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

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

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.

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.

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)

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