Sunday, March 13, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.46: The Mind of Women -- Conclusion

a-kRta-jNam an-aaryam a-sthiraM
vanitaanaam idam iidRshaM manaH
katham arhati taasu paNDito
hRdayaM saNjayituM cal-aatmasu

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

Ungrateful, ignoble, unsteady:

Such is the mind of women.

What man of wisdom could fasten his heart

Onto such fickle creatures?

The word paNDita in line 3 is the source of our word pundit. So the second half might be translated: What well-informed pundit could fasten his heart onto such fickle creatures?

This is the concluding verse in the first half of the striver's dualistic analysis of the disagreeable nature of women. His conclusion in essence, then, is that Nanda should not put his eggs into the basket of a woman like Sundari because the mind (singular) of women (plural) is ungrateful, ignoble, and above all unsteady, fickle, changeable, restless, capricious, unreliable.

The striver in appealing to Nanda not to be emotionally attached to what is unreliable sounds somehow Buddhist. But the striver's teaching is not the Buddha's teaching.

What the striver is expressing, as I hear him, is a jaundiced general view.

The Buddha's teaching, as painstakingly expressed to Nanda in 16.87 - 16.91, was that there were many individuals who by their own individual effort succeeded in taking the step that the Buddha advocated -- the step that Dogen called E-KO HEN-SHO NO TAIHO, the backward step of turning one's light and letting it shine. All of these individuals enumerated by the Buddha manifested viirya, manly vigour, or virile energy. Some of these individuals were men; some were women.

So in conclusion what can truly be said about the mind of women? In conclusion, there might be no conclusion. In conclusion there might be no such thing as a mind (singular) of women (plural).

In conclusion, what can be said about fastening one's heart to unreliable things? Everyday life seems constantly to involve fastening one's heart, or at least setting one's sights, on objects that are ever liable to be swept away by some bloody great seismic shock or by some bloody great emotional wave. But in the midst of this stupidity, some of us come back every day to coming back itself. To talk of coming back to "adjusting my posture" is, as I see it, false. In the end, there might be nothing to come back to except coming back itself.

Coming back to coming back might mean coming back home, coming back to not striving.

Coming back to coming back, to put it another way, might be the dropping off of all views.

This is the point that I found was understood much more clearly in the practice of Alexander work -- by an Alexander teacher like Nelly Ben-Or -- than it was understood by my Zen teacher. Sorry if that sounds ungrateful but it seemed very evident to me that the King of Dogen Sangha had long been in the all together, and so I dared to say so. (Jiblet knows what I mean.)

On one side, striving and fastening one's heart to unreliable objects are all somehow bound up with each other. On the other side, the practice of not striving -- whether it be or swimming without stress, or sitting and standing without stress, or simply sitting without stress -- seems constantly to necessitate the abandonment of one's own preconceptions, ideas, opinions, views.

By bringing to life the character of the opinionated striver, Ashvaghosha as I hear him is encouraging us to investigate how striving and jaundiced views are liable to get tangled up with each other. And out of this investigation comes a clearer decision:

No. Even if my father was like that, I don't want to be like that. As far as I am able, I won't go down that path of the opinionated striver. As far as I am able, I will keep on coming back to truly coming back.

EH Johnston:
Such is the mind of woman, ungrateful, ignoble, unsteady ; how can the wise man set his heart on such capricious creatures?

Linda Covill:
This is the sort of mind that women have -- ungrateful, ignoble, unsteady. How could a wise man fasten his heart to such fickle creatures?

a-kRta-jNam (nom. sg. n.): ungrateful
an-aaryam (nom. sg. n.): ignoble
a-sthiram (nom. sg. n.): unsteady

vanitaanaam (gen. pl.): f. women
idam (nom. sg. n.): this
iidRsham (nom. sg. n.): mfn. endowed with such qualities , such
manaH (nom. sg.): n. mind

katham: how
arhati = 3rd pers. sg. arh: to deserve , merit , be worthy of ; to be obliged to
taasu (loc. pl. f.): to them
paNDitaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. learned , wise ; m. a scholar , a learned man , teacher , philosopher
paNDaa: f. wisdom , knowledge , learning

hRdayam (acc. sg.): n. heart
saNjayitum = inf. causative saNj: to cause to stick or cling to , unite or connect with (loc.)
cal-aatmasu (loc. pl. f.): fickle-natured
cala: mfn. moving , trembling , shaking , loose ; unsteady, restless, fickle
aatman: m. essence , nature , character , peculiarity (often ifc. e.g. karm'aatman , &c )

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