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

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