Thursday, July 8, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.29: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Conscious Conduct & Concentrated Energy

kulaM raaja'-rShi-vRttena
yasho-gandham aviivapat
diiptyaa tama iv' aadityaH
tejas" aariin aviivapat

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

By the conduct of a royal seer,

He propagated through his house
the fragrance of honour ;

Like the son of Aditi shining light into darkness,

He with the intensity of his energy
caused the enemies to scatter.

The conduct of a royal seer (raaja'-rShi-vRtta), as I understand the phrase, is intended to convey a sense of action on a higher level than that of the subconsciously controlled ordinary bloke -- the kind of bloke that FM Alexander called "lowly evolved swine." The 1st line then, as indeed the whole verse, as I read it, presages the Buddha's teaching of the four truths which he called Aryan, or noble.

House or family (kulam) seems to correspond closely to the character KE in Shobogenzo, as in SHUKKE, "leaving home," or "transcending family life." I often translated the character in Shobogenzo as "lineage," and though "lineage" is not included in the Monier-Williams definitions of kula, "lineage" or "house" -- and not only biological family -- might be appropriate to the meaning of kula that Ashvaghosha intends.

The fragrance of honour (yasho-gandham) is a phrase used in 1.59 in connection with the celebrated sons of Yayati, four out of five of whom were sufficiently modest, reserved or detached -- sufficiently able to resist the desire to gain a political end, to put it another way -- to say to Yayati "No deal." In modern language and usage, according to Wikipedia, trading conscientious behavior for external gain is sometimes called Yayati Syndrome

The sun (personified as Aditya, the son of Aditi) shining light into darkness, may be taken as symbolizing something conscious opposing something unconscious.

And similarly fiery energy (tejas) suggests to me, in this verse as also in 2.5, energy that is not directed here and there by unconscious fear-based reactions to this and that stimulus, but rather energy that is consciously directed.

So the picture this verse conjures, as I read it, is of the light of concentrated or consciously directed energy, ranged against the enemy forces of unconsciously dissipated energy and darkness.

This tallies very much with what Marjory Barlow demonstrated to me about what FM Alexander meant by "thinking in activity." A simple action like moving a leg, if truly performed consciously, i.e. with attention to inhibiting unwanted unconscious reactions, results indirectly in a condition of heightened or concentrated energy which Marjory, following her uncle FM Alexander, called "the whole body being informed with thought."

When my confidence in all things and matters becomes shaky, there are two definite activities that I can come back to and draw confidence from. One is sitting still (more or less) and upright (more or less) with right foot on left thigh and left foot on right thigh. The other is the activity called "thinking in activity" that Marjory Barlow demonstrated to me, in the context of investigating the action of moving a leg.

What FM Alexander called "thinking in activity" is very relevant to the theme of this verse, as I read it, which is conscious conduct and concentrated energy.

I went to Japan in January 1982 a couple of weeks passed my 22nd birthday, and stayed there, in what seemed like a self-imposed prison sentence, for 13 years, in the belief that I was engaged in some kind of heroic mission. But the truth is that even if I had stayed in Japan my whole life, without meeting the teaching of FM Alexander I would not have understood what Ashvaghosha is saying in this verse.

In the summer of 1998, after completing Alexander teacher training, I went back to Japan with the optimistic hope that I could persuade those who had stuck the metaphorical knife in my back, on the basis that I had departed from "true Buddhism" and gone over to the other side of intellectual thinking, that they had made a bloody big mistake. My optimism was unfounded. I persuaded them of no such thing.

I well remember a conversation with back-stabber in chief, Michael J. Luetchford, on the platform of a railway station. As I endeavored to convey what FM Alexander meant by "thinking," Luetchford shook his head dolefully and said patronizingly, as if -- on the basis of 'true Buddhism' and 'the philosophy of action' -- he could see something I could not see, "Ah I see. The situation is more serious than I thought."

The situation was indeed much more serious than Luetchford thought, before that time, at that time, or since that time.

The fragrance of honour (yasho-gandham)? Hmmm....

EH Johnston:
By his conduct as a royal seer he made his family fragrant with the odour of fame and dispersed his foes with his courage, as the sun disperses the darkness with its brilliance.

Linda Covill:
By his conduct as a king-seer he sowed the fragrance of fame in his family; he scattered his enemies with his radiance as the sun scatters darkness with light.

kulam (acc. sg.): n. herd, multitude; a race , family , community , tribe ; a house , abode ; a noble or eminent family or race
raaja'-rShi-vRttena (inst. sg.): by a king-seer's conduct
raajan: king
rShi: m. a singer of sacred hymns , an inspired poet or sage ; the RSis were regarded by later generations as patriarchal sages or saints , occupying the same position in India history as the heroes and patriarchs of other countries , and constitute a peculiar class of beings in the early mythical system , as distinct from gods , men , asuras , &c ; they are the authors or rather seers of the Vedic hymns i.e. according to orthodox Hindu ideas they are the inspired personages to whom these hymns were revealed
vRtta: procedure , practice , action , mode of life , conduct , behaviour (esp. virtuous conduct , good behaviour)

yasho-gandham (acc. sg.): fragrance of honour
yashas: n. beautiful appearance , beauty , splendour , worth ; honour , glory , fame , renown
gandha: m. smell , odour, fragrance
aviivapat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist causitive vap: to sow , plant , put in the ground
vap: to strew , scatter (esp. seed) , sow , bestrew; to procreate , beget ; to throw or heap up , dam up

diiptyaa = inst. sg. diipti: f. brightness , light , splendour , beauty
tama = acc. sg. tamas: n. darkness
iva: like
aadityaH (nom. sg.): m." son of aditi " ; m. pl. N. of seven deities of the heavenly sphere (the chief is varuNa , to whom the N. aaditya is especially applicable)
aditi: f. boundlessness , immensity , inexhaustible abundance , unimpaired condition , perfection , creative power , N. of one of the most ancient of the Indian goddesses (" Infinity " or the " Eternal and Infinite Expanse " , often mentioned in Rg Veda , daughter of dakSha and wife of kashyapa , mother of the aadityas and of the gods)
varuNa: m. " All-enveloping Sky " , N. of an aaditya (he is often regarded as the supreme deity , being then styled " king of the gods " or " king of both gods and men " or " king of the universe "); the ocean ; water ; the sun

tejasaa: n. the sharp edge (of a knife &c ) , point or top of a flame or ray , glow , glare , splendour , brilliance , light , fire ; fiery energy
aariin (acc. pl.): m. enemies
aviivapat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist causitive vap: to sow , plant , put in the ground
vap: to strew , scatter (esp. seed) , sow , bestrew; to procreate , beget ; to throw or heap up , dam up

No comments: