Thursday, August 19, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 3.15 - 3. 19: Kapilavastu Re-visited

In this series of verses a certain emphasis seems to be indicated by the repetition of mati in niyata-matiH (3.18) and nishcita-matiH (3.19).

mati is from the root √man, to think.

niyata is the past participle of ni- √ yam, to stop, fasten, bind. So niyata-matiH (3.18) suggests thinking that has become secure, sure, not liable to be destabilized by feelings, or stimuli perceived through the senses.

nishcita is the past participle of nish- √ ci to ascertain, investigate, decide. nish- √ ci is also the root of nishcaya in the phrase parama nishcaya vidhi (supreme method of investigation; 3.6). So nishcita-matiH (3.19) means thinking that has become clear, distinct, definite, as a result of investigation, ascertainment, clarification, verification.

Zen teachers in Japan, where clear thinking is not a strong point and indistinct "intuitive" thinking (not from the brain but from the area of the lower intestines) is rather regarded as a virtue, are prone to emphasize that the Buddha's teaching is not about thinking, but it is all about just acting.

Alexander work, in contrast, is said to be "an exercise in finding out what thinking is."

An Alexander teacher who taught me, Marjory Barlow, used to emphasize that we human beings (in which group even Gautama Buddha is included) cannot control our feelings; rather, our feelings control us. But we can to some extent control what we think.

A student complained to another Alexander teacher named Marjorie Barstow that Marjorie's Alexander work had made her feel confused. "It's all right to feel confused," Marjorie answered, "as long as your thinking is not confused."

I heard something from the BBC radio archives the other day in which the historians Hugh Trevor-Roper and AJP Taylor were arguing about the causes of WWII. I think it was this conversation (I may be wrong) in which the observation was made that "the mistake of appeasement" has become a historical cliche, and a cliche is always an obstacle to clear thinking.

When I tried, admittedly naively and unskilfully, to let my Zen teacher know what FM Alexander had discovered about thinking, my teacher, who was admittedly already an old man of 75, seemed to react blindly to the word "thinking" on the basis of a cliche that had become as if fossilized in his brain and nervous system. The cliche may have had its roots in WWII Japanese propoganda about hakujin no bunka "white man's [intellectual] civilization."

If my teacher had managed to remain more open-minded in his old age, he would not have reacted as he did but would have thought more deeply about the relation between thinking and action, and might have recognized something valuable in FM Alexander's phrase "thinking in activity."

What Alexander called "thinking in activity" has not stopped me feeling anger, and behind the anger, hurt; but it has helped me keep directing the river of my energy in a more or less constructive direction.... notwithstanding quite a few leaks.... of which this comment might be one.

What I was taught in Japan, at least as I received the teaching through the filter of my own faulty feeling, was that action itself -- and not thinking -- is the vital thing, and clear thinking about action (i.e. "the philosophy of action") is also very valuable. What I am doing now is thinking about thinking, which is not what Alexander meant by "thinking in activity" and which is not what Ashvaghosha meant when he described the Buddha as "sure/clear in his thinking."

When I am most sure/clear in my thinking, I direct my head forward and up and the back to lengthen and widen, remembering Marjory Barlow's exhortation "Don't try to do it, just think it," as I withhold or give consent to an action like moving a leg or bowing.

In conclusion, what did Ashvaghosha mean by niyata-matiH (3.18) and nishcita-matiH (3.19)?

Thinking. But not necessarily what eminent historians, Zen masters, or even Alexander teachers understand as thinking.

sa viniiya kaashiShu gayeShu
bahu-janam atho giri-vraje
pitryam api parama-kaaruNiko
nagaraM yayaav anujighRkShayaa tadaa

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Having instructed many people at Kashi and at Gaya

As also at Giri-vraja,

He made his way then to the city of his fathers,

In his deeply compassionate desire to include it.

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
viniiya = abs. vi- √ nii: to lead or take away ; to educate, instruct, direct
kaashiShu (loc.): Kaashi ; f. " the splendid " , N. of a celebrated city and place of pilgrimage (the modern Benares , usually written kaashii q.v.)
gayeShu (loc.): Gayaa ; f. " what has been conquered or acquired "; f. Buddha's gayaa , N. of a sacred place near gaya (in Behar) , where Gautama Buddha and all the other Buddhas are said to have attained to true wisdom.

bahu-janam (acc. sg.): m. a great multitude of people
atha: (connecting particle) and then, next
giri-vraje (loc.): Giri-vraja ; m. " mountain-fenced " N. of the capital of magadha

pitryam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. derived from or relating to a father , paternal , patrimonial , ancestral
api: also
parama-kaaruNikaH (nom. sg. m.): with deepest compassion
parama: deepest, highest, etc.
kaaruNika: mfn. (fr. karuNa) , compassionate
karuNa: mfn. mournful , miserable , lamenting ; compassionate

nagaram (acc. sg.): n. town, city
yayau = 3rd pers. sg. perfect yaa: to go , proceed , move , walk , set out , march , advance , travel , journey
anujighRkShayaa = inst. sg. anujighRkShaa: f. (fr. des. anu- √grah) desire to show favour or kindness ; intention to include
anu- √ grah : to follow in taking or plundering ; to support ; to uphold ; to receive , welcome ; to treat with kindness , favour , oblige ; to foster.
tadaa: ind. at that time, there and then, actually

viShay'-aatmakasya hi janasya
suurya-sadRsha-vapur abhyudito
vijahaara suurya iva Gautamas tamaH

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To people possessed by ends,

Serving many and various paths,

Splendour that seemed like the sun had arisen:

Gautama was like the sun, dispelling darkness.

viShay'-aatmakasya (gen. sg. m.): belonging to objects
viShaya: object of the senses, end to be gained
aatmaka: mfn. belonging to or forming the nature of
hi: for, indeed
janasya (gen. sg.): m. person, people

bahu-vividha-maarga-sevinaH (gen. sg. m.): resorting to many and various paths
bahu: many, much
vividha: various, of different kinds, assorted, mixed
maarga: path
sevin: going or resorting to, serving, honouring, having sex with, fond of, addicted to, practising.

suurya-sadRsha-vapuH (nom. sg. n.): a beautiful form like the sun
suurya: sun
sadRsha: like, similar to
vapus: n. form , figure , (esp.) a beautiful form or figure , wonderful appearance , beauty
abhyuditaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. risen (as the sun or luminaries)

vijahaara = 3rd pers. sg. perfect vi- √ hR: to put asunder , keep apart , separate , open ; to disperse (clouds); to carry away , remove
suuryaH (nom. sg.): m. the sun
iva: like
GautamaH (nom. sg. m.): Gautama
tamaH (acc. sg.): n. darkness, gloom

abhitas tataH kapilavaastu
vastu-mati-shuci shiv'-opavanaM
sa dadarsha niH-spRhatayaa yathaa vanaM

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Seeing then all sides of Kapilavastu --

Which was famed for its most beautiful properties,

Being pure and clean in its substance and design
and pleasantly wooded --

He looked without longing, as though at a forest.

abhitas: ind. (with acc.) on both sides; on all sides , everywhere , about , round ; entirely
tataH: ind. then
kapilavaastu (acc. sg. n.): Kapilavastu

parama-shubha-vaastu-saMstutam (acc. sg. n.): famed for its exceedingly lovely houses
parama: exceedingly, the most
shubha: splendid , bright , beautiful , handsome
vaastu: houses, properties, real estate
saMstuta: mfn. famed, celebrated

vastu-mati-shuci (acc. sg. n.): pure in substance and design
vastu: material thing, object, substance.
mati: thought , design , intention
shuci: pure
shiv'-opavanam (acc. sg. n.): with auspicious groves
shiva: auspicious, kind, friendly, pleasant, happy
upavana: n. a small forest or wood , grove , garden

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
dadarsha = 3rd pers. sg. perfect dRsh: to see, behold, look at, regard
niH-spRhatayaa = inst. niH-spRhataa: f. freedom from desire
niH-spRha: mfn. free from desire , not longing for (loc. or comp.) , abstaining from (abl.)
- taa: (abstract noun suffix)
yathaa: as, as though, as if
vana (acc. sg.): n. forest, wood

a-parigrahaH sa hi babhuuva
niyata-matir aatman'iishvaraH
n'aaika-vidha-bhaya-kareshu kim u

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For he had become free of belonging:

He was sure in his thinking, the master of himself.

How much less did he belong
to those causes of manifold worry --

Family, countrymen, friends and property?

a-parigrahaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. destitute of possession ; mfn. destitute of attendants or of a wife
a: not, without
parigraha: possession, wrapping around, property, dependents, trammels, appurtenances
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
hi: for
babhuuva = 3rd pers. sg. perfect bhuu: to be

niyata-matiH (nom. sg. m.): with fastened inclination
niyata: mfn. held back or in , fastened ; controlled, restrained, definite, sure
ni- √ yam: to stop (trans.) , hold back ; to fasten , tie to (loc.) , bind up (hair &c )
mati: f. (from √man: to think) thought , design , intention , resolution , determination , inclination , wish , desire , mind
aatmani (loc. sg.): m. the individual self
iishvaraH (nom. sg. m.): being the master
aatman-iishvaraH (nom. sg. m.): being master of himself
aatman: m. the individual self
iishvara: master , lord , prince , king ; God

n'aaika-vidha-bhaya-kareshu (loc. pl.): causing many forms of dismay
na: not
eka: one
n'aaika: mfn. not one, i.e. many, numerous, manifold
vidha: m. measure, form, kind
n'aaikavidha: mfn. manifold, various
bhaya: n. fear , alarm dread apprehension ; sg. and pl. terror , dismay , danger , peril , distress
kara: mfn. a doer , maker , causer , doing , making , causing , producing (esp. ifc.)
kim u: how much more/less?

sva-jana-sva-desha-jana-mitra-vastushu (loc. pl.): family, countrymen, friends and property
sva-jana: one's own people, family
sva-desha-jana: people of one's own country
mitra: friends
vastu: possession, property

pratipuujayaa na sa jaharSha
na ca shucam avajNay" aagamat
niscita-matir asi-candanayor
na jagaama duHkha-sukhayosh ca vikriyaaM

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Being revered gave him no thrill;

Disrespect caused him no grief.

He was clear in his thinking,
come sword or sandalwood,

And he did not change his attitude
when the going got hard or easy.

pratipuujayaa = inst. sg. pratipuujaa: n. doing homage , honouring , revering (with gen.)
prati- √ puuj: , to return a salutation , reverence , salute respectfully , honour , praise , commend , approve
na: not
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
jaharSha = 3rd pers. sg. perfect hRSh: to be excited or impatient , rejoice in the prospect of , be anxious or impatient for (dat.) ; to thrill with rapture , rejoice , exult , be glad or pleased ; to become sexually excited ; to become erect or stiff or rigid , bristle (said of the hairs of the body &c ) , become on edge (like the teeth)

na: not
ca: and
shucam (acc. sg.): grieving, sorrowful
avajNayaa: ind. instr. with disregard , indifferently
avajNaa: f. contempt , disesteem , disrespect
ava- √ jNaa: to disesteem , have a low opinion of , despise , treat with contempt
agamat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist gam: to go, become (with accusative)

niscita-matiH (nom. sg. m.): decided in mind, firm in his direction/thinking, unmoved, unperturbed
niscita: mfn. ascertained , determined , settled , decided; n. certainty , decision , resolution , design
nish- √ ci: to ascertain , investigate , decide , settle , fix upon , determine , resolve
mati: f. (from √man: to think) thought , design , intention , resolution , determination , inclination , wish , desire , mindinclination , wish , desire
asi-candanayoH (gen./loc. dual): towards sword and sandalwood
asi: sword
candana: sandalwood, luxurious incense

na: not
jagaama = 3rd pers. sg. perfect gam: to go, become (with accusative)
duHkha-suKHhayoH (gen./loc. dual): in pain or pleasure, in discomfort or ease, in suffering or happiness, in hard times or in good times, etc.
ca: and
vikriyaam (acc. sg.): f. transformation , change , modification , altered or unnatural condition ; change for the worse , deterioration , disfigurement , deformity ; ailment , indisposition , affection; perturbation , agitation , perplexity
vi- √ kR: to make different , transform , change the shape (or the mind) , cause to alter or change (esp. for the worse) , deprave , pervert , spoil , impair

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