Sunday, December 16, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 4.15: A Call for Individual Verification of Girl Power

yad-api syād-ayaṁ dhīraḥ śrī-prabhāvān-mahān-iti |
strīṇām-api mahat-teja iti kāryo 'tra niścayaḥ || 4.15

Though he may prove to be,

By his majestic light, a mighty steadfast man,

Mighty also is the efficacy of women --

In which matter verification is to be carried out:

Today's verse concludes the introductory portion of Udāyin's speech and ushers in a series of examples drawn from ancient Indian legends, several of which are also quoted by the lamenting Nanda in the 7th canto of Saundara-nanda. The gist of all the legends is to describe how some ancient Indian worthy was distracted in his ascetic efforts by a woman's charms.

Udāyin's intention, then, is to emphasize that women also are powerful in their own sphere, for which read, primarily, the bedroom – when in the 4th pāda Udāyin says atra, “in this matter,” the matter he has in mind is the seduction of the prince. Verification of the matter in question, in that case, is to be done by means of finding corroboration of women's sexual efficacy in ancient stories.

Following the strand of hidden meaning, however, the matter in question is the practice of inhibition, or non-doing, and efficacy in practising the matter in question is open to verification by means of individual practice – whether the individual in question is (in Dogen's words) a man, a woman, or a wild fox.

At the end of Saundara-nanda, the Buddha tells Nanda:
Then, surely, when she hears of your steadfast mind with its chariots turned back from sundry objects, / Your wife following your example will also talk, to women at home, the talk of dispassion. // 18.59 //
This is a kind of corroboration in an ancient text of the principle that an individual woman can be mightily efficacious in the matter of inhibition. But what kāryaḥ niścayaḥ really means is not this kind of intellectual corroboration.

Kāryaḥ niścayaḥ literally means “ascertaining is to be done” or in other words “verification is to be practised,” and whereas Udāyin's intention is that corroboration is to be sought from a variety of traditional sources, the real meaning (of which the likes of Udāyin are strikingly unaware) is that verification is to be practised on one round black cushion.

The last three characters of the Chinese translation reproduced below, incidentally, are  女人力, the three characters being , woman, , human being, and ,  power -- or for short 女力, "girl power."

Thinking about the meaning of the canto title in light of today's verse, the first meaning of  strī-vighātanaḥ, "warding women away," is simply that the prince warded women away and opted instead for the solitude of the forest. At the same time, strī-vighātanaḥ, "dismissing women," can be read as describing the attitude of Udāyin. But going further, a verse like today's verse can also be read as in some sense dismissive of women, as also it is dismissive of men, and dismissive of wild foxes. It is dismissive of women, men, and wild foxes, because what it affirms is individual verification. 

yad api: ind. even if, though
syāt = 3rd pers. sg. optative as: to be
ayam (nom. sg. m.): this one
dhīraḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. steady , constant , firm , resolute , brave , energetic , courageous , self-possessed , composed , calm , grave ; well-conducted , well-bred

śrī-prabhāvāt (abl. sg.): by the power of his radiance/majesty
śrī: f. light , lustre , radiance , splendour , glory , beauty; prosperity , welfare , good fortune , success , auspiciousness , wealth , treasure , riches ; high rank , power , might , majesty , royal dignity
prabhāva: m. might , power , majesty , dignity , strength , efficacy ; (°vāt ind. by means or in consequence of , through , by)
mahān (nom. sg. m.): mfn. great ; high, eminent ; m. a great or noble man ; m. the leader of a sect or superior of a monastery
iti: “...,” ; in this manner , thus (in its original signification íti refers to something that has been said or thought , or lays stress on what precedes)

strīṇām (gen. pl.): f. women
api: even, also (api api as well as)
mahat (nom. sg. n.): mfn. great
tejaḥ (nom. sg.): n. (often pl.) the sharp edge (of a knife &c ) , point or top of a flame or ray , glow , glare , splendour , brilliance , light , fire ; fiery energy , ardour , vital power , spirit , efficacy , essence

iti: “...,” thus
itaḥ: ind. (fr. i with affix tas , used like the abl. case of the pronoun idam) from hence , hence , here ; from this point ; therefore
kāryaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. (fut. p.p. √kṛ) , to be made or done or practised ; n. work or business to be done , duty , affair
atra: ind. (or Ved. á-trā) (fr. pronominal base a ; often used in sense of loc. case asmin) , in this matter , in this respect ; in this place ; then
niścayaḥ (nom. sg.): m. inquiry , ascertainment , fixed opinion , conviction , certainty , positiveness ; resolution , resolve, fixed intention , design , purpose , aim

如何人王子 不能感其情
今此王太子 持心雖堅固
清淨徳純備 不勝女人力 

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