Saturday, August 13, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.19: A Laughing Matter?

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

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


dorebelle said...

I have some doubt about the "right" direction too 8/

Mike Cross said...

I believe there is an Alexander Teacher in Rome named Susan Yarrow who might be able to help you with that.