Friday, November 5, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 6.21: On Silliness (& Kettle Calling Pot Black)

yuv" aapi taavat priya-darshano 'pi
saubhaagya-bhaagy-aabhijan'-aanvito 'pi
yas tvaam priyo n' aabhyacarat kadaa cit
tam anyathaa pashyasi kaatar" aasi

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

"Though he is young and good-looking,

Possessing noble ancestry,
and his share of charm and fortune,

Your husband was never unfaithful to you.

You are being silly and misjudging him.

One of the things I have learned from blogging is "the mirror principle." I didn't learn it deductively, by reading about it somewhere and then testing it out. I learned it inductively, from observing my own stupid over-reactions to people's comments and looking for a cause that might explain them. What I noticed was that the comments which had the most power to enrage me invariably touched on some struggle that was going on in myself. Regular readers may have observed that I don't take too kindly to comments in which somebody expresses their own Buddhist "take" on things. But this is only because the Buddha's teaching requires me to drop off my own habitual attitude and view, attached to them as I am (lagnaM satim maam; see 6.16).

If even a dolt such as I am can become aware of the mirror principle, or the compulsion for the kettle to call the pot black, or whatever else one calls it, nothing is more sure than the fact that Ashvaghosha was aware of it. And so in this verse, as I read it, here it conspicuously is -- for if anyone has shown herself to be a silly so-and-so, it is weeping woman on the stairs.

The word that seems to me to be asking to be translated as "silly" is kaatara, which is thought possibly to derive from katara, "who or which of two?" It therefore has connotations of uncertainty, hesitancy, faint-heartedness, being in two minds. But in the context of the silly weeping woman who tells Sundari she is being silly, kaatara seems to me to mean just plain silly.

Now I myself am no stranger to silliness, as my wife would readily attest, if anybody were to ask her -- it is probably the flipside to my default attitude in a crisis, which is the grim determination of the resolute end-gainer.

Sometimes silliness is there in the kind of pleasant reverie discussed yesterday, as belonging to the first dhyana -- a frivolousness, a lack of seriousness, an indulgence in humorous thoughts. And when this silliness is recognized as a fault, then the antidote to it is the one-pointedness (ekaagrya) described by Ashvaghosha in 17.45 - 17.46 as belonging to the second dhyana.

But one-pointedness/non-silliness is one of those things, as also are upright posture, and compassion, which it does not do to go for directly, in an end-gaining manner. So pursuit of one-pointedness is for me largely a matter of saying no to my habitual reaction to the idea that I ought to be more one-pointed. And this is something I learned from Alexander work -- without Alexander work I don't think I ever would have learned it.

Actually my old Zen teacher, Gudo Nishijima, had an intuitive grasp of this principle, being ever ready to affirm with his laughter any behaviour that flew in the face of idealism. But he didn't really understand the principle clearly, certainly not as clearly as experienced Alexander teachers understand it. Gudo never worked out how it applied, for example, in the matter of postural re-education -- which, again, turns out to be largely a matter of saying no to one's habitual reaction to the idea that one's posture ought to be better.

On a technical point, EHJ's original Sanskrit for line 4 reads
tam anyathaa yaa syati kaatar" aasi,
and EHJ notes:
"The text of d is uncertain but anyathaa yaa is better than anyathaa pash for 'misjudge.' "
I have followed, LC, however, in reading pashyasi in line 4.

EH Johnston:
"You are oversuspicious and misjudge your beloved, who never did for you any wrong, although he is young, handsome and endowed with charm, fortune and high birth.

Linda Covill:
"Though he is young, though he is good-looking, though he enjoys sexual love and is full of courtesies, your husband was never unfaithful to you ; you are overwrought, and looking at him in the wrong way.

yuvaa = nom. sg. m. yuvan: mfn. young
api: though
taavat: ind. indeed , truly ; really (= eva)
priya-darshanaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. pleasant or grateful to the sight
api: though

saubhaagya-bhaagy-aabhijan'-aanvitaH (nom. sg. m.): possessing his share of charm and fortune, and noble descent
saubhaagya: n. (fr. su-bhaga) welfare , good luck , good fortune , success , prosperity , happiness (esp. conjugal felicity) ; beauty , charm , grace , loveliness
su-bhaga: mfn. possessing good fortune , very fortunate or prosperous , lucky , happy , blessed , highly favoured ; beautiful , lovely , charming , pleasing , pretty (voc. subhaga and subhage , often in friendly address)
bhaagya: mfn. (fr. bhaga) relating to bhaga; entitled to a share; lucky , fortunate
bhaga: m. " dispenser " , gracious lord , patron (applied to gods, esp. the sun-god) ; the sun ; good fortune , happiness , welfare , prosperity ; dignity , majesty , distinction , excellence , beauty , loveliness ; love , affection , sexual passion , amorous pleasure , dalliance
abhijana: m. family, ancestors; noble descent; fame
anvita: mfn. accompanied by; having as an essential or inherent part , endowed with , possessed of , possessing
api: though

yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
tvaam (acc. sg.): to you
priyaH (nom. sg.): m. lover, husband
na kadaa cit: not at any time, never
abhyacarat = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect abhi- √ car: to act wrongly towards any one ; to be faithless (as a wife)

tam (acc. sg.): him
anyathaa: ind. otherwise , in a different manner ; inaccurately , untruly , falsely , erroneously
yaasyati = 3rd pers. sg. future yaa: to go
pashyasi = 2nd pers. sg. dRsh: to see
kaataraa (nom. sg. f.): mfn. (perhaps from katara , " uncertain as to which of the two ") cowardly , faint-hearted , timid , despairing , discouraged , disheartened , confused , agitated , perplexed , embarrassed , shrinking , frightened
asi = 2nd pers. sg. as: to be

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