Sunday, October 23, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.27: Going Up, Here & Now

diṣṭyā durāpaḥ kṣaṇa-saṃnipāto
nāyaṃ kṛto moha-vaśena moghaḥ /
udeti duḥkhena gato hy-adhastāt
kūrmo yugacchidra ivārṇavasthaḥ // 18.27 //

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

Happily, this meeting with the present moment,
which is so hard to come by,

Is not being wasted under the sway of ignorance.

For a man who has been down goes up with difficulty,

Like a turtle to a hole in a yoke, in the foaming sea.

The metric pattern of today's Upajāti verse (IIUI) is known as Sālā.

The turtle reference tallies with the famous simile recorded in the Pali Chiggala Sutta (The Sutra of the Hole), helpfully translated here by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu.

In the conventional interpretation of the simile of the turtle, at least as I am familiar with it, the object that is difficult to meet is the true teaching of the Tathāgata. In today's verse the object that is difficult to meet, as a person who has fallen from grace and come back up again, is a moment of the present.

That being so, a quote that I considered including yesterday, in a comment that was already too long, fits even better with today's verse. The quote is from The annual F.M. Alexander memorial lecture given by Marjory Barlow on 9 November 1965 at The Medical Society of London, and Marjory is relating how her uncle FM Alexander discovered for himself how to work on himself, to bring about change for the better:

Alexander could not change anything by doing. He could not trust his feeling. He then saw that he had underestimated the strength of habit. What he observed in the mirror was the end-result of disordered patterns lying deep in the nervous system. And that these inner patterns of impulses, conveyed through the nervous system to the muscles acting on the bony structure and joints of the body, were operative perpetually, whether he was moving, speaking or sitting still.

In fact these inner patterns were him -- insofar as his body was the outer manifestation of them.

The next step in the journey was taken when Alexander realised that the only place where he could begin to control the wrong habitual patterns was at the moment when the idea came to him to speak or move. The moment when, whatever state of misuse he was in, would be made worse as he went into action. He had reached the only place, and the only moment in time, where change could begin, or where he could have any control over the habitual patterns of misuse, which were dominating everything he attempted to do.

This place, or this moment in time, was the instant that a stimulus to activity reached his consciousness. In the ordinary way, when a stimulus comes, we react to it in the only manner possible. The response is made without thought -- without any knowledge on our part of what we are putting into motion. The reaction is the immediate response of the whole self, according to habitual patterns of movement which we have developed from our earliest years. We have no choice in this, we can behave in no other way. We are bound in slavery to these unrecognised patterns just as surely as if we were automatons.

When Alexander reached understanding of this part of the problem he had found the key to all change. He understood at last in what way he must work....

In the way Marjory thus describes her uncle's journey back to the route of his problem, he emerges as a kind of miner of the human mind -- mining for a heart of gold? Probably not quite in the sense that the 24-year-old Neil Young understood it. But then again who knows what somebody like Neil Young was tapping into, or from where that kind of haunting lyric emerges.

I have titled this post "Going Up, Here & Now," which is all very well, But I could have told you 30 years ago -- before I really experienced any kind of difficulty -- that the point is just to go up, here and now. What Marjory's account of FM Alexander's work on himself makes clear is that, in order for going forward and up in the moment to be really going forward and up in the moment, there might need to be a lot of digging back and down.

Searching for a heart of gold on the outside is liable to ends in tears, because the instant that a stimulus to activity reaches consciousness has never existed on the outside. It has never resided in India or China or Japan, or in Thailand or Sri Lanka. It doesn't necessarily reside on a black cushion either -- unless the practitioner learns to listen, unless he learns to stop end-gaining and just will the means.

EH Johnston:
By good fortune this contact with the right moment, so difficult to obtain, has not been made fruitless through delusion ; for when a man has gone below, he comes up again with difficulty, like the turtle in the ocean rising up so as to meet the hole in the yoke.

Linda Covill:
How wonderful that you met the right moment, so hard to come by, and that it was not wasted under the sway of delusion! For a man who has gone to the lower realms struggles to rise, like a turtle in the ocean swimming up to a hole in a yoke.

diShTyaa = inst. diShTi: f. auspicious juncture , good fortune , happiness (esp. instr. diShTyaa , thank heaven! I congratulate you on your good luck!)
dur-aapaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. difficult to be attained or approached , inaccessible; hard to come by
kShaNa-saMnipaataH (nom. sg.): meeting a suitable moment
kShaNa: moment ; a fit or suitable moment , opportunity
saMnipaata: m. falling in or down together , collapse , meeting , encounter , contact or collision with (instr.)

na: not
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this
kRtaH (nom. sg. m.): made
moha-vashena (inst.): by dint of ignorance
moha: m. delusion, ignorance
vasha: m. authority , power , control
moghaH (nom. sg. m.): vain , fruitless , useless , unsuccessful , unprofitable

udeti = 3rd pers. sg. ud-√i : to go up
duHkhena (inst.): with difficulty, by hardship
gataH (nom. sg.): m. a man who has gone
hi: for
adhastaat (ind. = adhas): down below

kuurmaH (nom. sg.): m. a tortoise , turtle
yuga-cchidraH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. being of the hole in the yoke
yuga-cchidra: n. a hole in a yoke
yuga: n. a yoke
chidra: n. a hole , opening
iva: like
arNava-sthaH (nom. sg. m.): being in the foaming sea
arNava: mfn. agitated , foaming , restless ; m. a wave , flood ; m. the foaming sea
stha: mfn. being situated in

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