Tuesday, November 8, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.43: Squaring Up (Not Worrying Now)

ato hi tattvaṃ parigamya samyaṅ-
nirdhūya doṣān-adhigamya śāntim /
svaṃ nāśramaṃ samprati cintayāmi
na taṃ janaṃ nāpsaraso na devān // 18.43 //

- = - = / = - - / = - = = // = = - = / = - - / = - = =
= = - = / = - - / = - = - // - = - = / = - - / = - = =
Upajāti (Ārdrā)

And so, through squarely realising what is,

Through shaking off faults and coming to quiet,

I worry now neither about my own place,

Nor about the person there,
nor about apsarases, nor about gods.

A more assertive translation of atho hi might be "For, on these grounds,..." Some doubt, however, attaches to the reading of the 2nd syllable of today's verse, so that the first word could be ato or atho, or possibly ahaṁ.

Also in doubt, in the 3rd pāda, is whether to read svaṁ nāśramaṃ ("not about my own ashram") or svaṁ nāśrayaṃ ("not about my own dwelling/resting place").

In the 4th pāda, taṁ janaṁ ("that person") even if it means Sundarī, has a more objective feeling than what is conveyed by "my wife." Is it possible that with taṁ janaṁ ("that person") Nanda is referring to himself in a de-personalized way?

Faced with these doubts, I have opted in each case to remain on the fence, and as far as possible to fudge the translation.

Some things are impossible to penetrate thoroughly -- but the impossibility itself can be realised squarely, or embraced fully (as opposed to, say, spending years and years in denial before eventually spitting the dummy and throwing the toys out of the pram).

Any way up, Nanda's main gist is that now he has gone beyond worrying.

So what has happened?

I am prone to think that if I had, for example, a million pounds, then I wouldn't worry any more about money. The truth might be that if I had a million pounds I would worry even more about money. In other words, insofar as worry is an unconscious habit, tied up with immature or unduly excited fear reflexes, then any change in circumstances short of death does not really stop a person from worrying.

One thing that stops an inveterate worrier from worrying -- at least momentarily -- is to get on with it, to just do it, 1-2-3 Go! And this might be what Dogen meant when he exhorted: Sit in full lotus with the body!

Another thing that stops an inveterate worrier from worrying -- maybe more profoundly and lastingly -- might be the kind of change that involves consciously directing oneself against the unconscious habits of a lifetime. And this might be what Dogen meant when he exhorted: Sit in full lotus with the mind!

Going further, Dogen exhorted: Sit in full lotus as body and mind dropping off!

Exactly what Dogen meant by this latter exhortation is not up for discussion. But it might be up, fair and square, for realization.

(Don't look at me though -- an "inveterate worrier" whose left knee, for the present, is still not up to sitting in full lotus.)

About two thousand years ago, Aśvaghoṣā wrote of shaking off the faults and coming to quiet. Nearly seven hundred years ago, Dogen wrote of dropping off body and mind and being caught by the still state.

Via what these two teachers wrote, as well as via a face-to-face transmission, something (or a bit of nothing) has been transmitted to the present. How much more valuable, how more valuable than any Maserati that does 185, is this present moment? So meeting this present moment, it might be a shame to waste it by worrying and complaining -- though sometimes I still do.

The Lotus Sutra says that only a buddha, together with a buddha (as Nanda is associated now with Gautama) is perfectly able fully to realize that all things are reality. In Chinese characters the teaching is this:


I would like to study this central teaching of the Lotus Sutra in its original Sanskrit when I get round to it.

Why only a buddha, together with a buddha? Why not, for example, an eminent psychoanalyst or neurophysiologist or Olympic athlete or Alexander teacher, in conversation with each other?

The realization under discussion is a realization realized sitting in lotus which is totally physical, but not physiological, and totally mental, but not psychological.

My teacher called it "realization of reality" and called it "balance of the autonomic nervous system." The treacherous little twat. What did he know? What use was he?

He was fuck-all use to anybody -- except perhaps that he provided a pair of shoulders (one of which was subject to being frozen) for the likes of me to stand on. That I don't feel more grateful often worries me. But insofar as a feeling also is what it is, I would like to admit that I don't feel grateful. I feel like as a student I was led astray by wrong teaching and as a partner in a joint effort I was betrayed.

EH Johnston:
For through the right understanding of reality, through shaking off the faults and through obtaining possession of tranquillity, I have now no longings with respect to my body, my wife, the Apsarases or the gods.

Linda Covill:
So I have perfectly understood reality, I have expelled my faults and I have found peace! Now I do not think of my own home, my wife, the apsarases or the gods.

ataH: ind. from this, hence
hi: for
tattvam (acc. sg.): n. true or real state , truth , reality; the being that
parigamya = abs. pari- √ gam: to go round or about or through , circumambulate , surround , inclose : to come to any state or condition , get , attain (acc.)
samyak: ind. ind. in one or the same direction; in one line , straight (opp. to akShNayaa , " obliquely "); completely , wholly , thoroughly ; correctly , truly , properly , fitly , in the right way or manner , well , duly

nirdhuuya = abs. nir- √ dhuu: to shake , agitate , shake out or off , scatter , remove , destroy , expel , reject
doShaan (acc. pl.): m. the faults
adhigamya = abs. adhi- √ gam : to go up to , approach , overtake , to approach for sexual intercourse , to fall in with , to meet , find , discover , obtain ; to accomplish
shaantim (acc. sg.): f. tranquillity , peace , quiet

svam (acc. sg. m.): my own
na: not
aashramam (acc. sg.) mn. ( √śram, to make effort) , a hermitage , the abode of ascetics , the cell of a hermit or of retired saints or sages
aashrayam (acc. sg.): m. (√śri, to lean on, to go to for refuge) that to which anything is annexed or with which anything is closely connected or on which anything depends or rests ; seat , resting-place ; dwelling , asylum , place of refuge , shelter
samprati: now
cintayaami = 1st pers. sg. present cint: to think , have a thought or idea , reflect , consider ; to think about , reflect upon , direct the thoughts towards , care for (acc.)

na: not
tam (acc. sg. m.): that
janam (acc. sg.): m. person, people (the sg. used collectively); m. the person nearest to the speaker (also with ayam or asau , " this my lover ")
na: not
apsarasaH (acc. pl.): f. "going in the waters or between the waters of the clouds "; the apsarases; nymphs
na: not
devaan (acc. pl.): m. the gods


Fred said...

Mike, you were transformed by
doing the work both sitting and
translating. Even if your mentor
betrayed you, that too is a lesson
about doing the work for yourself,
by yourself, to yourself.

So what do I learn from all this?
To look inside.

Mike Cross said...

Thanks Fred. Nice response.

Perhaps the best of all possible responses -- perhaps the very response that Aṣvaghoṣa himself intended his listener/reader to have.