Wednesday, August 31, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.37: Desires and Thirsting

saMpattau vaa vipattau vaa
divaa vaa naktam eva vaa
kaameShu hi sa-tRShNasya
na shaantir upapadyate

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

In prosperity or in adversity,

By day or by night,

For the man who thirsts after desires,

Peace is not possible.

Phonetically, this verse has got plenty of vaa vaa voom.

With regard to its content, the point I take is that it is thirsting, and not desires, which makes peace impossible.

If a buddha, one who is truly awake, is a person without desires, then I have never met such a person, either in the world of Japanese Zen or in the world of Alexander work. None of the good teachers I have met were people of no desire. But on a good day, or indeed on a good night (naktam eva vaa), they were free from thirsting after those objects.

In line 3 I decided not to add "his" before "desires," but was tempted to do so, so as to clarify what I take to be Nanda's intention to criticize not the presence of desires per se, but rather the thirsting tendency.

In 17.42 Nanda, as if at the gateway to the citadel of Nirvana, is described as entering the first stage of sitting-meditation, which is kaamair viviktam, "distanced from desires." Literally, viviktam means separated, kept apart, free from, or clear of. It can't mean that desires are absent. It must express a kind of transcendence of desires.

What is this transcendence? I don't know. In the presence of the human desires which, I venture to suggest, we all have, it is very difficult to be clear in one's head about what the path to peace is. It is a lot easier to be clear about what it is not.

So for a start viviktam does not mean suppressing one's desires, like an ascetic; and neither, Ananda is telling us here, does it mean thirsting after those desires.

EH Johnston:
For in good fortune or ill, by day or by night, the man whose desires are set on love knows no peace.

Linda Covill:
in neither good times nor bad, by neither day nor night is peace possible for a man who thirsts after sensual pleasures.

sampattau (loc. sg.): f. prosperity , welfare , good fortune , success , accomplishment , fulfilment , turning out well
vaa: or
vipattau (loc. sg.): f. going wrongly , adversity , misfortune , failure , disaster
vaa: or

divaa: ind. (inst. sg. div): by day
vaa: or
naktam: ind. by night (often opp. to divaa)
eva: (emphatic)
vaa: or

kaameShu (loc. pl.): m. desires, objects of desire, sensual pleasures
hi: for
sa-tRShNasya (gen. sg.): m. one who has thirst, a man of thirst

na: not
shaantiH (nom. sg.): f. peace, tranquillity
upapadyate = 3rd pers. sg. upa- √ pad: to take place , come forth , be produced , appear , occur , happen ; to be present, exist ; to be possible

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.36: Making Thirst History (Or Not)

maanasaM balavad duHkhaM
tarShe tiShThati tiShThati
taM tarShaM chindhi duHkhaM hi
tRShNaa c' aasti ca n' aasti ca

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

The mind suffers mightily

As long as thirst persists.

Eradicate that thirst; for suffering

Co-exists with thirst, or does not exist.

The root problem, the tendency to be eradicated, Ananda has identified already as viShaya-tRSNaa, "object-thirsting" (11.28).

Why is the origin of suffering compared to thirst, as opposed to, say, hunger?

We need and desire both food and drink. Both hunger and thirst are used metaphorically to express a strong desire for some object, as in the phrases "a hunger for knowledge" or "a hunger for practice" and "a thirst for approval" or "a thirst for power."

So why thirst rather than hunger?

The answer might be that the desire for drink becomes urgent sooner, and is more liable to be desperate.

An antidote to thirst, then, might be to desire to gain some end -- e.g. the translation of Saundara-nanda into English -- and to go about it in a manner, or at a pace, in which there is no sense of urgency. I am still working on that.

"Eradicate thirst" sounds like it could be some kind of idealistic slogan along the lines of "End Hunger" or "Make Poverty History." But that is not what Ananda, as I hear him, intends by his imperative taM tarShaM chindhi, "eradicate that thirst."

If there is an area that you want to keep free of weeds -- a gravel path, say, or a lawn -- you might want to get a knife and take all the dandelions out by the root, rather than just pulling their leaves away. Thus having eradicated all the dandelions, in the original sense of the word eradicated, you can survey your totally dandelion-free path or lawn.

In a similar way, lying on Marjory Barlow's teaching table, as described in this article, I would sometimes get a sense of having inhibited just about every tendency that there was for me to inhibit -- the main one being the tendency to try to be right, but others including the tendency to do the Alexander directions, and the tendency to want to get on and gain my end urgently.

So this is how I understand eradicating thirst. If there is some higher order of eradicating thirst, so that thirst is totally abolished once and for all, so that thirst becomes history, I haven't experienced it and don't believe in it.

At least in my garden, the reality is that dandelions, even having been totally eradicated, keep growing. And in that situation, what is valuable is not the idea that one day all dandelions everywhere might be abolished. What is valuable is the desire to keep eradicating dandelions. What is valuable, in other words, is an appetite for practice.

EH Johnston:
As long as desires remain, the mind suffers extremely ; therefore abolish desire. For desire and suffering come into existence together and vanish together.

Linda Covill:
As long as thirst remains, mental suffering remains powerful. Abolish that thirst, for suffering and thirst either co-exist, or neither exists;

maanasam (nom. sg. n.) : mfn. belonging to the mind or spirit , mental
balavat (nom. sg. n.): mfn. possessing power , powerful , mighty , strong , intense ; vehement
duHkham (nom. sg.): n. suffering, sorrow

tarShe (loc. sg.): m. thirst
tiShThati = 3rd pers. sg. sthaa: to stand, stay , remain

tam (acc. sg. m.): that
tarSham (acc. sg.): m. thirst
chindhi = 2nd pers. sg. imperative chid: to cut off, cut through
duHkham (nom. sg.): n. suffering, sorrow
hi: for

tRShNaa (nom. sg.): f. thirst
ca: and (ca may be used for vā , " either " , " or " and when a neg. particle is joined with ca the two may then be translated by " neither " , " nor " )
asti (3rd pers. sg. as, to be): there is
ca: and
na asti: there is not
ca: and

Monday, August 29, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.35: Needlessness

na tatra kaaryaM tuuryais te
na striibhir na vibhuuShaNaiH
ekas tvaM yatra-tatra-sthas
tayaa raty" aabhiraMsyase

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

In it, you have no need of musical instruments,

Or women, or ornaments;

On your own, wherever you are,

You can indulge in that enjoyment.

This verse might contain the very essence of the teaching of the buddha-ancestors.

Here again is that word tatra, which is liable to go unnoticed, but which in itself might contain the whole of the Buddha's teaching. tatra means "in that" -- i.e., being there, in that state, in the zone, in the moment (see 3.42).

Ananda cites musical instruments, women, and ornaments as three things from which men derive pleasure or enjoyment. Other examples might be the burning of incense, reciting of sutras, performance of prostrations, practice of confession -- not to mention translations like this one, and still less all my verbose explanatory comments.

In just sitting as body and mind dropping off, the buddha-ancestors have taught, there is no need for any other practices. Enjoyable though miscellaneous Zen rituals and practices may be, at least for some people, originally there is no need for any of them.

Above all, there might be no need to stiffen the neck and pull the head down onto the spine. There might be no need to hyper-extend and narrow the back. There might be no need to push the knees into the ground or push the head up towards the ceiling, or any other of that nonsense.

Through his life, from what I have been able to glean, Master Kodo Sawaki practised sitting in a very doing way. So even though homeless Kodo is regarded as the embodiment of freedom from baggage, it seems to me that he left as part of his legacy -- via those he taught who went on to teach others -- a lot of baggage around right posture. To his credit, however, from what I was able to glean from Tsunemasa Abe, at the end of his life Master Kodo at least partially recognized the error of his former ways and stopped trying so hard to have a good posture.

Ningen wa kibaru, "human beings stress themselves," Abe Sensei told me. And yet Abe Sensei himself, at least when I asked him about it in 1994, felt it was necessary to pull in the chin in order to stretch the muscles at the back of the neck. But in my opinion Abe Sensei was dead wrong about that.... though maybe he also saw the error of his ways before he passed away last year.

There is no need to pull the chin in so as to feel a stretch along the back of the neck. To stop doing that and instead allow the head to go where it originally wants to go -- forward and up -- might be a much better way.

The trap that is easy to fall into is to sit in a doing way, feeling that one is there, in the place where one should be, while all the time remaining blind to the contrary truth of undoing and the transcendent truth of non-doing.

To be in it, or not to be in it: that is the question.

But just because I feel I am there doesn't mean I am there. There is such a thing as faulty sensory appreciation. Q. E. D.

Sometimes people leave comments on this blog beginning with "I feel..."

Invariably these words signal to me that what follows will be a view or opinion based on faulty sensory appreciation. Many of us seem to enjoy stating our baseless views and opinions on this and that. But the point of today's verse might be that there is no need for any of that. To feel this and that is not what tatra is pointing to.

EH Johnston:
In it you have no need of music, women or ornaments; you can enjoy that delight alone and wherever you will.

Linda Covill:
With bliss you have no need of music, women nor ornaments; bliss will gladden you when you are alone, wherever you happen to be.

na : not
tatra: ind. in that place, there, in that
kaaryam (nom. sg.): n. occasion , need (with inst. e.g. tRNena kaaryam , there is need of a straw ; na bhuumyaa kaaryam asmaakam , we have no business with the earth); mfn. to be done
tuuryaiH (inst. pl.): n. a musical instrument
te (gen. sg.): you

na: not
striibhiH (inst. pl.): f. woman
na: not
vibhuuShaNaiH (inst. pl.): n. decoration , ornament

ekaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. one, alone , solitary , single
tvam (nom. sg. m.): you
yatra-tatra-sthaH (nom. sg. m.): wherever you are
yatra-tatra: anywhere whatever
stha: mfn. standing , staying , abiding, being in

tayaa (inst. sg. f.): that
ratyaa (inst. sg.): f. rest , repose ; pleasure , enjoyment , delight
aabhiraMsyase = 2nd pers. sg. future abhi- √ram: to dwell ; to repose; to delight in , be delighted

Sunday, August 28, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.34: Exhortation to Enjoy Yourself

riraMsaa yadi te tasmaad
adhyaatme dhiiyataaM manaH
prashaantaa c' aan-avadyaa ca
n' aasty adhyaatma-samaa ratiH

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

Therefore if you want enjoyment,

Let your mind be directed within.

Tranquil and impeccable is enjoyment of the inner self

And there is no enjoyment to equal it.

In general I go through life paying too much attention to stuff rather than space, to people rather than solitude, to sounds rather than silence, and to what I feel I need to do rather than the truth of non-doing.

FM Alexander said in his teaching, "We only want to gain our end in the process of ordering our heads forward and up, our backs to lengthen and widen, and so on." But this is a difficult ask. In practice, as soon as I am conscious of wanting to gain an end, it is difficult for me to care too much about the process. I tend to get on with whatever I feel needs to be done, and let the chips fall where they may.

So another antidote to habitual end-gaining -- in addition to mindfulness of breathing, mindfulness of directions, mindfulness of standing, mindfulness of walking, and so on in the daily round -- is to set aside time for not gaining any end, for "learning the backward step of turning one's light and letting it shine."

This kind of backward step is what Ananda, as I hear him, is referring to in today's verse. It is also, I think, what the Alexander Teacher Walter Carrington had in mind when he said the following in one of his regular talks to trainee Alexander teachers at his training school:

"Non-doing is, above all, an attitude of mind. It's a wish. It's a decision to leave everything alone and see what goes on, see what happens. Your breathing and your circulation and your postural mechanisms are all working and taking over. The organism is functioning in its automatic way, and you are doing nothing."

"If you're going to succeed in doing nothing, you must exercise control over your thinking processes. You must really wish to do nothing. If you're thinking anxious, worried thoughts, if you're thinking exciting thoughts that are irrelevant to the situation at hand, you stir up responses in your body that are not consistent with doing nothing. It's not a matter of just not moving--that can lead to fixing or freezing--it's a matter of really leaving yourself alone and letting everything just happen and take over."

"This is what we're aiming at in an Alexander lesson, and if we're wise, and we understand, it's also what we aim at in our own practice of non-doing. It is something that requires practice. Like most other things in life, it isn't some-thing that you can achieve by simply wishing to do so, by just thinking, 'Well, I will now leave myself alone and not do anything.' Unfortunately, it doesn't work out like that. The whole process requires a lot of practice, and a lot of observation. Out of this process a tremendous lot of experience is to be gained..."

EH Johnston:
If you desire true delight, then apply your mind to the delight of the inner self ; for there is no delight like that, being as it is both tranquil and free from sin.

Linda Covill:
If you long for that bliss, then focus your mind on your inner self; unequalled is the tranquil and irreproachable bliss of the inner self.

riraMsaa (nom. sg.): f. (fr. Desid. of √ram) desire of pleasure or of sexual enjoyment , lasciviousness , lustfulness
√ram: to delight , make happy , enjoy carnally
yadi: if
te (gen. sg.): in/of you
tasmaat: ind. from that , on that account , therefore

adhyaatme (loc. sg.): mfn. own , belonging to self
dhiiyataam = 3rd pers. sg. passive imperative dhaa: to put, place ; to direct or fix the mind or attention (chintaam , manas , matim , samaadhim &c ) upon
manaH (nom. sg.): n. mind

prashaantaa (nom. sg. f.): mfn. tranquillized , calm , quiet , composed , indifferent
ca: and
an-avadyaa (nom. sg. f.): mfn. irreproachable , faultless; f. N. of an apsaras
a-vadya: " not to be praised " , blamable , low , inferior
ca: and

na: not
asti: there is
adhyaatma-samaa (nom. sg. f.): equal to that which belongs to the self
adhyaatma: mfn. own , belonging to self
sama: same , equal , similar , like , equivalent , like to or identical or homogeneous with (comp.)
ratiH (nom. sg.): f. rest , repose ; pleasure , enjoyment , delight

Saturday, August 27, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.33: From Small Desire to Sensual Enjoyment

a-tRptau ca kutaH shaantir
a-shaantau ca kutaH sukhaM
a-sukhe ca kutaH priitir
a-priitau ca kuto ratiH

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

Without satisfaction, whence peace?

Without peace, whence ease?

Without ease, whence joy?

Without joy, whence enjoyment?

priiti (Joy) and rati (Enjoyment) are the names of the two wives of Kaama-deva, the God of Love. So the enjoyment that Ananda is pointing to, as I hear him, has a sexual/sensual or physical/material connotation -- like enjoyment of sex, or like enjoyment of the first stage of sitting-dhyaana, which Ashvaghosha compares to what is experienced by a heat-exhausted man diving into water, or a pauper coming into great wealth (17.43).

Ananda as I hear him is not negating the kind of sensual/physical enjoyment which Nanda has in mind but is rather suggesting that there is a way of enjoying oneself which is better than thirsting for objects of big desire.

The starting point of this better way to enjoyment, as Ananda outlines it in this verse, is satisfaction or contentment.

I think what Ananda has in mind is the satisfaction or contentment associated with the practise of small desire -- which is a totally different thing from ascetic self-denial.

In olden times cakes of chalk and cakes of cheese looked the same, but people knew that if you bit into them the content was very different. Hence the old expression "like chalk and cheese." One of the central and recurrent themes of Saundara-nanda, I venture to suggest, is that the practise of small desire and ascetic self-denial are like chalk and cheese.

Reading the buddha-ancestors' descriptions of cheese, the dim-witted and gullible among us are ever liable to bite into chalk. Quad Erat Demonstrandum.

EH Johnston:
And without appeasement there cannot be tranquillity, without tranquillity pleasure, without pleasure joy or without joy delight.

Linda Covill:
Without satisfaction, from where comes peace? Without peace, from where comes happiness? Without happiness from where comes joy? And without joy, from where comes bliss?

a-tRptau (loc. sg.): f. unsatisfied condition , insatiability
ca: and
kutaH (ind): from where? whence?
shaantiH (nom. sg.): f.. tranquillity , peace , quiet ; cessation

a-shaantau: f. restlessness , anxiety; non-cessation
ca: and
kutaH (ind): from where? whence?
sukham (nom. sg.): n. ease, comfort, happiness

a-sukhe (loc. sg.): n. sorrow , pain , affliction
ca: and
kutaH (ind): from where? whence?
priitiH: f. any pleasurable sensation , pleasure , joy , gladness , satisfaction; friendly disposition , kindness , favour , grace ; joy or gratification personified (esp. as a daughter of dakṣa or as one of the two wives of kāma-deva)

a-priitau (loc. sg.): f. dislike , aversion , enmity
ca: and
kutaH (ind): from where? whence?
ratiH (nom. sg.): f. rest , repose ; pleasure , enjoyment , delight ; the pleasure of love , sexual passion or union , amorous enjoyment (often personified as one of the two wives of kāma-deva , together with prīti)

Friday, August 26, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.32: Knowing Dissatisfaction

tRptir n' aast' iindhanair agner
n' aambhasaa lavaN'-aambhasaH
n' aapi kaamaiH sa-tRShNasya
tasmaat kaamaa na tRptaye

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

A fire is not satisfied by dry brushwood,

Nor the salty ocean by water,

Nor a man of thirst by his desires.

Desires, therefore, do not make for satisfaction.

If desires made for satisfaction, then a man of thirst might be satisfied by his desires. But, Ananda seems to be stating, as an objective fact, having verified for himself the Buddha's teaching around small desire and knowing satisfaction, a man of thirst is never satisfied by his desires.

The thing to be clear about in this teaching, as I understand it, is that objects of desire are not the cause of dissatisfaction. On the contrary, an object of desire, like say a cup of green tea, can be very sastisfying. Dissatisfaction does not lie in desires, or in objects of desire. Dissatisfaction is a function of having big desires or ambitions, i.e., thirsting for some object, i.e., end-gaining.

Desires do not make for satisfaction, but the practice of having small desires does make for satisfaction.

What makes for satisfaction -- as we all have already verified in our own experience at some time or another -- is skillful practice, or doing a job well. Skillful practice might mean, for example, eating moderately when hungry. In Alexandrian terms, what makes for satisfaction is to gain an end in process of directing the head forward and up, the back to lengthen and widen, and so on. Again, skillful practice might mean sitting in lotus in such a way as to allow enjoyment of the samadhi of accepting and using the whole self.

Speaking for myself, without the teaching of FM Alexander I couldn't be satisfied by the Zazen teaching of my Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima. And without the traditional practice of sitting-dhyana as transmitted by the buddha-ancestors, I couldn't be satisfied with the Alexander Technique. But putting the two together... to tell the truth, most of the time I am still not satisfied, for various reasons, the main one of which is probably some residue of the desire to achieve great things and be worshipped and adored by millions of people.

EH Johnston:
A fire can never be satiated with fuel, or the salt sea with water, or the man who is full of desires with love. Love therefore does not lead to appeasement.

Linda Covill:
A fire is never content with its fuel, not the ocean with its water, nor a lustful man with sensuality. Therefore sensuality cannot deliver satisfaction.

tRptiH (nom. sg.): f. satisfaction , contentment
na: not
asti: there is
indhanaiH (inst. pl.): n. kindling , lighting ([cf. agnīndhana]); fuel ; wood , grass &c used for this purpose
agn'-iindhana: n. kindling or feeding the fire
indh: to kindle , light , set on fire
agneH (gen. sg.): m. fire

na: not
ambhasaa (inst. sg.): n. water
lavaN'-aambhasaH (gen. sg.): m. " having salt water " , the sea , ocean
lavaNa: mfn. saline , salt , briny , brinish ; m. the sea of salt water
ambhas: n. water

na: not
api: also
kaamaiH (inst. pl.): m. desires, objects of desire, sensual pleasures
sa-tRShNasya (gen. sg.): mfn. having thirst, thirsty, desirous

tasmaat: ind. from that , on that account , therefore
kaamaaH (nom. pl.): m. desires, objects of desire, sensual pleasures
na: not
tRptaye (dat. sg.): f. satisfaction , contentment

Thursday, August 25, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.31: Samsaric Sex -- Who Needs It Anyway?

saMsaare vartamaaNena
yadaa c' aapsarasas tvayaa
praaptaas tyaktaash ca shatashas
taabhyaH kim iti te spRhaa

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

Again, since in spiralling through samsara

You have gained celestial nymphs and left them

A hundred times over,

Why this yearning of yours for those women?

In the series of verses from 11.23 to 11.30, as I read them, Ananda has been outlining the folly and the dangers of Nanda's end-gaining -- that is, Nanda's attitude of going blindly for his goal of sex with celestial nymphs, without giving due consideration to whether his means are right for the task.

With this verse, Ananda seems slightly to change the angle of his attack by calling into question the wisdom of the end upon which Nanda has set his sights.

As a thought experiment, let us assume that it were possible, via ascetic practice or by other means, to enjoy romping with not one but a whole bevvy of sexy nymphs. What would be the point of that? If the point is enjoyment, Ananda seems to be asking in this and the next few verses, is there not a way of finding enjoyment that is better than one that involves being turned endlessly in the wheel of unconscious reaction?

The answer that Ananda intends for Nanda to come to, of course, is that there is a better way. Whether or not it permits of union with a sexy nymph depends on whether or not it is pursued in the traditional manner of a celibate wandering mendicant, or in the traditional manner of a lay practitioner. In either case, it is a better way than end-gaining in samsara. In either case, as one who has left home or as one who is still at home, the really difficult thing to abstain from is the end-gaining, or thirsting for objects, that triggers the many-tentacled monster of misuse whose revolving stage is called saMsaara -- the cycle of unconscious reaction.

EH Johnston:
And seeing that in the course of the cycle of existence you have obtained the Apsarases hundreds of times only to lose them again, why this yearning for them?

Linda Covill:
As you continue in the round of birth and death, you have won and lost the apsarases hundreds of times. Why then this longing for them?

saMsaare (loc. sg.): m. going or wandering through ; course , passage , passing through a succession of states , circuit of mundane existence
vartamaaNena = inst. sg. pres. part. vRt: to turn , turn round , revolve , roll ; to move or go on , get along , advance , proceed

yadaa: ind. when
ca: and
apsarasaH (acc. pl.): f. celestial nymph, apsaras
tvayaa (inst. sg.): by you

praaptaaH (acc. pl. f.): mfn. attained to , reached , arrived at , met with , found , incurred , got , acquired , gained
tyaktaaH (acc. pl. f.): mfn. left , abandoned
ca: and
shatashaH: ind. by or in hundred , a hundred times

taabhyaH (dat. pl. f.): for them, for those women
kim iti: why
te (gen. sg.): of you
spRhaa (nom. sg.): f. eager desire , desire , covetousness , envy , longing for , pleasure or delight in (dat. , gen. loc.)
√ spRh: to be eager , desire eagerly , long for (dat. gen. , or acc.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.30: Not Abstaining from Stiffening & Shortening

hRdi kaam'-aagninaa diipte
kaayena vahato vrataM
kim idaM brahma-caryam te
manas" aa-brahma-caariNaH

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

Blazing with a fire of desire in your heart,

You carry out observances with your body:

What is this devout abstinence of yours,

Who does not practise abstinence with his mind?

By the time of the Buddha, Nanda and Ananda, the word brahma-caryam already had barnacles attached to it acquired from centuries of religious activity. The dictionary defines brahma-caryam as study of the veda, the state of an unmarried religious student, a state of continence and chastity. What Ananda understood by brahma-caryam, I don't know. Equally I don't understand what Dogen meant by GYO-JI or "conduct and observance," the title of Shobogenzo chap. 30, in which GYO, conduct, is thought to stand for BON-GYO, "devout/pure conduct," from brahma-caryam.

I have more experience of what Ananda meant by manas" aa-brahma-caariNaH, "mentally not practising abstinence." I have ample opportunity to investigate it in sitting practice and in daily life.

What Ananda is describing in today's verse as "mentally not practising abstinence" is primarily Nanda's expectation of sexual union with celestial nymphs as a reward for self-denial.

Whereas actual sexual relations (as defined by Bill Clinton) have a physical side, involving penetration of this by that, and so on and so forth, expectation of sex, or of anything, is more difficult to reduce to physical processes. If any phenomenon can justly be described as "primarily mental," expectation might be it. And the work of liberating one's actions from the taint of expectation of future gaining of an end might be just about "the most mental thing there is."

FM Alexander called his technique for improving the standard of one's manner of use of the self "the most mental thing there is." As a manifestation of a universal human tendency to turn a teaching into its opposite, however, I noticed recently that on a tick-list of criteria for assessing prospective teachers, a list issued by the Society for the Teachers of the Alexander Technique, one criterion was "expectation of change." So some dunderhead or group of dunderheads at STAT think that for a student teacher to have an expectation of change is a good thing. I would have thought that the truth was the exact opposite: that if the mind of a student teacher of Alexander's technique was not tainted by any expectation of anything, that might be a very good -- if very rare -- thing.

Alexander himself was quoted as saying "Change is the ultimate reality." So acceptance of the inevitability of change might be more to the point -- but is that really an appropriate criterion by which to assess a prospective Alexander teacher? Confidence in the principle of conscious direction of the use of the self, as a better way than blind end-gaining, might be more to the point. But "expectation of change"? I think that "expectation of change" might be something not to aspire to but rather to abstain from, and to drop off.

In the matter of serving buddhas, failure to practise abstinence with the mind generally means failing to abstain from some variation on the theme of expecting What's in it for me?

When Alexander said that "We only want to gain our end in the process of ordering our heads forward and up, our backs to lengthen and widen, and so on," what he meant by "ordering," Alexander's niece Marjory Barlow took pains to teach others, does not involve any kind of doing, any kind of postural self-arrangement, or any kind of expectation.

What Alexander was talking about, as I see it, is just what the Buddha called shreyas, "a better way." Realization of this way, even for a moment, is something very rare, because we human beings have evolved only to want to gain our end, relying on unconscious guidance.

What Alexander meant by "head forward and up" I don't know. But it seems that when a person does practise like Nanda is doing it now, with expectation of reward, that expectation tends to be associated with a holding of the breath which in turn is associated with stiffening and shortening -- the very opposite of head forward and up.

So ordering the head forward and up, the back to lengthen and widen, and so on, it seems to me is at the heart of sitting practice as the ancient buddha-ancestors taught it.

Head forward and up to breathe out ...
Head forward and up to breath in ...
Head forward and up to breathe out ...

EH Johnston:
Though you carry out your vow with your body, your heart is blazing with the fire of love. What kind of chastity is this of yours, when your mind is given to its opposite?

Linda Covill:
What is this celibacy of yours? While your heart is ablaze with the fire of lust, you carry out your observances with your body only, and are not celibate in your mind.

hRdi (loc. abs.): n. heart
kaam'-aagninaa (inst. sg.): with the fire of love
kaama: m. desire; love , especially sexual love or sensuality
agni: m. fire
diipte (loc. abs.): mfn. blazing , flaming

kaayena (inst. sg.): m. the body
vahataH = gen. sg. m. pres. part. vah: to carry, uphold
vratam (acc. sg.): n. a religious vow or practice , any pious observance

kim: (interrogative particle) what?
idam (nom. sg. n.): this
brahma-caryam (nom. sg. n.): n. study of the veda , the state of an unmarried religious student , a state of continence and chastity; celibacy, pure conduct
te (gen. sg.): of yours

manasaa (inst. sg.): n. mind
a-brahma-caariNaH (gen. sg. m.): failing to practise celibacy, not practising devout abstinence
a-: (negative prefix)
brahma-caarin: mfn. practising sacred study as an unmarried student , observing chastity
caarin: mfn. acting , proceeding , doing , practising

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.29: Single-minded Concentration

yathaa pashyati madhv eva
na prapaatam avekShate
pashyasy apsarasas tadvad
bhraMsham ante na pashyasi

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

Just as a man sees honey

And fails to notice a precipice,

That is how you are seeing the apsarases

And not seeing the fall that will come in the end.

To convey the original meaning of the first line as I read it, in which eva lays emphasis on the preceding word madhu, a closer translation might be:

Just as a man sees.... HONEY!!!

In Ashvaghosha's metaphor, the seeing of honey is not the problem. The problem is in the manner of seeing, which is too narrowly focused or concentrated on a single object.

Alexander work has been described as un-concentration. If you want to meditate, Alexander said, this work is how -- bewaring the devil that is concentration. "What you gain in one way you lose in another. Therefore you must not try for specific results."

Whatever the end is, whether it is to get back to sleep in the middle of the night, or whether it is to keep our eye on a cricket ball approaching at 80 miles per hour, we only want to gain the end in the process of directing the head forward and up, the back to lengthen and widen, and so on.

As I limp towards the end of the translation of Saundarananda, the devil that is concentration poses an increased risk. I know from the oft-repeated experience of dropping a pupil into a chair, during an Alexander lesson, that the last couple of inches are a particularly easy time to lose the upward direction (if indeed one ever had it), because all one's attention is liable very rapidly to descend to the goal which is the seat of the chair.

Beware the devil that is concentration.

"We only want to gain our end in the process of ordering our heads forward and up, our backs to lengthen and widen, and so on."

EH Johnston:
As a man who looks for honey overlooks the precipice, so you see the Apsarases but not the fall that will ensue at the end.

Linda Covill:
Just as a man looking for honey does not notice a precipice, so in your focus on the apsarases you do not see your resulting fall.

yathaa: ind. just as
pashyati = 3rd pers. sg. pash: to see (with na " to be blind ") , behold , look at , observe , perceive , notice ; foreseee
madhu (acc. sg.): n. honey
eva: (emphatic)

na: not
pra-paatam (acc. sg.): m. springing forth; a steep rock , cliff , precipice
avekShate = 3rd pers. sg. ava- √iikSh: to look towards, perceive, observe

pashyasi = 2rd pers. sg. pash: to see, look at , notice, foresee
apsarasas (acc. pl.): f. apsaras, celestial nymph
tadvat: ind. so, in like manner

bhraMsham (acc. sg.): m. falling or slipping down or off ; decline , decay, ruin
ante (loc. sg.): m. end
na: not
pashyasi = 2rd pers. sg. pash: to see, look at , notice, foresee (with na, to be blind to)

Monday, August 22, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.28: Like a Drug, But Worse

aakaaNkShec ca yathaa rogaM
duHkham anvicchati bhavaaMs
tathaa viShaya-tRShNayaa

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

Again, just as a man might want to be ill

In his craving for a pleasurable remedy,

That is how you are seeking out suffering

In your thirst for an object.

viShaya-tRSNaa: object-thirsting, end-gaining.

In this verse as I read it Ashvaghosha is inviting us really to investigate what thirsting for an object is.

It is, he seems to suggest, like being addicted to a drug.

The most pertinent similarity might be that when we thirst for an object (as opposed to having a desire upon which we can choose either to act or not to act) we tend to go for that object without the latitude to care to whether the means is appropriate or not, in the manner of drug addicts who burgle houses, or who sell their bodies on the street, in order to feed their habit.

But even in purportedly loftier spheres such as Japanese Zen, among people who talk of SHIKAN-TAZA "just sitting," and MU-SHOTOKU, "no attainment," one can also find end-gainers, striving to be right. Q.E.D.

FM Alexander said in his teaching: "This end-gaining business has got to such a point -- it's worse than a drug."

That was pre-1955, the year in which FM died. What would FM have made of today's target-driven culture, in which a national curriculum dictates that British children aged 5 - 7 shall be tested on reading and writing, before they have had a chance to learn properly how to play? Not much, I should think.

So thirsting for objects, or blinkered pursuit of targets, or end-gaining, is like being addicted to a drug. But in one important sense it is not the same as being addicted to a drug. The challenge for a person who is addicted to a drug is a relatively straightforward one: just stop taking the craved substance. To refrain from end-gaining, in contrast, requires more skill and honesty and wisdom, and a moment-by-moment attention to what is going on in the brain and nervous system. It requires us to work against the habit of a lifetime, in everything we do, and particularly in time set aside for practise of non-doing.

To quote Alexander again, "We only want to gain our end in the process of ordering our heads forward and up, our backs to lengthen and widen, and so on."

When we are thirsting for an object, in contrast, we only want to gain our end. Full stop. We don't care about what harmful side effects might be produced in process. If we stiffen and shorten, so be it. Subjectively the end-gainer doesn't care about those side effects. He disregards them, blanking out negative feedback. But from the standpoint of an objective observer like Ananda, who understands what it is like to end-gain based on a misconception rooted in faulty sensory appreciation, continuing with one's end-gaining is tantamount to seeking out what such end-gaining inevitably produces: namely, harmful side effects, aka duHkham, suffering.

For a conspicuous demonstration of what I am talking about, as my brother will readily attest, look no further than your local swimming pool when lane swimming is going on. You will doubtless find some wiry triathlete, equipped with waterproof wristwatch, splashing manically along. What for? What is he or she striving after? From the standpoint of one who has been there, done that, and gone beyond it, it may seem that the striving triathlete is actively seeking out self-inflicted harm.

EH Johnston:
As a man might wish for disease in order to secure the pleasure to be derived from remedies, so you seek suffering out of a longing for the objects of the senses.

Linda Covill:
You are seeking out suffering with your thirst for sensory experience, as though someone would want to be ill just to enjoy the pleasure of a remedy.

aakaaNkShet = 3rd pers. sg. optative aa-√kaaNkSh: to desire , long for , endeavour to gain (with acc.)
ca: and
yathaa: ind. just as
rogam (acc. sg.): m. breaking up of strength " , disease , infirmity , sickness

pratiikaara-sukh'-epsayaa (inst. sg.): because of desire to obtain the pleasure of the remedy
pratiikaara: m. opposition , counteraction , prevention , remedy
prati- √ kR: to counteract
sukha: n. pleasure
iipsaa: f. asking , desire or wish to obtain

duHkham (acc. sg.): n. suffering, pain, sorrow
anvicchati = 3rd pers. sg. anv- √ iSh: to desire , seek , seek after , search , aim at
bhavaan = nom. sg. m. bhavat: mf. your honour , your worship , your lordship or ladyship , you (lit. " the gentleman or lady present " ; used respectfully for the 2nd pers. pron. , but properly with the 3rd and only exceptionally with the 2nd pers. of the verb)

tathaa: ind. so, likewise
viShaya-tRShNayaa (inst. sg.): because of thirst for an object
viShaya: m. object; sense object ; anything perceptible by the senses , any object of affection or concern or attention , any special worldly object or aim or matter or business , (pl.) sensual enjoyments , sensuality
tRShNaa: f. thirst

Sunday, August 21, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.27: Something & Nothing (II)

yathaa phala-visheSh'-aarthaM
biijaM vapati kaarShakaH
tadvad viShaya-kaarpaNyaad
viShayaaMs tyaktavaan asi

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

Just as, with a particular crop in view,

A ploughman scatters seed;

That is how, because of being desperate for an object,

You have renounced objects.

Ananda's description of Nanda could be a description of the effort of strivers in various fields -- Zen and the Alexander Technique being two examples which spring all too readily to my mind -- where non-attachment to objects is held up as a virtue.

The object Nanda has in mind is sexual union with apasarases, but the object could equally be Enlightenment, or a Certificate of Dharma-Transmission, or a Certificate of Membership of the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (MSTAT). The object might be the publication of a book with one's name on the front cover. The object might be one's own personal advancement in a professional career as a translator or a writer or a teacher. The object might be any object whose pursuit causes a process leading to release, or to peace, or to growth, to be relegated into second place.

Just as no criticism was implied in the previous verse of the trader who wishes his business to be profitable, so too no criticism is implied in this verse of the ploughman who scatters seed with a view to harvesting a particular crop. Rather, the Buddha at the end of Canto 16 sings the praises of just such a farmer:

After ploughing and protecting the soil with great pains, a farmer gains a bounteous crop of corn; after striving to plumb the ocean's waters, a diver revels in a bounty of coral and pearls; / After seeing off with arrows the endeavour of rival kings, a king enjoys royal dominion. So direct your energy in pursuit of peace (shaantaye), for in directed energy, undoubtedly, lies all growth." // [16.98]

The criticism, again, is rather of Nanda for applying a means which is appropriate for getting or achieving something to a field of endeavour in which getting or achieving something cannot be the primary thing. In two fields of endeavour that I am familiar with, the primary thing is a bit of nothing -- Like gaining health out of incurable illness, relief from immeasurable debt,/ Or escape from an enemy presence; or like gaining, after famine, plentiful food.// [17.69] Thus ironically in the end Nanda describes the realization of a bit of nothing as like the gaining of a lot of something, as if to remind us again that whatever we think it is, it is not that.

Playing a role similar to Ananda, 2,500 years on, FM Alexander was overheard to say to a pupil in a lesson: "We only want to gain our end in the process of ordering our heads forward and up, our backs to lengthen and widen, and so on."

With this teaching in mind, to limit myself to translating one verse per day seems about right.

Which is all very well. But here and now on this Sunday morning what does "head forward" mean? And which way is up?

The criterion, according to Zen Master Dogen, is the samadhi of accepting and using the whole self.

According to my Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima the criterion is balance of the autonomic nervous system.

As a tolerant friend, one might say that it was almost the same thing -- as a tolerant friend might say that Nanda's zealous upholding of the rules of restraint was almost the same thing as what the Buddha meant by restraint (niyamam).

Ananda, evidently, was not that kind of friend.

EH Johnston:
As a husbandman sows seed according to the particular crop he wants, so you have abandoned the objects of the senses out of greed for such objects.

Linda Covill:
Just as a farmer scatters seed to produce a particular fruit, likewise you have let go of sense objects because of your weakness for them.

yathaa: ind. just as
phala-visheSh'-aartham (ind.): with the aim of a particular fruit
phala: fruit, effect, result
visheSha: (ifc.) particular
artha: aim, purpose

biijam (acc. sg.): n. seed
vapati = 3rd pers. sg. vap: to strew , scatter (esp. seed) , sow
kaarShakaH (nom. sg.): m. (√kRSh, to plough) , " one who ploughs " , a peasant , husbandman

tadvat: ind. so, in like manner
viShaya-kaarpaNyaat (abl. sg.): through desperate need for an object
viShaya: m. object ; anything perceptible by the senses , any object of affection or concern or attention , any special worldly object or aim or matter or business , (pl.) sensual enjoyments , sensuality
kaarpaNya: n. (fr. kRpaNa) , poverty , pitiful circumstances ; poorness of spirit , weakness; parsimony , niggardliness

viShayaan (acc. pl.): m. objects
tyaktavaan = nom. sg. m. past active participle tyaj: to leave , abandon , quit ; to let go ; to give up , surrender
asi = 2nd pers. sg. as: to be

Saturday, August 20, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.26: Something & Nothing

cikriiShanti yathaa paNyaM
vaNijo laabha-lipsayaa
dharma-caryaa tava tathaa
paNya-bhuutaa na shaantaye

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

Just as merchants buy merchandise

Moved by a desire to make profit,

That is how you are practising dharma,

As if it were a tradable commodity,
not for peace.

Profit and peace are totally different ends, the attainment of which require totally different means.

Means that are appropriate for success in business, sadly, are not always appropriate for success as a Zen practitioner. So for those of us who are devoted to sitting but who have not gone forth into the homeless life into which the Buddha led Nanda, it might be good if we don't get the two kinds of means and the two kinds of ends all mixed up.

For a businessman, the desire for profit is not wrong; it is a vital part of the proper means whereby a businessman gains his end of getting or achieving something.

For a buddha-ancestor whose primary job -- or sole job, if he follows Dogen's teaching -- is to sit in lotus dropping off body and mind, to sit as if it were a means of getting or achieving something would be absurd.

Again, when merchants desire to make profit, buying merchandise cheaply and selling it with a mark-up is not end-gaining; it is part of a merchant's proper means-whereby in which trading has to be profitable, or else ruin will follow. Hence Ashvaghosha begins Canto 18 as follows:

And so like a young initiate who mastered the Vedas, like a trader who turned a quick profit, / Or like a royal having conquered a hostile army, Nanda, having accomplished his purpose, approached the Guru. // [18.1]

Negation of end-gaining is not the negation of gaining ends. Negation of end-gaining is negation of the desire to go directly for an end without due consideration of whether the means are appropriate or not.

Foolish Nanda, having failed to understand the real meaning of the Buddha's words, has been doing dharma-practice -- centred on sitting in lotus -- as if it were a viable means of gaining the end of sexual enjoyment of celestial nymphs.

With both eyes fixed on the end, Nanda has had no eye with which to see that the means he is employing are inappropriate to the end he has in view. And so now Ananda is telling him that true dharma-practice is a means for going in the direction of peace, i.e., in the direction of losing everything. It is not a commodity that can be traded in to gain the sexual favours of nymphs.

Ananda is exemplifying the behaviour of a truly good friend -- the one who tells you exactly how you are going wrong.

In Nanda's example, Ashvaghosha is showing us the absurdity, writ large, of expecting wrong means to lead to the gaining of desired ends.


Upon whose end-gaining does Ashvaghosha wish us to shine light?

I think Ashvaghosha's intention is that each reader should turn his or her own light and let it shine.

Still, given the content of today's verse, I can't help remembering Gudo Nishijima's answer when I asked him why he had betrayed our translation partnership. He told me he had no consciousness of having betrayed me. How then had he taken the decision, at the publishing stage, to change our translation without consulting me? "I took the decision as a businessman in the modern age," was his unforgettable reply. That was in 1998, and I waited ten years for the old man in some way to redeem himself. But when the opportunity seemed to arise, Gudo did not take it. Instead he fell down, literally, and within a matter of days his Zazen dojo was demolished.

For many years Gudo Nishijima had been a great friend to me, as a mentor, as a teacher of Dogen's teaching and as a translation partner, but never in the sense that Ananda now is being a friend to Nanda. Gudo couldn't be like Ananda, because nobody had clarified for him what Ananda is clarifying for Nanda in today's verse, which is, in essence, that one cannot do an undoing.

Gudo tried to transmit the supreme non-doing method of the buddha-ancestors as if undoing were something that could be done. And when I tried to tell him the error of his ways, the old man noticed that I was threatening his very world view and rounded on me as if I were his enemy, eventually calling me, with no sense of irony, a non-Buddhist.

In the final analysis, however, understanding the folly of the end-gaining of the likes of Nanda and Gudo is no use to me, unless I apply that understanding to the inhibition of my own desires to go directly for ends, relying on inappropriate means.

Whatever understanding I have got of the problem of end-gaining vs a better way, I surprise myself every day by how often I fail to apply it, even in sitting practice itself. As FM Alexander observed, in opposing the end-gaining habit we are up against millions of years of genetic inheritance. We did not evolve to direct ourselves consciously. We evolved to go directly for ends, like donkeys after carrots.

Consequently, when I sit in lotus with even a homeopathic dose of the desire to be right, when I am even slightly concerned with the idea of right posture, when I try to lengthen at the expense of widening, when my trying to be still results in fixity, when I obsess compulsively about getting in my four sessions of sitting every day, I am end-gaining no less absurdly than Nanda has been end-gaining in his desire for sex with nymphs. I am pursuing a bit of nothing as if it were something.

"You cannot do an undoing," Marjory Barlow taught me, when I eventually beat a path to her door. Marjory showed me the error of my ways like Ananda now is showing Nanda the error of his.

The simple but blindingly obvious truth that Marjory showed me I purport to demonstrate to others: "You cannot do an undoing." And yet all too often, through the force of habit and faulty sensory appreciation, I continue to sit as if I could do an undoing, unconsciously trying to be right, which makes for... well, not for peace (na shaantaye).

EH Johnston:
As merchants wish to buy merchandise for the sake of profit, so you practise the Law, not for tranquillity, but to obtain something to barter.

Linda Covill:
Just as businessmen like to buy goods to make a profit, so you practice dharma as an article for trade, not to become peaceful.

cikriiShanti = 3rd pers. pl. desiderative krii: to buy
yathaa: ind. just as
paNyam (acc. sg.): n. an article of trade , a ware , commodity; n. trade , traffic , business; mfn. to be bought or sold , vendible

vaNijaH = nom. pl. m. vaNij: m. a merchant , trader
laabha-lipsayaa (inst. sg.): with the desire to gain gain
laabha: m. obtaining , getting , attaining , acquisition , gain , profit
lipsaa: f. (fr. Desid. labh) the desire to gain , wish to acquire or obtain , longing for (loc. or comp.)

dharma-caryaa (nom. sg.): f. observance of the law , performance of duty
tava (gen. sg.): your
tathaa: ind. so, likewise

paNya-bhuutaa (nom. sg. f.): mfn. being like an article of trade
bhuta: mfn. (ifc.) being or being like anything , consisting of , mixed or joined with
na: not
shaantaye (dat. sg.): f. tranquillity , peace , quiet

Friday, August 19, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.25: Varieties of Abstinence

titaaDayiShayaa dRpto
yathaa meSho 'pa-sarpati
tadvad a-brahma-caryaaya
brahma-caryam idaM tava

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

Just as, in its desire to charge,

A wild ram draws back,

So, for the sake of non-abstinence,

Is this devout abstinence of yours!

It is evident from the story of handsome Nanda that the Buddha regarded some forms of abstinence as laudable. It is equally evident that ancient buddha-ancestors regarded some form of abstinence as laughable, or pitiful.

Truly devout practice, on the evidence of Ashvaghosha's writing, is not for the sake of non-abstinence and not for the sake of abstinence. Truly devout practice is practice done for the sake of peace (shaantaye; e.g. [11.26]) and for the sake of release (mokShaaya; e.g. [17.3]).

In his Sanskrit text, EHJ emended dRpto (wild) in line 1 to sRpto (slunk) on the basis of the research of an Italian scholar named Tucci (Rivista degli Studi Orientali X. p. 145) who found today's verse and 11.30 quoted in the Chinese translation of Vasubandhu's commentary on the Shatashaastra of Bodhisattva Deva.

In his subsequent English translation, however, EHJ realized he had done something silly and reverted to dRpto as per the palm-leaf manuscript.

Kanadeva was the 15th ancestor and Vasubandhu was the 21st ancestor, of the lineage in which Ashvaghosha was the 12th ancestor.

EHJ's emendation, erroneous though it seems to have been, is interesting in indicating that Ashvaghosha's teaching was seminal for Vasubandhu, whose teaching (including investigation into aa-laya vijNaana, or storehouse consciousness) is itself regarded as seminal in Indian philosophy.

The 28 buddha-ancestors of ancient India were all celibate monks. Some wrote epic verse, some wrote a lot of commentaries, some seem not to have left any record of their words. In the interests of peace and of release, so they say, each was totally restrained by stillness. In Dogen's words: GOTSU-CHI NI SAERARU.

Going directly for this stillness, not in the interest of peace and of release but for the sake of some other end, such as union with a celestial nymph or becoming a buddha-ancestor, tends to result in lengthening at the expense of widening, stillness at the expense of fixity.

The teaching of FM Alexander, it seems to me, in the interest of peace and of release, can be preventive medicine against going directly for anything at the expense of anything else.

In the first instance it may be necessary to see end-gaining at the root of suffering, which is what Ananda is helping Nanda to do in the present canto. As a result of these efforts, Nanda is able in Canto 12 to gain confidence in a better way which leads him in the direction of peace and of release.

Fundamentally, this better way of which the Buddha speaks (shreyas) as I understand it, it is not a better way than non-abstinence. It is a better way than end-gaining.

EH Johnston:
Just as a savage ram draws back in order to charge, so you are following the holy life for an object which is contrary to it.

Linda Covill:
Just as a wild ram draws back when he is about to charge, likewise this celibacy of yours is undertaken for the sake of sex.

titaaDayiShayaa = inst. sg. titaaDayiShaa: f. (fr. desid. taD [?]) desire to charge
taD: to beat , strike , knock , strike (with arrows) , wound , punish
dRptaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. mad , wild , proud , arrogant
sRptaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. crept , crawled &c
sRp: to creep , crawl , glide , slink , move gently or cautiously

yathaa: ind. just as
meShaH (nom. sg.): m. a ram
apasarpati = 3rd pers. sg. apa- √ sRp: to move off, retreat

tadvad: ind. so, in like manner
a-brahma-caryaaya (dat. sg.): for non-abstinence
a-brahma-carya: mfn. not keeping a vow of continence , unchaste

brahma-caryam (nom. sg.): n. study of the veda , the state of an unmarried religious student , a state of continence and chastity
brahman: n. (lit. " growth " , " expansion " , " evolution " , " development " " swelling of the spirit or soul " ); holy life (esp. continence , chastity)
idam (nom. sg. n.): this
tava (gen. sg.): of yours

Thursday, August 18, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.24: Restraint as Heavy Baggage

yath" aasan'-aarthaM skandhena
kash cid gurviiM shilaaM vahet
tadvat tvam api kaam'-aarthaM
niyamaM voDhum udyataH

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

Just as, for the purpose of sitting,

Somebody might carry around on his shoulder
a heavy rock;

That is how you also, for the purpose of sensuality,

Are labouring to bear restraint.

Feeling unbearably wrong in sitting, because of sensual over-indulgence last night, because of a wounded left knee, because of bad karma produced in the dim and distant past, I say No to the whole idea of sitting, direct the head to go forward and up and the back to lengthen and widen, and go into movement, letting it come out in the wash, and come back to sitting again -- all for the purpose of sitting.

In today's verse, because he sees restraint as a tethering post, rather than a quickening of the conscious mind, Nanda is missing the essential point, which might be this:

For the purpose of sitting,
To enjoy practising restraint.

EH Johnston:
You are striving to assume self-control for the sake of passion; it is as if a man were to carry about a heavy stone on his shoulder to sit down on.

Linda Covill:
Just as someone would carry a heavy rock on his shoulder to use as a seat, likewise you are laboring to uphold the rules of restraint for the sake of sensual indulgence!

yathaa: ind. just as
aasan'-aartham (ind.): for the purpose of sitting, to use as a seat
aasana: n. sitting, seat
artha: m. aim, purpose
skandhena (inst. sg.): m. the shoulder

kash cid (nom. sg. m.): somebody
gurviim (acc. sg. f.): mfn. heavy
shilaam (acc. sg.): f. a stone, rock, crack
vahet = 3rd pers. sg. optative vah: to carry, bear ; to bear , suffer , endure ; to undergo ; to exhibit

tadvat: ind. so, in like manner
tvam (nom. sg.): you
api: also, even
kaam'-aartham (ind.): for the sake of sensuality
kaama: love , affection , object of desire or of love or of pleasure ; love, especially sexual love or sensuality

niyamam (acc. sg.): m. restraining, limitation , restriction, any fixed rule
voDhum = inf. vah: to carry, bear ; to bear , suffer , endure ; to undergo ; to exhibit
udyataH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. raised , held up , elevated; active , persevering , labouring diligently and incessantly (with dat. or loc. or inf. or without any object)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.23: Tragicomic End-gaining

aakaareN' aavagacchaami
tava dharma-prayojanaM
yaj jNatvaa tvayi jaataM me
haasyaM kaaruNyam eva ca

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

"From the look on your face I know

Your motive in practising dharma.

And knowing that, there arises in me towards you

Laughter and at the same time pity.

End-gaining in general is comical when there is a gap, as there usually is, between the end aspired to and the inadequate means by which the end-gainer is attempting to gain his end -- like a mosquito crawling up the backside of an iron ox, as one Zen practitioner in ancient China put it.

And end-gaining is pitiful because of the suffering it tends to produce by its unintended consequences, or side effects.

In choosing to tell Nanda's story, Ashvaghosha was able to bring out fully the absurdity of end-gaining, using the extreme example of Nanda practising the dharma as a means to gain the end of sexual union with celestial nymphs.

But in the way he tells the story, Ashvaghosha also observes end-gaining in others in other forms, like the ascetic end-gaining of the sage Kapila Gautama in Canto 1, and Sundari's emotional end-gaining in Canto 5, and the striver's striving in cantos 7 & 8.

Even Gautama, having intuitied that ascetic end-gaining was not it (3.3), Ashvaghosha tells us in his portrayal of the Tathagata, entered after all into ascetic practice that was most severe (3.4).

And I am sure that Ananda must, as perhaps indicated in 11.8, have come to the Buddha's dharma that way himself -- via the lowly path of end-gaining. Or else how would Ananda know so clearly what was ailing Nanda, and what the appropriate medicine was?

Thinking about the meaning of today's verse I asked my wife what her motivation was in practising sitting-dhyana (or Zazen as she calls it in Japanese). "To work on myself" was her orthodox Alexandrian reply. Nice answer. But I am not blind to her end-gaining, as she is not blind to mine.

If I ask myself the same question, in light of the teachings of Alexander and Ashvaghosha, I would say that sitting is an opportunity to practise a better way than end-gaining. But as I proved conclusively in my efforts in Japan to keep my spine straight vertically, at the expense of a back that was so narrowed my ribs could barely move, it is quite possible to end-gain like mad without realizing that one is end-gaining.

The lengthening and widening direction, it seems to me, already contains within it the antidote to end-gaining. I in my stupidity am probably still end-gaining in all kinds of ways of which I am not aware (even if my wife is), but the direction "back to lengthen and widen" -- so long as I don't try to implement it by a bit of doing -- already contains the antidote to all end-gaining.

So what a true motivation in practising dharma is, these days I wouldn't presume to say. In the past I thought I knew, but evidently I didn't. If I know anything, I know what false motivation is, i.e., what end-gaining is. And excellent preventive medicine against end-gaining, it seems to me, is provided by Alexander's four directions

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 forwards and away.

FM Alexander, incidentally, used to tell his student teachers to keep an eye on their pupil's face, looking out for tell-tale signs like furrowed brow, hundred-yard stare, tightened jaw and generally worried look.

A better way than tragicomic end-gaining, both Ashvaghosha and Alexander would have us see, is any way of non-end-gaining. But the best way, as Dogen emphasizes in Shobogenzo, is to sit in full lotus as non-end-gaining.

To sit in full lotus as non-end-gaining is, in Dogen's words,
"the fully cross-legged sitting of body and mind dropping off."

And what that means in other words, I would venture to suggest, is to sit in full lotus allowing the head to go forward and up and the back to lengthen and widen.

EH Johnston:
From your demeanour I understand why you follow the Law and knowing that, I am moved to laughter and compassion at the same time.

Linda Covill:
"I understand from your expression your motive in practicing dharma, and knowing it, I am moved to both laughter and compassion on your account.

aakaareNa (inst. sg.): m. form , figure , shape , stature , appearance , external gesture or aspect of the body , expression of the face (as furnishing a clue to the disposition of mind)
avagacchaami = 1st pers. sg. ava- √ gam: to hit upon , think of , conceive , learn , know , understand , anticipate , assure one's self , be convinced

tava (gen. sg.): your
dharma-prayojanam (acc. sg. n.): dharma-agenda, motive for practising dharma
pra-yojana: n. occasion , object , cause , motive , opportunity , purpose , design , aim , end

yad (acc. sg. n.): which
jNatvaa = abs. jNaa: to know
tvayi (loc. sg.): towards you
jaatam (nom. sg. n.): born, arising
me (gen. sg.): in me

haasyam (nom. sg.): n. laughing , laughter , mirth
kaaruNyam (nom. sg.): n. compassion , kindness
eva (emphatic)
ca: and

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.22: Seeing the Psychophysical Signs

tatas tasy' eNgitaM jNatvaa
babhaase vaakyam aanando
madhur'-odarkam a-priyaM

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

So knowing the signs

That betrayed the set of Nanda's mind,

Ananda spoke words

Which were disagreeable but sweet in consequence.

Whereas the striver in cantos 8 & 9 exhibits a divided view of body and mind, in this verse as I read it, as also in the previous verse, Ananda is portrayed as one who has long since abandoned that view.

What is the difference between a true smile and a stage smile? What are the signs?

Both Ananda and Ashvaghosha were outstandingly good with words. But a person doesn't have to be good with words to know the signs.

In my 20s and early 30s people who didn't know the signs would sometimes remark how good my posture was -- because I was practised in holding myself upright, like a bad actor forcing a smile. But allowing the back to lengthen and widen -- regardless of whether one's posture looks good or bad to others -- is a totally different kettle of fish.

The instruction "keep the spine straight vertically" is prone to lead people astray, causing them to become increasingly rigid and to lose their original features. Q.E.D. The instruction "allow the spine to lengthen and the back to widen" or "allow the back to lengthen and widen," is perhaps less liable to lead people astray; or perhaps it is equally liable, given the seemingly universal problem of faulty sensory appreciation.

I have criticized my Zen teacher, the teacher who transmitted the Dharma to me, not only because I went wrong following his instruction to "keep the spine straight vertically," but because I suffered the disagreeable experience of being manipulated by his unskilfull hands while I was sitting. So I really do know what was behind his verbal instruction, which was sheer ignorance. His instruction was disagreeable and my criticism of him is disagreeable. I have persisted with my criticism because, probably unwisely, I have expected there to be sweet consequences -- if not for him and me directly then at least for others.

Tich Naht Hahn wrote something to the effect that truly mindful walking is walking that looks like it already arrived. Those are words of one who knows the signs.

In Alexander work we say Allow the neck to be free to allow the head to go forward and up to allow the back to lengthen and widen while sending the knees forwards and away.

So somebody who is using themselves well with a back that is tending to lengthen and widen, even while they are engaged in a difficult activity like sitting still, is exhibiting the signs of a free neck, and equally is exhibiting the signs of the mindfulness of one who has already arrived.

What we call "a free neck" is free of what? Free of muscular tension, yes. But what is undue muscular tension if not the sign of some mind-set or other -- such as eagerness to arrive someplace else, or eagerness to achieve something?

As an antidote to such fixity, some Alexander teachers, including some very senior ones like Elisabeth Walker, and including my wife, sometimes talk of "the head balancing at the top of the spine."

Speaking for myself, I see more wisdom in Alexander's original direction for the head to go forward and up. People who attach to the direction "head to balance on top of the spine," in my experience, tend to try to arrange their head this way and that on the basis of anatomical understanding, which can be a subtle (or not-so-subtle) form of doing.

So speaking for myself I am not keen on the direction "head to balance at the top of the spine." It somehow lacks the psychophysical dynamism and depth of understanding in "head forward and up."

But since somebody yesterday reminded me that no lesser teacher than Elisabeth Walker sometimes uses the former direction in her teaching, I would like to cite the head truly being balanced, or poised, rather than fixed, at the top of the spine, as a sign that betrays the absence of mental fixity.

Some years ago I discussed with Elisabeth Walker how Alexander work had liberated me, at least partially, from the fixity I used to practise in sitting. Ever the practical teacher, Elisabeth asked me to demonstrate what I meant. So I pulled in my chin so as feel that old familiar tension at the back of my straightened neck. "Oh no!" Elisabeth immediately called out. "Stop it! That is too horrible."

This kind of experience in Alexander work is what gives me the confidence to persist with my disagreeable criticism of what a Zen Master taught me. It is not the confidence of one who knows what the right thing is. It is the confidence of one who knows, for damn sure, what is truly horrible.

EH Johnston:
On this Ananda, taking note of his change of countenance which betrayed the motions of his mind, spoke to him words which were disagreeable but would have a pleasant conclusion for him :--

Linda Covill:
Noticing his changed expression which betrayed the willfulness of his mind, Ananda addressed him in words that were unwelcome but which would have a sweet consequence:

tataH: ind. thence, from that
tasya (gen. sg.): his
iNgitam (acc. sg.): n. palpitation ; change of the voice , internal motion , motion of various parts of the body as indicating the intentions; hint, gesture ; aim , intention , real but covert purpose
jNatvaa = abs. jNaa: to know, perceive, understand

manaH-saMkalpa-suucakam (acc. sg. n.): betraying what his mind was fixed on
manas: n. mind
saMkalpa: m. conception or idea or notion formed in the mind or heart , (esp.) will , volition , desire , purpose , definite intention or determination or decision or wish for (with loc. dat. , or ifc.) , sentiment , conviction , persuasion
saM- √ klRp: to produce, create ; to determine , fix , settle ; to will , purpose , resolve , intend , aim at , strive after ; to imagine, fancy
suucaka: mfn. pointing out , indicating , showing , designating; informing , betraying , treacherous

babhaase = 3rd pers. sg. perfect bhaaSh: to speak , talk , say , tell
vaakyam (acc. sg.): n. speech, words
aanandaH (nom. sg. m.): Ananda

madhur'-odarkam (acc. sg. n.): sweet in consequence
madhura: mfn. sweet , pleasant , charming , delightful
ud-arka: m. arising (as a sound) , resounding; the future result of actions , consequence , futurity , future time
a-priyam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. unpleasant, disagreeable

Monday, August 15, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.21: Reflection & Release

shlakShna-puurvam atho tena
hRdi so 'bhihatas tadaa
dhyaatvaa diirghaM nishashvaasa
kiM cic c' aavaaN-mukho 'bhavat

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

Then -- though it was tenderly done --

Nanda was stricken in his heart.

After reflecting, he drew in a long breath,

And his face inclined slightly downward.

This verse, as I read it, contains Ashvaghosha's recognition of a truth that is intimately related with the practice which is called in Alexander work "non-doing."

As an experiment you can try for yourself right now at your computer: take a deep in-breath and then tuck your chin in a bit so that you feel some tension at the back of your neck as your face inclines slightly forward and downward.

What you have just done is an exercise in doing.

Non-doing is a different, nay opposite, conception and a totally different kind of practice. And what Ashvaghosha as I hear him is describing in Nanda is something totally different from Nanda doing something. Nanda did not do anything to cause himself to take an in-breath or to incline his face slightly downward. The deep breath and tiny movement of the head were rather the indirect result of Nanda's thought processes -- dhyaatvaa is the absolutive form of the root √dhyai (or √dhyaa), to think, reflect, meditate (as in dhyaana, Zen). The absolutive form expresses action preceding the main action. So dhyaatvaa means Nanda thought/reflected/meditated and after that, in consequence, certain things happened; namely, a deep in-breath and a subtle undoing of muscles with which Nanda had been pulling his head back. This deep breath and slight movement of Nanda's head were manifestations of muscular release, of an undoing which cannot be done directly.

For Nanda, where he is at this stage of his journey, these changes happened unconsciously. Nanda did not will those changes; they rather happened when Ananda held up a mirror and Nanda reflected. But if one wishes consciously to cause such changes to happen, what means are available?

What FM Alexander called "the means-whereby" is inhibition of the desire to do it directly in combination with sending thought messages along the lines of "head forward and up, to let the spine lengthen and the back widen." This sending of messages, altogether and one after another, Alexander called "thinking" or "thinking in activity."

The practice that Alexander called "thinking," I imagine Ashvaghosha might have called dhyaana, from the root √dhyai (or √dhyaa), to think or reflect.

Sitting-dhyaana, at least for me, as I have been practising it for 17 years now since my first Alexander lesson, is all about allowing the neck to be free to allow the head to go forward and up so that the back lengthens and widens and the knees go forward and away.

Expressed like this, it may sound like sitting-dhyaana as I practise it is all about neck and head and back and knees. But more fundamentally it is about allowing. It is, as Alexander said, the most mental thing there is. It is about informing the whole body with thought... and then what happens?

Does the breathing deepen? Does the face continue to incline slightly forward? Do body and mind drop off?

In theory, yes, for sure. In practice, it is not necessarily so.

Sometimes one goes hunting for cep mushrooms in the forest in late summer, just after a period of rain, only to come back several hours later tired and hungry and totally empty handed.

EH Johnston:
Then being stricken to the heart by him although in gentle fashion, Nanda meditated and, heaving a deep sigh, became somewhat downcast.

Linda Covill:
Then, wounded in his heart though it was gently done, Nanda brooded awhile, sighed deeply, and turned his face aside.

shlakShna-puurvam: (ind.) with gentleness, gently
shlakShna: mfn. slippery , smooth , polished , even , soft , tender , gentle , bland
puurvam: ind. before; ifc. in the sense of " with " e.g. priiti-puurvam , with love ; mati-puurvam with intention ,
atho: ind. now, then, therefore
tena (inst. sg. m.): by him

hRdi (loc. sg.): the heart
saH (nom. sg. m.): he
abhihataH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. struck , smitten , killed
tadaa: ind. at that time , then , in that case (often used redundantly)

dhyaatvaa = abs. dhyai: to think of , imagine , contemplate , meditate on , call to mind , recollect
diirgham: ind. long , for a long time
nishashvaasa = 3rd pers. sg. perfect ni- √ shvas: to draw in the breath , inspire ; to hiss , snort &c

kiM cid: somewhat , a little
ca: and
avaaN-mukhaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having the face turned downwards , looking down
abhavat = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect bhuu: to be, become

Sunday, August 14, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.20: Light Relief

yadi taavad idaM satyaM
vakShyaamy atra yad auShadhaM
auddhatyam atha vaktRRNaam
abhidhaasyaami tattvataH

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

If this really is true,

I will tell you a medicine for it;

Or if it is the impertinence of chatterers,

I shall speak out on the basis of fact."

In this verse as I read it Ananda is not expressing any doubt, even if he seems to be. Ananda knows where Nanda is coming from. So Ananda is not so much asking for confirmation as using an indirect means to encourage Nanda to confess.

Ananda already knows what is wrong with Nanda, who is wanting to gain the end of sexual union with nymphs by any old unconscious means, and Ananda knows a medicine for that ailment.

What kind of medicine does Ananda have in mind?

There might be a clue in the word he uses for medicine, auShadham, which is thought to derive probably from oSha "light-containing."

A more explicit hint is contained in 11.34:

riraMsaa yadi te tasmaad
adhyaatme dhiiyataaM manaH

"Therefore if you desire enjoyment, direct the mind within./"

The medicine Ananda has in mind might be what Dogen refers to as
"the backward step of turning one's light and letting it shine."

Learning the words by which Dogen labelled the medicine, however, and learning how to take it, are different things.


Learn the backward step of turning your light and letting it shine.
Body and mind will drop off spontaneously
and your original features will emerge.

Aside from having recited and translated this teaching many times, what do I really know about it?

I know that to go for lengthening at the expense of widening, to strive unconsciously for lengthening of the spine in such a way as to produce narrowing of the back as an unintended side effect, is bad medicine. Quad Erat Demonstrandum.

Conversely, I know what it is like to be guided by Marjory Barlow to experience a condition which she described as "the whole body informed with thought." This way of being is totally different from unconscious striving, the difference being akin to day and night.

EH Johnston:
If this really is correct, I shall explain its remedy to you, or if it is only the talk of gossip, I shall then explain the true state of affairs.'

Linda Covill:
If it is true, I will prescribe a remedy for it, and if it is just the work of gossip-mongers, I will put the truth around."

yadi: if
taavad: ind. indeed , truly, really
idam (nom. sg. n.): this
satyam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. true, real

vakShyaami = 1st pers. sg. future vac: to speak, say, tell
atra: ind. in this matter
yad (acc. sg. n.): whatever
auShadham (acc. sg. n.): mfn. (fr. oShadhi) , consisting of herbs; n. herbs used in medicine , simples , a medicament , drug , medicine in general
oShadhi: f. (etym. doubtful ; probably fr. oSha , " light-containing ") a herb , plant , simple , esp. any medicinal herb; a remedy in general
oSha: m. (fr. √uṣ to burn) , burning , combustion ; mfn. burning , shining

auddhatyam (nom. sg.): n. (fr. ud-dhata) , arrogance , insolence , overbearing manner , disdain
ud-dhata: mfn. raised (as dust); puffed up , haughty , vain , arrogant ; rude, ill-behaved
atha: ind. and, but, else
vaktRRNaam = gen. pl. vaktR: m. a speaker , orator ; mfn. one who speaks , a speaker , proclaimer of ; croaking (said of frogs) ; locquacious, talkative

abhidhaasyaami = 1st pers. sg. future abhi- √dhaa: to put on or round ; (in classical Sanskrit generally) to set forth , explain , tell , speak to , address , say , name
√dhaa: to put, place, set
tattva-taH: ind. (abl.) according to the true state or nature of anything , in truth , truly , really , accurately

Saturday, August 13, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.19: A Laughing Matter?

apsaro-bhRtako dharmaM
caras' iity abhidhiiyase
kim idaM bhuutam aaho svit
parihaaso 'yam iidRshaH

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

For apsarases as wages,

So they say, you are practising dharma.

Is that so? Is it true?

Such a thing would be a joke!

A bloke slips on a banana skin. The essence of comedy. Unless he breaks his neck, in which case it is no laughing matter.

In a similar way, when a teacher gives an instruction like "keep the spine straight vertically" or "allow the spine to lengthen and the back to widen," and a student in his attempts to follow that instruction goes wrong, the student's misguided efforts may or may not be a laughing matter -- depending on how drastically the student's life is fucked up.

In the story of Handsome Nanda, the teacher is the Buddha, a man who was truly awake, and Nanda's present excursion into ascetic end-gaining is one step on the way of a gradual process leading in the right direction.

"There is no such thing as a right position," said FM Alexander, "but there is such a thing as a right direction."

There is such a thing as a right direction. And good teaching, like that of the Buddha and of Ashvaghosha leads us there.

Bad teaching of Zen Masters on power trips can never lead us there.

A phrase that Dogen used often in Shobogenzo is WARAU BESHI, "one might/should laugh." A phrase that Dogen used more often still, in relation to the bad teaching of his day, was KANASHIMU BESHI, "one might/should lament."

EH Johnston:
It is said that you follow the Law in order to obtain the Apsarases as your wages. Is this true? Oh! Such conduct would be laughable.

Linda Covill:
You are said to be practicing dharma to earn the apsarases. Well? Is it true? Such a thing would be a joke!

apsaro-bhRtakaH (nom. sg. m.): receiving apsarases as wages
apsaras: f. celestial nymph
bhRtaka: m. a hired labourer , servant ; mfn. hired , receiving wages
dharmam (acc. sg.): m. dharma

carasi = 2nd pers. sg. car: to practise
iti: "...," thus
abhidhiiyase = 2nd pers. sg. passive abhi- √ dhaa: to be named or called

kim: (interrogative pronoun)
idam (nom. sg. n.): this
bhuutam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. actually happened , true , real; n. an actual occurrence , fact , matter of fact , reality
aaho: ind. an interjection , of asking and of doubt , " Is it so? "
svid: ind. a particle of interrogation or inquiry or doubt , often translatable by " do you think? " " perhaps " , " pray " , " indeed " ,

parihaasaH (nom. sg.): m. jesting , joking , laughing at , ridiculing , deriding; a jest , a joke
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this
iidRshaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. endowed with such qualities , such

Friday, August 12, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.18: A Better Way than Carefulness

tad idaM tvaa vivakShaami
praNayaan na jighaaMsayaa
tvac-chreyo hi vivakShaa me
yato n' aarhamy upekShituM

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

So now I am going to speak to you

Out of affection, with no wish to hurt.

For my intention is to speak of a better way for you --

In regard to which I ought not to be indifferent.

If letting self and others know of a better way than end-gaining is the most serious thing in the world, should one care about it?

Or, if seriousness is end-gaining and one is really serious about clarifying a better way, should one be as careless as possible about it?

Being careful is all tied up with trying hard. And trying hard, in the form of ascetic end-gaining, is what Nanda has been practising. A better way might involve giving up trying and being less careful.

Hence Patrick Macdonald said, "If you are careful you will never get anywhere. If you are careless you might."

I don't think the truth of this principle was lost for a moment on Ashvaghosha. That being so, I think line 4 of today's verse might have been written with a nod and a wink.

My everyday experience in sitting is that I ought to be totally indifferent but actually I bother about this and that. So I have translated line 4 literally, but my understanding is that the most important real meaning of line 4 is opposite to the literal meaning.

By suffusing Saundara-nanda with this kind of irony, Ashvaghosha seems to me to be constantly pointing the reader in a direction which is very different from conventional careful reading of religious texts by believers and scholars who take a particular view.

EH Johnston:
So my wish to speak to you springs from affection and not from a wish to hurt you ; for I wish to speak of your highest good, to which I ought not to be indifferent.

Linda Covill:
So I'd like to talk to you out of affection, and not with the intention of hurting you. My wish is to talk of what is best for you, something that I ought not to disregard.

tad: ind. so
idam: ind. here, now, in this manner
tvaa (acc. sg.): to you
vivakShaami = 1st pers. sg. desiderative vac: to speak , say , tell , utter , announce , declare , mention , proclaim , recite , describe ; reproach, revile

praNayaat: ind. (abl.) confidentially , affectionately , openly , frankly
na: not
jighaaMsayaa = inst. sg. jighaaMsaa: f. wish or intention to strike or slay or destroy ; malice

tvac-chreyaH (acc. sg. n.): your good, what is better for you, a better way for you
tvat = in comp. for tva: you
shreyas: n. the better state , the better fortune or condition; good, welfare
hi: for
vivakShaa (nom. sg.): f. (fr. Desid. of √ vac) the wish or desire to speak
vac: to speak , say , tell , utter , announce , declare , mention , proclaim , recite , describe
me (gen. sg.): my

yataH: ind. from which, whence; where, in what place, whither
na: not
arhami = 1st pers. sg. arh: to ought
upekShitum = inf. upa- √iikSh: to look on ; to overlook , disregard , neglect , abandon

Thursday, August 11, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.17: Marks of Friendship

vishvaasash c' aartha-caryaa ca
saamaanyaM sukha-duHkhayoH
marShaNaM praNayash c' aiva
mitra-vRttir iyaM sataaM

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

Trust, acting in the other's interest,

Sharing of joy and sorrow,

And tolerance, as well as affection:

Such, between good men, is the conduct of a friend.

What is a friend? Who has been a friend to me?

My most trusted friend, looking back, was not a person but a dog, who went by the name of Kim. So to anybody who wants above all a trusted friend, my advice based on pathetic experience would be to get a dog. I would steer clear of groups led by Japanese Zen masters. That's for damn sure.

When it comes to acting in each other's interests, the truest friend might be a partner. In that sense Gudo Nishijima was a very true friend to me when we were working together on the Nishijima-Cross translation of Shobogenzo into English. And my wife has been a great friend in bringing up our two sons.

For sharing joy and sorrow with friends there might be nothing to rival team sports, like rugby for example.

And with tolerance and affection, everybody can be everybody's friend.

So there are many kinds of friend. But the best friend of all, as epitomized by Ananda, is the friend who lets you know where you are going wrong.

In that spirit, I would say that my best friends in life have been four Alexander teachers, namely Ray Evans, Ron Colyer, Nelly Ben-Or and Marjory Barlow.

After more than 30 years of trying to clarify how to practise sitting-meditation, I still do not know how to sit and I don't expect I ever will. But thanks mainly to the four aforementioned Alexander teachers, I do have some idea how NOT to sit -- in which knowing there might be both joy and sorrow to be shared, but mainly joy.

EH Johnston:
Among the good the conduct of a friend is marked by confidence, consideration of the other's interest, participation in joy and sorrow, forbearance and affection.

Linda Covill:
Among decent folk, friendly behaviour consists of tolerance, affection, trust, acting in the other's interest, and the sharing of joys and sorrows.

vi-shvaasaH (nom. sg.): m. confidence , trust , reliance , faith or belief in
shvaasa: m. breathing
ca: and
artha-caryaa (nom. sg. f.): promoting another's affairs (one of the 7 elements of popularity)
artha: m. aim, purpose; advantage , use , utility
caryaa: f. going about
carya: n. (often ifc.) proceeding , behaviour , conduct
ca: and

saamaanyam (nom. sg.): n. equality , similarity , identity
sukha-duHkhayoH (gen. dual.): happiness and suffering, joy and sorrow

marShaNam (nom. sg.): n. patience, tolerance
mRSh: to forget , neglect ; to disregard , not heed or mind , mind , bear patiently , put up with (acc.) ; to pardon , forgive , excuse , bear with
praNayaH (nom. sg.): m. guidance , conduct ; affection , confidence in (loc.) , love , attachment , friendship , favour
ca: and

mitra-vRttiH (nom. sg. f.): the conduct of a friend
mitra: m. friend
vRtti: f. rolling ; mode of life or conduct , course of action , behaviour
iyam (nom. sg. f.): this
sataam (gen. pl.): m. a good or wise man , a sage ; m. good or honest or wise or respectable people