Thursday, November 10, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.45: Utmost Happiness -- In a Change of Togs & In the Togs of Change

aho 'ndha-vijñāna-nimīlitaṃ jagat
paṭāntare paśyati nottamaṃ sukham /
sudhīram-adhyātma-sukhaṃ vyapāsya hi
śramaṃ tathā kāma-sukhārtham-ṛcchati // 18.45 //

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Alas, the world has its eyes closed
by blind unconsciousness;

It does not see utmost happiness in a different robe.

For flinging away lasting inner happiness,

It exhausts itself so, in pursuit of sensual happiness.

The master who Dogen met in China whom he regarded as his true teacher and invariably called 古仏KOBUTSU, "the Old Buddha," sternly cautioned against being deluded by a twirling flower.

A twirling flower may be regarded as a symbol of utmost happiness, the highest happiness, the lasting inner happiness of full awakening, which Nanda sees as coming wrapped in a robe.

So, lest we be deluded by a twirling flower, we need to be clear what kind of robe he is talking about:
Is it a symbol of having religious belief and a religious calling -- like a monk's robe?
Is it is a symbol of religious authority -- like a papal robe or like a bishop's robe?
Is it a symbol of having nothing -- like a beggar's robe?
Is it a sheet of cloth that serves as a kind of uniform to remind and encourage the wearer to practice the inhibition of habitual patterns of thinking and acting -- like a robe that is different from all the above?

My answers to those questions are no, definitely fucking not, maybe, and yes.

Religious belief, in my book, is a very unreliable base from which to go for utmost happiness. And respect and awe for religious authority might be a downright pernicious obstacle that tends to hinder an individual from finding his or her own confidence in a better way.

A better way than religion might be to work to see the root causes of unhappiness, and to cut those causes off at source. Since those causes are for the most part unconscious, this is a process associated with becoming less unconscious and more conscious.

So I think the intention behind antara (other, different) in paṭāntare (a different robe) is similar to the intention behind anya (other, odd, different ones) in 10.19 and several subsequent verses in Canto 10,and again most recently in 18.13. The point might be to remind us that the kind of endeavour we are engaged in as followers of the Buddha is nothing conventional but something revolutionary and extraordinary -- because human beings have not evolved to work in any way other than blind, unconscious end-gaining.

As one goes on investigating the fact that FM Alexander identified as faulty sensory appreciation, it becomes ever more clearly apparent that the unconscious means of blind end-gaining are no longer suited to the pursuit of human happiness. The faultier a bloke's sensory appreciation is, the less satisfactory are the results that blind end-gaining tends to produce. Quad Erat Demonstrandum.

So what seems to be needed, in the pursuit of real, lasting happiness, is not blind unconscious end-gaining but another means, a different means. And a robe that is different, paṭāntare, might be part of that means.

EH Johnston:
Alas! The world with its eyes closed by the blindness of its perceptions does not see that supreme happiness lies in a change of robe ; for casting away the lasting happiness of interior peace it undergoes toil for the sake of the pleasures of love.

Linda Covill:
Oh, the world is blinkered by the blindness of its knowledge, and does not see that in a different garment there is utter bliss! It throws away the security of inner happiness, and labours instead for sensual gratification.

aho: ind. a particle (implying joyful or painful surprise) Ah! (of enjoyment or satisfaction) Oh! (of fatigue , discontent , compassion , sorrow , regret) Alas! Ah!
andha-vijNaana-nimiilitam (nom. sg. n.): eyes closed by blindness of its consciousness
andha: mfn. blind
vijNaana: n. the act of distinguishing or discerning , understanding , comprehending , recognizing , intelligence , knowledge ; (with Buddhists) consciousness or thought-faculty (one of the 5 constituent elements or skandhas , also considered as one of the 6 elements or dhaatus , and as one of the 12 links of the chain of causation)
nimiilita: mfn. having closed the eyes
jagat (nom. sg.): n. the world

paTa: m. woven cloth , cloth , a blanket , garment , veil , screen ; monastic habit
antare (loc. sg.): mfn. being in the interior , interior ; different from ; n. (ifc.) , different , other , another e.g. deśāntaram , another country
pashyati: it sees
na: not
uttamam (acc. sg. n.): uppermost , highest
sukham (acc. sg.): n. ease, happiness, comfort

su-dhiiram (acc. sg. n.): mfn. very firm or resolute
su-: (laudatory prefix) well, very
dhiira: mfn. steady , constant , firm , resolute , brave , energetic , courageous , self-possessed , composed , calm , grave
adhyaatma-sukham (acc. sg. n.): inner happiness
adhyaatma: mfn. own , belonging to self
sukha: n. ease, happiness, comfort
vyapaasya = abs. vy-apaas: to fling away
vi: ind. apart , asunder , in different directions ; in some cases it does not seem to modify the meaning of the simple word at all
apaas: to fling away , throw away or off , discard , to scare , drive away ; to leave behind ; to take no notice of , disregard
hi: for

shramam (acc. sg.): m. fatigue , weariness , exhaustion ; exertion , labour , toil
tathaa: ind. in that manner , so , thus
kaama-sukh'-aartham: for the sake of the pleasures of love/desire
kaama: desire, love
sukha: pleasure
artha: aim, purpose
Rcchati = 3rd pers. sg. R: to go towards , meet with

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