Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chips from the workshop

A bit like old days... Alone working at the computer, listening to the radio and throwing chips from the workshop at the internet... Nostalgia is a curious beast. I was going through my old blogs for the past five years. Some of the most creative moments came from the cavern of a troglodyte.



kālena pādaṁ labhate tathāyaṁ
tathaiva pādaṁ guru-yogataś ca |
utsāha-yogena ca pādam ṛcchec
cchāstre ṇa ca pādaṁ ca tato'bhiyāti ||

The disciple learns one-fourth from the guru, one-fourth by his own effort, one-fourth by discussion with his co-disciples, and one-fourth by the efflux of time. (Sanat-sujatiya 3.13, according to Shankara commentary)
The translation does not give the four items in the same sequence as the Sanskrit, following the commentary ascribed to Shankara. Swami Veda's translation, which is more faithful to the original:
The disciple attains a quarter in time, a quarter through association with the guru, a quarter through his own enthusiasm and diligence, and the final quarter from the sacred scriptural instruction.
Ganguli's translation: He attains the first step of (knowledge of Brahman which is) the object of Brahmacharya by aid of time; the second step, through the preceptor’s prelections; the third, by the power of understanding; and finally, the fourth, by discussion.

The student gains the first part of knowledge from association/contact (yoga) with the guru.

The second part comes by utsāha-yogena, enthusiasm or effort, that is, buddhi-viśeṣa-prādurbhāvena (Shankara), "through the awakening of a particular kind of intelligence."

The third quarter of knowledge comes just by the influence of time [sounds a bit like, "25% of success is just showing up!" or "marks for attendance!"]. Shankara says that "in the course of time, the student's intelligence matures" (kālena buddhi-paripākeṇa).

And the last part is achieved from śāstra, which is here glossed by Shankara as "through discussion with other disciples."

Shankara justifies his interpretation by juxtaposing another, unattributed verse that says pretty much just that:

ācāryāt pādam ādatte tataḥ pādaṁ śiṣyaḥ sva-medhayā |
kālena pādam ādatte pādaṁ sa-brahmacāribhiḥ ||
A disciple learns one quarter from the acharya, one quarter through his own intelligence, one quarter comes to him through the influence of time, and one quarter from his fellow students.
So it would appear that Shankara [I have my doubts about his authorship] is saying that only one quarter comes from the classroom (or in a more spiritual way of looking, through the grace of the preceptor), one-quarter from homework (svādhyāya) or the student's effort and active engagement with the material, one quarter from just sleeping on it or quiet reflectiion, and one-quarter from discussing it with friends and fellow classmates.

The following verse, however, says

jñānādayo dvādaśa yasya rūpam
anyāni cāṅgāni tathā balaṁ ca |
ācāryayoge phalatīti cāhur
brahmārtha-yogena ca brahmacaryam ||14||
(14) The twelve great vows beginning with knowledge of the Reality (See 2.19) which form his essence, the six kinds of sacrifice (See 2.25-27), the capacity to practise them—all these become fruitful only with the support of the acharya, it is said. The practice of brahmacarya culminates in the realization of identity with Brahman only by the service of the acharya.
And indeed, when we look at verse 13, it would seem to say (1) the direct presence of the teacher in the learning situation is primordial, but (2) one also needs to imbibe enthusiasm and inspiration from his leadership, (3) time also permits the acharya's grace to operate on the disciple, and (4) the acharya provides the ambience, the situation where fellow students or associates, godbrothers and sisters can be found in which the knowledge can be discussed.

So it is still guru-kripa hi kevalam.

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