Thursday, August 30, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.30: Fabulous Digs

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−    Upajāti (Haṁsī)
kalair-hi cāmīkara-baddha-kakṣair-nārī-karāgrābhihatair-mṛdaṅgaiḥ
varāpsaro-nṛtya-samaiś-ca nṛtyaiḥ kailāsa-vat-tad-bhavanaṁ rarāja || 2.30

For, with sounds of gold-studded tambourines

Being softly beaten by women's fingers,

And with dancing
like the dancing of the choicest heavenly nymphs,

Those digs were fabulous as Mount Kailāsa.

There is a real mountain that goes by the name of Mount Kailash, from the Sanskrit kailāsa. A few years ago I saw a documentary that showed Tibetans, as described in the Wiki entry, circumnavigating the mountain only by means of prostrations. It looked like it might be good fun, especially if it were done without any superstitious belief or expectation along the lines of making merit, ensuring a higher status re-birth, et cetera.

I think the Kailāsa of today's verse, however, is not the real mountain revered in Tibetan Buddhism but is rather the older and more fabulous Hindu one in which was supposed to abide Kubera, the Wealth-Giver mentioned in the last verse of Canto One, BC1.89

Generally I come to France, and often I approach the round black cushion, aspiring to a bit of nothing. But sometimes, on a good day, when circumstances are incredibly quiet and I don't seem to be pulling my legs into my pelvis at all, I have moments of not aspiring to anything. After undergoing many such reps of deluded aspiring to nothing and not aspiring to anything, do I become better able to discern the difference between the two conditions? Or not? 

On the surface today's verse is about gorgeous women playing tambourines. But on the basis of not aspiring to anything, I don't mind confessing that am impious bloke like me does not have to dig very deep to suppose what else today's verse might be suggesting.

Speaking of digging, bhavanam means home or dwelling, and at the same time it has a secondary meaning of a place where something grows. How to translate the related word bhāvana which means something like “development [of the mind]” is a problem I struggled with long and hard in translating Saundara-nanda (see for example SN16.5). Much of Canto 16 is devoted to setting out how such development may take place, through the use of an appropriate nimitta (subject/object/cause/stimulus).

To capture this secondary sense of growth, I considered as a translation of tad-bhavanam, “those adolescent's quarters,” but in the back of my mind the word I was looking for was “digs.” The serious dictionary says “digs” is a dated and informal terms for rented accommodation. But dated and informal or not, to my ear it fits – because digging and growth are connected on many levels in various fields, and not only in fields of potatoes.

kalaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. indistinct; low , soft (as a tone) , emitting a soft tone , melodious (as a voice or throat)
hi: for
cāmīkara-baddha-kakṣaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): with a girdle of gold studs
cāmīkara: n. gold
baddha: mfn. bound ; girt with ; (with instr. or ifc.) inlaid or studded with , set in
kakṣa: mf. a girdle , zone , belt , girth ; mf. hem , border , lace; mf. the periphery , circumference

nārī-karāgrābhihataiḥ (inst. pl. m.): beaten by women's fingertips
nārī: f. a woman
karāgra: n. tip of the finger
kara: 'doer', hand
agra: tip
abhihata: mfn. struck; beaten (as a drum , &c )
mṛdaṅgaiḥ (inst pl.): m. (prob. fr. mṛdam + ga , " going about while being beaten "; a kind of drum , tabour

varāpsaro-nṛtya-samaiḥ (inst. pl. n.): on a par with the dancing of the choicest celestial nymphs
vara: mfn. " select " , choicest , valuable , precious , best , most excellent or eminent among
apsaras: f. celestial nymph
nṛtya: n. dancing , acting , gesticulation , pantomime
sama: mfn. level with, like
ca: and
nṛtyaiḥ (inst. pl.): n. dancing , acting , gesticulation , pantomime

kailāsa-vat: like Mt. Kailāsa
kailāsa: m. N. of a mountain (fabulous residence of kubera and paradise of śiva ; placed in the himālaya range and regarded as one of the loftiest peaks to the north of the mānasa lake)
vat: an affix added to words to imply likeness or resemblance
tad-bhavanam (nom. sg. n.): that dwelling ; his home
bhavana: n. a place of abode , mansion , home , house , palace , dwelling ; n. coming into existence , birth , production; n. the place where anything grows (ifc.= field cf. śāli-bh°) ;
rarāja: to be illustrious or resplendent , shine , glitter ; to appear as or like (iva)

妓女衆圍遶 奏合天樂音
勿隣穢聲色 令生厭世想

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