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


Anonymous said...

Appreciated the photos. You look like an advert for AT ZEN (the 'after photos' of course).
Happy Another Year of Practice :)

Mike Cross said...

Thanks Ray. Or "Happy Another Year of Mistakes," might be like it. The idea to take and post those photos certainly feels like a mistake, at time of writing. And the yellow T-shirt has been judged a definite mistake, by people with a better eye for threads than me. Anyway all the best to you too, in the coming year.