Tuesday, November 22, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 18.57: Let There Be Light

vihāya tasmād-iha kāryam-ātmanaḥ /
kuru sthirātman para-kāryam-apy-atho/
bhramatsu sattveṣu tamo-vṛtātmasu
śruta-pradīpo niśi dhāryatām-ayam // 18.57 //

- = - = / = - - / = - = - = // - = - = / = - - / = - = - =
- = - = / = - - / = - = - = // - = - = / = - - / = - = - =

forgetting the work that needs to be done
in this world on the self,

Do now, stout soul, what can be done for others.

Among beings who are wandering in the night,
their minds shrouded in darkness,

Let the lamp of this transmission be carried.

Implicit in the first line, as I read it, might be the principle that truly to work on the self is sometimes to forget the self. That might mean losing oneself in doing some job for the future -- like, say, chopping up wood to be used in a future winter for keeping warm; or like, say, clearly describing the meter of Sanskrit and Pali verse for future students of those languages to use -- as opposed to going around the whole time trying mindfully to be in the present moment.

In line 2 the appellation sthirātman, "stout soul," I can only find in one other verse ("man of grit," 8.57). sthirātman might be the opposite of the frequently recurring calātman (fickle, 1.20; out of balance in himself, 8.11; one who easily changes his mind, 8.24; fickle, 8.46; an imbalanced person, 9.48; an impulsive person 18.23).

In the second half of today's verse, the darkness of night can be understood as representing ignorance or unconsciousness, and a light or lamp can be understood as representing enlightenment or consciousness.

One can't become less unconscious, Marjory Barlow insightfully stated, relying on unconsciousness. The conditions are rather created for the growth of consciousness when one inhibits unconscious behaviour.

This is the truth I first stumbled on, as I alluded to yesterday, at the age of around 19 or 20 in the context of tournament karate, while stalking an opponent and waiting for the opportunity to counter-punch. Marjory Barlow very skillfully created laboratory-like conditions to study this principle in the less physically demanding context of lying on her teaching table, investigating the decision to move or not to move a leg.

While writing yesterday's comment I googled mūla-mādhyamika-kārikā and found a whole lot of praise and criticism directed at Gudo Nishijima's English version, which I found by sheer coincidence has just been published. I felt so tempted to add my two-pennyworth at once. Even though I didn't wade in, I wouldn't say that I totally inhibited my desire to say something sharp and insightful.

I suppose that if, in a thought experiment, I put myself back on Marjory's teaching table and saw myself through Marjory's eyes, she might see a bloke who still hadn't totally given up trying to be right.

This delusory desire to be right, which is itself generally unconscious, being all bound up with fear of being wrong, seems to be at the root of a lot of the darkness that shrouds people's minds.

EH Johnston:
Therefore abandoning all concern with your own affairs in this world, work with steadfast soul for others and hold up this torch of revelation for the beings who with souls clouded with mental darkness are wandering in the night.

Linda Covill:
Therefore give up doing things for yourself here in the world, O you who are firm in yourself, and do things for others. Let this lantern of learning be carried among living beings enveloped in dark ignorance who roam in the night.

vihaaya = abs. vi- √ haa: to leave behind , relinquish , quit , abandon, give up ; to get rid of or free from (acc.)
tasmaad: ind. therefore
iha: here, in this world
kaaryam (acc. sg.): n. work or business to be done , duty , affair
aatmanaH (gen. sg.): of/for yourself, your own

kuru = 2nd pers. sg. imperative kR: to do
sthir'-aatman (voc. sg. m.): O stout individual!
sthira: mfn. firm , hard , solid , compact , strong
aatman: m. the individual soul , self ; the person
para-kaaryam (acc. sg. n.): work to be done for others
api: even (emphatic)
atho = atha: now, then, etc.
[EHJ queried avyathaḥ]
avyathaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. untroubled ; intrepid ; painless

bhramatsu = loc. pl. m. present participle bhram: to wander or roam about , rove , ramble
sattveShu (loc. pl. m.): living beings
tamo-vRt'-aatmasu (loc. pl. m.): minds shrouded in darkness
tamas: n. darkness
vRta: mfn. concealed , screened , hidden , enveloped , surrounded by , covered with (instr. or comp.)
aatman: m. the individual soul , self ; the person ; essence , nature , character , peculiarity (often ifc. e.g. karmātman, active); (ifc.) " the understanding , intellect , mind " » naṣṭātman , deprived of mind

shruta-pradiipaH (nom. sg. m.): lamp of transmission
shruta: n. anything heard , that which has been heard (esp. from the beginning) , knowledge as heard by holy men and transmitted from generation to generation , oral tradition or revelation , sacred knowledge
pradiipa: m. a light , lamp , lantern (often ifc. " the light i.e. the glory or ornament of " ; also in titles of explanatory works = elucidation , explanation)
nishi = loc. sg. nishaa: f. night
dhaaryataam = 3rd pers. sg. causative, passive dhR: to bear, carry
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this

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