Monday, January 31, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.5: A Self-Professed Healer Speaks of Cure

atha duHkham idaM mano-mayaM
vada vakShyaami yad atra beShajaM
manaso hi rajas-tamasvino
bhiShajo 'dhyaatma-vidaH pariikShakaaH

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

But if this suffering is mental tell me,

And I will tell you the cure for it;

Because, for a mind shrouded in gloom and darkness,

The healer is a seeker who knows himself.

Ironically, again, the striver seems to be speaking profound truth of which he himself is ignorant.

Ashvaghosha's intention, as I suppose it, is that for a mind shrouded in gloom and darkness, truly, the healer may be a seeker who knows himself. But in that case the healer's name might be Gautama, for whom knowing himself was not only a question of understanding the psyche, but was a question of sitting in lotus day in and day out over many years, enjoying the samadhi of accepting and using the whole psychophysical self.

The striver, in contrast, seems to see himself, with no little self-conceit, as some kind of brilliant psycho-therapist who is able to tell others the cure for purely mental ills.

The title of Canto 9 is mad'-aapavaadaH, "Denunciation of Conceit," and the denouncer who does the denouncing is none other than the striver who is speaking in this verse. But when we look in Saundarananda for the character who best personifies conceit, who personifies conceit better than this striver, the very person who denounces it? Thus it ever was, in accordance with the eternal mirror principle.

If I add something from my own experience of seeking to know myself, all that I know, if I know anything, is that deep within myself I am wrong. And this wrongness is tied up with vestibular faults.

Sixteen years ago when I first came back to England with a view to training as a teacher of the Alexander Technique, I visited an Alexander training school in southern England with a view to training there. At the end of the visit I was advised, very indirectly, that training as a teacher of the Alexander Technique was not for everybody, and for some people pyscho-therapy might be a good idea. My impression, rightly or wrongly, was that the heads of training at the school sensed that there was something wrong with me, as indeed there is, deeply, and that psycho-therapy might be part of the solution.

When I met FM Alexander's niece, Marjory Barlow, in contrast, her attitude towards me could not have been more different from the Alexander teachers who seemed to point me in the direction of psycho-therapy. Marjory's teaching was very much grounded in acceptance of being wrong. Marjory never advised me at all to seek the help of a psycho-therapist who might know the cure for a mental ill. Marjory constantly encouraged me to understand that being wrong is nothing to fear in Alexander work; rather "it is the best friend we have got."

Marjory, unlike the striver speaking in today's verse, could not have been less interested in finding a cure for mental suffering. "This technique is about prevention, that's all," she said. "We are not here to change anything, just to prevent what is happening that is unnecessary."

So much for Alexander's teaching. But what is the Buddha's teaching fundamentally about?

What do you think?

Is it about being right?

Or is it primarily about not doing wrong?

EH Johnston:
But if your suffering is mental, tell me and I shall expound its cure to you ; for the physician for minds which are the prey of the darkness of ignorance or of passion are those who know the soul from thorough investigation.

Linda Covill:
If it is mental suffering, tell me, and I will prescribe a remedy for it; for careful examiners who understand the psyche are doctors for minds filled with passion and dark ignorance.

atha: ind. now, then (an auspicious and inceptive particle, not easily expressed in English)
duHkham (nom. sg.): n. uneasiness , pain , sorrow , trouble , difficulty
idam (nom. sg. n.): this
mano-mayam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. consisting of spirit or mind , spiritual , mental

vada = 2nd pers. sg. imperative vad: to speak , say , utter , tell
vakShyaami = 1st pers. sg. future vac: to say, tell
yad (acc. sg. n.): that, which, what
atra: ind. in this matter
beShajam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. (fr. 1. bhiShaj) curing , healing , sanative ; n. a remedy , medicine , medicament , drug

manasaH (gen. sg.): n. mind
hi: for
rajas-tamas-vinaH (gen. sg. n.): characterized by cloudedness and darkness
rajas: n. " coloured or dim space " ; vapour , mist , clouds , gloom , dimness , darkness ; impurity , dirt , dust , any small particle of matter ; the " darkening " quality , passion , emotion
tamas: n. darkness , gloom
-vin: suffix meaning "characterized by"

bhiShajaH (nom. pl.): m. a healer , physician
adhyaatma-vidaH (nom. pl. m.): self-knowing
adhy-aatma: n. the Supreme Spirit ; mfn. own , belonging to self
adhy-aatmam: ind. concerning self or individual personality
vid: mfn. knowing , understanding , a knower (mostly ifc.)
pariikShakaaH (nom. pl.): m. a prover , examiner , judge
pari- √iikSh: to look round , inspect carefully , try , examine , find out , observe , perceive


Ian Cross said...

That's a great quote from Marjory Barlow, thanks.

Mike Cross said...

Remembered by Rosemary Nott in Appendix IV of Marjory's Book "An Examined Life." Cheers