Saturday, September 3, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.40: Backsliding, Back & Down (Or Not)

yadaa bhraShTasya kushalaM
shiShTaM kiM cin na vidyate
tiryakShu pitR-loke vaa
narake v" opapadyate

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

The backslider

When his residual good runs out

Finds himself among the animals
or in the world of the departed,

Or else he goes to hell.

EHJ identifies pitR in line 3 with preta, which literally means "departed" (from pra-√i, to go away, depart). The Monier Williams dictionary gives preta as "the spirit of a dead person (esp. before obsequial rites are performed), a ghost, an evil being." In Chinese and Japanese preta was rendered into 餓鬼 (GAKI) hungry ghost, one of the six samsaric realms which for my sins I explored in some detail in 2008, before redirecting my energy into this work of translating Ashvaghosha.

It is interesting to note that Ashvaghosha himself refers in this and the previous verse not to six but to five realms: heaven, the world of men, of animals, of departed ancestors (pitR), and hell. He doesn't specifically mention either asura (anti-gods) or preta.

In any event, backsliding into a samsaric realm like the state of a lowly evolved swine, or a world beset by ghosts from the past, or hell, has to do, as I understand that journey, with pulling the head back and down.

Pulling the head back is a stiffening or self-locking reaction, and pulling the head down is a shortening reaction.

When a person with faulty sensory appreciation rooted in immature vestibular reflexes goes directly to gain an end -- even some worthy selfish end like easy upright posture, or healthy flow of internal energy; or some even worthier altruistic end like spreading true Buddhism throughout the world -- this unconscious stiffening and shortening invariably ensues. Q.E.D.

A well-meaning person who aspires to get off the samsaric merry-go-round but who in fact keeps finding himself right back on, is well advised, it seems to me, to keep inquiring into what FM Alexander meant by consciously directing the head forward and up.

What does it mean truly to allow the head FORWARD and UP?

I don't know. Allowing is never a thing I have managed to get my dirty paws on.

But it doesn't mean pulling the head back, and it doesn't mean pulling oneself down. That is for damn sure. It might mean simply thinking the words "head forward and up" and getting on with some job, like this one.

EH Johnston:
As the man who falls from Paradise has no grace subsisting, he is born again among beasts or among the Pretas or in Hell.

Linda Covill:
When no good remains to the descending man, he is reborn among the animals, or in the world of the ancestors, or in hell.

yadaa: ind. when
bhraShTasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. fallen , dropped , fallen down or from or off ; a backslider
kushalam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. right , proper , suitable , good; n. welfare , well-being , prosperous condition , happiness ; n. benevolence ; n. virtue

shiShTam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. left , remaining , escaped , residual ; n. anything that remains or is left , remains , remnant
kiM cit na vidyate: there is not any

tiryakShu = loc. pl. tiryaNc: m. n. " going horizontally " , an animal (amphibious animal , bird , &c )
pitR-loke (loc. sg.): m. the world or sphere of the pitṛs
pitR: m. pl. the fathers , forefathers , ancestors , (esp.) the pitṛs or deceased ancestors
loka: m. world
vaa: or

narake (loc. sg.): mn. hell , place of torment
vaa: or
upapadyate = 3rd pers. sg. upa- √ pad: to go towards ; to approach , come to , arrive at , enter; to take place , come forth , be produced , appear , occur , happen ; to be present, exist ;

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