Thursday, May 5, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 9.36: Not Being the Owner of a Body

yadaa shariire na vasho' sti kasya cin
nirasyamaane vividhair upalpavaiH
kathaM kShamaM vettum ahaM mam' eti vaa
shariira-saMjNaM gRham aapadaam idaM

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When no-one has dominion over a body

That is ravaged by manifold misfortunes,

How can it be right to recognize as "I" or as "mine"

This house of calamities called a body?

Here again the preacher of propriety (kShama-vaadin; 8.11) is discussing what is proper, fitting or right (kShamam). He seems to be striving to sound like the Buddha.

Hence, in the same way that a cake of chalk and a cake of cheese might look somehow similar to each other, the words of this preacher of propriety sound somehow similar to the Buddha's words in Canto 15 about dragging around that field of misfortunes which is a body:

As he drags about that field of misfortunes which is a body, / Expectations of well-being or of continuing life do not arise in one who is observant. // [15.55] Who could be complacent carrying around a body which is a receptacle for the elements / Like a basket full of snakes each opposed to another? // [15.56] That a man draws breath and next time around breathes in again, / Know to be a wonder, for staying alive is nothing to breathe easy about.// [15.57] Here is another wonder: That one who was asleep wakes up / Or, having been up, goes back to sleep; for many enemies has the owner of a body. // [15.58]

In order to understand how the teaching of Buddhist strivers is totally different from the teaching of the Buddha himself, it is necessary really to bite into the latter teaching, and in general this involves sitting with right foot on left thigh and left foot on right thigh.

Hence the Buddha's guidance to Nanda in Canto 15 begins with these words:

In whatever solitary place you are, crossing the legs in the supreme manner, / Aligning the body, and thus being attended by mindfulness that is directed... // [15.1]

And hence Ashvaghosha's description of how Nanda followed the Buddha's guidance begins with these words:

Thus was the path to reality pointed out. Then Nanda, a path of release receiving him in, / Bowed with his whole being before the guru and, for the letting go of afflictions, he made for the forest. //[17.1] There he saw a clearing, a quiet glade, of soft deep-green grass, / Kept secret by a silent stream, bearing water blue as beryl. // [17.2] Having washed his feet in that water, he then, by a clean, auspicious, and splendid tree-root, / Girded on the intention to come undone, and sat with legs fully crossed. // [17.3] By first directing the whole body up, and thus keeping mindfulness turned towards the body, / And thus integrating in his person all the senses, there he threw himself all-out into practice. // [17.4] Wishing to practise, on that basis, the truth that has no gaps, and wanting to do practices favourable to release,/ He moved, using common sense, and stillness, into the stage of readying of consciousness. // [17.5] By holding firm, keeping direction of energy to the fore, by cutting out clinging and garnering his energy, / His consciousness calmed and contained, he came back to himself and was not concerned about ends. // [17.6]

The supreme thing in human life, as far as I am concerned, is practising sitting-dhyana as the Buddha taught it, with right foot on left thigh and left foot on right thigh. In order to enjoy this practise, one needs several things: folded towels or something else to use as a cushion to place under the sitting bones, on a fairly flat area of floor or ground, preferably padded; if it is a quiet place away from noises of petrol engines, electronic equipment, yapping dogs, and other people, that is a big bonus; one needs some basic understanding of the Buddha's teaching, and especially of the point that sitting-dhyana is no kind of ascetic striving; but above all one needs a reasonably healthy human body.

It would be a great shame to have a healthy body and yet, because of a distorted philosophical view rooted in trying to be right, to fail to own one's own body.

EH Johnston:
Since no one has dominion over the body which is subject to manifold plagues, how can it be proper to recognise that abode of calamities called 'the body' as identical with you are as yours?

Linda Covill:
Since no one can control a body eroded by adversities of various kinds, how can it be sensible to suppose that this body, the abode of ill-boding, is 'I' or 'mine'?

yadaa: ind. when
shariire (loc. sg.): n. body
na: not
vashaH (nom. sg.): m. authority , power , control , dominion
asti = 3rd pers. sg. as: to be
kasya cid (gen. sg.): of anybody

nirasyamaane = loc. sg. n. passive pres. part. nir- √ as: to cast out , throw or drive away , expel , remove , banish ; to ward off , keep away ; to strip off ; to reject , refuse , decline (as a suitor , an offer , &c ); to destroy , annihilate
vividhaiH (inst. pl. m.): mfn. of various sorts , manifold , diverse
upa-plavaiH (inst. pl.): m. affliction , visitation , invasion , inundation; any public calamity , unlucky accident , misfortune , disturbance
upa (ind. prefix): under, down,
plava: mfn. swimming , floating ; sloping towards , inclined

katham: ind. how?
kShamam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. fit , appropriate , becoming , suitable , proper
vettum = inf. vid: to know , understand , perceive , learn , become or be acquainted with , be conscious of , have a correct notion of
aham (nom. sg. m.): I
mama (gen. sg. m.): mine
iti: "...," thus
vaa: or

shariira-saMjNam (acc. sg. n.): called "a body"
gRham (acc. sg.): n. a house, home
aapadaam = gen. pl. aapad: f. misfortune , calamity , distress
idam (acc. sg. n.): this

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