Sunday, March 9, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 9.52: Facilities for Knowing the Self

⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Indravajrā)
ity-ātma-vijñāna-guṇānurūpaṁ mukta-sphaṁ hetumad-ūrjitaṁ ca |
śrutvā narendrātmajam-uktavantaṁ pratyuttaraṁ mantra-dharo 'py-uvāca || 9.52 

Words that reflected his facility for knowing the self,

Free of eager desire, reasonable, yet powerful,

The son of the king thus spoke.

Having listened, the counsellor also spoke his piece:

Having truly come to the forest, holding, as it were, the mirror up to nature, the bodhisattva is one who, being true to his own self, suits his action to his word, and his word to his action.

As for the counsellor, the mantra-dharaḥ, “bearer of the instrument of thought,” we shall hear now what he has to say for himself. My suspicion is that his words, though displaying a certain familiarity with numerous elements of sāṁkhya philosophy (saṁkhya literally means counting), will carry even less weight than the words of the veteran.

The contrast being suggested by today's verse, then, as I read it, is the contrast between the bodhisattva who had a talent for knowing himself, and the counsellor who knew numerous elements of sāṁkhya philosophy.

A big step on my own path towards knowing myself was beginning to understand, from around my mid-30s, what FM Alexander meant by “faulty sensory appreciation,” or “wrong sense of feeling.” This faulty feeling, my Alexander head of training Ray Evans taught, was centred on the sense of balance, or in other words on the vestibular system. Ray said that one way of describing Alexander work was “vestibular re-education.” 

So that if a Zen practitioner is stiffening unduly and pulling his head back and down in a misguided effort to sit in a good posture, that misguidance is coming primarily from his own faulty vestibular system. What he feels, through his vestibular system, to be up, is actually down. This, for anybody who is really on a path to self-knowledge is quite an eye-opener.

So in the matter of self-knowledge, at least in the book of this Cross, the vestibular system turned out to be crucial. And the four foundation stones of vestibular functioning turn out to be four primitive vestibular reflexes:

(1) An immature Moro Reflex is generally implicated with undue stiffening of the neck.

(2) An immature Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex is implicated with either pulling the head forward and down (as in a Theravada slump) or pulling the head back and down (as in deluded Zen striving for right posture).

(3) An immature Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex is implicated with postural twists and lack of co-ordination between left and right sides.

(4) An immature Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex is implicated with undue tightening of the hip flexors whenever the neck is extended, and lack of co-ordination between top and bottom. 

Alexander's four primary directions, I have ventured to submit, can be meaningfully understood in this light. Thus

(1) To let the neck be free is to let the neck be released from the grip of an aberrant Moro reflex;

(2) To let the head go forward and up is to let the head be released from the grip of an aberrant Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex;

(3) To let the back lengthen and widen is to let the whole double-spiral musculature of the torso be released from the grip, on each side, of an aberrant Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex;

(4) To let the knees go forward and away is to release the pelvis from the grip of an aberrant Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex – so that, in sitting, the pelvis and legs form an excellent base from which to allow the neck to be more free.... and so the virtuous circle continues.

Somewhat mysteriously, since I was ill in February, at which time I expressed on this blog the recognition that the best way to help others is to point them in the right direction, I have suddenly become much busier than usual – busier than is comfortable for me – with enquiries seeking my help as a developmental therapist. 

With a view to learning more about the vestibular system, I followed in Ray Evans' footsteps in training as a developmental therapist, under the auspices of Peter Blythe and his wife Sally Goddard up at INPP Chester from 1998-99, and I have been working in that field, in a small way, ever since.

In a small way might be the operative phrase. I am good friends with a local osteopath who visited us at Christmas and told me – observing the size of my professional practice (if it can be called that) – that he felt I needed a kick up the backside. Since then referrals from him have increased, and those referrals have begotten other referrals. So, though my feelings are admittedly faulty, it feels as if the Universe, aided and abetted by my osteopath friend, has heard me express my desire to point others in the right direction, and delivered a kick up the backside as if to say, “Go on then, get on with it.”

I sort of thought I was getting on with doing my bit (albeit in an amateurish way) by doing this translation and writing this blog. But the truth may be that, without me demonstrating in practice and in person what I mean by the body being held in the twisted grip of immature ATNR, nobody really understands, just from reading a post like this one, what I am going on about.

But I think this is something that Zen practitioners in particular really ought to understand, if we are really interested in knowing ourselves, as opposed to trying to be right.

iti: “...,” thus
ātma-vijñāna-guṇānurūpam (acc. sg. m.): befitting his self-knowledge and good qualities
ātman: m. the self
vijñāna: the act of distinguishing or discerning , understanding , comprehending , recognizing , intelligence , knowledge
guṇa: m. good quality , virtue , merit , excellence
anurūpa: mfn. conforming to, befitting

mukta-spṛham (acc. sg. m.): free from desire
spṛhā: f. eager desire , desire , covetousness , envy , longing for
spṛh: to be eager , desire eagerly , long for
hetumat (acc. sg. n.): mfn. mfn. having a reason or cause ; accompanied with arguments , provided with reasons or proofs , well-founded ; open to arguments , reasonable
ūrjitam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. endowed with strength or power , strong , mighty , powerful , excellent , great , important , gallant , exceeding
ca: and

śrutvā = abs. śru: to hear, listen
narendrātmajam (acc. sg. m.): the self-begotten of an indra among men, the king's son
uktavantam = acc. sg. m. past. part. vac: to say, speak

pratyuttaram (acc. sg.): n. a reply to an answer , rejoinder , answer
mantra-dharaḥ (nom. sg.): m. 'the bearer of the instrument of thought'; a counsellor , adviser
api: also (emphatic)
uvāca = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vac: to say, speak

大臣内思惟 太子大丈夫
深識徳隨順 所説有因縁

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