Wednesday, August 29, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.29: Geological Explorations

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−    Upajāti (Kīrti)
tataḥ śarat-toyada-pāṇḍareṣu bhūmau vimāneṣv-iva rañjiteṣu
harmyeṣu sarvartu-sukhāśrayeṣu strīṇām-udārair-vijahāra tūryaiḥ || 2.29

Then, in penthouse apartments
painted white as autumn clouds --

Like the seven-storey palaces of gods,
only on the earth --

And appointed for comfort in every season,

He roamed for fun
among female players of the finest instruments.

One of those fine instruments referred to in the 4th pāda was very probably the bamboo flute, known in Japanese as the shaku-hachi – the playing of which a certain long-time follower of this blog knows a bit about.

Retreating from such idle speculation and coming back to more solid ground, a key word in today's verse might be bhūmau, “on the earth.”

No bloke has ever really been to paradise, because paradise does not really exist, but many of us have had the experience of feeling like we were in paradise.

Before that many of us had the experience of fantasizing what the paradise-like experience might be like, possibly while leafing through a publication with a title like Playboy, or Penthouse, which seemed to us to be replete with idealized images of celestial nymphs.

But then, if we were lucky (or so we thought), we actually got to experience what all the fuss was about, on a bed, in a bedroom, on the upper storey of a house, built on the earth.

In the end how was it? Like paradise? Possibly. Either way, it was very fleeting. The paradise-like experience, if we ever had it, was impermanent, and it soon ushered in suffering.

Thinking objectively, the paradise-like experience is a trick that our biology plays on us, and it invariably either ends in the passing on of our genetic inheritance, or ends in tears. Sometimes both. Rarely neither.

In any event, the point conveyed by bhūmau is that the young prince had plentiful paradise-like experience down here on earth – not with celestial nymphs up in heavenly towers, and not only in his dreams, but with real women, on planet earth, in a palace with south-facing apartments furnished with heating facilities to keep rooms warm when it was cold outside, with north-facing apartments with cooling facilities to keep rooms cool when it was hot outside, with balconies from which to admire winter changing to spring and summer changing to autumn, et cetera.

Digging deeper bhūmau, into the earth, it makes no difference to the earth whether a royal palace is built on it so that female virtuosos can play the bamboo flute in penthouse apartments high above it, or whether an enlightened buddha on his transcendent way lightly treads upon it. Whether it is shat upon by a dog, or sat upon by a buddha, the earth does not mind at all – and this is a fact that, as an antidote to being too much of a fusspot, a big girl's blouse, a moaning minnie, might usefully be meditated upon.

“Roamed for fun,” incidentally is vijahāra, from the root vi-√hṛ, from which is also derived the vihāra (“exploring”) of the canto title, as discussed yesterday.

In terms of the mining metaphor, exploration can be seen as a stage preparatory to the more rigorous work of mining, so that exploration is a cause whose effect is mining. Alternatively, mining, including exploration, can be seen as a cause whose effect is abundant gold, wrought and unwrought, in jewellery and in bullion.

Either way, the exploring and mining are done not in heaven but on the earth and in the earth – bhūmau.

tataḥ: ind. then, on that basis
śarat-toyada-pāṇḍareṣu (loc. pl.): white as autumn clouds
śarad: f. autumn (as the " time of ripening ") , the autumnal season (the sultry season of two months succeeding the rains ; in some parts of India comprising the months bhādra and āśvina , in other places āśvina and kārttika , fluctuating thus from August to November)
toya-da: m. " water-giver " , a rain-cloud
pāṇḍara: mfn. whitish-yellow , pale , white

bhūmau (loc. sg.): f. the earth , soil , ground
vimāneṣu (loc. pl.): m. n. a car or chariot of the gods , any mythical self-moving aerial car (sometimes serving as a seat or throne , sometimes self-moving and carrying its occupant through the air ; other descriptions make the vimāna more like a house or palace , and one kind is said to be 7 stories high); m. the palace of an emperor or supreme monarch (esp. one with 7 stories)
iva: like
rañjiteṣu (loc. pl.): mfn. coloured , dyed , painted , tinted ; illumined ; affected , moved , charmed , delighted

harmyeṣu (loc. pl.): n. a large house , palace , mansion , any house or large building or residence of a wealthy person
sarvartu-sukhāśrayeṣu (loc. pl.): furnished with comforts for every season
sarvartu: m. every season ; " containing all seasons " , a year
sarva: all
ṛtu: seasons
sukha: ease, pleasure, comfort
āśraya: mfn. ifc. depending on , resting on , endowed or furnished with

strīṇām (gen. pl.): f. woman
udāraiḥ (inst. pl.): mfn. high , lofty , exalted ;
vijahāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi- √ hṛ: to spend or pass (time) ; (esp.) to walk or roam about for pleasure , divert one's self
tūryaiḥ (inst. pl.): n. a musical instrument

温涼四時適 隨時擇善居

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