Friday, July 22, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.62: An All-Embracing Means

kShitau manuShyo dhanur-aadibhiH shramaiH
striyaH kadaa cidd hi labheta vaa na vaa
a-saMshayaM yat tv iha dharma-caryayaa
bhaveyur etaa divi puNya-karmaNaH

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

For through strenuous efforts on earth
-- drawing a bow and the like --

A man may sometimes win women,
or else he may not;

But what is certain is that,
through his practice of dharma here and now,

These women in heaven can belong
to a man of meritorious action.

Surely I am not going to hammer on about end-gaining again, am I? Damn right I am.

On the surface the Buddha seems to be telling Nanda that dharma-practice can be a means to gain the end of possessing women sexually, of making women into one's own property, one's own playthings.

While there are in the world one or two serial student-shagging so-called Zen masters that might concur with this sentiment, I am happy so far not to have entered that particular club.

Understanding the ambiguity of bhuu in line 4, what the Buddha might really be saying is that it is certain (there is no doubt) that there is a possibility (bhaveyur = optative) of making all beings into one's own belonging -- in which eventuality, it might inevitably be that, equally, one becomes the belonging of all beings.

Dogen, in his instructions for everyone on how to sit, advocates learning the backward step of turning one's light and letting it shine.

What this means, according to a Japanese Zen perspective, can be summarized as follows: Balance is a human being's natural state. Therefore, providing one simply maintains the right posture, one's whole organism will naturally go back to its original state.

My point, contrary to this view, is that "right posture" is an end-gaining conception. Dogen's backward step, as I understand it and endeavour -- largely unsuccessfully -- to practice it, is an expression of dropping off all end-gaining conceptions.

End-gaining is all about doing. Do this, do that, and do the other. Pull the chin in. Keep the neck bones straight. Tense this muscle. Relax that muscle. Breathe from here. Move here. Don't move there.

Non-end-gaining is all about letting or allowing.

Shunryu Suzuki famously said that if you want to control a cow, give it a wide field. And the same thing might apply to turning women into one's own belonging.

Insofar as I follow FM Alexander's direction, "to let the neck be free," Charlize Theron, Kate Winslett and every other goddess of the silver screen totally belongs to me. They may never have even heard of me, they may totally ignore me... but allowing them to be like that is already included in the wish to let the neck be free. If I didn't allow them to be like that, then my neck couldn't be free -- which most of the time it isn't, at least not as free as it could be.

When we are set on gaining an end, like some obsessed celebrity stalker whose heart's desire is to embrace one particular woman, we are limited by that end. Zen pursuit of right posture is just a peculiar variation on that theme.

But to sit modestly, unambitiously, wishing to let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, while sending the knees out from the back... is, what?

The thing about practice like this, unlike pursuit of right posture, is that it is truly all-inclusive, unlimited, endless

EH Johnston:
For a man on earth may obtain women by the use of his weapons or by other labours or else he may not. But it is certain that these women in heaven belong to the man who has acquired merit by practice of the Law.

Linda Covill:
On earth a man may sometimes win women with his exertions -- by the use of weapons, for instance -- or he may not. But what is beyond doubt is that these celestial women must belong to a man who makes merit through the practice of dharma.

kShitau (loc. sg.): f. the earth
manuShyaH (nom. sg.): m. a man, human being
dhanur-aadibhiH (inst. pl.): with bow and so on
dhanus: n. a bow
aadi: ifc. beginning with , et caetera , and so on
shramaiH (inst. pl.): m. exertion , labour , toil , exercise , effort either bodily or mental , hard work of any kind

striyaH (acc. pl.): f. women
kadaa chit: ind. at some time or other , sometimes , once
hi: for
labheta = 3rd pers. sg. opt. labh: to take, seize; to gain possession of
vaa na vaa: or else not

asaMshayam: ind. without doubt
a-saMshaya: m. absence of doubt , certainty
yat (acc. sg.): [that] which
tu: but
iha: ind. in this place, here
dharma-caryayaa (inst. sg.): f. observance of the law , performance of duty

bhaveyur = 3rd pers. pl. optative bhuu: to be, become ; to fall to the share or become the property of , belong to (with gen.); to be on the side of , assist (with gen.)
etaaH (nom. pl. f.): these [women]
divi (loc. sg.): f. the sky, heaven
puNya-karmaNaH (gen. sg. m.): mfn. acting right , virtuous , pious
puNya: n. the good or right , virtue , purity , good work , meritorious act , moral or religious merit
karman: n. action ; office , special duty , occupation , obligation (frequently ifc. , the first member of the compound being either the person who performs the action ; or the person or thing for or towards whom the action is performed)

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