Sunday, May 6, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 1.6: To for the Forest, for Maternal Brooding

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti 
sā lumbinīṁ nāma vanānta-bhūmiṁ citra-drumāṁ caitrarathābhirāmām |
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * || 1.6

She, to the grove called Lumbinī,

Which, with its manifold trees, 
would have pleased Citra-ratha,

- - - - - -   [there to brood]

- - - - - -   [in solitude].

The sense of the forest setting of Lumbinī being a place of seclusion or solitude is conveyed in EHJ's translation (presumably from the Tibetan, of which I am ignorant) “the lonely forest;” and by the Chinese characters 處空閑林 (Beal: “a quiet forest retreat”; Willemen: “a secluded forest”).

The Chinese translation omits the reference to Citra-ratha -- “He of the Bright Chariot,” the king of the gandharvas -- who would have been readily familiar to an Indian audience, as he has become familiar to us through reading the Saundarananda, but who would have been unfamiliar to a Chinese audience.

More puzzling to me initially was the absence of any reference to meditation,  in the four lines of Chinese translation which correspond to verse 1.6 of the Sanskrit.  EHJ in his translation from the Tibetan, describes the forest as “suited to trance.” Since “trance” is EHJ's characteristic way of translating dhyāna, I supposed that the original Sanskrit word might have been from the root √dhyā or √dhyai, whose meanings include think, meditate, and brood.

On turning to consider 1.7, however, I realized that the Chinese translator had not omitted the reference to meditation, or brooding, but had transposed it into the following verse (1.6 in the translations of Beal and Willemen), where it appears as 禪思, "Zen thinking." 

What Aśvaghoṣa actually wrote remains a paleographic mystery. But my guess is that what Aśvaghoṣa had in mind was the much older and deeper mystery of what happens in the body and mind of a pregnant woman, leading up to the miracle which is a normal birth of a human being.

Brooding sometimes carries with it a negative connotation, but one definition is “to dwell upon moodily and at length” – which tends to be what happens when I go to the seclusion of the forest. It would be easy to judge such moody brooding as a bad thing, but I have noticed over the years that, regardless of good and bad, it is what tends to happen after a few days by the forest, particularly during sleepless nights, and I have come to accept it part of a process that I don't much understand.... something akin to the principle that in a process of natural healing things sometimes have to get worse before they get better. 

Relevant in this regard might be an aphorism of FM Alexander which is much loved by those who love Alexander work:

When an investigation comes to be made, it will be found that every single thing we are doing in the Work is exactly what is being done in nature where the conditions are right, the difference being that we are learning to do it consciously.”

Tibetan Translation:
| de ni lum bi źes bya’i nags mthar gyur pa’i sa |
| sna tshogs ljon śiṅ sna tshogs śiṅ rta mṅon dga’ bar |
| bsam gtan la bzod dben pa’i nags kyi mtha’ bźed ma |
| ’gro ba’i chad daṅ gnas phyir mi skyoṅ la źus so |

EHJ's translation (from the Tibetan/reconstructed Sanskrit):
6. In her longing for the lonely forest as suited to trance, she asked the king to go and stay in the grove called Lumbinī, which was gay like the garden of Caitraratha with trees of every kind.

Chinese Translation:
厭惡彼諠俗 樂處空閑林
藍毘尼勝園 流泉花果茂

寂靜順禪思 啓王請遊彼
王知其志願 而生奇特想

S. Beal's translation (from the Chinese):
5. Disliking the clamorous ways of the world, (she remembered) the excellent garden of Lumbinî, a pleasant spot, a quiet forest retreat, (with its) trickling fountains, and blooming flowers and fruits.
6. Quiet and peaceful, delighting in meditation, respectfully she asked the king for liberty to roam therein; the king, understanding her earnest desire, was seized with a seldom-felt anxiety (to grant her request).  

C. Willemen's translation (from the Chinese):
5. In her weariness she railed at the commonplace and longed to stay in a secluded forest, in the excellent garden of Lumbinī, where springs flowed and flowers and fruits were luxuriant.
6. She wanted to meditate in quietude and beseeched the king for permission to travel there. The king understood her earnest wish and thought that it was wonderful.

sā (nom. sg. f.): she
lumbinīm (acc. sg.): f. N. of a princess and a grove named after her
nāma: (ind.) by name
vanānta-bhūmim (acc. sg. f.): a grove
vanānta: m. " forest-region " , a wood
vana: n. forest
anta: m. end, border, proximity
bhūmi: f. the earth, ground ; place

citra-drumām (acc. sg. f.): having various different trees
citra: mfn. bright , clear , bright-coloured; various , different , manifold
druma: m. a tree (sometimes also any plant ; according to some esp. a tree of indra's paradise)
caitrarathābhirāmām (acc. sg. f.): agreeable to Citra-ratha
caitraratha: mfn. treating of the gandharva citra-ratha
abhirāma: mfn. pleasing , delightful , agreeable , beautiful

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