Friday, July 31, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.25: Are We Nearly There?

tathaa priiter upaniShat
praamodyaM paramaM matam
praamodyasy' aapy a-hRllekhaH
ku-kRteShv a-kRteShu vaa

- = = = - - - -
= = = - - = - -
= = = = - = = =
- - = - - = - =

The enjoyment is seated in a great happiness which,

Similarly, is understood to be of the highest order;

And the happiness in a freedom from furrowing the heart

Over things done badly or not done.

If the following comment is polemical in tone, the tendency I am railing against is not ruffling any feather of wren or willow warbler, nor any leaf of ash or hazel, nor any blade of grass out there beyond my window in the Normandy countryside. The tendency that causes me sleeplessly to furrow my heart exists nowhere other than in my own stupid self -- in the one Marjory Barlow called "an inveterate worrier."

Neither are words like "remorse" and "conscience," as used by EHJ and LC, to blame for the sleepless night I have just passed. What is blameworthy is my own habitual reaction to those words, unless I am able to get to the bottom of that reaction and cut it out.

Anyway, here goes with the polemic:

Is the point of this verse to try to be right now, for the sake of securing for oneself a higher order of rapturous delight in the Kingdom of Heaven? Or is the point to try to be right in a more Buddhist manner, with a view to securing for oneself a higher-order happiness in a future life? Or, on the contrary, is the point to exercise what FM Alexander called "Man's Supreme Inheritance," and make a decision to stop trying to be right?

Is this verse a stimulus to get stuck in the rut of dwelling on past mistakes and failures? Or is it a stimulus to start afresh from here?

Should we bring to the reading of this verse the religious baggage of "remorse" and "conscience"? Or should we boot such baggage into the long grass, go back to bed, sleep on it, and try again?

How does one experience this freedom from furrowing the heart? Directly, by fixing one's jaw in redoubled determination that "I shall never make another mistake"? Or by some indirect means of forgetting oneself?

Now we arriving at the nub of the matter. Enough discussion of what is seated in what. Let's get down to it.

EH Johnston:
Similarly ecstasy is deemed to be based on pre-eminent cheerfulness and cheerfulness on freedom from remorse over misdeeds and omissions.

Linda Covill:
Likewise great rapture is considered the secret of joy, and the secret of rapture is a clear conscience in respect of things ill-done or undone.

tathaa: likewise, similarly
priiter = genitive of priiti: joy
upaniShad: secret, basis

praamodyam (nom.): n. rapture , delight
parama: chief , highest , primary, most prominent; best, most excellent
mata: mfn. thought , believed , imagined , supposed , understood ; regarded or considered as

praamodyasya = genitive of praamodya: rapture
api: and
a- : (negative prefix) not, without, lack of, freedom from
hRl: in comp. for hRd: heart
likh: to scratch , scrape , furrow , tear up (the ground)
hRllekhaH (nom.): m. " heart-furrow " , anxiety of the mind , disquietude

ku-kRteShu = locative, plural of ku-kRta: mfn. badly made ; one who has acted badly
a-kRteShu = locative, plural of a-kRta: undone , not committed ; not made , uncreated ; unprepared , incomplete ; one who has done no works
vaa: or

Thursday, July 30, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.24: More Backtracking

prashrabdhiH kaaya-manasaH
sukhasy' opaniShat paraa
prashrabdher apy upaniShat
priitir apy avagamyataam

= = = = - - - =
- = = - - = - =
= = = = - - - =
= - = - - = - =

An assurance on which sits ease of the body-mind

Is of the highest order,

And the assurance is seated in enjoyment.

Again, let this be realised in experience.

EHJ notes that: prashrabdhi is properly the feeling of intense, almost buoyant, calm that ensues on the sudden cessation of great pain and has a similar meaning as applied to the mind.

This explanation and EHJ's translation "buoyancy" seem to fit in the context of prashrabdhi being the link between enjoyment of some worthwhile process and the condition of psycho-physical ease. EHJ's description suggests some kind of a positive feedback loop in which the flow of endorphins is boosted.

Enjoyment of the translation process I am engaged in now has been linked, it seems to me, in my own experience, with almost total disappearance of a symptom of pscyho-physical dis-ease: namely, a stomach pain that had been bothering me for several months. In general, a link between enjoying some worthwhile process, and greater ease in one's body-mind, seems to ring true in everyday experience.

When his students arrived with long faces, taking too seriously the matter of going up, FM Alexander used to send them off to enjoy a walk around the block. Alexander's point, and maybe also the point of this verse, is that doing something wholesome and enjoyable cheers us up. In other words, enjoyment is the seat of buoyancy.

In that case, the buoyancy in question is neither the air-punching euphoria of a battle won nor even the nice sensory buzz that follows a good massage or a physical work-out. The buoyancy in question is of the highest order (paraa). It might be, to use Marjory Barlow's phrase, "a cut above" other kinds of buoyancy. (Marjory used to say that real Alexander work was a "a cut above" bodywork.)

Having prepared the outline of this comment yesterday, I had a night of sleep intermittently invaded by the word prashrabdhi. Although EJH's translation "buoyancy" fits on the basis of common sense and, with its connotation of an upward force, gels nicely with Alexander experience, the thought kept bothering me that the root of the word has to do with confidence, trust, being free of cares or worries. Maybe "buoyancy" is erring on the interpretive. So this morning I considered as a translation of prashrabdhi "assurance," for which Webster's (the dictionary I used in Japan for the Shobogenzo translation) gives the following definition:

2: the state of being assured: as a: security b: a being certain in the mind [the puritan's assurance of salvation] c: confidence of mind or manner : easy freedom from self-doubt or uncertainty ; also : excessive self-confidence : brashness, presumption

The sense of "easy freedom from self-doubt or uncertainty" certainly fits well in context.

Plus, the further possible meaning of excessive self-confidence brings into still clearer focus the point of the word paraa ("of the highest order.") If prashrabdhi means self-confidence, it does not mean empty brashness, or unearned self-esteem; it means self-assurance of a higher order, rooted in actual conduct of one's life. But neither is this assurance the same as grim puritanical self-righteousness. It is seated in enjoyment. To come back again to a saying of Marjory Barlow: "It is the most serious thing in the world, this work. But you mustn't take it seriously. It is supposed to be fun!"

EH Johnston:
Bliss of body and mind is based on supreme buoyancy, and know too that buoyancy is based on ecstasy.

Linda Covill:
Understand that complete confidence is the real secret of physical and mental bliss, and that joy is the secret of confidence.

prashrabdhiH (nom.): f. ( √shrambh) trust , confidence
√shrambh: to be careless or negligent ; to trust , confide ,
kaaya: body
manasaH = genitive singular of manas: mind

sukhasya = genitive of sukha: ease, happiness
upaniShad: secret, basis
paraa (f.): on the other or farther side of;

prashrabdher = genitive of prashrabdhi: trust, confidence
api: and, also
upaniShad: secret, basis

priitiH (nom.): f. any pleasurable sensation , pleasure , joy , gladness , satisfaction
api: and, also
avagamyataam (passive, imperative of ava-√gam): let it be realised
ava-√gam: to go down , descend to (acc. or loc.) ; to reach , obtain ; to get power or influence ; to go near , undertake ; to hit upon , think of, conceive , learn , know , understand , anticipate , assure one's self , be convinced

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.23: Two More Steps

jNaanasy' opaniShac c' aaiva
samaadhir upadhaaryataam
samaadher apy upaniShat
sukhaM shaariira-maanasaM

= = = - - = = -
- = = - - = - =
- = = = - - - =
- = = = - = - =

And let it be experienced, again,

That the knowing is seated in a stillness

And that the seat of the stillness

Is a body-mind at ease.

Knowing (jNaana), stillness or balance (samaadhi), and pyscho-physical ease (sukhaM shaarira-maanasam) are like three descending rungs on a ladder. Each is to be experienced for what it is. But the base that the whole thing is resting on is not Alexandrian insight, is not balance of the autonomic nervous system, and is not even the principle and practice of body-mind integration. The base that everything is resting on is nothing other than conduct.

Not doing any evil,
Allowing every good,
To cleanse one's own mind
Is the teaching of buddhas.

EH Johnston:
Realise that knowledge is based on mental concentration and mental concentration on bliss of body and mind.

Linda Covill:
Recognize that concentration is the secret of knowledge, and physical and mental bliss of concentration.

jNaanasya (gentive): of knowing
upaniShad: secret, basis
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)

samaadhiH (nom.): m. putting together; setting to rights ; bringing into harmony , agreement
upadhaaryataam = passive, imperative of upa-√dhR: to hold up , support , bear ; to hold as , consider as , regard , think ; to hold in the mind , reflect or meditate on ; to perceive , comprehend , hear , experience , learn

samaadheH = genitive of samaadhi: balance, harmony, stillness
api: also
upaniShad: secret, basis

sukham (nom. singular): n. ease , easiness , comfort , prosperity , pleasure , happiness
shaariira: body
maanasam (nom. singular): n. the mental powers , mind , spirit , heart , soul

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.22: Backward Steps towards Integrity

mokShasy' opaniShat saumya
vairaagyam iti gRhyataam
vairaagyasy' aapi saMvedaH
saMvido jNana-darshanam

= = = - - = = -
= = - - - = - =
= = = = - = = =
= - = - - = - -

Let it be grasped, my friend,

That release is seated in indifference,

Indifference in conscious awareness,

And conscious awareness in knowing and seeing.

MokSha expresses the goal of release, freedom, liberation, being set free.

As translations of vairyagam, what is the difference between, for example:
- freedom from redness,
- freedom from passion,
- dispassion,
- detachment,
- indifference?

In the end, who cares?

SaMveda, conscious awareness, is seated, as far as I understand it, in knowing and seeing what I wish to inhibit: a pattern of unconscious reaction to an idea.

But this knowing and seeing (jNana-darshana) is not the end of the story. We know in advance where this regression is leading: back to the practice of integrity (shiila). Integrity is the foundation on which rest such things as insight, conscious awareness, indifference and the ultimate aim of freeing oneself from the prison of habit.

"Who cares?" I asked, as I prepared this comment yesterday. And having slept on it, and sat, the answer is that I care. My heart wants to pour out the following:

A structure built on a foundation which lacks integrity is bound to collapse. This, I venture to predict, is the inevitable fate of Dogen Sangha. And when it comes crumbling down, I wish to be well away from the falling debris.

The Buddha's teaching thrives when a follower of the Buddha, on an individual basis, eschewing all -isms and political shenanigans, acts truthfully, with integrity. This is what today I would like to prove, starting afresh from here.

The Buddha's way is to act, as an individual, with integrity. I don't see any other way. A few years ago Gudo Nishijima wrote me an email outlining his intention to establish Dogen Sangha in the middle way between the Soto Sect and secular society. From where I sit, there is no such way.

In 1997, Gudo Nishijima betrayed me. Blinded by his conviction that the Shobogenzo translation was essentially his own "personal job," he could not see that he was betraying me. He did not know that he was betraying me. But in his action, he betrayed me. For ten years I argued with him back and forth by email, holding on to the optimistic belief that he would see the light and redeem himself. That optimism of mine was totally false, as optimism always is. Instead of redeeming himself, he just got older, and more and more mistrustful of the one who had always criticized him.

To count on the integrity of another was absolutely my mistake. My integrity is only a matter for me, as an individual. This, as I see it, is the teaching not only of the Buddha but also of FM Alexander. FM Alexander was a man of integrity. FM had his personal foibles, like betting on horses, but nobody, as far as I know, accused FM Alexander of lacking basic integrity. How could a movement founded by a man who lacked integrity be true?

In the womb, before our heads were filled with views on Buddhism, realism, humanism, theism, atheism, and the rest, all of us knew what integrity was. Learning the backward step of turning one's own light and shining has to do with allowing that kind of integrity to shine through again.

This translation is to lay the groundwork for that kind of individual practice of integrity. But more than that, I want this work to exemplify individual practice of integrity in the process of doing it, at this snail's pace of one verse per day.

"Who cares?" I asked, as I prepared this comment yesterday. And having slept on it, and sat, the answer is that I care. Seeing thus that my own foundations are not so stout, I am more convinced than ever of the need to start digging totally afresh, from here.

EH Johnston:
My friend, comprehend that salvation is based on freedom from passion, freedom from passion on right understanding, and right understanding on the apprehension of knowledge.

Linda Covill:
My dear friend, accept that dispassion is the secret of liberation, understanding of dispassion, and knowledge of understanding.

mokShasya = genitive of mokSha: m. emancipation , liberation , release from ; falling off or down ; setting free , deliverance (of a prisoner); loosing , untying (hair)
upa-ni-√sad: to sit down near to ; to approach , set about
upaniShad: f. (according to some) the sitting down at the feet of another to listen to his words (and hence , secret knowledge given in this manner ; but according to native authorities upaniShad means " setting at rest ignorance by revealing the knowledge of the supreme spirit ") ; the mystery which underlies or rests underneath the external system of things ; esoteric doctrine , secret doctrine , mysterious or mystical meaning , words of mystery ; a class of philosophical writings (more than a hundred in number , attached to the brAhmaNas ; their aim is the exposition of the secret meaning of the veda , and they are regarded as the source of the vedAnta and sAMkhya philosophies)
saumya: voc. = " O gentle Sir! " " O good Sir! " " O excellent man! " as the proper mode of addressing a Brahman

vairaagyam (accusative): n. change or loss of colour , growing pale ; disgust , aversion , distaste for or loathing of ; freedom from all worldly desires , indifference to worldly objects and to life , asceticism
iti: " .... " ; that
gRhyataam = passive, imperative of grah: to grasp

vairaagyasya (genitive): dispassion
api: and, also
saMvedaH (nom.): m. perception , consciousness

saMvidaH = nom. of saMvida: having consciousness , conscious
jNana: n. knowing ; conscience
darshanam (accusative): ifc. seeing , looking at

Monday, July 27, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.21: The Lotus of the Universe Turns Itself

shiilam aasthaaya vartante
sarvaa hi shreyasi kriyaaH
sthaan'-aadyaan' iiva kaaryaaNi
pratiShThaaya vasundharaaM

= - = = - = = =
= = = = - = - =
= = = = - = = =
- = = - - = - =

For founded on integrity unfurl

All actions in the sphere of higher good,

Just as events like standing unfold

When a force resists the earth.

A joke told by Irish comic philosopher Dave Allen has stuck in my mind for 35 years. It went something like this:

A priest kneels before God and begs to be forgiven for some terrible sin. The voice of God booms down: "Thou shalt go and play 18 holes of golf." Nervously the priest approaches the first tee, expecting to suffer a lightning strike or some such horror, but nothing happens. Rather, the ball sails straight into the hole. Seventeen further holes-in-one follow. At the eighteenth pin the amazed priest looks up to the heavens and cries out, "Lord, I expected you to punish me for my terrible sin, but in Your great benevolent mercy you have chosen not to punish me!" "On the contrary," booms the voice of God, "Your punishment is that nobody will believe you."

The reason the joke comes back to mind is that I feel my understanding of this verse, on the basis of efforts in sitting practice and Alexander work, is like a hole in one. But if I try to put the understanding in words, and hold it up for public scrutiny, it feels as if nobody is listening to me. Anyway, here is my comment:

Six verses from this verse to 13.26 paint a picture of integrity as the basis of a clear conscience, which is the basis of a sense of fulfillment which is the basis of joy, and so on through buoyancy, psycho-physical ease, balance, insight, consciousness, dispassion, and release. So this verse does the groundwork for the series of six verses, comparing integrity to the earth upon which everything rests.

But besides that, this verse as I read it, is also pointing indirectly to the truth of non-doing.

The verb vRt, translated above as "unfurl" and "unfold," originally means to turn or roll. In this verse, as I read it, vartante carries a connotation of what FM Alexander called "the right thing doing itself" -- as when The Flower of Dharma Turns the Flower of Dharma (the title of Shobogenzo chap. 17, HOKKE-TEN-HOKKE).

Actions that are not on the plane of higher good are done with much grunting, pushing, shoving and holding of breath. This is how FM Alexander saw most of us acting most of the time, as "lowly evolved swine."

To help his pupils up onto what he called "the plane of conscious control," FM taught them primarily NOT to stand up. When his pupils had learned to say NO to their habitual way of standing up, FM gave them a new experience of standing as an unfolding event, a spontaneous happening.

The spontaneity has to do with what Charles Sherrington called "anti-gravity" reflexes. After 15 years looking into it, I understand almost nothing about it. But this verse, as I read it, is touching on that subject. Because what withstands the earth, on the plane of higher good, is basically all the anti-gravity machinery which is driven not so much from the top two inches, but more from the vestibular reflexes.

May the Lotus Universe turn for you.
May your every act of standing be a happening.
And may your God go with you.

EH Johnston:
For by taking your stand on discipline all actions take place in the sphere of the supreme good, just as standing and other actions of the body are performed by taking your stand on the earth.

Linda Covill:
For all actions pertaining to Excellence rest on moral self-restraint, just as the physical activities of standing and so on take place resting on the ground.

shiilam (accusative): discipline, good conduct, integrity
aasthaaya (absolutive of aa-√sthaa):: ind.p. having recourse to , using , employing ; having ascended ; standing , standing by.
aa-√sthaa: to stand or remain on or by ; to ascend , mount ; to stay near , go towards , resort to ; to act according to , follow
vartante = 3rd person plural of vRt: to turn, veer ; to move or go on , get along , advance , proceed , take place , occur , be performed , come off
sarvaaH (nom, pl.): all
hi: for
shreyasi = locative of shreyas: higher good
kriyaaH = nom. pl of kriyaa: f. doing , performing , performance , occupation with (in comp.) , business , act , action ; bodily action

sthaana: the act of standing , standing firmly , being fixed or stationary; position or posture of the body (in shooting &c )
aadya: being at the beginning ; ifc = aadi, et cetera
iva: like
kaaryaaNi = nom. pl. of kaarya: n. work or business to be done , duty , affair ; n. occupation , matter , thing , enterprise , emergency , occurrence , crisis ; n. conduct , deportment

pratiShThaaya = absolutive of pratiShThaa: to stand , stay , abide , dwell; to stand firm , be based or rest on (loc.); to withstand , resist (acc.); to spread or extend over (acc.)
vasundharaaM (accusative): f. the earth ; a country , kingdom ; the soil , the ground

Sunday, July 26, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.20: Immersion in Good Conduct

tasmaac caaritra-sampanno
brahmacaryam idaM cara
aNu-maatreShv avadyeShu
bhaya-darshii dRDha-vrataH

= = = = - = = =
= - = - - = - -
- - = = - - = -
- - = = - = - =

Being steeped in good conduct, therefore,

Lead this wholesome life,

And in what is even minutely blameworthy

See danger, being firm in your purpose.

To conceive of "wholesomeness" as an end to be gained, and thence to strive towards it, without giving due consideration to whether one's means are wholesome or not, might be somewhat blameworthy.

Even a miniscule amount of that kind of end-gaining causes a gap to open up, so that body and mind become rapidly disconnected from each other. It is a recipe for very unwholesome living. It is a recipe for splitting oneself into two halves -- one half that wants to be wholesome, and the other half that doesn't want to be wholesome. Nothing could be less wholesome than that. Q.E.D.

It seems to me that it is an easy mistake to make to jump to conclusions about how other people are, without really knowing them as individuals, but based only on one's own experience and one's own opinions. I remember Gudo Nishijima pronouncing, in a lecture in the 1980s, that every human being has desire to have sex with another human being. The context was that my teacher was opposing the traditional "unrealistic" interpretation of the four noble truths that (sexual) desire is the cause of suffering, with his own more "realistic" understanding of desire. But it turns out (or so I heard on BBC Radio 4 yesterday morning), that about 1% of people are asexual -- i.e. they are neither heterosexual, nor homosexual, nor bisexual: they find both women and men sexually unattractive. In short, there are asexual people who don't want sex with anybody. So, not for the first time, the "realistic" view seems to me to have been falsified by a fact.

What I was taught in my 20s was not to suppress sexual desire, but just to leave it as is, without following it in my conduct. My teacher used the metaphor of allowing a rubber ball to float on the surface of water, not trying to hold it down. But in the background to this teaching, as I perceived it, was the idea that it was good to be celibate, that although there might be no sin in sex, it was traditional for a Buddhist monk to be celibate, so that if I could be celibate, that would be very good.

What would have been good, in retrospect, would have been to stop trying so hard to be right. For a start it would have been good to stop striving so hard to keep the spine straight vertically. It would have been very good if somebody had explained to me the difference between (a) holding oneself up rigidly with a lot of needless effort, and (b) allowing the spine to lengthen in such a way that the breathing becomes less, not more, restricted.

In order to lead a wholesome life, it seems to me, what we should endeavour to stop is neither sexual desire (which might be impossible for 99% of people) nor sexual conduct (which might also be impossible for many people); what we should endeavour to stop, primarily, is unwholesome end-gaining.

EH Johnston:
Therefore live the holy life, endowed with good conduct, firmly attached to your vows and recognising the danger of even the smallest faults.

Linda Covill:
Therefore live this renunciant life endowed with virtuous conduct, firm in your vowed observances, and seeing danger in what is only very slightly objectionable.

tasmaat: therefore
caaritra: n. good conduct , good character , reputation
sampannaH (nom. m.): mfn. turned out well; ifc. " perfectly acquainted or conversant with "; endowed or furnished with ; (ifc.) become , turned into

brahmacaryam (acc. neuter): study of the veda , the state of an unmarried religious student , a state of continence and chastity (acc. with √car, to practise chastity)
brahma = in compounds for brahman (from √bRh, to make big or fat or strong , increase , expand , further , promote): pious effusion or utterance , outpouring of the heart in worshipping the gods , prayer ; holy life (esp. continence , chastity)
carya: to be practised
brahma-carya: n. study of the veda , the state of an unmarried religious student , a state of continence and chastity (acc. √car , to practise chastity ; cf. -caarin)
brahma-caarin: m. a young Brahman who is a student of the veda (under a preceptor) or who practises chastity , a young Brahman before marriage (in the first period of his life) ; the name brahma-caarin is also given to older unmarried Brahmans , esp. if versed in the veda , and by the tantras to any person whose chief virtue is continence)
idam (acc. neuter): this
cara = imperative of √car: to move oneself, act, practise, live

aNu: fine , minute , atomic
maatra: n. (ifc.) measure , quantity , sum , size
aNu-maatreShv = locative, plural of aNu-maatra: having the size of an atom
avadyeShu = locative, plural of avadya: "not to be praised" , blamable , low , inferior

bhaya: fear, danger
darshii = nom. m. of darshin: ifc. seeing , looking at , observing , examining , finding
dRDha: fixed , firm , hard , strong ; firmly fastened , shut fast , tight ; steady , resolute , persevering ; confirmed , established , certain , sure
vrataH (nom. m): will , command ; a religious vow or practice , any pious observance , meritorious act of devotion or austerity , solemn vow , rule , holy practice (as fasting , continence &c); any vow or firm purpose

Saturday, July 25, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.19: Walking the Walk

etaavac chiilam ity uktam
aacaaro 'yaM samaasataH
asya naashena n' aaiva syaat
pravrajyaa na gRha-sthataa

= = = = - - = -
= = = = - = - =
= - = = - = = =
= = = - - = - =

Such is termed "practice of integrity."

In sum, it is conduct;

Without it there could truly be

No going forth, nor state of being at home.

In sum, it is walking the walk.

These comments of mine are so much talking the talk. But the work of translation is walking the walk. Each verse is four steps in a walk, in a "going into movement," one foot in front of the other.

It is good to be on a long path that is going somewhere. It is not a path I imagined I would be walking, but the point is not to pick and choose a path. "Beggars can't be choosers," as my grandparents used to say. Any path will do.

When Gudo Nishijima and Jeff Bailey returned from a trip to America in the mid-1980s, Gudo reported back to me that Jeff had come up with the idea that I should be "the champion of Dogen Sangha." What did it mean in terms of my actual conduct, I wondered? It didn't mean anything. It was only an idea, a good bit of talking the talk. But my deluded reaction to the idea was all too real. And sadly at that time I was not possessed of any means for dealing with emotional reaction to an idea -- and neither would I be possessed of the means until I met Marjory Barlow many years later.

Even now, day by day, verse by verse, step by step, I am struggling to give up the idea that I am destined to play some great role as a "Buddhist" leader: I wish to be free from the undesired reactions, the energetic leakages, that the idea seems to mobilize in me. But the idea has buried itself a long way down. I think I am free of it, then I notice some emotional reaction in myself and realise I was not free after all. Have to dig deeper.

GRha-sthataa at the end of the verse could be translated "lay practice" or "practice as a householder." I considered those two translations, but they didn't sound right to my (admittedly faulty) ear, based on my experience over the past 30 years of sometimes going forth and sometimes being at home, sometimes failing to go forth, and sometimes failing to be at home. "State of being at home" sounds right to my ear: it has overtones that hint at the backward step of turning one's light and shining -- the backward step that is always available to anybody, regardless of social status, caste, colour, or creed.

Who am I? A Buddhist monk? A Buddhist householder undergoing a solitary summer retreat? No, I am neither of those two. A non-Buddhist monk, then? A non-Buddhist householder? Or a non-Buddhist scrounger? A non-Buddhist dosser enjoying another long holiday? I don't know. On a good day, I don't care two hoots either.

Not knowing who I am, I devote myself as best I can to the conscious practice of integrity, as far as I understand it, as a backward step, and I get on with this translation work in forward steps, one foot in front of the other.

The mainspring of integrity, as FM Alexander rightly observed, is a person's central alignment such that the head, arms, and legs are all as if spilling out from the expanding depths of one's being. When this integrity is truly practised, it seems to me, it doesn't matter who I am. After a heavy downpour, the birds begin again to sing.

EH Johnston:
This much is said to be discipline. To put it briefly, it is good behaviour ; in its absence there can be no proper life either as a mendicant or as a householder.

Linda Covill:
Such is what is termed moral self-restraint. To summarize, it is virtuous conduct; were it to disappear, neither true going forth nor true household life would be possible

etaavat: ind. so far , thus far , so much , in such a degree , thus
shiilam = accusative of shiila: habit , custom , usage , natural or acquired way of living or acting , practice , conduct , disposition , tendency , character , nature ; good disposition or character , moral conduct , integrity , morality , piety , virtue ; (with Buddhists, " moral conduct " , is one of the 6 or 10 perfections or pAramitAs [q.v.] and is threefold , viz. sambhAra , kuzala-saMgrAha , sattvA*rtha-kriyA Dharmas. 106) ;
a moral precept (with Buddh. there are 5 fundamental precepts or rules of moral conduct cf. paJca-zIla)
iti: " "
uktam (accusative): uttered, said, spoken

aacaaraH: conduct , manner of action , behaviour , good behaviour , good conduct ; custom , practice , usage , traditional or immemorial usage (as the foundation of law) ; an established rule of conduct , ordinance , institute , precept ; (with Buddhists) agreeing with what is taught by the teacher
ayam: this, this is
samaasa: aggregation , conjunction , combination , connection , union , totality
-taH: ablative suffix

asya (genitive): of it
naashena = instrumental of naasha: the being lost , loss , disappearance
na: not
eva: (emphatic)
syaat: might be

pravrajyaa: f. going forth from home (first rite of a layman wishing to become a Buddh. monk) ; f. roaming , wandering about (esp. as a religious mendicant ; f. the order of a religious mendicant
na: not
gRha: home, house
stha: standing, staying , abiding , being situated in , existing or being in; occupied with , engaged in , devoted to performing , practising
- taa: -ness, state of, being
gRhasthataa: being a householder, [being-at-home]-ness

Friday, July 24, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.18: How Not to Wash the Stubborn Stain of "What's In It For Me?"

gRha-sthena hi duH-shodhaa
dRShTir vividha-dRShTinaa
aajivo bhikShuNaa c' aaiva
pareShv aayata-vRttinaa

- = = - - = = =
= = - - - = - =
= - = = - = = -
- = = - = = - =

For hard to be washed clean
is the view of the househoulder

With his many and various concerns,

As too is the livelihood of the beggar

Whose subsistence depends on others.

A householder's practice is liable to be tainted by having various fish to fry, while a beggar's practice is liable to be tainted by contributions either not obtained morally or not given freely.

In either case, impurity originates with a thought in the back of somebody's mind of "what's in it for me?"

There are Buddhist priests in Japan and Buddhist monks in Thailand who actively encourage the "what's in it for me?" attitude by selling supposedly auspicious posthumous names to the highest bidder, and by selling trinkets to the superstitious who hope to win the lottery.

Behind the hypocrisy of the -ism, Buddhist "What's in it for me?" begets Buddhist "What's in it for me?"

Even though I write this as a non-Buddhist, a non-Buddhist also is tainted by "What's in it for me?"

The big difference between a Buddhist hypocrite and a follower of non-Buddha is this: the Buddhist hypocrite thinks that he and his Buddhist teacher and his Buddhist chums are pure, that they are, to use the words of Venerable Jundo Cohen "the good guys"; the follower of non-Buddha, in contrast, is awake to what impurity is, primarily in himself.

I spent a past life of serving a buddha called Dogen, but those efforts were not always untainted by a view of "What's in it for me?" In this present life I am serving a buddha called Ashvaghosha, and these efforts are probably still so tainted.

How hard it is for the stain of "What's in it for me" to be washed off, is nowhere more clearly expressed than in the sutra quoted in Shobogenzo chap. 87, Kuyo-shobutsu, Serving Buddhas.

Re-translating that long passage, which I was doing at this very table in France this time last year, really helped me to find the job that I am enjoying doing now, in the service of Ashvaghosha. The point of this very long and repetitive passage is not to worry about impurity or to strive for purity, which is a kind of trying to be right. The point is to keep on serving buddhas, which is a kind of going into movement.

I come back to the golden teaching of Marjory Barlow, which might be paraphrased like this:

When you feel that you are wrong, remember that what you want is not to become right but rather to direct the energy which is your life in a direction that you are consciously choosing for yourself, not letting yourself be manipulated by others on the grounds of blind reaction. Remember this, and then get on with your work, without a care in the world.

What Marjory actually said was this: "When you feel that you are wrong, say 'No,' give your directions, and go into movement, without a care in the world. Let it come out in the wash."

Washing away untaintedness, as Marjory taught it, is a very indirect process. The Buddha as I hear him, and Marjory as I heard her, are chanting from the same scroll.

To let untaintedness come out in the wash, indirectly, through the process of serving buddhas, is very difficult. It requires many lifetimes of effort and sacrifice. To wash away taintedness directly is not difficult. It is totally impossible. Because "I want to be free of taintedness" is taintedness itself.

EH Johnston:
For it is difficult for the householder attached to many varied doctrines to attain purity of doctrine and for the mendicant whose means of existence are dependent on others to obtain purity of livelihood.

Linda Covill:
For a householder who subscribes to various doctrines has difficulty in maintaining an uncontaminated doctrine, while a monk who depends for his subsistence on other people has difficulty in keeping his livelihood clean.

gRha: house, home; householder
sthena = instrumental of stha: standing , staying , abiding , being situated in , existing or being in
hi: for
duH-shodhaa (nom. f.): difficult to be cleaned

dRShTiH (nom.): f. seeing , viewing ; view, notion
vividha:. of various sorts , manifold , divers
dRShTinaa = instrumental of dRShTin: having an insight into or familiar with anything ; having the looks or thoughts directed upon anything

aajivaH (nom.): m. livelihood
bhikShuNaa = instrumental of bhikShu: m. a beggar , mendicant , a Buddhist mendicant or monk
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)

pareShu (locative, plural): to others
aayata: stretching , extending , extended , spread over ; directed towards , aiming at
vRttinaa = instrumental of vRtti/vRttin: mode of life or conduct , course of action , behaviour , (esp.) moral conduct; practice (often ifc practising) ; profession , maintenance , subsistence , livelihood

Thursday, July 23, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.17: Being Simple Is Not Easy

karmaNo hi yathaa-dRShtaat
kaaya-vaak-prabhavaad api
aajiivaH pRthag ev' okto
duH-shodhatvaad ayaM mayaa

= - = - - = - =
= - = - - = - -
= = = - - = = =
= = = = - = - =

So separately from overt action

And from the origin of use of body and voice,

I have spoken of making a living

Because it is so hard to make a pure one --

If I have understood the first two lines correctly, I have understood them on the basis of Dogen's teaching that there is sitting with mind, as opposed to sitting with body; and sitting with body, as opposed to sitting with mind.

To sit with the body is to attend to overt action, i.e, action as seen from the outside. Japanese and French Zazen practitioners tend to be strong in that direction, maybe reflecting the highly developed aesthetic sensibilities of their culture, cuisine, et cetera. Rule no. 1, they seem to understand, is that one has to look the part. I heard of a French Zen practitioner who tried to stretch his ears with weights, so that he might have long ears like the Buddha. How French can you get?

To sit with the mind, as opposed to sitting with the body, is to attend to stopping those wrong inner patterns from which misuse of body and voice originates. This latter approach relates to what FM Alexander called "thinking in activity," and to what followers of the Buddha in places like Thailand and Tibet call "mindfulness" or "training the mind." This seems to me to be no easy thing in itself, but quite apart from this difficulty the Buddha has been speaking of something which he himself (mayaa: "by me") now calls difficult: the cleansing or purification of one's livelihood.

The gold standard for purity might be the filthy rags that beggars of old would pick up, sort out, wash, dye and wear as a kashaya.

Purity as the Buddha uses the word, if I hear him correctly, means not being tainted. The non-taintedness of filthy rags, as I see it, has to do with the separateness between, on the one hand, the end-gaining of the world, and on the other hand, the attention followers of the Buddha are required to pay to a process. In the world of end-gaining, rags chewed by rats or soiled by shit or menstruation have no value. They are like CO2 emissions, something polluted and polluting -- unavoidable side-effects of the gaining of valuable ends -- something to be discarded. But beggars who followed the Buddha saw value in these waste products that had zero or negative value in the world, seeing them not as impure but as the most pure kind of cloth for making a robe.

If that is the sense in which the Buddha uses the term duH-shodhatva, "difficulty of cleansing," what does it mean for us to purify our means of making a living?

For a start, to sit as the dropping off of body and mind might be a condition of cleanness, i.e., of untainted simplicity, clarity, and indifference. I think that in the time of Ashvaghosha this practice and this understanding, in mutual accord with each other, were still flowing like a torrent in India. Nowadays river-beds everywhere are hardly overflowing, and anybody who really wants water had better be prepared to dig deep for it -- starting afresh from here.

EH Johnston:
For this livelihood is explained by Me separately from the physical actions, namely those of body and voice, because it is so difficult to purify.

Linda Covill:
Because of the difficulty of keeping it clean, I have explained making a living separately from actions as they are seen in body and speech.

karmaNaH = ablative, singular of karmaN: act , action , performance , business ; work, labour, activity ; product , result , effect ; former act as leading to inevitable results , fate (as the certain consequence of acts in a previous life)
hi: for
yathaa: as, in accordance with
dRShtaat = ablative of dRShta: seen

kaaya: body
vaak = in compounds fo vaac: speech , voice , talk
prabhavaad = ablative of prabhava: m. production , source , origin , cause of existence ; birthplace (often ifc. springing or rising or derived from , belonging to)
api: also

aajiivaH (nom. m.): livelihood
pRthak: widely apart , separately
eva: (emphatic)
ukta: uttered, said, spoken

duH: (prefix indicating difficulty)
shodha: purification, cleansing ; correction, setting right
- tva: (abstract noun suffix)
duH-shodhatvaad (ablative): from the difficulty of cleansing
ayam (nom. m.): this
mayaa (instrumental): by me

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.16: Yes, You Can!

parituShTaH shucir maNjush
caukShayaa jiiva-saMpadaa
kuryaa duHkha-pratiikaaraM
yaavad eva vimuktaye

- - = = - = = =
= - = = - = - =
= = = = - = = =
= - = - - = - =

As a person who is contented, pristine, pleasant,

Through making a living cleanly and well,

You can thwart suffering

All the way to liberation.

In this verse, as I read it, the Buddha is giving his positive affirmation that, primarily by virtue of negative means, the possibility exists of living happily and agreeably, being true to oneself.

"The wrong inner patterns are the doing that must be stopped," said Marjory Barlow. I understand duHkha-pratiikaaram, the thwarting of suffering, in accordance with that preventive principle.

The deeper the roots of the wrong inner patterns, the deeper we are required to dig in order to thwart suffering. And digging deep is never easy. What I hear the Buddha saying in this verse is that what is never easy is not impossible.

To do this digging, no sophisticated technological tool is needed, not even a spade. The discontent induced by a computer programme saying "Not Responding," while one is impatiently striving to complete some computer task, need not come into it. What is required is a human body, time and space, and a real understanding of what it means to be tainted. Not to be tainted, as I understand this practice on the basis of Alexander work, entails the giving up of an end-gaining idea that unconsciously triggers the tangle of wrong inner patterns which is associated with faulty sensory appreciation. In order to transcend the influence of faulty sensory appreciation, therefore, and be one who is content, pristine, and pleasing, a return to "simple, conscious living" is required.

With this in mind, in an hour or so I shall set off for France. The last words I shall type before I set off are from FM Alexander's book Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual:

I venture to predict that before we can unravel the horribly tangled skein of our present existence, we must come to a full STOP, and return to conscious, simple living, believing in the unity underlying all things, and acting in a practical way in accordance with the laws and principles involved.

EH Johnston:
Contented, upright, pleasing in voice and pure in livelihood, you should practise the remedy for suffering till you reach emancipation.

Linda Covill:
contented, pure and lovely through making your living in a successful and clean manner, counteract suffering until the moment of liberation.

parituShTaH (nom. sing. m.): one who is completely satisfied , delighted, very glad
shuciH (nom.): clear , clean , pure (lit. and fig.) , holy , unsullied , undefiled , innocent , honest
maNjuH (nom.): beautiful , lovely , charming , pleasant , sweet

caukShayaa = instrumental f. of caukShaa: pure , clean (persons)
jiiva: mf(/A)n. living , existing , alive; living by ; m. life , existence
sampadaa = instrumental of sampad: f. success , accomplishment , completion , fulfilment , perfection

kuryaaH (2nd person singular, optative of kR): you can do
duHkha: suffering
pratiikaaram (accusative): opposition , counteraction , prevention , remedy

yaavat: until, as long as
eva: (emphatic)
vimuktaye = dative of vimukta: mfn. unloosed , unharnessed ; set free , liberated

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.15: Grounds of Integrity (II)

varjyaanaam a-pratigrahaat
bhaikSh'-aaNgaanaaM nisRShTaanaM
niyataanaaM pratigrahaat

= - = - - = = =
= = = = - = - =
= = = = - = = =
- - = = - = - =

On the grounds of not accepting
living beings, grain, money, and so on,

As things to be avoided;

On the grounds of accepting
the established rules for begging,

With their definite limits;

This verse, as I read it, is not primarily about making a living as a beggar. This verse is primarily about integrity ; and, again, it is about the primacy, in making a living with integrity, of NOT giving consent.

Making one's living as a beggar is no guarantee of integrity.

Neither is making one's living as an Alexander teacher. Alexander work is all about not giving consent in order to realise integrity -- and in particular to realise a certain integrity in the central alignment of one's whole self (but do not call it "good posture," because it is not something fixed). Still, making one's living as an Alexander teacher is no guarantee of integrity. That is clear to me from observing teachers who are selling Alexander lessons as a kind of bodywork, not as Marjory Barlow, Nelly Ben-Or and others have endeavoured to teach it to me, as "the most mental thing there is." In purporting to teach others what integrity is, we Alexander teachers are thus liable to manifest a fundamental lack of integrity. A gap appears, and tends to grow bigger, unless prevented from doing so. This is how it is. I do not claim to be immune to that tendency. I hope that I am not asleep to it.

In teaching an Alexander pupil how to work on himself, I make use of both negative feedback ("No, not that!") and positive feedback ("Yes, that's it."). But in so doing, I see the negative feedback as primary, and the positive feedback as secondary. And I see exactly the same primacy, the primacy of the negative, in this verse, as also in the previous verse.

Thus, the primary thing to attend to in alms-taking as a means of practising integrity, the Buddha is teaching Nanda, is not what to accept. The primary thing to attend to is what NOT to accept. The primary thing is not the giving of consent. The primary thing is the withholding of consent, the NOT giving consent.

People who show integrity in their making of a living, it seems to me, tend to be not easily swayed by greed or personal ambition or impatience to get where they are going. That may be why I am finding it helpful to limit myself in this translation work to one verse per day. The slow pace acts as a kind of brake, giving me more time to attend to the process.

I would like this process of translating Ashvaghosha to be, above all, an exercise in practising integrity, so that this translation will have succeeded -- regardless of how widely read or well received it is, and regardless of what kind of reward I get for doing it -- where the Shobogenzo translation process ultimately failed.

With regard in particular to financial reward, the wiser course might be to adhere to the injunction stated in this verse, not to accept any money. This decision is much easier for me to make now that my sons are 18 and 16 than it was when they were 3 and 1.

In 1998, when I asked him in questions and answers after a lecture at the temple, why he and the publishers had taken the decision to make unilateral changes to our translation, Gudo Nishijima told me that he took the decision which so shocked me "as a businessman in the modern age." The truth was that my teacher had made not insubstantial financial sacrifices to support me through our joint translation process, and the publication was being funded mainly out of his own pocket. But the statement that he took the decision, which I felt to be a betrayal of our translation partnership, "as a businessman in the modern age" made no sense. If he wanted to make a change, all he had to do was let me know. The decision was actually the manifestation of a kind of anger, emanating from a deeper fault, and veiled behind the professed viewpoint of the "realism" for which, in truth, I had begun to feel a visceral disgust as far back as 1986, when I shaved my head and quit my job and was accused of not being "realistic." That is when I began to understand that "realism," along with every other kind of "-ism," can be a screen that prevents reality from being seen, by self and others.

The truth behind the screen was that, after starting a family in 1990, I was too anxious to get money; while my teacher, having begun the Shobogenzo translation process on his own, was too eager to be seen, by self and others, as the main translator, which in truth he had ceased to be. And so, because of our respective desires for profit and for fame, a very small gap opened up -- a gap that was just big enough to allow our Shobogenzo translation process to be poisoned.

From the mistake there is a lesson to be learned. It is a mistake that I am determined shall NOT be repeated.

EH Johnston:
By refusing what is to be avoided, living beings, rice, wealth, etc. and by accepting the authorised rules of mendicancy with their definite limits.

Linda Covill:
by refusing to accept those gifts which should be avoided, such as living beings, grain and money, and by accepting the restrictions prescribed for alms-taking,

praanin: mfn. breathing , living , alive; m. a living or sentient being , living creature
dhaanya: n. corn , grain
dhana: any valued object , (esp.) wealth , riches , (movable) property , money , treasure , gift
aadiinaam (genitive): beginning with, et cetera

varjyaanaam = genitive, plural of varjya: mfn. to be excluded or shunned or avoided or given up
a: not
pratigrahaat = ablative of pratigraha: receiving, accepting

bhaikSha: n. asking alms , begging , mendicancy
aNgaanaam = genitive, plural of aNga: limb, subordinate division
nisRShTaanaam = genitive, plural of nisRShTa: sent forth , dismissed , set free; allowed , authorized

niyataanaam = genitive, plural of niyata: fixed , established , settled , sure , regular , invariable , positive , definite
pratigrahaat (ablative): by accepting

Monday, July 20, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.14: Grounds of Integrity (I)

doShaaNaaM kuhan'-aadiinaaM
paNcaanaam a-niShevaNaat
tyaagaac ca jyotiSh'-aadiinaaM
caturNaaM vRtti-ghaatinaam

= = = - - = = =
= = = - - = - =
= = = = - = = =
- = = = - = - =

On the grounds of not indulging

The five faults, beginning with hypocrisy;

On the grounds of fleeing

The four predators of practice, such as astrology;

I understand this verse and 13.15 to be illustration of what is meant in the last line of 13.13 by shaucaat, "on the grounds of integrity," the connecting factor being the use of the ablative suffix -aat which I have translated in every case as "on the grounds of."

What I notice in this verse, again, is that in indicating the grounds of integrity, the Buddha begins with a negative. The Buddha gave primacy to the negative from his very last teaching, NOT being wordy, to his very first teaching:

NOT doing any evil,
Allowing what is good,
Cleansing one's own mind,
This is the teaching of the buddhas.

Before even a faintest thought of doing is sanctioned, the first thought is for not doing. Ultimate value lies in the backward step, in digging back and down into the bottom of oneself before purporting to go out into the world and spread "Buddhism," through "the philosophy of action." Without sufficient attention to the inhibitory side, a person's actions are bound to lack integrity.

How else am I to make sense of what happened in the end to the Nishijima-Cross Shobogenzo translation process? For almost a year now I have been living, breathing and sleeping this process of translating Ashvaghosha. But for the Shobogenzo translation that process carried on for more than ten years, and at the end of the process proponents and followers of the philosophy of action intervened to change my translation without consulting me. I experienced it as an act of total betrayal, a manifestation of a fundamental lack of integrity. How could it have happened? What was the original cause?

The original cause, as I see it, was Gudo Nishijima's wrong teaching in regard to Zazen posture. He taught me, Michael & Yoko Luetchford, and Jeremy Pearson (the team responsible for editing and publishing the translation), to keep doing something -- to pull in our chins in order to keep the neck-bones straight and to make an effort to keep the spine straight vertically. And he, perhaps to a lesser extent than his students, adhered to this doing approach himself. This wrong doing, as I see it, was the fundamental cause of a lack of integrity that I experienced as a terrible betrayal.

Every morning when I sit, if I allow myself to think about this blog, my whole system goes into first gear and starts revving up. The challenge, when I notice this happening, is to totally give up the idea of doing or achieving anything. When I succeed in that, my system integrates itself.

So this is how I understand Dogen's words in Fukan-zazengi-shinpitsu-bon, on waking up to an idea and naturally/spontaneously becoming one piece. This understanding owes very little to what I was taught as the "Buddhist" "philosophy of action." It owes a lot to the teaching of FM Alexander.

We can pontificate on the meaning of shikan-taza, "just sitting," and mushotoku, "being without expectation of gain," until the cows come home, but if there is even the slightest trace of an idea of maintaining a correct posture by my own doing, "by keeping the spine straight vertically," for example, then all talk of body and mind dropping off is only an exercise in self-delusion and hypocrisy.

Anybody who has followed my daily outpourings on this blog might ask whether in quoting the Buddha on "not being wordy," I in my wordiness am not going down the route of out-and-out hypocrisy. Well, if so, there is no time for stopping like the present.

EH Johnston:
By not giving way to the five faults, hypocrisy etc., and by abandoning the four destroyers of good conduct, astrology and the rest,

Linda Covill:
By refraining from the five faults such as hypocrisy, by relinquishing the four destroyers of good conduct such as astrology,

doShaaNaam = genitive, plural of doSha: fault
kuhana: mfn. envious , hypocritical
aadiinaam = genitive, plural of aadi: ifc. beginning with , et cetera , and so on

paNcaanaam = genitive of paNca: five
a: not
niShevaNaat = ablative of niShevaNa: n. visiting , frequenting , living in , practice , performance , use , employment , adherence or devotion to , honour , worship

tyaagaat = ablative of tyaaga: leaving , abandoning , forsaking
ca: and
jyotiSha: n. the science of the movements of the heavenly bodies and divisions of time dependant thereon , short tract for fixing the days and hours of the Vedic sacrifices
aadiinaam = genitive, plural of aadi: ifc. beginning with , et cetera , and so on

caturNaam = genitive of catur: four
vRtti: mode of life or conduct , course of action , behaviour , (esp.) moral conduct ; practice
ghaatinaam = genitive, plural of ghaatin: ifc. killing , murderous , murderer

Sunday, July 19, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.13: Polishing Work

shariira-vacasoH shuddhau
sapt'aaNge c' aapi karmaNi
shaucaat saMskartum arhasi

- = - - - = = =
= = = = - = - -
= = - - - = = =
= = = = - = - -

With regard for purity of body and voice,

And with regard also for the sevenfold
[prohibition on bodily and vocal] conduct,

A proper way of making a living

You should work on, on the grounds of integrity --

The Buddha's concern in this verse seems to be for the relation between, on the one hand, a person’s way of making a living and, on the other hand, the practise of integrity on two levels: first, integrity in the general matter of one’s manner of use of body and voice (as just discussed in 13.11 - 13.12) ; and second, integrity in the particular matter of not breaking those seven of the ten universal precepts that specifically prohibit wrong physical and vocal conduct (see verses 3.30 - 3.33).

With regard to a person’s manner of use, integrity corresponds to not being disconnected or unbroken, as described in 13.11 and 13.12. Being disconnected means, for example, using the pelvis as if it were part of the legs, which it is not, instead of using the pelvis as part of the back, which it is. When people with stiff hips end-gain for “right posture,” this kind of disconnection of the back happens -- sometimes hidden beneath a Zen uniform consisting of black robes and an immaculately-sewn kasaya. Some Zen end-gainers make a big fuss over their reverence for the kasaya, and then they use the kasaya as a mask to hide a lack of integrity in their manner of sitting. My friend Plato knows exactly what I am talking about (which is very laudable, because to know when we are wrong might be all we shall ever know in this world).

With regard to the seven precepts -- namely, not inflicting needless suffering on any living being, not ripping others off, not chasing women who are spoken for; along with not lying, not gossiping, not hurting others with smooth speech, and not slandering others -- integrity means not being hypocritical. When a so-called Zen Master slanders his “Dharma-brothers” for their lax attitude towards the keeping of a precept, what kind of integrity is that?

What is meant in the 3rd line by a proper way of making a living?

I think what the Buddha is advocating is not so much to pick and choose a “Right Livelihood,” as if there ever were such an animal, but rather, whatever work one finds oneself doing, to endeavour to do it with integrity.

Some weeks ago on the blog of Jordan Fountain, some self-righteous soul criticized Jordan for continuing to earn his living as a US marine -- as opposed, presumably, to being a feminist vegan eco-warrior who wears the “Buddhist” precepts on his sleeve. What Jordan felt about that, it seemed to me, reading beneath the lines of what he politely wrote, was manifested in him getting a migraine! I felt that the person who showed a lack of integrity in this exchange was principally the self-righteous “Buddhist” who had a go at Jordan, thereby causing Jordan the suffering of a migraine. What the world needs is not Buddho-feminist vegan eco-worriers who wish to pick a fight with the US marine corp. The world needs vegan eco-warriors with integrity as opposed to those without integrity. And the world, it seems to me, is very much in need of US marines with integrity as opposed to US marines without integrity. This, one hopes, is also how it seems in the upper echelons of the US marine corps. Jordan’s recent promotion within the US marine corps, indeed, might be a kind of recognition of integrity shown in his work as a US marine.

When people ask me what I do for a living, it is difficult to give a simple answer. In the last 30 years I have worked as a student, an ice-cream salesman, an English teacher, a copy-editor, a professional translator, an economic researcher, a translator of the Buddha’s teachings supported by donations, an Alexander teacher, a reflex inhibition therapist, and so on.

A proper way of living is something I am still working on. My life is a work in progress, as this translation is also a work in progress.

Still, I would like to say something conclusive and categorical about this process of translating Ashvaghosha, and would like it to be engraved down my spine.

I drew encouragement during the process of the Nishijima-Cross translation of Shobogenzo from the metaphor of polishing a tile. I remember once writing in a fax to my teacher, with profound optimism, that nothing could prevent us from continuing with our work of polishing a tile. It was with a nice warm feeling inside that I wrote those words, a feeling of great solidarity to be working with a like-minded person on the basis of an unshakeable principle.

What a great lesson that turned out to be.

That kind of optimistic belief in another person is a mistake that I shall never make again. It is totally impossible, I have been taught, to count on other people to do anything other than get sick, grow old, and die. Integrity, in the end, is a matter for the individual -- whether he or she is making a living as a beggar, or a US marine, or a homeopath, or as a translator, or as a teacher, or as a "don't knower" with more than one string to his bow.

So, not counting on others, I am continuing this translation work independently, receiving no money for it, and not sharing responsibility for it with anybody else. I shall absolutely never allow the integrity of this process to be poisoned, as the Shobogenzo translation process was poisoned, by the lack of integrity of anybody else but me. As far as my powers of restraint allow, I shall continue this polishing work for the sake of polishing work itself.

EH Johnston:
You should sanctify the conduct of your livelihood in the purification of your body and speech and in the sevenfold work.

Linda Covill:
Purity demands that you refine your manner of making a living to conform to pure physical and verbal acts and also to the seven constituent parts of action.

shariira: body
vacasoH = genitive dual of vacas: voice
shuddhau = locative of shuddhi: f. cleansing , purification , purity (lit. and fig.) , holiness , freedom from defilement

sapta = seven
aNge = locative of aGga: limb, subdivision, subordinate part
ca: and
api: also
karmaNi = locative of karman: action ; work, labour, activity ; product , result , effect

aajiiva: livelihood
samudaacaaram (accusative): proper or right practice or usage or conduct or behaviour ; intention , purpose , design , motive

shaucaat = ablative of shauca: n. cleanness , purity , purification ; n. purity of mind , integrity , honesty (esp. in money-matters) ; n. (with Buddhists) self-purification (both external and internal)
saMskartum = infinitive of saMskR: to work on, polish, make perfect
arhasi = you should

Saturday, July 18, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.12: Aspects of Good Use

uttaano bhaava-karaNaad
vivRtash c' aapy a-guuhanaat
gupto rakShaNa-taatparyaad
a-cchidrash c' aan-avadyataH

= = = = - - - =
- - = = - = - =
= = = - - = = =
= - = = - = - =

Expansive by reality's doing;

Open from not hiding;

Guarded because aimed at prevention;

And unbroken through freedom from fault.

The subject, as I understand it, is still prayogaH kaaya-vacasoH, "use of body and voice," from the previous verse.

The first line, as I read it, relates equally to Alexander's principle of non-doing (that one cannot do an undoing but that "the right thing does itself"); and to the 2nd law of thermodynamics (that energy has an inherent tendency to spread out, unless hindered from doing so).

"Let the head out," Marjory Barlow used to say, "That's where it wants to go!"

Not hiding might include the meaning of unmasking, and of dropping off pretence. Not hiding does not mean that nothing is hidden. Things often turn out to have been hidden that we did not know we were hiding. We did not know we were hiding because the hiding was hidden. To delude oneself that nothing is hidden is not the point. The point is not to hide, even from hiding itself.

In the third line, as I read it, prevention is better than cure. To prevent a fault like anger seems constantly to require us to dig deeper than we expect to have to dig, because the roots of misuse are very deeply buried.

In the fourth line, freedom from fault might be like springing free of a traffic jam on the M40 into London by taking the A41 instead -- in which case it is not that the M40 ceases to exist.

EH Johnston:
Candid from giving expression to the feelings, open from not concealing anything, guarded from concentration on self-government and without defect from sinlessness.

Linda Covill:
upright because of the workings of your true character, open because nothing is hidden, regulated because of the focus on self-government, and without blemish because they are irreproachable.

uttaanaH (nom.): upright
bhaava: true condition or state , truth , reality (ibc really, truly); any state of mind or body , way of thinking or feeling , sentiment , opinion , disposition , intention
karaNaad = ablative of karaNa: doing , making , effecting , causing ; n. the act of making , doing , producing , effecting ; n. the posture of an ascetic

vivRtaH (nom.): open
ca: and
api: also
a: not
guuhanaat = ablative of guuhana: n. concealing , hiding

guptaH (nom.)
rakShaNa: n. the act of guarding, watching , protecting , tending (of cattle) , preservation
taatparyaad = ablative of taatparya: aimed at ; n. devoting one's self to ; n. reference to any object (loc.) , aim , object , purpose , meaning , purport

acchidraH (nom.): unbroken, free from disconnectedness
ca: and
avadya: "not to be praised", blamable
anavadya: irreproachable , faultless ; unobjectionable
- taH: (ablative suffix)

Friday, July 17, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.11: Use of Body & Voice -- Keeping It Simple

prayogaH kaaya-vacasoH
shuddho bhavati te yathaa
uttaano vivRto gupto'
n-avacchidras tathaa kuru

- = = = - - - =
= = - - - = - =
= = = - - = = =
- = = = - = - -

So that use of body and voice

Becomes simple for you,

See to it that your use is expansive,
open yet guarded,

And free from disconnectedness --

This and the following verse, as I read them, address precisely what FM Alexander called a person's "manner of use of the self." From 13.13 to 13.18, the Buddha addresses a person's manner of making a living as a related but separate issue.

Use of body and voice is rendered simple, Alexander observed, through proper employment of the head-neck-back relation which he termed "the primary control of the use of the self."

Every morning I sit for an hour wearing the Buddha-robe with right foot on left thigh and left foot on right. At some time during this sitting, generally (unless I forget), I make a full exhalation and sway slowly left and right a few times. I am more or less observant of all of Dogen's rules of sitting-zen. At the end of the hour I generally recite in Japanese a verse to direct outwards any merit that there was in the practice.

This fist sitting of the day, in what Shikhs today still call amRta velaa, the hour of the nectar of deathlessness, before air and other traffic begins, is my most formal and usually my best sitting of the day. My best hours, as I experience them, are the ones in which my use of body and voice is most expansive, most open (without falling into unguarded wildness or sloppiness) and, above all, most free of disconnectedness.

These qualities of expansiveness, openness, and freedom from disconnectedness are not things that one can achieve directly -- for example, by making a big effort to "keep the spine straight vertically." Rather, through the preventive work of stopping off misuse where it begins -- with an end-gaining idea -- the right thing can be allowed to do itself.

FM Alexander spoke of inhibiting interference with the correct employment of the primary control of the use of the self. That means, in other words, not stiffening the neck and making the spine into a shortened concertina by pulling the head down towards the hips.

Thus the right thing can be allowed to do itself, indirectly, by an indirect or preventive method. And when the right thing does itself, the qualities begin to emerge of expansiveness, guarded openness and freedom from disconnectedness.

The principle of indirectness is expressed in the fourth line, as I read it, by the words tathaa kuru, "see to it that.." or "act in a manner such that..." This does not mean to try to bring about a change by doing something directly, like trying to adjust or correct one's own posture. It has more to do with becoming aware of the end-gaining idea which is invariably at the root of undue muscular contraction, fixed joints, loss of conscious control, and disconnections in the flow of one's energy.

The conclusion of this comment, then, is that seeing to it that one's use of body and voice is free from disconnectedness is primarily a matter of waking up to one's end-gaining ideas. "Non-Buddhism"? "Alexander theory"? Maybe.

But here is what Master Dogen wrote in characters you can see for yourself if you wish, here on my webpage.

To sit in full lotus first put the right foot on the left thigh and put the left foot on the right thigh. To sit in half lotus, just let the left foot press down on the right thigh. Let clothes hang loose and keep them neat. Then place the right hand over the left foot, and place the left hand over the right palm, with the thumbs meeting and propping each other up. Just sit upright, not leaning left, inclining to the right, slumping forward or arching backward. It is vital to bring about an opposition between the ears and the shoulders, and an opposition between the nose and the navel. Let the tongue rest against the roof of the mouth, with the lips touching and the teeth together. Keep the eyes open as normal. Having brought the physical form to stillness, let the breathing also be regulated. When an idea arises, just wake up. Just in the waking up to it, it ceases to exist. Taking plenty of time, forget all involvements and you will spontaneously become all of a piece.

EH Johnston:
So act that the employment of your body and speech, being purified, may be candid, open, guarded and without defect,

Linda Covill:
So that your physical and verbal acts become pure, they should be upright, open, regulated and without blemish

prayogaH (nominative): use ; practice , experiment (opp. to , " theory ")
kaaya: body
vacasoH: genitive dual of vacas: speech , voice , word

shuddhaH (nominative): mfn. cleansed , cleared , clean , pure , clear , free from; pure i.e. simple , mere , genuine , true , unmixed
bhavati: is, becomes
te (genitive): of you
yathaa: so that, in order that

uttaanaH (nominative): mfn. stretched out , spread out , lying on the back , sleeping supinely or with the face upwards ; upright ; spreading out over the surface ; open
vivRtaH (nom.): mfn. uncovered , unconcealed , exposed , naked , bare ; unclosed , open
guptaH (nom.): mfn. protected , guarded , preserved ; hidden , concealed , kept secret , secret

n'avacchidraH = acchidraH (nom.): mfn. free from clefts or flaws , unbroken , uninterrupted , uninjured ; n. unbroken or uninjured condition , an action free from defect or flaw
tathaa (correlative of yathaa): in such a manner
kuru (imperative of kR): to do , make , perform , accomplish , cause , effect , prepare , undertake

Thursday, July 16, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.10: Starting Afresh from Here

ataH prabhRti bhuuyas tvaM
a-mRtasy' aaptaye saumya
vRttaM rakShitum arhasi

- = = - - = = =
= = - - - = - =
- - = = - = = -
= = = - - = - -

"Starting afresh from here, my friend,

With the power of confidence leading you forward,

In order to get to the nectar of the deathless

You should watch the manner of your action.

Here the Buddha's teaching in his own words resumes with a verse that puts preventive practice here and now (the theme of this Canto), in the context of a path where confidence in higher good (Canto 12) is a forerunner, and where the nectar of deathlessness (Canto 17) is the goal.

I understand this verse not as an injunction to be more careful, but as an injunction to be more watchful in the use of oneself, to be more mindful of what goes wrong, to be more aware of what we wish to stop off at source.

This understanding I owe primarily to Alexander teachers such as Ray Evans, Ron Colyer, Nelly Ben-Or and Marjory Barlow. The fact that my energy was ever channelled into translation work in the service of buddha-ancestors, I owe primarily to Gudo Nishijima. But the understanding I now bring to this work, for better or for worse, derives primarily from FM Alexander.

The way Gudo Nishijima taught me to sit was the same way that my father taught me to swim : more or less total end-gaining, with minimal concern for what might be going wrong in process in the way of undue excitement of fear reflexes. Rather than stopping off the root cause of fear by instilling confidence in a true principle, the principle espoused with considerable self-confidence by my two opinionated fathers, biological and "Buddhist," is to overcome fear through aggressive doing in pursuit of the end. In the rugby-playing days of my youth, my biological father would call it "getting stuck in." Gudo Nishijima calls it "the philosophy of action." It was the philosphy under which I did the Nishijima-Cross Shobogenzo translation, telling myself every day: "Just fucking do it." It is the philosophy of the Buddhist punk... 1,2,3 Go!

What is being recorded here by Ashvaghosha, and what is recorded in the four books of FM Alexander, is the principle which is diametrically opposed to the principle and practice of end-gaining. Ashvagosha wrote of pravRtti and nivRtti. In these two words pra (forward) and ni (backward/non) are prefixed to the same stem vRtti (rolling, mode of action). Vrtti is from the root vRt (to turn, proceed, do), which is also the root of the vRtta (mode of action) of this verse. The opposition that Ashvaghosha expresses as pravRtti vs nivRtti, Alexander expressed by the terms end-gaining vs means-whereby, and doing vs non-doing.

I would recommend anybody who wishes to get to the bottom of Ashvaghosha's teaching to follow the example of Jordan Fountain and read this blog in conjunction with the writings of FM Alexander.

"Starting afresh from here" (ataH prabhRti bhuuyas) means from this moment, and it might mean from every moment. At the same time, it might mean not on the basis of that principle of blind end-gaining but on the basis of this preventive principle of true mindfulness.

EH Johnston:
' From now onwards, my friend, do you, fortified by the faculty of faith, take heed still further to govern your conduct so as to reach the state where death is not.

Linda Covill:
"In order to reach deathlessness, my friend, you, with the faculty of faith as your forerunner, should from now onwards increase the guard on your conduct.

atas: ind. (ablative of the pronom. base a) , from this
prabhRti: ind. (after an abl. adv.) beginning from
bhuuyas: ind. more , most , very much , exceedingly; still more ; once more , again , anew
tvam (nominal): you

shraddhaa: confidence
indriya: n. power , force , the quality which belongs especially to the mighty indra ; n. bodily power , power of the senses
puraHsaraH (nominal): mf(I)n. going before or in advance; m. a forerunner , precursor , harbinger

amRtasya = genitive of amRta: the nectar of immortality
aaptaye = dative of aapta: mfn. reached , overtaken , met ; received , got , gained , obtained
saumya: my friend

vRttam (accusative): n. procedure , practice , action , mode of life , conduct , behaviour (esp. virtuous conduct , good behaviour)
rakShitum = infinitive of rakSh: to guard , watch , take care of , protect ,
arhasi: you should

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.9: The Best of Speakers Spoke, of a Process

atha saMharShaNaan nandaM
viditvaa bhaajanii-kRtam
abraviid bruvataaM shreShThaH
krama-jNaH shreyasaaM kramam

- - = = - = = -
- = = = - = - -
= - = - - = = =
- = = = - = - -

And so now seeing that, by boosting Nanda,

He had made a receptacle,

The best of speakers spoke:

The process-knower spoke of the process
in all forms of higher good.

Boosting Nanda meant stimulating the growth of his confidence in higher good; that is to say, in good higher even than living a life of royal privilege in a beautiful house in a beautiful city with a sexy and beautiful wife.

A receptacle means a human being who can become a vessel for the teaching and the practice of higher good. That teaching, as I understand it, centres on the principle of non-doing, and that practice involves the eradication of faults or defects via an indirect, inhibitory process.

The best of speakers was the best of listeners -- one person, one psycho-physical unity, one audio-vocal loop. Not two processes. One process.

A process, in other words, is a means-whereby. Knowing a means-whereby, whether it be for lighting a fire, or using one's voice well, or swimming without stress, or sitting easily, instils confidence -- as opposed to fearful end-gaining.

I would point out that whenever a person sets out to achieve a particular "end" (whether this "end" is the development of potentialities or the eradication of defects, peculiarities, or misuse) his procedure will be based on one of two principles which I have called the "end-gaining" and the "means-whereby" principles. The "end-gaining" principle involves a direct procedure on the part of the person endeavouring to gain the desired "end." This direct procedure is associated with dependence upon subconscious guidance and control, leading, in cases where a condition of mal-co-ordination is present, to an unsatisfactory use of the mechanisms and to an increase in the defects and peculiarities already existing. The "means-whereby" principle, on the other hand, involves a reasoning consideration of the causes of the conditions present, and an indirect instead of a direct procedure on the part of the person endeavouring to gain the desired "end."

FM Alexander; Constructive, Conscious Control of the Individual.

All kinds of practice of higher good (shreyash), as I understand the term, depend by definition on knowing a process.

EH Johnston:
Then the best of Speakers Who knew the course of things, recognising that Nanda had become a vessel fit for salvation through His exhortation, explained the process of the highest good :--

Linda Covill:
Now, aware that by gladdening him he had made Nanda a fitting receptacle for instruction, the best of speakers, knower of the gradual path, explained the steps to Excellence.

atha: then, now
saMharShaNaat = ablative of saMharShaNa (from sam-√hRSh): causing (the hair of the body) to stand erect; gladdening , delighting (with gen.)
hRSh: to thrill with rapture , rejoice , exult , be glad or pleased ; to become sexually excited ; to become erect or stiff or rigid ; to rejoice , be glad ; to cause to bristle
nandaM (accusative): Nanda

viditvaa = absolutive of vid: to know, see, recognise, be aware
bhaajanii = accusative, plural of (??) bhaajana: n. " partaker of " , a recipient , receptacle , (esp.) a vessel
kRtam (accusative): made

abraviid (imperfect of brU): spoke, say, tell
bruvataam (genitive plural of bruvat, speaking): of speakers
shreShThaH (nominal, singular): the best

krama: m. a step ; course, way, method ; " progressing step by step " , a peculiar manner or method of reading and writing Vedic texts
jNaH (nominative, singular): knower
shreyasaaM = genitive plural of shreyas: n. (as) the better state , the better fortune or condition ; m. good (as opp. to " evil ") , welfare , bliss , fortune , happiness
kramam (accusative): step, process

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.8: Versatility, Fellow-Feeling, & Indirect Means of Healing

atash ca saMdadhe kaayaM
mahaa-karuNayaa tayaa
mocayeyaM kathaM duHkhaat
sattvaan' ity anukampakaH

- = - = - = = =
- = - - - = - =
= - = = - = = =
= = - - - = - =

Thus did the benevolent one take on,

Out of that great compassion,

A form by which he might release from suffering

Fellow living beings.

In six verses from 13.3 to 13.8 Ashvaghosha in his indirect way has taken us on a diversion from the main narrative in order to tell us what qualities the Buddha exemplified as a teacher. This verse, as I read it, is the concluding verse in that series of six.

A more literal translation of the verse is:

Thus did he gird together a body,

Out of that great compassion,

"By which means I might release from suffering

Living beings:" so [reasoned] he of fellow-feeling.

What the verse is describing, as I read it, is nothing too mystical or miraculous: just the kind of versatility and fellow-feeling that is exhibited by many good teachers of the present day -- in Alexander work and in other fields.

An example that springs to mind of taking on a form, or girding a body, with a view to releasing others from suffering, is that of FM Alexander: he of Tasmanian bushman's eyes and Edwardian gent's suit. Again, to engage in play an infant suffering from developmental delay, the only place to be is down on the floor.

"That great compassion" in mahaa-karuNayaa tayaa refers I think specifically to cikits'-aartham in the previous verse, i.e, the intention, through the use of various indirect means, to heal.

The truest manifestation of the Buddha's fellow-feeling, it seems to me, was that he gave to others the indirect means to help themselves. A healer is not much use to anybody if he temporarily releases his patient from the symptoms of suffering without addressing the root cause. Speaking for myself, I only really began to get this point under the influence of the teaching of -- you guessed it -- FM Alexander.

EH Johnston:
And so out of the greatness of His compassion He had put on a mortal body in His sympathy that He might release all beings from suffering.

Linda Covill:
In his sympathy discerning how he might free sentient beings from suffering, with great compassion he had taken on a bodily form.

atash: from this, hence
ca: and
saMdadhe = 3rd person singular, perfect of saMdhaa: to place or hold or put or draw or join or fasten or fix or sew together , unite, (with manas , " to compose the mind "); make use of
kaayam (accusative): body

mahaa: (f.) great
karuNayaa = instrumental of karuNaa: f. pity , compassion
tayaa = instrumental of saa: (f.) that

muc: to release, set free, liberate, let loose
mocayeyam (1st person singular, present causative, optative of muc): I might release, set free, liberate, let loose
katham: how
duHkhaat (ablative): from suffering

sattvaani (accusative, plural): being, living or sentient being
iti: " "
anukampakaH (nominative, singular): the compassionate one, the sympathizer, he of fellow-feeling

Monday, July 13, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.7: Not for Personal Gain

shleSham tyaagaM priyaM ruukShaM
kathaaM ca dhyaanam eva ca
mantu-kaale cikits'-aarthaM
cakre n' aatm'-aanuvRttaye

= = = = - = = =
- = = = - = - -
= - = = - = = =
= = = = - = - =

Joining and leaving, love and toughness,

Talking, as well as actual realisation,

He used during instruction for the purpose of healing,

Not to win a following for himself.

I changed the translation of the 3rd line of the previous verse to:
"Because of complete and stainless integrity".

The point of this and the previous verse, it seems to me as I read this one now, is that in the matter of a teacher's primary motivation for teaching, nothing else but complete and stainless integrity will do.

In holding up the positive mirror of the Buddha's complete integrity, I suppose, Ashvaghosha is not asking us to have faith in a state of exalted perfection that might ultimately be beyond us: he is rather describing an integrity which has been and which continues to be essential to our own lowly practice.

It might not be reasonable to expect complete absence of faults in ourselves as teachers or in others as teachers: a teacher who lapses into imbalanced states like anger, depression, or pride is not automatically disqualified by those states from being a teacher. Turning to help from alcohol, as seemed to be Chogyam Trungpa's case, or being addicted as certain French teachers apparently are to strong black coffee and cigarettes, might harm a teacher's liver and lungs and stain his teeth, but those vices do not necessarily stain the integrity that I think is being described here.

What stains the integrity that I think is being described here is purporting to tell the truth not for the sake of the truth itself, but for the sake of one's own fame and profit. Master Dogen wrote that his greatest fear was losing the will to the truth, the bodhi-citta. This fear was fully reflected in the negative mirror of Shobogenzo chapter 73, Sanju-shichi-bon-bodai-bunbo, The 37 Elements of Bodhi. In this chapter, Master Dogen tears into charlatans in China who twisted the traditional teaching of the importance of leaving home, so as to win a following for themselves among lay people. Dogen compared those so-called monks to dogs eager to feast on the shit and piss of lay people.

Based on personal experience, I feel a similar negativity toward the kind of dentist who is primarily in it for the money. And the dentist analogy may be apt here, as the 3rd line of this verse returns to the medical metaphor: In administering the good medicine which is the Dharma, Ashvaghosha is telling us, the Buddha's aim was to heal; and at times of working towards this aim, just this aim and not personal gain was his aim.

This attitude is not a remote ideal that I might realise one day if I were to become as perfect as the sage Gautama (pigs might fly): it is how I must be, here and now, notwithstanding myriad faults, in this very task of translation. It is how I must be, at 11.00 am, when my friend arrives for an Alexander lesson.

The closing words of the verse n' aatm'-aanuvRttaye "not-self-[for obedience/compliance], are without doubt pointing away from selfishness. What kind of selfishness they are pointing away from is somewhat open to interpretation: alternative translations that might be valid are "not to suit himself," as in EHJ's interepretation; and "not to win a following for himself," as in LC's.

In the end, I have provisionally decided on the latter interpretation and translation, because I think that doing things to suit oneself, at one's own whim, like smoking or drinking or driving fast cars or chasing fast women is a much less serious sin than twisting the true Dharma in order to win a following as a teacher. The Buddha may have been totally unstained by the former kind of sin. I don't know if he was or not. Is it necessary for me to take a leap of faith and believe that the Buddha was perfect in every way? Again, I don't know. But it seems to me that any question that introduces a conflict of doubting vs believing, tends to be confidence sapping.

Where confidence lies, in contrast, is in the certain knowledge that all the true teachers I have known in my life, and I have been fortunate to know quite a few, were motivated primarily by love of what they were teaching, and not by the desire for self-promotion. Marjory Barlow, to name one such teacher, was not spotlessly free of sin. But in administering the good medicine of the teaching of her uncle, FM Alexander, Marjory demonstrated complete and stainless integrity.

EH Johnston:
At the time of giving counsel He made use of now joining, now separation, now pleasant methods, now harsh ones, now fables and now mystic meditation, for the sake of healing, not at His own whim.

Linda Covill:
During times of counselling he stayed close or kept away, was kind or severe, and used stories or meditation not to win obedience to himself, but to promote healing.

shleSham (accusative): connection , junction , union ; embracing , an embrace
tyaagam (accusative): leaving , abandoning , forsaking
priyam (accusative): n. love , kindness , favour
ruukSha (accusative): m. hardness , harshness

kathaam (accusative): conversation , speech , talking together ; story , tale , fable
ca: and
dhyaanam (accusative): realisation, [sitting-]dhyana
eva: emphatic
ca: and

mantu: m. an adviser , manager , disposer , ruler , arbiter RV ; (also as f.) advice , counsel
kaale (locative): in time
cikitsa: f. medical attendance , practice or science of medicine (esp. therapeutics , one of the six sections of med.)
artham (accusative): purpose (ifc. " for the sake of , on account of , in behalf of , for ")

cakre (perfect of kR): to do , make , perform , accomplish , cause , effect
na: not
aatma = aatman: self
anuvRttaye = dative of anuvRtta: mfn. following , obeying , complying; n. obedience , conformity , compliance

Sunday, July 12, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 13.6: Untaintedness of the Sage

tadval loke munir jaato
lokasy' aanugrahaM caran
kRtitvaan nirmalatvaac ca
loka-dharmair na lipyate

= = = = - = = =
= = = = - = - -
- = = = - = = -
= - = = - = - =

So the sage, born in the world,

And acting for the benefit of the world,

Because of complete and stainless integrity,

Is not tainted by worldly things.

Here in south-east England, men of the world like to fly light aircraft around for fun, when the weather permits. They tend to avoid built-up areas, opting to skirt around a town like Aylesbury and fly instead over the surrounding villages, where yours truly is vainly seeking peace and quiet.

The tendency of gold not to be tarnished, and the tendency of lotus leaves not to be sullied by the water of a muddy pond, are inherent in the chemistry of gold and in the biology of the lotus, and gold and lotus never go against their inherent nature.

When we observe the world of men, however, in self and in others there is often a tendency for a person to be tainted by his emotional reactions to worldly things.

To witness the birth of a healthy baby makes us wonder how nature managed to produce such flawless perfection. But as a human being grows up and makes his way in the world, the choices we make and the education we receive, seem too often to cause us to lose the quality of child mind. Some of us, sensing this loss, look for ways to let our original child mind shine through again. We take up some form of non-worldly practice of the backward step, like playing the Japanese bamboo flute, not to become anything, but for the sheer enjoyment of the beauty of the sound; or like just sitting.

Still, true learning of the backward step, at least as I struggle with it, is not such an easy matter. When what I perceive to be a worldly intrusion is buzzing overhead, my practice is tainted by an emotional reaction. This reaction has a psychological aspect but more fundamentally, as I have come to understand this reaction, it is a symptom of a lack of inhibitory circuits at a deep level of functioning of the inner ear.

Now I am discussing what I understand to be the root cause of my own tainted reactions to worldly things, but what this verse is describing is the cause of the Buddha's not being tainted by emotional reaction to worldly things.

The cause of the sage Gautama not being tainted, Ashvaghosha tells us here, by his use of the ablative case to indicate a causal relation, was the sage's kRtitva and nirmalatva. So understanding of the verse seems to me to hinge on understanding of these two words.

At time of writing, I am not sure how to understand these two words. Are they expressing a momentary state of balance in action, which allows a person to be there in a moment of listening to a new-born baby's first cry, or a moment of looking at a potato flower in bloom, or a moment of lopping off a thick branch with one well-aimed swing of a sharp axe? Or are they are expressing untaintedness as an irreversible state like a cracked mirror or a fallen leaf?

For the present, I have translated kRtitva as "perfected integrity" without knowing what "perfected integrity" really means -- which may be why the buzz of the aircraft continues to bother me.

In the process of translating Shobogenzo, I was bothered by the same sense of lack of integrity, for example in translating words like anuttara-samyak-saMbodhi whose meaning I had not experienced for myself. In that situation, I thought that I was lending the translation authenticity and integrity by deferring to a senior "co-translator" whose integrity I saw, with a certain degree of optimism, as beyond question. Gudo Nishijima claimed in his own words to be "strong to noise," and he truly was strong to noise. But him being strong to noise was of no use to me who was and is weak to noise. There is no integrity in a student who is weak to noise imitating a teacher who is strong to noise. My optimistic attempt to outsource integrity to another is one mistake I will never make again, one mirror that was well and truly cracked.

EH Johnston:
So the Sage, though born in the world and acting for its benefit, is not stained by the conditions of the world because of His purity and stainlessness.

Linda Covill:
likewise the sage is born in the world and operates as a favour to the world, but because of his perfectedness and spotlessness he is not soiled by any worldly thing.

tadvat (correlative of yathaa): so, also, likewise
loke (locative): in the world
muniH (nominative): sage
jaataH (nominative): born

lokasya (genitive): of the world
anugraham = accusative of anugraha: m. favour , kindness , showing favour , conferring benefits , promoting or furthering a good object
caran nominative singular m. of present participle of car: to undertake , practise , do or act, effect

kRtin: mfn. one who acts , active ; expert , clever , skilful , knowing , learned
kRti: f. the act of doing , making , performing , manufacturing , composing ; action , activity ; creation , work
-tvaM: (abstract noun suffix) the state of being...
kRtitvaat = ablative of kRtitva: n. the state of one who has attained any object
nirmalatvaat = ablative of nirmalatva: n. stainlessness , cleanness , purity
ca: and

loka: world
dharmair (instrumental, plural of dharma): things, practices
na: not
lipyate: is tainted