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

- - = - - = - = - =
- - = = - - = - = - =
- - = - - = - = - =
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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.

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