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)

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