Monday, February 28, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.33: Women as Ones who See Faults in Others

sva-janaH sva-janena bhidyate
suhRdash c' aapi suhRj-janena yat
paradoSha-vicakShaNaaH shaThaas
tad an-aaryaaH pracaranti yoShitaH

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

So that kinsman breaks with kinsman

And friend breaks with friend,

Women, who are good at seeing faults in others,

Behave deceitfully and ignobly.

There might be as much truth in this statement as in the statement that black men of West African origin are good at sprinting. It only takes one truthful and noble woman, or one dyspraxic Ghanaian who runs like a girl, to falsify such general propositions.

Aside from the problem that the striver's statement, then, is demonstrably false on the philosophical level, on the practical level the striver, with the best of intentions, is striving to help Nanda get beyond his desire for his woman, Sundari. The striver's good intention is that Nanda might settle into the homeless life of the wandering mendicant for which he has opted. But, the road to hell being ever paved with good intentions, in practice the striver's strategy proves fruitless: his words fall on deaf ears. Nanda only settles down after the intervention of the Buddha, who pursues a strategy which is the dialectic opposite of the striver's strategy.

Finally, besides talking irrational nonsense and pursuing a strategy that does not work in practice, the striver in this verse, as I read it, is manifesting a universal human tendency and a universal mirror principle, whereby when a person fears that there is something wrong in himself but fails to see clearly what it is, he projects the obscurely understood fault onto some hated other and criticizes the other. The other could be the fault finder's own father or father-figure; it could be a sporting hero/villain like Mike Tyson or Z. Zidane who has conspicuously flouted the rules; or it could be a historical person, like Hitler or Stalin; or it could be a group of people in general, such as black people, or white people, or Jewish people, or homosexual people, or Muslims, or gypsies or women.

The irony of the verse is that the very fault now in question is the tendency to see the faults of others. The striver, in whom this very fault is conspicuous, is projecting the fault onto women, who he sees as deceitful and ignoble. Ashvaghosha's joke, as I hear it, is that the one who is deceiving himself and being ignoble is the striver who projects his own fault onto women, whereas an honest and noble thing to do, as exemplified by Nanda's progress through the four stages of sitting-dhyana in Canto 17, might be to see, on deeper and deeper levels, the faults just in one's own practice.

EH Johnston:
Women behave ignobly and treacherously and are skilled in detecting the weakness of others, so as to cause kinsman to strive with kinsman, friend with friend.

Linda Covill:
Women behave ignobly, maliciously spying out the weaknesses of others, such that kinsman is set against kinsman and friend against friend.

sva-janaH (nom. sg.): m. a man of one's own people , kinsman
sva-janena (inst. sg.): m. a man of one's own people , kinsman
bhidyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive bhid: to split , cleave , break , cut or rend asunder , pierce , destroy

suhRdaH (nom. sg.): m. a friend
ca: and
api: also
suhRj-janena (inst. sg.): m. a friendly person , friend
yad: (correlative of tad): so that

paradoSha-vicakShaNaaH (nom. pl. f.): good at seeing others' faults
para-doSha: n. the proclaiming of another's faults , censoriousness
vi-cakShaNa: mfn. clear-sighted (lit. and fig.) , sagacious , clever , wise , experienced or versed in , familiar with (loc. or comp.)
shaThaaH (nom. pl. f.): mfn. false , deceitful , fraudulent , malignant , wicked

tad: (correlative of yad): for that reason
an-aaryaaH (nom. pl. f.): mfn. not honourable or respectable , vulgar , inferior
pracaranti = 3rd pers. pl. pra- √ car: to be active or busy ; to proceed , behave , act in peculiar manner
yoShitaH (nom. pl.): f. a girl , maiden , young woman , wife

Sunday, February 27, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.32: Seeing Women as Sexy or Unsexy

pramadaaH samadaa mada-pradaaH
pramadaa viita-madaa bhaya-pradaaH
iti doSha-bhay'-aavahaash ca taaH
katham arhanti niShevanaM nu taaH

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

Sexy women arouse lust;

Unsexy women are fearsome.

Since they bring a fault or bring fear

How are they worth bothering with?

If this verse is translated more or less literally, and not spun in a way that is sympathetic to the striver's standpoint, then in this verse the striver, as I see him, really shows his true colours. He sees women primarily not as individuals in their own right, not as individual human beings each with her own faulty sensory appreciation, misconceptions, and wrong inner patterns to contend with; he sees women primarily in terms of their sex appeal, categorizing them into two groups, the sexy and the unsexy.

This tendency might be one that is deeply ingrained in many male brains. A teenage boy sees a woman and his first thought is apt to be "nubile [or substitute another word of your choice] or not?" And the brains of most adult men, if we are honest about it, is liable to be not so different in this regard from the brain of a teenage boy. It may depend to some extent on how the brain has been trained, for good or ill, but the instinctive tendency to discriminate seems to persist even as the will to act on it fades with age and experience.

To answer the striver's question on the basis of my own experience, it was definitely worth my while to seek out women teachers of the Alexander Technique, including FM Alexander's niece Marjory Barlow.

Similarly it might have been worth the striver's bother to seek out, for example, the mothers of Nandaka and Nanda cited by the Buddha in 16.89 as paragons of directed energy. (The Buddha fails to mention whether these two mothers were sexy or not.)

EH Johnston:
How can it be fitting to serve women, the origin of all sins and dangers, seeing that when they are full of intoxication they cause intoxication to others and when they are free from intoxication they are a source of danger to others?

Linda Covill:
When women want sex they arouse lust; when women don't want sex they bring danger. In what way are they worthy of attention, since they bring vice and danger?

pramadaaH (nom. pl.): f. a young and wanton woman , any woman
sa-madaaH (nom. pl. f.): intoxicated , excited with passion, ruttish
mada-pradaaH (nom. pl. f.): mfn. intoxicating
mada: m. hilarity , rapture , excitement , inspiration , intoxication ; ardent passion
madaa: f. sexual desire or enjoyment , wantonness , lust , ruttishness , rut (esp. of an elephant) ; f. pride, arrogance
pra-da: mfn. giving , yielding , offering , granting , bestowing , causing , effecting

pramadaaH (nom. pl.): f. a young and wanton woman , any woman
viita-madaaH (nom. pl. f.): without interest in sex
viita: mfn. gone away , departed , disappeared , vanished , lost (often ibc. = free or exempt from , without , -less)
bhaya-pradaaH (nom. pl. f.): dangerous ; fear-causing
bhaya: n. fear ; terror , dismay , danger , peril , distress
prada: mfn. causing

iti: ind. in this manner, thus
doSha-bhay'-aavahaaH (nom. pl. f.):
doSha: m. fault , vice , deficiency , want , inconvenience , disadvantage ; damage , harm , bad consequence , detrimental effect
bhaya: fear, danger
avaha: mfn. bringing , bringing to pass , producing ; what bears or conveys
ca: and
taaH (nom. pl. f.): they

katham: ind. how? (katham is often found in connection with the particles iva , naama , nu , svid , which appear to generalize the interrogation -- how possibly? how indeed? &c )
arhanti = 3rd pers. pl. arh: ) to deserve , merit , be worthy of , to have a claim to , be entitled to (acc.) , to be allowed to do anything (Inf.) ; to be obliged or required to do anything (acc.) ;
niShevanam (acc. sg.): n. visiting , frequenting , living in , practice , performance , use , employment , adherence or devotion to , honour
ni + √sev: (with acc.) to frequent , inhabit , visit , serve , attend , honour , worship , follow , approach , enjoy (also sexually) , incur , pursue , practise , perform , cultivate , use , employ
nu: now, indeed
taaH (acc. pl. f.): them

Saturday, February 26, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.31: Some People Say There's a Woman to Blame...

sa-viShaa iva saMshritaa lataaH
parimRShTaa iva s'-oragaa guhaaH
vivRtaa iva c' aasayo dhRtaa
vyasan'-aantaa hi bhavanti yoShiTaH

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

Like poisonous clinging creepers,

Like swept caves still harbouring snakes,

Like unsheathed blades held in the hand,

Women are calamitous in the end.

The word which the striver uses here to describe women is vyasana, "calamity." The Buddha uses the same word in 15.8 to describe kaamaaH, desires.

Desires (kaamaaH) which are fleeting, which are bringers of privation, / Which are flighty, the causes of calamity, (vyasana-hetavaH) // And which are common, / Are to be dealt with like poisonous snakes -- // The chasing of which leads to trouble, / The keeping of which does not conduce to peace, // And the losing of which makes for great anguish. / Securing them brings no contentment.// [15.8 - 15.9]

kaamaH can also mean objects of desire, in which category women might be included. Still, the striver's emphasis and the Buddha's emphasis, as I read them, are quite different. The striver is exhibiting the tendency to blame the stimulus that puts us wrong, instead of seeing the fault in our own reaction to the stimulus.

In the Buddha's teaching, as I hear it, the causes of calamity are not out there but in here -- in faulty sensory appreciation, in wrong ideas, and in the wrong inner patterns that are triggered by end-gaining desires.

One might say that sitting in lotus is a means of liberating oneself from these wrong inner patterns. But just in the moment of saying so, my vain desire to express in words what the essence of the Buddha's teaching is .... has already triggered the wrong inner patterns from which I profess to wish to be free.

It comes down in the end, as the Buddha saw but the striver didn't, to the problem of desires -- or what a person really wants. When a man's desire for a woman, or for words that hit the target, conflicts with his desire to devote his energy to sitting, or to serve the buddha-ancestors, the fault is not in a woman, and the fault is not in words.

In the Buddha's teaching, as I hear it, what is calamitous is doing rooted in faulty sensory appreciation, in wrong conceptions, and in wrong inner patterns of use.

EH Johnston:
For women lead to disaster in the end, like creepers which are poisonous when touched, like caves still full of snakes after being swept, like naked sword-blades held (in the hand).

Linda Covill:
Like creepers poisonous to the touch, like scoured caves still harbouring snakes, like unsheathed swords held in the hand, women are ruinous in the end.

sa-viShaaH (nom. pl. f): mfn. poisonous
iva: like
saMshritaaH (nom. pl. f.): mfn. joined or united with ; leaning against , clinging to (acc.) ; clung to , embraced
lataaH (nom. pl.): f. a creeper , any creeping or winding plant or twining tendril (the brows , arms , curls , a slender body , a sword-blade , lightning &c are often compared to the form of a creeper , to express their graceful curves and slimness of outline );

parimRShTaaH (nom. pl. f.): mfn. wiped off , smoothed , polished ; wiped or washed away , removed (2) touched; spread , pervaded , filled with
pari- √ mRsh: to touch , grasp , seize
pari- √ mRj: to wipe all round , wash , cleanse , purify ; to wipe off or away , remove , efface , get rid of (acc.)
iva: like
s'-oragaaH (nom. pl. f.): snake-infested
sa: (possessive prefix) containing
uraga: m. (fr. ura = uras and ga , " breast-going ") , a serpent , snake
guhaaH (nom. pl.): f. a hiding-place , cave , cavern

vivRtaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. uncovered , unconcealed , exposed , naked , bare
iva: like
ca: and
asayaH (nom. pl.): m. ( √as, to shoot at) , a sword , scimitar , knife (used for killing animals)
dhRtaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. held, borne

vyasan'-aantaaH (nom. pl. f.): calamitous in the end
vyasana: n. moving to and fro , wagging (of a tail); evil predicament or plight , disaster , accident , evil result , calamity , misfortune
anta: m. end , limit
hi: for
bhavanti = 3rd pers. pl. bhuu: to be, become
yoShiTaH = nom. pl. yoShit: f. a girl , maiden , young woman , wife

Friday, February 25, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.30: Seeing Strife in a Wife

puruShash ca vihaaya yaH kaliM
punar icchet kalim eva sevituM
sa vihaaya bhajeta baalishaH
kali-bhuutaam a-jit'-endriyaH priyaaM

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

The man who would leave strife behind

Wishing only to return again to strife:

He is the fool who would leave behind and then return,

With the power of his senses unconquered,
to the strife that is a wife.

There might be less wisdom in these words of the striver, as I read them, than in the words of the old Jimmy Buffett song Margaritaville... "Some people say there's a woman to blame, / But I know, it's my own damn fault."

On the basis of what experience the striver is now speaking, we do not know.

Speaking from my own experience of more than twenty years of being married to a wife, I would not agree that a man's wife -- even if he jokingly refers to her as his trouble and strife -- is necessarily identified with trouble and strife.

Last week my wife, who is both a sitting-zen practitioner and an Alexander Technique teacher, was demonstrating to a client how to hum and then simply let the breath come back in. The client said, "But you didn't breathe in!" The client associated the act of breathing in with the doing of a whole lot of unnecessary stuff such as sniffing air in audibly and raising the front of the chest, so she was confused when she couldn't see my wife doing anything.

In this episode my wife was less akin to strife, and more akin to the real dragon. Sometimes the real dragon doesn't look or sound like anything, whereas a fake elephant is apt to look and sound mightily impressive.

Despite being fortunate enough to have a wife who is not all strife, it is not that I haven't met with strife along the way, because I have met with plenty. So what, if not a wife, has constituted the strife?

I am prone to think, and tempted to say, that strife for me has been a certain fake elephant who wrote a book called "To Meet the Real Dragon." But that line of thought is what in Alexander work is called "blaming the stimulus," whereas a more enlightened approach, as per Jimmy Buffett's lyric, is to recognize faults as lying not in the stimulus but rather in one's own reaction to the stimulus.

This recognition, sadly, is not a once-and-for-all achievement. It seems to be more of an ongoing struggle.

For that reason, I am grateful to Ashvaghosha for sketching the character of the unenlightened striver who seems to scapegoat women. The unenlightened striver, it seems to me, is an excellent mirror in which a fake elephant can observe all the doings of a fake elephant -- including negative thoughts towards others and unnecessary interference with natural functioning of the respiratory mechanism.

EH Johnston:
The man who, after giving up error, would be in servitude to it again, even he would be the fool who after renouncing his mistress, the source of error, would from inability to master his senses return to her.

Linda Covill:
Only a man who renounces strife and then wishes to engage in it again would be foolish enough to leave his wife who is all strife, and then with unruly senses seek her out.

puruShaH (nom. sg.): m. a man , male , human being ; a person
ca: and
vihaaya = abs. vi- √ haa: to leave behind , relinquish , quit , abandon; to give up , cast off , renounce , resign
yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who
kalim (acc. sg.): m. ( √kal ), N. of the die or side of a die marked with one dot , the losing die ; strife , discord , quarrel , contention
√kal: to count

punar: ind. again
icchet = 3rd pers. sg. optative iSh: to wish, desire
kalim (acc. sg.): m. strife
eva: (emphatic)
sevitum = inf. sev: to dwell or stay near or in (loc.) ; to remain or stay at , live in , frequent , haunt , inhabit , resort to (acc.) ; to serve , wait or attend upon , honour

sa: (nom. sg. m.): he
vihaaya = abs. vi- √ haa: to leave behind , relinquish , quit , abandon; to give up , cast off , renounce , resign
bhajeta = 3rd pers. sg. optative bhaj: to obtain as one's share , receive as (two acc.) , partake of , enjoy (also carnally) , possess , have (acc.); to turn or resort to ; engage in , assume (as a form) , put on (garments) , experience , incur , undergo , feel , go or fall into (with acc.); to pursue ; to serve , honour , revere , love , adore
baalishaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. young , childish , puerile , ignorant , simple , foolish ; m. a fool , simpleton , blockhead

kali-bhuutaam (acc. sg. f.): being akin to strife
kali: m. strife
bhuuta: mfn. (ifc.) being or being like anything , consisting of , mixed or joined with
a-jit'-endriyaH (nom. sg. m.): the power of his senses not yet conquered
a-jita: not conquered
indriya: power of the senses
priyaam (acc. sg.): f. his wife, his beloved

Thursday, February 24, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.29: Talking the Talk of Freedom

vyasan' aabhihato yathaa vishet
parimuktaH punar eva bandhanaM
samupetya vanaM tathaa punar
gRha-saMjNaM mRgayeta bandhanaM

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

Just as a man released from prison might,
when stricken by some calamity,

Betake himself back to prison,

So might one who has retired to the forest

Seek out again that bondage called home.

In his rules of sitting-zen for everybody (including forest-dwellers and city-dwellers alike, not to mention prison-dwellers), Dogen exhorts us not, having grown accustomed to a fake elephant, to doubt or fear the real dragon.
In modern Japanese MOZO simply means an imitation or a copy. But the ZO of MOZO, on its own, means elephant, so Dogen's phrase includes a play on the words ZO and RYU, elephant vs. dragon.

Looking at Saundara-nanda as a whole, as we are better able to do as the translation nears completion, I think Ashvaghosha wrote the present Canto with a half-smile on his face, encouraging us to be on the look out for the existence, in every situation, of fake elephants posing as real dragons.

To encourage us to beware of skillful shaven-headed impersonators who wear the uniform, along with equally skillful hairy ones who make a virtue of not wearing the uniform. To encourage us to ask whether would-be Buddhist teachers are more like the Buddha, or more like the striver who, deep in his heart, is striving after something -- like fame, or profit, or promotion. Am I talking about myself? For sure I am, at least for some of the time, and probably for more of the time than I realize... possibly all of the time.

Probably because it takes one to know one, I see Ashvaghosha's character of the striver as representative of fake elephants everywhere.

In this verse the striver equates freedom with the condition of having retreated to a forest, and the striver equates bondage with life at home.

So here again the striver's words sound somewhat like the words of the Buddha, who repeatedly exhorts Nanda to go into the forests, or other solitary places that are suited to practice (yoga).

Evidently the royal seers are unbeknown to you/ Who retreated smiling into the forests; // Having spat out desires, they were desirous of tranquillity/ And thus not stuck in desires of a lower order.// [5.38]

To a place suited for practice, (yog'aanuloma) free of people and free of noise, /To a place for lying down and sitting, my friend, repair in this manner; // For by first achieving solitude of the body / It is easy to obtain solitude of the mind.// The man of redness, the tranquillity of his mind unrealized, / Who does not take to a playground of solitude,// Is injured as though, unable to regain a track,/ He is walking on very thorny ground.// [14.46 - 14.47]

These salubrious wilds that surround us/ Are suited to practice (yog'-aanukula) and not thronged with people.// Furnishing the body with ample solitude, / Cut a path for abandoning the afflictions./
/ [16.86]

Exactly thinking, then, the Buddha does not directly equate forests with freedom. He recommends Nanda to repair to a solitary place such as a forest that is suitable for the practice of yoga (yog'aanuloma, or yog'-aanukula). And the practice of yoga means, in essence, the practice of upright sitting, having bound one's legs together in the traditional manner.

So, again, it seems to me that what the striver is primarily interested in, and what the Buddha is primarily interested in, are not quite the same. Of course the buddha-ancestors do not deny the importance of time and place...

One set on giving up the afflictions, then, / Should attend to timing and method; // For even formal practice, done at the wrong time and relying on wrong means, / Makes for disappointment and not for the desired end. // If a cow is milked before her calf is born, / Milking at the wrong time will yield no milk. // Or even at the right time no milk will be got / If, through ignorance, a cow is milked by the horn. // Again, one who wants fire from damp wood, / Try as he might, will not get fire. // And even if he lays down dry wood, / He won't get fire from that, with bad bushcraft. // Having given due consideration to the time and place / As well as to the extent and method of one's practice,// One should, reflecting on one's own strength and weakness, / Persist in an effort that is not inconsistent with them. // [16.49 - 16.52]

... but in the end the really vital question that a buddha-ancestor like Ashvaghosha or Dogen poses is not so much about the when and the where of sitting as about the how and the what.

So, again, forget about India at the time of the Buddha or China during the heyday of Zen: just at this place, just in this moment of sitting, what is this sitting?

Is it an act of liberating oneself? Is it an act of binding oneself?

EH Johnston:
The man who betakes himself to the forest and then would seek again the bondage of home life is like a man who, released from prison, would enter it again when struck down by calamity.

Linda Covill:
Were a man to again chase the bondage known as 'home' after he has come to the forest, it would be as if a released prisoner were to return to prison when misfortune strikes.

vyasana: n. moving to and fro , wagging (of a tail); evil predicament or plight , disaster , accident , evil result , calamity , misfortune
abhihataH: mfn. struck , smitten ; visited, afflicted by
yathaa: ind. just as
vishet = 3rd pers. sg. optative vish: to enter ; to resort or betake one's self to

parimuktaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. released , liberated
punar: ind. back again, again
eva: (emphatic)
bandhanam (acc. sg.): n. the act of binding; n. catching , capturing , confining , detention , custody , imprisonment or a prison

samupetya = abs. sam - upa- √i: to come together ; to come near , approach , go to (acc.) ; to have recourse to
vanam (acc. sg.): n. forest
tathaa: ind. similarly, so
punar: ind. again, back

gRha-saMjNam (acc. sg.): called "home"
gRha: home
saMjNaa: a name , appellation , title , technical term (ifc. = " called , named ")
mRgayeta = 3rd pers. sg. optative mRg: to chase , hunt , pursue , to seek ; to seek or strive after , aim at , endeavour to obtain (acc.)
bandhanam (acc. sg.): n. the act of binding; n. catching , capturing , confining , detention , custody , imprisonment or a prison

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.28: More Excellent Words

spRhayet para-saMshritaaya yaH
paribhuuy' aatma-vashaaM sva-tantrataaM
upashaanti-pathe shive sthitaH
spRhayed doShavate gRhaaya saH

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

Only a man who aspires to dependence on another,

Spurning autonomy and self-reliance,

Would yearn, while on the auspicious path to peace,

For life at home with all its faults.

This, as I read it, is not the Buddha's teaching. This is a striver parrotting the Buddha's teaching, as he warms up his vocal chords and readies his stance for the coming tirade against women.

If the Buddha were speaking these words, I would want to ask myself how practice might make a practitioner, even if only for a moment, free of emotional ties and in control of himself. But since the striver is speaking these words, I would like to ask the striver in what sense he thinks a beggar is self-reliant. How can a beggar be self-reliant?

Even when the words are the same, a striver's teaching is not the Buddha's teaching. Strivers strive for this and that. Sometimes we call the supposed object of our striving "peace." Sometimes we have called it, in our blind pomposity, in our overarching sense of self-importance, "the establishment of true Buddhism throughout the world."

Eloquent strivers and buddha-ancestors alike say that the Buddha's teaching, in the end, is just to sit.

Just in the moment of this sitting, what is sitting?
Is it to leave home?
Is it to come back home?

EH Johnston:
The man who would despise the independence derived from reliance on himself and envy him who depends on another's support would, when finding himself in the holy path of tranquillity, long for home life, full of evils though it is.

Linda Covill:
It's the man who scorns self-reliance and independence and who craves the support of another person who would yearn for home, with all its defects, even when standing on the blessed path that leads to peace.

spRhayet = 3rd pers. sg. optative spRh: to be eager , desire eagerly , long for (dat.); to envy , be jealous of (dat.)
para-saMshritaaya (dat. sg.): clinging to another
para: another, others
saMshrita: mfn. joined or united with (instr. or comp.); leaning against , clinging to (acc.); one who has gone or fled to any one for protection , one who has entered the service of (acc. or comp.); m. a servant , adherent , dependant
saM- v shri: to join or attach one's self to , go for refuge or succour to , resort or betake one's self to , cling to for protection , seek the help of (acc.)
yaH (nom. sg. m.): [he] who

paribhuuya = abs. pari- v bhuu: to surround, to go or fly round ; to be superior , excel , surpass ; to pass round or over , not heed , slight , despise , insult
aatma-vashaam (acc. sg. f.): mfn. dependent on one's own will
aatman: self
vasha: m. will , wish , desire; authority, power, control, dominion
sva-tantrataam (acc. sg.): f. self-dependence , independence , freedom
sva: self
tantra: loom
-taa: (abstract noun suffix)

upashaanti-pathe (loc. sg.): on the path of tranquillity
upashaanti: f. cessation , tranquillity , calmness
patha: m. (ifc. for pathin) a way , path , road , course
shive (loc. sg.): auspicious , propitious , gracious , favourable , benign , kind , benevolent , friendly ; happy, fortunate
sthitaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. standing , staying , situated , resting or abiding or remaining in (loc.)

spRhayet = 3rd pers. sg. optative spRh: to be eager , desire eagerly , long for (dat.); to envy , be jealous of (dat.)
doShavate (dat. sg. m./n.): mfn. having faults , faulty , defective , blemished
gRhaaya (dat. sg.): m. house, home; n. family life
saH (nom. sg. m.): he

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.27: Call for a Stiff Upper Lip

api ca prathitasya dhiimataH
kula-jasy' aarcita-liNga-dhaariNaH
sadRshii na gRhaaya cetanaa
praNatir vaayu-vashaad girer iva

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

What is more, when a man of repute,

An intelligent man of good family,
bears the honoured insignia

His consciousness no more inclines homeward

Than a mountain bends in the wind.

In this verse, as I read it, the striver is again appealing to Nanda's sense of propriety, to his sense of how a royal prince should behave. A royal prince, the striver seems to be saying, should show to the world what has traditionally been called in Britain "a stiff upper lip."

Both the stiffness of a stiff upper lip and the stability of the Buddha sitting in lotus with an unshakeable will to awakening may be compared to the immovability of a mountain...

With his golden arms fully expanded and as if in a yoke,/ With lengthened eyes, and bull-like gait, // He came to a fig tree, growing up from the earth,/With the will to awakening that belongs to the supreme method of investigation. // Sitting there, mind made up,/ As unmovingly stable as the king of mountains,//He overcame the grim army of Mara /And awoke to the step which is happy, irremovable, and irreducible.//
[3.6 - 3.7]

... but to what extent are the non-movement of a stiff upper lip and the non-movement of sitting Buddha the same kind of non-movement, and to what extent are they totally different kinds of non-movement?

In the best leagues of professional sport, like basketball, baseball and american football in America, or like the Premier League of football in England, nobody (except for a small remnant of backward ignoramuses) cares any more what class you came from, or what colour you are, or what your religion and politics are. But, certainly in the English game, it has taken a lot of time for us to get this far -- to the point where we don't care what kind of family you came from, but just what you bring to the team and to the game.

If even football has transcended class snobbery, how could the true teaching of buddha-ancestors not have transcended class snobbery? So I think Ashvaghosha's intention is that we consider this verse not from a standpoint which is in any way sympathetic to Brahmanical conceptions of good breeding, but just from the standpoint of sitting.

For example:

Just in the moment of sitting, what is sitting? Is it non-movement like a mountain? Is it movement like the wind?

EH Johnston:
Further it is no more possible for the prudent man of good family and repute who wears the honoured badge to decide to return to his home than it is for a mountain to bend under the force of the wind.

Linda Covill:
What is more, when a well-born, wise and respected man wears the honored robes, his mind does not incline to life at home, any more than a mountain bends from the force of the wind.

api ca: ind. moreover
prathitasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. spread , extended , increased ; divulged , displayed , published , known , celebrated
prath: to spread abroad (as a name , rumour &c ) , become known or celebrated
dhiimataH (gen. sg. m.): mfn. intelligent , wise , learned , sensible
dhii: f. thought; understanding , intelligence , wisdom

kula-jasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. born in a noble family , well-born , of good breed
arcita: mfn. honoured , worshipped , respected , saluted
arc: to shine , be brilliant; to praise , sing ; to honour or treat with respect
liNga: n. a mark , spot , sign , token , badge , emblem ; guise
dhaarin: mfn. bearing , wearing , holding , possessing

sadRshii (nom. sg. f.): mfn. like , resembling , similar to (gen.)
na: not
gRhaaya (dat. sg.): home
cetanaa (nom. sg.): f. consciousness , understanding , sense , intelligence

praNatiH (nom. sg.): f. bending , bowing , inclination , salutation , reverence , obeisance
vaayu-vashaat (abl. sg.): from the force of the wind
vaayu: m. wind
vasha: m. will, power, control (vashaat, by force of)
gireH (gen. sg.): m. mountain
iva: like, as

Monday, February 21, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.26: Sex vs Knowledge

ramate tRShito dhana-shriyaa
ramate kaama-sukhena baalishaH
ramate prashamena saj-janaH
paribhogaan paribhuuya vidyayaa

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

A covetous man delights in opulence;

A fool delights in sensual pleasure;

A true person delights in tranquillity

Having transcended sensual enjoyments
by virtue of his knowledge.

To have sex or not to have sex: is that the question?

Ascetic strivers it seems, whether of the ashen-skinned dreadlock-wearing variety or of the shaven-headed ochre-robe wearing variety, are prone to think that it is the main question.

Thus the striver seems to opine that knowledge is a means of overcoming sensual enjoyment (i.e. either transcending sexual desire or suppressing it, depending on how one understands the striver's use of the word pari-√bhuu).

It may be significant that Ashvaghosha here puts in the striver's mouth the word vidyaa (knowledge), as opposed to prajNaa (real wisdom). These two conceptions have been contrasted in the Buddha's speech to Nanda in Canto 5:

Most excellent among gifts is the gift of confidence; / Most satisfying of tastes is the taste of real wisdom (prajNaa); / Foremost among comforts is being comfortable in oneself -- / And delight in knowledge(vidyaa-ratiH) is the sorriest of delights. [5.24]

In the striver's words, knowledge is a means for overcoming enjoyment, and especially the joy of sex. Whereas, in the Buddha's words, wisdom is primarily a means for dissolving afflictions and eradicating faults:

Noble insight into the truths, beginning with the truth of suffering, / Along with thinking straight, and initiative: // These three, forming the protocol on knowing (jNaana), / Are for dissolution, based on wisdom (prajNaa), of afflictions.//

And wisdom (prajNaa) destroys the faults without trace,/ As a mountain stream in the monsoon destroys the trees on its banks.// Faults consumed by it stand no chance, / Like trees struck and burnt by a thunderbolt. //

What we should value, Ashvaghosha as I read him is telling us -- indirectly, with plentiful ironic humour -- is not the knowledge which trumps enjoyment, but rather the wisdom which destroys faults.

My intuition is that the shaven-headed striver in his ochre robe, no less than the ascetic practitioners of the earlier cantos, is being held up as an example of how not to think and how not to strive. And here in Saundara-nanda, as in many chapters of Master Dogen's Shobogenzo, there may be a fundamental principle behind showing up in this way the faults in a fellow practitioner's thinking. The principle is that the right thing doing itself (KOAN-GENJO in Dogen's words) is totally beyond our ability to understand it. But faults in people's thinking we can understand and we should understand, clearly and exactly. If you notice that my thinking is wrong, it is your duty to let me know -- and if I can't handle that, that is nobody's fault but my own.

As the late Tsunemasa Abe (who I suppose was Kodo Sawaki's youngest disciple) used to say, the universal human tendency is to strain, to strive, to try hard -- "NINGEN WA KIBARU." To recognize as unreasonable the blazing asceticism that is practised in expectation of future reward, is one thing. Another thing is to see the subtler forms of end-gaining/striving that are liable to inform our every move, unless we attend to the process of inhibiting them. The character of the striver in Saundara-nanda, as I see him, is presented so as to give us the opportunity of sharpening our powers of recognition and discrimination. Ashvaghosha, I think, wishes us to discern the differences between the inaccurate thinking and ineffectual actions of the striver and the clear thinking and transformational actions of the Buddha.

In conclusion, then, is this verse the Buddha's real wisdom? Or is it three clichés and a proposition that is wide of the mark? I think Ashvaghosha's intention might be the latter, or it might be ambiguity itself.

EH Johnston:
The covetous man delights in the splendour of wealth and the simpleton delights in the joys of the senses, but the virtuous man delights in peace of mind and contemns material enjoyments, knowing them for what they are.

Linda Covill:
A greedy man delights in the luxuries of wealth, a childish man delights in sensual pleasures, but a good man delights in tranquillity and overcomes physical enjoyments through his wisdom.

ramate = 3rd pers. sg. ram: to be glad or pleased , rejoice at , delight in , be fond of (loc. instr. or inf.)
tRShitaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn thirsty , thirsting , desirous
dhana-shriyaa (inst. sg.): riches
dhana: n. booty, prey ; any valued object , (esp.) wealth , riches , (movable) property , money , treasure , gift
shrii: f. light , lustre , radiance , splendour , glory ; prosperity , welfare , good fortune , success , auspiciousness , wealth , treasure , riches , high rank , power , might , majesty

ramate = 3rd pers. sg. ram: to be glad or pleased , rejoice at , delight in , be fond of (loc. instr. or inf.)
kaama-sukhena (inst. sg.): sensual pleasure
kaama: m. desire; pleasure , enjoyment ; love , especially sexual love or sensuality
sukha: n. ease , easiness , comfort , prosperity , pleasure , happiness
baalishaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. young , childish , puerile , ignorant , simple , foolish; m. m. a fool , simpleton , blockhead

ramate = 3rd pers. sg. ram: to be glad or pleased , rejoice at , delight in , be fond of (loc. instr. or inf.)
prashamena (inst. sg.): m. calmness , tranquillity (esp. of mind) , quiet , rest , cessation , extinction , abatement
saj-janaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. well-born , respectable , virtuous ; m. a good or virtuous or wise man

paribhogaan (acc. pl.): m. enjoyment , (esp.) sexual intercourse
paribhuuya = abs. pari- √ bhuu: to be round anything , surround , enclose , contain ; to go or fly round , accompany , attend to , take care of , guide , govern ; to be superior , excel , surpass , subdue , conquer ; to pass round or over , not heed , slight , despise , insult
vidyayaa = inst. sg. vidyaa: f. knowledge (cf. kaala-jaata-v°) , science , learning , scholarship , philosophy

Sunday, February 20, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.25: Seeing Faults in Objects

viShayeShu tu doSha-darshinaH
parituShTasya shucer a-maaninaH
shama-karmasu yukta-cetasaH
kRta-buddher na ratir na vidyate

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

But the joy is not unknown to one
who sees the faults in objects of the senses,

Who is contented, pure, and unassuming,

Whose mind is versed in religious acts leading to peace

And whose understanding of those acts is formed.

The striver's words, on the surface, sound somewhat similar to teaching the Buddha will deliver to Nanda in Canto 16:

Giving oneself to this path with its three divisions / And eight branches -- this straightforward, irremovable, noble path -- // One abandons the faults, which are the causes of suffering, / And comes to that step which is total well-being. // Attendant on it are constancy and straightness; / Modesty, attentiveness, and reclusiveness; // Wanting little, contentment, and freedom from forming attachments; / No fondness for worldly activity, and forbearance. [16.37 - 38]

The striver, like the Buddha, speaks of faults, and in the same breath praises unassuming virtues like peaceable action and contentment.

There are, however, some notable differences between the striver and the Buddha. For one thing, the Buddha never preaches what he does not practice, whereas can the striver be truly described as a-maanin, "unassuming, not conceited, modest"? And is the striver's mind truly given over to peaceable acts -- or is the striver's mind more steeped in excellent words? Do the striver's efforts actually in the end lead Nanda towards peace?

Again, when we examine the striver's words in detail, what is the striver actually saying about faults and objects?

I may be wrong, but... No, strike that. The one thing that my life has shown me for sure is that I am wrong, and so therefore I cannot think that the faults which the Buddha's calls on me to abandon are in the objects of my senses. It must be truer to say that the faults I am to abandon lie in the faulty inner patterns which are triggered by my striving for objects. Yes, those patterns are tied up with faulty sensory appreciation, along with wrong ideas, but to see the faults as existing primarily in the realm of sensory experience might be to miss the Buddha's fundamental point about faults, which start not from objects but from thirsting.

In this light, it may be instructive to compare and contrast the words of the striver in this verse with the Buddha's faultless analysis of faults in Canto 16:

And this, the suffering of doing, in the world, / Has its cause in clusters of faults which start with thirsting [16.17]

Again, you must understand how, due to this cause, / Because of men's faults, the cycle of doing goes on... [16.18]

So my friend, with regard to the many forms of becoming, / Know their causes to be [the faults] that start with thirsting / And cut out those [faults], if you wish to be freed from suffering; / For ending of the effect follows from eradication of the cause. [16.25]

Giving oneself to this path with its three divisions / And eight branches -- this straightforward, irremovable, noble path -- // One abandons the faults, which are the causes of suffering, / And comes to that step which is total well-being. // Attendant on it are constancy and straightness; / Modesty, attentiveness, and reclusiveness; // Wanting little, contentment, and freedom from forming attachments; / No fondness for worldly activity, and forbearance. [16.37 - 38]

Then comprehend that suffering is doing / And witness the faults moving it forward. / Realise its stopping as non-doing, /And know the path as a turning back.

Because of the instinct-led accumulation, from time without beginning, / Of the powerful mass of afflictions, / And because true practice is so difficult to do, /The faults cannot be cut off all at once.

For just as a man afraid of thieves in the night / Would not open his door even to friends, / So does a wise man withhold consent equally / To the doing of anything bad or anything good that involves the faults.

Again, it may be instructive to compare what the striver says here about objects with what Ashvaghosha (e.g. in 3.2) and the Buddha (especially in Canto 13) say about objects:

In the approach to ascetic practice of the various traditions, / And in the attachment of sages to various restraints, / He observed the miseries of thirsting for an object. / Seeing asceticism to be unreliable, he turned away from it.

And yet the power of the senses, though operative, / Need not become glued to an object, // So long as in the mind, with regard to that object, / No fixing goes on.// Where fuel and air co-exist,/ Just as there a fire burns, // With an object and through fixing, / So a fire of affliction arises. // For by the unreal means of fixing / One is bound to an object; // Seeing that very same object / As it really is, one is set free. // On seeing one and the same form / This man is enamoured, that man disgusted; // Somebody else remains indifferent; / While yet another feels thereto a human warmth. // Thus, an object is not the cause / Of bondage or of liberation; // It is due to specifically to fixing / That sticking occurs or does not.// [13.49 - 13.53]

This morning as I sat I had a sense that the whole of me was breathing in -- nothing to do with the diaphragm or the floating ribs or the dan t'ien or keeping the spine straight vertically, but just the whole of me expanding. If I hadn't met the teaching of FM Alexander, I would never have had this experience, not in a million years. Coming across Alexander work was, as I see it, my reward for serving Zen Master Dogen. Dogen's words somehow opened me up to be available to begin to see the truth of what Alexander discovered.

In the business of preventing the trouble that is caused by faults, fiddling around with objects, or with this and that body part, is futile. In other words, the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves -- in the whole of ourselves. Wrong inner patterns within the self are the doing that has to be stopped.

EH Johnston:
But pleasure in it is indeed felt by the man who sees the evil of material objects and is contented, pure, humble and determined, and whose will is directed to actions leading to holy peace.

Linda Covill:
Yet no joy is inaccessible to a determined man who sees the flaws in sensory experience, who is contented, pure, unconceited, and who has enjoined his mind to actions which make for peace.

viShayeShu (loc. pl.): m. object, object of sense ; anything perceptible by the senses , any object of affection or concern or attention , any special worldly object or aim or matter or business , (pl.) sensual enjoyments , sensuality
tu: but
doSha-darshinaH (gen. sg. m.): one who sees faults, a fault-finder
doSha: m. fault , vice , deficiency , want
darshin: mfn. ifc. seeing , looking at , observing , examining , finding

parituShTasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. completely satisfied , delighted , very glad
shuceH (gen. sg. m.): mfn. clear , clean , pure (lit. and fig.)
a-maaninaH (gen. sg. m.): mfn. not proud , modest

shama-karmasu (loc. pl.): actions that make for peace
shama: m. tranquillity , calmness , rest , equanimity ; peace
karman: n. act , action ; any religious act or rite (as sacrifice , oblation &c , esp. as originating in the hope of future recompense and as opposed to speculative religion or knowledge of spirit) ; former act as leading to inevitable results , fate (as the certain consequence of acts in a previous life)
yukta-cetasaH (gen. sg. m.): his mind intent upon/versed in
yukta: mfn. yoked or joined or fastened or attached or harnessed to (loc.) ; set to work , made use of , employed , occupied with , engaged in , intent upon (loc.); absorbed in abstract meditation , concentrated , attentive ; skilful , clever , experienced in , familiar with (loc.)
cetas: n. consciousness , intelligence , thinking soul , heart , mind

kRta-buddheH (gen. sg.): mfn. of formed mind , learned , wise ; one who has made a resolution , resolved ; informed of one's duty , one who knows how religious rites ought to be conducted
kRta: mfn. done, formed
buddhi: f. the power of forming and retaining conceptions and general notions , intelligence , reason , intellect , mind , discernment , judgement
ratiH (nom. sg.): f. pleasure , enjoyment , delight in , fondness for
na: not
vidyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive vid: to find , discover , meet or fall in with , obtain , get , acquire , partake of , possess (passive to be found, exist, be [esp. in later language] vidyate , " there is , there exists " , often with na , " there is not")

Saturday, February 19, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.24: Joy in Dharma is Not Allotted

shravaNe grahaNe 'tha dhaaraNe
param'aarth'aavagame manaH-shame
a-viShakta-matesh cal'-aatmano
na hi dharme 'bhiratir vidhiiyate

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

For joy in dharma is not allotted

To one who easily changes his mind,
to one whose thinking

-- In hearing, grasping, retaining
and understanding the supreme truth,
and in mental peace --

Is not firmly fixed.

Again the striver is speaking excellent words. But the excellence of his words might be lost on the striver himself.

cal'-aatman might be a turning word in this verse. The dictionary gives cal'-aatman as "fickle-minded" -- cala means "moving, unsteady," and aatman means "self, nature," or at the end of a compound "-minded." In 8.11, where Nanda uses the word, I translated cal'-aatman as "a man out of balance in himself." Clearly in that verse and in today's verse cal'-aatman is being used by the speaker to point to a fault not a virtue.

There is such a fault, however, as being stubborn. And there is such a thing as being loyal to a fault.

Was Ashvaghosha aware of this side of the equation or not? Was any irony intended?

Is Ashvaghosha suggesting that being cal'-aatman, or quick to change one's mind, is necessarily a bad thing? Or might he secretly be suggesting that flexibility of thought is a good thing, a virtue that a dogged striver am prone to lack?

To be honest this reader, for one, is not sure. And maybe that was Ashvaghosha's real intention -- to prod the reader who easily understands the overt meaning of the words to read again and dig deeper.

Digging not too far below the surface, the 4th line of today's verse can be understood as an expression of the truth in its own right:

na hi dharme 'bhiratir vidhiiyate

Joy in dharma is not allotted.

And the point might be that those who expect, consciously or unconsciously, to get their share are liable to be disappointed.

In no sutra is this point expressed better than the one quoted by Dogen in Shobogenzo chap. 87, Serving Buddhas -- the content of which is a great antidote to any sense that one has failed to receive one's just rewards for services rendered to buddha-ancestors.

EH Johnston:
For delight in the Law does not fall to the man of unstable nature, whose thoughts are not fixed on peace of mind and on hearing, mastering, memorizing, and inwardly digesting the supreme truth.

Linda Covill:
For joy in dharma is not vouchsafed to a volatile man whose thoughts are not fastened to mental peace, nor to hearing, absorbing, retaining and understanding the supreme truth.

shravaNe (loc. sg.): n. the act of hearing ; acquiring knowledge by hearing , learning , study
grahaNe (loc. sg.): n. seizing , holding , taking ; n. gaining , obtaining , receiving , acceptance ; n. perceiving , understanding , comprehension , receiving instruction , acquirement of any science
atha: ind. now, then
dhaaraNe (loc. sg.): n. the act of holding , bearing, retaining etc; n. keeping in remembrance , memory

param'aarth'aavagame (loc. sg.): realizing the supreme truth
param'aartha: m. the highest or whole truth ,
parama: mfn. chief , highest , primary; best
artha: aim , purpose; use; thing ; meaning
avagama: m. understanding , comprehension , intelligence
ava- √ gam: to go down , descend to ; to hit upon , think of , conceive , learn , know , understand ,
manaH-shame (loc. sg.): mental peace
manas: n. mind
shama: m. tranquillity , calmness , rest , equanimity ; peace

aviShakta-mateH (gen. sg.): his thoughts not sticking to
a-viShakta: mfn. not clinging or sticking to
viShakta: mfn. hung to or on or upon , hung or suspended to , hanging or sticking on or in , firmly fixed or fastened or adhering to (loc.); turned or directed towards (loc. or comp.);
vi-√saNj: to hang on , hang to , attach ; to be attached or devoted to ; to be stuck to or clung to i.e. be followed at the heels by (instr.)
mati: f. thought , design , intention , resolution , determination , inclination , wish , desire ; opinion , notion , idea , belief , conviction , view , creed
cal'-aatmanaH (gen. sg.): mfn. fickle-minded ; of changeable nature ; "a man out of balance in himself" (see 8.11)
cala: mfn. moving , trembling , shaking , loose ; unsteady , fluctuating , perishable ; disturbed, confused
aatman: m. self ; essence , nature , character , peculiarity (often ifc. e.g. karm'aatman , &c )

na: not
hi: for
dharme (loc. sg.): dharma, the teaching
abhiratiH (nom. sg.): f. pleasure , delighting in (loc.)
vidhiiyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive vi- √ dhaa: to distribute , apportion , grant , bestow ; to furnish , supply ; to put in order , arrange , dispose , prepare , make ready ; (passive) to be allotted or intended for (gen.)

Friday, February 18, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.23: No Eyes for the Prize

a-vicaarayataH shubh'-aa-shubhaM
viShayeShv eva niviShTa-cetasaH
upapannam a-labdha-cakShuSho
na ratiH shreyasi ced bhavet tava

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

"For you
who draws no distinction between good and bad,

Whose mind is settled on objects of the senses,

And who has no eye of attainment,

Naturally, there could be no delight in higher good.

The striver's excellent words are never a description of the Buddha sitting like the king of mountains -- at least as far as the striver is aware. But therein, as I read it, lies Ashvaghosha's irony.

EH Johnston:
' Seeing that you do not distinguish between pure and impure, that your feelings are set on the objects of sense and that insight is not yours, it is natural that you should find no pleasure in the highest good.

Linda Covill:
"You do not discriminate between good and bad, and your mind is encamped among the objects of the senses. You have not properly attained insight, so no pleasure in Excellence could be yours.

a-vicaarayataH = gen. sg. m. pres. part. causative vi- √car: to move hither and thither (in the mind) , ponder , reflect , consider
shubh'-aa-shubham (acc. sg.): good and bad; pure and impure
shubha: mfn. splendid ; good (applied to persons and things) ; good (in moral sense) ; pure (as an action)
a-shubha: mfn. not beautiful or agreeable , disagreeable ; inauspicious; bad

viShayeShu (loc. pl.): m. an object of sense ; anything perceptible by the senses , any object of affection or concern or attention , any special worldly object or aim or matter or business , (pl.) sensual enjoyments , sensuality
eva: (emphatic)
niviShTa-cetasaH (gen. sg.): with mind penetrated into/come to rest upon
niviShTa: mfn. settled down , come to rest; encamped (army); entered , penetrated into (also with antar) , lying or resting or sticking or staying in (loc. or comp.)
ni- √ vish : to enter or penetrate into (acc. or loc.) ; to alight , descend ; to come to rest , settle down
cetas: n. consciousness , intelligence , thinking soul , heart , mind

upapannam (acc. sg. n.): fit , suited for the occasion , adequate , conformable
a-labdha-cakShuShaH (gen. sg.): not having a realized eye
a-labdha: mfn. unobtained
cakShus: n. the act of seeing ; n. faculty of seeing , sight ; n. the eye (often ifc. cf. a-cakShus, 'no eye' , /a-ghora-cakShus, 'not having an evil eye', /a-dabdha-cakShus, one whose eyes do not fail, &c )

na ced: if not ; (with pot.) " would that not! "
ratiH (nom. sg.): f. rest , repose ; pleasure , enjoyment , delight in , fondness for (loc.)
shreyasi (loc. sg.): n. higher good
bhavet = 3rd pers .sg. optative bhuu: to be
tava (gen. sg.): of you, yours

Thursday, February 17, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.22: Excellent Words

iti manmatha-shoka-karShitaM
tam anudhyaaya muhur niriikShya ca
shramaNaH sa hit'-aabhikaaNkShayaa
guNavad vaakyam uvaaca vipriyaM

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

So saying, the striver contemplated him for a while,

Beholding him torn up by the sorrows of love,

And, striving to be of benefit,

The striver spoke, disagreeably, excellent words:

Setting out on the translation of this Canto, I expressed a doubt about the meaning of guNa-vat in line 4 of this verse. In what sense was Ashvaghosha describing the striver's words as endowed with good quality, excellent, perfect? In the course of translating the last twenty-two verses that doubt, at least in my own mind, has evaporated.

On the surface Ashvaghosha is inviting the unwary reader to think that the striver was, to coin a phrase, "one of the good guys." But hints as to Ashvaghosha's real intention, as I read it, are contained in phrases such as hit'-aabhikaaNkShyaa in line 3, which means "with the longing to be of benefit" but with a connotation of a certain pushiness or eagerness. It seems to me that the striver, as Ashvaghosha is portraying him, is straining to do good.

In common with well-intentioned individuals everywhere, the striver appears to be primarily interested in doing good. Whereas if he came back to the original teaching of Gautama Buddha, or maybe if he had come across the teaching of FM Alexander, the striver might be primarily interested in stopping the wrong inner patterns that his own striving sets off.

Hearing that the Buddha sat like the king of mountains, the stupid among us, in which category I include myself, are liable to strive to sit like a mountain -- bringing to this effort all the abstract knowledge we have accumulated in our brain on such matters as primitive reflexes, Alexander Technique, listening work, Dogen's instructions for sitting-zen, the Buddha's teaching of four noble truths, the flow of chi in Chinese medicine, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Striving thus tends to tie us to what we already know -- mainly a faulty sense of where up is, a rubbish heap of bright ideas, and wrong inner patterns of use. Whereas the whole point of sitting like a mountain might be that a mountain never strives to be a mountain and never strives to be anything other than a mountain. A mountain never disturbs itself by failing to accept itself totally as a mountain.

So Buddha sitting like a mountain is not teaching that we strivers should strive to understand. It is teaching that we should categorically NOT strive to understand. It may be that faulty feelings, bright ideas, and wrong patterns of use, all spontaneously drop off just in the moment of not striving itself.

As the embodiment of not striving, then, there is the actual tradition of just sitting which, when actually practised on a regular basis over a number of years, is akin to walking a walk.

What is excellent about the striver, in Ashvaghosha's portrayal of him as I read it, is the striver's excellent words (guNavad vaakyam). He is a good talker of the talk.

EH Johnston:
Thus looking reflectively and repeatedly at him as he was carried away by the sorrows of love, the disciple wished to do him good and spoke these words, excellent but of displeasing import :--

Linda Covill:
The ascetic reflected for a while, then looking at Nanda who was torn up with the anguish of passion, he spoke the following unwelcome but excellent words, intended for his benefit:

iti: ...", thus [closing of quotation]
manmatha-shoka-karShitam (acc. sg. m.): torn up with the anguish of love
manmatha: m. (either an Intens. form fr. √ math, "to whirl round," or fr. man = manas + matha , " agitating ") love or the god of love , amorous passion or desire
shoka: m. sorrow , affliction , anguish , pain , trouble , grief
karShita: mfn. ploughed
kRSh: to draw , draw to one's self , drag , pull , drag away , tear; (causative) to pull to and fro , cause pain , torture , torment

tam (acc. sg. m.): him
anudhyaaya = abs. anu- √ dhyai : to consider attentively , think of , muse
muhur: ind. for a moment , a while ; at every moment , constantly , incessantly
niriikShya = abs. nir- √ iikSh: to look at or towards , behold , regard , observe (also the stars) , perceive
ca: and

shramaNaH (nom. sg. m.): m. one who performs acts of mortification or austerity , an ascetic , monk , devotee , religious mendicant ; m. a Buddhist monk or mendicant (also applied to buddha himself ) ; mfn. making effort or exertion , toiling , labouring , (esp.) following a toilsome or menial business ; base , vile , bad
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
hit'-aabhikaaNkShayaa (inst. sg.) with the longing to be of benefit
hita: n. anything useful or salutary or suitable or proper , benefit , advantage , profit , service , good , welfare , good advice &c
abhikaaNkShaa: f. longing for , desire (with acc. or ifc.)
abhi- √ kaaNkSh: to long for , desire ; to strive
abhi: ind. (a prefix to verbs and nouns , expressing) to , towards , into , over , upon
√ kaaNkSh: to wish , desire , long for , hope for (with acc.) , expect , wait for , await (with acc.) , strive to obtain

guNavat (acc. sg. n.): mfn. " furnished with a thread or string " and " endowed with good qualities " ; endowed with good qualities or virtues or merits or excellences , excellent , perfect
vaakyam (acc. sg. ): n. speech , saying , assertion , statement , command , words
uvaaca = 3rd pers. sg. perfect vac: to speak , say , tell
vipriyam (acc. sg. n.): disagreeable , unpleasant

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.21: Or a Striver's Contempt?

a-kRt-aatmatayaa tRSh"-aanvito
ghRNayaa c' aiva dhiyaa ca varjitaH
ashanaM khalu vaantam aatmanaa
kRpaNaH shvaa punar attum icchati

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

Greedy and untrained,

Devoid of decency and intelligence,

Truly, a wretched dog wishes to eat again

Food that he himself has vomited."

Now the striver is comparing Nanda to a dog that wishes to do something disgusting. His words, as I hear them, are not so much words of compassion as words of contempt.

Is Ashvaghosha here making a point about Nanda, or making a point about the striver and about striving? I think the latter.

Strivers everywhere tend to be hard on others because, in our perfectionism, we tend to be hard on ourselves. That being so, the best practical advice for strivers everywhere might be contained in the Buddha's teaching in Canto 16:

When the mind is agitated by the fault of hatred, / One should be kind to oneself; // For kindness is calming to a hate-afflicted soul, / As cooling treatment is to the man of bilious nature. [16.62]

As an ascetic practitioner the Buddha they say strove harder than anybody, driving himself to the edge of starvation. But finally he gave up asceticism and treated himself to some nice food. He stopped striving and just sat.

Now the truth of just sitting is largely unknowable. But what striving is, where it comes from, how it manifests itself, its fundamental basis in wrong ideas, faulty feeling, patterns of mis-use of the self, and so on ... these are things we can seek to clarify.

EH Johnston:
Verily a wretched greedy dog, void of decency and sense, wishes in the filthiness of his nature to eat again the food he himself has vomited !'

Linda Covill:
Here is a wretched undisciplined dog, full of greed but lacking decency and wisdom, who wants to feed once more on the food he has himself vomited!"

a-kRt-aatmatayaa (inst. sg. f.): with untrained/imperfect nature
a-kRta: mfn. not made, unprepared, incomplete; one who has done no works
a-kRt-aatman: mfn. having an unformed mind
aatma-taa: f. essence , nature
tRSh"-aanvitaH (nom. sg. m.): having strong desire
tRShaa: f. thirst, strong desire
anvita: mfn. gone along with ; having as an essential or inherent part , endowed with , possessed of , possessing

ghRNayaa (inst. sg.): f. a warm feeling towards others , compassion , tenderness
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
dhiyaa (inst. sg.): f. thought ; understanding , intelligence , wisdom
ca: and
varjitaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. devoid of, without

ashanam (acc. sg.): n. eating, food
khalu: ind. (as a particle of asseveration) indeed , verily , certainly , truly
vaantam: mfn. (fr. √ vam, to vomit) vomited , ejected from the mouth , effused
aatmanaa (inst. sg. m.): himself

kRpaNaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. inclined to grieve , pitiable , miserable , poor , wretched , feeble ; low, vile
shvaa (nom. sg.): m. dog
punar: ind. again
attum = inf. ad: to eat
icchati = 3rd pers. sg. iSh: to wish, want

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.20: A Striver's Compassion?

avashaH khalu kaama-muurchayaa
priyayaa shyena-bhayaad vinaa-kRtaH
na dhRtiM samupaiti na hriyaM
karuNaM jiivati jiiva-jiivakaH

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

Truly, a pheasant separated from its mate
through fear of a hawk,

And so stupefied by desire as to be helpless,

Lacks resolve and lacks reserve:

The poor beggar is living a pitiful life.

As with dvi-jaH ("twice-born") in the previous verse, two meanings of jiiva-jiivakaH may be relevant here: namely, a particular species of bird, and what the dictionary defines as "a Buddhist ascetic." "A Buddhist ascetic"? Truly, what a pitiful concept that is!

The metaphor in today's verse may be nearer the mark as a representation of Nanda's state, but what is the striver's motivation in expressing it: true compassion, or just contempt?

As a general principle, it may be true that a striver who tries to be right, who prioritizes propriety, is always prone to be contemptuous of others who fail to meet the high standards that the striver is striving to meet. (I write this as one who is not immune from the tendency in question.)

So it may be that Ashvaghosha is writing on the basis of awareness of this general principle. Or it may be that Ashvaghosha is basing the character of the striver upon a particular individual, a monk of his own day, who he knew well. As a Chinese Zen master once observed, "Foreigners beards are red." And at the same time, as far as that Chinese master was concerned, a guy with a red beard was a foreigner. (The master's point was to affirm both deductive and inductive reasoning.)

In this verse, the striver speaks of Nanda's lack of humility, modesty or reserve (hrii). But who actually is the one who lacks humility, modesty or reserve? Why does a striver strive?

To sit in lotus on a round cushion directing the head forward and up and the legs forward and away so that the back lengthens and widens is, as Dogen describes it, originally the noblest of actions -- nobler even than the nobility of Gautama Buddha's nobility. Originally there is nothing pitiful about it, and no struggle or striving need be involved. It only becomes a struggle when I am in the way, bringing to the act of sitting some idea, like asceticism, or failing to transcend my own faulty sensory appreciation.

So when Dogen signed his name as SHAMON DOGEN, taking SHAMON from the Sanskrit shramaNa, striver, it was as I understand it a mark of humility, modesty or reserve. Being the struggler or striver is sometimes undeniable, but it is nothing to be proud of. It is no basis for calling others pitiful.

EH Johnston:
Verily a francolin partridge finds no satisfaction or self-respect and lives miserably in the helpless infatuation of his love, when separated from his mate by fear of the hawk !

Linda Covill:
Here is a pheasant in a helpless swoon of lust when separated from its mate through fear of a hawk, living in wretchedness and attaining neither resolution nor modesty!

avashaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. unsubmissive to another's will , independent , unrestrained , free ; not having one's own free will , doing something against one's desire or unwillingly
khalu: ind. (as a particle of asseveration) indeed , verily , certainly , truly
kaama-muurchayaa (inst. sg. f.): in a swoon of love
kaama: desire, love
muurchaa: f. fainting , a swoon , stupor ; mental stupefaction , infatuation , delusion , hallucination

priyayaa (inst. sg.): f. beloved ; the female of an animal
shyena-bhayaat (abl. sg.): through fear of the hawk
shyena: m. a hawk , falcon , eagle , any bird of prey
bhaya: n. fear
vinaa-kRtaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. " made without " , deprived or bereft of , separated from (inst.)

na: not
dhRtim (acc. sg.): f. holding ; firmness , constancy , resolution , will , command ; satisfaction
samupaiti = 3rd pers. sg. sam-upa- √i: to come together , meet ; to attain , incur , partake of
na: not
hriyam = acc. sg. hrii: f. shame , modesty , shyness , timidity

karuNam: ind. mournfully , woefully , pitifully , in distress
jiivati = 3rd pers. sg. jiiv: to live
jiiva-jiivakaH (nom. sg.): m. a kind of pheasant ; a Buddhist or Jain ascetic
jiiva: mfn. living ;
jiivaka: mfn. living ; ifc. long living , for whom long life is desired ; m. livelihood ; m. a beggar

Monday, February 14, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.19: Nice Metaphor, Shame about the Reality

mahataa khalu jaata-vedasaa
jvalitaad utpatito vana-drumaat
punar icchati niiDa-tRShNayaa
patituM tatra gata-vyatho dvijaH

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

Truly, having flown up and away

From a forest tree blazing in a great fire,

A chick in its longing for the nest

Wishes to fly back there, its former alarm forgotten.

Both 8.16 and 8.19 use the metaphor of a bird escaping danger and then wishing to fly back into danger. The sense of repetition is diminished in the Sanskrit by calling a bird in the first instance viha-gaH "a sky goer" and in this verse dvi-jaH "one twice-born" -- twice born in the sense of being born first in an egg laid by the mother, and then born again on hatching from the egg.

dvi-jaH, "twice-born," also means a person who has in some sense been reborn -- for example in some kind of confirmation ceremony that was part of the Aryan tradition.

So in placing dvi-jaH "twice-born" as the last word of this verse, the striver might be appealing again to Nanda's sense of what is proper for an Aryan man of noble birth. This would be in keeping with the striver's stance as an advocate of propriety (kShama-vaadin; 8.11).

In this verse also, I do not buy the striver's metaphor, because here in Canto 8 Nanda has yet to manifest the kind of alarm that the striver is describing. Rather, Nanda manifests that alarm only when it hits him, at the beginning of Canto 12, that the ravishing beauty of celestial nymphs is transient.

So the striver is speaking words that sound very good, and which may be well-intentioned, but does Nanda actually learn anything from hearing those words? In short, no.

What is Ashvaghosha driving at?

I think Ashvaghosha's point might be that the Buddha's teaching is as changeable as reality is changeable. That being so, it is impossible to nail down in words what the Buddha's teaching is. But we can at least be clear about what it is not. It is not the words that buddhas use to point to it. It is not only nice words. It is not words that are parroted by people who are trying to be right.

That is why, as I read him, Ashvaghosha is contrasting the striver's direct approach in Cantos 8 & 9, and the indirect means that the Buddha uses in Cantos 10 & 11. Both the striver and the Buddha wish Nanda to be happy in the celibate life of a beggar which he has chosen. To that end, the striver's direct approach is to try to turn Nanda off women by pointing out how ugly they are. The Buddha's skillful means, to paraphrase crudely, is to say: look at these gorgeous nymphs, if you practise long and hard enough, your reward will be to have your way with all of them. The striver's approach does not work. The Buddha's approach, with a little help from Ananda, hits the target. It causes Nanda eventually to see for himself, and not only intellectually, the impermanence of female beauty. Nanda, consequently, is repulsed not by the ugliness of women, but rather by the impermanence of their ravishing beauty.

The fundamental contrast, then, is between the words parroted by a striver who is trying to be right, and the teaching which is alive to all possibilities of the Buddha who is living in reality.

"Living in reality." Where have I heard that phrase before?

Ha! Nice words!

EH Johnston:
Verily a bird, who has flown out of a forest tree blazing with a great fire, wishes to fly back to it, losing in his longing for his nest all sense of fear!

Linda Covill:
Here is a bird flown away from a forest tree ablaze with a raging fire, that wishes to fly back there, its qualms forgotten in its longing for its nest!

mahataa (inst. sg.): great
khalu: ind. (as a particle of asseveration) indeed , verily , certainly , truly
jaata-vedasaa (inst. sg.): mfn. (fr. √vid, possess) " having whatever is born or created as his property " , " all-possessor "; m. fire
jaata: mfn. born, created
vedas: n. property, wealth

jvalitaat (abl. sg.): mfn. lighted , blazing , flaming , shining
utpatitaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. springing up , risen , ascended
ut- √ pat: to fly upwards
vana-drumaat (abl. sg.): from a forest tree
vana: forest
druma: tree

punar: ind. ind. back , home , again
icchati = 3rd pers. sg. iSh: to endeavour to obtain , strive , seek for ; to desire , wish , long for ; to wish or be about to do anything , intend
niiDa-tRShNayaa (inst. sg.): through longing for its nest
niiDa: nest
tRShNa: f. thirst , desire

patitum = inf. pat: to fly
tatra: ind. there
gata-vyathaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. freed from pain , unanxious
gata: mfn. gone, absent
vyathaa: f. agitation , perturbation , alarm , uneasiness , pain , anguish , fear
vyath: to tremble , waver ; to be agitated or disturbed in mind , be restless or sorrowful or unhappy ; to be afraid
dvi-jaH (nom. sg. m.): "twice-born"; m. a man of any one of the first 3 classes , any Aryan , (esp.) a Brahman (re-born through investiture with the sacred thread); m. a bird or any oviparous animal (appearing first as an egg)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.18: Who's Been Woken by Who?

sharaNe sa-bhujaMgame svapan
pratibuddhena pareNa bodhitaH
taruNaH khalu jaata-vibhramaH
svayam ugraM bhuja-gam jighRkShati

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

Truly, in a shelter where slithers a snake,

A sleeping boy, woken by an elder who is awake,

Has become agitated

And is about to grab the horrible reptile himself.

What person described in Saundara-nanda thus far can be described, truly, as awake?

I would venture that there is only one person, as described in Canto 3:

With his golden arms fully expanded and as if in a yoke, / With lengthened eyes, and bull-like gait, // He came to a fig tree, growing up from the earth, / With the will to awakening that belongs to the supreme method of investigation.// Sitting there, mind made up, / As unmovingly stable as the king of mountains, // He overcame the grim army of Mara / And awoke to the step which is happy, irremovable, and irreducible.// [3.6 - 3.7]

Nanda's own process of awakening is described in Canto 17.

Then, unsheathing a sword that the limbs of awakening had honed, / Standing in the supreme chariot of true motivation, // With an army containing the elephants of the branches of the path, / He gradually penetrated the ranks of the afflictions. //

Again, with the seven elephants of the limbs of awakening / He crushed the seven dormant tendencies of the mind, // Like Time, when their destruction is due, / Crushing the seven continents by means of the seven planets. //

And it is on the basis of Nanda's own awakening, as described in Canto 17, that Nanda salutes the fully awakened one:

I salute the great supremely compassionate seer, / Bowing my head to him, the knower of types, the knower of hearts, // The fully awakened one, the holder of ten powers, the best of healers, /The deliverer: again, I bow to him.//

Nanda at this stage of the story, then, here in Canto 8, is not yet awake. And at no point in the story does Nanda look back and say "I salute the striver, knower of types, knower of hearts, the fully awakened one..."

In the Buddha's teaching awakening also is a metaphor. Like the metaphor of the way, the metaphor of awakening is so fundamental that it is liable, as a metaphor, to be overlooked.

Awakening is a metaphor for what?

As one who strives unconsciously, I do not know. To the extent that I have been freed by wise elders from the tendency to strive unconsciously, I think that the metaphor of awakening might have to do with consciously not striving.

For the above reasons, then, I again do not buy the striver's metaphor.

EH Johnston:
Verily a boy, sleeping in a house with a snake in it and roused by a wakeful elder, in his excitement wishes to lay hold of the fierce snake himself!

Linda Covill:
Here is a lad sleeping in a shelter with a snake, who, when woken by a mindful elder, is filled with confusion and tries to grab the fierce snake himself!

sharaNe (loc. sg.): n. shelter , place of shelter or refuge or rest , hut , house , habitation
sa-bhujaMgame (loc. sg. n.): containing a snake
sa: (possessive prefix) with
bhujaMgama: m. (fr. bhujam ind. p. of √bhuj, to bend + gama) a serpent , snake
svapan = nom. sg. m. 3rd pers. sg. pres. part svap: to sleep

pratibuddhena (inst. sg.): mfn. awakened , awake ; one who has attained to perfect knowledge ; illuminated , enlightened
pareNa (inst. sg.): m. another (different from one's self); mfn. better or worse than , superior or inferior to
bodhitaH = nom. sg. m. past. part. causative budh: to wake up , arouse ; to cause to observe or attend , admonish , advise

taruNaH (nom. sg.): m. a youth
khalu: ind. (as a particle of asseveration) indeed , verily , certainly , truly
jaata-vibhramaH (nom. sg. m.): unsteady, agitated, confused
jaata: mfn. born ; happened , become
vibhrama: m. moving to and fro , rolling or whirling about , restlessness , unsteadiness ; hurry , rapture , agitation , disturbance , perturbation , confusion , flurry
svayam: ind. of or by one's self spontaneously , voluntarily , of one's own accord (also used emphatically)
ugram (acc. sg. m.): powerful , violent , mighty , impetuous , strong , huge , formidable , terrible ; cruel , fierce , ferocious , savage ; angry , passionate , wrathful
bhuja-gam (acc. sg.): m. (fr. bhuja + ga) " going in curves " , a snake , serpent
jighRkShati = 3rd pers. sg. desid. grah: to be about to seize or take

Saturday, February 12, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.17: Out of the Soft Stuff Already?

kalabhaH kariNaa khal' uuddhRto
bahu-paNkaad viShamaan nadii-talaat
jala-tarSha-vashena taaM punaH
saritaM graahavatiiM titiirShati

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

A baby elephant, truly,
after a big elephant has pulled it up

Out of the deep mud of a dangerous riverbed,

Wishes, in its thirst for water,

To re-enter that crocodile-infested creek.

EHJ's original, based on the palm-leaf manuscript, has nadii-talaat (river-bed); EHJ notes that the paper manuscript has nadii-taraat (river-crossing); LC emended to nadii-taTaat (river-bank).

As LC observes in the third chapter her book "A Metaphorical Study of Saundarananda," metaphors involving elephants in mud, elephants in musk, and elephants in training run through the whole poem.

And from that extreme predicament, from that worthless mire, / Up he dragged me, like a feeble-footed elephant from the mud, // To be released into this quieted, untainted, feverless, sorrowless, / Ultimate true reality, which is free from darkness. [17.72]

Again, however, I question the validity of the striver's metaphor.

One might think that a religious organisation, especially a "Buddhist" sangha, might be a kind of antithesis of the crocodile-infested creek which secular life is commonly supposed to be. But empirical observation shows it not always to be so. For a person who is sincere in his sitting, a warship full of US marines might have plenty of good places for practice. Whereas, to the innocent and unwary, so-called Zen temples and so-called Buddhist samghas are ever liable to be veritable crocodile-infested creeks.

In order truly to experience being out of the soft stuff, it is first necessary to understand what it is to be deeply mired in the soft stuff -- not on the basis of a scholar's view, or of a shraavaka's practice, but on the basis of sitting in full lotus.

To have shaved one's head, taken possession of a bowl, and put on a robe, even in the Buddha's day, was not to be out of the soft stuff. Truly to be out of the soft stuff requires the kind of effort as an individual, sitting in the full lotus posture, that Nanda has yet to make.

For bodhisattvas of the present age who are in the soft stuff there might not be any Gautama to pull us out, like a great bull elephant rescuing us who are feeble-footed. So the only option for us might be to do what Nanda eventually did for himself, and make the Buddha's teaching our own, on our own, by ourself, for ourself. And the one and only method for doing this is sitting in full lotus.

For this reason, I do not buy the striver's metaphor.

EH Johnston:
Verily a young elephant, after an old elephant has pulled him out of the deep mud of a dangerous river-bed, wishes to enter the crocodile-infested stream again in his thirst for water !

Linda Covill:
Here is a young elephant pulled out of the thick mud at a treacherous riverbank by another elephant, that wants to once more descend into the crocodile-infested river, impelled by its thirst for water!

kalabhaH (nom. sg.): m. (√kal, to urge on, to carry) a young elephant kariNaa (inst. sg.): m. " having a trunk " , an elephant
khalu: ind. (as a particle of asseveration) indeed , verily , certainly , truly
uddhRtaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. drawn up or out (as water from a well &c )
ud- √hR: to take out , draw out ; to extricate

bahu-paNkaat (abl. sg.): mn. much mud
paNka: mud , mire , dirt
bahu: mfn. much, a lot, a great amout
viShamaat (abl. sg.): mfn. uneven; hard to traverse , difficult , inconvenient , painful , dangerous
nadii-talaat (abl. sg.): a river bed
nadii-taTaat (abl. sg.): bank of a river
nadii: f. flowing water , a river
tala: mn. surface , level
tara: m. crossing , passage
taTa: m. a slope , declivity , a shore

jala-tarSha-vashena (inst. sg.): by force of thirst for water
jala: water
tarSha: thirst
vasha: m. will ; authority , power , control , dominion (vashena: by command of , by force of , on account of)
taam (acc. sg. f.): it
punaH: ind. again

saritam = acc. sg. sarit: f. a river , stream
graaha-vatiim (acc. sg. f.): mfn. containing or abounding with large marine animals
graaha: mfn. seizing; m. a rapacious animal living in fresh or sea water , any large fish or marine animal (crocodile , shark , serpent , Gangetic alligator , water elephant , or hippopotamus)
titiirShati = 3rd pers. sg. desid. tRR: to wish to cross or reach by crossing

Friday, February 11, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.16: More Talking the Talk of Freedom

vihagaH khalu jaala-saMvrto
hita-kaamena janena mokShitaH
vicaran phala-puShpa-vad vanaM
pravivikShuH svayam eva paNjaraM

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

Truly, a bird that was caught in a net

And set free by a benevolent person,

as it flits about the fruiting and blossoming forest,

To fly of its own free will into a cage.

Again the striver seems to wish to compare Nanda to a creature that was formerly in danger, and then became free, and then put itself back in danger.

But my question, again, is whether the striver is right or not to compare Nanda to a bird that a benevolent person set free?

What individual so far in Saundarananda has been set free by a benevolent person?

The answer might be: so far, nobody.

That being so, is the striver speaking from inside the cage of his own views, habits and faulty sensory appreciation, or from outside that cage?

Marjory Barlow used to say, with respect to her teaching of the Alexander Technique: "I don't want you to believe a single word I say. Find out for yourself whether or not I am talking through my hat!" This was in the tradition of Marjory's uncle, FM Alexander, who said that he did not want a lot of monkeys following him around, aping his every move. Rather, he wanted his discoveries to remain alive through being re-discovered by individuals who could think things out for themselves.

If you research the views of experts in Buddhist studies (I wouldn't recommend it) you can read a lot of bullshit about how Hinayana or Theravada Buddhism, and Mahayana Buddhism, emerged as separate strands. Scholars like to discuss that kind of stuff -- the difference between this and that school of thought. They like to display to each other what John Dewey described as "learned ignorance." They are not so keen on parking their arses on a round cushion and their knees on the floor, and re-directing their energy in an upward direction.

My point is that the striver is clearly a shraavaka, a direct student of the Buddha, one who heard the Buddha's voice in person. But what kind of shraavaka is he?

The shraavaka/striver seems to wish to compare Nanda to a bird that is flying of its own free will. If so, I don't accept the striver's comparison. It seems to me that Nanda is not yet acting of his own free will. If Nanda were acting of his own free will when the Buddha placed his bowl in Nanda's hands, Nanda might have politely set aside the bowl and gone back to Sundari. If he were acting of his own free will when he decided to give up the robe and go back to Sundari, he might have acted on that very decision. But instead of acting like that, because Nanda has never yet made a real decision in his life, and because he is not yet acting of his own free will, here he is talking to a striver who professes to know the cure for mental ills.

In the Lotus Sutra a distinction is drawn between four vehicles -- the vehicles of the shraavaka, praty-eka-buddha, bodhisattva, and buddha.... But enough already. I am going to stop here before I feel a Ph. D. thesis coming on.

Suffice to add that yesterday, for the first time in a long time, I checked in on the blog of long-time follower of my blogs and student of Shobogenzo Jordan Fountain. Now Jordan is a proper student of the Buddha's teachings -- a guy who shaves his head and sits and who is bringing up his daughters to be Zen masters -- but I would never insult him by calling him a Buddhist scholar, or a shraavaka. Jordan as I see him is a good example of a true work in progress, a true bodhisattva. He's just the bloke for whom I translated Shobogenzo and just the bloke for whom I am translating Ashvaghosha. JF is the bull's-eye of my target audience.

If there were a lot more blokes like Jordan in the world, I might be a best-selling author, like Lee Child. But since a bloke like Jordan is quite a rare individual, I am content to keep writing for him and one or two others like him. (And if they give up on me, I may carry on just for my own benefit!)

EH Johnston:
Verily a bird who has been caught in a net and released by friendly hands, flits through the forest with its fruit and flowers and of his own accord wishes to enter the cage !

Linda Covill:
Here is a bird that was enmeshed in a net, freed by a well-wisher to glide through the forest of fruit and flowers, now voluntarily trying to get into a cage!

viha-gaH (nom. sg.): m. " sky-goer " , a bird
khalu: ind. (as a particle of asseveration) indeed , verily , certainly , truly
jaala-saMvrtaH (nom. sg. m.): caught in a net
jaala: net
saMvrta: mfn. covered , shut up , enclosed or enveloped in

hita-kaamena (inst. sg.): well-wishing
hita: n. (sg. or pl.) anything useful or salutary or suitable or proper , benefit , advantage , profit , service , good , welfare , good advice
kaama: m. wish
janena (inst. sg.): by a person
mokShitaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. released, set free

vicaran = nom. sg. m. pres. part vi- √ car: to rove , ramble about or through , traverse , pervade ; to graze upon , feed upon (a pasture)
phala-puShpa-vat (acc. sg. n.): having fruit and flowers
phala: fruit
puShpa: flower
vat: (possessive suffix) having
vanam (acc. sg.): n. forest

pravivikShuH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (fr. desid. pra- √vish) wishing or being about to enter (acc.)
svayam: ind. of or by one's self spontaneously , voluntarily , of one's own accord
eva (emphatic)
paNjaram (acc. sg.): n. a cage , aviary , dove-cot , net

shraavaka: mfn. hearing , listening to (comp.) ; m. a disciple of the buddha (the disciples of the hiina-yaana school are sometimes so called in contradistinction to the disciples of the mahaa-yaana school ; properly only those who heard the law from the buddha's own lips have the name shraavaka , and of these two , viz. Sariputta and Moggallana , were agra-shraavakas , " chief disciples " , while eighty , including kaashyapa , upaali , and aananda , were mahaa-shraavakas or " great disciples ")

praty-eka: n. (ibc.) one by one , one at a time , singly
praty-eka-buddha: m. a buddha who lives in seclusion and obtains emancipation for himself only (as opp. to those buddhas who liberate others also)

bodhi-sattva: m. " one whose essence is perfect knowledge " , one who is on the way to the attainment of perfect knowledge (i.e. a Buddhist saint when he has only one birth to undergo before obtaining the state of a supreme buddha and then nirvaaNa) (the early doctrine had only one bodhi-sattva , viz. maitreya ; the later reckoned many more); N. of the principal buddha of the present era (before he became a buddha)

buddha: mfn. awakened , awake; m. a wise or learned man, sage; m. (with Buddhists) a fully enlightened man who has achieved perfect knowledge of the truth and thereby is liberated from all existence and before his own attainment of nirvaaNa reveals the method of obtaining it , (esp.) the principal buddha of the present age (born at kapila-vastu about the year 500 B.C.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.15: A Shravaka Speaks of Freedom

kRpaNaM bata yuutha-laalaso
mahato vyaadha-bhayaad viniHsRtaH
pravivikShati vaaguraaM mRgash
capalo giita-raveNa vaNcitaH

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

"What a pity!
In its longing for the herd, a rushing stag

Having escaped the mortal danger of the hunter's arrow

Is about to enter his trap,

Deceived by a call that was sung.

In this and the next six verses, the striver compares Nanda to a stag that escaped a hunter, (8.15), a bird freed from a net (8.16), a young elephant freed from mud (8.17), a boy alerted to the presence of a snake (8.18), a bird that fled a forest fire (8.19), a stupid pheasant (8.20), and a wretched dog (8.21).

With each of the first five of these seven metaphors the striver is striving to portray Nanda as one who, having escaped danger, wishes to go right back into danger.

But thus far in Saundarananda how many individuals have we met who have truly escaped the terror of aging, sickness and death?

The Shakya princes of Canto 1? No, for we are told in 1.40 that they acquired treasures Sufficient for full enjoyment / Of dharma, wealth, and pleasure;// -- but not sufficient for enjoyment of freedom.
The King of Kapilavastu? No -- many though his virtues were, the ultimate freedom of just sitting in full lotus was not one of them.
Nanda himself? No, not yet.
Sundari and her ladies in waiting? No, not likely.
The ascetic practitioners who Nanda refers to in his long lament? Not on your Nelly.
The striver who is speaking? No, not as I hear him.

Again, who in this verse has been deceived by listening to the sound of a human voice?

Is the point simply that Nanda is being lured back to Sundari's side by an illusion of happiness?

Or might Ashvaghosha be intending to encourage us to dig deeper and investigate what kind of shraavaka (or "voice-hearer") the striver himself is?

EH Johnston:
' Alas ! A silly deer, after escaping from the great danger of the hunter, is deceived by the sound of singing in his longing for the herd and wishes to enter the trap !'

Linda Covill:
"How pitiful that the wayward deer has escaped from the great danger posed by the hunter, but now in his longing for the herd is about to leap into the net, fooled by the sound of singing!

kRpaNam (acc. sg. n.): mfn inclined to grieve , pitiable , miserable , poor , wretched , feeble
bata: ind. an interjection expressing astonishment or regret , generally = ah! oh! alas!
yuuha-laalasaH (nom. sg. m.): longing for the herd
yuutha: n. herd
laalasa: mfn. eagerly longing for , ardently desirous of

mahataH (abl. sg.): great
vyaadha-bhayaat (abl. sg.): from the danger of the hunter
vyaadha: m. " one who pierces or wounds " , a hunter , one who lives by killing deer (said to be the son of a kShatriya by a low-caste mother)
bhaya: n. fear , terror , dismay , danger , peril , distress
viniHsRtaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. escaped
vi-niH- √ sR: to spring from

pravivikShati = 3rd pers. sg. pres. desiderative pra- √ vish: to enter , go into
vaaguraam (acc. sg.): f. a net (for catching deer or wild animals) , trap , toils , snare , noose
mRgaH (nom. sg.): m. deer

capalaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. moving to and fro , shaking , trembling , unsteady , wavering ; wanton , fickle , inconstant ; quick , swift , expeditious
giita-raveNa (inst. sg.): by a chanted call
giita: n. singing , song ; mfn. (√gai, to sing) sung , chanted , praised in songs
rava: m. ( √ru, to roar) a roar , yell , cry , howl (of animals , wild beasts &c )
vaNcitaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. deceived , tricked