Saturday, May 22, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 1.45: Real Power, Sovereign Power

tad-bhuumer abhiyoktRRNaaM
prayuktaan vinivRttaye
yatra svena prabhaavena
bhRtya-daNDaan ajiijapan

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

The professional soldiers they employed there

To repel assailants from their territory

They caused, by their sovereign power,

To be victorious in battle.

EHJ notes that in Indian political science prabhaava (as in line 3) is defined as the strength derived from a king's treasury and army.

The phrase "by their sovereign power" (svena prabhaavena), as I read it, underlines the point I was trying to make yesterday; i.e., that Ashvaghosha is pointedly not portraying the history of Kapilavastu as a random jumble of dependently-originated reactions to an a priori caste system and other ancient Indian circumstances. Rather, Ashvaghosha is portraying the Shakya princes as the prime movers in the founding of a city-state, as the big beasts at the top of a food chain. Brahmins and kshatriyas are like the monkey to the Shakya princes' organ-grinder. In their prayer and in their combat, the brahmin priests and kshatriya warriors are like puppets and hired hands, without sovereignty over themselves. It is the Shakya princes who are pulling the strings.

Does this verse relate in any way to the one great matter? Yes, I think it does, very much so. Because just as in the course of human history all men are not equal, so too, in the business of sitting, a certain hierarchy is at work.

Use of the head, neck and back, as FM Alexander strove to clarify and to demonstrate, is the primary thing.

Again, a great exponent and teacher of traditional Okinawan hard-soft karate-do named Morio Higaonna used to speak of "karate power." By karate power, Higaonna Sensei did not mean only the power of the external musculature. He meant primarily power in the belly, in the heart, in the brain, and up the spine.

About 25 years ago in a very cold karate dojo in Kiyose near Tokyo, Higaonna Sensei pointed laughingly at my purple toes and said, Mike! Chi no meguri ga warui ne? "Mike, your blood circulation is poor, isn't it?" The Master's words stuck in my mind, because I couldn't see why he found it so funny. It was only several years later, after marrying my Japanese wife, that I got the joke. Having poor circulation (chi no meguri ga warui) is a colloquial expression for being slow on the uptake.

This week I have been cycling up hills every day in preparation to cycle next week to my dojo in France -- my wife will drop me off at the overnight ferry in Portsmouth, and all being well I will spend the next day cycling the 70 miles or so through the French countryside, using a dry bag stuffed with clothes as an impromptu zafu along the way. I notice my body responding favourably to the physical challenge of cycling up hills, like when I am working long hours out in the garden in France. Maybe finally I am beginning to get Higaonna Sensei's point about what true power is, which is not only muscular power, and still less political power.

So for me this morning these words of Ashvaghosha in line 3 of today's verse, svena prabhaavena, "by sovereign power," have been what is called in Dogen's Shobogenzo ICHI-TEN-GO, "words of total transformation" or "a turning word."

svena prabhaavena might be a word or two that invites you, even if your name is Billy No Mates, to sit by your own sovereign power as king of the Universe.

EH Johnston:
There by their regal might they led to victory their military forces which were employed only in repelling assailants of that land (and not in aggression).

Linda Covill:
Here by their own authority they raised a victorious army of soldiers, drafted to turn back invaders from their land.

tad-bhuumeH (gen./abl. sg.): of/from that territory
tad: that
bhuumi: f. the earth , soil , ground ; a territory. country
abhiyoktRRNaam = gen. pl. abhi-yoktR: mfn. assailing , attacking; m. an enemy

prayuktaan = acc. pl. m. prayukta: mfn. yoked , harnessed ; directed , thrown ;urged , ordered , bidden ; used , employed
vinivRttaye = dat. sg. vinivRtti: f. cessation , coming to an end; omission , discontinuance
vi-ni- √ vRt : to turn back , return ; to turn away , desist or cease from (abl.) ; to cease , end , disappear

yatra: ind. at which place
svena (inst. sg.): by their own
prabhaavena = inst. sg. prabhaava: m. might , power , majesty , dignity , strength , efficacy

bhRtya-daNDaan (acc. pl.): professional military forces
bhRtya: mfn. to be nourished or maintained ; m. one who is to be maintained , a dependent , servant (also the servant of a king , a minister); f. support , maintenance , wages &c (= bhRti)
bhRti: f. bearing , carrying , bringing , fetching ; support , maintenance , nourishment , food ; hire , wages or service for wages
daNDaan = acc. pl. daNDa: m. a stick , staff , rod , pole , cudgel , club ; embodied power , army
ajiijapan = 3rd pers. pl. causitive aorist ji: to win or acquire (by conquest or in gambling) , conquer (in battle) ; to expel from (abl.) ; to be victorious , gain the upper hand

No comments: