Sunday, May 15, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 9.46: Blaming the Other

anartha-kaamaH puruShasya yo janaH
sa tasya shatruH kila tena karmaNaa
anartha-muulaa viShayaash ca kevalaa
nanu praheyaa viShamaa yath" aarayaH

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

One who wishes adversity on a man

Is said, because of that action, to be his enemy.

Should not sense objects, as the sole root of adversity,

Be shunned as dangerous enemies?

In this verse the striver is back to his old trick of blaming the stimulus instead of taking responsibility for the reaction.

vishayaaH in line 3 can be understood specifically as objects of sexual desire, or more more widely as sense objects, or more widely still as objects both of sensory perception and of volition, i.e., as ends to be gained.

Whichever one of these meanings of vishayaaH is preferred, the point which the Buddha clarifies in Canto 13 is that when we in our unenlightened stupidity are stimulated by some desired, hated or misunderstood object to react badly, the fault is not in the object. The fault, in one hundred cases out of one hundred, is in our own greedy, angry and stupid selves.

I refer once again, as I did several times in comments on Canto 8, to the Buddha's gospel according to Jimmy Buffet:

Some people say
There's a woman to blame;
But I know...
It's my own damn fault.

If we understand viShayaaH in the widest sense to include not only sexual and sensory objects but also objects of volition, ends to be gained, then, if the striver's view were true, even obtaining the nectar of deathlessness would also be an end to be shunned as a dangerous enemy.

In truth, however, if when I hear the Buddha speaking of the nectar of deathlessness I greedily wish to get my dirty paws on that nectar, it is not the Buddha's teaching that has triggered the fault in me of grasping with dirty paws. It is not even my desire to obtain the nectar that triggers the fault in me. What triggers the fault in me is my failure to nip in the bud the greedy impulse to grasp for the nectar with dirty paws.

The real trick, then, is not the striver's old trick of blaming the stimulus. The real trick is to stop off at source one's old modus operandi, wishing instead to follow a better way -- a better way that may lead in time to the ultimate gaining of one's objective.

Yesterday after preparing the above comment I became the protagonist in a little drama which caused me to think further about blaming the other, as a root of adversity. If there is a sole root of adversity, I reflected this morning as I sat, it might be a failure to work on the self.

Yesterday afternoon while my wife was at work, I had been shopping at Morrissons in Aylesbury and had bought some squid to have with pasta for our evening meal. When in the evening my wife removed the cellophane in preparation to cook the squid, she declared the squid unsafe to eat -- indeed, even my non-Japanese nose could tell that the deceased mollusc had gone badly off. So we had mushrooms and canned tuna with our pasta instead, and decided after eating that we would cycle the two miles to Morrissons to get our £3.35p refund. My wife duly went inside the supermarket while I waited outside with our bikes. As the minutes ticked by I sensed she must be having a problem getting a refund.

My wife frequently seems to have problems with this sort of task. She as a Japanese puts it down to a kind of casual racism towards non-white people with foreign accents -- towards those who are perceived as "coming here taking our jobs." Blaming the other.

So I thought to myself: Right, if my wife comes out having been refused a refund I am going to go in and make one hell of a scene. Which I did. I demanded very loudly to know who it was that had refused to give my wife a refund for the disgusting smelling squid. And soon enough I was surrounded by the deputy general manager along with assorted other male members of staff. But what was really interesting and totally unexpected was that a beefy guy with a mild Irish accent responded to my vocal outburst by approaching me very aggressively and threatening to punch my f-ing lights out. He actually raised his hand and brushed me across the chin, as if inviting me to hit him first, which was interesting.

Why did he want to get involved in something that didn't concern him at all? On reflection I think he was somebody who had spent a lot of his life suffering as a blamed other, and so when he saw me loudly blaming a defenceless other, he saw an opportunity to leap to the defence of a blamed other, and at the same time to pick a fight with a bully. A blamed other, looking into a mirror and wanting to fight himself.

After my assailant had been ushered away by store security, Andy the fishmonger who had refused to give my wife a refund identified his would-be protector as a Pikey -- a term of racist abuse for a gypsy. By this act, Andy the fishmonger seemed to confirm my wife's sense of having been disrespected by somebody with an other-blaming issue.

In the end no dreadful harm was done. Andy may think twice next time, if a small, non-white female customer asks to see the manager, before he simply shrugs his shoulders and smirks. He got one hell of a shock when I appeared, white, male, and not that small, yelling. At the same time, Andy may think he got off lightly: he assured the deputy general manager that he had not refused to give my wife a refund, which was a lie that the manager seemed prepared to accept -- although finally the manager did get around to doing the decent thing and going outside where my wife was waiting with the bikes, in order to apologize to her. Not before bloody time, as well. But my wife was very happy to receive the apology. (ERRATA: My wife informs we she was happy not because she received an apology, but because the episode ended peacefully.)

To work on the writings of Dogen and Ashvaghosha is to work on the self. And working on the self, on a good day, makes for forgetting the self.

It is great to see people in their fifities, sixties and seventies who are still enthusiastic about working on the self, whether in less physically demanding arenas such as Alexander work and sitting-zen, or in more physically demanding arenas such as karate-do. Morio Higaonna, my most revered teacher from my karate days (check him out on You Tube if you wish to be impressed), has always said that the true battle in karate is not with one's opponent, but with oneself.

This morning I feel a great sense of gratitude to Higaonna Sensei, not because I swivelled around and with the point of my elbow smashed the cheekbone of the fat gypsy into several pieces, but because I didn't.

I really didn't need to. The battle is not with the other. It is with oneself. Always.

Higaonna Sensei won't be reading this. But anyway I thank him, a great man who has the eternal gratitude of a student who was always terribly slow on the uptake (in Higaonna Sensei's words chi no meguri ga warui).

In retrospect, there was something sort of admirable, albeit very stupid, in the fat gypsy's response to me. I'm very glad I wasn't tempted to hit him. I don't think either of us was afraid of getting physically hurt. Maybe we both understood that getting beaten up doesn't really hurt. There are much worse ways to get hurt. Perhaps there was a moment when we glimpsed something along these lines in each other's eyes, blamed other to blamed other.

EH Johnston:
He who desires the ill of another is said to be his enemy because of that act ; ought not therefore the objects of the senses, the sole root of all ills, to be avoided like base enemies?

Linda Covill:
When a man wishes misfortune on another, that man is thereby deemed an enemy. Surely the sensory realm, the sole root of misfortune, ought to be shunned as a dangerous enemy!

anartha-kaamaH (nom. sg. m.): wishing adversity
an-artha: m. disappointing occurrence , reverse , evil
kaama: m. wish, desire
puruShasya (gen. sg.): of a person, of [another] man
yaH janaH (nom. sg. m.): a man who

sa (nom. sg. m.): he
tasya (gen. sg.): of him, of the other
shatruH (nom. sg.): " overthrower " , an enemy , foe , rival , a hostile king
kila: ind. (a particle of asseveration or emphasis) indeed , verily , assuredly; " so said " " so reported " , pretendedly
tena (inst. sg. n.): because of that [action]
karmaNaa (inst. sg.): n. act , action

anartha-muulaaH (nom. pl. m.): the roots of adversity
muula: n. root
viShayaaH (nom. pl.): m. anything perceptible by the senses , any object of affection or concern or attention , any special worldly object or aim or matter or business , (pl.) sensual enjoyments , sensuality
ca: and
kevalaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. alone , only , mere , sole , one , excluding others

nanu: ind. not , not at all , never ; (interr.) not? is it not? (hence often = ) certainly , surely , indeed , no doubt (esp. in questions amounting to an affirmation e.g. nanv ahaM te priyaH , am I not your friend i.e. certainly I am your friend)
praheyaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. to be sent away or dispatched
pra- √ hi: to dispatch (messengers) , drive away , dismiss , send
pra- √ haa: to leave; to desert , quit , abandon , give up , renounce ; to send off
viShamaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. uneven , rugged , rough; hard to traverse , difficult , inconvenient , painful , dangerous , adverse , vexatious , disagreeable , terrible , bad , wicked
yathaa: ind. as, accordingly
arayaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. not liberal , envious , hostile; m. enemy

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