Saturday, October 15, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.19: Not Being on the Trail of Equanimity

dṛṣṭa-śrutādau vyavahāra-dharme /
yasmāt samātmānugataś-ca tatra
tasmād visaṃyoga-gato 'smi muktaḥ //18.19 //

[1] EHJ: aniśritaḥ; LC: aniścitaḥ; UoW: aniścitaḥ

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

In the daily round of dharma-practice

Since I am neither certain about nor bound in mind to
visual, auditory and other kinds of perception,

And since through that dharma-round
I am graced by trailing equanimity,

On that account I am detached and am free."

The UIII metric scheme for a verse in Upajāti metre is known as Kīrti.

Both vyavahāra and dharma include such a diversity of meanings that vyavahāra-dharme in the 2nd pāda, as a compound, could have any number of valid translations. (Any of those translations that was strictly literal, though, might translate vyavahāra-dharme in the singular and not in the plural.) But what does vyavahāra-dharme really mean? What it means to me is stepping back and plodding on and stepping back and plodding on and stepping back and plodding on and stepping back and plodding on... on and on and on. Stepping back means practising non-doing, i.e., working to allow a bit of nothing. For me that primarily means sitting in lotus; for other Alexander devotees it might primarily mean lying on one's back and working on the self that way. Plodding on means getting on with something, like this translation work, or like a daily job, or like working in the garden, or a do-it-yourself job in the house.

If we are talking about samātman (equanimity, equability, balance, getting back on an even keel), I have found over many years that works for me is a combination of what I think of as "donkey work," and sitting as practice of a backward step. For 2 or 3 years when I lived in the suburbs of Tokyo, just around the time when our two sons were born, I would travel into the city for two days of work in the office of an economics research institute, staying overnight at the house of a friend who worked in the city. My motivation for thus venturing into the big city, needless to say, was financial. Being an unduly sensitive soul, I would get back to the house we were renting on the outskirts of Tokyo in a very frazzled state. And week by week I found that the best way for me to get back on an even keel was by a combination of doing donkey work and investigating (albeit not very intelligently, with pulled-in chin and the rest of it) the backward step of turning my light and letting it shine.

In the above paragraph I have written "for me" advisedly, because the first half of today's verse seems to touch on "the sin of certainty." "The sin of certainty" is a phrase favoured by one of the Alexander teachers I have learned most from, namely Ron Colyer, a man who taught me a lot about what it means to be an individual and what it means to allow a pupil to be an individual. Ron is also a man who knows a thing or two about unreliable visual and auditory perception, and about unreliable vestibular and tactile proprioception, and about how reliably to circumvent unreliable sensory appreciation.

Implicit in the second half of today's verse, as I read it, is the principle that eager, impatient or ambitious pursuit of desirable Buddhist virtues like balance, wisdom, or equanimity, does not tend to result in equanimity. Going directly for equanimity is generally not conducive to equanimity. But if one directs one's energy forward and outward into some donkey work, then sometimes equanimity seems to follow indirectly, as if tagging along behind. If, conversely, one is able consciously to turn one's light backward and inward and let it shine there, then, so they say, body and mind spontaneously drop off and one's original features clearly emerge.

Either way, whether one is stepping forward or stepping backward, because equanimity is not being pursued directly there is a sense, for me, of equanimity, if one is graced with it at all, tagging along behind.

EH Johnston:
Since I am not dependent on nor bound in mind to seeing, hearing, etc, in the ordinary affairs of life and since I use them with my mind in equipose, therefore I am disjoined from them and emancipated.'

Linda Covill:
Since my mind is unshackled and I do not depend on aspects of ordinary life such as what is seen and heard, but engage in those actions while I myself remain in equilibrium, I am therefore separate from them, and free."

a-nishritaH (nom. sg. m.): not dependent
nishrita = past participle ni- √shri: to lean on or against
a-nishcitaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. unascertained , not certain
nishcita = past participle niś- √ ci : to ascertain , investigate , decide , settle , fix upon , determine , resolve
ca: and
aa-pratibaddha-cittaH (nom. sg. m.): not fixed-minded
aa-pratibaddha: not tied or bound to , fastened , fixed
citta: n. mind

dRShTa-shrut'-aadau (loc. sg. m.): to visual perception, hearing, and so on
dRShTa: mfn. seen, looked at; n. perception , observation
shruta: mfn. heard , listened to ; n. anything heard , that which has been heard (esp. from the beginning) , knowledge as heard by holy men and transmitted from generation to generation ; n. the act of hearing
aadi: ifc. beginning with , et caetera , and so on
vyavahaara-dharme (loc. sg. m.): in the daily round of dharma
vyavahaara: m. doing , performing , action , practice , conduct , behaviour; usage , custom , wont , ordinary life , common practice ; activity , action or practice of occupation or business with (loc. or comp.) ; mercantile transaction , traffic , trade with , dealing in (comp.)
dharma: usage , practice , customary observance or prescribed conduct , duty ; virtue , morality , religion , religious merit , good works

yasmaat: ind. since
sam'-aatmaa = nom. sg. m. sam'-aatman: mfn. (= sam'aatmaka) possessing equanimity, balanced
sama: mfn. even, flat, equal ; equable , neutral , indifferent; equally distant from extremes , ordinary , common , middling
aatman: essence , nature , character , peculiarity (often ifc. e.g. karmātman, active)
anugataH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. followed by , having anything (as a skin) hanging behind ; following ; tallying with
anu- √ gam: to go after , follow , seek , approach , visit , arrive ; to practise , observe , obey , imitate
ca: and
tatra: ind. therein

tasmaat: ind. from that , on that account , therefore (correlative of yasmāt)
visaMyoga: m. liberation from worldly fetters; disjunction , separation
saMyoga: m. conjunction , combination , connection
gataH (nom. sg. m.): arrived at , being in ; gone to any state or condition
asmi: I am
muktaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. loosened , let loose , set free, opened

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