Sunday, October 3, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 5.31: In Praise of Carelessness

yath" auShadhair hasta-gataiH sa-vidyo
na dashyate kash cana pannagena
tath" aan-apekSho jita-loka-moho
na dashyate shoka-bhujaMgamena

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

Just as a man of science, herbs in hand,

Is not bitten by any snake,

So a careless man,
having overcome the folly of the world,

Is not bitten by the snake of grief.

The Alexander world and the Buddhist world alike, though the nominal aim in both arenas is freedom, are in fact chock full of so-called "mindfulness" -- for which read stilted carefulness.

Where does this tendency originate to try to arrange and organize that which cannot be arranged and organized? At the risk of banging endlessly on the same drum, I think that when we trace the tendency back to its origin, we generally come up against some idea that has yet to be given up.

Such is the folly of the world (loka-moha) ... and I for one continue to be very much part of that folly. Hopefully I am one of the ones who is endeavoring to see the folly of the world as the folly of the world, and to care less about it.

As a protege of FM Alexander named Patrick Macdonald used to say: "If you are careful you will never get anywhere in this work. If you are careless, you might."

When I endeavoured to pass this teaching on to Pierre Turlur, Pierre, despite the fact that French rather than English is his first language, felt duty-bound to correct my choice of words... thus sort of confirming that he hadn't taken the point. "Not care-less," Pierre insisted, "Care-free."


I say "Ha!" but at the same time I am making a serious point. To pay meticulous attention to something like the sewing of a kesa or the translation of an ancient Sanskrit text is relatively easy practice. What is infinitely more difficult is just to sit there and truly not give a shit.

There are cases of practitioners in the past who seemed by their practice of sitting-dhyana to have realized supreme indifference ... only for subsequent experience to show them that there were certain things they still cared deeply about. One such case is related in Shobogenzo chap.90. SHIZEN-BIKU, the Bhikshu in the Fourth Dhyana, or the Monk in the Fourth Stage of Sitting-Meditation.

In order to be bitten by the snake of grief, it is not necessary to fall in love with a woman, or to be swept up in sexual thirst for a woman, and burned up by passion for a woman -- as was the monk in the story of SHIZEN-BIKU. Witness the grief of parents to whom a handicapped child is born. What they grieve is not the death of their baby, for their baby is alive and kicking. What they grieve is the loss of the dream or idea of a normal child which they had but which they are now required to give up. Any idea that one holds dear will do the trick. And the deeper the idea runs, the more deeply the grief is felt.

EH Johnston:
Just as no knowledgeable man, who takes protective herbs in his hand, is bitten by a snake, so he who has attained indifference and conquered the illusion of the world is not bitten by the snake of grief.

Linda Covill:
Just as a snake never bites the wise man who holds herbs in his hand, so the serpent of grief does not bite the man with no preferences who has conquered his delusions about the world.

yathaa: ind. just as
auShadhaiH (inst. pl.): n. herbs collectively , a herb
hasta-gataiH (inst. pl.): in his hands
sa-vidyaH (nom. sg. m.): one who has learned, one versed in science

na dashyate: is not bitten
√daMsh: to bite
kash cana pannagena (inst. sg.): by any snake
panna-ga: m. " creeping low " , a serpent or serpent-demon

tathaa: ind. likewise
an-apekShaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. regardless , careless ; indifferent ; impartial
jita-loka-mohaH (nom. sg. m.): one who has defeated the delusion of the world
jita: mfn. won , acquired , conquered , subdued
loka: m. the earth or world of human beings ; the inhabitants of the world , mankind
moha: m. loss of consciousness , bewilderment , perplexity , distraction , infatuation , delusion , error , folly ; (with Buddhists) ignorance (one of the three roots of vice )

na dashyate: is not bitten
shoka-bhujaMgamena (inst. sg.): by the serpent of grief
shoka: m. sorrow , affliction , anguish , pain , trouble , grief
bhujaM-gama: m. a serpent , serpent-demon
bhuja: mfn. a bending , curve , coil (of a serpent

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