Monday, October 3, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.7: The Splinter of a View

yo dṛṣṭiśalyo hṛdayāvagāḍhaḥ
prabho bhṛśaṃ māmatudat sutīkṣṇaḥ/
tvadvākyasaṃdaṃśamukhena me sa
samuddhṛtaḥ śalyahṛteva śalyaḥ//18.7//

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"The splinter of a view, that had penetrated to my core,

O Mighty One,
was paining me intensely, being very sharp;

Via the jaws of the pincers of your words
-- by means of a means and by way of a mouth --

It was pulled out of me
as a splinter is removed by a surgeon.

The four pādas of today's verse are again in the 11-syllable Upajāti metre, the 1st and 3rd pādas being in the Indravajrā form (I) and the 2nd and 4th pādas being in the Upendravajrā form (U). In Ānandajoti Bhikku's analysis of the Sanksrit prosody of Buddha-carita, this IUIU scheme is identified as the type of verse called Bhadrā.

In general dṛṣṭi means a view and with Buddhists, according to the dictionary, it means a wrong view. But in the Buddha's teaching as I understand it dṛṣṭi just means a view. In the Buddha's teaching "a wrong view" is a tautology -- a waste of the word "wrong."

The specific view that Nanda has in mind might be uccheda-dṛṣṭi, which is discussed in Shobogenzo as 断見外道 DANKEN-GEDO ("the heresy of being cut off"), and opposed to śaśvata-dṛṣṭi or 常見外道 JOKEN-GEDO ("the heresy of being eternal"). uccheda means cutting off or out, cutting short, as opposed to śaśvata which means eternity or heaven. uccheda-dṛṣṭi, then, broadly corresponds to any irreligious -ism, like materialism or hedonism or Epicurianism.

Still in the 1st pāda, hṛdayāvagāḍhaḥ describes a splinter or arrow as "plunged into the heart" or "penetrating to the core"; in 18.4 exactly the same phrase hṛdayāvagāḍhaḥ describes tranquillity as "steeped into the heart" or "running deep into the heart." So a view is being compared to a splinter that penetrates to the heart or core.

A view, we might say, is a pain in the neck, or a pain in the arse.

Who is the bigger pain in the arse -- Richard Dawkins, or the Pope? Discuss.

The Pope is self-evidently, from the standpoint of the Buddha's teaching, a massive pain in the backside, a world champion of śaśvata-dṛṣṭi, the heresy of heaven. Whether Richard Dawkins stands for (a) science as an effort to abandon views, or (b) the view which is diametrically opposed to śaśvata-dṛṣṭi, that is, uccheda-dṛṣṭi... I am not sure.

In the 3rd pāda a triple play may be intended on the word mukhena , which means (i) by a means, (ii) by mouth (or by word of mouth, by an oral transmission), and (iii) by the jaws (of pincers/forceps).

To decide that mukhena means "by means of a means" (like a metal surgical instrument) might be to lean a bit towards uccheda-dṛṣṭi; to decide that mukhena means "via the mouth" (i.e. via an oral transmission of verbal teaching) might be to lean a bit towards śaśvata-dṛṣṭi.

My Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima, under whom I studied intensively from the age of 22, was very clear, in philosophical terms, that the Buddha's teaching (which he called "realism" or "the one true Buddhism") was different from uccheda-dṛṣṭi, which he called "materialism" and from śaśvata-dṛṣṭi, which he called "idealism."

When it came to the matter of posture in sitting-dhyāna ("Zazen"), however, my teacher advocated a method which I have come to recognize as manifesting śaśvata-dṛṣṭi in the nth degree. With his teaching around posture, my teacher implanted in me the splinter of a view which caused intense pain. It was pulled out of me by the means-whereby which FM Alexander transmitted, with his hands and with his words, to the teachers he trained, like his niece Marjory Barlow.

I am thus here not so much to bear witness to the truth of the teaching of the buddha-ancestors, about which I am not sure, as I am here to bear witness to the unreliability of the central pillar of the teaching of one buddha-ancestor -- about which I am damn sure.

EH Johnston:
'The very sharp splinter of false views, Lord, which was lodged in my heart and caused me grievous pain, has been pulled out by the jaws of the forceps of Thy voice, as a splinter is pulled out by a surgeon.

Linda Covill:
The arrow of wrong views that was plunged into my heart, O Lord, had struck me forcibly and was extremely sharp. It was extracted by the forceps of your words, like an arrow removed by a surgeon.

yaH (nom. sg. m.): [that] which
dRShThi-shalyaH (nom. sg. m.): the thorn of a view
dRShThi: f. seeing , viewing ; view ; (with Buddhists) a wrong view
shalya: m. a dart , javelin , lance , spear , iron-headed weapon , pike , arrow , shaft (also the point of an arrow or spear and its socket) ; anything tormenting or causing pain (as a thorn , sting &c ) , or (in med.) any extraneous substance lodged in the body and causing pain (e.g. a splinter , pin , stone in the bladder &c ; also applied to the fetus , and , as a branch of medicine , to " the extraction of splinters or extraneous substances ")
hRday'aavagaaDhaH (nom. sg. m.): steeped into the heart, plunged into the heart
hRdaya: n. heart ; the heart or centre or core or essence or best or dearest or most secret part of anything
aavagaaDhaH (nom. sg. m.) mfn. immersed , bathed , plunged into

prabho = voc. sg. m. prabhu: mfn. excelling , mighty , powerful; m. a master , lord , king; m. the chief or leader of a sect
bhRsham: ind. strongly , violently , vehemently , excessively , greatly
maam (acc. sg. aham): me
atudat = 3rd pers. sg. imperfect tud: to push , strike , goad , bruise , sting , vex
su: (prefix) well, very
tikShNaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. sharp , hot , pungent , fiery , acid

tvad-vaakya-saMdaMsha-mukhena: by means of the pincers of your words
tvad: you
vaakya: n. speech , saying , assertion , statement , command , words
saMdaMsha: m. compression (of the lips); a pair of tongs or pincers or nippers; name of those parts of the body which are used for grasping or seizing (as the thumb and forefinger together , the opposite eye-teeth , the nippers of a crab &c )
mukhena: ind. by means of
mukha: n. the mouth , face ; the upper part , head , top , tip or point of anything ; a means
me (gen./dat. sg. aham): to/of me
saH (nom. sg. m.): it (correlative of yaH)

samuddhRtaH (nom. sg. m.) mfn. well raised or drawn up or uplifted ; taken out from
shalya-hRtaa = inst. shalya-hRt: m. " extractor of splinters " , a surgeon
iva: like
shalyaH (nom. sg. m.): arrow, splinter, thorn etc.

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