Wednesday, June 30, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.21: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Soft Power & True Defiance

klesh'-aarhaan api kaaMsh cit tu
n'aakliShTa kliShTa-karmaNaH
aarya-bhaavaac ca n'aaghukShad
dviShato 'pi sato guNaan

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

Those few doers of harsh deeds,
though they deserved harsh treatment,

He did not treat harshly;

And due to his noble nature he never cast a veil

Over the virtues of a true, albeit defiant man.

Implicit in this verse might be the observation that really seeing the truth does not always fill a man with skittish enthusiasm and gullible affirmation of conventional wisdom; sometimes seeking the truth and seeing the truth goes with a tendency to be gruff, cynical, skeptical, contrary, defiant, adversarial.

A wise king knows that a yes man is not necessarily a friend; and a contrary, defiant or adversarial subject is not necessarily an enemy.

When contrariness and defiance are investigated in detail, a person who customarily says "No, not that," might be closely allied with the best friend an investigator of truth ever has.

So one way of reading this verse is that line 4 describes a true, albeit defiant subject of a king; or a teacher who says "Not that" -- a true, albeit adversarial other. But there might also be another way of reading line 4.

If we dig deeper, within the self -- if we take the backward step of turning our light and shining it within -- true defiance manifests itself as a kind of balancing act.

As a true Buddhist one is required to defy unconscious tendencies within the self that cause one to veer off the middle way.

But there is no such thing as the middle way. And true Buddhism is just another -ism to drop off.

So true defiance might be a balancing act that is impossible, in conclusion, to pull off...

Maybe the ultimate conclusion is that there is no ultimate conclusion, other than continuing defiance...

yaH saddharmam adeshayat
anukampaam upaadaaya
taM namasyaami dviShantam

For the dropping of all views

He taught the true Dharma,

Utilizing compassion.

I bow to him, the truly defiant one.

EH Johnston:
He did not maltreat the few evildoers, even when they deserved cruel punishment, and the nobility of his nature was such that he did not disparage the virtue of a good man, even though he was his enemy.

Linda Covill:
He did not pass harsh sentence on those few who had done wrong, even when they deserved it; and his noble nature did not permit him to conceal the qualities of a good man, even if he were an enemy.

klesha: m. (from √klish) pain , affliction , distress , pain from disease , anguish ; wrath , anger
arhaan (acc. pl. m.) mfn. meriting , deserving (praise or blame) , worthy of
api: even
kaaMsh cit (acc. pl. m.): anyone, a few
tu: but

na: not
akliShTa = 3rd pers. sg. aorist: klish: to torment , trouble , molest , cause pain , afflict ; to suffer , feel pain
kliShTa-karmaNaH (acc. pl. m.): those who did hurtful deeds
kliShTa: mfn. molested , tormented , afflicted , distressed ; wearied , hurt , injured , being in bad condition , worn ; connected with pain or suffering
karman: n. act , action ; office , special duty , occupation , obligation (frequently ifc. , the first member of the compound being either the person who performs the action or the person or thing for or towards whom the action is performed or a specification of the action [e.g. priiti-karman, an act of friendship])

aarya-bhaavaat (abl. sg.): because of being noble
aarya: m. a man highly esteemed , a respectable , honourable man ; mfn. behaving like an Aryan , worthy of one , honourable , respectable , noble
bhaava: being, state, condition ; manner of acting , conduct , behaviour ; any state of mind or body , way of thinking or feeling , sentiment , opinion , disposition
ca: and
na: not
aghukShadm = 3rd pers. sg. aorist: guh: to cover , conceal , hide , keep secret

dviShataH = gen. sg. dviShat: mfn. (p. Pres. of √dviSh) hating or detesting , hostile , unfriendly , foe , enemy
api: even
sataH = gen. sg. sat: m. a good or wise man , a sage
guNaan (acc. pl.): m. merits, qualities, virtues

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.20: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Modesty in Serving Dharma

n' aasRkShad balim a-praaptaM
n' aarukShan maanam aishvaraM
aagamair buddhim aadhikShad
dharmaaya na tu kiirtaye

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

He never scattered the food offering except when due;

He never developed lordly arrogance;

Committing of the scriptures to his mind

He did for dharma, not for praise.

This verse can be read as having its echo at the end of Canto 18, where...

at ease in himself, his heart at peace, his task ended,

Nanda left the sage's side like an elephant free of rut.

At the appointed hour he entered the town,
among whose citizens some cast glances;

Impartial towards gain, loss, comfort, discomfort, and the like,
he was free of craving, the power of his senses being self-contained;

And at a suitable time, in the circumstances of that place,
he talked of liberation to people so inclined;

Never putting down others on a wrong path or raising himself up.

One reason that Ashvaghosha went to the trouble of expressing the Buddha's teaching like this, in the form of mahaa-kaavya poetry, was presumably to facilitate its memorization. To those monks whose task it was to memorize and recite out loud Nanda's story, the second half of this verse must have had a particular resonance, obliquely reminding them that, even if their audiences listened in raptures to their reciting, the original point of their effort was to serve the Buddha-Dharma and not to win for themselves the praise of appreciative listeners.

What did it mean to serve dharma, and what does it mean to serve the Buddha-Dharma?

In ancient India before the time of the Buddha, dharma seems to have meant a kind of traditional religious duty.

For the buddha-ancestors from whom Dogen received the Buddha-Dharma, as is very evident from Dogen's Shobogenzo, the Buddha-Dharma is the act of sitting upright with right foot on left thigh and left foot on right thigh.

And what FM Alexander in our own degenerate age perceived with unrivalled clarity is that most people's sense of up is faulty, or as FM put it "debauched" -- the professed buddha-ancestors of the present being no exception to the general rule.

If one sees it like this, upholding the Buddha-Dharma in the present age is essentially the simplest task in the world.... but not an easy one. My own life is pervaded with a sense of having failed, of continuing to fail, in it. Ah well, crack on.....

EH Johnston:
He scattered the bali oblation according to the rule and did not let himself be overtaken by the pride of dominion ; it was for the sake of religion and not to gain repute that he impregnated his mind with the scriptures.

Linda Covill:
He made no untimely offering, and did not develop lordly pride; he applied his intellect to the scriptures for the sake of dharma, not for renown.

na: not
asRkShat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist sRj: to let go or fly , discharge , throw , cast
balim (acc. sg): m. tribute , offering , gift , oblation ; any offering or propitiatory oblation (esp. an offering of portions of food , such as grain , rice &c , to certain gods , semi-divine beings , household divinities , spirits , men , birds , other animals and all creatures including even lifeless objects ; it is made before the daily meal by arranging portions of food in a circle or by throwing them into the air outside the house or into the sacred fire ; it was one of the 5 mahaa-yajnas , or great devotional acts); fragments of food at a meal
a-praaptam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. unobtained ; unarrived ; not accomplished ; not yet full-grown ; not resulting (from any rule)
praapta: mfn. come to (acc.) , arrived , present (praapteShu kaaleShu , at certain periods) ; proper, right

na: not
arukShat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist ruh: to ascend , mount , climb ; to reach to , attain (a desire) ; to rise , spring up , grow , develop
maanam (acc. sg.): m. ( √ man) opinion , notion , conception , idea ; self-conceit , arrogance , pride
aishvaram (acc. sg. m.): mfn. (fr. iishvara) , relating to or coming from a mighty lord or king , mighty powerful , majestic

aagamaiH (inst. pl.): m. arrival , coming , approach ; m. reading , studying ; acquisition of knowledge , science ; m. a traditional doctrine or precept , collection of such doctrines , sacred work ; m. anything handed down and fixed by tradition (as the reading of a text or a record , title-deed , &c )
buddhim (acc. sg.): f. the power of forming and retaining conceptions and general notions , intelligence , reason , intellect , mind , discernment , judgement ; comprehension , apprehension , understanding ;
aadhikShat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist: aa- √ dish: to aim at , have in view ; to threaten ; to hit ; to assign ; to determine , specify , denominate
√ dish: to point out , show , exhibit ; to produce , bring forward (as a witness in a court of justice) ; to promote , effect , accomplish ; to assign dharmaaya = dat. sg. dharma: duty, dharma
na: not
tu: but
kiirtaye = dat. sg. kiirti: f. (fr. √2. kR) mention , making mention of , speech , report ; good report , fame , renown , glory
√kR: to make mention of , praise , speak highly of

Monday, June 28, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.19: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Taking Nourishment with Restraint

a-nivedy' aagram arhadbhyo
n' aalikShat kiM cid a-plutaH
gaam a-dharmeNa n'aadhukShat
kShiira-tarSheNa gaam iva

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

Without offering the first portion to revered beings,

And without bathing, he did not eat anything;

Neither did he milk the earth unjustly,

As a cow is milked by a man thirsting for milk.

This verse as I read it suggests that the king's behaviour was neither purely instinctive nor overdone, like the behaviour of a greedy pig at the trough, or like the behaviour of an ascetic practitioner devoted to ascetic practice in his thirst for a spiritual breakthrough.

The reference in the first half of the verse to not eating without first observing traditional forms may be seen as presaging the Buddha's instruction on how to take food, in the opening verses of Canto 14...

Just as two travellers

In order to cross a wilderness

Might feed upon the flesh of a child,

Though grievously pained to do so, as its mother and father,

So food should be eaten,


The second half of the verse may be seen as both referring back to the example of Kapila in his days of extreme asceticism...

For self-serving offerings

He milked a cow, like Vasistha;

While among the disciples he schooled in asceticism

He milked a cow, like Vasistha.

and also referring forward to the Buddha's observation that suffering starts with tarSha (thirsting)...

So my friend, with regard to the many forms of becoming,

Know their causes to be [the faults] that start with thirsting

And cut out those [faults], if you wish to be freed from suffering;

For ending of the effect follows from eradication of the cause.

Again, the ending of suffering follows from the disappearance of its cause.

Experience that reality for yourself as peace and well-being,

A place of rest, a cessation, an absence of the red taint of thirsting,

An eternal refuge which is irremovable and noble,

In which there is no becoming, no aging, no dying,

No illnesses, no being touched by unpleasantness,

No disappointment, or separation from what is pleasant:

It is a step of restfulness, ultimate and indestructible.

The point of this verse then, as I read it, is that the king ate and appreciated his food, but not without a certain restraint, and the king exploited the resources of his territory, but -- unlike the ascetic Kapila driving his students in ascetic practice -- he did not overdo it.

In other words the behaviour of the non-Buddhist king did not, under the influence of instinctive reactions and unconscious guidance, veer to extremes. Rather, the king's behaviour was more or less conscious, in the middle way.

Understood like this, the real intention of the verse might not be too difficult to understand. Still, it might not be easy to realize.

EH Johnston:
He did not touch anything to eat till he had performed his ablutions and assigned the first portion to holy persons ; he did not milk the earth unrighteously, as one might a cow in thirst for milk.

Linda Covill:
He would not eat unless he had first bathed and made an offering to worthy persons; nor did he milk the earth unjustly, as a thirsty man might overmilk a cow.

a-nivedya (gerundive a- ni- √ vid): without [food] being offered
nivedya: mfn. to be communicated or related or presented or delivered ; n. an offering of food for an idol (for naivedya)
naivedya: n. an offering of eatables presented to a deity or idol
ni- √ vid: to tell , communicate , proclaim , report , relate ; caus. to offer , present , give
agram: ind. in front , before , ahead of
agra: n. foremost point or part
arhadbhyaH = dat. pl. m./n. arhat: mfn. worthy , venerable , respectable

na: not
alikShat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist lih: to lick , lap , lick at (loc.) , taste , sip , take any food by licking or lapping
kiM cid: ind. somewhat, a little
a-plutaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. mfn. floated , floating or swimming in (loc.) , bathed , overflowed , submerged

gaam (acc. sg.): f. cow, the earth
a: (negative prefix) not
dharmeNa: ind. according to right or rule , rightly , justly , according to the nature of anything
na: not
adhukShat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist duh: to milk (a cow or an udder) fig. take advantage of

kShiira-tarSheNa (inst. sg.): thirst for milk
kShiira: n. milk , thickened milk
tarSha: m. thirst
gaam (acc. sg.): f. cow, the earth
iva: like

Sunday, June 27, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.18: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- True Friendship

maitreShu viguNeShv api
n' aadidaasiid aditsiit tu
saumukhyaat svaM svam arthavat

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

In his kind-hearted iron devotion

Even to imperfect friends,

He had no will to take away from them,
but willingly gave,

Cheerful-faced, to each according to his need.

Sauhaarda (kind-heartedness/friendship) in line 1 derives from su (good/fair) + hRd (heart), and saumukhya (cheerfulness) in line 4 derives from su (good/fair) + mukha (mouth/face), and so a cause and effect relation is suggested between what is going on in the heart and what is reflected in the face -- the kind of cause and effect relation that psychologist, friend of the Dalai Lama, and generally good egg Paul Ekman made a career out of studying.

Provisionally I have understood aadidaasiit in line 3 to be the 3rd pers. sg. aorist desiderative of aa- √ daa, to take away, to detract.

The alternative suggested by EHJ's translation "he would not be dejected" is to understand adidaasiit as deriving from √ dii, to decay or perish.

In that case, the verse might be translated as follows:

In his kind-hearted iron devotion

Even to imperfect friends,

He did not wilt but willingly gave,

Cheerful-faced, to each according to his need.

I would be grateful, as always, for jiblet's input.

Having struggled to understand the grammar of n' aadidaasiit in line 3, I referred to EHJ's notes and was encouraged to find that he also struggled long and hard with the same term -- discussing it in a footnote to his Sanskrit text published in 1928, and again in a later footnote to his English translation published in 1931. The latter footnote says, "The verse remains a puzzle."

Could the key to unlock the puzzle be what Marjory Barlow called the golden key -- being prepared to be just as wrong as one is, warts and all?

Marjory often used to say "Being wrong is the best friend you have got in this work."

Read in the light of Marjory's teaching, today's verse might be understood as presaging the Buddha's teaching in Canto 16:

Having given due consideration to the time and place

As well as to the extent and method of one's practice,

One should, reflecting on one's own strength and weakness,

Persist in an effort that is not inconsistent with them.

EH Johnston:
Out of firm devotion to amity with those who were his allies by traditional friendship he would not be dejected, even when they were worthless, but out of graciousness would give them his wealth according to their needs.

Linda Covill:
Staunchly loyal and affectionate to his friends, even if they had failings, he did not take from them but cheerfully gave to each according to his need.

sauhaarda-dRDha-bhaktitvaat (abl. sg.): because of being firmly devoted to friendship
sauhaarda: n. (fr. su-hRd) good-heartedness , affection , friendship
dRDha: mfn. fixed , firm , hard , strong , solid ; confirmed , established , certain , sure ; n. anything fixed or firm or solid ; n. stronghold , fortress ; n. iron
bhakti: f. attachment , devotion , fondness for , devotion to (with loc. , gen. or ifc.)
tva: (abstract noun suffix)

maitreShu = loc. pl. maitra: mfn. (fr.) coming from or given by or belonging to a friend , friendly , amicable , benevolent , affectionate , kind ; m. an alliance based on good-will ; m. a friend
viguNeShu = loc. pl. vi-guNa: mfn. without a string ; deficient , imperfect , destitute of (comp.) ; unsuccessful , ineffective ; adverse (as fortune) ; void of qualities ; destitute of merits , wicked , bad
api: even

na: not
adidaasiit = 3rd pers. sg. aorist desiderative aa- √ daa (??): to give to one's self " , take , accept , receive from (loc. instr. or abl.)
aditsiit = 3rd pers. sg. desiderative aorist daa: to give
tu: but

saumukhyaat (abl. sg.): n. (fr. su-mukha) cheerfulness
svam (acc. sg.): mfn. his own; n. one's self; one's own goods , property , wealth
arthavat (acc. sg. n.): mfn. wealthy ; full of sense , significant ; suitable to the object , fitting ; full of reality , real ; ind. according to a purpose

Saturday, June 26, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.17: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Compassion without Endgaining.

apyaasiid duHkhitaan pashyan
prakRtyaa karuN'-aatamakaH
n' aadhauShiic ca yasho lobhaad
a-nyaay'-aadhigatair dhanaiH

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

Seeing people suffering he overflowed

With his original emotion as a man of compassion

But he did not, through eager desire,
undermine his honour

By unprincipled acquisition of treasured objects.

In the beginning was ... what?

A word? Sin? Fear?

In the beginning, Ashvaghosha seems to be saying in this verse, there was, at least for the non-Buddhist king, karuNaa, compassion.

Ashvaghosha's grandson Nagarjuna would later write:

yaH saddharmam adeshayat
anukampaam upaadaaya
taM namasyaami gautamaM

For the dropping of all views

He taught the true Dharma,

Utilizing compassion.

I bow to him, Gautama.

A turning word in Nagarjuna's verse, as I read it, is upaadaaya, from upaa-√daa, whose meanings the dictionary lists as to receive , accept , gain , acquire , appropriate to one's self; take away , carry off , steal ; to take as help , use , employ , apply.

Taking together that verse of Nagarjuna and this verse of Ashvaghosha, one gets the impression that the Indian ancestors are telling us that what marked Gautama out was not so much the fact or even the depth of his compassion but rather his great skill in exploiting this original resource, in appropriating it, making it his own, and applying it; in short, in utilizing it.

Having compassion came naturally to the king, Ashvaghosha is telling us. But the king did not, on the basis of an emotion or a feeling like compassion, go directly for the objects he treasured.

Treasured objects acquired by unprincipled means might be material riches or might be something immaterial like empty fame.

Again, a treasured object acquired by unprincipled means might be a sitting posture in which the spine is vertically straight.

If the means are unprincipled, even though the treasured object in view might be acquired, and even though the original intention was compassionate, the acquisition of the treasured objet is very likely to be at the expense of undesirable side-effects.

Observing how originally compassionate intentions are prone to go awry in this manner, FM Alexander, quite independently of the Buddha's teaching, tracked the problem back to a combination of "faulty sensory appreciation" and "end-gaining."

So what I primarily take from this verse, having slept on it, is further clarification of a point that Nagarjuna's verse has seemed to be trying to impress on me since I studied it a few weeks ago. The point might be that to be compassionate or to have compassion is not enough, because it might be true to say that every Tom, Dick and Harry is already innately compassionate. The point might be to develop a certain skill, which is opposed to instinctive human end-gaining, in utilizing our original stuff.

One can readily observe people of compassion being everywhere drawn into areas such as medicine, education and (in the middle way between medicine and education) Zen practice and Alexander work. Whether inside or outside, however, real skill in utilizing compassion based on a truly conscious means-whereby principle -- as opposed to end-gaining guided by faulty sensory appreciation -- is much harder to find.

EH Johnston:
The compassion, innate in his nature, overflowed at the sight of distress, and he did not imperil his fame through covetousness in the unjust acquisition of riches.

Linda Covill:
His was a compassionate nature, which welled up when he beheld suffering; but greed could never drive him to damage his reputation with improperly attained wealth.

apyaasiit = 3rd pers. sg. aorist pyai: to swell , be exuberant , overflow
duHkhitaan (acc. pl. m.): mfn. pained , distressed ; afflicted , unhappy
pashyan = nom. sg. m. pashyat: mfn. seeing, beholding etc.

prakRtyaa = inst. sg. prakRti: f. " making or placing before or at first " , the original or natural form or condition of anything, original or primary substance ; nature , character , constitution , temper , disposition
karuN'-aatmakaH (nom. sg. m.): having the character of compassion
karuNaa: f. pity , compassion
aatmaka: having the nature or character of (in comp.)

na: not
adhauShiit = 3rd pers. sg. aorist dhuu: to shake , agitate , cause to tremble ; to shake down from (e.g. fruits [acc.] from a tree [acc.]); to shake off , remove , liberate one's self from (acc.) ; to treat roughly , hurt , injure
ca: and
yashaH = acc. sg. yashas: n. fame, honour etc.
lobhaat (abl. sg.): m. perplexity , confusion ; impatience , eager desire for or longing after (gen. loc. or comp.) ; covetousness , cupidity , avarice

a-nyaay'-aadhigataiH (inst. pl.): improperly acquired
a-nyaaya: m. unjust or unlawful action ; impropriety , indecorum ; irregularity , disorder.
adhigata: mfn. found , obtained , acquired
dhanaiH = inst. pl. dhana: n. any valued object , (esp.) wealth , riches , (movable) property , money , treasure , gift

Friday, June 25, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.16: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Covering the Earth with Guiding Principles & Glory

ahaarShiid duHkham aartaanaaM
dviShataaM c' orjitaM yashaH
acaiShic ca nayair bhuumiM
bhuuyasaa yashas" aiva ca

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

He bore away the suffering of the oppressed

And the boastful fame of the cruel,

And covered the earth with guiding principles

And a much greater glory.

Bhuumi in line 3 can mean not only the earth or ground but also posture or attitude -- the territory governed by the act of sitting.

So this verse can be read as the description of a central agency causing suffering to cease and bringing about a posture covered with glory (or an attitude covered with honour) by circumventing the puffed-up end-gaining ego and working to constructive principles.

In that sense, then, today's verse can be read as presaging the Buddha's teaching of the four noble truths in Canto 16, and Nanda's subsequent success, while sitting in the supreme manner, in making that teaching his own.

The reason I returned to England from Japan at the end of 1994 was the desire to investigate what FM Alexander realized about covering the territory governed by the act of sitting with conscious guiding principles (as opposed to unconscious end-gaining). And I haven't finished investigating it yet.

EH Johnston:
He took away from the afflicted the causes of their grief and from his foes their mighty fame ; he gained possession of the earth by his policy and covered it with his exceeding fame.

Linda Covill:
He removed their sorrows from the suffering, and from his enemies he removed their mighty reputations; he covered the earth with his good government and great fame.

ahaarShiit = 3rd pers. sg. aorist hR: to take , bear , carry in or on (with instr.) , carry , convey , fetch , bring ; to take away , carry off , seize , deprive of , steal , rob ; to shoot or cut or hew off , sever (the head or a limb) ; to remove , destroy , dispel
duHkham (acc. sg.): n. uneasiness, suffering, hardship etc.
aartaanaam = gen. pl. aarta: mfn. fallen into (misfortune) , struck by calamity , afflicted , pained , disturbed ; injured ; oppressed , suffering , sick , unhappy

dviShataam = gen. pl. dviShat: mfn. hating or detesting , hostile , unfriendly , foe , enemy
ca: and
uurjitam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. endowed with strength or power , strong , mighty , powerful , excellent , great , important , gallant , exceeding ; proud , bragging ; n. strength , power , valour
yashaH = acc. sg. yashas: n. beautiful appearance , beauty , splendour , worth ; honour , glory , fame , renown

acaiShit = 3rd pers. sg. aorist ci: to arrange in order , heap up , pile up , construct (a sacrificial altar) ; to cover , inlay , set with
ca: and
nayaiH = inst. pl. naya: m. ( √nii) leading (of an army) ; conduct , behaviour , (esp.) prudent conduct or behaviour , good management , polity , civil and military government ; wisdom , prudence , reason ; plan , design ; leading thought , maxim , principle
bhuumim (acc. sg.): f. the earth , soil , ground ; a place , situation ; position , posture , attitude

bhuuyasaa = inst. sg. bhuuyas: mfn " becoming in a greater degree" i.e. more , more numerous or abundant , greater , larger , mightier (also " much or many , very numerous or abundant " &c )
yashasaa = inst. sg. yashas: n. beautiful appearance , beauty , splendour , worth ; honour , glory , fame , renown
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and

Thursday, June 24, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.15: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Balance of Inside & Outside

avediid buddhi-shaastraabhyaam
iha c' aamutra ca kshamaM
arakShiid dhairya-viiryaabhyaam
indriyaaNy api ca prajaaH

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

He knew, through intelligence and education,

What was fitting, both in here and out there;

He guarded, with constancy and directed energy,

Both his senses and his subjects.

What is there for a devotee of sitting-zen to learn from these virtues of the ancient non-Buddhist king?

In this verse, as I read it, Ashvaghosha is pointing us in the direction of a balance between inside and outside.

What seems most fitting in here, to me, is the backward step of turning light and letting it shine.

Forward steps that seem most fitting out there are centred on efforts to help others in the direction of more consciously directing their energy. This translation work is also part of those efforts...

In future people may thank me for this effort, and say that I was ahead of my time. They might build a great big Mike Cross statue and write books about me, documenting heroic striving against the karmic odds... Dream on, Cross. Dream on...

If I drag my errant attention back to the text, the word viirya, which plays a starring role at the end of Canto 16, means as I read it not just energy, as viirya is defined in the dictionary, but directed energy. We are all in possession of huge amounts of energy -- e being equal to mc squared, a single atom of my skin might have enough energy locked inside it to blow up this house. But for the most part our energy is not amenable to being consciously directed. And some more than others suffer from a certain dysfunction in the ear which causes unconsciously directed energy to overflow in undesirable directions. This -- the center of what FM Alexander called "faulty sensory appreciation" -- can be seen as the primary reason that the world is in a bit of a mess.

In the interests of causing the world to be in a bit less of a mess, it cannot do any harm for the head of a hierarchy, or the central agency in a large system, like a king, to learn more consciously to direct, in the first instance, his own energy. So this kind of direction of energy is what today's verse, as I read it, primarily relates to.

EH Johnston:
By his wisdom he obtained what was useful in this world and by his learning he knew what was fitting for the hereafter ; he guarded his senses with steadfastness and his subjects with courage.

Linda Covill:
With his intelligence and his education, he knew what was appropriate both for this world and the next; with constancy and vigor he guarded his senses as well as his subjects.

avediit = 3rd pers. sg. aorist vid: to know
buddhi-shaastraabhyaam (abl./inst. dual): through intelligence and education
buddhi: f. the power of forming and retaining conceptions and general notions , intelligence , reason , intellect , mind , discernment , judgement ; perception ; comprehension , apprehension , understanding
shaastra: n. an order , command , precept , rule ; teaching , instruction , direction , advice , good counsel ; any instrument of teaching , any manual or compendium of rules , any bock or treatise , (esp.) any religious or scientific treatise ; a body of teaching (in general) , scripture , science

iha: ind. in this place , here; at this time, now ; here and now
ca: and
amutra: ind. there ; there above i.e. in the other world , in the life to come
ca: and
kshamam (acc. sg.): mfn. enduring , suffering , bearing , submissive , resisting ; adequate , competent , able , fit for ; bearable , tolerable ; fit , appropriate , becoming , suitable , proper

arakShiit = 3rd pers. sg. aorist rakSh: to guard , watch , take care of , protect , save , preserve
dhairya-viiryaabhyaam (abl./inst. dual):
dhairya: n. firmness , constancy , calmness , patience , gravity , fortitude , courage
viirya: n. manliness , valour , strength , power , energy

indriyaaNi = acc. pl. indriya: n. faculty of sense , sense , organ of sense
api: also
ca: and
prajaaH = acc. pl. prajaa: f. subject

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.14: Resplendent Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.)

viduShaH paryupaasiShTa
vyakaashiShT' aatmavattayaa
vyarociShTa ca shiShTebhyo
maas' iiShe candramaa iva

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

He stood behind and beside the intellectually bright,

He shone with his own self-containment,

And on people in the directed state he positively beamed

Like the moon in the last month of the rains.

In Dogen's Shobogenzo, where there is a list of three elements, a progression may generally be observed along the lines of thesis, anti-thesis, and synthesis -- for example, gold buddha, mud buddha, and wood buddha.

There is such a progression in this verse, as I read it, in the three elements which are 1. intelligent others, 2. controlled or contained self, and 3. people (going beyond others and self) whose state is ordered, directed, regulated.

A corresponding progression can be read into the three verbs
1. pary-upa- √ sthaa, which is less effusive in tone, literally meaning to stand around, and by extension to be there for, to be present to, to attend or tend to, to serve, to honour;
2. vi- √ khyaa, to look around or to shine, and
3. vi- √ ruc, to shine forth brightly, to positively beam in a particular direction.

The progression might be interpreted as suggesting a hierarchy in which self-control ranks higher than intelligence, but a truer condition still is one in which consciousness of self and others is transcended.

Can a person be a true person who, by his own admission, is too subjective? I don't know. It remains too difficult a question for me to answer. When I ask it, it seems to make my stomach hurt. And yet, for my sins, I continue to ask it.

With regard to the metaphor in the 4th line EHJ notes:
"The moon is peculiarly brilliant in an Indian October, because the atmosphere is then free from the dust which partially obscures its light in the following seven months."

To put the verse further into the context of Ashvaghosha's experience of the October moon in northern India, he would have spent 90 days every summer practising a traditional rains retreat, as described in Shobogenzo chap. 79, Ango. The moon at the end of the rains retreat, then, must have had a brilliance which, to a buddha-ancestor thoroughly soaked in sitting-dhyana, both included and went totally beyond object and subject.

So in this verse also, as I read it, Ashvaghosha is projecting buddha-virtues back in time so that the portrayal of the non-Buddhist King Shuddhodhana presages the truly full and round realization of the moon that is to come in the generation after him.

EH Johnston:
He honoured the wise and was resplendent with self-control ; like the moon in the month of Ashvian he was pleasing to the cultivated.

Linda Covill:
He honoured the wise yet radiated self-possession, and delighted the learned like the harvest moon.

viduShaH = acc. pl. vidvas: mfn. one who knows , knowing , understanding , learned , intelligent , wise , mindful of , familiar with , skilled in; m. a wise man , sage , seer
paryupaasiShTa = 3rd pers. sg. aorist pary-upa- √ sthaa: to be or stand round (acc.) ; to attend , serve , honour with (instr.)
pari: ind. round
upa: ind. towards, near to, up to

vyakaashiShTa = 3rd pers. sg. aorist vi- √ khyaa : to look about ; to shine , shine upon , lighten , illumine
aatmavattayaa (inst. sg.): f. self-possession , self-regard , prudence
aatman: self
vat: (possessive suffix)
taa: (abstract noun suffix)

vyarociShTa = 3rd pers. sg. aorist vi- √ ruc: , to shine forth , be bright or radiant or conspicuous or visible ; to appear as or like (nom.) ; to outshine , excel (acc.) ; to please , delight (gen.)
√ ruc: to shine , be bright or radiant or resplendent
ca: and
shiShTebhyaH = dat. pl. m./n. shiShTa: mfn. taught , directed , ordered , commanded (applied to persons and things) ; disciplined , cultured , educated , learned , wise (m. a learned or well-educated or wise man); eminent , superior

maasi = loc. sg. maas: m. the moon, a month
iShe = loc. sg. iSha: mfn. possessing sap and strength ; well-fed , strong ; sappy , juicy , fertile ; m. N. of the month aashvina (September-October)
aashvina: mfn. belonging or devoted to the ashvins ; m. N. of a month in the rainy season (during which the moon is near to the constellation ashvinii)
ashvinii: f. the head of Aries or the first of the 28 nakShatras
nakShatra: n. an asterism or constellation through which the moon passes , a lunar mansion
candramaa = nom. sg. candramas: m. the moon , deity of the moon
candra: mfn. glittering , shining (as gold) , having the brilliancy or hue of light ; m. the moon (also personified as a deity )
mas = maas: the moon
iva: like

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.13: Non-Buddhist Integrity (ctd) -- Like Donkey Work

dhRty" aavaakShiit pratijNaaM sa
sad-vaaj" iiv' odyataaM dhuraM
na hy avaaNciic cyutaH satyaan
muhuurtam api jiivitaM

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

He resolutely carried out a promise undertaken

Like a good horse carrying a load;

For he did not desire, apart from truthfulness,

Even a moment of life.

In this verse Ashvaghosha seems to envisage a situation in which the keeping of a promise involves large amounts of donkey work... and real examples could be cited, in all probability tied to the first person singular and bound up with superiority (17.57).

But when a person comes back to the first dhyana, thinking the head forward and up, the back to lengthen and widen, and the limbs to release out of the body, there is a sense of a single human body sculpting a rounded niche for itself in space -- there being no donkey, no stick, no carrot.

So the content of this verse is deadly serious, and the metaphor of the horse carrying a load is a powerful one -- but not so powerful that it should be allowed to knock a bloke's sitting bones off his sitting-cushion.

EH Johnston:
He adhered with constancy to his promises, just as a good horse suffers cheerfully the upraised yoke ; for he did not desire life for even a moment at the price of falling away from the truth.

Linda Covill:
He carried out his promises rigorously, as a good horse carries the burden it has accepted, since he would not have wished to live a moment longer were he ever to deviate from telling the truth.

dhRtyaa = inst. sg. dhRti: f. holding; firmness , constancy , resolution
avaakShiit = 3rd pers. sg. aorist vah: , to carry , transport , convey ; to bear or carry on or with (Inc. or instr.)
pratijNaam (acc. sg.): f. admission , acknowledgment , assent , agreement , promise , vow ; a statement , assertion , declaration , affirmation
saH (nom. sg. m.): he

sad-vaaji (nom. sg.): a good horse
sat: mfn. real , actual , as any one or anything ought to be , true , good
vaajin: mfn. swift , spirited , impetuous , heroic , warlike; m. a warrior , hero , man ; m. the steed of a war-chariot; m. a horse , stallion
iva: like
udyataam (acc. sg. f.): mfn. raised , held up , elevated ; hold out , offered , presented ; undertaken , commenced , begun ; ready or eager for
dhuram (acc. sg.): m. yoke , pole , burden

na: not
hi: for
avaaNciit = 3rd pers. sg. aorist vaaNch: to desire , wish , ask for , strive after , pursue
cyutaH (nom. sg. m.): gone away from (abl.) ; (with abl. or ifc.) deviated from ; fallen from
cyu: to move to and fro , shake about ; to stir , move from one's place , go away , retire from (abl.) , turn off ; to deviate from (abl.) , abandon ; to come forth from , come out of; drop from
satyaat = abl. sg. satya: n. truth , reality ; n. speaking the truth , sincerity , veracity ; n. a solemn asseveration , vow , promise , oath

muhuurtam (acc. sg.): a moment
api: even
jiivitam (acc. sg.): n. life

Monday, June 21, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.12: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.)

adhyaiShTa yaH paraM brahma
na vyaiShTa satatam dhRteH
daanaany adita paatrebhyaH
paapaM n'aakRta kiM cana

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

He minded the supreme sacred word;

In holding firm, he never failed;

He gave fitting gifts to deserving recipients;

No evil did he do at all.

By paraM brahma, "the supreme pious utterance," Ashvaghosha might have in mind the monosyllable that yogis minded before the time of Gautama Buddha, placing it at the commencement of their sacred texts, the same monosyllable that Ashvaghosha himself placed at the commencement of Saundarananda. I am referring to the first word of the invocation oM namo buddhaaya, namely: om. Minding of this sacred word, evidently, Ashvaghosha is portraying as a virtue, though it is equally evidently not an exclusively Buddhist virtue.

Line 2 might also be read, literally as "In fortitude he was never beheld." If that is so, then I think the line could mean that the king's fortitude was out of sight, eternally imponderable. Either way, the line is an emphatic description of another in the long list of the non-Buddhist king's virtues, namely, his great fortitude.

In line 3 adita evidently means "he gave," presumable from the root √daa, to give, but again exact understanding of the grammar has eluded me. In any event, the principle is included in line 3, as I read it, that what constitutes a good gift depends very much on individual differences and circumstances. A big ice-cream might be a very fitting gift for a little girl by the sea-side on a hot summer's day, but not necessarily for her diabetic grandma.

Line 4, as I read it, clinches the argument that what Ashvaghosha is thinking about in this part is universal virtue -- because not to do any evil is not the personal teaching of Gautama Buddha; it is the universal precept of the Seven Buddhas.

EH Johnston:
He studied the supreme religious lore, he never failed in fortitude, he gave gifts to the deserving, he committed no sin.

Linda Covill:
He studied high religious knowledge, his resolution never ceased, he was generous to worthy recipients, and he did no evil.

adhyaiShTa = 3rd pers. sg. aorist dhyai: to think of , imagine , contemplate , meditate on , call to mind , recollect
yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
param (acc. sg. n.): mfn. far, distant, beyond , on the other or farther side of , extreme ; highest , supreme , chief
brahma= acc. sg. brahman: n. (lit. " growth " , " expansion " , " evolution " , " development " " swelling of the spirit or soul " , from √bRh) pious effusion or utterance , outpouring of the heart in worshipping the gods , prayer ; the sacred word (as opp. to vaach , the word of man) , the veda , a sacred text , a text or mantra used as a spell ; the sacred syllable Om ; religious or spiritual knowledge (opp. to religious observances and bodily mortification such as tapas &c ); holy life (esp. continence , chastity ; cf. brahma-charya)

na: not
vyaiShTa (1) = 3rd pers. sg. aorist (aatmane-pada) vi- √iikSh: to look at , see , behold ; to consider , observe , discern , ascertain , understand ; to think fit or proper ; to look over , peruse , study
vyaiShTa (2) = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect (aatmana-pada) vi- √iish: to be invalid or ineffective, to fail
vi: (negative or privatory prefix)
√iish: to own , possess ; to belong to ; to dispose of , be valid or powerful;
satatam: ind. ever ; with na = never
dhRteH = gen. sg. dhRti: f. holding , seizing , keeping , supporting ; firmness , constancy , resolution , will

daanaani (acc. pl.): n. the act of giving ; donation, gift
adita = (?) adiShTa: 3rd pers. sg. (aatmane-pada) aorist √daa: to give
paatrebhyaH = dat. pl. paatra: n. any vessel or receptacle; (met.) a capable or competent person

paapam (acc. sg.): n. evil , misfortune , ill-luck , trouble , mischief, harm
na: not
akRta = 3rd pers. sg. (aatmane-pada) aorist kR: to do
kiM cana: at all

Sunday, June 20, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.11: Putting Non-Buddhist Virtues in the Bank

praayeNa viShaye tasya
tac-chiilam anuvartinaH
arjayanto dadRshire
dhanaan' iiva guNaan api

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

As the general rule in his dominion

Those influenced by his integrity

Seemed to take possession,

As if securing treasures, of virtues.

The rule that Ashvaghosha might have in mind is that integrity spreads out from the centre, resulting in establishment of virtues.

This rule, Ashvaghosha is saying in this verse and in this Canto as I read it, is a general rule; it is a universal. It is not something that originated with Gautama Buddha. It pre-existed him.

The centre that integrity spreads out from might be the king of an ancient city-state, or it might be a person's use of his head in relation to his back.

Integrity in the use of head, neck and back, or lack of it, FM Alexander discovered, exerts a constant indirect influence on all functions of the human organism. So ease in upright sitting, for example, indirectly results in the establishment of the virtue of healthy breathing habits.

When I first began to understood the importance of the principle of conscious control of use of head, neck and back that FM Alexander discovered, my first instinct was to endeavour, in a direct and unskillful way, to let fellow sitting-zen practitioners know about it. I seemed to run up against the manifestation of a distinctly religious tendency; i.e. a tendency to be more interested in some limited way than in the general rule, the universal truth.

But what the buddha-ancestor Ashvaghosha, 12th in line from the Buddha, is portraying in this Canto, as I hear him, is the great universal virtues of a non-Buddhist king, a paragon whose non-Buddhist virtues pre-existed "Buddhism."

The real gold buried in this Canto, if we are prepared to dig for it, might be liberation from a certain parochial tendency. Because what Ashvaghosha is describing here is the universal principle of establishment, as exemplified by a non-Buddhist king and his non-Buddhist subjects, of virtues.

EH Johnston:
In general in his dominion men, by imitating his conduct, were seen to accumulate virtue, as if it were wealth.

Linda Covill:
Those within his realm generally followed his moral self-restraint; they looked as though they were earning virtues like money.

praayeNa: ind. mostly , generally , as a rule
praaya: m. going forth; anything prominent , chief part , largest portion , plenty , majority , general rule
viShaye (loc. sg.): m. sphere (of influence or activity) , dominion , kingdom , territory , region , district , country , abode
tasya (gen. sg.): his

tac-ciilam (acc. sg.): his integrity
tat: that, his
shiila: n. moral conduct, discipline, integrity etc.
anuvartinaH = nom. pl. m. anuvartin: mfn. following , compliant , obedient , resembling
anu- √vRt: to go after ; to follow , pursue ; to follow from a previous rule , be supplied from a previous sentence ; to attend ; to obey , respect , imitate

arjayantaH = nom. pl. m. causitive pres. part. Rj: to go ; to stand or be firm ; to obtain , acquire ; to be strong or healthy: Caus. arjayati , to obtain , get , acquire
dadRshire = 3rd pers. pl. perfect (aatmane-pada) dRsh: to see

dhanaani (acc. pl.): any valued object , (esp.) wealth , riches , (movable) property , money , treasure , gift
iva: like
guNaan (acc. pl.): virtues, merits
api: even, also (emphatic)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.10: The Versatile Hand of Total Acceptance

praNataan anujagraaha
vijagraaha kula-dviShaH
aapaanaan parijagraaha
nijagraah' aa-sthitaan pathi

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

The meek and mild he befriended;

Tribal foes he apprehended;

Sufferers he comprehended;

Waverers he reprehended.

Forgive the sudden outbreak of rhyming metre, but I have tried to reflect the original play on the four words with four prefixes attached to the root √grah, which means to grasp or to take in -- like the Latin root prehendere.

This verse might be intentionally ambiguous but the fundamental basis for understanding it, I do not doubt, is the balanced stillness of accepting the whole self and using the whole self.

Insofar as it sings the praises of versatility, the verse can be understood as presaging Ashvaghosha's praise of the Buddha in 13.3:

Some in soothing tones,

Some with tough talk,

Some by both these means,

He the trainer trained.

At the same time, because each of the four √grah variations includes a meaning of to accept, to include as part of the whole, the verse can be understood as presaging the story quoted in Shobogenzo chap. 64 Kajo, in which Joshu asks a monk who has just arrived at his place, "Have you been here before?"

"Yes," the monk replies.

"Have some tea," says Joshu.

Joshu asks the same question of another monk: "Have you been here before?"

"No, I haven't," the second monk replies.

"Have some tea," says Joshu.

An officer of the temple asks Joshu, "Why did you say 'Have some tea' to the one who has been here before and 'Have some tea' again to the one who hasn't?"

"Officer!" calls Joshu.

"Yes?" the officer replies.

"Have some tea."

EH Johnston:
He favoured those who submitted to him, he waged war on the enemies of his race, he received the unfortunate kindly, he checked those who strayed from the path (of right).

Linda Covill:
He upheld the humble, and held off his family's foes, held his hand out to the wretched, and held back drifters from the path.

praNataan (acc. pl.): mfn. bent forwards , bowed , inclined ; bowed to , saluted reverentially ; bent towards , offered respectfully ; humble , submissive to (gen. or acc.) ; skilful , clever
anujagraaha = 3rd pers. sg. perf. anu- √ grah: to follow in taking or plundering ; to support ; to uphold ; to receive , welcome ; to treat with kindness , favour , oblige ; to foster
anu: ind. (as a prefix to verbs) after , along , alongside
√ grah: to seize , take (by the hand), grasp , lay hold of ; to take possession of , gain over , captivate

vijagraaha = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi- √ grah: to stretch out or apart , spread out ; to distribute , divide (esp. to draw out fluids at several times) ; to hold apart , separate , isolate ; to wage war , fight against (acc.) ; to quarrel , contend with ; to seize , lay hold of (acc. or loc.) ;
to receive in a friendly manner , welcome
vi: ind. (prob. for an original dvi , meaning " in two parts " ; and opp. to sam q.v.) apart , asunder , in different directions , to and fro , about , away , away from , off ; sometimes it gives a meaning opposite to the idea contained in the simple root or it intensifies that idea
kula-dviShaH (acc. pl.): clan enemies
kula: family, race, tribe
dviSha: m. foe , enemy

aapaanaan (acc. pl.): those who have suffered
aapaana: mfn. - ( from √ aap): one who has reached, suffered etc.
√ aap: to reach , overtake , meet with , fall upon ; to obtain , gain , take possession of ; to undergo , suffer
aapaana (from aa- √ paa ): n. the act of drinking , a drinking-party , banquet
aa- √ paa: to drink in , suck in or up ; to drink in with ears or eyes i.e. to hear or » with attention , hang on ; to absorb , take away:
parijagraaha = 3rd pers. sg. perf. pari- √ grah: to take hold of on both sides , embrace , surround , enfold , envelop ; to fence round , hedge round ; to occupy on both sides ; to seize , clutch , grasp , catch ; to put on , wear (as a dress or ornament) ; to take or carry along with one ; to take possession of , master , overpower ; to take (in war) , take prisoner , conquer ; to take (food) ; to receive , (also as a guest) accept ; to take , adopt , conform to , follow ; to take by the hand , assist
pari: ind. round , around ; fully

nijagraaha = 3rd pers. sg. perf. ni- √ grah: to keep or hold back , draw near , attract ; to seize , catch , hold , hold fast , stop , restrain , suppress , curb , tame , punish
ni: ind. down , back , in , into , within
a-sthitaan = acc. pl. a-sthita: mfn. non-stayers
sthita: standing , staying , situated , resting or abiding or remaining in; being or remaining or keeping in any state or condition (loc. , instr. abl. comp.) ; turned or directed to , fixed upon (loc. or comp.)
pathi = loc. sg. pathin: m. a way , path , road , course (lit. and fig.)

Friday, June 18, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.9: Listening, Letting Go & Gratitude

hitaM vipriyam apy ukto
yaH shushraava na cukShubhe
duSh-kRtaM bahv api tyaktvaa
sasmaara kRtam aNv api

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

When given good advice, however disagreeable,

He listened and did not react;

He let go of a wrong done to him, however great,

And remembered a service rendered, however small.

This verse brings to mind the story of how Nelson Mandela let go of the great notorious wrong that was done to him, when he was kept locked up on Robben Island. Bill Clinton, the story goes, asked Nelson Mandela if he didn't still get angry when in the company of his former jailers. Mandela said that when he felt such anger well up inside of him he realized that if he hated his jailers after he got outside the prison gate, then they would still have him. Clinton reported that Mandela smiled and said, "I wanted to be free so I let it go."

Right through to 2.46, Ashvaghosha is going to keep listing virtues of King Shuddhodhana, one after another. Why?

Standing back and looking at the whole of Saundarananda, Cantos 1 through 3 can be seen as idealized portrayals; Cantos 4 through 11 are accounts of the non-ideal behaviour of Nanda, leading him to a point where at the beginning of Canto 12 Nanda feels thoroughly ashamed of himself and, in his shame, finds the real desire to listen to the Buddha's teaching. Cantos 12 through 16 are the Buddha outlining a practical means-whereby Nanda can make 'a safe passage from idealistic theory to actual practice.' And Cantos 17 and 18 are an account of Nanda really making the teaching his own, a realization that the Buddha affirms.

So the 18 cantos of Saundarananda can be seen as falling into four sub-groups under the broad headings of:
(1) idealistic thesis,
(2) materialistic anti-thesis,
(3) practical synthesis, and
(4) actual realization.

If we agree that this four-way grouping makes sense, then we have to acknowledge that Gudo Nishijima did English-speaking students of the Buddha a service by identifying and clarifying the four-phased structure which implicitly underpins the writings of ancestors such as Ashvaghosha, Nagarjuna, and Dogen.

Gudo Nishijima asked me about ten years ago, after he and Michael Luetchford found their incipient translation partnership to be unworkable, to re-write for him his translation of Nagarjuna's Muula-madhyama-kakaarikaa, Fundamental Verses from the Middle. Unable at that time to let go of what I felt was a great wrong that had been done to me, I found I was not able to do what Gudo wanted me to do. I started studying Sanskrit but woke up in the middle of one night in a cold sweat and realised that my heart was no longer in the job of working as Gudo's translation partner. In my head I wanted to keep myself pointed in the direction of serving the ancestors through translation work, but possibly due to the influence of a still-immature Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex, I was not able to take the whole of me with me. In other words, the whole of my heart was not in the job, and I could not carry on with it. So there is no Nishijima-Cross translation of Nagarjuna's MMK. But if there were, the final verse would clearly show the four-phased structure which is implicit in the original Sanskrit.

The translation would go something like this:

yaH saddharmam adeshayat
anukampaam upaadaaya
taM namasyaami gautamaM

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

For the dropping of all views

He taught the true Dharma,

Utilizing compassion.

I bow to him, Gautama.

(NB. Not I bow to he, Gautama; I bow to him, Gautama.

EH Johnston:
When given advice that was useful though unpalatable, he listened and was not disturbed ; he remembered the slightest action done for his benefit, passing over injuries to himself however so many they were.

Linda Covill:
He listened even to disagreeable advice without agitation; he overlooked the greatest wrong-doing and remembered the smallest service.

hitam = acc. sg. hita: n. anything useful or salutary or suitable or proper , benefit , advantage , profit , service , good , welfare , good advice &c
vipriyam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. disagreeable , unpleasant
api: even, though
uktaH (nom. sg. m.): spoken, given [advice]

yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
shushraava = 3rd pers. sg. perfect shru: to hear , listen or attend to anything (acc.) , give ear to any one (acc. or gen.) , hear or learn anything about (acc.)
na: not
cukShubhe = 3rd pers. sg. perfect kShubh: to shake , tremble , be agitated or disturbed , be unsteady , stumble (literally and metaphorically)

duSh-kRtam (acc. sg.): n. evil action , sin ; ill-done deed, disservice
bahu : great
api: even
tyaktvaa = abs. tyaj: to leave , abandon , quit ; let go

sasmaara = 3rd pers. sg. perfect smR: to remember
kRtam (acc. sg.): n. deed , work , action ; n. service done , kind action , benefit
aNu: small
api: even

Thursday, June 17, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.8: Making All Meaningful (provisional effort)

kRta-shaastraH kRt'-aastro vaa
jaato vaa vipule kule
a-kRt'-aartho na dadRshe
yasya darshanam eyivaan

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

Whether skilled in use of book or skilled in use of sword,

Whether born into an eminent family or not,

No-one was seen as useless,

Who came into his presence.

Two or three internet sources confirm that eyivaan translates as got or obtained, so yasya darshanam eyivaan would seem to mean "obtained a meeting/audience with him" or "came into his presence." What the grammar of eyivaan is, however, I have not been able to ascertain -- and if jiblet is reading this, I would be grateful for his input.

Without knowing the grammar of eyivaan, I don't understand the grammar of whole second half of the verse -- and so the translation above is mainly guesswork and is even more provisional than usual.

EHJ also seemed unsure how to understand the verse, and added as a note to his translation:
"This probably means not only that the king granted all requests made to him in audience, but that the mere sight of him brought good luck."

If, as I have been intuiting, the king symbolizes a central controlling agent in a hierarchical system then the point might be there was no disconnect between this central agent and the periphery; rather, the agent at the head of the hierarchy imbued all parts with a sense of direction, purpose, meaning, or in short usefulness.

EH Johnston:
Whoever came into his sight, whether scholar, warrior or man of high degree, was fortunate in his business.

Linda Covill:
No one who came to see him, whether accomplished in learning or weaponry or born to the nobility, failed to achieve his goals.

kRta-shaastraH (nom. sg. m.): one accomplished in scripture/science
kRta: mfn. done, accomplished, obtained, cultivated etc.
shaastra: n. teaching , instruction ; any instrument of teaching , any manual or compendium of rules , any book or treatise , (esp.) any religious or scientific treatise , any sacred book or composition of divine authority (applicable even to the veda ); a body of teaching (in general) , scripture , science
kRt'-aastraH (nom. sg. m.): one accomplished in weaponry
astra: n. a missile weapon , bolt , arrow ; sword ; bow
vaa: or

jaataH (nom. sg. m.): born
vaa: or
vipule (loc. sg.): mfn. large , extensive , wide , great, noble (as a race)
kule (loc. sg.): n. a herd , troop , flock , assemblage , multitude , number ; n. a race , family , community , tribe ; the residence of a family , seat of a community , inhabited country ; a house , abode ; a noble or eminent family or race ; high station ; the body ; the front , forepart

a-kRt'-aarthaH (nom. sg. m.): being of unaccomplished purpose, his aim not being accomplished, his effort being futile, being meaningless, being useless
a-kRta: not accomplished
artha: aim , purpose (ifc. " for the sake of , on account of , in behalf of , for ")
na: not
dadRshe = 3rd pers. sg. (aatmane-pada) perfect. dRsh: to see, behold , meet

yasya (gen. sg.): of whom, of him [the king]
darshanam: n. seeing , observing , looking ; visiting ; n. audience , meeting (with gen.) ; n. experiencing ;n. the eye; n. the becoming visible or known , presence; n. appearance (before the judge)
eyivaan: got, obtained

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.7: Ease Under a Primary Controller

yasya su-vyavahaaraac ca
rakShaNaac ca sukham prajaaH
shishyire vigat'-odvegaaH
pitur aNka-gataa iva

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

Due to his good governance,

And under his protection,
his subjects rested at ease,

Free from anxiety,

As if in a father's lap.

In this verse, as I read it, as in several verses in Canto 1, Ashvaghosha is suggesting the working of a certain hierarchy along the lines of "the head leads and the body follows."

If Ashvaghosha had in mind only some truth in the political sphere, it would be necessary to become the leader of some kind of kingdom in order to verify it. In fact, experience as the head of a lesser group such as a family might lend a kind of verification to the principle that if the head of the family is in good order and knows where he is going, the other family members tend to fit in and all be more or less happy.

But what is more readily open to verification, what is more fundamental, and what Ashvaghosha as I hear him is really more interested in, is the principle that when a person sitting with right foot on left thigh and left foot on right thigh wears his or her head well, then subordinate body parts all tend to rest easy.

So this verse, as I read it, has to do with the function in governing the working of the organism as a whole, and in preventing misuse, of what FM Alexander termed "the primary control of the use of the self."

Equally it has to do with sitting upright, without stiffening, with right foot on left thigh and left foot on right thigh -- the samadhi that is king of samadhis.

EH Johnston:
Owing to his excellent administration and efficient protection his subjects reposed peacefully, free from alarms, like children in their father's lap.

Linda Covill:
Thanks to his good government and protection, his subjects slept soundly, undisturbed, like children in their father's lap.

yasya (gen. sg. m.): of whom
su-vyavahaaraat (abl. sg.): because of good governance
su-: (laudatory prefix) good
vy-avahaara: m. doing , performing , action , practice , conduct , behaviour ; practices of law and kingly government ; administration of justice
ca: and

rakShaNaat = abl. sg. rakShaNa: n. the act of guarding , watching , protecting
ca: and
sukham (internal accusative = adverb): easily, agreeably, comfortably, happily
prajaaH (nom. pl.): f. procreation , propagation , birth ; offspring , children , family , race , posterity , descendants , after-growth (of plants); a creature , animal , man , mankind ; people , subjects (of a prince)

shishyire = 3rd pers. pl. perfect shii: to lie , lie down , recline , rest , repose ; to lie down to sleep , fall asleep , sleep
vigat'-odvegaaH (nom. pl. f.): free from anxiety
vigata: mfn. gone asunder , dispersed ; gone away , departed , disappeared , ceased , gone (often ibc.)
udvega: m. trembling , waving , shaking ; m. agitation , anxiety

pitur = gen. sg. pitR: father
aNka-gataaH (nom. pl. f.): being in the lap
aNka: m. a hook, 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 ")
gata: mfn. being in
iva: like

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.6: Emulating the Ancients, through Conduct

yaH puurvai raajabhir yaataaM
yiyaasur dharma-paddhatiM
raajyaM diikShaam iva vahan
vRtten' aanvagamat pitRRn

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

Wishing to tread the dutiful path of dharma

Trodden by previous kings,

Bearing his kingship like a call to total dedication,

He emulated the forefathers through his conduct.

The emphasis in this verse is very much on actual conduct, conduct itself, concrete conduct, a path trodden -- what in Shobogenzo is referred to as ANRI.

This verse also brings to mind another turning word in Shobogenzo, KEIKO, translated as "emulating the ancients." KEIKO is a word favoured by modern Japanese martial artists to express practice itself.

The turning word here in Sanskrit might be vRttena, the point being that a true king emulates the ancients not primarily by what he understands, and not primarily by what kind of a dash he cuts in the eyes of others, but primarily by how he conducts himself -- by what he does and by what he does not do, whether he is in the public eye or sitting in solitude.

The prime example of such kingly conduct cited by Ashvaghosha in 2.4 is to have a fine form -- in other words, what is commonly called "a good posture" -- without stiffness or rigidity.

By struggling with that balancing act, with left foot on right thigh and right foot on left thigh, it may be that we can all emulate in our conduct the ancient Dharma-kings.

EH Johnston:
Anxious to tread the path of righteousness taken by the kings of old, he imitated his ancestors in conduct, dedicating himself, as it were, to his kingdom.

Linda Covill:
In his wish to follow the footpath of dharma trodden by previous kings, he modeled his conduct on that of his ancestors, treating his kingship as a consecration.

yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
puurvaiH (inst. pl.): mfn. former , prior , preceding, previous; ancient, old
raajabhir = inst. pl. raajan: m. king
yaataam (acc. sg. f.): mfn. (past part. √yaa) gone , proceeded , marched

yiyaasuH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (from desid. √yaa) wishing to go, proceed, march etc.
dharma-paddhatim (acc. sg. f.): path of dharma
dharma: m. dharma, practice, duty, etc.
paddhati: f. " foot-stroke " , a way , path , course , line

raajyam (acc. sg.): n. royalty , kingship , sovereignty , empire ; kingdom , country , realm
diikShaam (acc. sg.): f. preparation or consecration for a religious ceremony , undertaking religious observances for a partic. purpose and the observances themselves ; dedication , initiation ; any serious preparation (as for battle) ; self-devotion to a person or god , complete resignation or restriction to , exclusive occupation with
√diikSh: to consecrate or dedicate one's self (esp. for the performance of the soma-sacrifice) ; to dedicate one's self to a monastic order Buddh. : iva: like
vahan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. vah: to carry ; to take or carry with or about one's self , have , possess ; to bear , suffer , endure ; to experience, feel

vRttena = inst. sg. vRtta: n. (also pl.) procedure , practice , action , mode of life , conduct , behaviour (esp. virtuous conduct , good behaviour)
[Line 4 of EHJ's original Sanskrit reads vRtteta -- presumably a misprint.]
anvagamat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist anu- √gam: to go after , follow , seek , approach , visit , arrive ; to practise , observe , obey , imitate
pitRRn (acc. pl. pitR): m. pl. the fathers , forefathers , ancestors

Monday, June 14, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.5: Energizing & Allowing

aakShiptaH shatrubhiH saMkhye
suhRdbhish ca vyapaashritaH
abhavad yo na vimukhaH
tejasaa ditsay" aiva ca

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

Challenged by enemies in the battle,

And petitioned by friends,

Not backward was he in responding

With an intense energy, and a willingness to give.

What this verse seems to be saying, in the first instance, is that sometimes the king cuts others no slack; sometimes the king cuts others plenty of slack.

But the real point of Ashvaghosha's portrayal of the king of Kapilavastu, as I read it, is to hold up a mirror that presages the enlightened teaching of the king of Dharma.

That being so, I don't read the verse as necessarily being about others. Enemies might be interpreted not only as others but also as wrong tendencies within the self, such as greedy end-gaining or doubt about cause and effect, that challenge a practitioner to do battle; and friends might similarly be interpreted as wrong tendencies within the self, such as greedy end-gaining or doubt about cause and effect, that call for sympathetic attention.

What is this verse saying then, about how one should respond in practice to one's wrong tendencies? The point might be sometimes to cut those tendencies no slack; and sometimes to give oneself a break, remembering, as an antidote to grim determination, that "Being wrong is the best friend we have got in this work."

Having written the above comment yesterday and slept on it and sat on it, I realize that it is necessary, as always, to go further and dig deeper for what Ashvaghosha really meant by tejas and ditsaa.

For example, is it really a case of either cutting slack in the one case or not cutting slack in the other case? Is there a sense in which a true king uses tejas and ditsaa in tandem with each other, or even as one enlightened response?

As the veteran Alexander teacher Nelly Ben-Or once said, "Direction is the truest form of inhibition."

Digging out the real meaning of tejas and ditsaa is truly a work in progress -- at least it is for veteran Alexander teachers, and it might be for Zen masters too, at least for those ones who are not like fake elephants trumpeting around their views and opinions... (mirror principle alert?).

For the present what can be said is that tejas has to do with energy, and ditsaa has to do with willingness to allow.

EH Johnston:
Whether challenged by his enemies in battle or solicited by his friends, he was not backward in courage in the one case or in liberality in the other.

Linda Covill:
When his enemies challenged him in battle, he did not shy from fierceness, nor from generosity when his friends approached as supplicants.

aakShiptaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. cast , thrown down ; caught, seized ; hung out or exposed to view (as flags &c ); insulted , reviled , abused , challenged , called to a dispute (dat.)
shatrubhiH = inst. pl. shatru: m. " overthrower " , an enemy , foe , rival , a hostile king (esp. a neighbouring king as a natural enemy)
saMkhye = loc. sg. saMkhya: n. conflict , battle , war (only in loc.)

suhRdbhish = inst. pl. su-hRd: m. " good-hearted " , " kindhearted " , " well-disposed " , a friend , ally
ca: and
vyapaashritaH (nom. sg. m.): turned to for help, solicited
vi: prefix used to intensify or for euphony
apaa- √ shri: to resort to , to use , practise

abhavat (3rd pers. sg. imperfect bhuu): he was
yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
na: not
vimukhaH (nom. sg. m.): mf(aa)n. having the face averted , turned backwards; averse to

tejasaa = inst. sg. tejas: n. sharp edge ; fiery energy , ardour , vital power
ditsayaa = inst. sg. ditsaa: f. (from desiderative of √ daa) desire or intention of giving
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and

Sunday, June 13, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.4: That without That

vapuShmaaMsh ca na ca stabdho
dakShiNo na ca n' aarjavaH
tejasvii na ca na kShaantaH
kartaa ca na ca vismitaH

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

Having a fine form, without being stiff;

Dexterous but not dishonest;

Energetic but not impatient;

He was active, without being flustered.

The pattern of this verse is one with which I am familiar from Alexander work:

Let the head go forward,
without pulling down;

In order to let the spine lengthen,
without arching and narrowing the back;

So that the whole body lengthens in stature,
without stiffening or bracing;

These directions to be given "all together, one after the other,"
with determination but without grimness.

A minus X;
B minus Y;
C minus Z;
[SUM: ABC] minus [SUM: XYZ].

So the general principle implicit in this verse, as I read it, is non-doing, i.e. skillfully allowing something to happen without being pushy about it. To put it another way, the king was skilled in allowing his energy to flow spontaneously towards certain ends, without end-gaining.

Stiffening, dishonesty, impatience, and fluster are all unforeseen side-effects of immoderate desire to gain an end. They are side-effects of going for an end in such a way, guided by faulty sensory appreciation, that a loss of balance or integrity results. In that case, the end may be gained, but only at the expense of undesired and undesirable side effects like stiffening, dishonesty, impatience, and fluster.

The Buddha did not recommend us to have no desire. The final teaching of the Buddha recommends us to have desire that is small, moderate, modest. Desire itself, as I understood Ashvaghosha to be saying in Canto 15, is not the problem. My desire to accomplish this translation is not a problem; sexual desire is not a problem; desire to gain the approval of others and win the means to provide for one's family -- in short, the will to fame and profit -- are not a problem; so long as those desires remain moderate. Problems arise, that is to say, balance and integrity are lost, when people's desire to gain an end overpowers our desire to go about it a decent and wholesome manner, sticking to principle.

This, as I see it, is the main general principle -- of Shobogenzo, of Alexander work, and of Ashvaghosha's teaching. But Ashvaghosha here is speaking not in general and abstract terms about people and a principle; he is speaking in specific and concrete terms about a king of Kapilavastu who, in maintaining a good posture, did not stiffen up.

There are a lot of Zen Buddhists, especially in Japanese lineages, who could learn a lot from that non-Buddhist king...

EH Johnston:
Handsome yet not presumptuous, courteous yet straightfoward, courageous yet forbearing, masterly yet without arrogance,

Linda Covill:
handsome but not obstinate, pleasant but not insincere, energetic but not impatient, active but not overbearing.

vapuShmaan = nom. sg. m. vapuSh-mat: mfn. having a body , embodied , corporeal ; having a beautiful form , handsome
ca: and
na: not
ca: and
stabdhaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. firmly fixed , supported , propped &c ; reaching up to (loc.) ; stiff , rigid , immovable , paralyzed , senseless , dull (am ind.) ; solidified (as water) ; puffed up , proud , arrogant ; obstinate , stubborn , hard-hearted

dakShiNaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. able , clever , dexterous ; right (not left)
na: not
ca: and
na: not
aarjavaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. straight, honest , sincere

tejasvii = nom. sg. m. tejas-vin: mfn. sharp (the eye) ; brilliant , splendid , bright , powerful , energetic ; violent
na: not
ca: and
na: not
kShaantaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. enduring , patient

kartaaH = nom. sg. m. kartR: mfn. one who makes or does or acts or effects , a doer , maker , agent; doing any particular action or business, applying one's self to any occupation
ca: and
na: not
ca: and
vismitaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. amazed , surprised , perplexed ; proud , arrogant
√smi: to smile , blush , become red or radiant , shine ; to smile , laugh ; to expand , bloom (as a flower) ; to be proud or arrogant

Saturday, June 12, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.3: That as well as That

baliiyaan sattva-sampannaH
shrutavaan buddhimaan api
vikraanto nayavaaMsh c'aiva
dhiiraH sumukha eva ca

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

Strong and strong-minded;

Learned as well as intelligent;

Daring and yet prudent;

Determined, and cheerfully so;

The style of this verse is positive, in contrast to the previous verse which was full of negatives, but the intention is the same: to point us -- through the establishment of negative and positive feedback loops, by means of self-administered stick and carrot -- in the direction of the middle way.

Implicit in the four pairs in these four lines, then, as I read them, is an opposition, antagonism, or balance. So line 1 describes the co-existence of physical and mental strength, and line 2 describes the co-existence of acquired and inherent understanding. In line 3 stepping into action is done boldly and yet it is also informed by reason. And line 4 expresses not the unmitigated grim determination of the end-gainer but rather the kind of dogged adherence to a principle that is maintained with a smile behind the eyes.

In the teaching of FM Alexander, as in the teaching of the Buddha, the primary emphasis is negative -- NOT TO DO the wrong thing, so that the right thing might do itself. And the wrong thing, as Alexander saw it, began with a pulling back of the head. So as part of his investigations Alexander formulated the desire not to pull his head back, and found it useful to formulate this desire as a positive -- to let the head go forward. Now any old fool can get the head to go forward, in the manner of a man imparting a Glasgow kiss, but when one drops one's nut in this manner the head goes forward and DOWN, which is the opposite of what Alexander desired. So he formulated the direction "to let the head go FOWARD and UP"...

Let the head go FORWARD and UP;
To let the back LENGTHEN and WIDEN;
So that the whole body has TONE and EASE....
All this to be accomplished with an attitude that is

To sit like this, in the supreme manner, with left foot on right thigh and right foot on left thigh, really is the simplest thing in the world ... which must be why it is so bloody difficult. And when confronted with difficulty, it is all too easy for some people to revert to a default setting, rooted in the Moro reflex, of grim determination. Quad Erat Demonstrandum.

"This work is the most serious thing in the world," an old buddha once said. "But you mustn't take it seriously. It is supposed to be fun!"

EH Johnston:
Strong, resolute, learned in the sacred lore, wise, brave, skilled in counsel, steadfast and gracious,

Linda Covill:
He was mighty, courageous, learned and wise, as well as bold, politic, serious-minded and fair of face;

baliiyaan = nom. sg. m. baliiyas: mfn. (compar. fr. balin) more or most powerful , or mighty or strong or important or efficacious
sattva-sampannaH (nom. sg. m.): endowed with strength of character
sattva: n. being; true essence , nature , disposition of mind , character ; spiritual essence , spirit , mind ; vital breath , life , consciousness , strength of character , strength , firmness , energy , resolution , courage , self-command , good sense , wisdom , magnanimity
sampanna: mfn. endowed or furnished with , possessed of (instr. or comp.); (ifc.) become , turned into

shrutavaan = nom. sg. m. shruta-vat: mfn. possessing (sacred) knowledge , learned , pious
buddhimaan = nom. sg. m. buddhi-mat: mfn. endowed with understanding , intelligent , learned , wise ; humble , docile
api: and, also

vi-kraantaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. stepped beyond , taking wide strides &c ; courageous , bold , strong , mighty , victorious
nayavaan = nom. sg. m. naya-vat [as per 1.62]: mfn. versed in polity , prudent
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)

dhiiraH (nom. sg. m.): steady , constant , firm , resolute , brave , energetic , courageous , self-possessed , composed , calm , grave ; deep , low , dull (as sound)
sumukhaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having a good or beautiful mouth , fair-faced , handsome ; bright-faced , cheerful , glad
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and

Friday, June 11, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.2: Neither That Nor That

yaH sasaNje na kaameShu
shrii-praaptau na visismiye
n'aavamene paraan Rddhyaa
parebhyo n'aapi vivyathe

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

Neither stuck in his desires

Nor conceited about gaining sovereignty,

He did not, as he grew, look down on others,

And nor did he shrink from others in fear.

In this canto, as I read it, Ashvaghosha's intention is neither to give an objective historical report of how Shuddhodhana was nor to paint an ideal picture of how every top politician should govern his minions. Ashvaghosha's underlying intention might rather be to encourage every individual reader roughly in the direction (following a middle course) of being king of his own individual universe.

That being so, a first step in gaining dominion over the self necessarily involves not being stuck in one's desires.

There was an excellent thought for the day on BBC Radio 4 this morning in which British rabbi Jonathan Sachs spoke of our tendency to seek technical rather than adaptive solutions to every problem -- i.e. always tending to seek a quick fix in preference to the kind of real change that begins within -- in connection with our addiction to oil. Sachs related this tendency to his reading of the biblical myth of Adam & Eve in the garden of Eden, and in particular to the meaning of forbidden fruit.

When I reflect on the history of my own desires, it has pretty much been a history of being stuck in them. And while sexual desire has sometimes been a sticking point, it has not been the main sticking point -- else I would not have left a woman I hugely fancied in order to go alone to Japan in 1982 seeking Zen enlightenment.

So whereas the word kaameShu in line 1 might on first reading evoke the earthly pleasures, and especially sexual pleasures, at an ancient king's disposal, I prefer to understand kaameShu more generally (as in 15.3 - 15.11) as desires -- i.e. not only the desire to have sex with the object of one's sexual desire, but also the desire to have your say in a philosophical discussion, or the desire to rise from a chair, or the desire to be recognized as number one, or -- at the subtlest level of desiring to get the body out -- the desire to lengthen the spine and breathe more easily in sitting.

In that case, a deeper meaning emerges of shrii-prapti, which can be understood not only as accession to royal sovereignty but also, more generally, as the kind of success, or sovereignty, or dominion over oneself, that is gained by means of inhibition of an end-gaining desire . This latter kind of success might be experienced, for example, in rising out of a chair in a way that seems totally effortless, in which case an Alexander teacher who is guiding the movement might say to you: "That's nothing to be proud of. You shouldn't have been in the way in the first place!"

Again, paraan and parebhyaH in lines 3 and 4 can be understood as referring to a king's political adversaries, or to others in general.

And Rddhi, as for example at the very end of the Buddha's great monologue at the end of Canto 16, is easily understood as economic prosperity or success, i.e., the achievement of a definite material end, whereas Ashvaghosha's true intention might be to suggest growth as a process, on the middle way.

In this verse, then, though it is only apparent after a bit of digging, a pattern can be observed which will recur in many verses of this Canto. The essential pattern is this:

Neither A on that side of the middle way,
Nor B on the other side;
Neither C on that side of the middle way,
Nor its opposite D.

The pattern, as I understand it, is rooted in sitting in lotus and...
Neither pulling the head back,
Nor slumping forward and down;
Neither shortening in stature,
Nor holding oneself up stiffly.

So a verse that on the surface is just listing some attributes of an ancient king, when one digs below the surface, might be holding up a mirror to truths that will be touched on in later cantos -- truths which are all flowers and fruits of sitting, such as inhibition of end-gaining desires, cutting of upper fetters, continuation of growth, and fearless turning of the wheel of Dharma.

EH Johnston:
Who was not attached to worldly passions, who was not made insolent by accession to sovereignty, who did not despise others because of his prosperity, who did not tremble before his foes.

Linda Covill:
He was not preoccupied with sensuality, nor arrogant in winning sovereignty, nor contemptuous of others by reason of his own success, nor did he quail before his enemies.

yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
sasaNje = 3rd pers. sg. perfect saNj: to cling or stick or adhere to , be attached to or engaged in or occupied with (loc.)
na: not
kaameShu = loc. pl. kaama: m. wish, desire ; pleasure , enjoyment ; love , especially sexual love or sensuality

shrii-praaptau (loc. sg.): acceding to power, gaining sovereignty, gaining control
shrii: f. light , lustre , radiance , splendour , glory ; prosperity , welfare , good fortune , success , auspiciousness , wealth , treasure , riches (shriyaa , " according to fortune or wealth ") , high rank , power , might , majesty
praapti: f. advent , occurrence ; reach , range , extent ; reaching , arrival at (comp.)
na: not
visismiye = 3rd pers. sg. perfect vi- √smi to wonder , be surprised or astonished at (instr. loc. , or abl.) ; to be proud of (instr.)
√ smi: to smile , blush , become red or radiant , shine; to be proud or arrogant

na: not
avamene = 3rd pers. sg. perfect: ava- √ man: to despise , treat , contemptuously
ava: (as prefix) off, away, down
√ man: to think, regard, consider
paraan (acc. pl.): m. another (different from one's self) , a foreigner , enemy , foe , adversary
Rddhyaa = inst. sg. Rddhi: f. increase , growth , prosperity , success , good fortune , wealth , abundance

parebhyaH (abl. pl.): m. another (different from one's self) , a foreigner , enemy , foe , adversary
na: not
api: also, again, even, at all
vivyathe = 3rd pers. sg. perfect vyath: to tremble , waver; be afraid of (gen.)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.1: A True King's First Conquest

tataH kadaa cit kaalena
tad avaapa kula-kramaat
raajaa shuddhodhano naama
shuddha-karmaa jit'-endriyaH

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

Some time thereafter that realm passed,

Through familial succession,

To a king named Shuddodhana

Who, being pure in his actions,
had thwarted the power of the senses.

Implicit in the 4th line, as I read it, is the main point of Canto 13, Thwarting the Power of the Senses Through Practice of Integrity; namely, that being pure in one's actions is the means to free oneself from the tyranny of unconscious reaction to stimuli perceived through the senses.... which is all very well in theory, until one cannot in practice get an internet connection and something within one wishes to throw one's toys out of the pram.

There are levels and levels of defeating the power of the senses. On a crude level, not being swayed by pain -- whether running off a knock on the rugby pitch or carrying on sitting despite pain in the legs -- is to thwart the power of the senses. On a subtler level, getting the spine to lengthen upwards without arching and narrowing the back requires a person to circumvent the problem that FM Alexander described as faulty sensory appreciation -- if one tries to lengthen the spine based on faulty feeling, a stiffening and narrowing reaction is liable to take place, particularly if certain vestibular reflexes are not well integrated.

The purest of all actions, or in other words, the most integral of all actions, might be those actions that seem to do themselves, naturally, spontaneously, effortlessly.

The practice of non-doing is really the simplest thing in the world -- as simple as just sitting. People build political empires around it, teach it as a professional occupation, and write a lot of bullshit about it. In the latter regard, I am surely one of the worst offenders.

I was attracted to Japan because of a certain Zen simplicity that I believed to reside there, in the practice of various ways. Zen & the Ways by Trever Legget was one of the books I had read at university, along with Zen & the Art of Archery, and Zen & the Martial Arts. But within a couple of years of being in Japan I had become entangled in a mission to save the world from the conflict between American Idealism and Russian Dialectic Materialism, the means of that rescue being Buddhist Philosophy of Action, and Realism.... and so, in my naive sincerity, while living in Japan at the age of 24 and speaking not much Japanese, what language did I start learning? Russian.

What a plonker.

Such convolutions and complications arise when a person's sitting, in thrall to faulty sensory appreciation, causes the flow up the spine to become disconnected as the back arches and narrows. The consequence, far from spontaneous ease, is a painful struggle in which the top and bottom of a person, as well as his two sides, are as if at war with each other.

Nowadays, to prevent myself falling back into that trap, I ask myself:

How am I?
Where am I?
In which direction am I pointing?
Am I taking the whole of myself with me?

These are questions that I learned to ask myself in the context of Alexander work. But they mirror a hierarchy which is a priori; the hierarchy is not artificial or contrived, because it is hard-wired into every human system, via the vestibular reflexes.

Even in the best of circumstances, like being on solitary retreat by the forest, because the simplest thing is the most difficult, the originally pure practice of just sitting is liable to become needlessly complicated. Quad Erat Demonstrandum.

EH Johnston:
In time thereafter in the course of succession the realm passed to King Suddhodana, whose deeds were pure, whose senses were subdued,

Linda Covill:
After some time a king named Shuddhodana, pure in conduct and controlled in senses, one day came to the throne through familial succession.

tataH: ind. thence
kadaa cit: at some time or other , sometimes , once
kaalena (inst. sg.): with/through time

tad: that [realm]
avaapa = 3rd pers. sg. perfect avaap: to reach , attain , obtain , gain , get
kula-kramaat (abl. sg.): through familial succession
kula: n. a race , family
krama: m. a step ; going , proceeding , course ; uninterrupted or regular progress , order , series , regular arrangement , succession ; hereditary descent

raajaa = nom. sg. raajaan: m. king
shuddhodhanaH (nom. sg.): Shuddhodhana = Shuddodana; m. " having pure rice or food " , N. of a king of kapila-vastu (of the tribe of the shaakyas and father of gautama buddha)
shuddha: mfn. cleansed , cleared , clean , pure
uddhana: m. a wooden swordlike instrument for stirring boiled rice,
odana: mn. grain mashed and cooked with milk , porridge , boiled rice
naama: ind. by name

shuddha-karmaaH (nom. pl. m.): being pure in actions
shuddha: mfn. cleansed , cleared , clean , pure
karma: n. action
jit'-endriyaH (nom. sg. m.): having conquered the power of the senses
jita: mfn. won , acquired , conquered , subdued
indriya: n. bodily power , power of the senses