Thursday, July 22, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 2.43: Non-Buddhist Virtues (ctd.) -- Stepping Into Action

na ten' aadarshi viShamaM
kaaryaM kva cana kiM cana
vipriya-priyayoH kRtye
na ten' aagaami nikriyaaH

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

He was never seen to do shoddily

Anything anywhere that was to be done;

When required by friend and non-friend to act

He, by these means, did not fall into inaction.

This verse, as I read it, is about action. Beneath the surface, the verse can be read as pointing to the action of just sitting as the manifestation of a bodhisattva's bodhi-mind; i.e. the will to lead others (whether friends or non-friends) across to the far shore of the Buddha's enlightenment.

In a note to his Sanskrit text, EHJ says that nikriyaaH means deceitfulness or baseness, and states that vikriyaaH (transformation, change) makes better sense.

In a subsequent note to his English translation EHJ adds, "If we read vikriyaaH, the meaning is 'he underwent no change of feeling (i.e. was not affected by personal feelings) in dealing with people he liked or disliked.'"

While the point about transcending personal feelings is clearly relevant, my sense is that, with the three words from the root kR (to do, make, or act -- viz. kaaryam, kRtye, and ni-kriyaaH), Ashvagosha is moving the discussion along, from non-emotion into the area of action itself.

This movement might be said to be a movement from the Theravada emphasis on maintaining the pure standards of a monk to the Mahayana emphasis on working for others in the world. If seen as such, I would compare it to the movement of a vehicle in space and time, and not to a movement from one vehicle to another. When scholars discuss this and that Buddhist school, they always seem to me to be speaking as if from outside the vehicle. But the only way to know what Ashvaghosha is talking about, if you ask me, is from inside the vehicle itself. The vehicle is the one-buddha-vehicle, and it is ridden only by people who sit, not by scholars.

Encouragement, beyond a certain point, to stop worrying and get the fuck on with it, is something I have received (though not in so many words) both as a Zen student in Japan and as an Alexander student in England.

For example: In the process of teaching me how as an Alexander teacher to work on myself, Marjory Barlow, as I described in this article, seemed to wish to see evidence of an exclusively mental activity whereby I gave up the idea of moving a leg, in order to thwart the power of my faulty sense of self. Marjory emphasized that Alexander work is the most mental thing there is, an exercise in finding out what thinking is. And yet she always seemed to withhold praise for whatever preparatory thinking I had been doing until I actually got round to the physical action of moving a leg.

Marjory quoted her husband and fellow protege of FM Alexander, Wilfred Barlow, who noted a tendency among some Alexander teachers to confuse the practice of non-doing with inaction, or what he called "nothing doing."

FM Alexander used to say "The secret is in the preparation"; but he also used to say "We get it in movement."

Thus, because in the Buddha's teaching also we get it in movement, the point of this verse as I read it, as also the title of Canto 14, is Stepping Into Action.

EH Johnston:
No unfitting action was observed in him on any occasion, nor did he stoop to any baseness in the affairs of either adversary or friend.

Linda Covill:
Under no circumstance was any kind of irregularity observed in him; and in his obligations to either friend or enemy he never resorted to deceit.

na: not
tena (inst. sg.): by him
adarshi = 3rd pers. sg. aorist passive dRsh: to see, observe
viShamam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. (fr. vi + sama) uneven , rugged , rough ; unequal , irregular , dissimilar , different , inconstant ; hard to traverse , difficult , inconvenient , painful , dangerous , adverse , vexatious , disagreeable , terrible , bad , wicked ; unsuitable , wrong ; unfair , dishonest , partial

kaaryam (nom. sg.): n. work or business to be done , duty , affair ; occupation , matter , thing ; n. conduct , deportment
kva cana: anywhere
kiM cana: in any way, at all

vipriya-priyayoH (gen. dual): of non-friend and friend; of disliked and liked
vipriya: mfn. disaffected , estranged; disagreeable , unpleasant ; n. (also pl.) anything unpleasant or hateful , offence , transgression
priya: mfn. beloved , dear to (gen. loc. dat. or comp.) , liked; m. a friend
kRtye = loc. sg. kRtya: n. what ought to be done , what is proper or fit , duty , office ; n. action , business , performance , service ; n. purpose , end , object , motive , cause

na: not
tena (inst. sg.): by him
tena: ind. (inst. tad) by those means, in that manner
agaami = 3rd pers. sg. aorist passive gam: to go; to go to any state or condition (passive gamyate , " to be understood or meant ")
nikriyaaH (nom./acc. pl.): f. deceitfulness, baseness [EHJ]
vikriyaa: f. transformation , change , modification , altered or unnatural condition ; change for the worse , deterioration , disfigurement , deformity ; ailment , indisposition , affection ; perturbation , agitation , perplexity ; hostile feeling , rebellion , defection , alienation ; injury , harm , failure , misadventure (acc. with √ yaa , to suffer injury , undergo failure)
kriyaa: f. doing , performing , performance , occupation with (in comp.) , business , act , action , undertaking , activity , work , labour
ni: ind. down , back , in , into , within (always prefixed either to verbs or to nouns ; in the latter case it has also the meaning of negation or privation [cf. " down-hearted " = heartless] ; sometimes wrong reading for nis)
niSh-kriya: n. " the actionless One " , the Supreme Spirit

No comments: