Friday, June 10, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.20: Opposing Earrings

puShyanti ke cit surabhiir udaaraa
maalaaH srajash ca grathitaa vicitraaH
karN'-aanukuulaan avataMsakaaMsh ca
pratyarthi-bhuutaan iva kuNDalaanaaM

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

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

Again this verse is ostensibly about fantastic trees in Indra's paradise. But what Ashvaghosha might really have in mind in this verse, as I read it, is just the daily life of earthly buddha-ancestors.

Ashvaghosha himself, for example, as one buddha-ancestor, produces subtly suggestive and affecting verse, with its variously interwoven strands, to convey to others what the Buddha's teaching is about -- and what it is not about. It is not, for example, about being particularly interested in women's jewellery.

The first half of today's verse, then, might be intended to include a play on the words maalaa and sraj both of whose meanings include not only garland but any series of things, like a series of verses, or a series of metaphors. Moreover, maalaa and sraj are names of metre in Sanskrit poetry -- though whether or not these names of metres pre-dated Ashvaghosha I do not know.

The second half of the verse ostensibly describes little floral ear decorations that vie with earrings in attractiveness to the eye, so that two elements of the same order are as if competing on the same basis: posies vs earrings. But the arrangements that Ashvaghosha really has in mind, as I hear him, are not of flowers but rather of words -- words which are designed to pander neither to the eyes not ultimately to the ears, but which on the contrary are designed ultimately to weaken the pull of the power of all the reader's senses.

An example that springs to mind of such words is a particularly affecting pair of verses from Canto 14:

And just as two travellers, in order to cross a wilderness, / Might feed upon the flesh of a child, though grievously pained to do so, as its mother and father, // So food should be eaten, consciously, / Not for display, not for appearance; Not so as to excite hilarity, not to feed extravagance. // [14.13 -14.14]

It is hard to think of this pair of verses purporting to rival a pair of earrings in terms of attractiveness. The words are affecting in a totally different way from anything that is merely decorative or aesthetically pleasing. So line 4, as I read it, is not referring to a same-order opposition, like arm-wrestlers competing on the same terms; the opposition is more like the speaking of truth to power.

In the end, earrings are not opposed by ascetic practice and not opposed by beautiful arrangements of flowers. In the end, how are earrings opposed? In the end, earrings are opposed by a buddha-ancestor doing his one non-doing dharma-duty of sitting in full lotus -- and after that producing or not producing whatever he likes.

Ashvagosha, as I picture him and hear him, was never a poet who adopted Buddhist motifs, any more than he was a Buddhist monk who preached Buddhism. Ashvaghosha was a buddha-ancestor who liked to create verses that express what the Buddha's teaching is, and more particularly what it is not.

Thus, even behind a verse like this, inevitably, the one great matter might be sitting, as the non-doing of wrong -- 諸悪莫作 SHO-AKU-MAKU-SA -- with particular attention to the neck, head, and back.

EH Johnston:
Some bear sweet-smelling noble garlands and wreaths of various kinds, ready for use, and posies so fitted for the ears that they seemed to rival earrings.

Linda Covill:
Some trees produce exquisite fragrant garlands and wreaths variously interwoven, and flower ornaments so suited to the ear that they seem to rival earrings.

puShyanti = 3rd pers. pl. puSh: to cause to thrive or prosper , nourish , foster , augment , increase , further , promote , fulfil (e.g. a wish) , develop , unfold , display
ke cit (nom. pl. m.): some
su-rabhiiH (acc. pl. f.): mfn. sweet-smelling , fragrant
udaaraaH (acc. pl. f.): mfn. high , lofty , exalted ; noble , illustrious ; eloquent ; exciting, effecting

maalaaH = acc. pl. maalaa: f. a wreath , garland , crown ; a string of beads , necklace , rosary; a row , line ; a series , regular succession (with naamnaam , a collection of words arrayed in a series , a vocabulary , dictionary) ; N. of various metres ; (in rhet.) a series of epithets or similes
srajaH = acc. pl. sraj: f. (fr. sRj) turning , twisting , winding a wreath of flowers , garland , chaplet worn on the head , any wreath or garland , circle , series , chain ; f. a kind of metre
ca: and
grathitaaH (acc. pl. f.): mfn. strung , tied , bound , connected , tied together or in order , wound , arranged , classed
grath: to fasten , tie or string together , arrange , connect in a regular series
vicitraaH (acc. pl. f.): mfn. variegated , many-coloured , motley , brilliant; manifold , various , diverse

karN'-aanukuulaan (acc. pl. m.): conformable to the ear
karNa: m. the ear
anukuula: mfn. following the bank (kuula) or slope or declivity; conformable to
avataMsakaan (acc. pl.): m. (√ taMs) , a garland , ring-shaped ornament , ear ornament , ear-ring , crest
√ taMs: (active voice taMsati , to decorate; middle voice taMsate, to decorate one's self )" to move " , pour out (fig. a wish)
ca: and

pratyarthibhuutaan (acc. pl. m.): being inimical
pratyarthin: mfn. hostile , inimical ; m. an adversary , opponent , rival
bhuuta: (ifc.) being or being like anything , consisting of, mixed or joined with
praty- √ arth: to challenge (to combat)
iva: like, as if
kuNDalaanaam = gen. pl. kuNDala: n. a ring , ear-ring

1 comment:

an3drew said...

















ones !