Sunday, January 2, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 7.29: Another One Bites the Dust

paraasharaH shaapa-sharas tatha rShiH
kaaliiM siSheve jhaSha-garbha-yoniM
suto 'sya yasyaaM suShuve mah"-aatmaa
dvaipaayano veda-vibhaaga-kartaa

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

So too did the seer Parashara,
user of curses as arrows,

Enjoy sex with Kali,
who was born from the womb of a fish;

The son he conceived in her

Was the illustrious Dvaipayana,
classifier of the Vedas.

There was a tradition in ancient India before the Buddha's time to "go forth" (pra- √ vraj), i.e. "to leave home and wander forth as an ascetic mendicant."

Neither Nanda nor Asvhaghosha in this series of verses is content with a bland generalization that many who tried to follow this way failed to remain celibate but found it too difficult and succumbed to the sexual charm of women. Rather, the list is continuing of individual, concrete examples of ancient Indian gods, sages, and kings who succumbed. For us who are not steeped in Sanskrit literature or ancient Indian history, it is heavy going.

Counterbalancing the present list of failures, like the other half of a giant dumbbell, is the Buddha's list at the end of Canto 16 of many individuals who were ultimately successful in taking the backward step of turning light and letting it shine. At the end of this enumeration, the Buddha tells Nanda: The courage they have shown in their practice, / Be quick to show the same, working to principle. / Then you will assuredly realise the step that they took / And the splendour that adorns those ease-filled ones. (16.92)

What did the Buddha mean by working to principle (vidhi-vat)? What is the principle which the failures failed to follow, and which the successes succeeded in following?

If we take the view that the principle to work to is the principle of becoming a monk and remaining celibate, so that the wrong thing becomes sexual activity itself, that might be just to fall into a wrong view, and just to misunderstand the principle.

If not celibacy itself, then, what is the principle?

My original Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima would answer without hesitation that the principle is balance of the autonomic nervous system. Many others would say that the principle is mindfulness. Some would say that the principle is Zazen, just sitting.

People steeped in Alexander work speak of the principle that use affects functioning, so that the presence or absence at any moment of wisdom, for example, is a function of how well or badly the individual is using himself or herself, and a function in particular of the individual's use of his or her head, neck and back (but do not call it "right posture"!).

If we go right back to the original teaching of the Buddha, his first expression of the principle might be "the not doing of wrong." This expression of the principle might be seen as inclusive of all other expressions of the principle. And even a child of three can say it....

I would like to offer this comment to Gisela, a long-time follower of this blog, whom I have not met in person and to whom therefore I should not presume to offer any kind of individualized advice at all.

Gisela, it seems to me, judging from questions she has asked me by e-mail, is using me as a mirror, which is fine. Possibly she sees in the mirror a well-educated person with a sorry tendency to intellectualize everything. Ha!

As FM Alexander used to say, "A child of three can understand this work, but give me a man who has been educated, and God help me!"

Alexander took a very dim view of the America of his day, or so his niece Marjory told me. He made lots of money there teaching wealthy Americans and couldn't wait to get home. I think he found Americans in general (with obvious exceptions like Marjorie Barstow and John Dewey) to be brash, noisy, end-gainers -- not quite his cup of tea.

Has America moved on since Alexander's day? As a class of people, do educated Americans these days have the ability to drop off the -ism of pragmatism and truly work to principle?

I'm not from Missouri, but I'll believe it when I see it.

EH Johnston:
So too the seer Parasara, master of the weapon of the curse, associated with Kali, the daughter of a fish, of whom a son was born, the illustrious Dvaipayana, who classified the Vedas.

Linda Covill:
In the same way the seer Parashara, who has curses as weapons, made love with Kali, born of a fish's womb. She bore him a son, the venerable Dvaipayana, who divided up the Vedas.

paraasharaH (nom. sg.): m. a crusher , destroyer ; N. of a son of vasiShTha or of a son of shakti and grandson of vasiShTha (according to MBh. the father of vyaasa ; said to be the author of RV)
shaapa-sharaH (nom. sg. m.): having curses for arrows
shaapa: m. a curse
shara: m. (fr. √ shrii " to rend " or " destroy ") a sort of reed or grass (used for arrows) ; an arrow
tathaa: so, similarly
RShiH (nom. sg.): m. a singer of sacred hymns , an inspired poet or sage ; they are the authors or rather seers of the Vedic hymns i.e. according to orthodox Hindu ideas they are the inspired personages to whom these hymns were revealed

kaaliim (acc. sg.): f. black colour ; f. N. of satyavatii , wife of king shaantanu and mother of vyaasa or kRShNa-dvaipaayana (after her marriage she had a son vichitra-viirya , whose widows were married by kRiShNa-dvaipaayana , and bore to him dhRita-raaShTra and paaNDu MBh.)
siSheve = 3rd pers. sg. perfect sev: to serve ; to enjoy sexually , have sexual intercourse with (acc.)
jhaSha-garbha-yonim (acc. sg. f.): produced from the womb of a fish
jhaSha: m. a large fish, a fish
garbha: m. the womb
yoni: mf. womb ; place of birth , source , origin , spring , fountain (ifc. = sprung or produced from)

sutaH (nom. sg.): m. a son
asya (gen. sg.): of him
yasyaam (loc. sg. f.): to her
suShuve = 3rd pers. sg. suu: to beget , procreate , bring forth , bear , produce , yield
mah"-aatmaa (nom. sg. m.): mfn. "high-souled " , magnanimous , having a great or noble nature , high-minded , noble ; highly gifted , exceedingly wise ; eminent , mighty , powerful , distinguished

dvaipaayanaH (nom. sg.): m. " island-born " , N. of vyaasa (author or compiler of the vedas and puraaNas , the place of his nativity being a small island in the Ganges)
veda-vibhaaga-kartaa (nom. sg. m.): mfn. classifier of the vedas
veda: m. knowledge ; N. of certain celebrated works which constitute the basis of the first period of the Hindu religion (these works were primarily three , viz. 1. the Rg-veda , 2. the yajur-veda [of which there are , however , two divisions] , 3. the saama-veda )
vibhaaga: m. distribution , apportionment ; division , separation , distinction , difference
kartR: mfn. one who makes or does or acts or effects , a doer , maker , agent , author


Happi said...

I don't know what working to principle is. I don't know what not doing wrong is. If any of us ever figured it out, it would likely not be true a second later.

Still listening,


Happi said...

...and I may be educated, but I've never claimed to be smart.

Mike Cross said...

I don't know either.

Thanks for listening...