Friday, October 8, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 5.41: Old Age, Sickness...

yaH sarvato veshmani dahyamaane
shayiita mohaan na tato vyapeyaat
kaal'-aagninaa vyaadhi-jaraa-shikhena
loke pradiipte sa bhavet pramattaH

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

One who in a house burning on all sides

Instead of getting out of there,
would lie down in his folly to sleep,

Only he,
in a world burning in the fire of Time,
with its flames of sickness and aging,

Might be found frolicking heedlessly about.

This relates to the parable of the burning house, expounded at length by the Buddha in the 3rd chapter of the Lotus Sutra titled "A Parable," or "Metaphor" (in Japanese: HIYU).

The Buddha evidently used parables or metaphors a lot as a teaching device.

But there is no meaning in any of the metaphors. The meaning is in the teaching, the transmission of which has its standard in the samadhi of accepting and using the self. And as the true means-whereby for enjoyment of this samadhi, the practice of upright sitting-meditation has been practiced by all the buddha-ancestors.

In this and the next verse, through the use of the metaphors of the burning house and the condemned man led babbling to the stake, the Buddha is drawing Nanda's attention to the serious and imminent terrors of sickness, aging and death.
Why? Because the Buddha wants to encourage Nanda, so long as he has the energy for practice (yaavad vayo yoga-vidhau samartham; 5.49), to devote himself to that practice.

In preaching this as I am right now I probably sound religious, and as I sit here tapping away I feel somehow religious, as if back on the old high horse onto which Gudo Nishijima so kindly gave me a leg up. Probably an old self-righteous tendency has exerted itself -- what FM Alexander called the end-gainer's desire to feel right in the gaining of his end. If I have adopted a self-righteous religious tone, and if I did so in my comment yesterday, that is my mistake. If Linda Covill by any chance reads this, I would like to apologize for somehow reacting too emotionally to her expression of a speculative view. How many views have I expressed on this blog that deserve to be rejected? Too many to count, I should think.

Alexander work helps me to see that clarifying the Buddha's teaching, which is what I am endeavouring to do, for self and others, has in the Dalai Lama's words "nothing to do with religion." Clarifying the Buddha's teaching need have no more to do with religion than clarifying FM Alexander's teaching has anything to do with religion.

Still, both teachings equally rest on a kind of devotion of the whole body-mind to practice, and an acceptance and use of the whole self in practice.

We don't need this kind of devotion to get a doctorate in Buddhist studies. But without it, we haven't understood one single word of Alexander's writings, or one single world of any of Ashavaghosha's metaphors, and all our efforts might be just a variation on the theme of pramatta, frolicking heedlessly about.

EH Johnston:
Only the man who would lie down to sleep in a house everywhere in flames and would be so stupid as not to leave it, would remain heedless in the world which is being burnt in the fire of Death with the flames of disease and old age.

Linda Covill:
Only a man who is so stupid that he would settle down to sleep in a house ablaze on all sides, rather than escaping from it, would be oblivious to the world burning with the fire of time, with its flames of disease and old age.

yaH (nom. sg. m.): he who
sarvataH: ind. from all sides , in every direction , everywhere
veshmani = loc. sg. veshman: n. a house , dwelling
dahyamaane (loc. sg. n. passive pres. part dah): being burnt

shayiita = 3rd pers. sg. optative shii: , to lie , lie down , recline , rest , repose ; to lie down to sleep , fall asleep , sleep
mohaat (abl. sg.): through folly or ignorance
na: not
tataH: ind. thence, from there
vyapeyaat = 3rd pers. sg. optative vy -apa- √i: to go apart or asunder , separate

kaal'-aagninaa (inst. sg. m.): by the fire of Time/Death
kaala: m. time, Death
agni: m. fire
vyaadhi-jaraa-shikhena (inst. sg. m.): with flames of sickness and aging
vyaadhi: sickness, disease
jaraa: aging
shikhaa: f. a tuft of hair; a peacock's crest or comb ; a pointed flame , any flame

loke (loc. sg. m.): in the world
pradiipte (loc. sg. m.): mfn. inflamed, burning
sa: (nom. sg. m.): he
bhavet = 3rd pers. sg. optative bhuu: to be, arise , come into being , exist , be found , live , stay , abide
pramattaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. excited , wanton , lascivious , rutting ; drunken , intoxicated ; mad , insane ; inattentive , careless , heedless , negligent , forgetful of (abl. or comp.) ; indulging in (loc.)
pra- √ mad : to enjoy one's self , be joyous , sport , play ; to be careless or negligent , to be indifferent to or heedless about (abl. or loc.) ; to neglect duty for , idle away time in (loc.)

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