Thursday, December 13, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 4.12: Women's Power to Influence Passion

bhāva-jñānena hāvena rūpa-cāturya-saṁpadā |
strīṇām-eva ca śaktāḥ stha saṁrāge kiṁ punar-nṛṇām || 4.12

Again, through knowing the emotions, 
through challenging invitations, 

Through possession of beautiful form and dexterity, 

You are powerful agents in respect of passion in women, 

To say nothing of passion in men. 

In today's verse bhāva-jñānena and rūpa-cāturya-saṁpadā mirror similar expressions in BC4.9, namely, bhāva-grahaṇa-paṇḍitāḥ (“being expert in understanding the emotions”) and rūpa-cāturya-saṁpannāḥ (“being possessed of beautiful form and dexterity”). Is it Aśvaghoṣa's intention to give the reader or listener a second chance to consider not only the ostensible meaning of these expressions, but also any hidden meaning which might lie buried in them?

The new element in the first half of today's verse is hāvena, from the root √hve, which the dictionary gives as "to call upon, summon, challenge." As the collective noun for “ten coquettish gestures of women,” however, hāva is most often used to mean so-called blandishments. Hence the ostensible meaning of hāvena in the 1st pāda is “by your coquetry” (EBC), or “by your blandishments” (EHJ), or “with your flirtatious dalliance” (PO). I think the hidden meaning that Aśvaghoṣa had in mind might have been nothing flirtatious but rather the kind of challenge that the Buddha issues to Nanda at the end of the 16th canto of Saundara-nanda, culminating in the following verse:
"After ploughing and protecting the soil with great pains, a farmer gains a bounteous crop of corn; After striving to plumb the ocean's waters, a diver revels in a bounty of coral and pearls; / After seeing off with arrows the endeavour of rival kings, a king enjoys royal dominion. So direct your energy in pursuit of peace, for in directed energy, undoubtedly, lies all growth." // SN16.98 //

Udāyin's intention is to describe the courtesans as being so emotionally intelligent, flirtatious, beautiful and deft as to be capable of inflaming passion even in other women, let alone in men.

The words that Aśvaghoṣa puts in Udāyin's mouth, however, are such that he might also be describing a group of female buddhas who are so emotionally intelligent, challenging, possessed of that form which is free of “form,” and skillful, that each of them is able to exert an indirect but powerful influence both on other women and on other men, in the matter of devoting oneself to passion or, conversely, to dispassion.

bhāva-jñānena (inst. sg.): by knowing the heart ; through the higher knowledge (derived from meditation) of being
bhāva-jñā: mfn. knowing the heart
bhāva: m. becoming, being ; any state of mind or body , way of thinking or feeling , sentiment , opinion , disposition , intention ; purport , meaning , sense ; love , affection , attachment ; the seat of the feelings or affections , heart , soul , mind
jñāna: n. knowing , becoming acquainted with , knowledge , (esp.) the higher knowledge (derived from meditation on the one Universal Spirit)
hāvena (inst. sg.): m. (from √ hve) calling , alluring , dalliance , blandishment (collective N. of ten coquettish gestures of women)
√ hve: to call , call upon , summon , challenge , invoke (with nāmnā , " to call by name " ; with yuddhe , " to challenge to fight ")

rūpa-cāturya-saṁpadā (inst. sg.): by possession of beautiful form and dexterity
rūpa: n. any outward appearance or phenomenon or colour (often pl.) , form , shape , figure ; handsome form, beauty
cāturya: n. dexterity; amiableness
sampad: f. success , accomplishment , completion , fulfilment , perfection ; attainment , acquisition , possession , enjoyment ; being , existence (ifc.= " possessed of ")

strīṇām (gen. pl.): f. women
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and
śaktāḥ (nom. pl. f.): mfn able , competent for , equal to , capable of (instr. gen. dat. loc. acc. of person with prati inf. , or comp.) [Apte: 1. able; 2. strong; 3. rich; 4. significant; 5. clever; 6. speaking kindly]
śak: to be strong or powerful , be able to or capable of or competent for (with acc. dat. or loc.)
stha = 2nd pers. pl. as: to be

saṁrāge (loc. sg.): m. redness ; passion, vehemence
kiṁ punar: ind. how much more? how much less?
nṛṇām (gen. pl.): m. men

[Relation to Sanskrit tenuous] 

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