Tuesday, November 23, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 6.39: A Call to Suppress Grief

raaja'-rShi-vadhvaas tava n' aanuruupo
dharm'aashrite bhartari jaatu shokaH
ikShvaaku-vaMshe hy abhikaaNkShitaani
daayadya-bhuutaani tapo-vanaani

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"Grief ill becomes you, the wife of a royal seer,

When your husband has taken refuge in the dharma;

For a desired inheritance, in the lineage of Ikshvaku,

Are woods suited to the practice of austerities.

For those of us who are primarily interested in sitting, this verse is a key one.

What this woman is advocating is that Sundari should do something: that she should pull herself together, in view of her station in life, and suppress her grief.

It is the equivalent of teaching, "When in sitting suppressed grief begins to rise to the surface, make an extra effort to keep the spine straight vertically -- a kind of physical gymnastics."

I have been there, and done that, ad nauseam, and it does not pass the pragmatic test of truth. It does not bloody work.

When, in light of the empirical fact that the approach to sitting one has been following evidently has not worked, one goes back to the source and re-examines the instructions of the ancestors, one finds there, if one looks with fresh eyes, that Dogen describes the secret of sitting-dhyana not in terms of doing but in terms of thinking.

Quoting Yakusan, Dogen exhorts us
"Think this state of not thinking,"

or (in a freer translation)
"Think yourself into the zone of not thinking."

What does it mean to think oneself into the zone of not thinking?

I don't know what it means.

If I know anything, I know what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean thinking in the dizzy manner of woman number one. And neither does it mean thinking in the buttoned-up, stiff-upper-lipped manner of woman number two.

It requires quite a lot of guts to recognize that the doing way one has been taught to sit, and the doing way that one has practised sitting for many years, was totally contrary to the teaching of the teacher, Dogen, whose teaching one thought was following.

You thought it was all about learning what to do? You were dead wrong. The truth is that it is much more about learning how not to think.

To recognize that one had it completely wrong, that one's revered Zen teachers were talking out of their arses, is no easy thing. But if you are a real person, pas de choix.

EH Johnston:
'You are the wife of a royal seer and it is not at all fitting for you to grieve when your lord has taken refuge in the Law. For the groves of asceticism are the hereditary possessions of the Iksvaku race and sought after by them.

Linda Covill:
"Grief ill becomes you, the wife of a royal seer, when your husband has sought refuge in the dharma; for in Ikshvaku's lineage the ascetics' forest is a much-desired inheritance!

raaja'-rShi-vadhvaaH (gen. sg. f.): for the wife of a royal seer
raajan: m. king
rShi: seer
vadhu: f. a young wife or woman
tava (gen. sg.): you
na: not
anu-ruupaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. following the form , conformable , corresponding , like , fit , suitable

dharm'aashrite (loc. abs.): taken refuge in the dharma
bhartari (loc. abs.): husband
jaatu: ind. at all , ever
shokaH (nom. sg.): m. grief, sorrow

ikShvaaku-vaMshe (loc. sg.): in the lineage of Ikshvaku
ikShvaaku: name of first king of the solar dynasty
vaMsha: m. bamboo; the line of a pedigree or genealogy (from its resemblance to the succession of joints in a bamboo) , lineage race , family , stock (esp. a noble race , a dynasty of kings , a list of teachers &c)
hi: for
abhikaaNkShitaani (acc. pl. n.): mfn. longed for , wished , desired
abhi- √ kaaNkSh: to long for, desire, strive

daayadya-bhuutaani (acc. pl. n.): the de facto inheritance
daayadya: n. inheritance
bhuuta: (ifc.) being or being like anything , consisting of
tapo-vanaani (acc. pl.): n. a grove in which religious austerities are performed
tapas: n. heat; suffering ; religious austerity , bodily mortification , penance
vaana: n. a dense wood

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