Thursday, February 4, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 17.23: Standing Up In Sitting

saj-jNaana-caapaH smRti-varma baddhvaa
klesh'-aaribhish citta-raN'-aajira-sthaiH
saardhaM yuyutsur vijayaaya tasthau

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

As a bow of true knowledge,
clad in the armour of mindfulness,

Standing up in a chariot of pure practice of integrity,

While his enemies, the afflictions,
stood up in the battlefield of the mind,

He took his stance for victory,
ready to engage them in battle.

In line 1 as I read it, Nanda is likened to a bow, or a bowman; and mindfulness, not for the first time, is likened to armour.

In line 2 the pure practice of integrity is likened to a chariot.

In line 3, Nanda's enemies are identified as the afflictions, and where they are is in his own mind. His enemies, the afflictions, are nowhere out there in the world, but only in him.

And so the battle lines are drawn up, and Nanda's quest for the nectar of immortality is about to begin in earnest.

That this quest is to be depicted as a battle on a battlefield befits an epic poem. Ashvaghosha uses the same device in describing the Buddha's own conquest over Mara in Buddhacarita Canto 13, Defeat of Mara.

This verse, then, depicts Nanda standing up on one side of a battlefield, and his enemies the afflictions standing up on the other side, so that the two sides stand ready to engage. But the real truth, which is not a metaphor, is that Nanda was not standing up in any battlefield: rather, by a quiet stream, in full lotus, directing his whole body up, he was sitting.

This, in fact, is where the real battle with Mara takes place -- not literally on a battlefield, but sitting at a quiet place like by a forest stream, and allowing the neck to be free, to allow the head to go forward and up, to allow the back to lengthen and widen, while allowing the legs out of the pelvis, so that not the slightest trace of Mara remains.

Now if I proclaim that, with all my true knowledge of the teaching of Zen Master Dogen, and the teaching of FM Alexander, and all my unique and original insights into the connection between four vestibular reflexes (beginning with the Moro reflex) and four Alexander directions, I have defeated Mara so that no trace of Mara remains... that had better be true. Because, if I announce myself like that and even the slightest trace of Mara does remain, then nothing is more sure than the fact that Mara has defeated me.

It seems to me that if a fake elephant convinces himself that he has defeated Mara when in fact Mara has just defeated him, that situation is very unfavourable. It is the essence of self-delusion, and not a true basis for anything. If I claimed never to have made that mistake, such a claim might not be true.

Conversely, when true Buddha having truly defeated Mara, truly announces "I am Buddha, the perfectly enlightened one," that might be the most favourable situation imaginable for human beings in the world at that time.

And in the middle way between these two situations, and this is what I was getting at yesterday, is a situation in which, even though we haven't defeated Mara yet, we are honestly struggling, as works in progress, towards what is truly valuable.

Because of his honest struggle towards true value, I revered my Zen teacher and I served him. I experienced what it is like to work as a work in progress, with a work in progress, on a work in progress. But because my teacher turned out in his old age to be just a fake elephant with a non-Buddhist agenda of his own, who settled for convincing himself that he was enlightened when he wasn't, I have continued to despise ... who? Primarily myself, for being the innocent sap whom the little end-gaining bookworm duped most thoroughly with all his bull-shit about a "philosophy of action" and "meeting the real dragon."

So, in this situation, true mindfulness is called for, as is self-acceptance. Because when a practitioner hates another and despises himself, the only one who gains is Mara.

EH Johnston:
Holding the bow of holy knowledge, girding on the armour of attentiveness and taking up his post on the chariot of the vows of pure discipline, he prepared for victory, ready to join battle with the foes of the vices arrayed on the battlefield of the thoughts.

Linda Covill:
With his bow of true knowledge, binding on his armor of mindfulness,
standing in his chariot of pure vows of moral self-restraint, he stood determined to fight for victory against his enemy, the defilements, which were ranged in the battlefield of his mind.

saj-jNaana-caapaH (nom. sg. m.): bow of true knowledge
sat: mfn. real , actual , as any one or anything ought to be , true , good
jNaana: n. knowing , becoming acquainted with , knowledge , (esp.) the higher knowledge
caapa: m. a bow
smRti-varma (nom./acc. sg.): armour of mindfulness
smRti: mindfulness, attention
varman: n. armour
baddhvaa = abs. bandh: to bind round , put on; to fix , direct , fasten

vishuddha: mfn. completely cleansed or purified (also in a ritual sense) , clean , clear , pure (lit.and fig.)
shiila: n. integrity, moral conduct, discipline
vrata: n. will; a religious vow or practice , any pious observance , meritorious act of devotion or austerity , solemn vow , rule , holy practice (as fasting , continence; any vow or firm purpose , resolve to (dat. loc. , or comp.)
vaahana: n. the act of making effort , endeavouring , exertion; n. the act of drawing , bearing , carrying , conveying; n. any vehicle or conveyance or draught-animal , carriage , chariot , waggon , horse , elephant
sthaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. standing, being situated in; occupied with , engaged in , devoted to performing , practising

klesha: affliction
aaribhiH = inst. pl. ari: m. an enemy
citta: n. the heart, mind
raNaajira: n. area or arena for fighting , battle-field
raNa: n. battle (as an object of delight) , war , combat , fight , conflict
ajira: n. place to run or fight in , area , court
sthaiH = inst. pl. stha: mfn. standing in

saardham: ind. jointly , together , along with , with (instr.)
yuyutsuH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (from desiderative yudh) wishing to fight, eager for battle , pugnacious
yudh: to fight , wage war , oppose in battle
vijayaaya = dative vijaya: m. contest for victory , victory , conquest , triumph , superiority
tasthau = 3rd pers. perfect sthaa: to stand , stand firmly , station one's self

No comments: