Tuesday, October 19, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 6.4: Unduly Excited Fear Reflexes & Not Being There

saa kheda-saMsvinna-lalaaTakena
cintaa-cal'-aakSheNa mukhena tasthau
bhartaaram anyatra vishaNkamaanaa

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With a cold sweat on her beautiful brow,

Her face-paint drying in her sighs,

And her eyes restless with anxious thoughts,

There she stood, suspecting her husband,
somewhere else.

Mara, in Ashvaghosha's writings, is the personification of fear. Having defeated him and his grim army the Buddha is described at the end of Canto 3 as serving in Kapilavastu as a guide to peace -- roaming free (viharati), there in the moment (tatra), for the good of all (shivaaya), without passion (viita-raage).

As I have commented before, Ashvaghosha's use of ta-tra (being there in the moment) is like the use in Chinese and Japanese writings of the character SOKU, sunawa[chi], which points directly to the here and now -- as in the famous phrase SOKU-SHIN-ZE-BUTSU, "the mind here and now is Buddha," which is the title of Shobogenzo chap. 6.

Again when the Heart Sutra says SHIKI ZOKU ZE KU, (form/the material is just space/the immaterial), KU ZOKU ZE SHIKI (and vice versa) and when Dogen adds SHIKI ZOKU ZE SHIKI (form is just form), KU ZOKU ZE KU (space is just space), the "just" is this character SOKU or ZOKU, pointing directly to the here and now.

So in Ashvagosha's writings as I read them tatra may look like an inconspicuous word (there, then) but whenever it appears it might truly be a turning word, pointing, as in 3.42, to a state of fearless engagement with reality in the here and now.

Here in this verse we meet the opposite conception, anya-tra, which means elsewhere or otherwise.

The dictionary tells us that vi- √ shaNk (to distrust) combined with anyathaa (otherwise, errantly; see 6.21) means to judge wrongly, to misjudge. So anyatra in this verse could be taken as equivalent to anyathaa -- as in EHJ's translation "wrongly suspecting her lord." EHJ notes that the alternative translation, taking anyatra literally, is "suspecting her lord of being somewhere else," i.e. "with some other woman." LC follows this latter interpretation and so goes with "she fretted over her husband's absence."

But still another option, and the one that makes most sense to me, is to understand that what is anyatra (elsewhere, not truly present) is the mind of Sundari herself, as she stands there at the mercy of unduly excited fear reflexes and emotions.

In that case a parallel might be drawn with the meaning of anyatra (elsewhere, being somewhere else) in this verse and "going somewhere" in the familiar lyrics of So Lonely by the Police:

Someone told me yesterday,
'bout when you throw your love away,
You act as if you just don't care
You look as if you're going somewhere...

I sat on a round black cushion for more years than I care to count studying that state -- and this study I now see clearly, and repeat, ultimately has had fuck all to do with religion. And neither did those years of hard slog result in me getting any kind of qualification in Buddhist studies. But years of sitting in misery, with a broken heart, with a pelvis and head that were sadly disconnected from each other, did qualify me well to understand what Ashvaghosha is describing in this canto. Ashvaghosha is describing a state that is totally bound up with what FM Alexander called "unduly excited fear reflexes and emotions."

The FM Alexander Technique, in my experience, is a marvellous tool for working on oneself in the direction of restoring integrity. But don't take my word for it. Ask Sting!

EH Johnston:
She stood, wrongly suspecting her lord, with her forehead dripping with anxiety, the paint on her face sucked in by her sobs and her eyes restless with brooding.

Linda Covill:
Her forehead broke into a sweat of anxiety, her visheshaka shriveled as she panted for breath and her eyes moved around worriedly while she fretted over her husband's absence.

saa (nom. sg. f.): she
kheda-saMsvinna-lalaaTakena (inst. sg. n.) forehead sweating with distress
kheda: m. lassitude , depression ; exhaustion , pain , affliction , distress
saMsvinna = from saM- √ svid: to sweat
lalaaTaka: n. the forehead , brow ; a beautiful forehead

nishvaasa-niShpiita-visheShakeNa (inst. sg. m.) painted face-marks dried out with her sighing
nishvaasa: m. breath, expiration or inspiration ; a sigh
niShpiita: mfn. drunk out or up ; emptied by drinking , dried or sucked up , exhausted
visheShaka: mn. a mark on the forehead (made with sandal &c )

cintaa-cal'-aakSheNa (inst. sg. n.): eyes restless with anxious thoughts
cintaa: f. thought , care , anxiety , anxious thought
cala: moving , trembling , restless
akSha: n. [only for akShi] , the eye
mukhena (inst. sg.): n. face
tasthau = 3rd pers. sg. perfect sthaa: to stand , stand firmly , station one's self

bhartaaram (acc. sg.): m. husband
anyatra: ind. elsewhere , in another place ; otherwise , in another manner
vishaNkamaanaa = nom. sg. f. pres. part. vi- √ shaNk : to be apprehensive or distrustful or uneasy ; to mistrust (acc.) ; to doubt , suspect ; (with anyathaa) to judge wrongly , misjudge

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