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.)

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