Friday, October 29, 2010


aaryasya saadhoH karuN'-aatmakasya
man-nitya-bhiiror atidakShiNasya
kuto vikaaro 'yam abhuuta-puurvaH
sven' aaparaageNa mam' aapacaaraat

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

In him who was noble, good, compassionate,

Always in awe of me, and too honest,

How has such an unprecedented transformation
come about?

Through a loss of passion on his part?
From a mistake of mine?

Sundari in this verse, as I read it, is still very much in touch with her reason. She is here bringing reason to bear on the how of change.

Sundari's questions, my wife tells me, are those that any woman would ordinarily ask in her circumstances. At least on the surface they are.

But my question is how this verse relates to the one great matter. Maybe it is a kind of arrogance -- a desire not to be ordinary -- that causes me to seek another 'special' meaning above, or below, the overt ordinary meaning. If so, so be it. Because I can't help seeking.

The last line, if it were being translated for Coronation Street-style realism, would be better translated:
"Has he gone off me? Did I do something wrong?"

But retaining the instrumental sense of -ena ("through"), and the ablative sense of -aat ("from"), highlights what I see as the real essence of this verse, which is that Sundari is posing a question about the how of change, about the mechanism of total transformation.

Read in that light, Sundari's questions might have a profound bearing on the one great matter. She might be asking whether disgust with and giving up of red-faced end-gaining can be instrumental in transforming the self. She might be asking whether the process of transformation is inevitably rooted in mistakes.

Having read the verse like this, I spent a sleepless few hours with the words apa-raageNa (through loss of passion, through fading out of the redness of the end-gaining tendency) and apa-caaraat (from a mistake, from a slip-up, from a false move), churning through my consciousness.

What is it in a person that keeps feeding the fire of end-gaining? And what is it about mistakes?

Last night I was doing some Alexander work with my wife, with my hands on her head, while I pontificated to our son on some subject. She observed that when I spoke my thumbs became "heavy." My wife thus flagged up a pattern of reaction that has been highlighted for me many times before in Alexander work -- as soon as I open my mouth to speak as "the one who knows" on any subject (speaking on the Buddha's teaching is the strongest stimulus), my whole being tends to stiffen up. And it is this pattern of reaction, which might not be visible from the outside, that a person steeped in Alexander's work senses as an unpleasant heaviness coming into the thumbs. The episode seems to me to have to do with a desire (raaga) on my part, a kind of thirst or passion (raaga) to be recognized as one who knows, which has not yet faded out. At the same time the pattern of reaction might be a kind of constantly recurring mistake (apa-caara),of which I am only very rarely aware.

To practice sitting-dhyana as the dropping off of body and mind might have to do with a loss of that kind of passion, and a freedom from that kind of recurrent mistake.

But then there might still be the ultimate mistake, of arrogance or pride. This is the mistake of a beggar who reaches the fourth dhyana but fails to realize the truly worthwhile state, the state of the arhat, because of his failure to cut the upper fetters, which are very much bound up with selfishness and arrogance, with seeing oneself as special, far above (or far below) the ordinary.

Progress to the level of the fourth stage of sitting-dhyana, as described in detail in Canto 17, is essentially dependent on a beggar's ability successively to recognize his own mistakes, or faults. But even getting as far as the fourth dhyana, evidently, is no guarantee against making the mistake of pride.

So here concludes my investigation of this verse. I couldn't be satisfied with the suggestion that the verse is just a kind of exercise in social realism, like a well-written soap opera. So I have understood it as raising questions about the fundamental mechanism of transformation.

As a postscript, having written the above comment but before posting it, I listened to Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4 Long Wave. Then, before I had time to switch the radio off, I heard the beginning of the act of (Christian) worship. The leader of the service, who is not only a religious preacher but also the presenter of a programme on Radio 4 called "Beyond Belief" began by stating that Christ fills the skies, as the true and only light.

Oh yes?

Is that what I pay my license fee for, at the beginning of the 21st century, to hear that?

From what cause does the alleged emanation of light by "Christ" proceed? And how does "Christ" manage this feat? What is his means-whereby? What is his mechanism?

These are the kind of questions that Sundari is posing in this and the previous verse, as I read them. Why? How? From what cause? By what means?

EH Johnston:
He is noble, virtuous, compassionate, ever fearful of me, very courteous. Whence comes this change of feeling, hitherto unknown? From aversion on his part? From some offence of mine?

Linda Covill:
What has caused this unprecedented change in him, who was noble, good, compassionate, always deferential to me, and open? Does he hate me? Have I behaved badly?

aaryasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. noble
saadhoH (gen. sg. m.): mfn. straight , right ; leading straight to a goal , hitting the mark , unerring ; good , virtuous , honourable , righteous
karuN'-aatmakasya (gen. sg. m.): compassionate-natured
karuNa: mfn. compassionate
aatmaka: mfn. having or consisting of the nature or character of (in comp.)

man-nitya-bhiiroH (gen. sg. m.): ever in awe of me
mad: to me
nitya: constantly, ever, always
bhiiru: mfn. fearful , timid , cowardly , afraid of (abl. or comp.)
atidakShiNasya (gen. sg. m.): inordinately honest
ati: ind. beyond, over (often prefixed to nouns and adjectives in the sense excessive , extraordinary)
dakShiNa: mfn. able , clever , dexterous ; right (not left) ; straightforward , candid , sincere , pleasing , compliant

kutaH: ind. from where? whence? wherefore? why? from what cause or motive? how?
vikaaraH (nom. sg.): m. change of form or nature , alteration or deviation from any natural state , transformation , modification , change (esp. for the worse) of bodily or mental condition
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this
abhuuta-puurvaH (nom. sg. m.): unprecedented
a-bhuuta: mfn. whatever has not been or happened.
puurva: previous

svena (inst. sg.): mfn. his own
apa-raageNa (inst. sg.): m. aversion , antipathy
apa: ind. (as a prefix to nouns and verbs , expresses) away , off , back; when prefixed to nouns , it may sometimes = the neg. particle a e.g. apa-bhii , fearless ; or may express deterioration , inferiority , &c
raaga: m. passion, esp. love
mama (gen. sg.): of mine
apa-caaraat (abl. sg.): m. want , absence ; defect ; fault , improper conduct , offence
caara: m. going, practising

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