Sunday, October 14, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.18: Rattling Vents

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦−−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−   Upajāti (Kīrti)
paras-parotpīḍana-piṇḍitānāṁ saṁmarda-saṁkṣobhita-kuṇḍalānām |
tāsāṁ tadā sasvana-bhūṣaṇānāṁ vātāyaneṣv-apraśamo babhūva || 3.18

At the windows at that time,
women pressed up against each other in squashed masses,

Their earrings colliding and ricocheting,

Their jewellery rattling,

So that in each airy aperture there was a commotion.

One symptom of barging about is noisy breathing, whether through gasping mouth or through nasal passages restricted by mucus or muscular tension.

Thus, in the 4th pada, while the ostensible meaning of vātāyaneṣu is “in the windows” (EBC/EHJ) or “in those balconies” (PO), the suggested meaning of vātāyaneṣu (from vāta, wind/air + āyana, passingis “in the nostrils.”

In pondering how to translate vātāyaneṣu so as to preserve some of this ambiguity, I looked up “ventilate” and one of the definitions the dictionary gave was: to provide an enclosed space with a vent or other means of letting fresh air in and stale air out.

While sitting afterwards it struck me that “letting fresh air in and stale air out” is not a bad definition of sitting practice – except that, in the interest of there being no commotion, I would prefer to express it the other way round as “letting stale air out and letting fresh air in.”

The contrast between the individual practitioner described in yesterday's verse, and the squashed masses described in today's verse, stimulates me to express an opinion about individual practice vs sectarian saṁgha groupthink. But on reflection such expression of an opinion might be a kind of making a commotion.

Yes, we can understand, in a spirit of total self-acceptance, that even on a royal road, sometimes the airy aperturers are characterized by commotion. But the real implicit point of today's verse, as I read it, is to encourage us to practice using the self in such a royal way that no commotion is created in any airy aperture – even if it is only for the duration of one out-breath and one in-breath.

For me, for one, that is what today's verse has been encouraging me to practise for the last 24 hours, on and off.

paras-parotpīḍana-piṇḍitānām (gen. pl. f.): squashed into masses from pressing up against each other
paras-para: mfn. mutual , each other's
utpīḍana: n. the act of pressing against or out
ut- √ pīḍ: to press upwards or against , squeeze ; to press out
piṇḍita: mfn. rolled into a ball or lump , thick , massy , densified ; mixed , mingled with (comp.); heaped , collected , united , added

saṁmarda-saṁkṣobhita-kuṇḍalānām (gen. pl. f.): their earrings being pressed together and tossed about
sammarda: m. pressing or rubbing together , friction , pressure
sam- √ mṛd : to press or squeeze together , rub or grind to pieces , crush , destroy
√ mṛd: to press , squeeze , crush , pound , smash , trample down , tread upon , destroy , waste , ravage , kill , slay ; to rub , stroke , wipe (e.g. the forehead) ; to rub into, mingle
saṁkṣobhita: mfn. (fr. Caus.) shaken or tossed about
saṁ- √ kṣubh: Caus. -kṣobhayati , to shake about violently , agitate , toss , excite
kuṇḍala: n. earring

tāsām (gen. pl. f.): of them, of those women
tadā: ind. at that time , then , in that case (often used redundantly
sasvana-bhūṣaṇānām (gen. pl. f.): their ornaments rattling
sasvana: mfn. sounding, loud
bhūṣaṇa: n. embellishment , ornament , decoration

vātāyaneṣu (loc. pl.): n. " wind-passage " , a window , air-hole , loop-hole; n. a balcony , portico , terrace on the roof of a house
vāta: m. wind or the wind-god ; wind, air
āyana: n. coming , approaching
apraśamaḥ (nom. sg. m.): m. tumult, uproar ; mfn. not reconciled, angry with (loc.),
praśama: m. calmness , tranquillity (esp. of mind) , quiet , rest , cessation , extinction , abatement
babhūva = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bhū: to be (with nom.)

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