Wednesday, October 3, 2012


⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Mālā)
atho narendraḥ sutam-āgatāśruḥ śirasy-upāghrāya ciraṁ nirīkṣya |
gaccheti cājñāpayati sma vācā snehān-na cainaṁ manasā mumoca || 3.7

Then the king, tears welling,

Gazed long upon his son, kissed his head,

And issued his command, with the word “Go!”

But with his heart, because of attachment,
he did not let him go.

In Saundara-nanda Canto 4, Nanda is described as mukto bhujābhyāṁ na tu mānasena, “let go by [Sundarī's] arms but not by her heart”:
And so, with arms made fragrant by her swollen sandal-scented breasts, she let him go -- but not with her heart. (SN4.38)
It looks at first glance as though Aśvaghoṣa's intention in such evocative verses might be to move the reader or listener with romantic poetry, on the way to understanding Buddhist enlightenment. Aśvaghoṣa's real intention, on the contrary, might be totally to subvert romantic thinking, on the way to better understanding of delusion.

Read in that light, today's verse is no sympathetic portrayal of dear old golden-hearted King Śuddhodana; it is rather akin to a clinical dissection, whose aim is to lay open to public view that old gap between the overt or ostensible aspect of our human action, and how we really are.

It is always easier to see that gap in others than to see it in ourselves....

You've got a lot of nerve
To say you are my friend.
When I was down you just stood there grinning.
You've got a lot of nerve
To say you've got a helping hand to lend.
You just want to be on the side that's winning.

You see me on the street.
You always act surprised.
You say, how are you, good luck, but you don't mean it.
When you know as well as me,
You'd rather see me paralyzed
Why don't you just come out once and scream it!

Generally speaking we human beings – especially when compared with, say, a breed of dog like a labrador that has been bred to be faithful and true – seem to have evolved, with our manipulative brains and hands, to be insincere. We say “how are you? good luck!” but we don't mean it.

Even the best of Alexander teachers are liable to say, using the words let and go, “Let the head go forward and up,” while all the time that teacher is unknowingly imparting with his or her hands a downward direction. In that case, of course, the downward direction does not originate in the hands; it originates in the teacher's irresolute heart and mind. The hands are simply a conduit between two brains and nervous systems.

Really good Alexander teachers are able to help average Alexander teachers wake up to this kind of gap between what one thinks one is doing and what one is actually doing. I speak here from plentiful personal experience, as one of the average ones. (On second thoughts, am I lying to myself even here with self-flattering  words like "plentiful" and "average" -- as opposed to, say, "scant" and "rubbish"?) 

If the above observations sound cynical, today's verse as I read it is no less cynical. What Aśvaghoṣa as I hear him is pointing to is the difficult fact that for 30 years I have pursued Zen enlightenment without ever really wanting – except perhaps in odd moments -- to give up the gamut of habits and objects to which I have attached. I have wanted to have my cake and eat it.

Those of us who take it on ourselves to preach generally fall short in practising what we preach.

In my own intermittent work as an Alexander teacher, for example, I prattle on about letting this and allowing that, but for what percentage of that time am I practising what I preach? For what percentage of the time am I lying to myself -- 99%? 99.9%? 100%?

Giving Alexander directions, so experienced teachers say, is like posting a letter. “I wish to let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to allow the back to lengthen and widen.” 

Having sent the message, one should trust that the message will go to the right address. Having posted a letter, one does not drive after a succession of Post Office vans before finally shadowing the postman to make sure the letter has got there. Similarly, the point of thinking an Alexander direction is not to feel something happening, in this or that area, as a result of thinking. But that is what tends to happen, because of attachment (snehāt) to results.

Thus, FM Alexander observed that, “when you think you're thinking, you are actually feeling. And when you think you're feeling you are doing.”

In other words, FM pointed to a gap, in working on the self, between what we think we are doing and what we are actually doing.

Marjory Barlow pointed to the same gap when she remarked: “I think of doing nothing. And then I ask myself what kind of nothing am I doing?”

It is easy, in Zen and in Alexander work, to speak, with a word (vācā), of the freedom to be found in doing nothing. But with the heart (manasā), because of attachment (snehāt), we do not truly wish for a bit of nothing. We fear a bit of nothing. Instead of truly willing the means of liberation, we give in to quivering anxiety.

It is when Nanda shows himself not to be like that, that the Buddha praises Nanda -- both when Nanda establishes the will to attain the truth in Canto 12, and after Nanda attains the truth in Canto 18.
"Long carried off course by the restless horses of the senses, / You have now set foot on a path, with a clarity of vision that, happily, will not dim. // SN12.20 // Today your birth bears fruit; your gain today is great; / For though you know the taste of love, your mind is yearning for indifference. // SN12.21 // In this world which likes what is close to home, a fondness for non-doing is rare; / For men shrink from the end of becoming like the puerile from the edge of a cliff." // SN12.22 //
"Ah! What firmness in you, who is a slave to objects no more, in that you have willed the means of liberation. / For, facing the end of existence in this world and thinking 'I will be finished,' it is a fool who gives in to a state of quivering anxiety." // SN18.26 //

atho: ind. and, then, and so
narendraḥ (nom. sg.): m. lord of men, king
sutam (acc. sg.): m. son, child, offspring
āgatāśruḥ (nom. sg. m.): with tears arriving
āgata: mfn. come, arrived
aśru: n. a tear

śirasi (loc. sg.): n. head
upāghrāya = abs. upā - √ ghrā: to smell at ; to kiss , apply the lips to (loc.)
ciram: ind. for a long time
nirīkṣya = abs. nir- √ īkṣ: to look at or towards , behold , regard , observe (also the stars) , perceive

gaccha = 2nd pers. sg. imperative gam: to go
iti: “...,” thus
ca: and
ājñāpayati = 3rd pers. sg. causative ā- √ jñā: to order , command , direct
sma: particle often used pleonastically , and in earlier language generally follows a similar particle [esp. ha , na] , or relative , or prep. or verb , while in later language it frequently follows iti , na and nā́ [cf. 1. mā́] ; it is also joined with a pres. tense or pres. participle to give them a past sense [e.g. praviśanti sma , " they entered "]
vācā (inst. sg.): f. speech , voice , talk; a word

snehāt (abl. sg.): m. blandness , tenderness , love , attachment to , fondness or affection
na: not
ca: and
enam (acc. sg.): him
manasā (inst. sg.): n. heart, mind
mumoca = 3rd pers. sg. perf. muc: to let go

王見太子至 摩頭瞻顏色
悲喜情交結 口許而心留 

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