Wednesday, June 29, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.39: Trembling Subject

taaH niHsRtaaH prekShya van'-aantarebhyas
taDit-pataakaa iva toya-debhyaH
nandasya raageNa tanur vivepe
jale cale candramasaH prabh" eva

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

When he saw them emerging from their forest niches

Like ribbons of lightning from rainclouds,

Nanda's body trembled with passion

Like moonlight on rippling water.

What Ashvaghosha is describing in the previous verse, this verse, and the following verse, as I read them, is a process of bond formation.

All molecules, my son who is a chemist tells me, are always trembling. And in order for two molecules to form a bond between them, the trembling of each molecule has to be such that a bond can form, releasing heat in the process, allowing energy to spread out and settle down.

Thus when sunlight is concentrated by a magnifying glass onto dry paper, for example, the heat of the sun causes carbon molecules in the paper and oxygen molecules in the air to tremble more rapidly, such that CO2 bonds are able to form, releasing heat in the process and allowing energy to spread out.

Whether or not something similar happens when a person forms an emotional bond, or an attachment, I don't know. But it seems that way to me: falling in love, with another person, or with an idea, or with a way, seems initially to involve a state of heightened energy, or more rapid trembling, which is followed once a bond has been formed by a settling down.

In any event, Ashvaghosha's vision of heaven continues to unfold as one in which universal laws apply.

Christians are taught to pray that it will be on earth as they believe it to be in heaven: "Thy will be done," they pray to a Hebrew god, "on earth as it is in heaven."

In the thoughts of buddha-ancestors, on the contrary, visions of heaven are subordinate to realities observed down here on earth: laws that are observed to apply down here on earth are assumed also to apply in any heaven that might exist. And foremost among such universal laws is the law that energy spreads out, unless prevented from doing so, i.e., the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which might also be called the Buddha's law, the law of impermanence -- according to which the formation of molecules of carbon and oxygen into CO2 is not the end of the story. The C02, for example, might later on be photo-synthesized by a tree that is growing.

I'll tell you something for nothing. I am really glad my sons have chosen to take their chance as scientists, steering well clear of the religious route which is so full of arrogance, fixity, and hypocrisy, and in short trying to be right.

I got an email yesterday from somebody who agrees with me that Gudo Nishijima's teaching on posture in Zazen was wrong, but fortunately for her Master Deshimaru was correct in his teaching. And Alexander technique is helping her to refine further her sitting position. Oh really? Well good for her then. She was right already, and now Alexander technique is making her even more right.

In contrast to such a dismal piece of correspondence, when I googled "photosynthesis" I found this little image which cheered me right up:

Not for nothing did Ashvaghosha compare the Buddha so often to the sun, whose light and heat is so conducive to the making and breaking of bonds.

EH Johnston:
As Nanda saw them come out from the forest like lightning banners from a cloud, his body trembled with passion like moonlight trembling on rippling water.

Linda Covill:
Watching them emerge from the forest interiors like lightning unfurled from clouds, Nanda's body shivered with passion like moonlight reflected in rippling water.

taaH (acc. pl. f.): them
niHsRtaaH (acc. pl. f.): mfn. gone out or forth (with abl. ); prominent (eyes)
niH- √ sR: to go out , come forth
prekShya = abs. pra- √iikSh: to look at , view , behold , observe
van'-aantarebhyaH (abl. pl.): from openings in the undergrowth; from inside the woods
vana: n. a forest , wood , grove , thicket , quantity of lotuses or other plants growing in a thick cluster
antara: n. interior, inside; hole, opening

taDit-pataakaaH (acc. pl. f.): banners of lightning
taDit: f. lightning
pataakaa: f. (fr. √pat, to fly) a flag , pennon , banner , sign , emblem
iva: like
toya-debhyaH = abl. pl. toya-da: m. " water-giver " , a rain-cloud

nandasya (gen. sg.): m. Nanda
raageNa (inst. sg.): m. red taint; any feeling or passion , (esp.) love
tanuH (nom. sg.): f. the body , person , self
vivepe = 3rd pers. sg. perfect vip: to tremble , shake , shiver , vibrate , quiver , be stirred

jale (loc. sg.): n. water
cale (loc. sg. n.): mfn. moving , trembling ; fluctuating
candra-masaH (gen. sg.): m. the moon
prabhaa: f. light
iva: like


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the idealized intention of science suffers every bit as much from the arrogance, fixity, and hypocrisy of human beings as that of religion...

Mike Cross said...

Thank you. I'll keep crossing them, if you keep heading them in...

dorella said...

"I'm still surprised of myself doing this, I'm not used to take positions"

As I already wrote also in that forum: "I do not consider right and wrong as absolute, I was only expressing my feelings in that moment". And the mail too has been part of what come out from my surprise in seeing that video there.

A wrong attempt to contact you ( great, isn't it? ) ;)

I liked this one:


dorella said...

I send you the content of the post. I would have preferred the private email but I do not know if the one I used was appropriate.
Before starting to explain why I consider it wrong I would like to tell you what happened last night.
A couple of days ago I was struck by the figure of Marjorie Barlow, a teacher of Alexander Technique (nephew of Alexander) who started at seventeen to follow the lessons of Alexander in London (it was among his first students-teachers). Back in the United States she almost "disappeared" from the scene and then somehow "rediscovered" as a teacher of Alexander Technique teachers (up to ninety years). I heard many different people talk about her, and I can almost perceive the trace of a "smell" of a Zen master...
She left no books, someone has collected the interviews. I read yesterday the notes someone had taken during one of her seminars and published on the web. My impression was that, despite the use of words, the "substance" that emerged was impressive.
Suddenly also master Nishijima come to my mind togheter with the story of the successor of the fifth patriarch ( ),
the image of her, Marjorie, teaching "hands on" his neck and chin, and a great compassion for Nishijima.

Do not ask what prompted me, soon after that, late in the night, to enter into a forum I do not frequent that often...

How can I not feel compassion seeing the video of Nishijima repeatedly stressing the importance of the posture in zazen. He's right, it's really the essence of the practice, but it is so obvious that he has not grasped it entirely. The words he uses, how he moves and the consequences on what he writes, that subtle error of direction towards the action, that "doing", which emerges from his writings. Posture is not passed only in words, it also passes directly through our "mirror neurons". Nishijima could not transmit it to his students by imitation since he was himself incorrect.

Mike Cross said...

Hi dorella,

I am afraid you do not know what you are talking about.

Marjory Barlow, Alexander's niece, wrote a book with Trevor Allan Davies called An Examined Life. She visited the US only briefly -- maybe you are confusing her with Marjorie Barstow. I had a long series of lessons with Marjory Barlow when she was already in her 80s, and she, along with other Alexander teachers, taught me not to be interested in posture.

Gudo Nishijima's manner of using himself, in my opinion, was rather good. But the way he taught his students to go for right posture was a load of crap.

Right posture is a false conception, an idea to be given up.

After you got this point you can thank me

dorebelle said...

"Marjory Barlow, Alexander's niece, wrote a book with Trevor Allan Davies called An Examined Life"
I read "is a series of edited conversations" presumably written by Trevor, she did not write directly the book. I'm not sure about her biography

About Nishijima I was not talking about being "rather good" in using himself. I'm talking about something he missed (and dismissed). As a consequece he couldn't teach it in either way: nor with words nor through imitation.

I've already got that point. When I say "the sitting posture is an other facet in itself" I'm probably saying the same thing. I found the work of John Appleton amazingly clear on this. It would be very interesting to have your opinion on it.

dorebelle said...

I have seen the video of both on youtube (in different moments) and yet confused the two!!! 8/

Now it will be interesting tell them apart and see if there is differences in their teachings. :)

Mike Cross said...

Trying to be right is a delusion. Marjory Barlow took pains to teach me that, and she also clarifies it in the book she wrote with Trevor -- which she always referred to as "my book."

About Gudo Nishijima, dorabelle, you know absolutely f*** all.

So stop wasting space by trying to be right, and please keep your rubbish opinions to yourself.

dorebelle said...

I came here because I forgot to add that:
I thank you, and I tried to do this. I had already found interesting Nishijima (but my humble impression was what I was trying to tell you, it is straightforward I cannot know him well!). Following that path I found your discussion, that was really important to me. And then the Alexander Technique, and the rest.

There are a sea of ​​teachers and teachings, why did I find it so important to me? What reasons would I have to come here? What reasons would I have trying to be right???

Mike Cross said...

Those questions are very welcome -- much better than wrong presumptions and baseless opinions.

I think the reason you found it so important was a will to know the truth.

The reason you came here is because a will to the truth led you here.

And, in general, we try to be right partly through fear of being wrong and partly through the delusive belief that it is possible to be right.

Gudo Nishijima described the tendency to try to be right as "idealism." He understood the problem very well on many levels. I didn't decide to serve him all those years for nothing. He had deep philosophical insight into the human condition, particularly regarding the difference between idealism and materialism and what the Buddha taught. But when it came to the matter of posture, Gudo's understanding was just plain wrong. And when I drew his attention to the problem, his reaction, as an old man already very set in his ways, was to regard me as if I might be his enemy and an enemy of the Buddha's teaching.

If you've got further questions, by all means dare to ask them. But if you want me to confirm that your wrong presumptions and immature opinions are right, forget about it. Or better still, fuck off.

dorebelle said...

I had in PhD in Mathematical Logic: I think one of my main interest in it at that young age was "how can we really prove one another we are right?". I worked on the foundation of math (decidability/undecidability, consistency, completeness and so on: )
It has been interesting but then I lost interest both in "truth" and in "proving to be right".

Now I'm more interested in the "cloud of unknowing": /books?id=t5kKVfS44c8C


I'm here again since I have just find out that YOU are the expert on the difference between the two AT teachers!

So, thank you again. :) I'll go to listen!

Mike Cross said...

No, I am no expert on that subject. I never even met Marjorie Barstow.

I know a bit about what Alexander called "faulty sensory appreciation" after working on the problem, mainly in my own sitting practice, for a number of years -- certainly more than one year, which is not much of a basis for expressing an opinion.

Since you recommended a video clip of Richard Feynman, and I am a fan of his too, maybe we should let him have the last word:

dorebelle said...

Yes, I worked for some years in the Math departement and then with sociologists.
In the Math departement the ideas and opinion of young students are taken into account and evaluated according to their content. They can "prove" they are right. They can prove that the professor is wrong and that happens.
Among the sociologists the norm is that the professor is the expert and the students had to bow to the greater experience (and power) in any case.

Mike Cross said...

On this blog, people who wish to prove that they are right, or that their ideas and opinions are right, are always invited, in so many words, to fuck off.

But if what you are trying to do is to demonstrate my wrongness, then you are very welcome to do that.

As a matter of fact, I do have a tendency to want to manifest himself as the one who is right, as the one who knows the truth that others don't know... like an arrogant professor.

Talking truth to power is truly heroic. But ideas and opinions, in the Buddha's teaching, are never the truth. In order truly to talk the truth, one has really to know some truth in one's own experience.

If you listen to me, I hope you might hear that the truth I am telling you, all that I really know, is the wrongness of my end-gaining on the basis of faulty sensory appreciation which is rooted in a dysfunctional vestibular system.

dorebelle said...

"why did I find it so important to me? What reasons would I have to come here?"
Because I know very well the fear of being wrong. I was an intelligent child and appreciated for this. It come out that I began to believe that that ability defined me. I tryed to prove to myself I can understand everything that can be understood and I made, in the meantime, some big stupid mistakes elsewhere in my life.
I had these problems to overcome in my life and this is why I am here (I suppose).

For long I belived I cannot fall in love (as a consequence of my understanding obviously!). Then it happened. There were no way of understanding it without experiencing it. No way to made it happen. No easy way out: all my understanding (brain functioning etc.) helped very little.

And I'm here following an other experience outside my understanding, and there was this vibration between doing and allowing in it. This is why I am here (I suppose).

As I wrote some years ago:"until I got to wonder what the use in understanding, living is simply to live, but I'm not able to live otherwise"

And now I'll go trying some sitting, or something else, and find some compassion for the very stupid mistake I have made some weeks ago and discovered today (and that could have consequences for the next three years). I've tried to do my best but my impatience with details and bureaucracy ... yes it is a known weakness, I can remember the expression of my father "you are a goose"

Mike Cross said...

According to Dogen, it is by intelligence that we awaken a will to the truth... but intelligence is not the same as the intuitive wisdom that guides (or fails to guide) our everyday decisions.

Bon courage...