Sunday, July 31, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.6: Extremely Ugly Nanda

sva-bhaava-darshaniiyo 'pi
vairuupyam agamat paraM
cintay" aapsarasaaM c' aiva
niyamen' aayatena ca

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

Though naturally good-looking,

He became extremely ugly,

Both from agonizing about the apsarases

And from protracted restraint.

Here is a recipe for becoming ugly: set your heart on some object -- e.g. a sexy nymph -- that you want a lot, and hope to gain in future, while devoting yourself in the present to some form of painful self-denial, as if it were a means of progressing towards what you want, although in fact it is not any such means.

The effect of sitting-practice as the Buddha taught is to restore our original features. But if we misunderstand it, and if we practise it unskillfully, it tends to have the opposite effect of making us ugly.

The most pernicious way of misunderstanding it, it seems to me, on the basis of my own experience of going wrong, is to conceive of "right posture" as something fixed, and to end-gain for that, instead of being content to direct oneself endlessly in the right direction.

During Alexander teacher-training in my mid-30s a French friend looked at a photo of me taken when I was 22 and said to me in astonishment in her strong French accent, "But Mike! You waz 'ansome!" The implication of Solauge's spontaneous exclamation was that somewhere along the line I had ceased to be 'ansome.

A few years earlier I had been firmly esconced in a newly-opened Zazen dojo/dormitory in a grim Tokyo suburb. At that time I was meeting both criteria mentioned in today's verse, by agonizing about an old flame and by tying myself restrictively to a tethering post of uptight posture. When a long-time family friend, my Uncle Bob (not my real uncle but the god-father of my sister) came to Tokyo on business and took my brother and me out for a meal, Bob told my brother: "He doesn't look good on it, does he?"

A verse I remember writing at that time went like this:

Buddhas act as gentlemen,
They never act as buddhas.
I only want to teach Zazen.
Moored boats do not need rudders.

In retrospect, one problem with that verse is that the 3rd line was at best only partially true; unlike Nanda, whose own lament in Canto 7 is more honest, I was lying to myself. Unlike Nanda who tried to convince himself that he couldn't hack a way of life that in fact he could, I was trying to convince myself that I could hack a situation in that noisy dormitory that in fact I couldn't hack. I needed to be somewhere much greener and quieter, and I wasn't cut out for celibacy.

"Moored boats do not need rudders," as a statement of fact is true, but as an expression of Zen sitting-practice is pitiful. What use is a moored boat to cross the flood of suffering? As an expression of sitting-practice "moored boats do not need rudders," was the statement of one who -- equipped with a faulty compass, and lacking reliable guidance from alternative sources -- had turned stillness into fixity, thereby turning freedom into its opposite. No wonder Uncle Bob said that I didn't look good on it.

On the subject of turning things into their opposite, the current Wikipedia entry on Ashvaghosha contains the following:

He also wrote Saundarananda-kavya, a kāvya poem with the theme of conversion of Nanda, Buddha’s half-brother, so that he might reach salvation. The first half of the work describes Nanda’s life, and the second half of the work describes Buddhist doctrines and ascetic practices.

This woefully inaccurate statement is referenced to a paper by Yoshichika Honda. 'Indian Buddhism and the kāvya literature: Asvaghosa's Saundaranandakavya.' The abstract of Honda's paper states:

Generally speaking, scholars on Sanskrit literature have concentrated on the first half of the work, in which the authour describes Nanda's married life in detail, Buddhist scholars, on the other hand, have mainly studied on the second half, in which we find a lot of Buddhist doctrines and ascetic practices. Few studies have thus ever tried to understand the Saundaranandakavya as a unitary work. In this paper, through the examination of "the laws of Kavya poetry" (kavyadharma) in the above quote, I maintain that the Saundaranandakavya should be conceived as a unitary work which, though composed in the kavya style, has practical purposes in Buddhism.

The information given in Wikipedia thus bears the outward appearance of something reliable and scientific -- cross-referenced as it is to a paper published by Hiroshima University's Faculty of Letters. But any regular reader of this blog, I hope, would agree with me that the information in Wikipedia is just another example of how easily the truth gets turned into its opposite and disseminated as such.

Saundara-nanda, it would be truer to say, describes the process whereby Nanda abandons all variations on the theme of end-gaining ascetic practice (which Ashvaghosha calls tapas), along with all Buddhist doctrines, in favour of true practice (which Ashvaghosha calls yoga).

It is not that, with the Buddha's yoga, we are in the beauty business. Far from it. But ascetic practice that leads us to become extremely ugly is certainly not it.

By straining, like a good striver, for so many years to keep my spine straight vertically, I had tended to go for lengthening at the expense of widening. So with me lying with knees bent on her teaching table (or "couch" as she called it), Marjory Barlow would encourage me to allow my back to spread out over the table. I got the impression she enjoyed working on a relatively big bloke, sort of like a sculptress with a great big lump of something. Then when she brought me back up to sitting on the table Marjory would often coo admiringly at her own work... "Just look at you!" she would say. Or "Look at that back!"

Thinking "let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen AND WIDEN," might not make us look like screen gods or goddesses but it might at least be an antidote to extreme ugliness. It might at least help, in Marjory's words "to prevent my worst excesses."

EH Johnston:
That, though naturally beautiful, he became highly disfigured, was due as much to yearning for the Apsarases as to long-enduring self-control.

Linda Covill:
Though he had always been handsome by nature, he became very ugly, which resulted as much from his obsession with the apsarases as from extensive restrictions.

sva-bhaava-darshaniiyaH (nom. sg. m.): naturally good looking
sva-bhaava: m. native place ; own condition or state of being , natural state or constitution , innate or inherent disposition , nature , impulse , spontaneity; (ibc. from natural disposition , by nature , naturally , by one's self , spontaneously)
darshaniiya: mfn. visible; worthy of being seen , good-looking , beautiful
api: even, though

vairuupyam (acc. sg.): n. deformity , ugliness
agamat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist gam: to go to or towards , approach
param: ind. in a high degree , excessively , greatly

cintayaa (inst. sg.): f. thought , care , anxiety , anxious thought about (gen.)
apsarasaam (gen. pl.): f. nymph, apsaras
ca: and
eva (emphatic)

niyamena (inst. sg.): m. restraining , checking , holding back , preventing , controlling ; limitation , restriction
aayatena (inst. sg. m.): mfn. stretched , lengthened , put on (as an arrow) ; stretching , extending , extended , spread over ; extended , long , future
ca: and

Saturday, July 30, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.5: Nanda All Washed Out & Dried Up

saMvRtena ca shaantena
tiivreNa madanena ca
jal'-aagner iva saMsargaac
chashaama ca shushoSha ca

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

By a suffocating inhibition,

And by a burning love,

As if from a combination of water and fire,

He became both washed out and dried up.

Line 1 literally seems to suggest an inhibited state rather than a process of inhibition. A more literal translation of saMvRtena shaantena might be "by stifled calm," or "by suffocated tranquillity."

If we follow the translations of EHJ and LC, saMvRtena shaantena expresses true restraint -- restraint that produces tranquillity, calming restraint.

In that case, if Nanda were wobbling between true tranquillity and burning love, the next verse should tell us that naturally handsome Nanda wobbled between his naturally handsome state and an ugly state of grasping desire.

In fact what Ashvaghosha tells us in 11.6 is that Nanda became extremely ugly -- yes, because of his anxious grasping desire for the apsarases, but also because of his protracted self-restraint.

So we need to be clear in this part exactly what kind of restraint we are talking about.

True, Ashvaghosha describes Nanda in 11.8 as vyavasthitam, which seems to mean "settled."

And when Ananda begins his speech to Nanda in 11.9, true, Andanda begins by praising Nanda for holding back the power of his senses and devoting himself to restraint.

But vyavasthitam can also mean fixed (as in 10.64). And behind Andanda's praise, it turns out as his speech progresses, lurks not a little irony.

So line 1 of today's verse, as I read it, is not expressing true restraint.

When it comes to understanding this verse, I might sagely add, it helps to have had long years of experience tying oneself to a tethering post of false restraint.

True restraint, which involves what the Buddha in 10.63 calls being attentive (a-pramattaH) and ready, or up for action (samudyataH), does not involve any tethering post.

When looking for a word to express true restraint, FM Alexander looked to the lexicon of neuro-physiology and opted for "inhibition." This word, of course, is also used by students of the human mind to express something that suppresses or blocks spontaneity.

So what "inhibition" means to us in English is totally ambiguous. In Alexander work, inhibition unlocks spontaneity. In Freudian psychology, inhibition blocks spontaneity. The same ambiguity is intended by Ashvaghosha, as I read him, in the use of the word shaanta, which might express a state of stillness in which passion is absent, or might express a state of fixity in which passion is suppressed.

But in this verse, as I read it, as is made particularly clear by the following verse, Ashvaghosha is describing not the true restraint that makes for stillness and beauty; he is describing the false, stifling, repressive restraint that makes for fixity and ugliness.

Some people say that the point of Soto Zen sitting practice is just the sitting posture itself. The problem with that understanding is that it has already turned "the sitting posture" into a kind of tethering post. I would say that a closer approximation of the truth is that the ultimate point of the sitting practice of all the buddha-ancestors, from the Buddha, through Ashvaghosha, to Dogen, is to manifest stillness without stifling spontaneity.

What the hell that means, don't ask me. But one thing it doesn't mean is tying oneself to a tethering post.

EH Johnston:
By means of the restraint that produces tranquillity he became tranquil and through the sharp pangs of love he withered, just as, when fire and water come together, the one is quenched, the other dried up.

Linda Covill:
He was soothed by calming restraint and drained by violent passion, just as one is calmed and dried from a combination of water and fire.

saMvRtena (inst. sg.): mfn. covered , shut up , enclosed or enveloped in (loc.) , surrounded or accompanied or protected by (instr.) ; full of (inst.); concealed , laid aside , kept , secured; restrained , suppressed , retired , withdrawn ; contracted , compressed , closed (as the throat); subdued
ca: and
shaantena (inst. sg.): m. tranquillity , contentment ; m. an ascetic whose passions are subdued ; n. tranquillity , peace of mind

tiivreNa (inst. sg.): mfn. strong , severe , violent , intense , hot , pervading , excessive , ardent , sharp , acute , pungent , horrible; m. sharpness , pungency
madanena (inst. sg.): m. passion , love or the god of love
ca: and

jal'-aagneH (gen. sg. m.): water and fire
jala: n. water
agni: m. fire
iva: like
saMsargaat (abl. sg.): m. mixture or union together , commixture , blending , conjunction

shashaama = 3rd pers. sg. perfect sham: to become tired , finish , stop , come to an end , rest , be quiet or calm or satisfied or contented ; to cease , be allayed or extinguished
ca: and
shushoSha = 3rd pers. sg. perfect shuSh: to dry , become dry or withered , fade , languish , decay;
ca: and

Friday, July 29, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.4: Doing Practice

kaama-caryaasu kushalo
bhikShu-caryaasu viklavaH
brahma-caryaM cacaara saH

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

Adept in the practices of love,

Confused about the practices of a beggar,

Set firm by the best of practice guides,

He did devout practice.

The refrain in today's verse is provided by five words from the root √car, to move oneself, to practise, or to do.

brahma-carya could be translated as "practice of celibacy" or "a celibate's practice." It could be translated as "devoted practice" or as "devout practice." I thought of translating it as "religious practice." But for many of us, religion is a poisoned word.

Marjory Barlow said that in her book her uncle FM Alexander was the most religious person she ever met, in the true sense of the word, not in the sense of going through the motions of religious practise. By the true sense of the word, Marjory said she meant a kind of reverence for everything. "Everything" included lobster and fine red wine (though drunk in moderation), and regular days out at the races.

These indulgences, evidently, in no way prevented FM Alexander from being, like Gautama Buddha, the very best of practice guides.

Let the head go forward and up, FM advocated, always having something to look forward to. And what he preached he actually practised. Not so much doing as allowing.

In 10.60 the Buddha tells Nanda "If aroused, practise dharma diligently."

Do these words suggest that truly devout practice is better than doing perfunctory practice? And if so, is doing perfunctory practice better than not doing any practice at all?

Dogen advocated sitting as body and mind dropping off. But before that he advocated sitting with the body, thus:

Sit in full lotus with body.

Sit in full lotus with mind.

Sit in full lotus as body and mind dropping off.

In Shobogenzo chap. 5, Ju-un-do-shiki, Dogen writes that sincerity is the body-and-mind of the buddha-ancestors.

But there is sincerity, and there is sincerity. There is the sincerity of my sincere attempts to do it. And there is the sincerity of it doing itself.

Today's verse, as I read it, is another description, like 11.2, of Nanda going through the motions, without true sincerity. If brahma-caryam is pure conduct in a state of grace, then even with the Buddha's backing nobody can do or perform it. Trying to do it might be the essence of insincerity.

In the end I do not know what brahma-caryam is and don't know how best to translate it. But I know one thing brahma-caryam is not. It is not a state of trying to be right.

brahma-caryaM cacaara saH
He did devout practice. He went through the motions of a celibate's practice. He tried to perform pure conduct. More fool him. That's just the kind of trying to do that caused naturally handsome Nanda to become extremely ugly.

I write these negations of trying to be right not because trying to be right is some folly that I remember from my deep and distant past. The truth is that I am going around the whole bloody time trying to be right. Trying to be right, which makes me more wrong, seems so far to be an ever-present tendency. And the wronger I feel in myself, the stronger the tendency is.

Where is the way out of this vicious circle? What is the antidote to this self-administered poison?

Marjory Barlow, I can see more clearly in retrospect than I could see at the time, gave me an antidote. She taught me that when I felt I was wrong I should first say No to doing anything, then come back to mindfulness of these directions: "Let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the spine lengthen and the back widen, while sending the knees forwards and away," and then go into movement without a care in the world, letting it come out in the wash.

The feeling that I am wrong in myself -- notwithstanding Mahayana Buddhist doctrine that everybody has got the Buddha-nature -- is not mistaken. The mistake I make is to respond to this feeling of wrongness by wanting to do something to put the wrongness right. The end-gainer is blocked, FM Alexander observed, by his desire to feel right in the gaining of his end.

"Let it be," sang Paul McCartney.

Incidentally, guess who gave Paul and Linda McCartney lessons in the Alexander Technique? None other than one M. Barlow.

EH Johnston:
Skilled in the practice of love but bewildered in mendicant's practices, he devoted himself with the support of the supreme Master to the practice of the religious life.

Linda Covill:
Skilled in love-making, disturbed by monkish ways, he practiced celibacy propped up by the supreme teacher.

kaama-caryaasu (loc. pl. f.): practises of love
kaama: m. love , especially sexual love or sensuality
carya: n. practising , performing , occupation with , engaging in (instr. or generally in comp.)
kushalaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. good, well; fit for , competent , able , skilful , clever , conversant with (loc.)

bhikShu-caryaasu (loc. pl. f): practises of a beggar
bhikShu: m. a beggar , mendicant , religious mendicant
viklavaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. overcome with fear or agitation , confused , perplexed , bewildered , alarmed , distressed; timid, shy; faltering (as speech) ; unsteady (as gait)

param'-aacaarya-viShTabdhaH (nom. sg. m.): stiffened by the best of practice guides, set firm by a master-practitioner
parama: mfn. best, most excellent ; chief , highest , primary , most prominent or conspicuous
aacaarya: m. " knowing or teaching the aacaara or rules " , a spiritual guide or teacher (especially one who invests the student with the sacrificial thread , and instructs him in the vedas , in the law of sacrifice and religious mysteries)
aacaara: m. 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
vi-ShTabdha: mfn. firmly set or bound ; rigid , stiff ; checked , stopped , restrained , arrested , obstructed , paralysed ; propped, supported
√ stambh: to fix firmly , support , sustain , prop (esp. the heavens) ; to support or hold up by contact with ; to make stiff or immovable , paralyze

brahma-caryam (acc. sg.): n. study of the veda , the state of an unmarried religious student , a state of continence and chastity
brahman: n. (lit. " growth " , " expansion " , " evolution " , " development " " swelling of the spirit or soul " , fr. √bRh) pious effusion or utterance , outpouring of the heart in worshipping the gods , prayer ; religious or spiritual knowledge ; holy life (esp. continence , chastity )
cacaara = 3rd pers. sg. perfect car: to move one's self , go , walk , move , stir , roam about , wander ; to undertake , set about , under go , observe , practise , do or act in general
saH (nom. sg. m.): he

Thursday, July 28, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.3: Horse-Power Reined In

tathaa lol'-endriyo bhuutvaa
indriy'-aartha-vashaad eva
babhuuva niyat'-endriyaH

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

Thus did one whose sense-power had been restless,

Whose senses had grazed on the pasture of his wife,

Come, by the very power of sense-objects,

To have his sense-power reined in.

If rasa, taste, was the refrain in yesterday's verse, the refrain in today's is indriya, which means the senses or, more exactly, the power of the senses.

In 10.41 the restless power of the senses, lol'-endriyaH, was compared to a horse:

Dragged along by the mind-chariot whose horse is the restless power of the senses, he could not come to stillness. [10.41]

This verse can be read as an extension of that metaphor, with gocaraH having the double meaning of a pasture and the range of the sense organs.

Restraining the power of the senses is, as the Buddha makes abundantly clear in Canto 13, a fundamental step in the Buddha's teaching. Hence, for example:

On that basis, standing grounded in mindfulness, the naturally impetuous senses / From the objects of those senses you should hold back (nivaarayitum arhasi).// [13.30]

Through effort of the highest order, therefore, contain the power of the senses (kaaryaH indriya-saMvaraH); / For unguarded senses make for suffering and for becoming. [13.54]

But notice that the subtle and indirect means which the Buddha advocates in these verses is minduflness (smRtim) and effort of the highest order (parama yatnena), and not the lowly means of a tethering post or a great big carrot.

If the power of the senses is akin to a wayward horse that needs to be restrained, what kind of restraint are we talking about? Restraint like understanding the fears of the horse as a flight animal, and the desires of the horse as a social herd animal, training the horse on that basis, and giving him a wide field? Or restraint like simply tying him to a tethering post?

It is the combination of direct restraint, or suppression, as symbolized by the tethering post, and exciting carrot-like stimulus, Ashvaghosha tells us in 11.6, which causes formerly handsome Nanda to become extremely ugly.

Is it true to say that the Buddha relied on the lowly means of a tethering post just as a temporary expedient, just to begin with? Ashvaghosha's narrative might be read as inviting such an understanding, but I don't read it like that. The Buddha tells Nanda in 10.63 to delight in restraint (niyame ramasva), being attentive and ready. It is not the Buddha who ties Nanda to a tethering post of restraint. It is Nanda who, failing to understand the Buddha's instruction, ties himself up.

Trying to restrain oneself without due awareness of exactly what it is that needs restraining, is not a recipe for that stillness without fixity which makes for beauty of the highest order. It is a recipe for that fixity without stillness which becomes extremely ugly, being associated as it is with unduly excited fear reflexes and emotions.

EH Johnston:
Thus it was under the influence of the objects of the senses that from having had restless senses with his beloved as the sole province of his senses he now became controlled in his senses.

Linda Covill:
So it was that Nanda with his restive senses, who had pastured his senses with his lover, now became controlled in his senses through the very power of sensory experience.

tathaa: ind. so, thus, in this manner
lol'-endriyaH (nom. sg. m.): with his restless senses, a man of restless senses
lola: mfn. moving hither and thither , shaking , rolling , tossing , dangling , swinging , agitated , unsteady , restless; changeable , transient , inconstant , fickle
indriya: n. bodily power , power of the senses , sense
bhuutvaa = abs. bhuu: to be, become

dayit'-endriya-gocaraH (nom. sg. m.): the pasture ground of his senses having been his beloved wife
dayita: mfn. cherished , beloved , dear
dayitaa: f. a wife , beloved woman
indriya: n. bodily power , power of the senses , sense
go-cara: m. pasture ground for cattle ; range , field for action , abode , dwelling-place , district (esp. ifc. " abiding in , relating to " ; " offering range or field or scope for action , within the range of , accessible , attainable , within the power "); the range of the organs of sense

indriy'-aartha-vashaat: by force of an object of his senses
indriy'-aartha: m. an object of sense (as sound , smell , &c ) , anything exciting the senses
vasha: m. authority , power , control , dominion
eva: (emphatic)

babhuuva = 3rd pers. sg. perfect bhuu: to be, become
niyat'-endriyaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having the passions subdued or restrained
niyata: mfn. held back or in , fastened ; restrained , checked , curbed , suppressed , restricted , controlled ; disciplined , self-governed , abstemious , temperate
ni- √ yam: to stop , hold back ; stay ; to hold in , keep down , restrain , control , govern , regulate (as breath , the voice , the organs of sense &c)
indriya: n. power of the senses

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.2: Nanda Goes Through the Motions

so 'n-iShTa-naiShkramya-raso
cacaara vi-raso dharmaM
niveShy' aapsaraso hRdi

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

Not relishing the taste of freedom from care,

Sapless as a wilting lotus,

He went through the motions of dharma-practice,

Having installed the apsarases in his heart.

Today's verse contains a play on the sound raso. In line 1 rasaH means taste. In line 2 taama-rasa ("[flower whose] taste/essence is exhaustion"?) means a day-lotus. What kind of lotus a day-lotus is, I do not know -- a lotus that wilts at the end of the day? In line 3 vi-rasaH means insipid or sapless. In line 4 apsarasaH is accusative plural for the apsarases whom Nanda has installed, or bedded in, deep in his heart.

Something of the original poetry, inevitably, is therefore lost in translation. The original poetry, inevitably, is a cut above my attempt to render it in English.

Translation is not glamorous work, not so much art as craft, or graft. The original author is up there. The translator is down here. There is a kind of hierarchy implicit in the work, a hierarchy of master and servant. The original creative impulse of Ashvaghosha is of a higher order. The effort of the translator is of a lower order.

When Daniel Barenboim appeared on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs a few years ago, he said at the end of his interview that truthfully he wouldn't take any recordings with him to a desert island. He would prefer to commune with the great composers by reading directly the scores they had written. The pianist Lang Lang, a protege of Barenboim, said on another edition of the same show, in similar vein, that he wouldn't take a grand piano onto the island as his luxury, but would be content to draw a keyboard in the sand.

This kind of approach to music appears to be a cut above the mindless repetition so beloved of Japanese devotees of practical ways. A friend of mine who went to a music college in London told me that young Japanese piano students were infamous for sitting at a piano all day playing a score from beginning to end, and then starting again, endlessly repeating the same mistakes.

I use this example from the world of music, about which I know practically nothing, because it seems nicely to illustrate how the practice of a real master of an art is "a cut above" the kind of practice that is just going through the motions. Barenboim's approach to music and music-making is evidently a cut above those pianists who practise mindless repetition of the same mistakes.

Marjory Barlow described the teaching of her uncle FM Alexander as a cut above bodywork. Marjory perceived that a lot of bodywork was going on at Alexander teacher-training schools and she worried about the tendency. The understanding that "this work is the most mental thing there is," Marjory feared, was liable to get lost amid people's preoccupation with using the hands to give people a new sensory experience. Not that Marjory didn't think use of the hands was important. But she saw it as secondary. The essence of Alexander's teaching, for Marjory, was a cut above any kind of therapeutic bodywork.

Nanda in today's verse is described as being vi-rasaH, sapless, unenthusiastic, insipid, in his practice of dharma. His heart, which is literally pre-occupied by apsarases, is not in his work. He is physically sitting in lotus, but his heart and mind is not in the practice. He is just sitting in the lesser sense, mindlessly.

In Canto 12 Ashvaghosha describes Nanda finding confidence in a better way, or a higher good (shreyas). The present series of verses, as I read them, culminating in the description of Nanda as having become extremely ugly in 11.6, are vital to understand what shreyas means, or rather what it does not mean. shreyas, as I understand the term, points to practice of a higher order, practice that is a cut above regulation dharma-practice.

We can know from the first two Cantos of Saundara-nanda that ancient Indians had been doing their dharma-duty, diligently practising dharma, for many centuries before Gautama's birth. The Buddha discovered dharma of a higher order, and preached and practised a better way to follow it.

Reading Ashvaghosha's words with a view to translating them, facing a computer screen and endeavouring to understand the thinking behind the ancestor's words, is a way of communing with the buddha-ancestors. That is what I am doing now, and presumably what you are doing now. Good for us. But a better way still might be to take this thinking into sitting, and to throw it out from sitting.

Cross-legged sitting practice, in the teaching of Zen Master Dogen for one, is a cut above other kinds of practice.

Sit in full lotus with body.

Sit in full lotus with mind.

Sit in full lotus as body and mind dropping off.

In the final analysis, the right thing being allowed to do itself in sitting might be a cut above both my physical effort to do it and my mental effort to allow it.

Some days I just sit like a gormless git, staring out into space, pulling my head back into the past and thinking about what might have been. This is sitting of a lower order, going through the motions.

On a better day, I make not only a physical effort to bind my creaking legs in the traditional way but also a mental effort to think the head forward, forward and up, forward and up, using as a starting point words like: "I wish to let the neck be free, to allow the head to go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, while sending the knees forwards and away"....

Marjory Barlow in her old age used to say something which revealed her own sense of what was of a higher order. She used to say about Alexander work, "I wouldn't swap it for anything."

A lesson with Marjory was more than just to know what it felt like for the right thing to do itself. Marjory guided her pupil to keep thinking for himself -- neck free, head forward and up, spine to lengthen, back to widen, knees away from the back -- until such time as she could say "That's it. The whole body informed with thought."

The whole body informed with thought.

This practice was a cut above anything I had experienced in Japan. When I showed Marjory how I had been taught to sit in Japan, Marjory's reaction was frank and unhesitating: "There is no freedom in it."

From translating Dogen's words into English, from communing with Dogen in that sense, I understood that what Dogen meant by thinking and non-thinking might be beyond the ken of the Japanese Zen masters of today, and their western imitators. And that understanding brought me to the door of Marjory Barlow, who described Alexander work as "an exercise in finding out what thinking is."

How now can I make a case that what Marjory called thinking is not some kind of non-Buddhist innovation or heresy but is what the buddha-ancestors traditionally practised, sitting in lotus with mind, and what they relinquished, sitting in lotus as body and mind dropping off?

Not by caring too much. Not by being extremely determined.

EH Johnston:
Not relishing the taste of renunciation and without enjoyment like a faded lotus without sap, he practised the Law with the Apsarases firmly fixed in his heart.

Linda Covill:
He housed the apsarases in his heart; then, sapless as a wilting lotus and unappreciative of renunciation's taste, he practiced dharma unenthusiastically.

saH (nom. sg. m.): he
an-iShTa-naiShkramya-rasaH (nom. sg. m.): finding the taste of indifference undesirable
an-iShTa: mfn. unwished , undesirable , disadvantageous , unfavourable
naiSh-kramya: n. indifference (esp. to worldly pleasures) , resignation
rasa: m. the sap or juice of plants , Juice of fruit , any liquid or fluid , the best or finest or prime part of anything , essence , marrow; taste ; charm, pleasure , delight

mlaana-taamaras'-opamaH (nom. sg. m.): like a wilting lotus
mlaana: mfn. faded , withered , exhausted , languid , weak , feeble; dejected, sad
taama-rasa: n. a day-lotus
taama: m. ( √tam) anxiety
√tam: to gasp for breath (as one suffocating) , choke , be suffocated , faint away , be exhausted , perish , be distressed or disturbed or perplexed
rasa: (see above)
upama: mfn. (ifc.) equal , similar , resembling , like

cacaara = 3rd pers. perfect car: to move one's self , go , walk , move ; to undertake , set about , under go , observe , practise
virasaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. juiceless , sapless , unseasoned; flavourless , tasteless , insipid (lit. and fig.) , unpleasant , disagreeable ; (ifc.) having no taste for
dharmam (acc. sg.): dharma, law

niveShya = abs. causative ni- √ vish: to bring to rest ; to cause to enter , introduce ; to cause to sit or lie or settle down on (loc.); to draw up or encamp (an army); to fix in , fasten to (loc.) ; to call to mind , impress (manasi , hRdaye &c )
apsarasaH (acc. pl.): f. heavenly nymphs, apsarases
hRdi (loc. sg.): n. the heart (as the seat of feelings and emotions) , soul , mind (as seat of thought and intellectual operations) , breast , chest , stomach , interior

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 11.1: Nanda the Unready

tatas taa yoShito dRShTvaa
nando nandana-caariNiiH
babandha niyama-stambhe
dur-damaM capalaM manaH

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

And so, having gazed upon those women

Who wander in the Gardens of Nandana,

Nanda tethered to a post of restraint

The fickle and unruly mind.

Nandana is the name of Indra's celestial garden, translated in 4.6 as Indra's Gardens of Gladness, and referred to in 10.18 as kriiDaa-vanaM vajradharasya raajNaH, "the pleasure-grove of the royal bearer of the thunderbolt."

In my first attempt at translating today's verse I translated the second half in a way that sounded natural to my ear:

Nanda tethered to the post of restraint his fickle and unruly mind.

But after reflecting on it, I changed the translation to:

Nanda tethered to a post of restraint the fickle and unruly mind.

Clear and unambiguous though Sanskrit grammar tends to be -- mercifully so when compared with Japanese and Chinese -- in some instances Sanskrit is more ambiguous than English, as in its failure in today's verse to distinguish between the definite and indefinite article.

Does niyama-stambhe in line 3 mean "to a tethering post of restraint" or "to the tethering post of restraint"?

Does dur-damaM capalaM manaH mean "a fickle and unruly mind [i.e. Nanda's]" or "the mind which is [universally] fickle and unruly"?

For Nanda, evidently, restraint (niyama) was a tethering post -- something that restricted his freedom of movement. But when the Buddha in 10.63 tells Nanda "delight in restraint!" (niyame ramasva), does the Buddha have in mind something like a tethering post? I think not. I think that what the Buddha means by delighting in restraint might involve something less direct, less fixed, less crudely physical, less restrictive of freedom.

And was there something special about Nanda that made his mind peculiarly fickle and unruly, as compared, for example, to the mind of me or you, or as compared to the mind of a fifty or sixty-year veteran of Zazen? Again, I think maybe not. I think Ashvaghosha's intention might be that the human mind, in general, is fickle and unruly. And the mind of a Zen veteran with sixty or seventy years experience of daily sitting is liable to become more and more fickle and unruly. People don't expect the mind of a "Zen Roshi" to deteriorate. But what seems to be self-evidently true, especially if it carries a convincing-sounding label, so often turns out not to have been true after all.

What sounds goods does not always make the best sense. And what looks impressive does not always have valuable substance. Michel Thomas and Richard Feynman would not need convincing on these points. Why so many of my heroes are non-Buddhists of Jewish descent, I don't know. It might have something to do with a tendency not to worship false idols, graven images, fake elephants.

Among dragons and elephants in the world of Zen today, it is very difficult to find one real dragon who is not at least somewhat tied to the tethering post of good posture.

The Buddha's exhortation in 10.63 that Nanda should delight in restraint, as I hear it, does not involve any kind of tethering post. What it involves is rather being attentive (apramattaH) and ready (samudyataH).

People who have heard of the Alexander Technique think that it has to do with posture. Truly, AT has more to do with practice of restraint. Posture is just a post to which to tether a donkey for ten thousand years. FM Alexander himself was not interested in posture. According to him, "The readiness is all."

Still, when a photographer has got his or her finger on the shutter, ready to take a picture, who can truly say that he doesn't care what kind of form will be captured for posterity? I for one, in the effort to appear free and poised, am liable to stiffen up and grin like an idiot.

EH Johnston:
Then Nanda tethered his fickle rebellious mind to the post of self-control, after seeing those women who wander in the grove of Nandana.

Linda Covill:
After seeing those women who wander in the gardens of Nandana, Nanda bound his volatile mind, so difficult to tame, to the post of restraint.

tataH: ind. from that, thence
taaH (acc. pl. f.): those [women]
yoShitaH (acc. pl.): f. women
dRShTvaa = abs. dRsh: to see, behold, look at

nandaH (nom. sg.): m. Nanda
nandana-caariNiiH (acc. pl. f.): who wander in [the Garden of] Gladness
nandana: mfn. rejoicing , gladdening; n. gladdening or gladness ; a divine garden , (esp.) indra's paradise
caarin: (ifc.) moving , walking or wandering about , living , being

babandha = 3rd pers. sg. perfect bandh: to bind , tie , fix , fasten; to fix , direct , fasten , rivet (eyes , ears or mind) on (loc.)
niyama-stambhe (loc. sg.): to the post of restraint
niyama: m. restraining , checking , holding back ; any fixed rule or law
stambha: m. a post , pillar , column

dur-damam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. hard to be subdued
dam: to tame , subdue , conquer
capalam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. moving to and fro , shaking , trembling , unsteady , wavering ; wanton , fickle , inconstant
manaH (acc. sg.): n. mind

Monday, July 25, 2011

Canto 10: A Vision of Heaven

In reviewing this canto, the main change I noticed that I wanted to make concerned the tiger's tail mentioned in 10.10. The original Sanskrit of line 2 is laaNguula-cakreNa kRt'-aapasavyaH, lit. "making on the right, with a tail-circle." Previously I translated this as "Its tail curled over its right shoulder," and commented that I thought the line alluded to the traditional method of wearing a robe -- i.e. with the right shoulder bare. But when the robe is worn in this traditional manner, of course, the robe is not over the right shoulder; it is over the left shoulder, forming a loop or a circle that passes under the right armpit. With this in mind, I have changed line 2 to "Its tail curling around its right shoulder."

The day that I made that mistake in translating 10.10 was the day I veered off the road and fell off my bike. In making the translation mistake, I got left and right the wrong way round, which is a common dyslexic symptom, the real roots of which lie, deep in the brain, in faults in the vestibular system. Veering off the road in the wrong direction may also have been the manifestation of vestibular dysfunction.

Whether riding a bike down here on all-too-solid earth, or painting a picture of heaven, it is vital to have a reliable sense that left is left, right is right, down is down, and up is up.

The less reliable a person's unconscious sense of where he is in space, the more dangerous it is for him to go directly for an end, relying on that unconscious sense.

Quad Erat Demonstrandum.

Thus he heard about Nanda
intending to give up on sincere practice,

Desiring to see his wife, wanting to go home;

And so the Sage summoned him
in his joyless weak-willed state,

Wishing to take him up out of it.

When Nanda, not yet arrived at liberation's path, arrived,

He of the beautiful mind questioned him,
whose mind was faltering.

Bowed down by humiliation,
Nanda confessed to one full of humility;

He told his intention to a master intention-knower.

And so the One Gone Well, seeing Nanda

Wandering in the darkness called "wife,"

Took his hand and flew up into the sky

Wishing to take him up --
like an honest man in the water bearing up a pearl.

A shining gold they shone

With their ochre robes, in the clear sky,

Like a pair of ruddy sheldrakes rising up from a lake,

Embracing one another with outstretched wings.

Filled with the heady fragrance of the divine deodar,

Full of rivers, lakes, springs and gulches,

And filled with gold ore

Was the Himalayan mountain full of divine seers
at which the two arrived, immediately.

On that auspicious mountain --
which was frequented by celestial singers and saints

And blanketed in smoke from burnt offerings --

As if on an island in an unsupported sky,
where no far shore is reached,

The two stood.

While the Sage, sense-power stilled,
remained there standing,

Nanda looked all around in amazement

At the caverns and bowers and forest-dwellers

That were the mountain's jewels and its guardians.

For there on a great long horn of white rock

Lay a peacock with its tail feathers arrayed

So as to resemble, on the arm of Bala
-- he of the long and full arms --

An armlet of cat's-eye gems.

A lion with shoulders made orange

From contact with orange-red arsenic ore

Looked like Ambika's crumpled armband

Of wrought silver streaked with refined gold.

A tiger, moving in an unhurried, expansive manner,

Its tail curling around its right shoulder,

As it went to drink at a mountain spring,

Looked like a man who, having arrived at water,
was offering it to his ancestors.

A yak had got stuck in a dangling kadamba tree

Swaying on the Himalayan hillside:

Unable to free its tangled tail,

It was like a man of noble conduct
who cannot break away from a kindness
that has been shown in his House.

Communities of golden mountain-men, the Kiratas,

Their limbs streaked with shining peacock gall,

Rushed out from their caves like flying tigers,

As if spewed out of the unmoving mountain.

Hanging out in nooks and crannies,
and going beyond Beauty

With their heart-stealing hips, breasts and bellies,

Were the bevies of kimnaris
who appeared in every quarter,

Like creepers with flowers in their upward winding curls.

Pestering the godly deodars,

Monkeys roved from peak to peak;

Obtaining from those trees no fruit, they went away,

As if from powerful masters whose favour is futile.

But lagging behind that troop

Was one whose face was red as pressed red resin --

A female monkey with one eye missing.

Seeing her, the Sage spoke this to Nanda:

"Which, Nanda, in beauty and in manner,

Is the lovelier in your eyes:

This one-eyed monkey,

Or the person who is the focus of your wishing?"

Addressed thus by the One Gone Well

Nanda said, with a slight smirk:

"How can a gap be measured, Glorious One!, between
that most excellent of women your sister-in-law,

And this tree-tormenting monkey?"

Then the Sage, hearing his protestation,

And having in mind a slightly unconventional means,

Took hold of Nanda as before

And proceeded to the pleasure-grove
of the royal bearer of the thunderbolt.

There one by one, season by season,
and moment by moment,

Trees convey their individual form;

While some odd ones also bring out

The combined manifold glory of all six seasons.

Some produce garlands and wreaths

Which are fragrant and affecting,
with variously interwoven strands,

And small round creations suited to the ear

Which are akin to earrings' opponents.

Trees there that abound in red lotuses

Look like trees ablaze.

Different trees, growing full-blown blue lotuses,

Seem to have their eyes open.

In various colourless hues, or else white;

Beautifully illuminated with golden dividing lines;

Beyond the weaving together of strands,
being nothing but a unity;

Are the exquisite robes that trees there bear as fruit.

Pearl necklaces, gemstones, supreme earrings,

Choicest armlets, and ankle bracelets,

Are the kinds of ornaments, fit for heaven,

That trees there bear as fruit.

There rise golden lotuses with beryl stems

And diamond shoots and stamens;

Receptive to touch, they have a scent of the ultimate:

Still pools without ripples allow them to grow.

There a diversity of musical instruments,

With lengthened [sinews] and widened [skins],
with open tubes and solid matter,

Are born as fruit
by the distinctively bejewelled and gilded trees

Which are the heaven-dwellers' playing companions.

Over mandara coral trees,

And over trees weighed down
with water-lily and ruddy lotus blossoms,

The 'Full Grown' Coral,
shining there with majestic qualities,

Steps up and reigns supreme.

Growing there, on soil tilled in Indra's heaven

By unwearying ploughs of austerity and discipline,

Are such trees as these, which are always adapting

To provide for sky-dwellers' enjoyment.

Birds there have bright red beaks,
the colour of red 'mind rock' arsenic;

And crystalline eyes;

And wings a deathly shade of yellow,
with intensely red tips;

And claws as red as red dye, but half white.

Birds which are -- again -- different,
with distinctively golden wings

And bright, beryl-blue eyes,

Birds called shinjirikas fly to and fro,

Carrying away minds and ears with their songs.

Adorned with curling feathers that are red at the tips,

Golden in the middle,

And the colour of beryl within borders,

There birds move.

Winged ones of a different ilk, named rochishnus,

Who have the lustre of a blazing fire,
their faces seeming to be aglow,

Roam around,
shaking views with their wonderful appearance,

And carrying apsarases away with their splendid sound.

There, doing as they please, constantly erect,

Free from pain, free from aging, beyond sorrow --

Each by his actions inferior, superior, or in the middle,

Each letting his own light shine -- merit-makers rejoice.

Having first accepted the price in austerities

And made the decision to splash out on heaven,

Ascetics rich in austerities have their weary minds

Enthralled there by the flirting apsarases.

Seeing that world to be in a perpetually elevated state,

Free from
tiredness, sleep, discontent, sorrow, and disease,

Nanda deemed the ever-afflicted world of men,
under the sway of aging and death,

To be akin to a cremation ground.

Nanda beheld Indra's forest all around him,

His eyes wide open with amazement.

And the apsarases surrounded him,
bristling with joyous excitement,

While eyeing each other haughtily.

Eternally youthful and devoted purely to Love,

They are zones of recreation
open to all who have made merit,

Zones which are both heavenly and innocent --

The resort of gods, as a reward for austerities.

Odd ones among those women sang,
in low and in high voices,

Some pulled lotuses apart, playfully;

Others in the same vein danced,
bristling with mutual delight,

Limbs making exotic gestures,
Breasts perturbing pearl necklaces.

The faces of some, ear-rings atremble,

Peeped through chinks in the undergrowth

Like duck-dunked lotuses

Peeping through scattered and displaced leaves.

When he saw them emerging from their forest niches

Like ribbons of lightning from rainclouds,

Nanda's body trembled with passion

Like moonlight on rippling water.

Their heavenly form and playful gestures

He then mentally seized;

And, while his eye was appropriated by curiosity,

He became impassioned, as if from a thirst for union.

He became thirsty,
desirous of drinking up the apsarases,

Afflicted by a pervading itch to have them.

Dragged along by the mind-chariot
whose horse is the restless power of the senses,

He could not come to stillness.

For just as a man, by adding soda ash to dirty clothes,

Makes them even dirtier,

In order to remove dirt, not in order to increase it,

So the Sage had stirred the dust of passion in him.

Just as, wishing to draw faults from the body,

A healer would endeavour to aggravate them,

So, wishing to kill the red taint of passion in him,

The Sage brought about an even greater passion.

Just as a light in the dark is extinguished

By the thousand-rayed brightness of the rising sun,

So the lovely radiance of women in the human world

Is put in the shade by the apsarases' shining splendour.

Great beauty blots out lesser beauty,

A loud noise drowns out a small noise,

And a severe pain kills a mild pain --

Every big stimulus tends to extinguish a minor one.

And Nanda was able, relying on the power of the Sage,

To endure that sight unendurable to others.

For the mind of a man lacking dispassion,
when he was weak,

Would be burned up by the apsarases' shining splendour.

Deeming then that Nanda
was roused to a new height of passion,

His passion having turned from love of his wife,

And desiring to fight passion with passion,

The dispassionate Sage spoke these words:

"Look at these women who dwell in heaven

And, having observed, truly tell the truth:

Do you think more of these women
with their lovely form and excellent attributes

Or the one upon whom your mind has been set?"

So, letting his gaze settle upon the apsarases,

Burning in his innermost heart with a fire of passion,

And stammering, with a mind stuck on objects of desire,

Nanda joined his hands like a beggar and spoke.

"Whatever difference there might be, Master,

Between that one-eyed she-monkey
and your sister-in-law,

Is the same when your poor sister-in-law

Is set against the lovely apsarases.

For just as previously, when I beheld my wife,

I had no interest in other women,

So now when I behold their beauty

I have no interest in her.

Just as someone who had been pained by mild sunshine

Might be consumed by a great fire,

So I who was previously toasted by a mild passion

Am now roasted by this blaze of passion.

Therefore pour on me the water of your voice,

Before I am burned, as was The Fishes' Foe;

For a fire of passion is going now to burn me up,

Like a fire rising up
to burn both undergrowth and treetops.

Please, O Sage firm as the earth, I am sinking,

Free me who am without firmness.

I shall give up my life, O man of liberated mind,

Unless you extend to a dying man
the deathless nectar of your words.

For a snake whose coils are calamity,
whose eyes are destruction,

Whose fangs are madness,
whose fiery venom is dark ignorance:

The snake of love has bitten me in the heart.

Therefore, Great Healer, supply the antidote!

For nobody bitten by this snake of love

Remains anything but unsettled in himself --

Bewildered was the mind of Vodhyu,
whose essence had been immovability,

While 'Good-Body' Shan-tanu,
a sensible man, grew gaunt.

In you who abides conspicuously in the state of refuge,
I seek refuge.

So that I might not go through this world
loafing hither and thither,

And so that, after coming to that abode
which is my adversity-ending end,

I might go beyond,
please help me who is repeatedly pleading."

Desiring to dispell that darkness in his heart

Like the moon
dispersing the darkness that rises by night,

Then spoke the moon of great seers,
the disperser of the world's darkness,

The one devoid of darkness -- Gautama:

"Embracing firmness, shaking off indecision,

And getting a grip of hearing and heart, listen!

If you desire these women

Practise now the utmost asceticism to pay their price.

For these women are conquered
neither by force nor by service,

Neither by gifts nor by good looks;

They are mastered just by dharma-conduct.

If aroused, practise dharma diligently.

Perching here in heaven with gods;

Delightful forests; ageless women --

This is the fruit of your own pure action.

It is not conferred by another; nor is it without cause.

For through strenuous efforts on earth
-- drawing a bow and the like --

A man may sometimes win women,
or else he may not;

But what is certain is that,
through his practice of dharma here and now,

These women in heaven can belong
to a man of meritorious action.

So delight in restraint, being attentive and ready,

If you desire to secure the apsarases,

And I guarantee that,
insofar as you persist in your observance,

You certainly shall be one with them."

"From now on, I will!" he agreed.

Believing intently in the supreme Sage,
he had become extremely determined.

Then the Sage,
gliding down from the sky like the wind,

Brought him back down again to earth.

The 10th canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda,
titled "A Vision of Heaven."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.64: Nanda Believes, and Is Brought Back Down to Earth

ataH paraM paramam iti vyavasthitaH
paraaM dhRtiM parama-munau cakaara saH
tato muniH pavana iv' aambaraat patan
pragRhya taM punar agaman mahii-talaM

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

saundaranande mahaa-kaavye
svarga-nidarshano naama dashamaH sargaH

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

"From now on, I will!" he agreed.

Believing intently in the supreme Sage,
he had become extremely determined.

Then the Sage,
gliding down from the sky like the wind,

Brought him back down again to earth.

The 10th canto in the epic poem Handsome Nanda,
titled "A Vision of Heaven."

In first half of today's verse param means after/from, paramam expresses assent, paraam means the firmest or most extreme [determination], and parama means the best, supreme [Sage]. Besides being a kind of wordplay, I think Ashvaghosha is drawing the reader's attention to something in Nanda's attitude that was param, extreme, off the middle way.

Whereas the striver in cantos 8 and 9 verbally showed Nanda the stick, which failed to have the desired effect, the Buddha in this canto has shown Nanda a massive carrot, in order to get the donkey moving forward.

Sometimes donkeys get stuck with their heads pulling stubbornly back into the past. In such cases, a couple of golden rules to remember are firstly that donkeys like carrots, and secondly that where the head leads the body follows.

So one way to get a donkey moving forward is to dangle a carrot in front of its nose.

Sitting in lotus does not generally involve forward movement (though it may involve a tiny delicate unlocking of the head, which is a kind of forward movement of the head relative to the spine). But sitting in lotus all too easily involves pulling the head back. And so "let the head go forward" can be understood as a preventive direction, a direction to prevent the head being pulled back.

FM Alexander, in encouraging people to let the head go forward, would sometimes advise, "Make sure you always have something to look forward to."

Or as my grandma used to say, "A little bit of what you fancy does you good."

Nanda's extremely determined pursuit of a big carrot, however, as will be revealed in Canto 11, apart from getting him moving forward, does not do him any good. It causes him to become extremely ugly (vairuupyam agamat param; 11.6), partly because the resolve that he forms is paraam; the nature of his resolve is not moderate, but extreme. At the same time, Nanda goes wrong because, believing intently in the supreme Sage, he accepts what he thinks the supreme Sage has been telling him, without having understood in his own experience where the supreme Sage is coming from.

Recent events in Norway might be a case in point of somebody becoming extremely determined as a result of believing in somebody or something. The fundamentalist Christian mass murderer is said to have quoted on his Facebook page John Stuart Mill's statement that "One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests."

A better way than extreme determination believing in others might be, as indicated in the previous verse, to persist quietly by oneself in solitary observance of restraint. And confidence -- not belief -- in a better way, is the theme of Canto 12.

Let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, while sending the knees forwards and away.

"Never let a day go by," FM Alexander used to say to his niece Marjory Barlow, without any sense of extreme urgency, "without coming back to those words." What Marjory Barlow exuded to me was never extreme determination, but always a quiet unshakeable confidence in those directions, those words.

Around the end of 1999, my wife and I sewed Marjory a seven- or nine-stripe robe, I can't remember which, and thereafter, after she had given me a lesson, Marjory and I would sometimes sit for a while wearing our respective robes. When she was younger, Marjory had attended vipassana retreats. So I asked Marjory what was her starting point when she sat. "I begin with those words," Marjory had replied. "Because I know they work."

Let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, while sending the knees forwards and away.

"Keep coming back to those words," Marjory encouraged me, "They will take where you want to go."

Finally, on the subject of coming down to earth, since falling off my bike, a few verses into this canto, onto hard concrete, and hurting my left knee, I have been doing a lot of yoga stretching. In Japan I used to stretch a lot, but since returning to England to investigate Alexander's discoveries I found that I didn't feel the need to stretch so much -- just sitting in lotus and being mindful of Alexander's directions to let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, while sending the knees forwards and away, seemed to be enough. In recent weeks, however, unable to sit in full lotus for an hour as usual, I have been sitting in half lotus for a few minutes, then stretching, then sitting in full lotus for 10, 15 or sometimes 20 minutes, then stretching, then sitting in full lotus again. And one thing I see clearly from this practice relates to -- guess what -- end-gaining. I see how easy it is to end-gain for the result I have in mind, i.e. a stretched or lengthened muscle. And the antidote to such end-gaining? You guessed. Mindfulness of Alexander's directions. Especially I remember Marjory Barlow's words that "We all go mad on the lengthening and forget about the widening."

The stretch we are all familiar with, "touching the toes," for example, easily invites a straining for length. But having feet and hands on the ground (bending the knees rather than straining to get the hands down) is an excellent condition for thinking "back to widen." Try it, and see whether I am talking out of my hat.

"See whether I am talking out of my hat," was another one of Marjory's phrases. She would tell her pupils in lesson one: "I don't want you to believe a single word I say. You be the judge of whether I am talking out of my hat."

EH Johnston:
On this he agreed, and with determination he placed the firmest reliance on the Supreme Sage. Then the Sage, holding him and flying down like the wind from the sky, returned to the earth.

Linda Covill:
"Henceforth I will," he said, and fixed his resolve on the supreme sage. Then the sage took hold of him and flying down from the sky like the wind, returned once more to earth.

End of Canto 10: A Lesson in Heaven

ataH: ind. (abl.) from this, henceforth
param: ind. (with abl.) beyond , after ; ind. in a high degree , excessively , greatly , completely ; ind. rather , most willingly , by all means ; ind. I will , so be it
paramam: ind. yes , very well
iti: "....," thus; so saying
vy-avasthitaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. standing or being in or on or at (loc.); contained in (loc.); based or dependent on (loc.) , resolved upon (loc.); persevering in , sticking or adhering to (loc.); intent upon (loc.); settled , established , fixed , exactly determined , quite peculiar or restricted to (loc.)
avasthita: mfn. standing near ; placed , having its place or abode ; engaged in , prosecuting , following , practising (with loc.): obeying or following (the words or commands of ; loc.)

paraam (acc. sg. f.): mfn. better or worse than , superior or inferior to , best or worst , highest , supreme
dhRtim (acc. sg.): f. holding; , firmness , constancy , resolution , will , command
dhRtiM- √kR to keep ground or stand still ; to find pleasure or satisfaction
parama-munau (loc. sg. m.): in the supreme sage
parama: mfn. most excellent, best
cakaara = 3rd pers. sg. perfect kR: to do, make
saH (nom. sg. m.): he

tataH: ind. from that, then, thence
muniH (nom. sg.): m. the sage
pavanaH (nom. sg.): m. the wind
iva: like
ambaraat (abl. sg.): n. circumference; sky , atmosphere , ether
patan = nom. sg. m. pres. part. pat: to fly, soar ; to fall down or off , alight

pragRhya = abs. pra- √ grah: to hold; to seize , grasp , take hold of , take
tam (acc. sg. m.): him
punar: ind. ind. back , home , again
agamat = 3rd pers. sg. aorist gam: to go
mahii-talam (acc. sg.): n. the surface of the earth , ground , soil
mahii: f. " the great world " , the earth
tala: n. surface

saundara-nande mahaa-kaavye (loc.): in the epic poem Handsome Nanda
svarga-nidarshanaH (nom. sg. m.): a vision of heaven
svarga: m. heaven
ni-darshana: n. seeing , view , appearance , sight , vision (cf. svapna-nidarshana; dream-vision, a vision in a dream) ; n. pointing to , showing , indicating ; n. instance , example , illustration ;
naama: ind. by name
dashamaH sargaH (nom. sg. m.): 10th canto

Saturday, July 23, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.63: The Buddha's Guarantee

tad a-pramatto niyame samudyato
ramasva yady apsaraso' bhilipsase
ahaM ca te 'tra pratibhuuH sthire vrate
yathaa tvam aabhir niyataM sameShyasi

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

So delight in restraint, being attentive and ready,

If you desire to secure the apsarases,

And I guarantee that,
insofar as you persist in your observance,

You certainly shall be one with them."

In general when somebody advises "If you strongly desire to gain end E, then follow course MW," we assume that they are recommending course MW as an effective means whereby of gaining end E.

So, for example, if you strongly desire the enlightenment that is called in Japanese satori, then engage whole-heartedly in sesshins, mondos, et cetera. If enlightenment is your E, and sesshins and mondos are your idea of the Middle Way, MW, then go for it. Good luck to you.

This is how Nanda understands what the Buddha is telling him in this verse, as Nanda demonstrates in Canto 12 when he releases the Buddha from what he wrongly understands the Buddha to have pledged:

For my gaining of the nymphs, Master, you stand as guarantor. / But I have no need of nymphs; I relinquish your guarantee. // [12.13]

In fact, what the Buddha is guaranteeing in today's verse is not Nanda's securing or gaining of the nymphs; the Buddha is guaranteeing that Nanda will be one with the nymphs insofar as he gives up end-gaining.

So when the Buddha as I hear him advises "If you strongly desire to gain end E, then follow course of restraint MW," we should understand the Buddha's advice in light of the ultimate means-whereby taught by the Buddha, on the night before he died, which begins with small desire. Understood in that light, the Buddha's advice in today's verse might best be understood as the recommendation of course MW not as a means of gaining strongly desired end E, but rather as a means of letting go of that strong desire and thereby gaining another better end, F.

In that case, the meaning of niyame, restraint, from the verb ni-√yam, to stop, hold in, restrain (see also 9.27), should be clearly understood. The Buddha is not talking about suppression. He is not talking about temporarily suppressing desire, like a boxer before a big fight. Neither is the Buddha talking about trying to snuff out desire permanently -- which would be a very ambitious aspiration indeed. With niyame the Buddha as I hear him is indicating not the elimination of desire but a more modest aspiration, namely, small desire.

The Buddha's universal guarantee might be that a person who practises the restraint of small desire already has freedom from suffering, F, and in that condition he is already one with all living beings, heavenly and earthly alike.

Which brings to mind the joke about the hungry Buddhist monk who asked a wise pizza chef, "Please would you make me one with everything?"

"If you want to be one with everything," the wise pizza chef replied, "practise small desire."

EH Johnston:
Therefore if you desire to obtain the Apsarases, abide diligently and zealously in the observances, and I stand surety that, should you hold firmly to your vow, union with them will certainly be yours.'

Linda Covill:
So if you wish to win the apsarases, undertake the disciplinary rules joyfully, attentively and eagerly, and I will stand guarantor that if you are steadfast in your observances you will definitely be united with them."

tad: ind. so, therefore
a-pramattaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. not careless , careful , attentive , vigilant
pra- √ mad: to enjoy one's self , be joyous , sport , play ; to be careless or negligent , to be indifferent to or heedless ; to neglect duty for , idle away time in (loc.)
ni-yame (loc. sg.): m. restraining , checking , holding back , preventing , controlling; any fixed rule or law , necessity , obligation
ni- √ yam: to stop; to hold in , keep down , restrain , control , govern , regulate (as breath , the voice , the organs of sense &c ) ; to suppress or conceal (one's nature)
samudyataH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. raised up , lifted up; ready or eager for action , prepared to or about to (inf. or dat.) , engaged in (loc.)
sam-ud- √ i: to go upwards or rise up together , come together or prepare (for battle &c )

ramasva = 2nd pers. sg. (middle voice) ram: to stop, stay, calm ; to delight , make happy , enjoy carnally ; to stand still , rest , abide , like to stay with (loc. or dat.) ; to be glad or pleased , rejoice at , delight in , be fond of (loc. instr. or inf.)
yadi: if
apsarasaH (acc. pl.): f. heavenly nymph, apsaras
abhilipsase = 2nd pers. sg. desiderative abhi- √ labh: to intend to catch or obtain

aham (nom. sg. m.): I
ca: and
te (gen. sg.): of/for you
atra: ind. in this matter
pratibhuuH (nom. sg.): m. a surety , security , bail
sthire (loc. sg.): firm , not wavering or tottering , steady ; constant , steadfast , resolute , persevering
vrate (loc. sg.): n. will , command , law , ordinance , rule ; sphere of action , function , mode or , manner of life (e.g. śuci-vr° , " pure manner of life "), conduct , manner , usage , custom ; a religious vow or practice , any pious observance , meritorious act of devotion or austerity , solemn vow , rule , holy practice (as fasting , continence &c)

yathaa: ind. according as, that
tvam (nom. sg.): you
aabhiH (inst. pl. f.): with them
niyatam: ind. always , constantly , decidedly , inevitably , surely
sameShyasi = 2nd pers. sg. future sam- √ i : to go or come together ; to come together in sexual union , cohabit

Friday, July 22, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.62: An All-Embracing Means

kShitau manuShyo dhanur-aadibhiH shramaiH
striyaH kadaa cidd hi labheta vaa na vaa
a-saMshayaM yat tv iha dharma-caryayaa
bhaveyur etaa divi puNya-karmaNaH

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

For through strenuous efforts on earth
-- drawing a bow and the like --

A man may sometimes win women,
or else he may not;

But what is certain is that,
through his practice of dharma here and now,

These women in heaven can belong
to a man of meritorious action.

Surely I am not going to hammer on about end-gaining again, am I? Damn right I am.

On the surface the Buddha seems to be telling Nanda that dharma-practice can be a means to gain the end of possessing women sexually, of making women into one's own property, one's own playthings.

While there are in the world one or two serial student-shagging so-called Zen masters that might concur with this sentiment, I am happy so far not to have entered that particular club.

Understanding the ambiguity of bhuu in line 4, what the Buddha might really be saying is that it is certain (there is no doubt) that there is a possibility (bhaveyur = optative) of making all beings into one's own belonging -- in which eventuality, it might inevitably be that, equally, one becomes the belonging of all beings.

Dogen, in his instructions for everyone on how to sit, advocates learning the backward step of turning one's light and letting it shine.

What this means, according to a Japanese Zen perspective, can be summarized as follows: Balance is a human being's natural state. Therefore, providing one simply maintains the right posture, one's whole organism will naturally go back to its original state.

My point, contrary to this view, is that "right posture" is an end-gaining conception. Dogen's backward step, as I understand it and endeavour -- largely unsuccessfully -- to practice it, is an expression of dropping off all end-gaining conceptions.

End-gaining is all about doing. Do this, do that, and do the other. Pull the chin in. Keep the neck bones straight. Tense this muscle. Relax that muscle. Breathe from here. Move here. Don't move there.

Non-end-gaining is all about letting or allowing.

Shunryu Suzuki famously said that if you want to control a cow, give it a wide field. And the same thing might apply to turning women into one's own belonging.

Insofar as I follow FM Alexander's direction, "to let the neck be free," Charlize Theron, Kate Winslett and every other goddess of the silver screen totally belongs to me. They may never have even heard of me, they may totally ignore me... but allowing them to be like that is already included in the wish to let the neck be free. If I didn't allow them to be like that, then my neck couldn't be free -- which most of the time it isn't, at least not as free as it could be.

When we are set on gaining an end, like some obsessed celebrity stalker whose heart's desire is to embrace one particular woman, we are limited by that end. Zen pursuit of right posture is just a peculiar variation on that theme.

But to sit modestly, unambitiously, wishing to let the neck be free, to let the head go forward and up, to let the back lengthen and widen, while sending the knees out from the back... is, what?

The thing about practice like this, unlike pursuit of right posture, is that it is truly all-inclusive, unlimited, endless

EH Johnston:
For a man on earth may obtain women by the use of his weapons or by other labours or else he may not. But it is certain that these women in heaven belong to the man who has acquired merit by practice of the Law.

Linda Covill:
On earth a man may sometimes win women with his exertions -- by the use of weapons, for instance -- or he may not. But what is beyond doubt is that these celestial women must belong to a man who makes merit through the practice of dharma.

kShitau (loc. sg.): f. the earth
manuShyaH (nom. sg.): m. a man, human being
dhanur-aadibhiH (inst. pl.): with bow and so on
dhanus: n. a bow
aadi: ifc. beginning with , et caetera , and so on
shramaiH (inst. pl.): m. exertion , labour , toil , exercise , effort either bodily or mental , hard work of any kind

striyaH (acc. pl.): f. women
kadaa chit: ind. at some time or other , sometimes , once
hi: for
labheta = 3rd pers. sg. opt. labh: to take, seize; to gain possession of
vaa na vaa: or else not

asaMshayam: ind. without doubt
a-saMshaya: m. absence of doubt , certainty
yat (acc. sg.): [that] which
tu: but
iha: ind. in this place, here
dharma-caryayaa (inst. sg.): f. observance of the law , performance of duty

bhaveyur = 3rd pers. pl. optative bhuu: to be, become ; to fall to the share or become the property of , belong to (with gen.); to be on the side of , assist (with gen.)
etaaH (nom. pl. f.): these [women]
divi (loc. sg.): f. the sky, heaven
puNya-karmaNaH (gen. sg. m.): mfn. acting right , virtuous , pious
puNya: n. the good or right , virtue , purity , good work , meritorious act , moral or religious merit
karman: n. action ; office , special duty , occupation , obligation (frequently ifc. , the first member of the compound being either the person who performs the action ; or the person or thing for or towards whom the action is performed)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.61: Buddha Speaks of Pure Action

ih' aadhivaaso divi daivataiH samaM
vanaani ramyaaNy ajaraash ca yoShitaH
idaM phalaM svasya shubhaasya karmaNo
na dattam anyena na c' aapy a-hetutaH

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

Perching here in heaven with gods;

Delightful forests; ageless women --

This is the fruit of your own pure action.

It is not conferred by another; nor is it without cause.

My first impression was that with this verse Ashvaghosha had switched his viewpoint to what Gudo Nishijima used to call "the second phase" -- the viewpoint in which cause and effect is absolute and foremost. Digging deeper, I think that in today's verse, as in yesterday's, the Buddha really has only one thing in mind, and that is pure action (shubhaasya karmaNaH).

If we accepted the premise that the utmost asceticism constitutes good conduct, then we might understand, based on this premise and belief in cause and effect, that the Buddha in today's verse is promising Nanda a reward in the longer-term future for the ascetic practise he is about to do in the short and medium-term future. But such understanding might be false, based on a false premise.

Hence, the opening word of the verse, iha, seems to point not to a future result but just to Nanda's experience here and now.

The Buddha is telling Nanda that what he is experiencing now -- being up in heaven, the forests, the nymphs -- is the result or fruit of... what?

EHJ says Nanda's own good actions. LC says one's own pure deeds. But karmaNaH is singular. My initial attempt to translate shubhaasya karmaNaH, based on the understanding that this verse was all about the moral law of cause and effect, was "your own good conduct." But karman isn't given in the dictionary as conduct; it is given as action.

phalaM svasya shubhasya karmaNaH might most accurately be translated as "the fruit/result of your own pure action." Because it is not conferred by another, it is your own. And because it is not without a cause, it is called a fruit or a result. But what is the meaning of shubhasya karmaNaH, "pure action"? If shubhasya karmaNaH means pure action, what pure action does the Buddha see that Nanda has hitherto realized or is now realizing?

Come to think of it, I don't know. I don't know what pure action is. Pure action is what I thought I spent years studying under Gudo Nishijima, expounder of the Buddhist philosophy of action. In those days I thought I was one of the elite few who knew pure action, one of the few true Buddhists who were ranged against the great mass of idealistic and materialistic non-Buddhists -- practitioners of mindfulness and the like.

But it strikes me as I read today's verse that I don't know what pure action is. If I have learned anything, I might have learned something -- not much -- about what impure action is. Impure action is action that is tainted by the many-tentacled monster of misuse which is stimulated into activity by thirst for some object. Looking back now on interactions I had with Gudo then, I think I might have been the thirstiest monkey in the troop. (Not that I was helped by being instructed to pull my chin back while hyper-extending my back in Zazen.)

It is thirsty end-gaining like this, Ashvaghosha tells us in 11.6, that caused naturally handsome Nanda to become extremely ugly.

Maybe the fact that Nanda was naturally handsome was evidence enough of a natural capacity for pure action.

Apropos of which, when I was encouraged recently to watch some Youtube video clips of Richard Feynman, one of the things that struck me about Feynman was that he seemed to have got better looking in his old age than he was when he was young. Even though I don't know what pure action is, something about the aging Feynman's manner of thinking and speaking struck me -- beyond any moral consideration of good and bad -- as pure.

In conclusion, pure action might be action that is not contaminated or deformed by the grim determination and stiffened neck of the personally ambitious end-gainer.

On first reading, this verse seemed to me to be all about cause and effect. Digging deeper, I wonder what the Buddha meant by pure action.

Originally, it causes a person to be beautiful, to look good. But to pursue pure action as an object, or worse, to turn it into the cornerstone of one's own true Buddhist philosophy, might be to have tainted it already. Yuk.

I say "yuk" having devoted a big chunk of my life to the process of translating Shobogenzo into English. And the overriding sense it has left me with is not one of pride or of satisfaction or of gratitude to anybody, but just one of disgust. Disgust with the end-gaining personal ambition of others -- which all boils down of course, via the mirror principle, to a low opinion of self.

An opinion, a view, that has yet to be dropped off.

As FM Alexander observed, the most difficult things to get rid of are the ones that don't exist.

What, in the end, is pure action?

Whatever I think it is, truly, it is not that.

EH Johnston:
Residence here in heaven with the gods, these lovely groves and unaging women are the reward of your own good actions. No other can give this to you, nor can it be obtained without an efficient cause.

Linda Covill:
Life here in heaven together with the gods, the delightful forests and these unaging women are the reward of one's own pure deeds. The reward cannot be given by anyone else, nor is it available without due motivation.

iha: ind. here
adhivaasaH (nom. sg.): m. an inhabitant; one who dwells above ; a habitation , abode , settlement , site ; sitting before a person's house without taking food till he ceases to oppose or refuse a demand (commonly called " sitting in dharna ")
adhi- √vas: to inhabit; to settle or perch upon
adhi: ind. , as a prefix to verbs and nouns , expresses above , over and above
√vas: to dwell, live
divi (loc. sg.): f. heaven
daivataiH (inst. pl..): n. god, deity
samam: ind. together with

vanaani (nom. pl.): n. a forest , wood ,
ramyaaNi (nom. pl. n.): mfn. pleasing , delighting , rejoicing
ajaraaH (nom. pl. f.): mfn. not subject to old age , undecaying , ever young
ca: and
yoShitaH (nom. pl.): f. women

idam (nom. sg. n.): this
phalam (nom. sg.): n. fruit, result, reward
svasya (gen. sg. n.): mfn. one's own
shubhaasya (gen. sg. n.): mfn. pleasant , agreeable , suitable , fit , capable , useful , good (applied to persons and things) ; good (in moral sense) , righteous , virtuous , honest ; pure (as an action)
karmaNaH (gen. sg.): n. act , action ; former act as leading to inevitable results

na: not
dattam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. given, granted
anyena (inst. sg.): by another
na: not
ca: and
api: also
ahetutaH: ind. without cause
ahetu: m. absence of cause or reason
taH (ablative/adverbial suffix)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.60: Exhortation to Practise, When Aroused

imaa hi shakyaa na balaan na sevayaa
na saMpradaanena na ruupa-vat-tayaa
imaa hriyante khalu dharma-caryayaa
sacet praharShash cara dharmam aadRtaH

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

For these women are conquered
neither by force nor by service,

Neither by gifts nor by good looks;

They are mastered just by dharma-conduct.

If aroused, practise dharma diligently.

Today's verse, as I read it, is one of those verses whose ostensible and deeper meanings might be read as being totally opposite.

Today's verse could be the ultimate exhortation to go directly for a desired object, and Nanda seems to understand it like that. But it could also be read as an ultimate expression of non-end-gaining.

What is a man's conquest of celestial nymphs? The serial overpowering of women by a man? Or the man's mastery of something in himself, by himself, for himself.

Does conquering nymphs means winning them as objects of sexual conquest? If so, has anybody ever done it, or witnessed it happening? I think that in reality no man has ever bedded a celestial nymph, except in his own imagination.

Or is the Buddha's real intention that by dharma-conduct a man can become adept in accepting and using himself, in which state objects of sexual fantasy, being neither suppressed nor pursued, cease to be a problem?

The last line of today's verse literally reads, "If there is erection/arousal, practise dharma diligently." The overt meaning is "If you are turned on by these women, practise dharma diligently in order to gain them as objects of your sexual desire." This, in any event, is the meaning that Nanda took from the Buddha's words.

Another way of reading the line is in light of Dogen's teaching of delusion and enlightenment, viz., to push ourselves to practise dharma is delusion, whereas the condition in which something pushes us to practise dharma is enlightenment. In that case the last line means something like, "Providing the dharma is pushing you to do so (as opposed to you trying to push the dharma), practise dharma diligently."

In this distinction is the distinction that I spent (wasted?) so many years criticizing my Zen teacher for failing to clarify in his teaching around right posture in Zazen. It is the distinction between doing and non-doing, apropos of which the Alexander teacher Patrick Macdonald wrote:

"Of course, non-doing is a kind of doing, but it is very subtle. The difference is that, in doing, you do it, whereas in nondoing, it does you. Those of you who have never had practical experience of the Alexander Technique will probably find this difficult to understand."

sacet praharShaH, "if there is erection/arousal," ostensibly refers to a sexual motivation. But it brings to my mind another kind of motivation, which relates to a metaphor Ashvaghosha uses to describe the first stage of sitting-meditation. I think of a bloke on a hot beach on a windless afternoon beneath a cloudless sky, looking out over a bay where a cool sea laps the shore, and not needing to push himself at all to go for a swim. Entering the sea for him, is like entering the first stage of sitting-meditation, a refreshing experience. If, as he swims along diligently, doing a swimmer's dharma-duty, he accepts and uses himself well (possibly as a result of having taken lessons from an Alexander teacher like my brother or my wife), then his enjoyment of samadhi through his whole body might be very like the second stage of sitting-meditation.

Of course, if you are a hugely ambitious swimmer, if you want to be an Olympic champion, it might be necessary to push yourself hard, at least some of the time. But is it the Buddha's teaching to be hugely ambitious? Or is it the Buddha's teaching never to be ambitious at all?

The dharma of a buddha is not to swim. The dharma of a buddha is to sit. And the ultimate dharma of Gautama Buddha might be to do so just when roused by the dharma to do so, contentedly, without any ambition.

EH Johnston:
For they are not to be gained by force or service or gifts or handsomeness of person ; they are indeed only to be obtained by following the Law. If you find pleasure in them, practise the Law intently.

Linda Covill:
For they cannot be won by strength, nor by service, not by gifts, not by handsomeness, but only by the practice of dharma. If they please you, practice dharma diligently.

imaaH (nom. pl. f.): these [women]
hi: for
shakyaaH (nom. pl. f.): mfn. to be conquered or subdued
na: not
balaat (abl. sg): n. strength, force
na: not
sevayaa = inst. sg. sevaa: f. going or resorting to , visiting , frequenting; service , attendance on; worship , homage , reverence , devotion

na: not
saMpradaanena (inst. sg.): n. the act of giving ; a gift, present
sam-pra- √ daa: to give completely up or deliver wholly over , surrender , give ; grant, bestow
na: not
ruupa-vat-tayaa (inst. sg.): f. beauty
ruupavat: mfn. having a beautiful form or colour , handsomely formed , handsome , beautiful
-taa: (abstract noun suffiix)

imaaH (nom. pl. f.): these [women]
hriyante = 3rd pers. pl. passive hR: to take away , carry off ; to take to one's self , appropriate (in a legitimate way) , come into possession of (acc.) , receive (as an heir) , raise (tribute) , marry (a girl); to master , overpower , subdue , conquer , win , win over
khalu: ind. (as a particle of asseveration) indeed , verily , certainly , truly
dharma-caryayaa (inst. sg.): f. observance of the law , performance of duty
caryaa: f. going about , wandering , walking or roaming about;
caarya: n. (often ifc.) proceeding , behaviour , conduct

sacet: if
praharShaH (nom. sg. m.): m. erection (or greater erection) of the male organ ; erection of the hair , extreme joy , thrill of delight , rapture
pra- √hṛṣ: to rejoice , be glad or cheerful , exult
cara = 2nd pers. sg. imperative car: to move one's self , go , walk , move , stir , roam about , wander; to behave , conduct one's self , act , live
dharmam (acc. sg.): m. dharma, law, duty etc.
aadRtaH (nom. sg. m.): mfn. attentive , careful , zealous , diligent ; respected , honoured , worshipped
√dR: (occurring only with prep. aa-) to respect , honour