Wednesday, August 22, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.22: Precious & Appropriate Gifts

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−    Upajāti (Chāyā)
vayo-'nurūpāṇi ca bhūṣaṇāni hiraṇ-mayā hasti-mṛgāśvakāś-ca
rathāś-ca gāvo vasana-prayuktā tantrīś-ca cāmīkara-rūpya-citrā || 2.22

And ornaments appropriate for his age, 

Toy elephants, deer and horses, made of gold, 

And carts, and oxen harnessed by finely woven fabric, 

With a tether for their calves, of gold and silver strands.

The general principle introduced in the 1st pāda of today's verse is summed up in the phrase vayo-'nurūpa, “age-appropriate,” which, to drive the point home, is repeated in tomorrow's verse. The point is that free giving is giving that joins giver and receiver, subject and object; it is not the kind of inappropriate giving that Homer Simpson demonstrated when he gave Marge for her birthday a bowling ball with the letters H.S. engraved on it.

In the 2nd phase, toy elephants, deer and horses may be taken as concrete illustrations of that point, their value being related not only to the precious metal out of which they were made, but also to the fun a small boy could have playing with them.

EH Johnston regarded with suspicion EB Cowell's rendering of the 3rd and 4th pādas, noting that “Cowell's text is too much at variance with T [the Tibetan translation] to be authentic.” 

Cowell's text has:
rathāś-ca gāvo vasana-prayuktā gaṁtrīś-ca cāmīkara-rūpya-citrāḥ 
(“carriages and oxen decked with rich garments, and carts gay with silver and gold.”)

Consequently, EHJ amended the text to:
rathāṁś-ca go-putraka-saṁprayuktān putrīś-ca cāmīkara-rūpya-citrāḥ 
(“and chariots yoked with little oxen, and dolls gay with gold and silver.”)

Cowell's original manuscripts, however, based on Amṛtānanda's copying of the old Nepalese text, have in the 4th pāda tantrīḥ (strings).  EBC amended this tantrīḥ to gaṁtrīḥ (carts/carriages), and EHJ amended it further to putrīḥ (dolls).

There are thus two elements in Amṛtānanda's text in the 3rd and 4th pāda whose joint significance I think both EBC and EHJ failed to grasp, as belonging to the 3rd and 4th phase of a dialectic progression.

At the 3rd phase, gāvaḥ (oxen) are symbols – notably in the Lotus Sutra – of practice. Memorably in Dogen's Shobogenzo, a ring through the nose symbolizes the practical state of a man of self-control, a man who is a master of himself.

In the 4th pada, tantrīḥ  (strings) can refer specifically, according to the MW dictionary, to “a long line to which a series of calves are fastened by smaller cords.” And calves, again, can be symbols – notably in the Chinese poetry of Dogen's teacher Tendo Nyojo – of docile and obedient students of Zen.

So I would like to maintain these two elements which seem to me to belong well in the 3rd pāda, whose phase is generally practical, and the 4th pada whose phase is generally suggestive of something which is both real and splendid (like for example the waxing moon in the bright fortnight; see BC2.20).

The difficulty which then faces me, having decided to eschew EHJ's amendments and strike out on my own, is that the gāvaḥ of Cowell's text, whether understood as masculine or feminine or both, is in the nominative case – which means that I need to put all the elements of both today's verse and yesterday's verse into the nominative case.

As EHJ notes: “The words in this verse must be in the same case as in 21, so I have put them all into the accusative. But ācakrire might be passive and then all should go into the nominative.” 

The difficulty is not so much to put the elements of today's verse into the nominative, as to put the elements of yesterday's verse into the nominative. That would seem to cause ācakrire to become the negative nācakrire. Is the suggestion that the deer-carts and the rest came to the infant prince naturally and freely, without being forcibly driven there? Or is it permissible after all to leave the elements of  2.21 in the accusative and put those of 2.22 into the nominative?

Notwithstanding the textual uncertainties, we can at least be confident that today's verse relates to age-appropriateness, so that, for example, the appropriate method of harnessing the power of an ox that is able to lead itself by a ring through its own nose, is not the appropriate method of tethering a calf.

This principle was also brought out in Aśvaghośa's other epic poem, the Epic Story of Beautiful Joy, Saundara-nanda, in which the Buddha guided Nanda's growth gradually, using means at the beginning that Nanda himself compared to pulling a baby elephant out of the mire, but leading Nanda in the end to go forth like a mighty war elephant.

In writing comments like this, it strikes me that I am basically following the way of Homer Simpson, giving myself just what I always wanted. But at least I am in good company in the sense that Aśvaghoṣa's poetry also is not individualized. And yet, evidently, Aśvaghoṣa felt nonetheless that it was worth his while crafting it. Maybe he reasoned that mighty war elephants and oxen in harness could take care of themselves, and so he specifically had in mind an audience of calves that were liable to stray and sink in the mire. Hence:
This work is pregnant with the purpose of release: it is for cessation, not for titillation; It is wrought out of the figurative expression of kāvya poetry in order to capture an audience whose minds are on other things -- / For what I have written here not pertaining to liberation, I have written in accordance with the conventions of kāvya poetry. This is through asking myself how the bitter pill might be made pleasant to swallow, like bitter medicine mixed with something sweet. // 18.63 //

vayo-'nurūpāṇi (nom./acc. pl. n.):  age-appropriate
vayas: n. youth, age
anurūpa: mfn. following the form , conformable , corresponding , like , fit , suitable
ca: and
bhūṣaṇāni (nom./acc. pl. n.):  n. embellishment , ornament , decoration

hiraṇ-mayān (acc. pl. m.): mfn. (for hiraṇya-maya) golden , gold-coloured
hiraṇ-mayāh (nom. pl. m.): ibid
hasti-mṛgāśvakān (acc. pl. m.): toy elephants, deer and horses
hasti-mṛgāśvakāh (nom. pl. m.): ibid.
hastin: mfn. having hands , clever or dexterous with the hands; with mṛga: " the animal with a hands i.e. with a trunk " , an elephant
mṛga: m. a deer
aśvaka: m. a small or bad horse  ; (also) a toy horse
ca: and

rathāḥ (nom. pl.): m.  " goer " , a chariot , car , esp. a two-wheeled war-chariot ; cart
rathān (acc. pl.): m.  " goer " , a chariot , car , esp. a two-wheeled war-chariot ; cart
ca: and
gāvaḥ = nom. pl. f./m.: cows, bulls, oxen
vasana-prayuktāh (nom. pl. m./f.): yoked with cloth
vasana: n.  cloth , clothes , dress , garment , apparel , attire (du. an upper and lower garment)
f. an ornament worn by women round the loins
prayukta: mfn. yoked , harnessed ; suitable , appropriate
go-putraka-saṁprayuktān (acc. pl. m.):  harnessed to toy oxen
go: m. an ox f. a cow , (pl.) cattle
putraka: m. a little son; a puppet , doll , figure of stone or wood or lac  &c
samprayukta: mfn. yoked or joined together , yoked , harnessed  &c

putrīḥ (acc. pl.): f. a doll or puppet
putrī (nom. sg.): f.  a doll or puppet
tantrīḥ (acc. pl./nom. sg):  f. the wire or string of a lute ; f. (fig.) the strings of the heart; f. a girl with peculiar qualities =  tantī: f. a cord , line , string (esp. a long line to which a series of calves are fastened by smaller cords)
tantrī  (nom. sg.): f. ibid
tantri: (nom. sg. n.): mfn. having threads , made of threads , spun , wove ; chorded (an instrument); m. a musician; m. a soldier
gantrīḥ (acc. pl.):  f. a cart or car (drawn by horses ; or by oxen  )
gantrī  (nom. sg.): f. ibid
ca: and
cāmīkara-rūpya-citrāḥ (nom. pl. m./f.; acc. pl. f.): bright with gold and silver
cāmīkara-rūpya-citrā (nom. sg. f.): bright with gold and silver
cāmīkara-rūpya-citram (nom. sg. n.): bright with gold and silver
cāmīkara: n. gold
rūpya: mfn. well-shaped , beautiful ; stamped, impressed; n. silver ; n. wrought silver or gold , stamped coin , rupee
citra: mfn. conspicuous , excellent , distinguished ; bright , clear , bright-coloured  ; variegated , spotted , speckled (with instr. or in comp.)


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