Sunday, June 26, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.36: Platonic Lovelies

sadaa yuvatyo madan'-aika-kaaryaaH
saadhaaraNaaH puNya-kRtaaM vihaaraaH
divyaash ca nir-doSha-parigrahaash ca
tapaH-phalasy aashrayaNaM suraaNaaM

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

Eternally youthful and devoted purely to Love,

They are zones of recreation
open to all who have made merit,

Zones which are both heavenly and innocent --

The resort of gods, as a reward for austerities.

In this verse as I read it Ashvaghosha presents the kind of vision of celestial nymphs that we would call "Platonic" -- in which case tomorrow's verse might be expected to present a non-platonic anti-thesis to the platonic thesis of today's verse (which it indeed does; I cheated by peeking already).

Because what is being discussed here is purely platonic love, in the phrase saadhaaraNaaH, as I read it, no sense of sexual promiscuity is intended. Rather the kind of love under discussion might be the love that exists between millions of right-thinking and hard-working British men and our nation's sweetheart; for Cheryl truly is, I for one sincerely believe, ever full of sweetness and light and brimming with so much love that she is more than able to reciprocate the affection of every fan.

As regards being a reward for austerities, is there any truth in the proposition that the more austere a nation's circumstances are, the higher in the nation's affections the nation's sweetheart is likely to rise?

No air-brushed google images are available to illustrate how it is in heaven. But there is no shortage of images to choose from of idealized goddesses down here on earth.

What has this consideration of platonic love for British singing sweethearts and American screen goddesses got to do with the one great matter?

I think it has to do with the question of suppressing vs allowing. And this, in sitting, is not a psychological problem but a psycho-physical problem.

Strictly thinking, a traditional vihara is a zone where any kind of sexual relations between male yoga practitioners and women is forbidden (viz. 5.20). But when a man or a woman sits in full lotus truly allowing the neck to be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, then it may be that there is no tendency, Platonic or non-platonic, sexual or asexual, heterosexual or homosexual, orthodox or deviant, that is not allowed -- because, as the Lotus Sutra states

Everything is reality.

None of the above would be news to my old teacher, Gudo Nishijima, who, relying on his understanding of Dogen's teaching and Freud's discoveries, used to encourage his students not to suppress anything. The irony it took me twelve tough years to begin to see was that, while encouraging others in this way to pursue freedom, my teacher had used his interfering hands to transmit to me a totally end-gaining approach to right posture in Zazen.

Marjory Barlow memorably dismissed this approach with a single six-word statement:

"There is no freedom in it."

EH Johnston:
They were young, ever busied in love alone and enjoyed jointly by those who have earned merit ; celestial beings, union with them was no sin. In them centred the reward of austerities of the divine world.

Linda Covill:
Eternally youthful and occupied solely with lovemaking, they were a communal enjoyment for heaven-dwellers who had earned merit. Taking these heavenly women as lovers was no fault, just an acceptance of the rewards of asceticism.

sadaa: ind. always , ever , every time , continually , perpetually
yuvatyaH = nom. pl. f. yuvan: mfn. young, youthful
madan'-aika-kaaryaaH (nom. pl. f.): occupied solely with love
madana: m. passion , love or the god of love
eka-kaarya: mfn. executing the same work , performing the same business
eka: one
kaarya: to be done, task

saadhaaraNaaH (gen. pl. m.): mfn. "having or resting on the same support or basis " , belonging or applicable to many or all , general , common to all , universal , common to (gen.)
puNya-kRtaam (gen. pl.): m. merit-makers
puNya: n. the good or right , virtue , purity , good work , meritorious act , moral or religious merit
vihaaraaH (nom. pl.): m. sport , play , pastime , diversion , enjoyment , pleasure; a place of recreation , pleasure-ground;

divyaaH (nom. pl. m./f.): mfn. divine , heavenly , celestial ; supernatural , wonderful , magical ; charming , beautiful , agreeable
ca: and
nir-doSha-parigrahaaH (nom. pl.): not encompassing any fault
nir-doSha: mfn. faultless , defectless , guiltless , innocent
parigraha: m. getting , attaining , acquisition , possession , property (ifc. " being possessed of or furnished with "); taking (a wife) , marrying , marriage
ca: and

tapaH-phalasya (gen. sg.): the fruit of ascetic practice
tapas: n. ascetic practice ; austerities
phala: n. fruit, result, reward
aashrayaNam (nom. sg.): n. betaking one's self to; n. joining , accepting , choosing ; n. refuge , asylum , means of protection or security; mfn. having recourse to , resorting or applying to , seeking refuge or shelter from ; relating to , concerning
suraaNaam = gen. pl. sura: m. a god , divinity , deity; a sage , learned man ; surii: f. a goddess

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