Saturday, October 9, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 5.44: Sweet Melons & Bitter Gourds

kiM cin na pashyaami ratasya yatra
tad-anya-bhaavena bhaven na duHkhaM
tasmaat kva cin na kShamate prasaktir
yadi kShamas tad-vigamaan na shokaH

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

I do not see any pleasure which might not,

By turning into something else, become pain.

Therefore no attachment bears scrutiny --

Unless the grief is bearable
that arises from the absence of its object.

My father taught me when I was about 15, "Only bet what you can afford to lose."

Having studied probability as a maths student at school, I have never been averse to a bet if I judge the odds to be in my favour -- I would never bet on roulette in a casino, for example, because the odds are, albeit only slightly, in the casino's favour. From the casino's standpoint, betting on roulette makes good business sense because, while the casino might have the odd losing night, betting over the long run is bound to pay the casino dividends because the odds are slightly in the casino's favour.

Sadly, my judgement of odds has sometimes been woeful. Thus, in my 20s I gambled everything on Gudo Nishijima's teaching being as true as he thought it was. And one of the things that I learned from this regrettable act of reckless gambling was a limitation in my father's maxim of "Only bet what you can afford to lose" -- namely, that one never really knows how much one can afford to lose.

The truth might be that we can all actually afford to lose much more than we feel we can afford to lose. And, whether we like to gamble or hate to gamble, we will in any event be tested.

Another maxim that this verse brings to mind is Dogen's observation that "sweet melons are replaced with bitter gourds."

For Dogen a sweet melon was totally sweet, and a bitter gourd was utterly bitter.

How so? Because, I venture to suggest, of the integrity of Dogen's head, neck and back relation -- what FM Alexander called "the primary control of the use of the self" -- while Dogen was sitting cross-legged on his round black cushion enjoying the samadhi of accepting and using the self.

While I was in Japan, even a sweet melon like making love to my wife or witnessing the birth of our sons was not a totally sweet experience. Even a bitter gourd like daily experience of Japanese racist arrogance was not a totally bitter gourd. Why not? Because of a fundamental lack of integrity in my use of the primary control, rooted partly in aberrant vestibular reflexes and partly in Gudo Nishijima's wrong teaching around correct posture in Zazen.

Since returning to live in England (and latterly France) 15 years ago, sweet melons have become much more totally sweet and bitter gourds have become almost completely bitter. Why? I think it is partly due to having continued to sit in lotus, as far as possible, four times a day, and at the same time it is a result of applying Alexander's principles of inhibition and direction to promote better use of the primary control.

I do not put myself forward as a finished article. I am a work in progress. But the combination of traditional practice of sitting-dhayna, and Alexander work, is one that I whole-heartedly recommend, based on my own real experience of sweet melons and bitter gourds, to everybody.

EH Johnston:
I perceive nothing pleasurable in which by its change of state suffering might not arise. Seeing, therefore, that attachment to any object is out of place, it is equally out of place to grieve at its loss.

Linda Covill:
I see no feature of pleasure which would not change into something else and so bring sorrow. Therefore under no circumstances should you tolerate attachment, unless the grief at its passing is bearable.

kiM cit: ind. somewhat, a little
na: not
pashyaami = 1st pers. sg. pres. dRsh: to see
ratasya (gen. sg.): n. pleasure , enjoyment , (esp.) enjoyment of love , sexual union , copulation
yatra: ind. in which, wherein

tad-anya-bhaavena (inst. sg.): by becoming other than it
tad: it, that
anya: other, different
bhaava: becoming; turning or transition into (loc. or comp.)
bhavet = 3rd pers. sg. optative bhuu: to be, become
na: not
duHkham (acc. sg. n.): mfn. uneasy , uncomfortable , unpleasant , difficult n. un-ease, discomfort, hardship, suffering

tasmaat: ind. from that ; therefore
kva cid: ind. anywhere, in any case
na: not
kShamate = 3rd pers. sg. middle voice present kSham: to be patient or composed , suppress anger , keep quiet ; to bear patiently , endure , put up with (acc.) , suffer ; to allow , permit , suffer ;
prasaktiH (nom. sg.): f. adherence , attachment , devotion or addiction to , indulgence or perseverance in

yadi: ind. if, in case that
kShamaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. patient ; enduring , suffering , bearing , submissive , resisting ; adequate , competent , able , fit ; bearable, tolerable
tad-vigamaat (abl. sg.): because of abstention from it
vi-gama: m. going away , departure , cessation , end , absence ; (ifc.) abstention from , avoidance
na: not
shokaH (nom. sg.): m. sorrow , affliction , anguish , pain , trouble , grief

No comments: