ṛṣya-śṅgaṁ muni-sutaṁ tathaiva strīṣv-apaṇḍitam |
upāyair-vividhaiḥ śāntā jagrāha ca jahāra ca || 4.19
Ṛṣya-śṛṅga, 'Antelope Horn,' a sage's son,
Was similarly inexpert in regard to women;
Śāntā, 'Tranquillity,' using various wiles,
Took him captive and carried him away.
Udāyin is of the view that the unenlightened Nanda expresses in Saundara-nanda Canto 7, which is namely that a male would-be celibate is liable to be helpless to resist the wiles of an attractive woman.
In expressing this view, Nanda also cites the example of Ṛṣya-śṛṅga and Śāntā:
Again, on catching sight of the princess Śāntā, 'Tranquillity,' though he had been living in tranquillity in the forest, / The sage Ṛṣya-śṛṅga, 'Antelope Horn,' was moved from steadfastness, like a high-horned mountain in an earthquake. // SN7.34 //
But also implicit in today's verse is another view; namely, that the likes of Dīrgha-tapas and Ṛṣya-śṛṅga were particularly vulnerable because of not knowing how women really are. In suggesting this, Udāyin is singing from the same hymn sheet as the Buddhist striver in Saundara-nanda Canto 8 in his tirade against women.
Hence the striver, who evidently IS an expert on women (strīṣu paṇḍitam), at least in his own mind, asks Nanda:
So you fail to see how pernicious, in their intense duplicity, are their little lightweight hearts? / Do you not see, at least, that the bodies of women are impure, oozing houses of foulness? // SN8.47 //
In nails and in teeth, in skin, and in hair, both long and short, which are not beautiful, you are inventing beauty. / Dullard! Do you not see what women originally are made of and what they originally are? // SN8.54 // So then, reckon women, in mind and in body, to be singularly implicated with faults; / And hold back, by the power of this reckoning, the mind which strains so impulsively for home. // SN8.55 //
Because Aśvaghoṣa allows such views to be eloquently expressed in his poetry, a woman of scant attention who proudly considers herself to be "feminist" is liable to suspect that Aśvaghoṣa himself might be a man who harbours a sexist view of women.
I say that a person like that is not thinkingly stupidly because she is a woman. She is thinkingly stupidly because of not paying due attention to the teaching that Aśvaghoṣa is actually endeavoring to convey.
Aśvaghoṣa gives us such true-to-life portrayals of the likes of the young brahmin Udāyin and the Buddhist striver, not because he has any time for their view, or for any view, but because he wishes to contrast their views with the teaching of the teacher who taught the true dharma as the abandonment of all views.
Thus, while the likes of Udāyin and the striver advocate being awake to the wiles of women, the Buddha solely advocates being awake to the four noble truths:
Giving oneself to this path with its three divisions and eight branches -- this straightforward, irremovable, noble path -- / One abandons the faults, which are the causes of suffering, and comes to that step which is total well-being. // SN16.37 // Attendant on it are constancy and straightness; modesty, attentiveness, and reclusiveness; / Wanting little, contentment, and freedom from forming attachments; no fondness for worldly activity, and forbearance. // 16.38 // For he who knows suffering as it really is, who knows its starting and its stopping: / It is he who reaches peace by the noble path -- going along with friends in the good. // 16.39 // He who fully appreciates his illness, as the illness it is, who sees the cause of the illness and its remedy: / It is he who wins, before long, freedom from disease -- attended by friends in the know. // 16.40 // So with regard to the truth of suffering, see suffering as an illness; with regard to the faults, see the faults as the cause of the illness; / With regard to the truth of stopping, see stopping as freedom from disease; and with regard to the truth of a path, see a path as a remedy. // 16.41 // Comprehend, therefore, that suffering is doing; witness the faults impelling it forward; / Realise its stopping as non-doing; and know the path as a turning back. // 16.42 // Though your head and clothes be on fire direct your mind so as to be awake to the truths. / For in failing to see the purport of the truths, the world has burned, it is burning now, and it will burn. // SN16.43 //
ṛṣya-śṛṅgam (acc. sg.): m. 'Antelope Horn'
ṛṣya: m. the male of a species of antelope , the painted or white-footed antelope
śṛṅga: n. the horn of an animal
muni-sutam (acc. sg. m.): son of a sage
tathā: ind. likewise
strīṣu (loc. pl.): f. women
apaṇḍitam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. unlearned , illiterate; inexpert
upāyaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. coming near , approach , arrival ; that by which one reaches one's aim , a means or expedient (of any kind) , way , stratagem , craft , artifice
vividhaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. of various sorts , manifold , divers
śāntā (nom. pl. f.): mfn. appeased , pacified , tranquil , calm , free from passions
śānta: m. N. of a daughter of daśa-ratha (adopted daughter of loma-pāda or roma-pāda and wife of ṛṣya-śṛṅga)
jagrāha = 3rd pers. sg. perf. grah: to seize; to catch , take captive ; to take possession of , gain over , captivate
jahāra = 3rd pers. sg. perf. hṛ: to take , bear , carry ; to take away , carry off , seize , deprive of , steal , rob ; to master , overpower , subdue , conquer , win , win over ; to enrapture , charm , fascinate