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

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