Wednesday, May 18, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 9.49: Religious Vanity

tad etad aajNaaya vipaapman" aatmanaa
vimokSha-dharma'-aady upasaMhitaM hitaM
juShasva me saj-jana-saMmataM mataM
pracakShva vaa nishcayam udgiran giraM

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As an innocent, then, heed this good advice

Pertaining to liberation, dharma, and so forth;

Affirm my opinion, with which the righteous concur.

Or else speak up and state your agenda."

With his concluding words to Nanda the striver confirms his credentials as a typical religious hypocrite. Having made his case that vanity or conceit should be negated, the striver boastfully proclaims his own preaching of propriety to be good advice.

"Affirm my opinion," the striver says.

Not "work out the Buddha's teaching for yourself, as an individual, as I have worked it out for myself."

No. Be a good little lamb, and follow the opinion of a good shepherd. Be an empty cup, and receive the opinion of a religious authority, namely, me.

Don't run the risk of thinking it out for yourself. Rather, in all innocence, affirm my opinion, which is the opinion held by others who are as righteous as me. Get on side. Sign up. Join the righteous. Be one of the good guys, the true Christians/Muslims/Moonies/Buddhists.

Or else run the risk of showing yourself to be one of those others who shall be blamed: a black sheep, an apostate, a non-believer, or even -- God forbid -- a non-Buddhist.

What the striver seems to me to be saying, from the beginning to the end of his monologue is, "Affirm my opinion, and join me in trying to be right."

The striver negates vanity, but all the time he is trying to be right, which might be the essence of religious vanity.

In the ultimate chapter of Dogen's Shobogenzo, titled HACHI-DAI-NIN-GAKU, "Eight Truths of a Great Human Being," an ancient author whom I presume from the beauty of his words and the aptness of his metaphors to be Ashvaghosha paints a picture of a person who lives alone in a secluded place, wanting little, knowing contentment, enjoying peace and quiet and cultivating wisdom. This picture has long served me as an antidote to religious teaching, including that of my own Zen teacher. The point is that the wisdom of a great human being is not a mass market commodity. On the contrary, when the righteous get together en masse in a religious group and concur with each other's opinion, or with their leader's opinion, it might be the wisdom of buddha neither to belong to that religious group nor to try to reform that religious group. It might be the wisdom of buddha to steer clear, in general, of all such religious groups.

Would-be religious teachers, like Ashvaghosha's striver, ask us to affirm their opinion. But to practise a buddha's wisdom might be to distrust all opinions.

Some financial experts opine that the present price of gold is indicative of the end of a bubble; other experts opine that the bubble has only just begun; still others argue that there has been no bubble, but rather that the price of gold has risen not due to speculation but due to economic fundamentals.

Twenty-five years ago exactly I decided to give up my job as a copy-writer in a small Japanese company, run from a small office in which I felt very confined, to give up karate training under Morio Higaonna too, and rather to shave my head and devote myself totally to sitting in lotus. A few weeks into this practice, as my money started to look in danger of running out, I received a phone call from an independent economics research company in Tokyo who wanted somebody to edit their English reports. Fortunately I fitted the bill and so for 25 years I have worked in a small way for that company, which has allowed me a tremendous degree of individual freedom. I have also found it a privilege to work for the independent Japanese economist who founded that company -- independent being the operative word. He told me once that his rule number one is "human beings make mistakes."

So on the basis of 25 years sitting with a shaved head, and at the same time 25 years being involved in a small way with following movements of financial markets, my opinion on the price of gold is this: everybody's opinion is unreliable.

Similarly, my opinion is that a would-be teacher like Ashvaghosha's striver who has a strong opinion on the Buddha's teaching is not necessarily wise, and religious people who think themselves righteous in concurring with such a teacher's opinion are certainly not wise.

EH Johnston:
Therefore with sinless soul recognise this advice to be salutary as bound up with the beginning of the Law of Salvation and follow my opinion which is approved by the wise. Or else speak out and tell me your intention.'

Linda Covill:
So with your better nature recognize that my advice, pertaining to liberation, dharma, and the like, is good. Let my opinions, shared by wise people, find favor with you. Now speak out and tell me your decision."

tad: ind. so, then, therefore
etat (acc. sg. n.): this , this here , here (especially as pointing to what is nearest to the speaker)
aajNaaya = abs. aa- √ jNaa: to mind , perceive , notice , understand
vi-paapmanaa (inst. sg. m.): mfn. faultless, sinless ; free from suffering
paapman: m. evil , unhappiness , misfortune , calamity , crime , sin , wickedness; mfn. hurtful , injurious , evil
aatmanaa (inst. sg.): m. the individual soul , self , abstract individual ; essence , nature , character ; the person or whole body considered as one and opposed to the separate members of the body

vimokSha-dharma'-aadi (acc. sg. n.): liberation, dharma, and so forth
upasaMhitam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. placing before one's self , aiming at , with regard to ; directing towards
upa-saM- √dhaa: to put to, add, annexe; to place before one's self , aim at , take into consideration
hitam (acc. sg.): n. (sg. or pl.) anything useful or salutary or suitable or proper , benefit , advantage , profit , service , good , welfare , good advice &c; mfn. put , placed , set , laid , laid upon , imposed ;

juShasva = 2nd pers. sg. imperative juSh: to be pleased or satisfied or favourable ; to like , be fond of delight in (acc. or gen.) , enjoy ; to devote one's self to (acc.) , practise , undergo , suffer ; to delight in , approve of(acc.) , choose
me (gen. sg.): my
saj-jana-saMmatam (acc. sg. n.): esteemed/approved by the wise
saj-jana: mfn. well-born , respectable , virtuous ; m. a good or virtuous or wise man
sammata: mfn. thinking together , being of the same opinion , agreed , consented or assented to , concurred in , approved by (gen. or comp.); (ifc.) agreeing with ; thought highly of , esteemed , renowned , celebrated , highly honoured by ; authorized
matam (acc. sg.): n. a thought , idea , opinion , sentiment , view , belief. doctrine

pracakShva = 2nd pers. sg. imperative pra- √ cakSh: to tell , relate , declare
vaa: or, or else
nishcayam (acc. sg.): m. inquiry , ascertainment , fixed opinion , conviction , certainty , positiveness ; resolution , resolve, fixed intention , design , purpose , aim
udgiran = nom. sg. m. pres. part. ud- √ gRR: to eject (from the mouth) , spit out , vomit out or up , belch out ; to pour out , discharge , spout ; to force out (a sound) , utter ; to breathe out
√ gRR: to call , call out to , invoke; to mention with praise , praise , extol
giram (acc. sg.): f. invocation , addressing with praise , praise , verse , song ; f. speech , speaking , language , voice , words

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