Friday, April 15, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 9.16: Nearly Sounding Like Buddha

tad evam aajNaaya shariiram aaturaM
balaanvito' sm' iiti na mantum arhasi
asaaram asvantam anishcitaM jagaj
jagaty anitye balam avyavasthitaM

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

So see a body as ailing

And do not think "I am possessed of strength."

The world is insubstantial, inauspicious, uncertain,

And in an impermanent world power is undependable.

The striver was doing so well in this verse in his effort to parrot the Buddha's teaching... until he got to the penultimate word. Then he wrote balam. I think he would have more truly written jagat:

jagaty anitye jagad avyavasthitaM

"In an impermanent world the world is undependable."

That's for damn sure. The value of your investments can go down as well as up.

With fear rather than greed currently in the ascendancy among workers of the developed world, inflationary pressure from wages is low, enabling central banks to keep printing money without fear of fuelling inflation. In that situation, financial bubbles are liable to inflate and burst, in which circumstances some people will make a lot of money and some people will lose a lot.

In this situation, here is some investment advice direct from the Buddha's mouth: "Don't be greedy."

I heard a good joke apparently told by investment guru Warren Buffet (who, speaking of making money from bubbles, wisely bought a whole lot of silver when the price of silver was much lower than it is now). A successful gold prospector arrives at the gates of heaven only to be told by St. Peter that the quota of gold miners is full. The prospector calls out to a group of miners who have already got beyond the gate, "Gold has just been found in hell!" The miners all rush out, bound for hell. "OK," says St. Peter, "there is room now for you to come in." "No, thanks," says the old prospector, "I think I'll go and check out those hell rumours."

In an undependable world what, besides our human fear and greed, and besides the unreliability of the world itself, might be dependable?

The answer to this question, which Ashvaghosha as I hear him is nudging us towards, is strength itself, real power. The kind of strength or power that the striver is negating is muscular strength or worldly power. But what is really strong and dependable might be power of a different order.

That is to say, what is strong and dependable might be (1) the power of reasoning, the power of 2 + 2, which always equals 4, the power of "you cannot do an undoing"; (2) the power of balance, including balance of the autonomic nervous system ; (3) the strength to carry on, the power of working to a means-whereby principle and staying with a process; (4) the power of the sitting practice one who is awake, in other words, the power of the dharma of a buddha.

As Eric Clapton memorably sang on 461 Ocean Boulevard, sounding (unlike the striver) like he really meant it:

Dear Lord
Give me strength
To carry on...

Yes, please give me the strength of spirit to carry on with the practice of true yoga.

(And at the same time, please give me the power of reason by which to know, in an impermanent world, how many beans make five; along with the power of balance by which to ward off the faults of fear and greed.)

EH Johnston:
Therefore recognise the body to be diseased and do not consider yourself to be possessed of strength. The world is without substance or certainty and goes to an evil end ; since this world is transitory, strength is not durable.

Linda Covill:
So, observing that your body is diseased, do not imagine that you are replete with bodily well-being. The world is without substance, uncertain, and bodes ill; and since it is impermanent, the physical realm is unreliable.

tad: ind. so, therefore
evam: ind. thus (sometimes evam is merely an expletive)
aajNaaya = abs. aa- √ jNaa: to mind , perceive , notice , understand
shariiram (acc. sg.): n. the body
aaturam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. suffering , sick (in body or mind) ; diseased

bal'-aanvitaH: mfn. possessed of power , powerful , strong
asmi = 1st pers. sg. as: to be
iti: "...," thus
na: not
mantum = infinitive man: to think
arhasi = 2nd pers. sg. arh: ought

asaaram (nom. sg. n.): mfn. sapless , without strength or value , without vigour , spoiled , unfit , unprofitable
asvantam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. ending ill , having an unfavourable issue
svanta: mfn. having a good end , terminating well ; auspicious , fortunate
anishcitam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. unascertained , not certain
nishcita: mfn. ascertained , determined , settled , decided
jagat (nom. sg.): n. that which moves or is alive , men and animals; n. the world

jagati (loc. sg.): n. the world
anitye (loc. sg. n.): mfn. impermanent
balam (nom. sg.): n. strength
avyavasthitam (nom. sg. n.): unsettled, uncertain
vy-avasthita: mfn. placed in order ; settled , established , fixed ; constant, unchanging


Ray said...

I enjoyed reading this post. Thank you for writing it.

Mike Cross said...

Thanks Ray. May the power be with you.