Monday, December 24, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 4.23: Truly Heart-Stopping Women

¦⏑⏑⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑−   navipulā
yā hi kāś-cid-yuvatayo haranti sadśaṁ janam |
nikṣṭotkṣṭayor-bhāvaṁ yā ghṇanti tu tāḥ striyaḥ || 4.23

For any old girls

Entrance those on their level,

But those who stop the heart of low and high:

They are true women."

The two verbs used in today's verse are hṛ and grah, as in 4.19. Each of these verbs has a wide range of meanings, several of which overlap – both verbs can mean, for example, to entrance and to eclipse. Bhāva also has a very wide range of meanings, from “real state,” through “heart,” down to “emotion” and “rank.”

Because of this ambiguity, the phrases haranti sadṛśaṁ janam and nikṛṣṭotkṛṣṭayor-bhāvaṁ gṛhṇanti can mean completely different things depending on who is saying them.

The brahmin Udāyin is thinking about class, so that sadṛśaṁ janam means “lovers of the same class as themselves” [EHJ] and haranti means captivate sexually -- any old girl can captivate a man of her own class.

But I think what Aśvaghoṣa has in mind in the first half of the verse is the principles of entrainment and sympathetic resonance, so that haranti expresses mutual entrancement by people who are sitting together. Sadṛśam in that case does not mean "of the same social class" but means "on the same wavelength" -- any old meditator can enter into mutual entrancement with other meditators who are already on the same wavelength. 

In Hurry-Up Udāyin's definition of a true woman, again, true women are those who are sufficiently sexy and wily to be able to capture the hearts of lowly peasants and lofty aristocrats alike. A true woman, then, in Udāyin's definition, is a heart-stopper in the sense of being universally exciting, thrilling, intoxicating, breathtaking -- to heterosexual chavs and poshos alike.

The hidden meaning which I think Aśvaghoṣa intends is that a true woman is one who goes to the heart of such relative conceptions of low and high, and stops off those conceptions at source.

How in practice does a woman or a man go to the heart of low and high, and arrest the pernicious relative thoughts emanating from that centre?

Dogen wrote of not discussing intelligence as high and stupidity as low”

FU, ([se]zu) not/beyond

RON discussing

JO high

CHI intelligence

KA low

GU stupidity

These six characters can be taken as an expression of sitting in lotus itself, which Dogen praised as supreme beyond the supremacy of the Buddha's supremacy, but at the same time as beyond discussion of high and low.

Today's verse, then, is another verse that is ostensibly concerned with things that people like to turn into “issues” for discussion – things like gender, and race, and class.

But a true woman, Aśvaghoṣa is suggesting, is one who nips all such discussion in the bud by her sheer practicality, which is rooted not in intellectual activity but in paying attention to a process.

Hence the link with yesterday's verse expressed by hi (“for/because”) – a true woman nips intellectual discussion in the bud  because the light of the lineage of the buddha-ancestors is sheer attention to practice. 

yāḥ … kāś-cid (nom. pl. f.): any [girls] whatsoever (ka is only made indefinite when connected with the particles ca, caná, cid, vā ,and ápi , in which case ka may sometimes be preceded by the relative ya – e.g. ye ke ca , any persons whatsoever)
hi: for
yuvatayaḥ (nom. pl.): f. girl, young woman

haranti = 3rd pers. pl. hṛ: to take , bear , carry ; to take away , carry off ; A1. (older and more correct than P.) to take to one's self , appropriate (in a legitimate way) , come into possession of (acc.) ; to master , overpower , subdue , conquer , win , win over (also by bribing) ; to outdo , eclipse , surpass ; to enrapture , charm , fascinate
sadṛśam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. like , resembling , similar to ; conformable , suitable , fit , proper , right , worthy
janam (acc. sg.): m. creature , living being , man , person ; m. a common person , one of the people ; people , subjects (the sg. used collectively)

nikṛṣṭotkṛṣṭayoḥ (gen. dual): of both the low and the high
nikṛṣṭa: mfn. debased , vile , low , despised , outcast
utkṛṣṭa: mfn. (opposed to apa-kṛṣṭa and ava-kṛṣṭa) drawn up or out ; taking a high position ; excellent , eminent
kṛṣ: to draw , draw to one's self , drag , pull
bhāvam (acc. sg.): m. ( √ bhū) becoming , being , existing , occurring , appearance ; state , condition , rank ; state of being anything ; true condition or state , truth , reality ; manner of being , nature , temperament , character ; manner of acting , conduct , behaviour ; any state of mind or body , way of thinking or feeling , sentiment , opinion , disposition , intention; purport , meaning , sense ; (in rhet.) passion , emotion; love , affection , attachment ; the seat of the feelings or affections , heart , soul , mind

yāḥ (nom. pl. f.): who
gṛhṇanti = 3rd pers. pl. grah: to seize, take ; to arrest , stop ; to catch , take captive , take prisoner , capture , imprison ; to take possession of , gain over , captivate ; to seize , overpower (esp. said of diseases and demons and the punishments of varuṇa) ; to eclipse ; to abstract , take away (by robbery) ; to perceive (with the organs of sense or with mánas) , observe , recognise ; to receive into the mind , apprehend , understand , learn ; to accept , admit , approve
tu: but

tāḥ (nom. pl. f.): they
striyaḥ (nom. pl.): f. women

女人性雖賤 尊榮隨勝天
何不盡其術 令彼生染心

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