Sunday, November 6, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.41: F Is for Freedom, and FM, and F- Off Dawkins

bhrātrā tvayā śreyasi daiśikena
pitrā phala-sthena tathaiva mātrā /
hato 'bhaviṣyaṃ yadi na vyamokṣyaṃ
sārthāt paribhraṣṭa ivākṛtārthaḥ // Saund_18.41 //

= = - = / = - - / = - = - // = = - = / = - - / = - = =
- = - = / = - - / = - = = // = = - = / = - - / = - = =
Upajāti (Sālā)

If not set free by you, a brother,
a guide along a better way,

A fruitful father, and equally a mother,

I would be done for;

Like a straggler dropped from a caravan,
I would not have made it.

LC's translation brings to mind an Oscar winning actress breathlessly thanking her mother, father, dog, hairdresser, and on and on until finally -- if she is an American actress -- "God, who made it all possible for me."

I understand, with EHJ, that in today's verse Nanda is not thus expressing gratitude to his mum and dad, but is just addressing the Buddha, not only addressing him as a brother and a guide, which the Buddha literally is, but also addressing him figuratively as a father and mother.

So I agree with the gist of EHJ's translation, but I am not keen on the register of EHJ's translation, which seems rooted in a Christian conception of religious deference towards Lord Buddha rather than individual effort to understand what that old bloke called Gautama actually taught.

In his dotage, my teacher Gudo Nishijma took to calling anybody who affirmed his Buddhist view (even if he had never met them) "Venerable So and So," and anybody who didn't agree with his view (even if they had served him over many years) "Mr So and So." One could see it as a test of who was truly indifferent to implied praise or implied blame. For a while, that is how I tried to see it -- "tried" being the operative word (see my comment to 18.39). I might have carried on forever with that kind of trying, if not set free, at least partially, by the teaching of FM Alexander.

FM Alexander, though he belonged to an age when Britain is stuffier than it is now (which is still pretty stuffy, American readers may think) was happy for his student teachers to call him not "Mr Alexander" but just "FM." He found "FM" to be in a middle way between undue formality and undue informality that suited his purpose, which was to guide people on a better way, towards F for Freedom.

So in Alexander work, F is for FM and F is for Freedom and -- as I was reminded once in a conversation with an Alexander head of training who shall remain nameless -- not only that.

Having just received some cheap Vistaprint business cards with a ready-prepared ABC logo, next to which I had listed the ABC of Alexander work as Attention, Balance, and Coordination, I mentioned to my friend that one could go on with Direction of Energy and.... at which point my revered friend intervened, "and Fuck off!"

There is no word in Saundara-nanda that might reasonably translated as "Fuck off." But neither does Saundara-nanda, as I read it, have any word that might reasonably be translated as "Thou" or "hadst."

In the end I hope that not only the gist but also the register of this translation might be felt to be roughly in the middle way, so that it might be suited to the ears of that large swathe of people who are in broad agreement with Richard Dawkins' disillusionment with religion but who at the same time find Dawkins' dogmatic atheism also to be a pain in the backside.

EH Johnston:
If Thou, my Brother, my Guide to the highest good, my Father who are stationed in fruition, my Mother, hadst not delivered me, I should have been overwhelmed, failing to reach my goal, like a traveller who has lost his caravan.

Linda Covill:
I would have failed, like a man who falls behind his caravan and wins no fortune, if I had not been liberated by you, my brother and guide to Excellence, by my father who is established in the fruit, and also by my mother.

bhraatraa (inst. sg.): m. brother
tvayaa (inst. sg.): m. by you
shreyashi (loc. sg.): along a better way
daishikena (inst. sg.): mfn. knowing a place , a guide ; showing , directing , spiritual guide or teacher

pitraa (inst. sg.): m. father
phala-sthena (inst. sg. m.): mfn. useful [NB also used in the sense of “fruitful” in 6.43]
phala: n. fruit
stha: mfn. (only ifc.) standing , staying , abiding , being situated in , existing or being in or on or among ; occupied with , engaged in , devoted to performing , practising
tatha: so, likewise
eva: (emphatic)
maatraa (inst. sg.): f. mother

hataH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. struck , beaten (also said of a drum) , smitten , killed , slain , destroyed , ended , gone , lost
abhaviShyam (1st pers. sg. conditional bhuu): I would be
yadi: if
na: not
vyamokShyam = 1st pers. sg. conditional vi- √ mokSh: to set free , let loose , liberate

saarthaat (abl. sg.): m. a travelling company of traders or pilgrims , caravan
paribhraShTaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. fallen or dropped off; deprived of (abl.)
iva: like
a-kRt'-aarthaH (nom. sg. m.) unsuccessful ; one who has not attained an end or object or has not accomplished a purpose or desire
a: not
kRta: done, made, accomplished
artha: mn. aim, purpose, meaning, object, wealth

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