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


Harry said...

"There are levels and levels of defeating the power of the senses. On a crude level..."

Hello, Mike.

Reminds me of the phrase from your Fukanzazengi translation 'getting the body out'. It strikes me today as maybe referring to an initial, sinewy recognition of a means to be continually refined.

Your post also reminds me of the potential cul-de-sacs inherent when we reifying 'integrity'. I know people of great, manifest integrity who seem careless, almost foolish.



Mike Cross said...

Thanks Harry -- nice connection to SHUSSHIN NO KATSU-RO, the vivid road of getting the body out.