Friday, August 29, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.25: Wrong Grounding

tatra vipratyayo nāma viparītaṁ pravartate |
anyathā kurute kāryaṁ mantavyaṁ manyate 'nyathā || 12.25

Among those, “wrong grounding”

Keeps setting movement in the wrong direction –

It causes to be done wrongly what is to be done;

And causes to be thought wrongly what has to be thought.

“Grounding” in the context of Alexander work is a dangerous word to use. The word tends to stimulate as a reaction in the unenlightened listener an unconscious downward direction, which is the very opposite of what is desired – namely, a conscious upward direction.

Nevertheless it occurred to me in process of preparing today's post – or more accurately in process of forgetting about today's post and listening to the rain-filled stream gush by – that “wrong grounding” is a translation of vi-pratyayaḥ that fits well, covering or at least touching on various meanings of pratyaya, but especially the connotation of vestibular functioning which seems to me to be of primary importance.

Arāḍa, as befits a teacher who Aśvaghoṣa described as muni-sattamaḥ, the truest of sages, the best of sages, thus seems to be embarking on a very well-grounded analysis of what causes us to remain tied onto the swing of saṁṣāra.

I am still not sure what to make of the opening part of Arāḍa's present speech in which he discriminates between Primary Matter (prakṛti) and Transformation (vikāra). And I am aware that Arāḍa is going to conclude his present speech by talking about brahma, in what appears to be the way of a religious believer. But insight into the causes of saṁsāra, expressed in his own words, appears to be Arāḍa's strong suit. 

In the background I think Aśvaghoṣa's recognition is that a person does not have to be a fully awakened sambuddha in order to be clear in regard to the fundamental causes of unconscious human behaviour.

And this causes me to reflect that one of the people who taught me about these causes was a teacher who never made any claims in regard to Buddhist enlightenment but who was nevertheless, when it came to understanding unconscious human behaviour, among the sagest of sages. I am thinking of Peter Blythe, founder of the Institute of Neuro-Physiological Psychology (INPP) in Chester, who used to describe the vestibular system as “the foundation stone of living.” The four cornerstones of living, building on that metaphor, as I have described on this blog many times before, might be four vestibular reflexes.

Understanding how these primitive reflexes, when they are aberrant, influence what human beings do and what human beings think, helps to shed light on the discoveries of another man who was among the truest of sages, and that is FM Alexander.

FM himself was a premature baby who was not expected to live – except that his mother had the strong idea that her first-born was going to live. Since FM was premature, he is very likely, almost certain, to have been towards the far-end of the Bell curve in terms of aberrant primitive reflexes.

So, to cut a long story short – since it is a long story I have tried to tell before on this blog – FM evolved a technique whereby conscious guidance and control of the self might take over where, under the influence of “unduly excited fear reflexes and emotions,” unconscious guidance and control had become faulty. And this technique centred on what Alexander called not doing (or inhibiting) and called thinking (or directing). 

Thinking is important in Alexander work in view of the truth that one cannot do an undoing. Undoing of patterns of muscular tension is generally what we want, but such undoing cannot be done. It can be brought about, however, by learning to think in the right way. By learning to replace unconscious directions  (like the pulling back and down of the head under stress) with conscious directions, like thinking "head forward and up." 

This work, said FM Alexander of his own teaching, is an exercise in learning how to think.

As when learning anything, the student tends to learn by making mistakes, by doing in error and by thinking in error. 

So, for example, the student thinks "head forward and up" in the wrong way and the head actually pulls even more back and down. 

And sometimes this tendency to pull the head back and down, in students in whom the tendency is particularly strong, can be traced back to immature development of vestibular reflexes like the Moro reflex and the Tonic Labyrinthine reflex. 

So it is in this light -- in the light of discoveries made by modern day non-Buddhist sages like FM Alexander and Peter Blythe -- that I read today's verse.

tatra: ind. therein, in that group, among those
vi-pratyayaḥ (nom. sg.): m. mistrust
pratyaya: m. belief, firm conviction , trust , faith , assurance or certainty ; conception , assumption , notion , idea ; (with Buddhists and jainas) fundamental notion or idea); consciousness , understanding , intelligence , intellect (in sāṁkhya = buddhi); ground , basis , motive or cause of anything ; (with Buddhists) a co-operating cause
prati- √i: to go towards or against , go to meet (as friend or foe) ; to come back , return ; to trust or believe in
nāma: ind. by name i.e. named , called

viparītam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. turned around, reversed, inverted ; being the reverse of anything , acting in a contrary manner ; perverse , wrong , contrary to rule
pravartate = 3rd pers. sg. pra- √ vṛt: to roll or go onwards, be set in motion or going; proceed ; come forth

anyathā: ind. otherwise , in a different manner ; inaccurately , untruly , falsely , erroneously
kurute = 3rd pers. sg. kṛ: to do , make , perform , accomplish , cause , effect
kāryam (acc. sg.): n. what is to be done, task to be done

mantavyam (acc. sg.): n. what is to be thought
manyate = 3rd pers. sg. man: to think ; to set the heart or mind on
anyathā: ind. otherwise , in a different manner ; inaccurately , untruly , falsely , erroneously

不信顛倒轉 異作亦異解
我説我知覺 我去來我住

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