Saturday, October 8, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.12: Mention of Working on the Self

yatpaśyataścādhigamo mamāyaṃ
tanme samāsena mune nibodha /
sarvajña kāmaṃ viditaṃ tavaitat
svaṃ tūpacāraṃ pravivakṣurasmi //18.12 //

= = - = / = - - / = - = = // = = - = / = - - / = - = -
= = - = / = - - / = - = = // = = - = / = - - / = - = -

And so, O Sage, hear from me in brief

What, through seeing, I have made my own.

Though you know it anyway, O All-knowing One,

Still I wish to mention how I have worked on myself.

The metric scheme of this verse, IIII, is known as Indravajrā. According to Ānandojoti's analysis of the metre of the extant chapters of Aśvaghoṣa's other epic poem, Buddhacarita, of the 475 verses written in Upajāti, 109 follow the IIII Indravajrā form, making it more than twice as frequent as the next most frequently-occuring form.

My first stab at translating today's verse began "And so, O Sage, listen to my summary of this teaching that, by experiencing it, I have made my own."

I was thus going to translate paśyataH as "by experiencing it" or "through experience." Looking ahead to coming verses, however, I would like to link the translation of paśyataH in this verse with the three instances (in 18.15, 18.16, and 18.17) of paśyāmi ("I see"); hence I have translated paśyataH as "through seeing."

In Sanskrit as in English, I think, to see is not only a function of the eyes and not only a function of the eyes and the brain. It might be a function of skin, flesh, bones, and marrow. When a US marine sees active service, for example, it might involve his boots being on the ground -- as Jordan Fountain might be able to confirm, if he is reading this. So really to see might be a function not only of skin, flesh, bones, marrow, but also of boots.

The point might be that it is not enough for us to read and be able to remember the teaching, even in the best translation possible (which this translation is certainly not). The point might be that each individual has actually to see it for him or her self.

"People that haven't any fish to fry," FM Alexander said, "they see it all right."

People tend to think that Alexander work is all about posture, which in a sense it is -- in a negative sense. Alexander work is all about dropping off one's habitual conceptions around posture in favour of a lengthening and widening direction. The same is true, in my book, for sitting-dhyāna, especially as it is taught and practised in Japan, where there is great emphasis on proper posture. Failing to see the real truth of the Buddha's teachings, Japanese Zen Masters turn proper posture into a Buddhist agenda, and so we get a situation in which the blind are led by the blind.

If we conceive the primary thing as posture, then sitting-dhyāna is a kind of physical gymnastics, and the central task it to learn what to do. But here in Nanda's description, in his own words, of how he got himself going in the right direction, the emphasis seems to be not so much on what to do but rather on how to see for oneself.

If you go to Thailand, you may find that for many monks there the big Buddhist agenda is being a monk, while for lay people the big agenda seems to be making merit by providing for monks...

I was going to write more on this subject, but my wife has just informed me that the England vs France game in the Rugby World Cup has started. So my agenda right now is to watch that...

EH Johnston:
O Sage, hear from me briefly what I perceived in order to enter into this possession; for though Thou art omniscient and already knowest it, I wish to tell Thee the manner of my cure.

Linda Covill:
O sage, listen to a summary of my achievement when I saw clearly, for I would personally like to talk of my course of treatment, though I suppose you know it already, all-knowing one.

yat: (relative pronoun) which
pashyataH = gen./abl. sg. pres. part. pash: to see, to observe ; to live to see , experience , partake of. undergo , incur ; to learn , find out
ca: and
adhigamaH (nom. sg.): m. the act of attaining , acquisition ; acquirement, mastery
mama (gen. sg.): of mine
ayam (nom. sg. m): this , this here , referring to something near the speaker ; known, present ; ayam often refers to something immediately following , whereas etad points to what precedes

tat (acc. sg. n.): (correlative of yat): that
me (gen./dat. sg.): from me
samaasena (inst. samaasa): fully , wholly , summarily
samaasa: m. throwing or putting together , aggregation , conjunction , combination , connection , union , totality
mune (voc. sg. m. muni): O sage!
nibodha = imperative ni- √ budh: to learn or hear anything (acc.) from any one (gen.); to listen to (esp. imperative nibodha)

sarva-jNa (voc. sg. m.): O all-knowing one!
kaamam: ind. according to wish or desire ; at will , freely , willingly ; with pleasure , readily , gladly ; well and good , in any case , at any rate; though , although , supposing that
viditam (acc. sg. n): mfn. known , understood , learnt , perceived , known
tava (gen. sg.): to you
etat (acc. sg. n.): this

svam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. my own
tu: but
upacaaram (acc. sg.): m. approach ; behaviour, conduct ; mode of proceeding towards (gen.) , treatment ; attendance on a patient , medical practice , physicking
pravivakShuH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. desirous to proclaim
pra-√vac: to proclaim , announce , praise , commend , mention , teach , impart , explain (with acc. of thing); speak, say, tell
asmi: I am


Mike Cross said...

[Jordan's comment, received by email:]


My Information Assurance guys have tweaked our web browser settings, which is interfering with the word verification process on blogger.

In the case of your recent post, the “m” in US Marine should be capitalized.

There is an old saying in America, “Don’t judge an Indian until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.” It is sometimes continued, “That way, you’re a mile off and he hasn’t got any shoes.”

Which I think the first part goes along with this idea of seeing.
But I will confirm that no one know what service in the U.S. Marine Corps is like, unless they have actually served. Furthermore, no one knows what my service has been like, unless they are me. The same could be said of anyone I suppose. It would be nice to get everyone to think like that. Too bad about the reality though.

I think I wrote too much.

Yours from the sea,


Jordan said...


Jordan said...

I think it is working now, thanks for your tech savvy.

Mike Cross said...

Tech savvy? That would be nice. Too bad about the reality though.