth. But seeing as I have never met you in person, it might only be another case of the mirror principle at work!

The difficulty I think relates to what FM Alexnder called end-gaining vs the means-whereby.

Although the two are opposite conceptions, and opposite approaches in practice, the difference can be very subtle.

But "those who have no fish to fry, the see it all right."

As long as we have any fish to fry, we turn any practice into end-gaining.

So "just sitting," for example, becomes a kind of rigid straining for "correct posture."

And what people call "mindfulness of breathing," thinking their practice to be non-interference, is in fact just concentration, feeling, doing; in short, just interference.

In order to be truly mindful of breathing, as I understand that practice, one first has to be truly mindful.

And true mindfulness, if that is what I experienced on Marjory Barlow's teaching table, as I am confident it was, arises not from end-gaining, but precisely from giving up one's end-gaining idea.

In sum, mindfulness of breathing, as I see it, is not a technique for cleansing the mind. If you understand it like that, it is just a tainted practice.

Cleansing the mind means, as a starting point, waking up to and giving up one's end-gaining idea. Mindfulness follows from that. And when one is safely clad in the armour of mindfulness, then one is free to attend to whatever the hell one likes.

This point is at the centre of Dogen's teaching in Shobogenzo. But even though I spent 15 years translating that teaching, the penny didn't begin to drop for me until I got help from Alexander teachers. And there are days, not a few days, when the penny still doesn't seem to drop.

There again, I am quite a clever bloke, and quite well educated as well.

Alexander said of his work, "A child of three can understand this work, but give me a man who's been educated, and God help me!"

jiblet said...

Thanks for that, Mike. Even without the benefit of Alexander practice, it chimes with my experience of non-rigid (I believe) sitting, and with my understanding of the Shobogenzo.

But I don't hear Ashvaghosha saying the same thing.

Mike Cross said...

Thanks jiblet.

If you don't hear in this translation a view that I strongly hold, that might be a good sign that the translation is on track in spite of the translator.