Thursday, September 30, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 5.25: Supremacy of the Truth

hitasya vaktaa pravaraH suhRdhbyo
dharmaaya khedo guNavaan shramebhyaH
jNaanaaya kRtyaM paramaM kriyaabhyaH
kim indriyaaNaam upagamya daasyam

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

The kindest-hearted friend
is he who tells one what is truly salutary;

The most meritorious effort
is to exhaust oneself in pursuit of the objective truth;

Supreme among labours
is to work towards true understanding --

Why enter into service of the senses?

This verse as I read it contrasts the choice to serve one's own senses with the choice to let one's senses serve the truth. Such service of the truth might take the form of (1) telling the honest truth, even when it is unpalatable, (2) seeking the objective truth, and (3) understanding, as an individual, the truth of what works.

dharmaaya khedaH
in line 2 might be literally translated as "exhaustion for that which is established or firm." In the spirit of what I wrote yesterday, I would like to understand dharma here as objective truth. In several places in Cantos 1 and 2 dharma seems to carry a connotation of religious duty. But here I would like unequivocally NOT to understand dharmaaya khedaH as expressing the effort that religious peole are wont to direct towards the doing of what they perceive as their religious duty. I venture to suggest that with the Buddha's enlightenment and turning of the wheel of dharma, the real meaning of dharma was changed forever, so that the Buddha-Dharma need have, in the words of the Dalai Lama, "nothing to do with religion."

In this verse, as I read it, Dharma means the objective Truth: that is, for example, the Truth that a historian or a judge & jury pursue, the Truth of what really happened; or the Truth that a chemist pursues in the laboratory, the Truth of what actually happens; or the Truth that I am groping for in this translation, the Truth of what Ashvaghosha originally intended.

Speaking for myself I can say without any hesitation that this work I am doing now has got, in the Dalai Lama's words, "nothing to do with religion."

The Buddha-Dharma might not necessarily be the kind of Truth that religious people believe in. The Buddha-Dharma might be, on the contrary, the kind of Truth that over the course of centuries has forced, is forcing, and will force superstitious people to give up their spurious and God-fearing religious beliefs.

My old teacher proposed that "God is Dharma, and Dharma is God," but I reject this proposition. My teacher's idea that "this compromise can save all people in the world" was just an upside-down idea by a man who, in the primary matter of sitting posture, totally confused up and down.

I came to Alexander work 16 years ago thinking that sitting posture was important and that Alexander was all about posture. In fact what Alexander work has been teaching me, bit by bit, is not about posture but about ideas and about choice.

So long as we are controlled by unconscious ideas, we are not able truly to exercise conscious choice -- whether in the matter of "good posture" (i.e. in the matter of circumventing the problem of faulty postural reflexes and habits), or in any other matter.

This is what I am seeing right now, from Alexander work and equally from what Ashvaghosha is relating. False ideas that have long held sway over us need to be made conscious, to be seen for the false ideas that they are, and to be given up. Foremost among such ideas, I venture to suggest, are ideas espoused by men of religious belief -- men such as "Reverend" Nishijima, my own Zen teacher, who, in response to my effort to tell him the unpalatable truth, seemed to grow stronger in his belief in the rightness of his wrong understanding, and at the same time deeper in his distrust of those who opposed it, notably me. It strikes me that, from long before the time of Galileo, such has always been the tendency of the religious mind.

Each of us has his or her own way, in finding the truth of what works for ourself. And if a religious calling in which people are expected to call you "Reverend" is your way, good luck to you. But in that case, for your God's sake, don't try to batter your belief in God into the objective Truth which has nothing to do with belief, nothing to do with religion, but which the Buddha taught as the abandonment of all religious and other views.

EH Johnston:
He who speaks what is advantageous is the best of friends, exertion directed towards Righteousness is the most meritorious of all toils, labour for knowledge is the highest of actions ; what is gained by accepting slavery to the senses?

Linda Covill:
He who says what is salutary for you is the best of friends, taking pains over dharma is the most excellent of labors, working for knowledge is the best of actions. Why be a slave to your senses?

hitasya (gen. sg.): n. anything useful or salutary or suitable or proper , benefit , advantage , profit , service , good , welfare , good advice &c
vaktaa = 3rd pers. sg. periphrastic future vac: to speak, say, tell
pravaraH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. most excellent , chief , principal , best
suhRdhbyaH =abl. pl. su-hRd: m. " good-hearted " , " kindhearted " , " well-disposed " , a friend , ally

dharmaaya = dat. sg. dharma: m. that which is established or firm; the Law, Dharma
khedaH (nom. sg.): m. lassitude , depression ; exhaustion , pain , affliction , distress ; sexual passion
khid: to strike , press , press down ; to be depressed or wearied ; to be pressed down , suffer pain ; khidyate to be pressed down or depressed , be distressed or wearied , feel tired or exhausted
guNavaan (nom. sg. m.): mfn. " furnished with a thread or string " and " endowed with good qualities "; endowed with good qualities or virtues or merits or excellences , excellent , perfect
shramebhyaH = abl. pl. shrama: m. fatigue ; exertion , labour , toil , exercise , effort either bodily or mental , hard work of any kind

jNaanaaya = dat. sg. jNaana: n. knowing , becoming acquainted with , knowledge , (esp.) the higher knowledge
jNaa: to know , have knowledge , become acquainted with ; perceive , apprehend , understand ; experience , recognise , ascertain , investigate
kRtyam (nom. sg.): n. what ought to be done , what is proper or fit , duty , office ; n. action , business , performance , service ; n. purpose , end , object , motive , cause
paramam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. chief , highest , primary , most prominent or conspicuous ; best, most excellent
kriyaabhyaH = abl. pl. kriyaa: f. doing , performing , performance , business , act , action , undertaking , activity , work , labour

kim: ind. what? how? whence? wherefore? why?
indriyaaNaam (gen. pl. indriya): n. the senses
upagamya = gerundive upa- √ gam: to enter any state or relation , undergo , obtain , participate in , make choice of , suffer
daasyam (acc. sg.): n. servitude , slavery , service

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