Saturday, July 16, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.56: A Medical Emergency, with Rhymes

anena daShTo madan'-aahinaa hi naa
na kashcid aatmany an-avasthitaH sthitaH
mumoha vodhyor hy acal'-aatmano mano
babhuuva dhiimaaMsh ca sa shantanustanuH

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

For nobody bitten by this snake of love

Remains anything but unsettled in himself --

Bewildered was the mind of Vodhyu,
whose essence had been immovability,

While 'Good-Body' Shan-tanu,
a sensible man, grew gaunt.

As in 10.54, the ostensible seriousness of the situation as Nanda is describing it -- comparing his predicament to the predicament of having been bitten by a poisonous snake -- is undercut by the sense that there is plenty of latitude for poetic wordplay, and for allusions to the mythical tradition of ancient India.

It is as if an ambulance, blue lights flashing, were coasting gently through the streets with Bach's Air on a G String playing in place of a siren.

Whereas in 10.54 the wordplay was the use of different meanings from the same root, in today's verse the play is in the repetition of the closing two syllables of each line, hence:

- = - = = - - = hi naa hi naa
- = - = = - - = sthi taH sthi taH
- = - = = - - = ma no ma no
- = - = = - - = ta nus ta nuH

Who Vodyu was is not known. In his notes to his Sanskrit text, EHJ states: Vodhyu is suggested by H.P. Shastri to be the same as VoDhu, a ShaNkhya sage, but this does not explain the reference. The Maha-Bharata mentions also a RShi named Bodhya.

Shan-tanu (= shaM-tanu, lit. "wholesome for the body") is the ancient king that Nanda referred to twice in Canto 7 while -- in
a "No I can't" state of mind -- listing ancients who had crashed and burned in love.

And King 'Good Body' Shan-tanu, when separated from goddess Ganga, shook like a shala tree whose roots the Ganges was washing away:/ The son of Pratipa and light of his family, he of the body beautiful, became uncontrollable.// [7.41]

Again, when Kali's husband Shan-tanu had gone to heaven, Jana-mejaya, 'Causer of Trembling among Men,' in his desire to marry Kali, / Came up against Bhishma 'the Terrible,' and received death from him rather than give up his love for her. // [7.44]

What has today's verse got to do with the one great matter? I may sound like an old vinyl record that has got stuck but again I read it as to do with end-gaining and non-end-gaining. Nanda's couching of his predicament as a kind of medical emergency is the emotional end-gaining of a drama queen. Ashvaghosha's wordplay is an expression of the non-end-gaining mind.

When I reflect back on tough emotional times during the 1980s serving Gudo Nishijima, I am invariably pulling my head back into the past -- as opposed to following the direction for the head that Alexander advocated, which is forward and up, out of the morass. But reflect back I continue to do, probably because an idea formed in the past of one's own heroic self-importance can be a difficult thing for a drama queen to give up.

I used the emegency service metaphor above advizedly based on my own experience in the early 1980s. In those days Gudo Nishijima wasn't the famous Buddhist Patriarch who transmitted his Dharma to anybody who wanted to receive it. He had only four English-speaking dragons and elephants in his order -- "four Ejos" he called us. Bailey, Zacchi, Luetchford, and Cross. Ahem. Gudo told us that the Cold War was in essence a confrontation between idealism and materialism, and so it was up to us to prevent the conflict by explaining Gudo's One True Buddhism. Yours truly, like some gullible sap who had joined a cult, believed him. And as long as I believed him I felt stuck in Japan, even if I wanted to go home to England. I suppressed myself, which felt bad, but justified to myself the decision to stick in Japan by picturing myself as some kind of hero who was on his way home when he found himself first at the scene of a great emergency, duty bound to lend a hand before the fire engines and ambulances arrived. In my mind, however, Bach's Air on a G String was not playing in the background as medics moved serenely about. No, blue and red lights were flashing, and sirens were blaring.

End-gaining, FM Alexander observed, tends to be associated with what he called "unduly excited fear reflexes and emotions." Hence he cautioned against taking his work seriously.

In a field of lifetime endeavour like Alexander work, or like Zen, which is all about non-doing and growth, it is not wise to become emotionally involved in the learning process. Any kind of emotional involvement is liable to set off in the nervous system flashing lights, whose colour is the blue of fear paralysis and the red of panic. Q.E.D.

EH Johnston:
For no man bitten by that viper of love remains active in himself ; for instance, the mind of Vodhyu, who was unshakeable by nature, was deluded and wise Shantanu became weak.

Linda Covill:
For nobody bitten by this snake of lust remains contained in himself; though imperturbable by nature, Vodhyu's mind was stupefied, and wise Shantanu was enfeebled.

anena (inst. sg.): this
daShTaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. bitten
madan'-aahinaa (inst. sg.): by the snake of passion
madana: m. passion , love or the god of love
ahi: m. snake
hi: for
naa = na: not

na kashcid (nom. sg. m.): nobody
aatmani (loc. sg. m.): in himself
an-avasthitaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. unsettled , unsteady , loose in conduct
avasthita: mfn. standing near ; (with a pr. p.) continuing to do anything; engaged in , prosecuting , following , practising ; contained in (loc.) ; steady , trusty , to be relied on
sthitaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. standing, staying, remaining

mumoha = 3rd pers. sg. perfect muh: to become stupefied or unconscious , be bewildered or perplexed , err , be mistaken , go astray
vodhyoH = gen. sg. Vodhyu
hi: for
acal'-aatmanaH (gen. sg.): immovable by nature
a-cala: mfn. not moving , immovable
aatman: essence , nature , character , peculiarity (often ifc)
manaH (nom. sg.): n. mind

babhuuva = 3rd pers. sg. perfect bhuu: to become
dhii-maan (nom. sg. m.): mfn. intelligent , wise , learned , sensible
ca: and
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
shantanuH (nom. sg.): m. = shaMtanu, N. of an ancient king [see 7.41; 7.44]
shaM-tanu: mfm. wholesome for the body or the person
sham: ind. auspiciously , fortunately , happily , well
tanuu: f. the body , person
tanuH (nom. sg. m): mfn. thin , slender , attenuated , emaciated


dorebelle said...
(I cannot post there)

"Still, why are you guys insisting on airing all of your dirty laundry on a public internet blog?"
..."the Truth" is the most important thing...
and I really value this "dirty laundry" as the precious teaching of Nishijima and his disciples.

MJL’s difficulties with Gudo:

Mike Cross said...

Thanks for the encouragement, dorebelle.

The fundamental teaching of Gudo Nishijima, in his own word, was realism; or reverence for reality. And yes reality includes even "dirty laundry."

But what is more important than airing dirty laundry, as I see it, is clarifying the process by which dirt is allowed to come out in the wash.

The basic elements of that process, as Marjory Barlow taught them to me, are thinking directions ("Let the neck be free, to let the head go foward and up," et cetera); and, while continuing to inhibit the end-gaining mind, go ahead and gain an end by making a movement.

"Say no, give your directions, and go into movement without a care in the world," Marjory used to say. "Let it come out in the wash."