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

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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

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