Monday, June 20, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.30: There Birds Move

raktaabhir agreShu ca vallariibhir
madhyeShu caamiikara-piNjaraabhiH
vaiDuurya-varNaabhir upaanta-madhyeShv
alaMkRtaa yatra khagaash caranti

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Adorned with curling feathers that are red at the tips,

Golden in the middle,

And the colour of beryl within borders,

There birds move.

In the context of its being the third of four verses about birds, one might expect this verse to say something about action in the middle way. And that expectation seems straight away to be confirmed by the double appearance of the word madhyeShu (in the middle, within), and by the final word of the verse caranti, from the root √car, to move/act.

Again, if the thesis is that ordinary beings are subject to life and death in a world that is predominantly red in tooth and claw, and the anti-thesis is that buddhas dwell in a deathless realm of enlightenment and cool detachment whose representative colours are gold and blue, then this verse might be expected to express a synthesis in which red, gold and blue all exist together -- which it does, negating both pessimism and optimism.

Why are these birds described as being adorned with feathers that are curled, like creepers (vallariibhiH)?

In the same way that we might see the stereotype of a feather as not curling but straight, one might assume a buddha not ever to be subject to the red taints of anger or grasping desire or undue worry. But if one googles "curled plumage," one is presented with images of the Sebastopol goose and the Japanese quail. And if one reads Shobogenzo in detail, one gets glimpses of what ancient buddha-ancestors felt angry about, what they felt passionate about, and what they worried about.

Did they worry about keeping their behaviour within borders? Within what kind of borders did their behaviour remain?

Setting aside such worries, in all four verses in the present series of verses on birds, birds represent beings which possess the means of transcendent action, as reflected in the names by which Ashvaghosha calls them:

viha-M-gaaH "sky-going" (10.28)
viha-M-gamaaH "going through the sky" (10.29)
kha-gaaH "going through the air" (10.30)
patatriNaH "winged ones" (10.31).

But in line 4 of today's verse, as I read it, the sense of dynamic direction of energy is particularly vivid:

yatra: there, in the moment, in their moving here and their changing now,
khagaaH: those movers-through-the-air,
caranti: go, walk, step into action, get a flipping move on ...

alaMkRtaa yatra khagaash caranti
Adorned, there birds move.

EH Johnston:
Birds adorned with feathers red at the tips, golden yellow in the middle and the colour of beryl at the ends wander about there.

Linda Covill:
And there are birds that wander there arrayed in plumage red at the tip, yellow-gold in the middle and the color of cat's-eye jewels at the end.

raktaabhiH (inst. pl. f.): red
agreShu (loc. pl.): n. foremost point or part ; tip
ca: and
vallariibhiH = inst. pl. vallari: f. a creeper , any climbing or creeping plant (also fig. applied to curled hair)

madhyeShu (loc. pl.): mn. middle
caamiikara-piNjaraabhiH (inst. pl. f.): golden red/yellow
caamiikara: n. gold
piNjara: mfn. reddish-yellow , yellow or tawny , of a golden colour

vaiDuurya-varNaabhiH (inst. pl. f.): the colour of beryl
vaiDuurya: n. a cat's-eye gem; beryl
varNa: m. a covering ; colour of the face , (esp.) good colour or complexion , lustre , beauty
upaanta-madhyeShu (loc. pl. m.): inside the edges
upaanta: mfn. near to the end , last but one; n. proximity to the end or edge or margin; n. border , edge ; n. the last place but one
madhya: m. the middle , midst , centre , inside , interior

alaM-kRtaaH (nom. pl. m.): mfn. adorned , decorated
yatra: ind. wherein
kha-gaaH (nom. pl.): m. "moving in air;" a bird
caranti = 3rd pers. pl. car: to move one's self , go , walk , move , stir , roam about , wander (said of men , animals , water , ships , stars , &c ) ; to behave , conduct one's self , act , live

1 comment:

an3drew said...

just my opinion but the last line is saying that these colours via the meaning of the colours is "how the bird moves" so to speak

ashvaghosha's view is fundamentally solipsistic , again in my opinion

i have a different interpretation of the significance of the colours, red is a unity of infinity and reality and the most potent and personally crucifying of the colours, though there can be a certain benignness to it

blue is sort of like a high energy coupling of infinity, dangerous and manic and only taking infinity in this high energy way

gold is new to me and i have yet to work it out, probably some illusory safe area!

white i usually take to be a sexually charged colour !
























unbelievable !