Tuesday, October 25, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.29: Sweet Dreams

nirvāpya rāgāgnim-udīrṇam-adya
diṣṭyā sukhaṃ svapsyasi vītadāhaḥ /
duḥkhaṃ hi śete śayane 'py-udāre
kleśāgninā cetasi dahyamānaḥ //18.29 //

= = - = / = - - / = - = = // = = - = / = - - / = - = =
= = - = / = - - / = - = = // = = - = / = - - / = - = =
Upajāti (Indravajrā)

Today, having extinguished the flaming fire of redness,

Happily, you will sleep well, free of fever.

For even on a fabulous bed he sleeps badly

Who is being burned in his mind by the fires of affliction.

The antagonist in yesterday's verse, Māra, as I have described before on this blog, is for me very much tied up with redness. My own quest to extinguish a flashing and flaming fire of redness began more than 35 years ago, as I sat helplessly blushing on the top deck of the bus on the way to school, and grimly resolved to find some way out of the predicament. In retrospect, that kind of determination was not so much part of any solution as symptomatic of the problem. It was a determination to solve the problem directly, by doing something or by cracking some maths-like problem, by aggressive intervention, by striving, by end-gaining. It was lacking the wisdom that Patrick Macdonald expressed in his exhortation to face a faulty pattern of reaction squarely, not trying to deny it, not trying to paper over a crack, not trying to sweep it under the carpet. Macdonald's advice was rather to "look the bugger in the eye."

As an example of what it means to look the bugger in the eye, when sitting after sleeping badly, so that energy is low and breathing is tending to be short and shallow, looking the bugger in the eye might mean listening to oneself breathe short and shallow, not necessarily with any expectation of change for the better.

Because the Moro reflex is unconscious, the fight against Māra can be seen as a kind of war against sleep. Countering such a view, today's verse suggests that a victorious buddha tends to sleep well.

For those of who tend not to sleep well, one thing that may help is at least to recognize that insomnia (like chronic blushing) is not a problem that can be solved by direct intervention. Even an insomniac is a whole person, not a mind, not a body, not a soul or a stream of consciousness waiting to be reincarnated, but an individual unit of being, a self.

"But there is no such thing as the self!" I hear Buddhists say, who know all about the Buddhist theory of śūnyatā. And I, in my grumpy bleary-eyed state, say to them: "Fuck off." (Truly I might be saying it to a gullible and nonsensical tendency in myself, following the mirror principle.)

Because insomnia is a function of the whole person and his or her environment, it is generally not a problem that is susceptible to direct, end-gaining intervention. It is a problem calling for what FM Alexander called "re-education on a general basis" -- i.e. a new and improved balance in a person's habitual manner of accepting and using himself. Happily, then, insomniacs can be encouraged by the Buddha's testimony that, if we complete such a process of re-education and thus emerge finally victorious in the war against Māra, then we will sleep well.

In the meantime, I shan't hold my breath.

EH Johnston:
By good fortune you have extinguished to-day the raging fire of passion, and, free from its fever, you will lie down in comfort ; for the man whose mind is alight with the fire of the vices finds suffering even on the lordliest couch.

Linda Covill:
How wonderful that today you have extinguished the raging fire of passion, and will sleep unfevered and at ease! For a man who is being burned in his mind by the fire of the defilements sleeps fitfully, even in a sumptuous bed.

nirvaapya (abs. nir- √vaa): having blown out, extinguished
raag'- aagnim (acc. sg.): the fire of redness/passion
udiirNam (acc. sg.): mfn. issued out , excited , increased , elevated ; self-conceited , proud
ud- √ iir: to go upwards
adya: ind. today

diShTyaa (inst.): by good fortune, etc.
sukham: ind. at ease, comfortably
svapsyasi = 2nd pers. sg. fut. svap: to sleep, lie down
viita-daahaH (nom. sg. m.): free of fever
daaha: m. burning, heat ; internal heat , fever

duHkham: ind. with difficulty, uncomfortably
hi: for
shete = 3rd pers. sg. shii: to lie , lie down , recline , rest , repose
shayane = loc. sg. shayana: n. the act of lying down or sleeping , rest , repose , sleep; a bed , couch , sleeping-place
api: even
udaare (loc. sg. n.): mfn. high , lofty , exalted ; great, best ; noble, illustrious

klesh'-aagninaa (inst. sg.): by the fire of affliction
cetasi (loc. sg.): in the mind
dahyamaanaH = nom. sg. m. passive pres. part. dah: to burn, consume by fire

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