Saturday, May 7, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 9.38: The Disobedient Body

yathaa prajaabhyaH ku-nRpo balaad baliin
haraty asheShaM ca na c' aabhirakShati
tath" aiva kaayo vasan'-aadi-saadhanaM
haraty asheShaM ca na c' aanuvartate

- = - = = - - = - = - =
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Just as a bad king takes forcibly from his subjects

His full toll of taxes, and yet does not protect;

So the body takes its full toll of provisions

Such as clothes and the like, and yet does not obey.

Though the striver may have had plentiful experience of poorly coordinated people whinging about their bad back, it seems he has never heard a singer with an incredibly resonant voice, or seen a karate master with an incredibly powerful punch, or observed a concert pianist with incredibly quick fingers.

England footballing great Alan Shearer once expressed his thought processes prior to taking a penalty as follows: "Just put the ball in the back of the f-ing net."

That is the kind of thinking that is cultivated in Alexander work -- what Alexander called "thinking in activity." Alexander said it was thinking, but not what people understand by thinking.

I once said to an Alexander teacher who was giving me a lesson, "It is really a kind of wishing, isn't it?" "Well if it is wishing," came the reply, "It is wishing that won't take no for an answer."

An Alexander teacher named Walter Carrington, in the first of his talks recorded in a book called Thinking Aloud, discusses this kind of thinking or wishing: "People imagine that their bodies are disobedient and unreliable in carrying out their wishes, whereas nothing could be further from the truth. Our bodies get terribly confused because of the conflicting demands that we make of them all the time in our muddled, confused, contradictory wishes."

Contrary to this teaching of Walter Carrington, born out of decades of practical teaching experience, the striver is sticking to his pessimistic view of the body. And a verse that might be cited, by the unwary, in support of the striver's view that the body is not subject to voluntary control, appears in Ashvaghosha's description of Nanda's investigations in Canto 17:

Since the throng of humanity is passive, not autonomous, and no one exercises direct control over the workings of the body, / But states of being arise dependent on this and that, he found, in that sense, that the world is devoid of self. [17.21]

The key word in this verse is aishvaryam, which means the state of being a mighty lord, dominion, superhuman power. So aishvaryam suggests direct control over the workings of the body, as opposed to the indirect control afforded by clear thinking. Alan Shearer was never a superhuman yogi with direct control over his own neurological and autonomic functions. He just needed to think clearly and decisively, "back of the f-ing net," and the obedient body of a top footballer automatically sorted out what needed to be sorted out, so that the back of the net was where the ball generally ended up.

A verse which might in fact be more relevant to today's verse, and which tends to falsify the striver's view, is 17.4:

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]

If the body were truly as disobedient as the striver indicates, how would it be possible to direct the whole body up?

I think it was possible for Nanda to direct his whole body up because Nanda's body responded obediently to Nanda's upward direction of Nanda's energy, Nanda's wish to go up.

EH Johnston:
Just as a bad king takes taxes in full from his subjects by force and yet neglects their protection, so too the body accepts the provision of clothes etc. in full and yet is not compliant.

Linda Covill:
Just as a tyrant forcibly takes his full sum of taxes from his subjects yet fails to protect them, likewise the body takes in full its provisions such as clothes, yet remains anarchic;

yathaa: ind. just as
prajaabhyaH (abl. pl.): f. procreation; offspring ; people , subjects (of a prince)
ku-nRpaH (nom. sg.): m. a bad prince
nRpa: m. "protector of men" prince , king , sovereign
balaat: ind. (abl.) forcibly
baliin (acc. pl.): m. tax , impost , royal revenue

harati = 3rd pers. sg. hR: to take ; to take away , carry off , seize , deprive of , steal , rob
asheSham: ind. entirely , wholly
ca na ca: though - yet not
abhirakShati = 3rd pers. sg. abhi- √ rakSh: to guard , protect , preserve

tathaa: ind. so, likewise
eva: (emphatic)
kaayaH (nom. sg.): m. the body
vasan'-aadi-saadhanam (acc. sg.): provisions such as clothes et cetera
vasana: n. clothes
aadi: ifc. beginning with , et caetera , and so on
saadhana: n. enforcing payment or recovery (of a debt) ; n. obtaining , procuring , gain , acquisition ; n. any means of effecting or accomplishing ; n. means of enjoyment , goods , commodities &c

harati = 3rd pers. sg. hR: to take ; to take away , carry off , seize , deprive of , steal , rob
asheSham: ind. entirely , wholly
ca na ca: though - yet not
anuvartate = 3rd pers. sg. anu- √ vRt: to go after ; to follow ; to attend ;
to obey ; to assent

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