tam udiikSHya hema-maNi-jaala
valayinam iv'otthitaM dhvajam
priitim agamad a-tulaaM nR-patir
janataa nataash ca bahumaanam abhyayuH
Looking up at him in the network of gold and pearls
That seemed to wrap around him like an upraised flag,
The king became incredibly joyful,
And everybody, head bowed down,
felt deep appreciation.
Line 1: Gold might mean dyed a yellowy-red colour, and pearls might mean individual back-stitched stitches. So the starry-eyed depiction in the first line might be a depiction of the Buddha's robe.
Line 2: An upraised flag, banner, or standard, generally marks a rallying point not so much for intellectual pursuits, but more for showing whose side you are on in a football match, presidential election, or other form of battle. People fighting a campaign with a shared objective naturally tend to come together and encourage each other, rallying under a flag (2).
Line 3: This fact was not lost on the battle-hardened King of Kapilavastu, a leader of men drawn from the earth. We see in Line 3 how the mind of the king has changed, on seeing his son resolutely flying the flag of Dharma, from anxious expectation and impatience, to imponderable joy.
What confers joy beyond measure might be not anything too stiff, formal, or frozen, but something fluid, alive, yielding. I do not usually wear a kesa to write blog posts; I usually take off my kesa after sitting-zen and then start writing. Sometimes I put on a rakusu, sometimes not. But today I am still wearing the gold-coloured kesa that Pierre Turlur sewed for me, out of fairly thick silk curtain material. So now I am wearing a kesa, but even more joyfully than that, now I am in the process of making a kesa. It will have many hundreds of panels. This morning I have added a few stitches to the 25th panel of the 3rd stripe. I nearly wrote "a few final stitches," but in a true kesa, as Pierre is fond of contemplating, there is no finality. It is an endless work in progress.
Line 4: It may be that whenever people appreciate something truly and deeply, their heads tend to release, out of Mara's grip, forward and up, forward and up, forward and up. When a person is arrogant, his head pulls back and Mara rejoices. But the experience of genuinely deep appreciation is always a humbling one. And when we are genuinely humbled -- At the moment of truth: no expecting, no pretending -- it is very natural to bow our heads down to the ground.
Conversely, bowing the head down to the ground generally helps to improve a person's sensory appreciation. I know this from Alexander work: a very experienced Alexander teacher I know once complained that she was never going to meet any wealthy oil sheiks with a bad back, because they all practised bowing five times a day. Again, in working to help children with vestibular reflexes towards a better integration of those reflexes, getting them working face down on the floor, and then on hands and knees, is absolutely indispensable.
My comments are getting too long. But the final thing I want to draw attention to is Ashvaghosha's indirectness. Linda Covill points to this indirectness in the excellent introduction to her translation: "[Even the more didactic] passages are rich in figurative language, with vivid similes and engaging comparisons which do much to counteract the tendency to preachiness."
Ashvaghosha does not run the risk of stimulating resentment by telling us who or what we should revere. Although he is totally goal-oriented, every word he writes represents the inhibition of the end-gaining mind. Or probably it is BECAUSE he is totally oriented to a true goal, and not to any personal agenda, that every word represents inhibition of the end-gaining mind -- "Direction is the truest form of inhibition."
This is suffering, the Buddha said, and this, belonging to suffering is the tangled skein of tendrils producing it. This is inhibition, and this is a means.
Sewing a kesa, stitch by stitch by stitch, is just such a means.
tam: (accusative) him
udiikSHya: looking up
maNi: jewels, pearls -- possibly suggestive of individual dots from the backstitching on a traditionally-sewn robe?
jaala: net, lattice
valayinam (agreeing with tam): encircled with, wrapped around with
utthita: raised, uplifted
dhvajam: banner, flag, standard
priitim: (accusative) joy, joyful
agamad: (with accusative) became
a-tulaaM: unbounded, unequalled, beyond measure
nR-patiH: lord of men; king, ruler
janataa: subjects, crowd, assemblage of people
nataa: bowed down, prostrate
bahumaanam (accusative): high regard, esteem, respect
abhyayuH: (perfect of abhi + i) approach -- verb of motion, with accusative, meaning became, felt, etc.
Looking up at Him, as at an uplifted banner girdled with clusters of gold and jewels, the king felt unequalled ecstasy and the prostrate crowd adored Him.
Looking up at him as at a raised standard hung about with a filigree of gold and jewels, the king’s rapture was unbounded, and his subjects bowed in reverence.