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

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

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.

"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.

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


Al said...


I was wondering, whilst sitting do you frequently give your self the primary directions(ex; let the neck be free,etc...)often or only once at the commencement of sitting.

These directions have completely changed my sitting over the course of the past year(for the better).



Mike Cross said...

Hi Al,

Good question!

My honest answer is that it varies. Sometimes I tend to be more verbal, sometimes more non-verbal.

Either way, whether the directions are verbalized one after the other, or whether they are given non-verbally all together, the constant question that they pose is what it really means to LET or to ALLOW an undoing, as opposed to doing a doing.

For blokes like me (and you judging from your pic.) with a background in heavy doing, the directions truly can be a revelation. As you suggest, for the likes of us, Alexander directions can be turning words for a complete change.

Keep up the good work!


Mike Cross said...


I think it is true to add that when I am sitting out under the trees in the forest air, surrounded by bird song and the sound of the stream running by, I tend to verbalize the directions much less, if at all.

Sitting in nature, in other words, it seems easier to allow the right thing to do itself.

Using the metaphor of the 2nd law of thermodynamics, we could say that the verbal directions help us to break down activation energy barriers. And the more favourable conditions break down those barriers for us and invite us into the flow, the less necessary verbal directions are.

But having said that, I always remember Marjory Barlow's advice: "Never let a day go by without coming back to those words."

Al said...

Hi Mike,

Thanks for all the encouraging words!

The revelation for me is that these directions have revealed and relieved my tendency to put "strength" into everything. I've begun to see that my "willing" everything closes off more than it breaks down. This has been a huge relief. I've begun to see some other interesting carryover in my field of strength training that I don't have the time to type about right now, but would love to share at some point.

The other interesting thing about the directions seems to be how they take the form of a question. Instead of my normal mode of thinking(discriminating) where I'm telling myself what to do, the directions seem to provide a certain space whereby I must wait for my body/mind to answer. This is very relieving and fun!

I suppose I need to try sitting in nature. My offices(where I usually sit) A/C unit isn't quite the same :o)

I think I understand though. Our body is like a tuning instrument that is keyed by a natural habitat.

Thank you again for all of your help.



jiblet said...

Hi Mike -

I think "saMcalayaaM cakaara" is a periphrastic perfect.

M.R Kale's "A Higher Sanskrit Grammar" says -

"The [P.Perf.] is formed by adding 'Am' to the root and then adding the forms of the reduplicated perfect of 'kR', 'bhu', or 'as' as terminations. (MW has: "calI - √kr, to cause to move").

Mike Cross said...

Many thanks indeed, jiblet, for clearing that up. Your attention and intervention as always are very much appreciated.