Sunday, April 24, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 9.25: Flogging a Tired Old View

yathaa mayuurash cala-citra-candrako
bibharti ruupaM guNavat sva-bhaavataH
shariira-saMskaara-guNaad Rte tathaa
bibharShi ruupaM yadi ruupavaan asi

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Just as a peacock with the eye in its tail flashing

Carries its excellent looks naturally,

That is how,
without any distinction got from grooming the body,

You must carry your looks
-- if after all you are good-looking.

The striver in this and the next verse is harking back to his pessimistic view expressed in Canto 8 that a human body in its natural state -- which for the striver means a dirty and unkempt state -- is not beautiful.

When we read the words that Dogen wrote in the years after he came back from China to Japan, in say Fukan-zazengi or Shobogenzo Bendowa, there is in them a great enthusiasm, the excitement of fresh discovery. Dogen was bristling like a new brush, ready to sweep away the dust and cobwebs of the sectarian Buddhism that had been festering in Japan for centuries.

In comparison the words of the striver, as I hear them, sound tired and uninspired.

Shortly after I first came back to England to train as a teacher of the FM Alexander Technique, I attended a running workshop led by a Canadian Alexander teacher named Malcolm Balk. I always remember how Malcolm emphasized, in his opening remarks, that his first principle in running was... I was all ears, half-suspecting Malcolm to say that the key was "inhibition," i.e., the 3rd noble truth, the truth of cessation. But no, Malcolm said that for him priority number one was... looking good. Malcolm was less interested in demonstrating how to run than in demonstrating how NOT to run. And the way a good runner does NOT not run might be the way a buddha does not sit -- not with the humourless heavy footsteps or the tired, grey, grim determination of the ascetic striver.

EH Johnston:
Just as it is through nature alone that the peacock displays the most excellent beauty of its glorious outspread tail, so if you are beautiful at all, you only possess that beauty apart from the excellence due to the toilet of the body.

Linda Covill:
If you are beautiful, then the beauty you exhibit must exclude any attractive feature resulting from personal care, just as the peacock with its fluttering, glittering tail carries its beauty naturally.

yathaa: just as
mayuuraH (nom. sg.): m. a peacock
cala-citra-candrakaH (nom. sg. m.): with the eye in its tail trembling brightly
cala: mfn. moving , trembling
citra: mfn. conspicuous, bright, speckled
candraka: m. the moon ; a circle or ring shaped like the moon; the eye in a peacock's tail

bibharti = 3rd pers. sg. bhR: to bear, carry
ruupam (acc. sg.): n. handsome form , loveliness , grace , beauty , splendour
guNavat (acc. sg. n.): mfn. endowed with good qualities or virtues or merits or excellences , excellent , perfect
sva-bhaava-taH: from natural disposition , by nature , naturally , by one's self , spontaneously
sva-bhaava: m. native place ; own condition or state of being , natural state or constitution , innate or inherent disposition , nature , impulse , spontaneity
-taH: (ablative/adverbial suffix)

shariira-saMskaara-guNaat (abl. sg.): excellence from embellishing the body
shariira: n. the body ; one's body i.e. one's own person
saMskaara: m. putting together , forming well , making perfect , accomplishment , embellishment, adornment , purification , cleansing , making ready , preparation; cleansing the body , toilet , attire
guNa: m. a quality , peculiarity , attribute or property ; good quality , virtue , merit , excellence ; a secondary element , subordinate or unessential part of any action
Rte: ind. with the exclusion of , excepting , besides , without (with ablative)
tathaa: ind. (correlative of yathaa) so, likewise

bibharShi = 2nd pers. sg. present bhR: to bear, carry
ruupam (acc. sg.): n. handsome form , loveliness , grace , beauty , splendour
yadi: if
ruupa-vaan (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having a beautiful form or colour , handsomely formed , handsome , beautiful
asi = 2nd pers. sg. as: to be

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