purā hi kāśi-sundaryā veśa-vadhvā mahān-ṣiḥ |
tāḍito 'bhūt padā vyāso dur-dharṣo devatair-api || 4.16
For once upon a time the Beauty of Benares, Kāśi-sundarī,
A common woman,
Beat with a flick of her foot the great seer Vyāsa
Whom even the gods could not conquer.
Hurry-Up Udāyin in today's verse is alluding to the episode that the unenlightened Nanda, while feeling sorry for himself, alludes to in the 7th canto of Saundara-nanda, titled “Nanda's Lament”:
Dvaipāyana, equally, while having dharma as his primary object, enjoyed a woman at a brothel in Kāśi; / Struck by her foot, with its trembling ankle bracelet, he was like a cloud being struck by a twist of lightning. // SN7.30 //
The hidden meaning in today's verse, as I read it, is that there is no hidden meaning.
There is, in other words, nothing truthful in these words of Udāyin, either on or below the surface. It may be, on the contrary, that the citing of a story quoted in a time-honoured religious text, in support of the stupid viewpoint of a brahmin (or Buddhist authority, or rabbi, or bishop, or imam), is being portrayed as the very opposite of truthfulness.
In the seven verses up to here Udāyin, totally unbeknowns to himself, has been speaking profound truth, in praising women for their powers of inhibition and skill in the practice of non-doing. But with today's verse the trail of hidden meaning comes to an abrupt dead end.
Having been trained by Aśvaghoṣa's to seek the gold he seems to like to bury in every verse, we dig and we dig, sifting through today's verse again and again, but find not a grain of truth in it. That may tell its own story.
Aśvaghoṣa was not the kind of teacher who would ever make a statement like "views on women which are rooted in the Brahmanical tradition are a pile of utter horseshit" – at least not directly.
purā: ind. before , formerly , of old
kāśi-sundaryā (inst. sg. f.): the beauty of Kāśi
kāśi: f. " the splendid " , N. of a celebrated city and place of pilgrimage (the modern Benares , usually written kāśī
sundarī: f. a beautiful woman , any woman
veśa-vadhvā (inst. sg.): f. a common woman , harlot
veśa: m. ( √viś) " a settler " , small farmer , tenant , neighbour , dependent , vassal ; a house , dwelling ; prostitution or a house of ill fame , brothel ; the behaviour of a courtezan
vadhū: a bride or newly-married woman , young wife spouse any wife or woman
mahān (nom. sg. m.): mfn. great, eminent
ṛṣiḥ (nom. sg.): m. seer
tāḍitaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. struck , beaten , chastised
taḍ: to beat , strike , knock , strike (with arrows) , wound , punish
abhūt = 3rd pers. sg. aorist bhū: to be
padā = inst. sg. pad: m. a foot, a step
vyāsaḥ (nom. sg.): m. " arranger , compiler " , N. of a celebrated mythical sage and author (often called veda-vyāsa and regarded as the original compiler and arranger of the vedas , vedānta-sūtras &c ; he was the son of the sage parāśara and satyavatī , and half-brother of vicitra-vīrya and bhīṣma ; he was also called vādarāyaṇa or bādarāyaṇa , and kṛṣṇa from his dark complexion , and dvaipāyana because he was brought forth by satyavatī on a dvīpa or island in the Jumna ; when grown up he retired to the wilderness to lead the life of a hermit , but at his mother's request returned to become the husband of vicitra-vīrya's two childless widows , by whom he was the father of the blind dhṛta-rāṣṭra and of pāṇḍu ; he was also the father of vidura [q.v.] by a slave girl , and of śuka , the supposed narrator of the bhāgavata-purāṇa , he was also the supposed compiler of the mahā-bhārata , the purāṇas , and other portions of Hindu sacred literature ; but the name vyāsa seems to have been given to any great typical compiler or author)
dur-dharṣaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. difficult to be assaulted or laid hold of , inviolable , inaccessible , unconquerable , dangerous , dreadful , awful
√ dhṛṣ: to be bold or courageous or confident or proud ; to dare to attack , treat with indignity (acc.)
devataiḥ (inst. pl.): m. gods