Wednesday, November 16, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.51: None But an Arhat, Together With an Arhat

avaiti buddhaṃ nara-damya-sārathiṃ
kṛtī yathārhann-upaśānta-mānasaḥ /
na dṛṣṭa-satyo 'pi tathāvabudhyate
pṛthag-janaḥ kiṃ-bata buddhimān-api // 18.51 //

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An arhat, a man of action whose mind has come to quiet,

Knows the Buddha as a charioteer
of human steeds who needed taming:

Not even a seer of truth
appreciates the Buddha in this manner:

How much less does the common man,
however intelligent he may be?

arhan in line 2 of today's verse was interpreted by EHJ as in the nominative case and by LC as in the vocative ("O worthy man").

I have followed EHJ's understanding of the grammar. So in that sense, once again, I am standing on EHJ's shoulders. But insofar as he translates kṛtī arhan as "the saintly Arhat," I would like once again to tread on EHJ's scholar's crown.

An arhat is so-called not because he or she is a saint; he or she is so-called as a man of action whose mind has come to quiet, as a result of getting to the bottom of the four noble truths, which process might require the whole idea of sainthood to be given up, as a religious idea all tied up with noise in people's systems.

In today's verse as I read it, an arhat knows buddha as a condition of directed human energy because an arhat is buddha as a condition of directed human energy.

So once more it is a case of
“None but a buddha, together with a buddha, is able perfectly to realize, here and now, that all things are reality.”

Implicit in today's verse is a hierarchy with buddhas and arhats knowing each other at the top. Lower down the food chain than these lions and tigers are truth-seers. An example of a truth-seer (dṛṣṭa-satyaḥ) might be a market researcher, or a police detective, or a laboratory scientist, or an investigative journalist, or a yoga teacher, or a newly qualified Alexander teacher, or a Buddhist scholar, or a professor of Sanskrit, who does his or her job well. Such partial seers of fragmentary truths are a cut above the common man, however intelligent he might be in his blind pursuit of objects, but from the Buddha's standpoint something truly worthy or valuable is inevitably lacking in them.

That worthy something (or valuable bit of nothing), so the Zen tradition has it, is centred upon the practice of sitting in lotus and enjoying the samādhi of accepting and using the whole self. So the word damya (needing to be tamed), as I read it, means being in need of guidance in the direction of enjoying this samādhi of accepting and using the whole self.

Just after I qualified as a teacher of the FM Alexander Technique in the summer of 1998, I went back to Japan to see my old Zen teacher Gudo Nishijima. I did my best to report the relevance, as I understood it, of FM Alexander's discoveries around right posture in sitting -- i.e. that there is no such thing as right posture in sitting, though it might be possible to enjoy a condition of relative freedom from unduly excited fear reflexes and emotions. In the process of this discussion of reflexes I mentioned the support given to FM Alexander by the neuro-physiologist Charles Sherrington, and discussed postural or "anti-gravity" reflexes.

Gudo was not much interested in Alexander's discoveries. Gudo's line of reasoning was that if what Alexander discovered was the Buddha's teaching, then there was no need for him to study it. Whereas if what Alexander discovered was different from the Buddha's teaching, then why should he be interested in studying it? So implicit in this reasoning was the premise or the confidence or the arrogance that "I know what the Buddha taught."

When it came to the discoveries of Sir Charles Sherrington, however, who was clearly not some kind of quacky alternative therapist but a bona-fide scientist, Gudo was all ears. He was especially interested in the existence of postural or "anti-gravity" reflexes. "I would like to prostrate myself to Sir Charles Sherrington!" Gudo enthused. That was Gudo for you. He was always interested in and open to the kind of truths uncovered by physiologists like Charles Sherrington and psychologists like Karl Menninger. Thus, he was by a long way a cut above the common man. Stupid as I am, if Gudo had not been a cut above the common man, I would not have served him as I did for all those years.

EH Johnston:
Not even a man who has seen the truth would understand the Buddha, the Charioteer Whose steeds are men, in the same way as the saintly Arhat does whose mind is tranquillised; how much less then will a man outside the pale of the Law do so, intelligent though he be?

Linda Covill:
O worthy man, since even a man who has seen the truth, whose mind is at peace and whose goal is accomplished, does not understand the Buddha, the charioteer of men who need to be tamed, still less so does the man in the street, clever though he may be.

avaiti = 3rd pers. sg. ave (ava √i): to go down to, to go to; to look upon, consider; to perceive , conceive , understand , learn , know
buddham (acc. sg. m.): the Buddha, the awakened one
nara-damya-saarathim (acc. sg. m.): the charioteer of men that were to be tamed
nara: m. a man , a male , a person (pl. men , people); husband; hero
damya: mfn. tamable ; m. a young bullock that has to be tamed
saarathi: m. a charioteer

kRtii = nom. sg. m kirtin: mfn. one who acts , active ; expert , clever , skilful , knowing , learned; good, virtuous, pure
yathaa: just as
arhan = nom./voc. sg. m. arhat: mfn. deserving , worthy , venerable , respectable ; m. a buddha who is still a candidate for nirvāṇa ; m. the highest rank in the Buddhist hierarchy
upashaanta-maanasaH (nom. sg. m.): whose mind has come to quiet
upashaanta: mfn. calmed , appeased , pacified ; n. tranquillity, peace
upa- √ śam: to become calm or quiet
maanasa: n. the mental powers , mind , spirit , heart , soul

na: not
dRShTa-satyaH (nom. sg. m.): a man who has seen/experienced the truth/reality
dRShTa: mfn. seen , looked at , beheld , perceived , noticed ; experienced , learnt , known , understood
satya: n. truth, reality ; n. demonstrated conclusion , dogma; n. the quality of goodness or purity or knowledge
api: even
tathaa: ind. in that manner, so
avabudhyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive ava-√budh: to become sensible or aware of , perceive , know

pRthag-janaH (nom. sg. m.): m. a man of lower caste or character or profession; an ordinary professing Buddhist ; a fool , blockhead ; pl. common people , the multitude (also sg.)
pRthag in comp. for pRthak: ind. widely apart , separately , differently , singly , severally ; (as a prep. with gen. or instr.) apart or separately or differently from
jana: m. person, people ; a common person , one of the people
kiM bata: how much less? how much more?
buddhimaan = nom. sg. m. buddhimat: mfn. endowed with understanding , intelligent , learned , wise
api: even


Fred said...

Cutting edge neurologist:

I don't know how it fits with
Alexander, but Gudo would have
liked the mention of the ANS.

Mike Cross said...

Thanks Fred. In 1998, when it came out, I bought Ramachandran's book Phantoms in the Brain, on the recommendation of my Alexander head of training Ray Evans.

Ramachandran's understanding of the neurological basis of certain delusions fits with Alexander in the sense that, as Marjory Barlow used to say, "facts are our friends."

The danger, as Marjory saw it, is in not recognizing the difference between (a) learning facts about anatomy, neurology et cetera, and (b) learning how to work on oneself.

So for example I just spent 23 minutes watching the clip you recommended, and now some more minutes writing this comment. Was I working on myself? You bet I wasn't.

I think Marjory might say that it was time that I would have been better off using to work on myself.

Ramachandran may be at the cutting edge of neurology. But who is at the cutting edge of working on the self?

I think Aśvaghoṣa was, for one!

Fred said...

Good point.