Wednesday, October 6, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 5.37: Towards Consciousness of Consciousness

mayy agra-je pravrajite 'jit'-aatman
bhraatRShv anupravrajiteShu c' aasmaan
jNaatiMsh ca dRShtvaa vratino gRha-sthaan
saMvinna-vit te 'sti na v" aasti cetaH

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"O you who have yet to conquer yourself!
Given that I, your elder brother, have gone forth,

And your cousins have gone forth after me,

And seeing that our relatives who remain at home
are committed to practice,

Are you minded to be conscious of consciousness,
or are you not?

Among the ten great disciples of the Buddha, Ananda and Anuruddha were sons of brothers of King Shuddhodana and hence first cousins of the Buddha and Nanda. Devadatta was another cousin. But as far as I know Nanda was the only brother of the Buddha to go forth. So I have understood bhraatR, brother, in line 2, in its wider sense and translated it as cousins.

EHJ notes that the text of line 4 is problematical, and takes saMvinna as equal to saMvid (consciousness) in 13.39: For in the constant hankering of those senses / After objects in the world, / There occurs out of the ignobleness no more consciousness / Than there is in the hoping of hounds.

What the Buddha is exhorting Nanda to do in today's verse, as I read it, is not to become something, and still less to observe religious vows or join a religious organization. What the Buddha is exhorting Nanda to do, as I read the last line, is to commit himself to practice in which consciousness grows the only way that consciousness can grow -- through conscious inhibition of unconscious behaviour.

This is the thing, Marjory Barlow wrote, that most interested her when she was a girl in the teaching of her uncle FM Alexander, and Marjory's enthusiasm for consciousness remained undimmed into her eighties and nineties. Marjory was a woman, if ever there was one, who was minded to be conscious of consciousness.

In general, as we go around doggedly trying to be right, we are caught up in unconscious reactions to this and that stimulus -- which is the essence of not having conquered oneself.

Am I minded to be conscious of consciousness, or not?

All too often, not.

EH Johnston:
'I, your elder, have become a mendicant, your brothers have followed Me in this and you see that our kinsfolk who have not left their homes have taken vows on themselves ; are you, therefore, who have not conquered yourself, experiencing satisfaction in your mind or not?

Linda Covill:
"I, you elder brother, have gone forth from home; our brothers have followed me in going forth; and you see that our relatives who remain at home are observing vows. Now you, who have not conquered yourself -- is your mind in agreement with theirs, or not?

mayi = loc. sg. aham: (loc. absolute) I
agra-je (loc. absolute): m. the first-born , an elder brother
agra: mfn. foremost, first
ja: mfn. born
pravrajite (loc. absolute): gone forth, left home to become a religious mendicant
ajit'-aatman (voc. sg.): O you who have not conquered yourself!
ajita: mfn. not conquered , unsubdued
aatman: m. self

bhraatRShu = loc. pl. bhraatR (loc. absolute): a brother (often used to designate a near relative or an intimate friend , esp. as a term of friendly address)
anupravrajiteShu (loc. absolute): gone forth following
anu: ind. (as a prefix to verbs and nouns , expresses) after , along , alongside
ca: and
asmaan = acc. pl. m. aham: us

jNaatiin (acc. pl.): m. " intimately acquainted " , a near relation , kinsman
ca: and
dRShtvaa = abs. dRsh: to see
vratinaH (acc. pl. m.): mfn. observing a vow , engaged in a religious observance &c ; m. an ascetic , devotee
gRha-sthaan (acc. pl. m.): remaining at home; m. a householder
gRha: house, home
stha: staying

saMvinna-vid (nom. sg. n.): knowing with consciousness
saMvid: f. consciousness , intellect , knowledge , understanding ; a mutual understanding , agreement
vid: mfn. knowing , understanding , a knower (mostly ifc.)
te (gen. sg.): in/of you
asti: there is
na v'aasti: or there is not
cetaH (nom. sg.): n. mind, consciousness

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