Tuesday, September 14, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 4.44: Struggling Against a Stream

sa kaama-raageNa nigRhyamaaNo
dharm-aanuraageNa ca kRshyamaaNaH
jagaama duHkhena nivartyamaanaH
plavaH pratisrota iv-aapagaayaaH

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Held back by his love of love,

Drawn forward by his love for dharma,

He struggled on, being turned about

Like a boat on a river going against the stream.

"The right thing does itself,"
FM Alexander used to say. Apparently the older he got, the more he said it -- just stop doing the wrong thing and the right thing does itself.

The right thing, when it is experienced, is experienced effortlessly as a spontaneous flow. That is what is meant by something tending to do itself: spontaneous flow, like a fire tending to burn, or like water tending to flow downstream, or like leaves falling off a tree, or like body and mind dropping off a person who is sitting.

In that case, if the right thing tends to do itself, why does so much struggle seem to be needed to get from here to there? Why is it so difficult to allow the right thing to do itself? Shouldn't it be easy to enter the stream and go with the flow?

The 2nd law of thermodynamics is instructive: it describes the tendency that all energy has to flow spontaneously, unless prevented from doing so by barriers (called "activation energy barriers"). The universe seems to be in a state of dynamic tension between the tendency of energy to flow spontaneously and the power of these barriers temporarily to prevent such flow.

So in the material world all around us there exist "activation energy barriers" which are temporarily preventing the spontaneous flow of energy from happening. Pipes are full of hot and cold water under pressure, but effective plumbing is temporarily preventing the water from pouring out. The batteries in my radio are waiting to release their energy, but for the moment the power is switched off. The big tree growing the other side of this window has a huge potential to release energy if its carbon atoms were to start forming bonds with oxygen in the air through combustion, but activation energy barriers are, for the moment, preventing such combustion from taking place. If I were to go out into the garden and try to set the tree on fire, I doubt I would be able to do it, at least not without a lot of planning and effort, and the aid of a chainsaw. If I simply held a lighted match to the tree, nothing would happen, because the power of one match would be insufficient to overcome the activation energy barriers that prevent the tree from burning.

Within us, it is as if there is something similarly resistant to change -- a wrong thing which always wants to do itself, acting like an activation energy barrier to the right thing doing itself.

So we are all basically in the same boat as Nanda, struggling against the force of habit as if in a river going against a powerful stream.

EH Johnston:
Held back by the passion of his love and drawn forward by his inclination for the Law, he went on reluctantly, half-turned round like a boat on a river going against the stream.

Linda Covill:
Kept back by his passion for love, and drawn forward by his attachment to dharma, he proceeded with difficulty, being turned about like a boat going upstream on a river.

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
kaama-raageNa (inst. sg.): by his love of love
kaama: love
raaga: m. the act of colouring or dyeing ; redness ; any feeling or passion , (esp.) love , affection or sympathy for , vehement desire of , interest or joy or delight in (loc. or comp.)
nigRhyamaaNaH = nom. sg. m. pres. passive part. ni- √ grah: to hold down , lower , depress ; to keep or hold back

dharm-aanuraageNa (inst. sg.): by his love of dharma
dharma: dharma, the law, etc.
anuraaga: m. attachment , affection , love , passion
ca: and
kRshyamaaNaH= nom. sg. m. pres. passive part. kRSh: to draw, drag , pull , drag away

jagaama = 3rd pers. sg. perfect gam: to go
duHkhena (inst. sg.): with difficulty
nivartyamaanaH = nom. sg. m. pres. passive part. ni- √ vRt: to turn back , stop

plavaH (nom. sg.): m. a float , raft , boat , small ship
prati-srotaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. against the stream
iva: like
aapagaayaaH = gen. sg. aapagaa: f. a river , a stream

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