Monday, September 19, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.56: Quietness in Samsara Is Not It

a-shariiraM bhav'-aagraM hi gatv" aapi munir udrakaH /
karmaNo 'nte cyutas tasmaat tiryag-yoniM prapatsyate //11.56//

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

For though he attained a peak experience

Of bodiless being, Sage Udraka,

At the expiration of his karma,

Will fall from that state into the womb of an animal.

EHJ considered verses 11.56 and 11.57 to be "undoubtedly spurious." Consequently, he omitted them from his Sanskrit text proper, and included them only in transliterated form in his end notes. In his English translation, EHJ re-affirmed that he considered the two verses to be spurious, and relegated his translation of them to a footnote.

Udraka is mentioned briefly in Canto 3, as one of the two sages under whose guidance the young Gautama strove in pursuit of freedom and quiet: Then Arada, who spoke of freedom, and likewise Udraka, who inclined towards quietness, / He served, his heart set on truth, and he left. He who intuited the path intuited: "This also is not it."//3.3//

Whether today's verse is spurious or not, the historical fact is that Gautama decided that the kind of pursuit of quietness that Udraka was engaged in was not the path out of samsara that Gautama was seeking. It is this path out of samsara to which the Buddha will later point Nanda, via the teaching of the four noble truths. For by failing to wake up and come round to this four, whose substance is what is, / Mankind goes from existence to existence without finding peace, hoisted in the swing of samsara.//16.6//

Samsara is sometimes like a swing, sometimes like a roller-coaster, sometimes like a sledge-hammer, and sometimes like a merry-go-round. Whatever faiground ride one compares it to, the whirl of samsara -- whether one is passing through hell, the human realm, or the world of animals -- is always motivated by unconscious reaction. Whereas waking up to the four noble truths and making that teaching one's own requires consciously accepting and using oneself as an individual. It requries what FM Alexander called constructive conscious control of the individual.

A seven-week-old puppy, through learning by assocation, is readily amenable to be trained, via the granting and withholding of what it wants -- mainly food and love. But having been born from the womb of an animal, the puppy lacks and will always lack the ability to think for itself and thereby to make the four noble truths its own.

In the background to today's verse, as I read it, is the recognition that most revered sages, zen masters, Alexander teachers, life coaches, psychotherapists, consultant psychiatrists, masters of neuro-linguistic programming, spiritual counsellors, professors of neuro-physiology, and other experts in various fields are basically in the same boat as the seven-week-old puppy. If we have been trained well and if conditions are favourable, we may experience the utmost quiet... and yet, until we make the four noble truths into our own possession as individuals, we are only going from existence to existence without finding peace, hoisted in the swing of samsara.

EH Johnston:
For though the Sage Udraka reached the incorporeal apex of existence, he will fall therefrom when his merit expires, and be reborn as an animal.

Linda Covill:
The sage Udraka has attained a disembodied state at the zenith of existence, but when his good deeds expire he will fall from there to an animal womb.

a-shariiram (acc. sg. n.): mfn. bodiless , incorporeal
bhav'-aagram (acc. sg. n.): the uppermost part of existence
bhava: n. being , state of being , existence , life
agra: n. foremost point or part, tip; uppermost part , top , summit
hi: for

gatvaa = abs. gam: to go to, attain
api: though
muniH (nom. sg.): m. sage
udrakaH (nom. sg.): m. Udraka, N. of a ṛṣi

karmaNaH (gen. sg.): n. action, work, karma; former act as leading to inevitable results , fate (as the certain consequence of acts in a previous life)
ante (loc. sg.): m. end
cyutaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. fallen down
tasmaat (abl. sg.): from that, from there

tiryag-yonim (acc. sg.): an animal womb, birth as an animal
tiryaNc: m. n. " going horizontally " , an animal
yoni: mf. womb; place of birth , source , origin , spring , fountain (ifc. = sprung or produced from); the form of existence or station fixed by birth (e.g. that of a man , Brahman , animal &c ; ifc. = belonging to the caste of)
prapatsyate = 3rd pers. sg. future pra- √ pat : to fly away or along , hasten towards (loc.) , to fall from , be deprived of , lose (abl.)

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