Monday, October 18, 2010

SAUNDARANANDA 6.3: Apsarases & End-gaining

vilamba-haaraa cala-yoktrakaa saa
tasmaad vimaanaad vinataa cakaashe
tapaH-kShayaad apsarasaaM var" eva
cyutaM vimaanaat priyam iikShamaaNaa

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With her pearl necklaces dangling and straps dishevelled

As she bent down from the palace,

She looked like the most gorgeous of the apsarases
gazing from her celestial abode

At her lover, his ascetic credit exhausted, falling down.

At the same time as Ashvaghosha puts into the Buddha's mouth metaphors from the real world, such as refining gold and making fire and crossing oceans and deserts, he does not shrink from using metaphors from the unreal world in order to get his message across.

And so in this verse we meet the apsarases, the celestial nymphs, sometimes described as pink-footed, who will feature prominently in Canto 10, A Lesson in Heaven.

A pink-footed celestial nymph, as I see her, is an object of sexual desire so strong that one wishes it to be fulfilled whatever the price to be paid and regardless of side-effects. She is, in other words, a strong stimulus for end-gaining behaviour, of which ascetic practice is a typical form.

So in this verse as I read it, Sundari's dishevelled straps are reminiscent of a nymph's clothing in the aftermath of blind passion -- the dishevelment being a kind of side-effect of amorous end-gaining.

EH Johnston:
With her necklaces of pearls hanging down and their strings swaying, as she bent down from the pavilion, she resembled some fair Apsaras watching her lover fall from the heavenly mansion on the exhaustion of the merit he had acquired by austerities.

Linda Covill:
As she bent down from the palace with her necklaces of pearls dangling and her ear-drops swinging, she seemed like one of the beautiful apsarases watching her lover fall from her celestial abode when he had used up his ascetically-derived credit.

vilamba-haaraa (nom. sg. f.): with pearl necklaces hanging down
vilamba: mfn. hanging down , pendulous (as arms)
haara: m. a garland of pearls , necklace (accord. to some , one of 108 or 64 strings);
cala-yoktrakaa (nom. sg. f.): with straps (?) moving
cala: mfn. moving , trembling , shaking ; unsteady , fluctuating , perishable ; disturbed , confused
yoktraka = yoktra: n. any instrument for tying or fastening , a rope , thong , halter
saa (nom. sg. f.): she

tasmaat (abl. sg. m.): from that [palace]
vimaanaat = abl. sg. vimaana: (1) m. (from vi- √maa) disrespect , dishonour; (2) (from vi- √man) m. n. a car or chariot of the gods , any mythical self-moving aerial car (sometimes serving as a seat or throne , sometimes self-moving and carrying its occupant through the air ; other descriptions make the vimaana more like a house or palace , and one kind is said to be 7 stories high )
vinataa (nom. sg. f.): mfn. bent , curved , bent down , bowed , stooping , inclined , sunk down , depressed ; dejected, dispirited
cakaashe = 3rd pers. sg. perfect kaash: to be visible , appear ; to shine , be brilliant , have an agreeable appearance

tapaH-kShayaat (abl. sg.): because of ascetic practice running out
tapas: n. ascetic practice
kShaya: m. loss , waste , wane , diminution , destruction , decay , wasting or wearing away (often ifc.)
apsarasaam = gen. pl. apsaras: : f. (fr. ap + √ sRi) , " going in the waters or between the waters of the clouds " , a class of female divinities (sometimes called " nymphs " ; they inhabit the sky , but often visit the earth ; they are the wives of the gandharvas and have the faculty of changing their shapes at will)
varaa (nom. sg. f.): mfn. " select " , choicest , valuable , precious , best , most excellent or eminent among (gen.)
iva: like

cyutam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. come forth from , dropped from, fallen from
vimaanaat = abl. sg. vimaana: (see above)
priyam (acc. sg.): m. a lover , husband
iikShamaaNaa = nom. sg. f. pres. part. iikSh: to see , look , view , behold , look at , gaze at

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