Saturday, September 15, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 2.46: Sun-Faced Udders, Moon-Faced Udders

−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−    Upajāti (Vāṇī)
kāle tataś-cāru-payo-dharāyāṁ yaśodharāyāṁ sva-yaśo-dharāyām
śauddhodane-rāhu-sapatna-vaktro jajñe suto rāhula eva nāmnā || 2.46

Then in time to a bearer of lovely milk,

To Yaśodharā, a bearer of glory by her own actions,

Was born a son who beamed like a rival of “Eclipsing” Rāhu,

And that moon-faced son of Śuddhodhana's son 
was named Rāhula.

I think there might be more than one way of reading the epithet cāru-payo-dharāyām, depending on whether one thinks the phrase is valuing Yaśodharā for the beauty of her breasts, or the quality of her milk. The conventional way of reading cāru-payo-dharā is as a description of Yaśodharā's breasts (payo-dharāḥ; lit. “milk-containers”) as lovely (cāru); hence EBC/EHJ: the fair-bosomed” and PO “bearing alluring breasts.” But in the spirit of opposing both feminism and whatever  -ism feminism is opposed to (male chauvinism?), I have opted instead to read cāru-payo-dharā as a description of Yaśodharā as bearing (dharā) milk (payas) which was lovely (cāru).

In the same non-chauvinist spirit, sva-yaśo-dharāyām in the 2nd pāda, as I read it, describes Yaśodharā as bearing sva-yaśas, glory by her own actions. The dictionary defines sva-yaśas as “glorious or illustrious through one's own (acts), self-sufficient;” so I am not going out of my way here to cater to any special interest, but am just following the dictionary, whose definition of sva-yaśas, emphasizing indepedence of action or self-sufficiency, seems to have passed previous translators by. Hence EBC had who was truly glorious in accordance with her name,” and EHJ/PO had “bearing her own fame.”

Do you see, everybody, how free I am from the stain of sexist prejudice? 

(Don't believe it for a minute! As they say in Japanese, kaeru no ko wa kaeru, the son of a frog is a frog.)

The Rāhu of the 3rd pāda is a demon who was supposed to seize the sun and moon and thus cause eclipses. Rāhu-sapatna-vaktraḥ, “having the face of Rāhu's rival,” therefore, compliments Rāhula as beaming (as all healthy babies tend to beam) like the sun or the moon.

If we analyze today's verse into four phases, the 1st pāda can be seen as relating to the value that is generally assigned to women, for their beauty and utility; the 2nd pāda is antithetical to this view in seeing Yaśodharā as one individual woman of independent action in her own right; the 3rd pāda expressess a mutual relation between a beaming subject and astronomical objects; and the 4th pāda describes the miraculous real event which is the coming into existence of an individual human being.

The motivation to analyze today's verse like this into four phases arises from a desire to clarify, for self and others, how every verse is connected to the practise of sitting-meditation as the Buddha taught it – as the culmination of the path of cessation of suffering, and equally, as the abandonment of subjective, objective, synthetic, and all other philosophical views.

Digging deeper, on that basis, jajñe sutaḥ means “a son/child is born” and at the same time “an offspring comes into existence” -- which raises the question, if one allows it to, of what it means in the context of the one-to-one transmission of the Buddha's dharma for an offspring to come into his or her own.

Does it mean, for example, that transmitter and transmittee have come to the same conclusion? Does it mean that they have arrived at the same idea?

Does it mean they are abiding in the same state, swimming in the same sea of samādhi? 

Does it mean that they are devoted to the same process? Does it mean they are working together on the same job?

Does there have to be some magical personal chemistry between them, like the sympathetic resonance of tuning forks? Or can the transmission take place via an intermediary, or via the internet?

If constancy is an important criterion, is it sufficient for transmittee to manifest and for transmitter to observe a constancy like a flow of water that seems to be so constant that one day it looks like it will drill through rock? Or is it necessary to see hard evidence of drilled rock?

The reason I ask these questions is that today's verse, when I considered it in four phases, and then slept on it, brought these questions into my mind when I was sitting this morning.

So if some stupid person says that there are verses in Aśvaghoṣa's writing that are not so intimately related with sitting-meditation, this morning I am less inclined to agree with that stupid person than I would have been inclined yesterday to agree with that stupid person -- even if that stupid person is myself.

kāle (loc. sg. m.): ind. in time, seasonably
tataḥ: ind. thence, then
cāru-payo-dharāyām (loc. sg. f.): having lovely milk-bearers, beautiful-breasted, bearing agreeable milk
cāru: agreeable , approved , esteemed , beloved , endeared ; pleasing , lovely , beautiful , pretty
payas: n. any fluid or juice , (esp.) milk , water , rain
dhṛ: to hold , bear (also bring forth) , carry ,
payo-dhara: m. " containing water or milk " , a cloud ; a woman's breast or an udder

yaśodharāyām (loc. sg. f.): to Yaśodharā, “Bearer of Glory” (see BC2.26)
sva-yaśo-dharāyām (loc. sg. f.): bearer of glory through her own [actions]
sva-yaśas: mfn. glorious or illustrious through one's own (acts) , self-sufficient
sva: her own
yaśas: n. beautiful appearance , beauty , splendour , worth ; honour , glory , fame ,
dhara: mfn. ifc. bearing

śauddhodaneḥ = abl./gen. sg. śauddhodani: m. (fr. śuddhodana) patr. of gautama buddha
rāhu-sapatna-vaktraḥ (nom. sg. m.): having the face of Rāhu's rival, having a face like the moon
rāhu: m. " the Seizer " , N. of a daitya or demon who is supposed to seize the sun and moon and thus cause eclipses (he is fabled as a son of vipra-citti and siṁhikā and as having a dragon's tail ; when the gods had churned the ocean for the amṛta or nectar of immortality , he disguised himself like one of them and drank a portion ; but the Sun and Moon revealed the fraud to viṣṇu , who cut off rāhu's head , which thereupon became fixed in the stellar sphere , and having become immortal through drinking the amṛta , has ever since wreaked its vengeance on the Sun and Moon by occasionally swallowing them ; while at the same time the tail of the demon became ketu [q.v.] and gave birth to a numerous progeny of comets and fiery meteors ; in astron. rāhu is variously regarded as a dragon's head , as the ascending node of the moon [or point where the moon intersects the ecliptic in passing northwards] , as one of the planets [cf. graha] , and as the regent of the south-west quarter [ Laghuj. ] ; among Buddhists many demons are called rāhu)
sapatna: m. (fr. sa-pátnī below) a rival , adversary, enemy
sa-pátnī: f. a woman who has the same husband with another woman or whose husband has other wives , a fellow-wife or mistress , female rival
vaktra: n. " organ of speech " , the mouth , face ,

jajñe = 3rd pers. sg. jan: to be born or produced , come into existence ;
sutaḥ (nom. sg.): m. son, offspring
rāhulaḥ (nom. sg.): m. name of a son of gautama buddha
eva: (emphatic)
nāmnā (inst. sg. n.): ind. by name

時白淨太子 賢妃耶輸陀
年並漸長大 孕生羅睺羅 

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