Thursday, September 15, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.52: Bad Signs

rajo gRhNanti vaasaaMsi mlaayanti paramaah srajaH/
gaatrebhyo jaayate svedo ratir bhavati n' aasane//11.52//

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

Their clothes gather dust,

Their glorious garlands wither,

Sweat appears on their limbs,

And in their sitting there is no enjoyment.

Again, this verse might best be read in conjunction with 11.34, whose theme is also ratiH, enjoyment: 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.//11.34//

Line 4 of today's verse, as I read it, is a real punch-line, in the background to which is Ananda's experience and understanding that sitting ceases to be enjoyable under the burden of some agenda, hidden or otherwise.

Ananda, as I hear him, is not only saying something preachy about the ultimate undesirability of churning endlessly forward on the wheel of samsara. He is also saying something humorous about our unskillful efforts to step off that wheel, i.e., about our groping around in the dark for the backward step of turning light and letting it shine.

Ashvaghosha might be intending to remind us, through Ananda, that the backward step as taught by the Buddha is inherently enjoyable. Surely this is something that, whatever false starting point we started trying to understand "Buddhism" from, we can all ultimately agree upon: The Buddha taught his followers to sit, and this sitting was totally different from asceticism. Instead of being painful, it was supposed to be enjoyable.

So if we are failing to enjoy it, because of being after something -- like pleasure for example; or recognition; or buddahood; or security, a feeling of being all right, a sense of being on the right path -- it might be wise to go back to first principles and ask: In my sitting, what originally am I after?

A wise answer might be: I am after nothing.

In which case, a wise follow-up question might be: What kind of nothing am I after?

EH Johnston:
Their clothes retain the dust, their magnificent garlands wither, sweat appears on their limbs and they find no delight in their places.

Linda Covill:
Their clothes collect dust, their sublime wreaths wither, sweat appears on their bodies, and they take no joy in their station.

rajaH (acc. sg.): n. impurity , dirt , dust , any small particle of matter
gRhNanti = 3rd pers. pl. graH: to take, grasp, catch ; to pluck , pick , gather
vaasaaMsi = nom. pl. vaasas: n. clothes

mlaayanti = 3rd pers. pl. mlaa / mlai: , to fade , wither , decay , vanish ; to be languid or exhausted or dejected , have a worn appearance
paramaaH (nom. pl. f.): mfn. best, most excellent
srajaH = nom. pl. sraj: f. a wreath of flowers , garland

gaatrebhyaH (abl. pl.): n. n. " instrument of moving " , a limb or member of the body ; the body
jaayate = 3rd pers. sg. jan: to be born or produced , come into existence , to happen
svedaH (nom. sg.): m. sweating , perspiring , sweat

ratiH (nom. sg.): f. rest , repose ; pleasure , enjoyment , delight in , fondness for (loc.)
bhavati = 3rd pers. sg. bhuu: be, become, come into being, happen
na: not
asane (loc. sg.): n. sitting; seat , place , stool


Anonymous said...

"Whatever false start we started
trying to understand Buddhism

And what would a non-false
starting point be for a being
conditioned in time?

Anonymous #2 said...

In my sitting, what originally am I after?

I think the answer is provided by attention, which knows the next thing present. If that is unpleasant feeling, and it knows it, I guess that's at least in the right direction, versus pushing away from it and grasping at something else to relieve it.

Anon above.... here is a starting point: .

Mike Cross said...

If you ask a US marine, like Jordan Fountain for example, he might tell you that his starting point is to serve.

But careful how you ask him! If you use knowing Buddhist buzz-words, like "a being conditioned in time" you may incur his wrath...

Anonymous said...

Actually it would be a frequent statement by J. Krishnamurti.
He would probably say that the "ism" is a form of conditioning
caught in time.

Mike Cross said...

I like the idea of teaching that appeals to everybody, that everybody can agree is pretty close to the Buddha's original teaching.

If you read EH Johnston's introductions to his Ashvaghosha translation, he is primarily bothered about what school of Buddhism Ashvaghosha belongs to. Scholars of Buddhism are generally like that. Scholars like to divide the teaching up, to analyze it, to identify -isms, and compare those -isms with other -isms, using philosophical and technical language.

For another example of a true starting point, an example that was much celebrated in China was that of the 6th buddha-ancestor in China, called in Japanese Daikan Eno. He was originally a woodcutter who had never read a Buddhist book in his life, and he totally neglected trying to understand Buddhism. They say he used to enjoy pounding rice in a mortar.

an3drew said...

asane is "on the seat" with connotations of an exhaulted postion, well superior anyway

so imo "sitting" is not quite right

more like

"in their attainment there is no relaxation or enjoyment" which is pretty well a realistic description of what is called enlightment, which of course is the genius of ashvaghosha, he keeps turning up this stuff that shows he knows what it's all about !