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

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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.

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.

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

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