Tuesday, May 1, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.1: Like the Autumn Moon

−− ¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Sālā)
aikṣvāka ikṣvāku-sama-prabhāvaḥ śākyeṣv aśakyeṣu viśuddha-vṛttaḥ |
priyaḥ śarac-candra iva prajābhyaḥ śuddhodano nāma babhūva rājā || 1.1

Among the unshakable Śākyas there was a king,

A descendant of Ikṣvāku equal to Ikṣvāku in might,
a man of well-cleansed conduct

Who was loved by those below him, 
like the autumn moon:

Śuddho-dana was his name 
-- 'Possessed of Well-Cleansed Rice.'

The first thing to note about this verse is that EHJ reconstructed it by working backwards from the Tibetan translation. This says something about EHJ's facility for Sanskrit, since the verse does sound utterly authentic and it adheres strictly to the Upajāti metre. It also says something about the closeness to the original Sanskrit of the Tibetan translation, confirming what EB Cowell wrote in 1894: The Tibetan version appears to be much closer to the original Sanskrit than the Chinese; in fact from its verbal accuracy we can often reproduce the exact words of the original....” Certainly, it would be impossible for anybody, even the most gifted Sanskrit pundit who was working back from the Chinese text alone, to reconstruct the Sanskrit text as convincingly as EHJ did.

The euphonic description of the Śākyas as aśakya, impossible to vanquish, invincible or (using a bit of poetic license) unshakable, is extended further in Aśvaghoṣa's portrait of King Śuddhodana in Canto 2 of the Saundarananda:

Not eschewed by such uncommon virtues as these /
Was he who on no side could be vanquished -- the unshakable Śākya King, like Śakra. // SN2.45 //

The beautiful comparison of the King to the beautiful autumn moon, which beams down on earth particularly brightly after the atmosphere has been cleansed of dust by the summer rains, is also echoed in Saundarananda Canto 2:

For the intellectually bright, he was there; with his own self-containment, he shone; /
And on people in the directed state, he positively beamed -- like the moon in the last month of the rains. // SN2.14 //

The point of Aśvaghoṣa's glowing portrayal of the Buddha's father, here as in Saundarananda Canto 2, might be to manifest mindfulness of cause and effect.

That is to say, even though it has been said since ancient times that the blue lotus opens in fire, the seeds of the blue lotus are nothing but blue lotus seeds.

For people who love the blue lotus, the one great matter might be to plant pure blue lotus seeds -- blue lotus seeds cleansed of anything other than blue lotus seeds.

Text of Translation into Tibetan:
| bu ram śiṅ par mthu mñam bu ram śiṅ ba’i rgyud |
| thub dka’ ś’akya rnams la spyod pa rnam dag pa |
| ’phrog byed zla ba lta bur skye dgu rnams la sdug |
| rgyal po zas gtsaṅ źes bya’i miṅ can byuṅ bar gyur |

EHJ's translation (from the Tibetan/reconstructed Sanskrit):
1. There was a king of the unconquerable Śākyas, Śuddhodana by name, of the race of Ikṣvāku and the peer of Ikṣvāku in might. Pure he was in conduct and beloved of his people as the moon in autumn.

Text of Translation into Chinese:
甘蔗之苗裔 釋迦無勝王
淨財徳純備 故名曰淨飯

S. Beal's translation (from the Chinese):
1. (There was) a descendant of the Ikshvāku (family), an invincible Śākya monarch, pure in mind (mental gifts) and of unspotted virtue, called therefore 'Pure-rice' (Śuddhodana).

C. Willemen's translation (from the Chinese):
1. The unconquerable king of the Śākyas, the progeny of Ikṣvāku, was endowed with virtue and pure riches, and so his name was Śuddhodana.

aikṣvākaḥ (nom. sg. m.): a son or descendant of Ikṣvāku
ikṣvāku-sama-prabhāvaḥ (nom. sg. m.): the equal of Ikṣvāku in might
ikṣvāku: m. name of a son of manu vaivasvata (father of kukṣi and first king of the solar dynasty)
sama: mfn. same , equal , similar , like , equivalent ,
prabhāva: m. might , power , majesty , dignity , strength

śākyeṣu (loc. pl.): m. the Śākyas
aśakyeṣu (loc. pl. m.): mfn. not to be overcome , invincible
viśuddha-vṛttaḥ (nom. sg. m.): of pure conduct
viśuddha: mfn. completely cleansed or purified (also in a ritual sense) , clean , clear , pure (lit.and fig.)
vṛtta: n. (also pl.) procedure , practice , action , mode of life , conduct , behaviour (esp. virtuous conduct , good behaviour)

priyaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. beloved
śarac-candraḥ (nom. sg. m.): the autumn moon
iva: like, as
prajābhyaḥ (abl. pl.): f. offspring , children , family , race , posterity , descendants , after-growth (of plants) ; people, subjects

śuddhodanaḥ (nom. sg.): m. " having pure rice or food " , N. of a king of kapila-vastu (of the tribe of the śākyas and father of gautama buddha )
śuddha: mfn. cleansed, pure
odana: mn. grain mashed and cooked with milk , porridge , boiled rice , any pap or pulpy substance  
nāma:(ind.) by name
babhūva (3rd pers. sg. perf. bhū): there was
rājā = nom. sg. rājan: m. king

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