Sunday, October 31, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 6.16: Thinking Like a Deluded Man

ruupeNa bhaavena ca mad-vishiShTaa
priyeNa dRShTaa niyataM tato 'nyaa
tathaa hi kRtvaa mayi mogha-saantvaM
lagnaaM satiiM maam agamad vihaaya

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

Another woman, then,
better than me in beauty and in temperament,

My beloved has surely beheld;

For, having soothed me as he did with his empty words,

He has gone off and left me, attached to him as I am.

Is Sundari thinking now in accordance with the original nature of a woman? Or is she thinking like a deluded man who cannot discriminate between reality and his own view?

A woman who truly was a master of thinking in accordance with the original nature of a woman, named Marjory Barlow, often used to quote the words of her uncle FM Alexander who described his work as "an exercise in finding out what thinking is."

What Marjory and what FM meant by thinking is very different from the kind of thinking that Sundari is doing now -- what Marjory meant by thinking is much closer to the kind of reasoning Sundari was exhibiting in 6.13 and 6.14.

In my own Alexander teaching I very often tell the story of an early lesson I had with Marjory -- going into my final year of Alexander teacher training -- in which it was very clearly demonstrated to me that I had misunderstood what Alexander meant by thinking.

Despite the efforts of Marjory and another veteran of thinking in accordance with the original nature of a woman, named Nelly Ben-Or, I still haven't understood with any finality what Alexander meant by thinking. I remain, I hope, a work in progress. I hope I have gradually become clearer over the years in regard to what Alexander did not mean by thinking. If I have learnt anything, I have learnt what thinking is not.

In Alexander work we say, "Think up!" I say that to self and others: "Think up!" I have been saying it to my sons for nearly 20 years now. What it really means to think one's whole body and mind in that direction which is opposite to the pull of gravity, however, I don't know. For me, thinking up is largely a matter of somehow inhibiting my habitual reaction to the idea of going up. If I know anything, I know that my habitual reaction to the idea of going up, is not it.

I know that the way I witnessed sitting-meditation being taught in Japan, with the chin being pulled in and all the rest of it, is not it. I also know that the kind of thinking Sundari is demonstrating now, is not it. But knowing that a path is false, in itself, is not always enough -- as is demonstrated by the relatively high proporiton of people in the medical profession who smoke cigarettes. Besides the knowing, some kind of preventive effort is required -- an effort of inhibition, or of thinking, or of energetic awakening.

Dogen wrote in his earlier edition of his universal rules for sitting-meditation (Fukan-zazengi):
"If a thought arises, just wake up!
Just in the waking up to it, it evaporates."

Are Alexander's thinking up, and Dogen's waking up, the same? For me, as in lotus I endeavour to sit truly up, there is no difference. For others, I don't know. I do know that the way Sundari is thinking in this verse is, whether one is working on the self according to Alexander's teaching, or endeavouring to wake up according to Dogen's teaching, not it.

In his revised edition of Fukan-zazengi Dogen quoted Yakusan's
"Think the state of not thinking."

What this instruction means, as I understand it, is use thinking to think yourself out of the area of thinking.

My teacher, Gudo Nishijima, however, never affirmed this understanding of mine at all. He stuck in his old age to his old view, but that view seems to me to be a prejudice against thinking. Or, to put it another way, that prejudice against thinking seems to me to be just an old view.

Seeing one fault after another, as described in Canto 17, and progressively dropping off those faults as one continues to direct oneself up -- this is not something that one can accomplish as a purely physical act of doing. It is a process that involves thinking. So while it is true that Ashvaghosha describes thinking as a fault in the first stage of sitting-meditation, it seems to me that seeing thinking as a fault, and then seeing as faults attachment to joy and indulgence in ease, and saying at each stage "No, I don't want that. I want to be free of that thought/attachment/enjoyment" ... this also is inevitably a kind of thinking process.

Is this really so difficult to understand? Is it so controversial? I spent ten years writing reams and reams of emails trying to clarify this point to Gudo Nishijima. I expected that if only I could make the argument clearly enough in words, he would be able to recognize the truth of it. But my expectation was utterly wrong.

Last time I looked on Amazon, Master Dogen's Shobogenzo was listed with Gudo Nishijima as the author, and Chodo Cross as "contributor." But that information is not true. It does not really matter, except that it strikes me as a conspicuous and concrete example of untruth. What was once so true has become so conspicuously untrue. Thinking like a woman, I should simply ask: How did such a transformation come about? From what cause? By what mechanism?

Thinking like a deluded man I have come up with enough answers -- speculative views and opinions -- to fill several books, and engaged in drama-queen behaviour that might make Sundari seem in comparison to have the nervous constitution of an iron ox.

That is the kind of thinking, deluded thinking, that in wiser moments I wish to be free of. How? By many means -- by making and eating breakfast, by vigorous use of spade, by round cushion, by physical sitting ... and yes, by mental sitting, using thinking.

If I endeavour on that basis to answer my own questions, the answer might have to do with faulty sensory appreciation in combination with religious end-gaining. And to study those mechanisms and causes of wrongness, I do not need to look outside. They reside right here, pulling me -- insofar as I allow them to pull me -- down.

EH Johnston:
My lover must then certainly have seen someone else superior to me in beauty and feeling ; for, having soothed me thus uselessly, he has gone away, deserting me, who am so attached to him.

Linda Covill:
My lover must have seen another woman, more beautiful than me and with finer feelings, for he has placated me falsely, and has gone away and deserted me, attached to him as I am.

ruupeNa (inst. sg.): n. form , shape , figure ; handsome form , loveliness , grace , beauty
bhaavena (inst. sg.): m. manner of being , nature , temperament , character ; manner of acting , conduct , behaviour ; any state of mind or body , way of thinking or feeling ; the seat of the feelings or affections , heart , soul , mind
ca: and
mad-vishiShTaa (nom. sg. f.): better than me
mad: me
vishiShTa: mfn. pre-eminent , excellent ; better or worse than (abl. or comp.)
vi- √ shiS: to distinguish , make distinct or different

priyeNa (inst. sg.): m. lover, husband
dRShTaa (nom. sg. f.): mfn. seen, looked at, beheld
niyatam: ind. decidedly , inevitably , surely
tataH: ind. then, thence, from that
anyaa (nom. sg. f.): another [woman]

tathaa: thus, in such a manner
hi: for
kRtvaa = abs. kR: to do, make
mayi (loc. sg.): to me
mogha-saantvam (acc. sg.): empty consolation
mogha: mfn. vain , fruitless , useless , unsuccessful , unprofitable (ibc. in vain , uselessly , without cause)
saantva: n. (sg. and pl.) consolation , conciliation , mild or gentle language or words
saantv: to console , comfort , soothe , conciliate , address kindly or gently

lagnaam (acc. sg. f.): mfn. adhered , adhering or clinging to , attached to , sticking or remaining in , fixed on , intent on , clasping , touching , following closely
satiim = acc. sg. f. pres. part. as: to be
maam (acc. sg.): me
agamat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist gam: to go
vihaaya = abs. vi- √ haa : to leave behind , relinquish , quit , abandon

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