Tuesday, June 28, 2011

SAUNDARANANDA 10.38: Trembling Objects

kaasaaM cid aasaaM vadanaani rejur
van'-aantarebhyash cala-kuNDalaani
vyaaviddha-parNebhya iv'-aakarebhyaH
padmaani kaaraNDava-ghaTTitaani

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The faces of some, ear-rings atremble,

Peeped through chinks in the undergrowth

Like duck-dunked lotuses

Peeping through scattered and displaced leaves.

This verse says something about the vivid beauty of women in heaven as Ashvaghosha envisions them, not as mere platonic abstractions but as vivacious beings comparable to living lotuses which have their own leaves and which are subject to interactions with their environment.

The verse, equally, can be read as saying something about lotuses as Ashvaghosha sees them, not as mere symbols of beauty but as vivacious beings comparable to beautiful women who have trembling earrings and who peep out from chinks in the forest.

padm'-aasana is generally translated in yoga circles as "the lotus posture." A much better translation, in my book, is "lotus sitting" or "sitting in lotus."

The phrase that Dogen favours in Shobogenzo, however, is a more literal one:

sitting with legs fully crossed.

When I have led sitting retreats in the past, I always recommended sitting cross-legged over other forms of sitting, because even if there is no apparent prospect of a person being able to sit comfortably in full lotus, any kind of cross-legged sitting gives gravity some kind of chance to guide the hips and knees in that direction, which kneeling does not. So I am not a fan of so-called seiza benches. I am fan of full lotus sitting with the sitting bones supported by a raised surface like a round cushion or a yoga block or a dry bag stuffed with towels, and the knees on some kind of padded mat.

Ashvaghosha evidently does not use the phrase padm-aasana, "lotus sitting." But his writing is suffused with references to lotuses, and every word Ashvaghosha writes, as I read him, is rooted in sitting.

EH Johnston:
The faces of some with dangling earrings peeped from out of the forest glades, as lotus flowers, shaken by karandava birds, peep out from the scattered leaves of the plants.

Linda Covill:
The faces of some peeped out from among the woods, their earrings swaying, as lotuses shaken by a karandava bird peep out from among their scattered and disordered leaves.

kaasaaM cid (gen. pl. f.): some
aasaam (gen. pl. f.): of them, of these women
vadanaani (nom. pl.): n. the act of talking; the mouth, face
rejur = 3rd pers. pl. perfect raaj: to be illustrious or resplendent , shine , glitter ; to appear

van'-aantarebhyaH (abl. pl.): from openings in the undergrowth; from inside the woods
vana: n. a forest , wood , grove , thicket , quantity of lotuses or other plants growing in a thick cluster
antara: n. interior, inside; hole, opening
cala-kuNDalaani (acc. pl. n.): trembling earrings
cala: mfn. moving , trembling , shaking ,
kuNDala: n. ear-ring

vyaaviddha-parNebhyaH (abl. pl.): from displaced leaves
vyaaviddha: mfn. thrown or tossed about , whirling round ; displaced , distorted ; interlaced , entwined
parNa: n. feather; leaf
iva: like
aakarebhyaH = abl. pl. aa-kara: m. one who scatters i.e. distributes abundantly; accumulation , plenty , multitude ; a mine ; a rich source of anything; mfn. best , excellent
akarebhyaH = abl. pl. a-karaa: mfn. handless , maimed; not acting
√ kRR: to scatter or sprinkle over , give abundantly
√ kR: to do, make, act

padmaani (nom. pl.): n. lotus
kaaraNDava-ghaTTitaani (nom. pl. n.): rubbed by karandava ducks
kaaraNDava: m. a sort of duck
ghaTTita: mfn. rubbed , touched , shaken
ghaTT: to rub (the hands) over , touch , shake , cause to move ; to stir round ; to have a bad effect or influence on (acc.)

1 comment:

an3drew said...

sitting gets more dangerous as you get older, the blood thickens and is more prone to clot is a universal condition of aging !