Thursday, March 17, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.50: A Striver Doubts Original Purity

anulepanam aNjanaM srajo
maNi-muktaa-tapaniiyam aMshukaM
yadi saadhu kim atra yoShitaaM
sahajaM taasu viciiyataaM shuci

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

Cosmetic paste and powder, garlands,

Gems, pearls, gold, fine fabric:

If these are good, what have they to do with women?

Let us examine what in women is originally pure.

Zen Master Dogen begins his rules for sitting-zen by asking, rhetorically:

Now when we investigate it, the truth is all around: how could it depend on practice and experience? The vehicle for the fundamental exists naturally: how is it necessary to strive?

According to my old Zen teacher, in these opening sentences Dogen expresses the fundamentally optimistic nature of Buddhism.

Nowadays I would take issue with that choice of words, including as it does the two -isms of optimism and Buddhism.

But I take my old teacher's fundamental point, which is that the Buddha's teaching is not pessimistic.

The striver, in contrast, is doggedly pessimistic, in his view of a woman's body no less than in his view of a woman's mind. In the striver's view, it seems, the original state of women's bodies is a dirty and unkempt state -- a state which women generally take pains to conceal.

The striver thus has a judgemental view of purity and impurity which is a function of his intellect, and not a function of practice.

Speaking from the standpoint of practice, Dogen observed that when we wash dirty clothes, we do so with dirty water. If you want to wash your dirty laundry in perfectly clean water, good luck to you, but you may find that as soon as you actually start washing, your clean water has already become impure, dirty water.

Similarly, we can use impure water like this to wash the face. Using impure water like this we can practice and experience washing as pure action -- whether our face is golden or white or red. Even if we do not know what colour face we have got this morning, it may be that just in a moment of waking up, as we wash the face in refreshing cold water, there is no impurity to get rid of.

The irony of today's verse, then, may be that the striver is asking us to investigate what we should investigate. And yet, in asking us to investigate what we should investigate, the striver seems to be almost totally ignorant of what he is asking.

When Gensa Shibi said that the whole Universe in ten directions was one bright pearl, he wasn't submitting a scientific hypothesis, still less a thesis for a Ph. D. in Buddhist studies. He was expressing, as a fact like the existence of the moon in the sky, his own attainment of what Ashvaghosha calls the nectar of deathlessness.

Evidently those of us who are still striving, and Gensa, are not on the same level at all. That being so, we needn't -- in the same breath as we discuss adjusting our posture in Zazen, and our concern for people in Japan suffering in the after-effects of earthquake and tsunami -- manifest fake Zen laughter as if we were Zen masters. Looking at old photos of Kodo Sawaki over the years, one thing I have never seen on his face is fake Zen laughter.

EH Johnston:
You may say that salves, ointments, garlands, jewels, pearls, gold and clothes are good, but what have they really to do with women? Consider what there is innate in them that is pure.

Linda Covill:
Ointments, cosmetics, garlands, jewels, pearls and gold, fine silks -- if these are good, what have they to do with women? Let's analyze their inherent purity:

anulepanam (nom. sg.): n. anointing the body ; unguent so used ; oily or emollient application
anu- √ lip: to anoint, besmear
aNjanam (nom. sg.): n. act of applying an ointment or pigment , embellishing , &c , black pigment or collyrium applied to the eyelashes or the inner coat of the eyelids; n. a special kind of this pigment , as lamp-black , Antimony , extract of Ammonium
aNj: to apply an ointment or pigment , smear with , anoint
srajaH (nom. pl. f.): f. a wreath of flowers , garland , chaplet worn on the head

maNi-muktaa-tapaniiyam (nom. sg. n.): gems, pearls, and gold
maNi: m. a jewel , gem , pearl (also fig.) , any ornament or amulet , globule , crystal
mukta: m. a pearl (as loosened from the pearl-oyster shell)
muktaa: f. of mukta , in comp.
tapaniiya: mfn. to be heated ; to be suffered (as self-mortification) ; n. gold purified with fire
aMshukam (nom. sg.): n. fine or white cloth , muslin

yadi: ind. if
saadhu (nom. sg. n.): mfn. straight, right ; leading straight to a goal , hitting the mark , unerring ; successful , effective , efficient (as a hymn or prayer) ; good
kim atra: how in this matter?
yoShitaam (gen. pl.): f. women

saha-jam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. born or produced together ; congenital , innate , hereditary , original , natural
taasu (loc. pl. f.): them
viciiyataam = 3rd pers. sg. imperative passive vi- √ ci: to segregate , select , pick out , cull ; to discern , distinguish ; to make anything discernible or clear , cause to appear , illumine ; to search through , investigate , inspect , examine
shuci (acc. sg. n.): mfn. clear , clean , pure (lit. and fig.)

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