iti tasya vaco niśamya rājā kariṇevābhihato drumaś-cacāla |
kamala-pratime 'ñjalau gṛhītvā vacanaṁ cedam-uvāca bāṣpa-kaṇṭhaḥ || 5.29
The king, hearing these words of his,
Shook like a tree assaulted by an elephant;
He grasped the hands that were folded like a lotus
And spoke, in a voice choked with tears, as follows:
On the face of if the king is manifesting an emotional reaction – complete with the usual signs of trembling, grasping and stiffening of the neck – to a stimulus received through his auditory sense.
But the deeper truth of the matter is that the undue excitement of the king's fear reflexes has arisen as an emotional reaction to an idea in him.
I learned this the hard way over many years by reacting emotionally to ideas in me.
It is easy to blame the fear reflexes themselves, especially if they are congenitally aberrant, but as the Buddha tells Nanda in Aśvaghoṣa's epic story of Beautiful Joy:
The many and various disappointments of men, like old age, occur as long as their doing goes on. / (For, even when violent winds blow, trees do not shake that never sprouted.) // SN16.10 //
No, when suffering and doing are all tangled up with each other, the fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars. Faulty fear reflexes are not the original cause of faulty reactions. The original cause is an idea – she belongs to me; he will do the right thing; I know where up is; et cetera, et cetera.
If you look at a gold price chart you will see that yesterday the price of gold dropped abruptly. The vertical drop at the end of the chart will be a visual stimulus received by your brain via the eye, and if you don't have any idea about where the price of gold is going, it will be no more than that – just a vertical line. But if you were harbouring a strong expectation that the price of gold could only go up, then looking at the gold price chart might cause you to shake, make infantile fists, speak with a squeaky voice, and exhibit various other symptoms of excited fear reflexes.
Hence the Buddha tells Nanda:
Just as a fire burns only where fuel and air co-exist, / So a fire of affliction arises, from an object and the forming of a conception. // SN13.50 // For through an illusory fixed conception one is bound to an object; / Seeing that very same object as it really is, one is set free. // 13.51 // On seeing one and the same form this man is enamoured, that man is disgusted; / Somebody else remains in the middle; while yet another feels thereto a human warmth. // 13.52 // Thus, an object is not the cause of bondage or of liberation; / It is due to peculiar fixed conceptions that attachment arises or does not. // SN13.53 //
If ideas are so problematic, what is there that is not an idea?
The earth is not an idea. Gravity is not an idea. The energy I have got from eating and digesting food is not an idea. The release of that energy via oxidation is not an idea.
Hence, the Buddha tells Nanda:
So for the giving up, in short, of all these ideas, / Mindfulness of inward and outward breathing, my friend, you should make into your own possession. // SN15.64 //
tasya (gen. sg.): his
vacas (acc. sg.): n. words, saying, speech
niśamya = abs. ni- √ śam: observe, perceive, hear
rājā (nom. sg.): m. the king
kariṇā (inst. sg.): m. " having a trunk " , an elephant
kara: m. 'a doer'; a hand; an elephant's trunk
abhihataḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. struck , smitten , killed ; attacked; beaten (as a drum)
drumaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a tree
cacāla = 3rd pers. sg. perf. cal: to be moved , stir , tremble , shake , quiver
kamala-pratime (loc. sg. m.): like a lotus
kamala: mfn. pale-red , rose-coloured ; mn. a lotus , lotus-flower
pratima: ifc. like , similar , resembling , equal to
añjalau (loc. sg.): m. the open hands placed side by side and slightly hollowed (as if by a beggar to receive food ; hence when raised to the forehead , a mark of supplication)
gṛhītvā = abs. grah: to seize, grasp
vacanam (acc. sg.): n. speech , sentence , word
idam (acc. sg. n.): this
uvāca = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vac: speak
bāṣpa-kaṇṭhaḥ (nom. sg. m.): with tear-choked neck/voice
bāṣpa: m. a tear , tears
kaṇṭha: m. the throat, the neck; the voice ; sound , especially guttural sound