Saturday, May 29, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 1.52: A City in Balance and with Spirit

a-saMkiirNam an-aakulaM

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

Crowded with elephants, horses, and chariots,

The city was not congested and not disordered;

Material wealth was not hidden from the needy,

But learning and spirit ran secret and deep.

The accusative singular neuter subject of this and the next three verses is tat puram (that city) in 1.55.

The sense of order already conveyed in 1.48 is underlined in this verse in which Ashvaghosha further conveys a sense of antagonistic balance by opposing in the first two lines

saMkiirNam (crowded)
a-saMkiirNam (not congested; see also 1.7);

and by opposing in the second two lines

a-niguuDha (not hidden, not squirreled away)
niguuDha (hidden, secret, running deep).

Antagonistic balance is what FM Alexander was getting at with his directions to let the head go FORWARD and UP (because too much forward and the head goes down, while too much up and the head pulls back), to let the back LENGTHEN and WIDEN.

Just at the moment when the stimulus comes that might put us wrong, can we deal with that stimulus in such a way that the back continues to be full (saMkiirNa) of lengthening without becoming congested (asaMkiirNa) by stiffening and narrowing?

Can we sit in lotus, for example, carving out a few feet of solitude for ourself in space, to let the back lengthen and widen?

Speaking for myself, if the stimulus is to sit in lotus amid the quiet circumstances of the forest, then, Yes, on good days I generally can allow my back to lengthen and widen, while sending my legs out from an expanded pelvis. On a good day I am thus enabled to explore the foothills of the 2nd dhyana, born of balanced stillness.

But if the stimulus is a loud noise that seems suddenly to violate my nervous system, the answer generally is, No I can't cope at all. In this state, I seem unable to get any kind of foothold on any uphill path.

Yesterday while doing the washing up, I carelessly knocked over a chopping board that was draining against the kitchen wall; the falling chopping block knocked a plate onto the floor which shattered with a loud and piercing sound. Briefly I was in the grip of tremendous emotion which felt like rage but truly, upon reflection, was fear. It might have been a momentary glimpse into the enigmatic world of the autistic child.

This inability to filter out a noisy stimulus is a weakness in me, the cause of imbalance. A countervailing strength, if there is one, is that I may be more aware than I used to be that the imbalance has its original roots in vestibular dysfunction, and particularly in an auditory Moro reflex.

Life that is full and yet not congested or disordered, whether we are talking civic life or individual life, is balanced. In countries recently in the news as far apart as Greece in the west, and Pakistan and Thailand in the east, a certain lack of order seems to be associated with the efforts of more privileged citizens to concentrate resources in their own hands. The rich everywhere squirrel their resources away from the needy, letting the burden of taxation fall primarily on the poor man. So Greek youths riot; the heads of poor Pakistani households kill themselves in desperation, or else they turn to Taliban leaders who, in their turn, start concentrating resources in their own hands; and disaffected Thais join the red-shirt movement. If such unrest, stemming from widening inequality, spreads to China, then we all may be in very big trouble. Is there a political solution to this kind of problem? I don't know. Politics is not my area. I am more interested in balance and imbalance, primarily in myself. And all kinds of imbalance, in the final analysis, seem to me always to come back to the faulty working of the vestibular system of an individual human being.

Perhaps the implicit message of the last two lines is to observe that the more balanced we are, the less interested we are likely to be in squirreling away material resources and the more interested in inner resourcefulness.

Speaking of inner resourcefulness, and spirit, today Britain is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the evacuation of its troops from Dunkirk, following what Winston Churchill, looking the bugger squarely in the eye, called "a collosal military disaster." My Alexander head of training, the late Ray Evans, looked back on that time, for all its privations, as the best of times -- because "we were all pulling together." The last two lines seem to be saying that, even more valuable than economic prosperity, if we could get it back, might be a bit of Britain's old Dunkirk spirit.

EH Johnston:
The city was crowded with elephants, horses and chariots, yet it was not polluted or disorderly. Wealth was not kept back from those in need there and it harboured learning and manly vigour.

Linda Covill:
The city itself was crowded with elephants, horses and chariots, yet it was not in confusion nor disorder. Its wealth lay open to the needy, while learning and courage were closely tended.

hasty-ashva-ratha-saMkiirNam (acc. sg. n.): crowded with elephants, horses, and chariots
hastin: mfn. having hands , clever or dexterous with the hands ; (with mRga , " the animal with a hands i.e. with a trunk " , an elephant ); having (or sitting on) an elephant ; m. an elephant
ashva: horse
ratha: m. " goer " , a chariot , car , esp. a two-wheeled war-chariot, any vehicle or equipage or carriage , waggon , cart
saMkiirNa: mfn. poured together , mixed , commingled &c ; crowded with , full of (comp.) ; mingled , confused , disordered , adulterated , polluted , impure ; born of a mixed marriage ; mixed , miscellaneous , of various kinds , manifold

a-saMkiirNam (acc. sg. n.): not crowded, not congested
an-aakulam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. not beset ; not confused , unperplexed , calm , consistent , regular.
aakula: mfn. confounded , confused , agitated , flurried ; confused (in order) , disordered ; filled , full , overburdened with (instr. or generally in comp.) , eagerly occupied

a-niguuDh'-aarthi-vibhavam (acc. sg. n.): with wealth not being hidden from the needy
a-niguuDha: mfn. not concealed, unhidden, open
guuDha: mfn. covered , hidden , concealed , invisible , secret , private; disguised
√guh: cover , conceal , hide , keep secret
aarthin: one who wants or desires anything; a beggar , petitioner , suitor
vibhava: mfn. powerful , rich; m. being everywhere , omnipresence; m. development ; m. power , might , greatness , exalted position; wealth , money , property , fortune ; m. luxury , anything sumptuary or superfluous

niguuDha-jNaana-pauruSham (acc. sg. n.): with its knowledge and human spirit hidden
niguuDha: mfn. concealed , hidden , secret , obscure (lit. and fig.)
jNaana: n. knowing , becoming acquainted with , knowledge , (esp.) the higher knowledge
pauruSha: a man , male , human being ; person ; a friend ; the personal and animating principle in men and other beings , the soul or spirit

1 comment:

Mike Cross said...

In his introduction to Buddha-carita (pp 83), EHJ explains why he thinks he should have amended asaṁkīrṇam anākulam to make a single compound: asaṁkīrṇa-janākulam.

asaṁkīrṇa: not densely populated, not commingled
jana: people
ākula: filled with

The city was filled with not crowded people (i.e. individuals with space and time?)