Friday, December 31, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.27: "No, I can't" (ctd.)

strii-kaaraNaM vaira-viShakta-buddhyor
vaivasvat'-aagnyosh calit'-aatma-dhRtyoH
bahuuni varShaaNi babhuuva yuddhaM
kaH strii-nimittaM na caled ih' aanyaH

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

When the minds of Sun's son Vaivasvata
and fire-god Agni turned to enmity,

When their grip on themselves was shaken,

There was war between them for many years,
over a woman.

What lesser being, here on earth,
would not be shaken off course by a woman?

Vaivasvata is either another name for the sun-god Surya just mentioned in 7.26, or else a name for any son of the sun; and the Hiranya-retas mentioned in 7.25 is another name for the fire-god Agni.

EHJ helpfully notes that he cannot trace any story with the remotest resemblance to this verse -- which saves me the bother of trying.

The point, in any event, is that Nanda is referring again to the love-lives of the gods in the effort to convince himself that he might as well go home to Sundari. From the next verse he turns his thoughts from gods to ascetic sages, seers and the like.

In the present series of verses Ashvaghosha is focusing on a particular line of thought in Nanda which is "I can't get by without my woman." But there may be a wider lesson for us all, whether we are separated from our beloved or not, which has to do with the unreliability of our sense of what we can and cannot do.

Sometimes "I cannot do it," is a statement of fact, or a realization of reality. I cannot turn back the clock, for example, and rectify past mistakes. I cannot do an undoing. I cannot make the head go in the direction I want it to go (the direction Alexander called "forward and up") by stiffening my neck. I cannot, in the Buddha's words from Canto 16, get milk by trying to milk a cow that has never calved, or by trying to milk a cow by the horn.

But often "I cannot do it" is an expression of a feeling or thought which is not true. Teaching nervous swimmers, in the first instance, just to be in the water, gives my wife and brother plentiful opportunities to see that people can in fact quite easily do what they felt and thought they could not do.

A couple of years ago my brother himself told me that he felt he didn't have the necessary co-ordination to learn to paddle a canoe. "Of course you do," I told him, or words to that effect. And of course, as someone who is at home in the water, he did, and quickly understood how simple paddling is, so that nowadays he even takes his swimming clients on canoeing/swimming trips.

"No, I can't," upon investigation, is often an expression not of the truth, but of a thought that is rooted in faulty sensory appreciation. It is liable in many cases to be a symptom of a kind of low self-esteem, which in turn may be regarded as a secondary psychological symptom of an imperfectly integrated Moro reflex.

EH Johnston:
For the sake of a woman Vaivasvata and Agni, abandoning self-control and informing their minds with enmity, waged war on each other for many years. Who else then in this world would not go astray over a woman?

Linda Covill:
Vaivasvata and Agni were shaken from self-control because of women, and with their minds fixed on enmity fought each other for many years. What other man on earth would not be moved by a woman?

strii-kaaraNam (nom./acc. sg. n.): women as the cause
strii: f. woman
kaaraNa: n. cause , reason , the cause of anything
vaira-viShakta-buddhyoH (gen. dual m.): their minds turned to enmity
vaira: n. enmity , hostility , animosity , grudge , quarrel or feud with
viShakta: mfn. turned or directed towards (loc. or comp.); (ifc.) dependent on
buddhi: f. the power of forming and retaining conceptions and general notions , intelligence , reason , intellect , mind , discernment , judgement ; intention, purpose, design

vaivasvat'-aagnyoH (gen. dual. m.): of Vaivasvata and Agni
vaivasvata: mfn. (fr. vivasvat) coming from or belonging to the sun ; m. name of a manu
vivas-vat: m. " the Brilliant one " , N. of the Sun
agni: m. fire; the god of fire
calit'-aatma-dhRtyoH (gen. dual. m.): being shaken from their usual state of self-command
calita: mfn. shaking , tremulous , unfixed ; moved from one's usual course , disturbed , disordered (the mind , senses , fortune , &c )
aatman: self
dhRti: f. holding , seizing , keeping , supporting , firmness , constancy , resolution , will , command

bahuuni (nom./acc. pl. n.): many
varShaaNi (nom./acc. pl.): n. the rains; a year
babhuuva (3rd pers. sg. perfect bhuu): it was, there was
yuddham (nom./acc. sg.): n. battle , fight , war

kaH (nom. sg. m.): who? what man?
strii-nimittam (acc. sg. n.): because of a woman
nimitta: n. cause
na: not
calet = 3rd pers. sg. optative cal: to be moved, to be moved from one's usual course , be disturbed , become confused or disordered , go astray
iha: ind. here, in this world
anyaH (nom. sg. m.): a man who is different [from a god]

Thursday, December 30, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.26: "No, I can't" (ctd.)

suuryaH saraNyuuM prati jaata-raagas
tat-priitaye taShTa iti shrutaM naH
yaam ashva-bhuuto 'shva-vadhuuM sametya
yato 'shvinau tau janayaaM babhuuva

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

Our tradition has it that the sun god Surya,
roused to passion for the dawn goddess Saranyu,

Let himself be diminished in order to enjoy her;

He became a stallion so as to cover her as a mare,

Whereby she conceived the two charioteers.

Handsome Nanda is the tale of how Nanda eventually becomes a winner -- a winner who loses everything. But here Nanda is feeling and thinking the feelings and thoughts of a loser.

As one who turned to the teaching of FM Alexander in the endeavour to deepen his understanding of how to practise sitting-dhyana -- and also as one who is prone to feel and think the feelings and thoughts of a loser -- what have I learned about this problem of feeling and thinking like a loser?

Marjory Barlow used to say that we cannot control our feelings; it is rather that our feelings control us. But we can control, to some extent, how we think.

Perhaps we can understand in this light the efforts of the well-meaning misogynist in Canto 8, and of Ananda and the Buddha in subsequent chapters. The direct approach of the misogynist in Canto 8 fails the pragmatic test -- it doesn't work. But using indirect skillful means the Buddha causes Nanda to change the way he thinks about Sundari and and about women in general -- so that Nanda comes to see Sundari's beauty as relative and enjoyment of happiness in the company of women, in general, as impermanent.

The principle of the indirectness of a skillful means, it seems to me, is one of the striking commonalities between the teaching of the Buddha and the teaching of FM Alexander.

Marjory used to say: "The thinking re-educates the feeling and the feeling re-educates the body."

To go straight for "good posture" in an end-gaining way is a direct, unskillful approach, to be recommended only for people whose coordination is already perfect -- of whom there do not seem to be very many around.

The two charioteers (ashvinau), the Monier-Williams dictionary informs us, are supposed to appear in the sky before the dawn in a golden carriage drawn by horses.

To the right is a photo from Wikipedia, which bears the caption
Surya with consorts Saranyu and Chaya.

EH Johnston:
The Sun, conceiving a passion for Saranyu, had his orb whittled away for love of her, according to the legend. He took the shape of a horse to have intercourse with her in the shape of a mare, whence sprang the two Ashvins.

Linda Covill:
Legend has it that the Sun, roused to passion for Saranyu, was reduced in brilliance to allow pleasure with her. He became a stallion to mate with her as a mare, whereby the two Ashvins were conceived.

suuryaH (nom. sg.): m. the sun or its deity
saraNyuum (acc. sg.): f. N. of a daughter of tvaShTR (in Rg Veda represented as the wife of vivasvat and mother of the two ashvins , whom she brought forth in the form of a mare)
prati: ind. towards
jaata-raagaH (nom. sg. m.): with passion arisen
jaata: mfn. ( √ jan) born ; grown , produced , arisen , caused , appeared ; happened , become , present , apparent , manifest
raaga: m. colour , hue , tint , dye , (esp.) red colour , redness; any feeling or passion , (esp.) love , affection or sympathy for , vehement desire

tat-priitaye (dat. sg.): for pleasure with her
priiti: f. any pleasurable sensation , pleasure , joy , gladness , satisfaction
taShTaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. ( √ takSh, to form by cutting , plane , chisel , chop) pared , hewn , made thin
iti: "...," thus
shrutam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. heard , listened to , heard about or of , taught , mentioned , orally transmitted or communicated from age to age ; n. anything heard , that which has been heard (esp. from the beginning) , knowledge as heard by holy men and transmitted from generation to generation , oral tradition or revelation , sacred knowledge
naH (gen. pl.): to/of us

yaam (acc. sg. f.): [her] whom
ashva-bhuutaH (nom. sg. m.): become a horse
ashva: horse
bhuuta: mfn. become; (ifc.) being or being like anything
ashva-vadhuum (acc. sg.): a mare
vadhuu: f. bride, young wife ; the female of any animal , (esp.) a cow or mare
sametya = abs. sam- √ i : to go or come together ; to come together in sexual union

yataH: ind. from which or what , whence , whereof , wherefrom
ashvinau (acc. dual m.):" the two charioteers " , N. of two divinities (who appear in the sky before the dawn in a golden carriage drawn by horses or birds ; they bring treasures to men and avert misfortune and sickness ; they are considered as the physicians of heaven)
tau (acc. dual m.): those two
janayaam babhuuva (3rd pers. sg. periphrastic perfect): she did/there was a begetting
jan: to generate , beget , produce , create , cause

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.25: "No I Can't"

kaam'-aabhibhuuto hi hiraNyaretaaH
svaahaaM siSheve maghavaan ahalyaam
sattvena sargeNa ca tena hiinaH
strii-nirjitaH kiM bata maanuSho 'haM

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

For, overcome by desire,
fire god Hiranya-retas, he of golden sperm,

Succumbed to sex with his wife Svaha,
as did bountiful god Indra with nymph Ahalya;

All the more liable am I, a man,
lacking their strength and resolve,

To be overwhelmed by a woman!

I think there never was a golden-spermed fire god called Hiranya-retas, except in the imagination of ancient Indians. Neither do I believe in Indra. Hiranya-retas and Indra were not real beings but heroes of the popular imagination.

Nanda is referring to these fictional beings -- in the same way that we today might refer to Clarke Kent, or Elsie Tanner, or Othello -- in the attempt to justify a position of "No, I can't."

Nanda's stance is therefore in marked contrast to the Buddha at the end of Canto 16 who points with supreme confidence (not blustering belief but true confidence, born of following a means-whereby that works) to real-life heroes who succeeded in channelling their energies into practice.

So whereas Nanda stands here now saying "No, they couldn't" and "No, I can't," the Buddha later tells him, "Yes, they did," and "Yes, you can."

"Yes, I can" said Sammy Davis Jnr; and "Yes, we can" says Barrack Obama. But was this and is this true confidence? Or merely an expression of self-belief?

The critical factor may be the presence or absence of a means-whereby that really works. Is "American pragmatism," like "Buddhism," a term that can be resorted to, for convenience, to describe a way that is truly not an -ism at all?

"Yes, you can," the Buddha tells Nanda in Canto 16 -- but only after outlining in detail a fourfold plan and eightfold path, and only after Nanda has made up his own mind that he really wants to follow the Buddha's path.

EH Johnston:
For instance, overcome by love, Hiranyaretas followed Svaha and Indra Ahalya ; how much more then should I, a mere man, lacking their courage and resolution, be conquered by a woman ?

Linda Covill:
For overwhelmed by desire, Hiranya-retas made love to Svaha and Indra to Ahalya. So it is natural that I, who am only human and lacking their courage and resolve, should be bowled over by a woman!

kaama: m. desire; love , especially sexual love or sensuality
abhibhuutaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. surpassed , defeated , subdued , humbled ; overcome , aggrieved , injured.
hi: for
hiraNya-retaaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having golden seed ; m. name of agni or fire , of the sun , of shiva , of one of the 12 aadityas
hiraNya: n. gold
retas: n. a flow ; flow of semen , seminal fluid , sperm , seed ; quicksilver (regarded as shiva's semen)

svaahaam (acc. sg.): f. an oblation (offered to agni , indra &c ) or Oblation personified (as a daughter of dakSha and wife of agni ; she is thought to preside over burnt-offerings ; her body is said to consist of the four vedas , and her limbs are the six aNgas or members of the veda)
siSheve = 3rd pers. sg. perfect sev: to dwell in; to resort to; to serve; to enjoy sexually , have sexual intercourse with (acc.)
maghavaan (nom. sg. m.): mfn. possessing or distributing gifts , bountiful , liberal , munificent (esp. said of indra and other gods , but also of institutors of sacrifices who pay the priests and singers); name of Indra
magha: m. ( √ maMh, to give) a gift , reward , bounty ; wealth, power
ahalyaam (acc. sg.): f. N. of the wife of gautama (a RiShi belonging to the family of aNgiras with the patr. raahuu-gaNa (author of RV.) or sharadvat ; N. of an apsaras

sattvena (inst. sg.): true essence , nature , disposition of mind , character ; spirit ; vital breath , life , consciousness , strength of character , strength , firmness , energy , resolution , courage , self-command , good sense , wisdom , magnanimity
sargeNa (inst. sg.): m. (fr. √ sRj) letting go , discharging; a stream , gush ; nature , natural property , disposition , tendency ; effort , exertion , resolution , resolve , will
ca: and
tena (inst. sg.): that
hiinaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. bereft or deprived of , free from , devoid or destitute of , without (instr.)

strii-nirjitaH (nom. sg. m.): conquered by a woman
strii: f. woman
nirjita: mfn. conquered , subdued , gained , won
kim: ind. what? how? whence? wherefore? why?
bata: ind. an interjection expressing astonishment or regret
maanuShaH (nom. sg.): m. a man
aham (nom. sg. m.): I

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.24: Blaming the Stimulus

bhaavena garvena gatena lakShmyaa
smitena kopena madena vaagbhiH
jahruH striyo deva-nRpa'-rShi-saMghaan
kasmaadd hi n' aasmad-vidham aakShipeyuH

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

With their way of being, their pride,
their way of moving, their grace;

With a smile or show of indignation,
with their exuberance, with their voices,

Women have carried off hosts of gods, kings, and seers:

How could they not throw a man like me?

From here through to 7.45, Nanda cites a long list of gods, kings, and ascetic seers who were brought down, in their ascetic endeavours, by their desire for women.

Looking at the 18 cantos of Saudarananda as a whole, I see this long list of ascetic failures as a kind of counter-balance to the list of successes (in working to a non-ascetic means-whereby principle) cited by the Buddha in 16.87 - 16.91.

In any event, the next twenty verses will be heavy going, full of references to ancient Indian lore. Ploughing through them will allow ample opportunity to consider why Ashvaghosha wished to dwell at such length upon Nanda's consideration of how women, in Nanda's view, carried off so many men.

Is it in fact true that women, with their womanly wiles, are liable to carry off men? Or is truer to say that men, in our stupidity, are easily liable to get carried away with women?

The lyrics of the old Jimmy Buffet song Margaritaville have to me the ring of truth about them:

Some people say there's a woman to blame
But I know, it's my own damn fault.

In holding the view expressed in today's verse, Nanda might be like the nervous swimmer who is afraid of the calm, passive water in an empty swimming pool. If the nervous swimmer drowns in such water, the water is not to blame; the fault may rather lie in the nervous swimmer's failure to get beyond his instinctive reaction to water.

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars..."

EH Johnston:
For women have captivated crowds of divine and royal seers by their passion, pride, gait, beauty, smiles, anger, intoxication and voices. How then should they not attract a man like me ?

Linda Covill:
The temperament, disdain, gait, charm, smiles, temper, wantonness and voices of women have entranced hosts of divine and royal seers. How could they not overpower a chap like me?

bhaavena (inst. sg.): manner of being , nature , temperament , character ; manner of acting , conduct , behaviour ; any state of mind or body , way of thinking or feeling , sentiment , opinion , disposition
garvena (inst. sg.): m. pride , arrogance
gatena (inst. sg.): n. going , motion , manner of going
lakShmyaa (inst. sg.): f. beauty , loveliness , grace , charm , splendour , lustre

smitena (inst. sg.): n. a smile , gentle laugh
kopena (inst. sg.): m. ( √kup, to be angry) morbid irritation or disorder of the humors of the body ; fury ; passion , wrath , anger , rage
madena (inst. sg.): m. hilarity , rapture , excitement , inspiration , intoxication
vaagbhiH (inst. pl.): f. (fr. √ vach) speech , voice , talk , language (also of animals) , sound ; a word , saying , phrase , sentence , statement

jahruH = 3rd pers. pl. perfect hR: to take away , carry off , seize ; to master, overpower; to enrapture , charm , fascinate
striyaH (nom. pl. f.): women
deva-nRpa'-rShi-saMghaan (acc. pl.):
deva: mfn. divine; m. god
nRpa: m. protector of men , prince , king , sovereign
saMgha: m. (fr. sam + √ han) " close contact or combination " , any collection or assemblage , heap , multitude , quantity , crowd , host , number (generally with gen. pl. or ifc. , e.g. muni-saMgha , " a multitude of sages " ; shatru-saMgha, a host of enemies)
kasmaat: ind. where from? whence? why? wherefore?
hi: for
na: not
asmad-vidham (acc. sg. m.): my sort
asmad: (base of the first person pl. , as used in comp.)
vidha: (ifc.) form , manner , kind , sort
aakShipeyuH = 3rd pers. pl. optative aa- √ kShip: to throw down ; to strike with a bolt ; to convulse , cause to tremble ; to excel so as to put to shame ; to challenge

Monday, December 27, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.23: Dharma-Rivalling Dharma?

niriikShamaaNaaya jalaM sa-padmaM
vanaM ca phullaM parapuShTa-juShTaM
kasy' aasti dhairyaM nava-yauvanasya
maase madhau dharma-sapatna-bhuute

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

... As he looks out over the lotus-festooned water

And the flowering forest where cuckoos come calling!

What man in the prime of youth
could keep such constancy

In the spring months which are, as it were,
dharma's rival?

Again, I think that Ashvaghosha here is putting words in Nanda's mouth which don't hold up to scrutiny. Ashvaghosha is inviting us to scrutinize for ourselves Nanda's words so as to see through the faulty view which those words express. In so doing, Ashvaghosha is preparing our mental ground for the true practice of sitting-dhyana; for this is what sitting-dhyana as Ashvaghosha describes it in Canto 17 is really all about -- progressive fault finding.

The basic fault in Nanda's view is too see the lotus pools and forest flowers, and to hear the cuckoos, as if they were something other than the Buddha-dharma.

This faulty view is, if anything, exaggerated in EHJ's translation in which dharma is translated as "the religious life." (But whether EHJ himself was conscious of the fault as a fault, I somehow doubt.)

In the faulty view of Nanda and scholars who study a supposed doctrine called "Buddhism," there is dharma, or religious life, which consists of such activities as concentrating on doctrines, and there are joys of spring which represent a distraction.

It is in essence the same kind of tunnel vision that teachers and parents exhibit when they opine that children who suffer from so-called attention deficit disorder (ADD) are not trying hard enough to concentrate. That view is truly cuckoo. The truth is that the poor little blighters who are diagnosed with ADD go through life trying too hard to concentrate (and it takes one to know one). What unenlightened people see as a problem of concentration is more truly understood -- as FM Alexander with unrivalled clarity understood it -- as a general problem of balance and coordination.

Q: In order to be less distractible, then, what should I do?

A: Don't ask me. If I have learnt anything, it is what not to do -- but to tell the truth I am still not good at not doing it.

EH Johnston:
Who would have such strength of mind in the first flush of youth as he saw in the month of Madhu, that enemy of the religious life, the water covered with lotuses and the flowering groves frequented by cuckoos ?

Linda Covill:
... when beholding the lotus-decked water and the flowering forest visited by cuckoos! Who, in the prime of his youth, could show such fortitude in the dharma-countering months of spring?

niriikShamaaNaaya = dat. sg. pres. part. nir-√iikSh: to look at or towards , behold , regard , observe (also the stars) , perceive
jalam (acc. sg.): n. water
sa-padmam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. having a lotus

vanam (acc. sg.): n. forest
ca: and
phullam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. split or cleft open , expanded , blown (as a flower); abounding in flowers , flowery
parapuShTa-juShTam (acc. sg. n.): visited by cuckoos
parapuShTa: m. the Kokila or Indian cuckoo
juShTa: mfn. frequented , visited , inhabited ; swept over (by the wind); afflicted by (instr. or in comp.)

kasya (gen. sg.): (interrogative pronoun) who? which? what?
asti: there is
dhairyam (nom. sg.): n. (fr. dhiira) firmness , constancy , calmness , patience , gravity , fortitude , courage
dhiira: mfn. steady , constant , firm , resolute , brave , energetic , courageous , self-possessed , composed , calm , grave
nava-yauvanasya (gen. sg.): of young youth, in the prime of youth
nava: mfn. new. young
yauvana: n. (fr. yuvan) youth , youthfulness , adolescence , puberty , manhood

maase (loc. sg.): m. the moon; a month
madhau (loc. sg.): mfn. sweet ; m. N. of the first month of the year (= chaitra , March-April) ; m. the season of spring
dharma-sapatna-bhuute (loc. sg.): as if dharma's rival
dharma: dharma, practice
sapatna: m. a rival , adversary , enemy
bhuuta: (ifc.) being or being like anything

Sunday, December 26, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.22: Walking that Looks Like It's Arrived

asmai namo 'stu sthira-nishcayaaya
shaant'-aatmane 'ntar-gata-maanasaaya
caMkramyamaaNaaya nir-utsukaaya

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

All credit to him who is firm in his resolve,

Who has turned back from curiosity and pride,

Who is at peace in himself, whose mind is turned inward,

Who while walking up and down
does not strive for anything...

If one accepts that Nanda at this stage of his journey is still in thrall to faulty ideas and feelings, then this assessment of somebody else's inner state cannot be accepted as reliable.

What is not in doubt is that Nanda sees the form of one who has gone forth into the life of a wandering mendicant as emblematic of the virtues described in today's verse.

Having arrived back in central Tokyo after a three day sitting retreat out in the countryside, about 25 years ago, I was walking along a street in central Tokyo carrying my teacher's bag -- he in the uniform of a monk of the Soto Sect of Zen Buddhism, and me with shaven head evidently his student -- when who should I spy walking along the pavement towards us but a young woman. The first thing I noticed, naturally enough, was that she was very attractive. In the twinkling of an eye she had walked passed us and gone on her way, but as she did so she joined her hands and bowed to us, out of reverence for the Buddha's teaching. I couldn't help feeling somewhat unworthy of receiving her bow.

Today's verse somehow brings that incident to mind, and causes me to ponder about the relation between a person's uniform and his inner state. My instinctive tendency is to think light of the uniform... but my instinctive tendencies are generally tied up with greed, anger, and delusion.

Having written this comment last night, and then sat, it occured to me to post a photo of myself sitting in traditional form, and so here is the result of that idea -- which arose and, due to a failure of inhibition, was acted upon.

Before these photos were taken I had been sitting for an hour, with the wish to expand in all directions -- and not only as a result of over-indulgence in Christmas dinner, but as a result of really wishing it.

By the time the photos were taken, however, this wish had changed into a wish to transmit something via a photo of me in traditional sitting posture and in traditional uniform, which was a different kind of wish altogether, a kind of agenda. And the agenda was there whether or not I was wearing the robe.

Still, regardless of the presence or absence of an agenda, form is form. And so these photos, if nothing else, at least illustrate the meaning of the phrase from yesterday's verse, baddhv" aasanam.

The point I coming to, I suppose, is that Nanda projects onto the Zen practitioner by the waterfall the virtue of having no agenda, and this tells us something about Nanda. It tells us, for example, that Nanda is aware of the importance of having no agenda. But whether or not the object of Nanda's admiration is truly free of some agenda, Nanda does not necessarily know.

I think it was the Vietnamese master Tich Naht Hahn who said that enlightened walking is walking that looks like it has already arrived -- which is a nice teaching. But just because walking looks like it has arrived does not necessarily mean that it has arrived.

EH Johnston:
Bravo to him who walks up and down free from yearning! His resolution is strong, he is free from curiosity and arrogance, his soul is tranquil and his mind turned inward.

Linda Covill:
All credit to him for being firm in his purpose, who has turned back curiosity and pride, who is peaceful in himself, and whose mind is turned inward! He walks up and down without eager longings

asmai (dat. sg.): to him
namaH (nom. sg.): n. bow , obeisance , reverential salutation , adoration (by gesture or word ; often with dat. e.g. raamaaya namaH , salutation or glory to raama)
astu (3rd pers. sg. imperative as): let there be!
sthira-nishcayaaya (dat. sg.): to him who is firm in his resolve
sthira: mfn. firm , hard , solid , compact , strong
nishcaya: m. inquiry , ascertainment , fixed opinion , conviction , certainty , positiveness; resolution , resolve, fixed intention , design , purpose , aim

nivRtta-kautuuhala-vismayaaya (dat. sg.): to him who has turned back from impetuousity and pride
nivRtta: mfn. turned back ; retreated , fled (in battle) ; averted from , indifferent to , having renounced or given up (abl. or comp.)
kautuuhala: n. curiosity , interest in anything , vehement desire ; anything causing curiosity , any unusual phenomenon
kutuuhala: n. (fr. kutas and hala , " calling out " ?) , curiosity , interest in any extra-ordinary matter ; eagerness , impetuosity
vismaya: m. wonder , surprise , amazement , bewilderment , perplexity ; pride , arrogance ; doubt , uncertainty

shaant'-aatmane (dat. sg.): to him who is at peace in himself
shaanta: mfn. appeased , pacified , tranquil , calm
aatman: m. the breath ; the individual soul , self
antar-gata-maanasaaya (dat. sg.) to him whose mind is gone inward
antar-gata: mfn. gone between or into , being in , included in
maanasa: n. the mental powers , mind , spirit , heart , soul (= manas)

caMkramyamaaNaaya = dat. sg. pres. part. intensive kram: to step to and fro , walk or wander about
nir-utsukaaya (dat. sg.): to him who is not anxiously desirous
nir-utsuka: mfn. careless , indifferent , tranquil
nir: without
utsuka: mfn. (fr. su , " well " , with ud in the sense of " apart " , and affix ka) , restless , uneasy , unquiet , anxious ; anxiously desirous , zealously active , striving or making exertions for any object ; n. sorrow; n. longing for , desire

Saturday, December 25, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.21: Concentration -- An Innocent's View of the Devil

puMs-kokilaanaam a-vicintya ghoShaM
vasanta-lakShmyaam a-vicaarya cakShuH
shaastraM yath" aabhyasyati c' aiSha yuktaH
shaNke priy" aakarShati n' aasya cetaH

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

Since, deaf to the cuckoos' chorus,

His eye never grazing upon the riches of spring,

This man concentrates intently upon the teaching

I suspect that no lover is tugging at his heart.

The true teaching, contrary to the naive view Nanda betrays in this verse, might be just not to concentrate upon any teaching -- still less upon what EHJ calls (as a translation of shaastram in line 3) "the doctrine."

What does EHJ call "the doctrine"?

What is "doctrine"? According to the dictionary: a body of ideas, particularly in religion, taught to people as truthful or correct.

Scholars write as if the Buddha taught a doctrine, called "Buddhism," which it is their job to study.

Bud did he hell teach a doctrine called Buddhism. He taught a dharma which is the abandonment of all -isms.

And the acid test for real abandonment, as the Buddha taught it, is sitting in the full lotus posture -- first of all, do you sit; and if so, how do you sit?

As long as your sitting is held in the prison of an -ism, you are still failing the test. Even if the prison you are held in is the prison of "true Buddhism," as long as you are held in the prison of that -ism, I am sorry but in my book you failed the acid test.

The ultimate teaching of the Buddha is just to sit upright in the full lotus posture. And how well or badly, how freely or fixedly, just this task is accomplished is, at least as I see it, the supreme test.

When you sit, how well integrated is your body-mind?

Subjecting myself to this test and watching myself, in general, fail it, four times a day, for many years has allowed me to get to know fairly well the devil that is concentration. So since this morning is my birthday and I am up before the rest of my family, I will indulge myself by going on about it at length.

When a baby is born, a reflex called the Asymmetric Tonic Neck Reflex, as shown here, exerts a strong unconscious influence on muscle tone in the baby's arms and legs and through the spiral musculature of its torso. It is an influence which fades as the baby develops its array of normal motor responses, particularly those involving cross-pattern movement (notably crawling on hands and knees) and movements in which hands and feet cross over to the opposite side ("crossing the mid-line"). But in many more children than is generally recognized (not only those relatively few who are diagnosed as "dyslexic" or "dyspraxic") this reflex is retained in an immature form. That being so, when the child comes to learn to hold a pen and write, the task of handwriting will cause the child to have to try hard to overcome the influence of the immature reflex. The child, in other words, will have to concentrate on the physical task of handwriting. While he is concentrating on the task of handwriting, which is unduly difficult for him, he will have less energy left for thinking about what he is writing, and he will tire relatively quickly. Parents and teachers who do not understand the underlying cause of the child's problem are liable to think that he has a problem with concentration. They might tell the child to try harder, to concentrate more. They might observe that the child can spend hours on end playing video games, so he obviously can concentrate if he wants to. But when they encourage the child to concentrate more on schoolwork, his concentration only seems to get worse. If the parents have got enough money, they may send their child to see an educational psychologist who will probably diagnose "Attention Deficit Disorder" (ADD) or some such misnomer.

Now, if anybody in Saundarananda is suffering from ADD it might be the beggar in today's verse. He appears to be tryinig to concentrate on the Buddha's teaching as if it were a doctrine, an -ism -- whereas if he suceeded in abandoning all -isms, even for one moment, he might in that moment wake up to the cuckoos' chorus and all the other glories of spring.

Problems of concentration, as I see them, in children suffering from developmental delay, are not problems of concentrating too little. They are originally problems of concentrating too much, rooted in immature vestibular reflexes.

Therefore, when I find my hands releasing away from each other in sitting, I don't always worry about it. It might be a good sign that the Moro reflex is giving up its grip on my system and the ATNR is taking over. So let the hands be for a while. The feet are already crossing the mid-line since I am sitting in full lotus. Gradually, if I will it, the ATNR also will release its grip, and then the tips of the fingers will cross the mid-line as the thumbs re-connect with each other.

The Buddha taught that all dharmas -- the cuckoo's chorus et cetera -- are real form. And the means to realize it just sitting.

Q: What does it mean just to sit?
A: I don't know.

Q: Does it mean to concentrate?
A: No! It is not that.

So beware the devil that is concentration.

Incidentally, the ghoSha of the cuckoo's chorus in line 1 is the ghoSha of Ashva-ghoSha, which literally means the chorus of whinnying horses.

EH Johnston:
I suspect no mistress attracts his feelings, since he studies the doctrine absorbedly, regardless of the cuckoo's calls and not letting his gaze wander over the beauty of spring.

Linda Covill:
As he is concentrating so attentively on the teachings, ignoring the call of the cuckoos and without his eye straying over the glories of spring, it is unlikely that a loved one is tugging at his heart.

puMs-kokilaanaam (gen. pl. m.): of the cuckoos
puMs: m. a man , a male being
kokila: m. the Kokila or Koil (black or Indian cuckoo ; frequently alluded to in Hindu poetry , its musical cry being supposed to inspire tender emotions)
a-vicintya (abs.): oblivious
a: negative prefix
vi- √ cint: to perceive , discern , observe ; to think of , reflect upon , ponder , consider , regard , mind , care for
ghoSham (acc. sg.): m. indistinct noise , tumult , confused cries of a multitude , battle-cry , cries of victory , cries of woe or distress , any cry or sound , roar of animals ; the sound of words spoken at a distance ; rumour, report

vasanta-lakShmyaam (loc. sg. f.): the riches of spring
vasanta: m spring
lakShmii: f. wealth , riches ; beauty , loveliness , grace , charm , splendour , lustre
a-vicaarya (abs.): not roving
a: negative prefix
vi- √ car: to rove , ramble about or through , traverse , pervade ; to wander from the right path , go astray , be dissolute ; to graze upon , feed upon (a pasture)
cakShuH (nom. sg.): n. faculty of seeing , sight ; the eye

shaastram (acc. sg.): n. an order , command , precept , rule; teaching , instruction , direction , advice , good counsel ; any instrument of teaching , any manual or compendium of rules , any bock or treatise , (esp.) any religious or scientific treatise ; a body of teaching (in general) , scripture , science
yathaa: ind. as, since
abhyasyati = 3rd pers. sg. pres. abhy- √ as: to concentrate one's attention upon (acc.) , practise , exercise , study
ca: and
eSha (nom. sg. m.): this one, this man here
yuktaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. yoked or joined or fastened or attached or harnessed to ; occupied with , engaged in , intent upon ; absorbed in abstract meditation , concentrated , attentive

shaNke = 1st pers. sg. pres. shaNk: to be anxious or apprehensive , be afraid ; to suspect ; to think probable , assume
priyaa (nom. sg.): f. wife, lover
aakarShati = 3rd pers. sg. pres. aa- √ kRSh: to attract, tug at
na: not
asya (gen. sg.): of this one, his
cetaH (acc. sg.): n. consciousness , intelligence , thinking soul , heart , mind

Friday, December 24, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.20: Seated Meditation -- Another Romantic View?

baddv" aasanaM parvata-nirjhara-sthaH
svastho yathaa dhyaayati bhikShur eShaH
saktaH kva cin n' aaham iv' aiSha nuunaM
shaantas tathaa tRpta iv' opaviShTaH

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

This beggar by the mountain waterfall,

Since he meditates at ease,
having crossed his legs in the traditional manner,

Surely is not as attached to anybody as I am;

For he sits so calmly, looking satisfied.

As a translation of ZAZEN, I have long objected to "seated meditation" -- preferring the less divided "sitting-meditation" or "sitting-zen." This partly reflects Dogen's preference, when writing ZAZEN, for the Chinese character which represents the verb "to sit" rather than the Chinese character for the adjective "seated." Both characters are pronounced in Japanese ZA, but the former is simpler, lacking a covering on top.

And yet "seated meditation" is just how Nanda seems to describe the practice of the beggar in this verse. Nanda describes the beggar as having adopted the traditional posture, i.e. having crossed his legs (baddhvaa -- absolutive) after which he is meditating (dhyaayati -- present tense).

So either my objection is petty and irrelevant, or else Nanda's understanding and mode of expression at this stage in his journey are still immature -- or maybe a bit of both.

In general in this canto, as I read it, Nanda's perceptions are not reliable. One of the things Ashvaghosha is doing in the present series of cantos is leading us through a kind of investigation of false reasoning and faulty sensory perception, rooted in unduly excited fear reflexes and emotions (this is nowhere more obvious than in the views and opinions of the misogynistic mind-body dualist who will take centre stage in Canto 8), and this verse also may be part of that process.

In this verse as I read it, then, Nanda is yet to shake off a romantic view about what "meditating" is. Looking at the practice from the outside, he supposes that one who sits at ease in full lotus is not susceptible to being disturbed by blasts from the past. But such a notion will later be falsified for Nanda, in his own practice/experience, as described in the opening verses of Canto 17:

Having washed his feet in that water, / He then, by a clean, auspicious, and splendid tree-root, / Girded on the intention to come undone, / And sat with legs fully crossed... (17.3) By holding firm, keeping direction of energy to the fore,/ By cutting out clinging and garnering his energy, / His consciousness calmed and contained, / He came back to himself and was not concerned about ends (17.6) Though his judgement had been tempered and his soul inspired,/ Now a vestige of desire, arising out of habit, / Made his mind turbid -- Like lightning striking water in a monsoon. (17.7)

The point might be that what the practice of sitting-meditation looks like from the outside (calm and peaceful), and the reality of it as experienced from the inside (old desires striking like lightning), are liable to be very different things. This much I do understand -- as a result of sitting four times every day baddv" aasanam, with legs crossed in the traditional manner.

EH Johnston:
Surely that mendicant there by the mountain torrent, meditating at ease in the Yogin's posture, is not attached to anyone as I am ; he sits calm and as if all his desires had been fulfilled.

Linda Covill:
The monk who meditates at ease beside the mountain waterfall, his posture controlled, can hardly be as attached to someone as I am; that's why he sits calmly, as though quite content.

baddvaa = abs. bandh: to bind , tie , fix ; to join , unite , put together or produce anything in this way , e.g. fold (the hands) , clench (the fist) , knit or bend (the eyebrows) , arrange , assume (a posture) , set up (a limit) , construct (a dam or a bridge) , span , bridge over (a river) , conceive or contract (friendship or enmity) , compose , construct (a poem or verse)
aasanam (acc. sg.): n. sitting , sitting down ; sitting in peculiar posture according to the custom of devotees , (five or , in other places , even eighty-four postures are enumerated ; » padm"aasana , bhadr"aasana , vajr"aasana , viir"aasana , svastik"aasana : the manner of sitting forming part of the eightfold observances of ascetics)
parvata-nirjhara-sthaH (nom. sg. m.): being by the mountain waterfall
parvata: mfn. knotty , rugged (said of mountains); m. a mountain , mountain-range , height , hill , rock
nirjhara: m. a waterfall , cataract , mountain torrent , cascade
stha: mfn. (ifc.) standing , staying , abiding , being situated in , existing or being in or on or among

sva-sthaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. self-abiding , being in one's self (or " in the self " ), being in one's natural state , being one's self uninjured , unmolested , contented , doing well , sound well , healthy (in body and mind) , comfortable , at ease
yathaa: ind. (correlative of tathaa) as, since
dhyaayati = 3rd pers. sg. pres. dhyaa/dhyai: (alone) to be thoughtful or meditative
bhikShuH (nom. sg.): m. a beggar , mendicant , religious mendicant ; monk
eShaH (nom. sg. m.): this, this here

saktaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. clinging or adhering to , sticking in ; fixed or intent upon , directed towards , addicted or devoted to , fond of , engaged in , occupied with
kva: ind. loc. of ka = kasmin, to whom
kva cid: anywhere , somewhere , to any place , to anybody
na: not
aham (nom. sg.): I
iva: like
eSha (nom. sg. m.): this, this here (sometimes used to give emphasis to the personal pronoun)
nuunam: ind. now , at present , just , immediately , at once ; (esp. in later lang.) certainly , assuredly , indeed

shaantaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (fr. √ sham) appeased , pacified , tranquil , calm , free from passions , undisturbed
tathaa: ind. (correl. of yathaa) so
tRptaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. satiated , satisfied
tRp: to satisfy one's self , become satiated or satisfied , be pleased with; to enjoy
iva: like, as if
upaviShTaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. seated , sitting ; come to , arrived , entered (into any state or condition)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.19: Another Flashback

yath" aiShy an-aashyaana-visheShakaayaaM
may' iiti yan maam avadac ca s'aashru
paariplav'-aakSheNa mukhena baalaa
tan me vaco 'dy' aapi mano ruNaddhi

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

Again, the words the girl told me,

'Come back before my face-paint is dry,'

While her eyes were swimming with tears:

Those words even now block my mind.

As the previous verse was a replaying of the scene of 4.19, this verse is a kind of flashback to 4.36: "But if you hurry back to me / Before my face-paint is dry, /Then I will hold you close in my arms / With nothing embellishing them save the moisture of fragrant oils."

Best of Listeners and Best of Speakers are among the Buddha's epithets used in Saundarananda. As far as I know "Best of Plumbers" was never used as an epithet of the Buddha, but one way of understanding Saundarananda is as the story of the unblocking of Nanda's mind.

When a mind stops concentrating on its miserable self and becomes genuinely interested in something else -- as Nanda shortly becomes interested in a yogin sitting at ease by a waterfall -- then the mind seems often to become unblocked naturally.

This kind of observation of practical phenomena underlies FM Alexander's core teaching aphorism "Stop doing the wrong thing and the right thing does itself."

Speaking of redemption, as I was doing yesterday, the Alexander work is full of people who had been blocked and found redemption in Alexander's teaching. And as an Alexander teacher one hopes to help one's pupils in that direction.

So if Nanda were my Alexander pupil, and he came in his present blocked state for an Alexander lesson, how might I go about pointing him in the right direction?

Nanda says that Sundari's words are blocking, or oppressing (EHJ) or locking up (LC) his mind. I might ask him to consider whether the impeding factor is truly Sundari's words. Isn't the impeding factor, Nanda, rather just in your own reaction to those words?

My wife and brother, who teach Alexander's principles to nervous swimmers, ask a similar question of their pupils: Is it truly the calm, passive water of a swimming pool that is such a problem for you? Or isn't the impeding factor, rather, just in your own reaction to the water?

Speaking for myself, as I sit on dry land, it seems to me that the deepest block is an unconscious fear of being wrong, which tends to be associated with unconscious trying to be right. And the redeeming antidote is conscious practice of not doing wrong / allowing the right thing to do itself.

When we look around at the behaviour of others also, the unconscious fear of being wrong seems to be everywhere. As Marjory Barlow said, "We are all going around trying to be right."

But here and there, in one or two individuals, for moments, we glimpse if we are fortunate examples of the conscious practice of non-doing.

Do we truly glimpse it in some of those chi-kung guys who seem to be expert at just standing there in nature, doing nothing, but just enjoying the flow of vital energy? Or are they skillful imitators? It's not that I am cynical about chi-kung as an endeavour -- I consider myself a fan of it and occasional dabbler in it. It is more that I am becoming in my advancing years more sceptical about all fields of human endeavour. We are all so adept at lying to ourselves, believing in false prophets.

Again, do we glimpse it in some of the Japanese "Ways"? After my interest in Zen was first stimulated in 1978, one of the books I avidly read and re-read was Eugene Herrigel's Zen in the Art of Archery, which described the principle of letting the arrow shoot itself. It describes the principle convincingly, but did Herrigel himself really know the principle? I somehow doubt it.

Nowadays I see Herrigel's writings, in the field of conscious practice of non-doing, as very peripheral. But Ashvaghosha's writing, without a shadow of a doubt, is truly seminal.

Do Ashvaghosha's writings contain the seed of redemption for all unblocked minds? I would like to believe so. But believing it to be so is sod all use to anybody. As the citizens of the US state of Missouri are famously aware, it is necessary to demonstrate it to be so.

EH Johnston:
Now too those words of hers, which the damsel spoke to me weeping, with eyes swimming with tears, 'See that you come back before the paint is dry on me', oppress my mind.

Linda Covill:
The words that the lass spoke to me, her eyes brimming with tears -- 'Hurry back before my visheshaka dries!' -- those words lock up my mind even now.

yathaa: ind. in which manner or way, as
eShi = 2nd pers. sg. present i: to go , walk ; to go to or towards (with acc.) , come
an-aashyaana-visheShakaayaam (loc. sg. f.): before my face-mark is dried
an-aashyaana: mfn. not dried
visheShaka: mn. painted mark on the face

mayi (loc. sg.): to me
iti: "....," thus
yat (acc. sg. n.): which
maam (acc. sg.): to me
avadat = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect vad: to speak , say , utter , tell ,
ca: and
s'aashru (acc. sg. n.): mfn. accompanied by tears , tearful , shedding tears

paariplav'-aakSheNa (inst. sg.): with swimming eyes
paariplava: mfn. swimming ; moving to and fro , agitated , unsteady , tremulous
akSha: n. (ifc.) the eye
mukhena (inst. sg.): n. face
baalaa (nom. sg.): f. a female child , girl , young woman (esp. one under 16 years)

tat (acc. sg. n.): that
me (gen. sg.): my
vacaH (acc. sg.): n. speech, words
adya: ind. today, now
api: even, also
manaH (acc. sg.): n. mind
ruNaddhi = 3rd pers. sg. present rudh: to obstruct , check , arrest , stop , restrain; to shut , lock up ; to besiege , blockade ; to close , block up (a path) ; to stop up , fill ; to touch , move (the heart) ; to torment , harass

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.18: Replaying a Scene from the Past

ady' aapi tan me hRdi vartate ca
yad darpaNe vyaakulite mayaa saa
kRt'-aanRta-krodhakam abraviin maaM
kathaM kRto 's' iiti shaThaM hasantii

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

Even now it keeps running through my mind

How when I clouded the mirror

She feigned anger and said to me,

Laughing wickedly, 'What are you doing!'

In light of this verse, I need to go back and change my translation of 4.19 which at present reads "What are you like!" she giggled from above.

jahaasa c' occaiH in 4.19, clearly, was not so much a coquettish giggle from above as a wicked (shaTham) laugh; and kathaM kRto 'si is better and more literally translated, as per EHJ and LC as "What are you doing?" My mistake.

What Ashvaghosha is examining here is a side of suffering that can't easily be reduced to, say, the action of vestibular reflexes or the working of the autonomic nervous system. Nanda is describing something like a scene being replayed in the cinema of his mind -- a phenomenon, notwithstanding psycho-physical unity, that we would naturally tend to describe as mental.

Dogen instructed that when an image occurs in the mind, we should wake up, and just in the act of waking up to whatever it is that has been running through the mind, the scene or image or thought evaporates at once. But what does it mean to wake up? What I was taught in Japan was to bring my attention back to my sitting posture -- and, in particular, to "keeping the spine straight vertically." What this meant in practice, at least as I practised it, was replacing one kind of unconsciousness with another kind of unconsciousness. But this as I see it now, was another mistake.

Realizations of mistakes such as the above cause me to have my doubts about how many mistakes I might be making without realizing it. Still, irrespective of my faults as a translator, some people out there are sufficiently interested in Ashvaghosha's message to visit this blog -- and the flag counter on the right is an interesting indicator of who they are. The UK and US account for 73% of visitors, split at time of writing almost down the middle, with new visitors totalling 3,966 from the UK and 3,960 from the US. But what seems to be more telling than overall numbers (which are in any case prone to be inflated by one person reading from different locations -- viz. the increase in visitors from Greece whenever George goes home) is how the number of new visitors from the US has been catching up the UK number. As I sat this morning, I found myself asking what was the meaning of this trend. Then I woke up and discontinued the train of thought. But then as I folded up my kashaya and unfolded my legs, the answer came to me that "Saundarananda is a tale of redemption, and American ears are more open to it."

If our rent on earth is service to others, I appear to be paying my rent to an increasingly American audience. Anyway, wherever you are from, thank you for listening.

EH Johnston:
And now too my thoughts run on what, when I clouded the mirror, she said to me, pretending to be angry but laughing roguishly, 'What a sight you are!'

Linda Covill:
Even now that incident keeps churning in my mind, when I blew on her mirror, and she, making a show of anger, laughed roguishly and said to me 'What are you doing?'

adya: ind. today, now
api: also, even
tat (nom. sg. n.): that
me (gen. sg.) my, of/for me
hRdi (loc. sg.): n. the heart (as the seat of feelings and emotions) , soul , mind (as seat of thought and intellectual operations
vartate = 3rd pers. sg. pres. vRt: to turn , turn round ; with manasi or hRdaye , " to dwell or be turned or thought over in the mind " ; to continue, to hold good , continue in force
ca: and

yat (nom. sg. n.): which
darpaNe (loc. abs.): the mirror
vyaakulite (loc. abs.): mfn. filled with , full of; confused , disarranged , disturbed , corrupted
mayaa (inst. sg.): by me
saa (nom. sg. f.): she

kRt'-aanRta-krodhakam (acc. sg. n.): affecting anger, pretending to be angry
kRta: mfn. done, made
anRta: mfn. not true, false
krodha: m. anger
-ka: adjectival affix
abraviit = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect bruu: to speak , say
maam (acc. sg.): to me

kathaM-kRto 'si: "What are you doing?" (see 4.19)
katham: ind. how? what? (interrogative particle implying amazement)
kRtaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. done
asi = 2nd pers. sg. as: (copula verb) to be
iti: "...," thus
shaTham (acc. sg. n.): mfn. false , deceitful , fraudulent , malignant , wicked ; m. a cheat , rogue (esp. a false husband or lover , who pretends affection for one female while his heart is fixed on another ; one of the four classes into which husbands are divided)
hasantii = nom. sg. f. pres. part. has: to laugh , smile

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.17: Bearing Witness

ahaM gRhiitv" aapi hi bhikShu-liNgaM
bhraat'-RRShinaa dvir guruN" aanushiShTaH
sarvaasv avasthaasu labhe na shaantiM
priyaa-viyogaad iva cakravaakaH

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

For though I have accepted a beggar's guise,

And am taught by one who is twice my guru,
as elder brother and enlightened sage,

In every circumstance I find no peace --

Like a ruddy sheldrake separated from its mate.

In this verse, as in the previous verse, and as in the next two verses, Nanda tells us honestly what he thinks and feels he is going through.

A beggar's guise or uniform (bhikShu-liNgam), which in several verses after this one is referred to simply as liNgam, has as its three essential elements shaving of the head, wearing of a robe, and carrying of a bowl.

Nanda's testimony in this verse might be helpful in prompting a Zen practitioner who shaves his head and sits wearing a robe but who is not a Buddhist monk, to reflect that even at the time of the Buddha, and even for Nanda who was the Buddha's brother and pupil, finding peace was not a piece of cake.

What Nanda is saying in line 4 in comparing himself with a lonesome cakra-vaaka, is that he feels like he is something in a Sanskrit romantic poem. And as a statement of what he is thinking and feeling, it might be true; but as a statement of fact it is not. A truer statement of fact might be as expressed by the Buddha in Canto 15: In this originally shattered world / Nobody is the beloved of anybody. / Held together by cause and effect, / Humankind is like sand in a clenched fist. (15.35) In other words, we are not living in a Sanskrit romantic poem, or in a Hollywood chick flick, or in a Bollywood melodrama, or even in a "realistic" British soap opera. What world it is that we are living in, I don't know, but I know it is not one of those, and it is clear that the Buddha is telling us that it is held together by cause and effect (kāryakāraṇasambaddham).

Mindful, at least partially, of cause and effect, I generally come back from France at the end of summer looking forward to a winter of do-gooding, thinking I might help people in a practical, hands-on way using what I know of Alexander's discoveries and the role of the vestibular system in faulty sensory appreciation. This optimistic outlook often seems to lead to a degree of disillusionment and frustration -- not infrequently because I make a hash of things by dog-with-bone-like striving. By the time the weather starts to warm up I am generally ready to def out humankind and get back to solitude in France. This is one aspect of my going round and round in circles, or spirals.

Inside this turning wheel, I gradually see more clearly, I think, why the Buddha began his teaching career with a negative. Before he exhorted his followers to do good (SHU-ZEN-BUGYO), he exhorted us in this human world which is held together by cause and effect like sand in a clenched fist, not to do any wrong (SHO-AKU-MAKU-SA).

My thoughts and feelings are ever unreliable, but it seems to me that the worst wrongs I have suffered in my 50 years have been inflicted by a Buddhist monk who wanted to save all human beings in the world and by his similarly well-intentioned disciples. And particularly since that Buddhist monk was my teacher who I imitated for many years, it is all too easy for me to be like that too. In any case, since wrong inner patterns of doing seem to be universal, not to be like that might be a constant struggle for any of us.

EH Johnston:
For, though I have accepted the mendicant's badge and am taught by One Who as my brother and spiritual guide is my Guru in two senses, in no circumstance, like a sheldrake separated from its mate, can I obtain peace.

Linda Covill:
I have accepted the guise of a monk, and I am taught twice over by a guru, my brother the seer; even so, I cannot find peace under any circumstances, like a chakra-vaka bird separated from its mate.

aham (nom. sg.): m. I
gRhiitvaa = abs. grah: to grasp; to lay the hand on , claim; to gain , win , obtain , receive , accept
api: though
hi: for
bhikShu-liNgam (acc. sg.): the guise of a monk
bhikShu: m. a beggar , mendicant ; a monk
liNga: n. a mark , spot , sign , token , badge , emblem , characteristic; guise, disguise

bhraat'-RRShinaa (inst. sg.): by my brother, the seer
bhraatR: m. brother
RShi: m. an inspired poet or sage, a seer
dvis: ind. twice
guruNaa (inst. sg.): m. guru ; venerable teacher ; m. any venerable or respectable person (father , mother , or any relative older than one's self)
anushiShTaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. taught

sarvaasu (loc. pl. f.): all
avasthaasu (loc. pl.): f. state , condition , situation
labhe = 1st pers. sg. present (middle voice) labh: to take , seize , catch ; meet with, find ; to gain possession of , obtain , receive , conceive , get ,
na: not
shaantim (acc. sg.): f. tranquillity , peace

priyaa-viyogaat (abl. sg.):
priyaa: f. a mistress , wife; f. the female of an animal
viyoga: m. disjunction , separation (esp. of lovers)
iva: like
cakravaakaH (nom. sg.): m. the chakra bird

Monday, December 20, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.16: Going Round & Round in Spirals

jNaanaM na me tac ca shamaaya yat syaan
na c' aasti raukShyaM karuN'-aatmako 'smi
kaam'-aatmakash c' aasmi gurush ca buddhaH
sthito 'ntare cakra-gater iv' aasmi

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

That wisdom which might make for peace
I do not have,

And being of a kindly nature I also lack toughness.

I am sensual by nature and yet the Buddha is my guru:

I am stuck as if inside a moving wheel.

Nanda expresses much more truth in this verse, as I read it, than he does in the previous verse. In the previous verse he is speculating in general terms about the dubious concept of a fetter made of love. In this verse, as highlighted by the three occurrences of asmi ("I am"), Nanda is bearing witness out of his own experience as an individual human being.

In English we might naturally say that Nanda is stuck between a rock and a hard place. But the metaphor Nanda uses here, if I understand it correctly, is more dynamic -- and more expressive of the fact that, when we reach an impasse, everything does not stop.

A fellow Zen practitioner who has known me for many years observed to me in a private communication a few years ago that from where he sat I was always going around in circles.

My own sense has been rather a sense of going round and round in spirals. Whether the fundamental direction of those spirals has been downwards or upwards, is not always easy for a person with a dodgy vestibular system to judge. For oneself, in the state of not knowing, one can only keep thinking up and hoping for the best. I know from my own experience that what I feel to be up is liable in fact to be down.

For Nanda, however, when we survey Saundarananda as a whole, using as milestones verses such as 4.42 and 4.44, and then 17.41 and 17.72, it is clear that Nanda, under the wise guiding eye of the Buddha, was always going forward and that his prevailing direction was an upward one.

Reverence for the Buddha drew him on; / Love for his wife drew him back again: / Undecided, he neither stepped ahead nor stood still, / Like a king-goose waddling against the waves. (4.42) Held back by his love of love,/ Drawn forward by his love for dharma, / He struggled on, being turned about / Like a boat on a river going against the stream. (4.44)

In order to go entirely beyond the sphere of desire, / He overpowered those enemies that grab the heel, / So that he attained, because of practice, the fruit of not returning, / And stood as if at the gateway to the citadel of Nirvana.
(17.41) And from that extreme predicament, from that worthless mire, / Up he dragged me, like a feeble-footed elephant from the mud, / To be released into this quieted, untainted, feverless, sorrowless, / Ultimate true reality, which is free from darkness. (17.72)

EH Johnston:
I have neither the knowledge that leads to peace nor, being kindly by nature, can I be hardhearted. On the one hand I am passionate by nature and on the other the Buddha is my Guru. I am placed as it were between the two wheels of a cart.

Linda Covill:
That knowledge which might make for peace I do not have, nor, being compassionate by nature, can I be cruel. I am naturally passionate, yet the Buddha is my guru; I am as if fixed to a turning wheel!

jNaanam (nom. sg.): n. knowing , becoming acquainted with , knowledge , (esp.) the higher knowledge
na: not
me (gen. sg.): of/in me
tat (nom. sg. n.): that
ca: and
shamaaya (dat. sg.): m. tranquillity , calmness , rest , equanimity , quietude ; peace
yat (nom. sg. n.): which
syaat = 3rd pers. sg. optative as: to be

na: not
ca: and
asti: there is
raukShyam (nom. sg.): n. roughness, toughness
karuN'-aatmakaH (nom. sg. m.): being of a kindly nature;
karuNa: mfn. compassionate
ca: and
aatmaka: mfn. having or consisting of the nature or character of (in comp.)
asmi = 1st pers. sg. as: to be

kaam'-aatmakaH (nom. sg. m.): having a sensual nature
kaama: m. desire ; pleasure , enjoyment ; love , especially sexual love or sensuality
ca: and
asmi = 1st pers. sg. as: to be
guruH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. heavy , weighty ; important , serious , momentous ; venerable ; m. a guru
ca: and
buddhaH (nom. sg.): m. the awakened one, the buddha

sthitaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. standing , staying , situated , resting or abiding or remaining in (loc.); being or remaining or keeping in any state or condition ; adhering to or keeping with (loc.) ; firm , constant , invariable ; turned or directed to , fixed upon (loc. or comp.) ; resting or depending on (loc.)
antare (loc. sg.): mfn. being in the interior , interior ; near, lying adjacent to
cakra-gateH (gen. sg.): f. rotation , revolution
cakra: n. the wheel (of a carriage)
gati: f. going , moving
iva: like
asmi = 1st pers. sg. as: to be

Sunday, December 19, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.15: Difficulty with a Non-Existent Fetter

chittvaa ca bhittvaa ca hi yaanti taani
sva-pauruShaac c' aiva suhRd-balaac ca
jNaanaac ca raukShyaac ca vinaa vimoktuM
na shakyate sneha-mayas tu paashaH

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

For once cut or broken
-- by one's own strength or by the strength of friends --

Those bonds exist no more;

Whereas the fetter made of love,
except through wisdom and callousness,

Cannot be undone.

These, again, are words that Ashvaghosha has put into the mouth of Nanda before Nanda has even begun to gain a foothold in the Buddha's teaching. They are not the words of the Buddha, and not words that Ashvaghosha put in the mouth of the Buddha.

So, again, these words can be contrasted with the Buddha's teaching in 15.35 (In this originally shattered world / Nobody is the beloved of anybody. / Held together by cause and effect, / Humankind is like sand in a clenched fist), and taken with a pinch of salt.

For Nanda, in his deluded state, "the fetter made of love" is something real -- more real than bonds of wood, rope or iron. And so Nanda seems to think that what is needed to break the fetter is not only wisdom but some kind of harsh intervention which he describes as raukShya, harshness, callousness, hardheartedness or cruelty.

What the Buddha seems to teach, in contrast, is that what is real is cause and effect. Unlike Nanda, the Buddha pointedly does not affirm that bonds of love have real substance.

A saying of FM Alexander that might be relevant here, however, is this:
"The things that don't exist are the most difficult to get rid of."

Here is a'nother saying of Alexander's which relates to vimoktum (to come undone) in line 3, and which is, in my book, always relevant in sitting practice:
"You cannot do an undoing."

Even though we cannot do an undoing, the great fun of Alexander work is to work out how to bring about an undoing, not by doing, but by indirect means.

As I sat this morning in the very quiet circumstances of snowbound Britain, I felt very happy to be doing this work like this, bringing Alexander's wisdom to bear on the practice of sitting-dhyana.

In any event, the point I am coming round to making is this: If Nanda says that when a person wishes to come undone (vimoktum), the means to achieve this undoing necessarily involve not only wisdom (jNaana) but also the direct means of (raukShya) callousness, then I would like to say to Nanda, speaking as one who has benefitted enormously from the discoveries of FM Alexander: "You might be the Buddha's own brother, and you might have had your head shaved by Ananda himself, but in the matter of undoing you don't yet know what you are talking about."

And if when I said this Nanda detected a certain harshness in my voice, that would just be a manifestation of me failing to practise what I preach.

EH Johnston:
For the former can be cut or broken by one's own might or the strength of friends, but the snare of love cannot be loosed except by true knowledge or hardheartedness.

Linda Covill:
The former disappear when they are cut or broken, by one's own force or the strength of friends, but the snare of love cannot be undone without knowledge and cruelty.

chittvaa = abs. chid: to cut off , amputate , cut through , hew , chop
ca: and
bhittvaa = abs. bhid: to split , cleave , break
ca: and
hi: for
yaanti = 3rd. pers. pl. pres. yaa: to go, go away, vanish, disappear
taani (acc. pl. n.): those, the former

sva-pauruShaat (abl. sg.): through one's own strength
sva: mfn. one's own
pauruSha: mfn. manly, human; m. a weight or load which can be carried by one man ; n. manliness , manly strength or courage or deed ; n. force (opp. to buddhi , " intellect ");
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
suhRd-balaat (abl. sg.): through the power of a friend/friends
suhRd: m. " good-hearted " , " kindhearted " , " well-disposed " , a friend , ally
bala: n. power , strength , might , vigour , force
ca: and

jNaanaat (abl. sg.): f. n. knowing , becoming acquainted with , knowledge , (esp.) the higher knowledge
ca: and
raukShyaat (abl. sg.): n. (fr. ruukSha) roughness , hardness , dryness , aridity; harshness , cruelty , uncouthness
ruukSha: mfn. rough , dry , arid , dreary ; hard , harsh , unkind , cruel (as a person or speech); unpleasant , disagreeable , not soft (to the sight , smell &c )
ca: and
vinaa: ind. without , except , short of
vimoktum = inf. vi- √ muc: to unloose , unharness

na: not
shakyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive shak: to be able or capable or possible or practicable (with an inf. in pass. sense e.g. tat kartuM shakyate , " that can be done ")
sneha-mayaH (nom. sg. m.): made of love
sneha: m. oiliness ; blandness , tenderness , love , attachment to , fondness or affection
maya: an affix used to indicate 'made of', 'consisting or composed of', 'full of'
tu: but
paashaH (nom. sg.): m. a snare , trap , noose , tie , bond , cord , chain , fetter (lit. and fig.)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.14: A Romantic View on Bonds

taavad dRDhaM bandhanam asti loke
na daaravaM taantavam aayasaM vaa
yaavad dRDhaM bandhanam etad eva
mukhaM cal'-aakSham lalitaM ca vaakyaM

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

There is no strong bond in the world,

Whether of wood, rope or iron,

As strong as this bond:

An amorous voice and a face with darting eyes.

This romantic view of Nanda's in his present state of feeling sorry for himself can be contrasted with the teaching of the Buddha in Canto 15: In this originally shattered world / Nobody is the beloved of anybody. / Held together by cause and effect, / Humankind is like sand in a clenched fist. (15.35)

Speaking of romantic views on bonds, a few years ago it seemed unthinkable that a western European country might default on its sovereign debt. But in the history of financial markets, the unthinkable has a habit of turning into the inevitable, thereby completely falsifying generally held views.

Just as people are prone to believe that governments of advanced industrialized nations will not go bankrupt, we are prone to want to believe in romantic fairy-tales, whereby two soul-mates fall in love and, after a requisite number of moats have been traversed and dragons slayed, live happily ever after.

An antidote to such romantic thinking is the kind of investigation of reality that Nanda himself carries out in Canto 17, as described in verses 17.14 through 17.21. Far from a situation in which soul-mates live happily ever after, Nanda observes reality to be soul-less, and marked by suffering and impermanence.

Such unromantic investigation of unromantic reality provides a solid basis for Nanda, as a wandering mendicant, to progress through the four stages of sitting-meditation and thereafter to win the worthy state of an arhat. It also provides a good basis for partnering up and bringing up a family -- a task in which the partners do not have to be perfect, but just good enough. Fortunately for me (presumably because of some good karma I must have instigated in a forgotten past life), it is a task in which my beloved has been more than just good enough.

EH Johnston:
There are no bonds in the world, whether made of wood, cord or iron, so strong as a bright-eyed face and a sweet voice.

Linda Covill:
There is no bond in the world, whether of wood, fibre or iron, as solid as this bond -- teasing words and a face with fluttering eyes!

taavat: ind. (correlative of yaavat) so much , so greatly , to such an extent dRDham (nom. sg. n.): mfn. fixed , firm , hard , strong , solid , massive ; mfn. firmly fastened , shut fast , tight , close
bandhanam (nom. sg.): n. the act of binding , tying , fastening , fettering ; n. a bond , tie (also fig.) , rope , cord , tether
asti: there is
loke (loc. sg.): in the world

na: not
daaravam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. wooden , made of wood or coming from wood
taantavam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. made of threads (tantu)
tantu: m. a thread , cord , string , line , wire , warp (of a web) , filament , fibre
aayasam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. (fr. ayas) of iron , made of iron or metal
ayas: n. iron , metal
vaa: or

yaavat: ind. (correlative of taavat) as great
dRDham (nom. sg. n.): mfn. fixed , firm , hard , strong , solid bandhanam: n. bond
etat (nom. sg. n.): mfn. this , this here , here (especially as pointing to what is nearest to the speaker)
eva: (emphatic)

mukham (nom. sg.): n. face
cal'-aakSham (nom. sg. n.): with moving eyes
cala: mfn. moving , trembling , fluctuating
akSha: n. [only ifc.] the eye
lalitam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. sported , played , playing , wanton , amorous , voluptuous ; artless , innocent , soft , gentle , charming , lovely
ca: and
vaakyam (nom. sg.): n. speech , saying , assertion , statement , command , words

Friday, December 17, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.13: Difficult Practice & Understanding

ady' aavagacchaami su-duShkaraM te
cakruH kariShyanti ca kurvate ca
tyaktvaa priyaam ashru-mukhiM tapo ye
cerush carisyanti caranti c' aiva

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

"Now I understand what a very difficult thing

Those men have done, will do, and are doing

Who have practised, will practise and are practising
painful austerities,

Leaving behind their tearful-faced lovers.

This verse firstly brings to mind the words of Bodhidharma quoted by the Japanese Zen Master Dogen in Shobogenzo chap. 30, GYOJI: "The buddhas' supreme and wondrous state of truth is to persevere for vast kalpas to become able to practise what is hard to practise, and to endure what is beyond endurance. How can one hope to seek the true vehicle with small virtue and small wisdom, and with a trivial and conceited mind? It would be futile toil and hardship."

Today's verse also brings to mind the following words of English Alexander teacher Patrick Macdonald: "Those who keep on repeating 'Yes, yes. I see' , hardly ever do."

The point might be, then, that what the Buddha is requiring Nanda to do is indeed something inordinately difficult. But what that difficult task is, even though he says ady' aavagacchaami "Now I understand!", Nanda does not yet necessarily understand.

Rather, Nanda is still at the stage where he thinks the difficult thing he is required to do is to practice painful austerities (tapas). And so the central point of the next four chapters will be to highlight the fault in this view, which might be the original and grossest fault that people bring to sitting practice: namely, that by suffering pain and denying myself now I am going to get a pay-off in future.

It is only after he has got beyond such a view, at the beginning of Canto 12, that the Buddha recognizes in Nanda the first signs of higher good -- which might not necessarily have anything to do with doing what is painful, but might, on the contrary, have to do with non-doing. Only then, it seems, does the Buddha even begin to recognize that Nanda has gained a foothold in his teaching: "Aha! This gaining of a foothold / Is the harbinger of higher good in you, / As, when a firestick is rubbed, / Rising smoke is the harbinger of fire." (12.19)

Why did the Buddha begin his teaching career with the negative "not doing of wrong," rather than by a call to positive action?

Now, do I understand? On some level, I am confident that I do. But very probably, like Nanda, at a deeper level I do not.

EH Johnston:
'Now I realise how hard the task those have accomplished, are accomplishing and will accomplish who, deserting their weeping mistresses, have practised, are practising and will practise austerities.

Linda Covill:
Today I comprehend that men who leave behind their weeping sweethearts to practise asceticism -- and those who have done so in the past, and those who will do so in the future -- they are doing something very difficult indeed, and so it was in the past and will be in the future.

adya: ind. today, now
avagacchaami = 1st pers. sg. pres. ava- √ gam: to hit upon , think of , conceive , learn , know , understand ,
su-duShkaram (acc. sg. n.): mfn. very difficult to be done , most arduous
te (nom. pl. m.): they, those men

cakruH = 3rd pers. pl. perfect kR: to do
kariShyanti = 3rd pers. pl. future kR: to do
ca: and
kurvate = 3rd pers. pl. present (middle voice) kR: to do
ca: and

tyaktvaa = abs. tyaj: to leave , abandon , quit
priyaam (acc. pl.): f. wife, beloved
ashru-mukhiim (acc. pl. f.): mfn. having tears on the face
tapaH (acc. sg.): n. warmth , heat ; pain , suffering; religious austerity , bodily mortification , penance
ye (nom. pl. m.): [those] who

ceruH = 3rd pers. pl. perfect car: to move oneself; to undertake , set about , under go , observe , practise , do or act in general , effect , make
carisyanti = 3rd pers. pl. future car: to practise
caranti = 3rd pers. pl. present car: to practise
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.12: Big Desire & Discontentment

sa tatra bhaary"-aaraNi-sambhavena
vitarka-dhuumena tamaH-shikhena
kaam'-aagnin" aantar-hRdi dahyamaano
vihaaya dhairyaM vilalaapa tat tat

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

As he burned there
with a fire risen from the fire board of his wife,

With ideas for smoke and darkest hell for flames,

As he burned in his innermost heart with a fire of desire,

Fortitude failed him and he uttered various laments:

The eight truths to which a great human being is awake, as taught by the Buddha on the night before he died, begin with (1) alpecchu (small desire) and (2) saMtuShTa (contentment -- or satisfaction, as expressed in 7.11 by the cuckoos). So what we are being encouraged to study here as Nanda, with his big libido on fire, begins a litany of grumbling laments, is the opposite situation.

Being stupid, one is ever liable to be more interested in enlightenment than in delusion -- "I know all about delusion; I have been living in it for 50 years already. So let's take the first eleven cantos as read, and start at Canto 12."

An antidote to such stupidity might be contained in these verses from Canto 16:

For he who knows suffering as it really is, / Who knows its starting and its stopping: / It is he who reaches peace by the noble path -- / Going along with friends in the good. / He who fully appreciates his illness, as the illness it is, / Who sees the cause of the illness and its remedy: / It is he who wins, before long, freedom from disease -- / Attended by friends in the know.
(16.39 - 16.40)

The other six of the eight great human truths, if I list them off the top of my head, are (3) enjoyment of peace and quiet, as experienced when one lives alone in a quiet place, (4) persistent direction of energy, like the kind of constant trickle of water that can wear away rock, (5) not losing mindfulness, which is like the protective layer of energy that is sometimes imagined to surround one who has eaten his morning porridge, (6) the balanced stillness of dhyana practice, (7) practice of wisdom, which might involve allowing oneself the time and space in which to know what to do next, and (8) cutting out bullshit, or not being wordy.

EH Johnston:
With his heart burning there with the fire of passion, which had his wife for the firestick from which it originated, his thoughts for its smoke and his grief for its flames, he departed from steadfastness and uttered many laments :--

Linda Covill:
Burning in his heart with the fire of passion which arose from his wife as the firestick, which had his fancies as smoke and his mental darkness as flames, he put composure aside and lamented in various ways:

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
tatra: ind. there, in that state
bhaary"-aaraNi-sambhavena (inst. sg.): arising from his wife as the firestick
bhaaryaa: f. wife
araNi: f. " being fitted into " or " turning round " , the piece of wood (taken from the Ficus Religiosa or Premna Spinosa) used for kindling fire by attrition (generally distinction is made between the lower one and the upper one , adhar"aaraN/i and uttar"aaraNi , the former may also be meant by araNi alone without adhara)
sambhava: m. being or coming together , meeting , union , intercourse (esp. sexual intercourse , cohabitation) ; finding room in , being contained in (ifc.= " contained in ") ; birth , production , origin , source , the being produced from (abl. ; ifc. = " arisen or produced from , made of , grown in ") ; cause , reason , occasion (ifc.= "caused or occasioned by")

vitarka-dhuumena (inst. sg.): with ideas for smoke
vitarka: m. conjecture , supposition , guess , fancy , imagination; idea
dhuuma: m. smoke
tamaH-shikhena (inst. sg.): with the flames of darkest hell
tamas: n. darkness , gloom ; the darkness of hell , hell or a particular division of hell ; mental darkness , ignorance , illusion , error
shikhaa: f. a pointed flame , any flame

kaam'-aagninaa (inst. sg.): with the fire of desire
kaama: m. desire, lust ; love , especially sexual love or sensuality
agni: fire
antar-hRdi (loc. sg.): in his innermost core
antar: interior
hRd: n. the heart (as the seat of feelings and emotions) , soul , mind (as seat of thought and intellectual operations); breast , chest , stomach , interior (also in older language , " interior of the body ")
dahyamaanaH = nom. sg. m. pres. part. passive dah: to burn, consume by fire

vihaaya = abs. vi- √ haa: to leave behind , relinquish ; to be deprived of, lose
dhairyam (acc. sg.): n. firmness , constancy , calmness , patience , gravity , fortitude , courage
vilalaapa = 3rd pers. sg. perfect vi- √ lap: to utter moaning sounds , wail , lament , bewail
tat tat (acc. sg. n.): this and that , various things

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.11: Noise in the System

saMrakta-kaNThaish ca viniila-kaNThais
tuShTaiH prahRShTair api c' aanyapuShTaiH
lelihyamaanaish ca madhu dvirephaiH
svanad vanaM tasya mano nunoda

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

Resounding with the throaty cries
of impassioned peacocks,

With the satisfied celebrating of cuckoos,

And with the relentless supping of nectar by bees,

The forest pressed in upon his mind.

What Nanda is suffering from in this verse is not a hearing problem; it is a listening problem. A specialist in the field of sound therapy might say that it is a Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) -- not a problem so much of the ear as a problem of the whole brain and nervous system. But going further it might be a problem of Nanda's whole being, a sickness present in every cell of his being, such as love sickness is.

One of Ashvaghosha's purposes in Saundarananda is to outline for us a cure for love sickness, which might consist of having confidence in the Buddha's teaching, practising integrity, being ready to step into action and give up all ideas, and thus ultimately gaining one's own understanding of the four noble truths.

But there is a danger in being too quick in thinking -- as religious people are ever prone to do -- that one has found the cure for all ills, before one has really understood the disease. That's how religious leaders come so often to resemble salesmen of snake oil.

So what Ashvaghosha has been doing in this and the previous Canto, as I read them, is painting us an insightful picture of what love sickness actually is, of how it colours and clouds the minds of a woman and of a man.

The point might be, then, before trying to cure the disease, first to really get to know it.

And while that process continues, speaking for myself, I have found over the past year or so that a set of Goldring noise-cancelling headphones that I bought at for £50 have been a big help. For my purposes, they have been just as effective as the top-of-the-range Sony model.

Perhaps I should have been a salesman after all.

Roll up! Roll up! Get your Buddhist snake oil here.

EH Johnston:
The forest, resounding with bees sipping honey, and with merry and joyful cuckoos and with peacocks with passionate voices, merely made his mind the more distraught.

Linda Covill:
His mind was repelled by the forest as it resounded with the passionate calls of the peacocks, the thrilling cheer of the cuckoo, and the bees sipping at honey.

saMrakta-kaNThaiH (inst. pl.): with impassioned guttural cries
saMrakta: mfn. coloured , red ; inflamed , enamoured ; charming ; angry
kaNTha: m. the throat , the neck ; voice ; sound , especially guttural sound
ca: and
viniila-kaNThaiH (inst. pl.): "the blue necked"; peacocks
viniila: mfn. dark-blue , blue
kaNTha: m. the throat , the neck ; voice ; sound , especially guttural sound

tuShTaiH (inst. pl.): mfn. satisfied , pleased
prahRShTaiH (inst. pl.): mfn. erect , bristling (as the hair of the body) ; thrilled with delight, exceedingly pleased , delighted
api ca: as well as
anyapuShTaiH = inst. pl. anya-puShTa: mf. " reared by another " , the kokila or Indian cuckoo

lelihyamaanaiH = inst. pl. intens. passive pres. part. lih: to lick/sip frequently or constantly
ca: and
madhu (nom. sg. n.): mfn. sweet , delicious , pleasant , charming , delightful ; n. anything sweet (esp. if liquid) , mead &c ; n. honey ; n. the juice or nectar of flowers , any sweet intoxicating drink
dvirephaiH (inst. pl.): m. " shaped like 2 r's or having 2 r's in its name (bhramara)? " , a large black bee
dvi: two
repha: m. a burring guttural sound , the letter r (as so pronounced)
bhramara: m. a large black bee , a kind of bumble bee , any bee

svanat = nom. sg. n. pres. part. svan: to sound , make any noise , roar , yell , hum , sing
vanam (nom. sg.): n. forest
tasya ( his
manaH (acc. sg.): n. mind
nunoda = 3rd pers. sg. perfect nud: to push , thrust , impel , move , remove

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 7.10: The Devil that Is Concentration (Ctd.)

gandhaM vasanto 'pi ca gandhaparNaa
gandharva-veshyaa iva gandhapuurNaaH
tasy' aanya-cittasya shug-aatmakasya
ghraaNaM na jahrur hRdayaM pratepuH

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

The gandha-parna trees
gave off their fragrance constantly,

As if they were a gandharva's good-time girls,
brimming with perfume,

But for one whose mind was elsewhere,
and who was sorrowful to the core,

They did not win the nose: they pained the heart.

Wafting from this verse, as I read it, is the fragrance of the kind of perfume that used to win my nose at the Bournville Saturday night disco in Birmingham -- not the expensive perfume that my wife sadly prefers, which gives off the occasional hint of subtle fragrance, but the cheaper variety that you could still smell on your collar on the top deck of the bus all the way home, in spite of the thick fug of cigarette smoke. Ah, those were the days.

In this verse Nanda is is no state to stop and smell the roses. His mind is not in the present, but is focused elsewhere. Is his mind not concentrated enough? Or is it too concentrated on Sundari?

Having written yesterday about the kind of concentration which bedevils Alexander work, I went for a short run, thinking of power being concentrated in the vital centre not as a result of me doing something specific, but as a function of general good co-ordination (for which read, in essence, co-ordination that is not bedevilled by the aberrant action of primitive tonic neck reflexes).

When running like this in my local recreation ground, I often run up and down the football pitch, pausing by each goal line to catch my breath, feel the beating of my heart, and renew my directions -- this latter activity being, as described yesterday, a kind of un-concentration.

While I was thus un-concentrating and going into movement, un-concentrating and going into movement, Marjory Barlow's words came back to me:

"If you think you are wrong, say no, give your directions, and go into movement without a care in the world. Let it come out in the wash."

On some level, from running in the playground at primary school, from playing rugby at secondary school, and from karate training at university and in Japan, I had understood something of the truth of those words before I had met Marjory Barlow or even heard of her uncle FM Alexander. Activities that necessitate movement of the whole body seem to be inherently conducive to giving up fixity.

In a static or sedentary activity, however, especially one like sitting-dhyana which is prone to have to the un-enlightened mind (in which category I include my own) certain religious connotations, it is all too easy to become fixed and concentrated in deluded trying to be right.

And so therein lies the challenge -- to raise a truth that we all sort of know already, from experience of freedom in movement, up to the level of consciousness, so that we might find more freedom even in sitting still in a posture fixed by more than two thousand years of tradition.

While still on the subject of concentration, a final word on Charles Sherrington who, like FM Alexander, understood the vital and central importance of tonic head-neck reflexes. To quote Sherrington again:

“Mr Alexander has done a service to the subject by insistently treating each act as involving the whole integrated individual, the whole psychophysical man. To take a step is an affair not of this or that limb solely but of the total neuromuscular activity of the moment – not least of the head and neck."

Though Sherrington thus affirmed Alexander, there is no record of Alexander affirming Sherrington. And there may be good reason for this.

One difference was that Sherrington's knowledge of the external world was arrived at a result of dissections of rabbits, frogs, et cetera, whereas Alexander's understanding of integral reality was arrived at primarily from work in the laboratory of himself, and secondly in the process of constructively re-educating whole human beings.

In 1998, when I last went back to Japan and reported to my Zen teacher about what I saw as the importance of the "anti-gravity" reflexes, Gudo was much interested in the existence of anti-gravity reflexes and commented that he would like to prostrate himself to Charles Sherrington (but not in any way to FM Alexander). Go figure.

If one understands the vital importance of the use of the head relative to the neck, as a starting point in re-educating a person's use of himself, it is all too easy to concentrate on the head and neck -- by trying to keep the neck bones straight and pulling the chin in a little, for example.

But this is just to be defeated by the devil that is concentration.

To modify Sherrington again:

Mr Alexander has done a service to the subject by insistently treating each act as involving the whole integrated individual, the whole psychophysical man. To wear the head well on the neck is not an affair of the head and neck solely but of the total neuromuscular activity of the moment – not least of the head and neck.

EH Johnston:
Though the gandhaparna trees were wafting odours and were full of fragrance like the mistresses of the Gandharvas, they failed to delight his sense of smell, but rather made his heart burn ; for he was compact of grief and ever thinking of another.

Linda Covill:
The gandha-parna trees, though scented and fragrant like a gandharva's geisha, failed to win his sense of smell but made his heart burn, for his mind was elsewhere and his entire being grieved.

gandham (acc. sg.): m. smell , odour ; a fragrant substance , fragrance , scent , perfume
vasantaH = nom. pl. pres. part. vas: to dwell , live , stop (at a place) ;
to remain , abide with or in ; to remain or keep on or continue in any condition (with a past part. , e.g. with canna , " to continue to be covered " ; or with an acc. , with brahmacharyam , " to practise chastity " ; or with an adv. e.g. with sukham , " to live pleasantly or at ease " )
api: though
ca: and
gandha-parNaaH (nom. pl.): m. " fragrant-leaved " , Alstonia scholaris

gandharva-veshyaaH (nom. pl. f.): courtesans of the gandharvas
gandharva: m. a gandharva [though in later times the gandharvas are regarded as a class , yet in RV. rarely more than one is mentioned ; he is designated as the heavenly gandharva ; his habitation is the sky , or the region of the air and the heavenly waters ; his especial duty is to guard the heavenly soma , which the gods obtain through his intervention ; it is obtained for the human race by indra , who conquers the gandharva and takes it by force ; the heavenly gandharva is supposed to be a good physician , because the soma is considered as the best medicine ; possibly , however , the word soma originally denoted not the beverage so called , but the moon , and the heavenly gandharva may have been the genius or tutelary deity of the moon ; in one passage the heavenly gandharva and the soma are identified ; he is also regarded as one of the genii who regulate the course of the Sun's horses; he knows and makes known the secrets of heaven and divine truths generally ; he is the parent of the first pair of human beings , yama and yamii, and has a peculiar mystical power over women and a right to possess them ; for this reason he is invoked in marriage ceremonies ; ecstatic states of mind and possession by evil spirits are supposed to be derived from the heavenly gandharva ; the gandharvas as a class have the same characteristic features as the one gandharva ; they live in the sky , guard the soma , are governed by varuNa (just as the aapsarasas are governed by soma), know the best medicines , regulate the course of the asterisms ; hence twenty-seven are mentioned ; they follow after women and are desirous of intercourse with them ; as soon as a girl becomes marriageable , she belongs to soma , the gandharvas , and agni ; the wives of the gandharvas are the aapsarasas , and like them the gandharvas are invoked in gambling with dice ; they are also feared as evil beings together with the raakShasas , kimiidins , pishaachas , &c , amulets being worn as a protection against them ; they are said to have revealed the vedas to vaac and are called the preceptors of the RShis ; puruuravas is called among them (ib.) ; in epic poetry the gandharvas are the celestial musicians or heavenly singers who form the orchestra at the banquets of the gods , and they belong together with the aapsarasas to indra's heaven , sharing also in his battles.
veshyaa: f. " intranda " , a harlot , courtezan , prostitute (in comp. also veshya)
iva: like
gandha-puurNaaH (nom. pl. m.): full of fragrance
gandha: fragrance
puurNa: mfn. filled , full , filled with or full of (instr. or gen. or comp.)

tasya (gen. sg. m.): his
anya-cittasya (gen. sg.): mfn. mind being fixed on some one or something else
shug-aatmakasya (gen. sg. m.): being composed of grief
shuc: f. pain , sorrow , grief
aatmaka: mfn. having or consisting of the nature or character of (in comp.); composed of

ghraaNam (acc. sg.): m. n. smelling , perception of odour; n. the nose
na: not
jahrur = 3rd pers pl. perfect hR: to take, seize, carry off ; to master , overpower , subdue , conquer , win , win over; to enrapture , charm , fascinate
hRdayam (acc. sg.): n. the heart
pratepur = 3rd pers. pl. perfect pra- √ tap: to give forth heat , burn , glow , shine (lit. and fig.); to pain with heat , torment , harass