Tuesday, March 22, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.55: The Striver's Dual Pessimism

tad avetya manaH-sariirayor
vanitaa doShavatiir visheShataH
capalaM bhavan'-otsukaM manaH
pratisaMkhyaana-balena vaaryataaM

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

So reckon women, in mind and in body,

To be singularly implicated with faults;

And hold back, using this arithmetic,

Your impulsively homeward-straining mind.

Having considered firstly the putative faults of women’s minds and secondly the putative faults of women’s bodies, now the striver brings together the two strands of his dualistic argument. In so doing, he is appealing primarily (though hardly with unimpeachable logic) to Nanda’s intellect or his reason -- i.e. that part of Nanda’s mind that is able to compute 2 + 2 = 4.

The striver’s approach, which does not have the desired effect, is different from the Buddha’s ultimately successful approach in at least two ways. Firstly, the Buddha relies on more than words and reason: he is able to give Nanda an eye-opening experience. Secondly, when the Buddha does appeal to Nanda’s reason, the Buddha’s reasoning is unimpeachable, not flawed like the striver's.

In line 2, when the striver describes women as doShavatiir visheShataH, "singularly implicated with faults," how does the striver's logic add up? How is his thinking reasonable? Why does he think that women are more implicated with faults than men?

Truly speaking, what is singularly implicated with faults? Ashvaghosha's joke, which the striver singularly fails to get, is that what is singularly implicated with faults is striving itself.

The main purpose of all my blogging these past several years has been to let fellow strivers know that there is an antidote to striving, which is allowing. I practise it (albeit not very well) primarily by sitting in lotus on a round cushion. But there are many other ways -- my brother, for example, practises and teaches it in the water, calling his practice Swimming Without Stress.

One can sit on a round cushion holding oneself up forcibly. This approach may result in the kind of posture that feels good and strikes the slumping masses as impressively good, but it is liable to cause the respiratory mechanism to be held back or restricted. So one can practise abdominal breathing as a counter-measure, keeping one's ribs relatively fixed and moving the diaphragm up and down deliberately. That is how I used to sit. It is a kind of striving, or straining -- different from truly allowing.

Truly to allow the breath to pass through the nostrils is not a function only of the nostrils, nor is it a function only of the respiratory mechanism. Truly to allow the breath to pass through the nostrils is to allow every part of the body to expand away from every other part, like every star in the sky expanding away from its neighbour in accordance with the true Law, the original Buddha-Dharma, aka the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

In Japanese Zen Buddhism, striving is the usual way. Kodo Sawaki's youngest disciple, the late Tsunemasa Abe, used to say NINGEN WA KIBARU, "Human beings strain" -- but to tell the truth Abe Sensei himself was also a bit of a striver. And my original teacher Gudo Nishijima was even more of a striver. That's for damn sure, with his pulling in the chin to keep the neck-bones straight, and all the rest of it.

In religions generally, striving is the usual way. Fixing is the usual way.

Allowing is a better way. For this reason, I think, the Buddha spoke to Nanda of shreyas, "a better way." So far I have been translating shreyas as "higher good." But a better way might be to translate shreyas as "a better way."

EH Johnston:
Therefore you should understand women to be especially full of faults of mind and body, and should restrain by the force of insight your hasty mind which yearns to go home.

Linda Covill:
So understand women to be especially flawed in mind and body, and use the strength of this recollection to hold back your roving mind which longs for home!

tad: ind. so, therefore
avetya = gerundive ava-√i: to perceive , conceive , understand , learn , know
manaH-sariirayoH (gen. dual. n.): mind and body
manas: n. mind
sariira: n. the body

vanitaaH (acc. pl.): f. women
doShavatiiH (acc. pl. f.): mfn. having faults , faulty , defective , blemished ; connected with crime or guilt , sinful , wicked ; noxious , dangerous
visheShataH: ind. especially , particularly , above all

capalam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. moving to and fro , shaking , trembling , unsteady , wavering ; wanton , fickle , inconstant
bhavan'-otsukam (acc. sg. n.): eager for home
bhavana: n. a place of abode , mansion , home , house
utsuka: mfn. anxiously desirous , zealously active , striving or making exertions for any object ; eager for ; attached to
manaH (acc. sg.): n. mind

pratisaMkhyaana-balena (inst. sg.): by dint of this arithmetic
pratisaMkhyaana: n. the tranquil consideration of a matter
prati-saM- √ khyaa to count or reckon up , number
bala: n. power, force, strength (balena ifc. by force , by the power or on the strength or in virtue or by means of , by)
vaaryataam = 3rd pers. sg. imperative causative vR: to stop , check , restrain , suppress , hinder , prevent , withold

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