Saturday, September 24, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.61: Blissfully Ignorant Meditators, Cruising for a Bruising

antarjālagatāḥ pramattamanaso mīnāstaḍāge yathā
jānanti vyasanaṃ na rodhajanitaṃ svasthāścarantyambhasi /
antarlokagatāḥ kṛtārthamatayastadvaddivi dhyāyino
manyante śivamacyutaṃ dhruvamiti svaṃ sthānamāvartakam //11.61//

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Just as fish in a pond who have swum into a net, unwarily,

Do not know the misfortune that results from capture
but contentedly move around in the water,

So meditators in heaven who are of the world,
thinking they have achieved their end,

Assume their own position
to be favourable, secure, settled --
as they whirl around again.

Today's verse is written in exactly the same 19-syllable-per-pāda metre as as yesterday's verse.

Since it is such a long sentence, the meaning might become clearer if we identify the elements in the first half and second half that run most closely parallel to each other.

The subjects are fish (mīnāḥ) and meditators or Zen practitioners (dhyāyinaH), respectively. The fish actually are in a net (antarjālagatāḥ). The meditators actually are in and of the world (antarlokagatāḥ). The fish, however, are not conscious of being anywhere but in a pond (taḍāge); and the meditators are not conscious of being anywhere but in a higher realm, that is to say, in heaven (divi). The unwary fish, then, are blissfully ignorant of their real situation, and so are the meditators, as they continue to go round and round.

Pride comes before a fall, as the saying goes, and it might be that nobody is cruising for a bruising more surely than a smug or arrogant meditator.

A couple of apposite quotes from Alexander work are FM Alexander's observation that "If you want to meditate, this work is how," and Marjory Barlow's exhortation that "In this work humility has to be your middle name."

The reason humility has to be our middle name, as I understand it, is that there is no such thing as a right position. There is no such thing as a position that has dropped off body and mind -- even if in my comment to yesterday's verse, I tried to sound as if I was writing from such a position. Because dropping off body and mind is not a position.

Majory Barlow used to speak of the whole body being informed with thought, which sounds like affirmation of the principle of mind influencing body. In that case, it occured to me yesterday, it might be necessary also to speak of thought that is informed by the whole body. But above all, a better way might be one that is totally free from me trying to be right.

As a means of dropping off body and mind Dogen recommended just following other practitioners, following them into the Zazen Hall, following them out of the Zazen Hall, and so on. Probably because of the dangers of misguided groupthink, the Buddha's teaching as Ashvaghosha transmits it seems to me to be much more centred on individual practice. But doing one's own thing, as typified in Shobogenzo by the bhikṣu of the fourth dhyāna, has its own dangers, chief among which is deluding oneself out of pride that one has achieved something or arrived somewhere.

EH Johnston:
As heedless fishes in a pond, when enclosed by a net, do not realise the disaster that has befallen them from being penned in but swim about cheerfully, so those given to abstract meditation think they have gained their object in heaven, while in fact they are still in the world of existence, and they deem their stay there, which leads to return to this world to be safe, permanent and not subject to fall.

Linda Covill:
Just as fish in a pond carelessly swim into a net and, unaware of the tragedy that will result from their capture, continue to move around happily in the water, so do people in that world believe they have achieved their end. They are engrossed in heaven and believe their own position there to be benign, unfallen and certain, though it is reversible.

antar-jaala-gataaH (nom. pl. m.): gone inside a net
antar: ind. within , between , amongst , in the middle or interior.
jaala: n. a net (for catching birds , fish &c )
gata: mfn. gone, being in
pramatta-manasaH (nom. pl. m.): heedless-minded
pramatta: mfn. excited , wanton , lascivious , rutting; inattentive , careless , heedless , negligent
pra- √mad: to enjoy one's self , be joyous , sport , play ; to be careless or negligent , to be indifferent to or heedless
manasa: mind
miinaaH (nom. pl.): m. fish
taDaage (loc. sg.): mn. a tank , pool
yathaa: ind. just as

jaananti = 3rd pers. pl. jñā: to know
vyasanam (acc. sg.): n. moving to and fro , wagging (of a tail); evil predicament or plight , disaster , accident , evil result , calamity , misfortune
na: not
rodha-janitam (acc. sg.): produced from the confinement
rodha: m. the act of stopping , checking , obstructing , impeding ; suppressing , preventing , confining , surrounding , investing , besieging , blockading
janita: mfn. born, produced
svasthaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. self-abiding , being in one's self ; at ease ; relying upon one's self , confident , resolute , composed
caranti = 3rd pers. pl. car: to move around
ambhasi (loc. sg.): n. water

antar-loka-gataaH (nom. pl. m.): being inside the world
gata: mfn. gone; come , come forth from (in comp. or abl.); come to , approached , arrived at , being in , situated in , contained in ; relating to , referring to , connected with (e.g. putra-gata sneha , love directed towards the son ; tvad-gata , belonging to thee)
kRt'-aartha-matayaH (nom. pl. m.): believing themselves to have achieved their end
kRt'-aartha: mfn. one who has attained an end or object or has accomplished a purpose or desire , successful , satisfied , contented
kRta: mfn. done
artha: aim, object
mati: f. thought; opinion , notion , idea , belief , conviction , view
tadvat: ind. so, in like manner
divi (loc. sg.): heaven
dhyaayinaH = nom. pl. m. dhyaayin: mfn. absorbed in meditation
dhyai: to think of , imagine , contemplate , meditate on , call to mind

manyante = 3rd pers. pl. man: to think , believe , imagine , suppose ,
shivam (acc. sg. n.): auspicious , propitious , gracious , favourable , benign , kind , benevolent ; happy, fortunate
a-cyutam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. not fallen; firm, solid; imperishable , permanent
dhruvam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. fixed , firm , immovable , unchangeable , constant , lasting , permanent , eternal ; settled , certain , sure
iti: "...," thus
svam (acc. sg. n.): their own
sthaanam (acc. sg.): n. the act of standing ; position ; staying , abiding , being in ; state, condition ; continued existence ; station, rank
aavartakam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. bringing back, repeating
ā- √ vṛt: to turn round or back , return , revolve
aavartaka: m. whirlpool ; revolution ; excitement of the mind from the influence of the senses

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