Tuesday, October 16, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 3.20: The City's Splendid Air

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−− Upajāti (Vāṇī)
tato vimānair-yuvatī-karālaiḥ kautūhalodghāṭita-vātayānaiḥ |
śrīmat-samantān-nagaraṁ babhāse viyad-vimānair-iva sāpsarobhiḥ || 3.20

Thus, with its lofty mansions gaping open
and showing off young women,

And with those airy passages, the windows,
being opened wide by curiosity,

The splendid city was wholly resplendent,

Like the atmosphere
with its celestial chariots bearing celestial nymphs.

In the 1st pāda as I read it white-clad maidens lining the balconies and terraces are being compared to rows of white teeth in a gaping mouth.

In the 2nd pāda the airy passages may again be intended to carry a double meaning of windows and nostrils, in which case there may be real, practical meaning in the description of nostrils as kautūhalodghāṭita, “opened wide by curiosity” -- for how else does a practitioner cause his or her nostrils to open wide? In that case “curiosity” might mean, for example, asking the question: What is the relation between the legs being released out of the pelvis and the nostrils being caused to widen?

When we quietly observe the process of exhalation and inhalation, letting breath out and in is a function of what?

Is it a function of an unconsciously gaping, gasping mouth?
Is it a function of curiosity and of nostrils?
Is it a function of a self which is totally itself?
Is it a function of the inner and outer atmosphere, both as consciously experienced and as dreamt?

An answer to these question is provided by the Buddha towards the end of Saundara-nanda Canto 15, when he tells Nanda:
So for the giving up, in short, of all these ideas, / Mindfulness of inward and outward breathing (ānāpāna[āna+apāna]-smṛtiṃ), my friend, you should make into your own possession. // 15.64 //
I have been practising this kind of mindfulness now for more than 30 years, on and off. But so what? My wife's dog is invariably more in the moment than I am.

tataḥ: ind. then
vimānaiḥ (inst. 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)
yuvatī-karālaiḥ (inst. pl.): gaping with girls
yuvatī: f. a girl , young woman
karāla: mfn. opening wide , cleaving asunder , gaping (as a wound); having a gaping mouth and projecting teeth; formidable , dreadful , terrible

kautūhalodghāṭita-vātayānaiḥ (inst. pl.): with windows opened by curiosity
kautūhala: n. curiosity , interest in anything , vehement desire for
udghāṭita: mfn. opened , manifested; undertaken , commenced ; raised , hoisted , lifted up ; done with effort , exerted
vātayāna = vātāyana: n. " wind-passage " , a window , air-hole ; balcony

śrīmat (nom. sg. n.): mfn. beautiful , charming , lovely , pleasant , splendid , glorious ; possessed of fortune , fortunate , auspicious , wealthy , prosperous
samantāt: ind. " on all sides , around " , " or , wholly , completely”
samanta: mfn. " having the ends together " , contiguous , neighbouring , adjacent ; " being on every side " , universal , whole , entire , all
nagaram (nom. sg.): n. a town , city
babhāse = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bhas: to shine, be bright; to appear (" as " or " like " nom. or instr. of an abstract noun)

viyat (nom. sg.): n. the sky , heaven , air , atmosphere (prob. as " that which parts asunder or forms the intermediate region between heaven and earth ")
vimānaiḥ (inst. pl.): with its celestial chariots/palaces
iva: like
sāpsarobhiḥ (inst. pl.): containing celestial nymphs
sa: (possessive prefix)
apsaras: f. "going in the waters or between the waters of the clouds" , a class of female divinities (sometimes called " nymphs " ; they inhabit the sky , but often visit the earth)


Mike Cross said...

Weller's fragment has vātapānaiḥ at the end of the 2nd pāda.

vāta-pāna: n. " shelter from wind (?) " , a partic. part of a garment.

This confirms Kern's conjecture, which EHJ said in a note to his translation should probably be accepted, taking vāta-pāna to be some kind of shutter, possibly lattice-work, which acted as protection against too strong a wind.

Mike Cross said...

Change translation of 1st amd 2nd pādas to something like...

Thus with its lofty mansions, whose gaping balconies young women lined,

Whose shutters [wind-blinds?] had been opened up out of curiosity,