Tuesday, July 19, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.59: Invitation to Go Wrong

dhRtiM pariShvajya vidhuuya vikriyaaM
nigRhya taavac chruta-cetasii shRNu
imaa yadi praarthayase tvam aNganaa
vidhitsva shulk'-aartham ih' ottamaM tapaH

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"Embracing firmness, shaking off indecision,

And getting a grip of hearing and heart, listen!

If you desire these women

Practise now the utmost asceticism to pay their price.

As BBC Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen likes to say, "Indecision is final."

Hansen's words echo the wisdom of a rugby coach, Brian Nightingale, I had when I was 11 or 12. He taught us that it was less important at our level to make the right call than to execute well whatever decision we had made. So if the ball is bobbling about in front of your try line, booting it into touch is fine, or picking it up and charging forward to set up a ruck or maul is fine, but don't get caught in two minds. Don't wobble.

In similar vein, as I hear him, the Buddha is encouraging Nanda to make a decision, without worrying if it is a right or wrong one.

This kind of freedom from indecision, thumping one's staff on the ground with the iron resolve of a Zen master, is one aspect of using oneself well -- or at least putting on a good show of such, like a good actor. Maybe like one of those great performers who can convincingly inhabit anybody's skin except their own.

Marjory Barlow, who seemed to me to be to be exceptionally good at inhabiting her own skin, once said to me, "You are an inveterate worrier, aren't you?" "I know," Marjory added, "because I am too."

This kind of freedom from fakery, self-delusion, and posturing might a big part of both accepting and using oneself well.

Marjory used to advize that if you suspected that you were doing something wrong -- pulling the head back and shortening the spine in wrongly trying to lengthen the spine, for example -- then consciously do this wrong thing as hard as ever you can. Lie down with the back of your head on a book, for example, and deliberately pull the head back into the book as if to squash it. And then, having thus investigated what the wrong this is, stop doing it.

In order not to do the wrong thing, or to stop doing the wrong thing, it helps to know in one's experience what the wrong thing is. And to that end it is sometimes necessary to dare to go completely wrong -- even if one might not look so good in the process, even if one might leave oneself open to mockery and ridicule, as Nanda soon does.

Practice like this is a far cry from the Zen disease of trying to be right. It substitutes for the old conception of trying to be right, a totally different conception of investigating the wrong thing and then not doing it, so that the right thing, eventually, has got a chance of doing itself.

EH Johnston:
' Listen to Me, embrace steadfastness of mind, shake off agitation, restrain your hearing and feelings. If you desire these women, practice strenuous austerities in this life in order to pay the fee for them.

Linda Covill:
"Embrace resolution, abandon rebelliousness, restrain your ears and heart, then listen: If you desire these women, practice the highest asceticism in this life to pay their bride-price.

dhRtim (acc. sg.): f. holding ; firmness , constancy , resolution
pariShvajya = abs. pari √svaj: to embrace , clasp
√svaj: to embrace , clasp , encircle , twist or wind round
vidhuuya = abs. vi- √ dhuu: to shake off , drive away , scatter , disperse , remove , destroy; (A1.) to shake off from one's self , relinquish , abandon , give up
vikriyaam (acc. sg.): f. transformation , change , modification , altered or unnatural condition; change for the worse , deterioration , disfigurement , deformity; indisposition ; perturbation , agitation , perplexity ; hostile feeling , rebellion , defection , alienation ; injury , harm , failure , misadventure ; contraction , knitting (of the brows )
vi- √ kṛ: to make different , transform , change the shape (or the mind) , cause to alter or change (esp. for the worse) , deprave , pervert , spoil , impair ; (Pass. and A1. , rarely P.) to become different , be altered , change one's state or opinions

nigRhya = abs. ni- √ grah: to keep or hold back ; to seize , catch , hold , hold fast , stop , restrain , suppress , curb , tame , punish
taavat: ind. meanwhile; at once , now , just ; indeed , truly
shruta-cetasii (acc. dual. n.): hearing and heart
shruta: n. the act of hearing
cetas: n. consciousness , intelligence , thinking soul , heart , mind
shRNu = 2nd pers. sg. imperative shru: to hear, listen

imaaH (acc. pl. f.): these
yadi: if
praarthayase = 2nd pers. sg. pra- √arth: to wish or long for , desire (acc.); to demand in marriage , woo
tvam (nom. sg.): you
aNganaaH (acc. pl.): f. women

vidhitsva = 2nd pers. sg. imp. vi- √ dhaa: to perform , effect , produce , cause , occasion , make , do Mn. MBh. &c (like √ kR to be translated variously in connection with various nouns)
shulk'-aartham: for the bride-price
shulka: mn. price , value , purchase-money; nuptial gift (orig. a price given to parents for the purchase of a bride , but in later times bestowed on the wife as her own property together with the profits of household labour , domestic utensils , ornaments &c ) , dower , dowry , marriage settlement ; wages of prostitution
artha: m. purpose
iha: ind. in this place , here ; in this world; now, at this time
uttamam (acc. sg. n.): uppermost , highest , chief
tapaH (acc. sg.): n. religious austerity; ascetic practice

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