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

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