Wednesday, March 23, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 8.56: The Striver's Appeal to Snobbery

shrutavaan matimaan kul'-odgataH
paramasya prashamasya bhaajanaM
upagamya yathaa tathaa punar
na hi bhettuM niyamaM tvam arhasi

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You are educated, intelligent, and well-bred --

A fitting vessel for supreme tranquillity;

As such, you ought not in any way to break

The contract into which you have entered.

I went to King Edwards School Birmingham which, in England in the 1970s was by some measures the top school in the country.

Well, bully for me. Did that make me a fitting vessel for supreme tranquillity?

How about Daikan Eno, the sixth-generation descendant of Bodhidharma in China? He was a woodcutter who had never read a book in his life. Did that make him not a fitting vessel for supreme tranquillity?

The work of inhibition as FM Alexander practised it, at least as I understood from his niece Marjory Barlow, brought about a condition of true tranquillity -- of stillness without fixity -- primarily through the giving up of an end-gaining idea. But an education in Britain, much as it continues to be a highly prized commodity around the world, is never about giving up an idea. (On the contrary, most doyens of British universities have risen to prominence by submitting their own unique idea in the form of a thesis, which, if accepted, may result in them being awarded a doctorate in, say, Buddhist studies.) This is the background against which FM Alexander once famously remarked, "A child of three can understand this work. But give me a man who has been educated and God help me!"

Speaking of being a vessel for the Buddha's teaching, at what point in the story of Handsome Nanda does the Buddha affirm that Nanda is a fitting vessel for the teaching?

If the striver's idea was right, then the Buddha should have affirmed Nanda as a fitting vessel in Canto 5, when he caused Nanda to go forth into the wandering life -- at which time Nanda was already well-educated, smart, and of posh pedigree.

In fact, no such affirmation appears in Canto 5. What the Buddha says to Nanda in Canto 5 begins and ends not with any kind of affirmation of where Nanda is, but rather with the exhortation of what direction to go in. Hence:

While murderous Time has yet to come calling, set your mind, my friend, in the direction of extinction. / Operating in all situations in this world, using all manner of attacks, Death kills. // [5.22]

Therefore, while you are meeting the present moment, while death has yet to come, / So long as you have the energy for practice, set your heart on a better way. //

The Buddha, Ashvaghosha informs us, only recognizes Nanda to be a receptacle after such time as the Buddha had succeeded in boosting Nanda's confidence in the existence of a better way, not as an end to be gained, but rather as a process. Hence:

And so now seeing that, by boosting Nanda, he had made a receptacle, / The best of speakers spoke: The process-knower spoke of better ways as a process. // "Starting afresh from here, my friend, with the power of confidence leading you forward, / In order to get to the nectar of deathlessness, you should watch the manner of your action..." // [13.9 - 13.10]

EH Johnston:
For you who know the sacred tradition, who are intelligent and of good family and a proper vessel for the supreme tranquillity, ought not to break the covenant again in any way after having undertaken it.

Linda Covill:
You are learned, you are intelligent, you are nobly-born, you are a worthy recipient of supreme peace; as such you mustn't in any way break the observances which you have undertaken.

shrutavaan (nom. sg. m.): mfn. one who has heard &c ; possessing (sacred) knowledge , learned , pious
matimaan (nom. sg. m.): mfn. clever , intelligent , wise
mati: f. the mind , perception , understanding , intelligence , sense , judgement
kul'-odgataH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. sprung from a noble family
kula: n. a race , family , community , tribe , caste ; the residence of a family , seat of a community ; a noble or eminent family or race
udgata: mfn. gone up , risen , ascended ; come forth

paramasya (gen. sg. m.): the highest, best, supreme
prashamasya (gen. sg.): m. calmness , tranquillity (esp. of mind) , quiet , rest , cessation , extinction , abatement
bhaajanam (nom. sg. m.): n. " partaker of " , a recipient , receptacle , (esp.) a vessel , pot ; n. a place or person in which anything is collected or in whom any quality is conspicuous , any fit object or clever or deserving person

upagamya = abs. upa- √ gam: to go near to , arrive at ; to undertake , begin ; to enter any state or relation , undergo , obtain , participate in , make choice of , suffer ; to admit , agree to , allow , confess
yathaa tathaa: ind. in whatever manner, in any way
punar: ind. again

na: not
hi: for
bhettum = infinitive bhid: to split , cleave , break , cut or rend asunder , pierce , destroy
niyamam (acc. sg.): m. restraining , checking , holding back , preventing , controlling ; limitation , restriction ; any fixed rule or law , necessity , obligation ; agreement , contract , promise , vow ;
tvam (nom. sg. m.): you
arhasi = 2nd pers. sg. arh: to deserve, ought

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