Sunday, December 30, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 4.29: Some Girls

madenāvarjitā nāma taṁ kāś-cit-tatra yoṣitaḥ |
kaṭhinaiḥ paspśuḥ pīnaiḥ saṁhatair-valgubhiḥ stanaiḥ || 4.29

Pretending to be tipsy,

Some girls there

Brushed him, with firm, round,

Closely set, beautiful breasts.

Today's verse, as I read it (along with all 24 of the verses in the quarter of this canto that starts here and continues to 4.42) represents the negation of a view.

I hear the similar negation of a view in the Smiths' lyric in which Morrissey declares “I have just discovered: Some girls are bigger than others.”

In the history of philosophy, there must have been at least one famous Western philosopher (Kant maybe?) who argued that there is no such thing as objective beauty, so that beauty is purely in the eye of the beholder. And in a buddha-ancestor's eyes, such a view is as valid as any other view -- which is to say that it is totally invalid. 

When it comes to objective characteristics like firmness, roundness, and closeness together of breasts, nobody can deny that some girls are indeed firmer, rounder, and more closely-set than others. Leaving aside questions of aesthetics, the existence of individual differences is not a view; it is an undeniable, objective fact.

In today's verse, as I read it, Aśvaghoṣa not only gives an objective description of the breasts of some girls but also dares to make the value judgement that especially beautiful female breasts are conspicuous by their firmness, roundness, and close juxtaposition.

“Aśvaghoṣa's poems, as Buddhist texts,” so a Sanskrit scholar opines, “are necessarily anti-beauty.”

The scholar's statement is the expression of a view. Today's verse, as I read it, represents the falsification of such a view.

Why is it worth going to the bother of falsifying views like this scholar's view? It might be worth taking that trouble because a vital function of the Buddha's teaching, like a moon shining brightly, is to rip away people's views. Hence:

ākṛkṣad vapuṣā dṛṣṭīḥ prajānāṁ candramā iva
With his fine form he ripped away, as does the moon, people's views. (SN2.22)

It might be worth taking the trouble to falsify people's Buddhist views so that each person's practice of just sitting, each in his or her own natural element, free of the taint of views and opinions, free of worry and end-gaining and other bad habits, free of lust and hatred and all the befouling faults, might be truly beautiful.

Apropos of not much, since both English and Sanskrit are official languages of India, and since Aśvaghoṣa was Indian, I find myself hoping this morning, not for the first time, that if this translation and commentary succeed in preserving in English any of the beauty that Aśvaghoṣa expressed in Sanskrit, that beauty might best be appreciated, sooner or later, in India.

I also find myself worrying about where to get my wife's car serviced: will going for the cheap option, as is my tendency,  end up costing us more in the long run? 

Such hoping and worrying is doubtless symptomatic of sitting that could and should be more beautiful. 

madena (inst. sg.): m. hilarity , rapture , excitement , inspiration , intoxication
āvarjitāḥ (nom. pl. f.): mfn. inclined , bent down , prone; poured out , made to flow downwards ; overcome , humbled
ā- √ vṛj: to turn or bring into the possession of ; Caus. P. -varjayati , to turn over , incline , bend ; to cause to yield , overcome ;
nāma: ind. by name ; indeed , certainly , really , of course ; quasi , only in appearance

tam (acc. sg. m.): him
kāś-cit (nom. pl. f.): some
tatra: ind. there, in that place/state
yoṣitaḥ (nom. pl.): f. a girl , maiden , young woman , wife

kaṭhinaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. hard , firm , stiff
paspṛśur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. spṛś: to touch , feel with the hand , lay the hand on (acc. or loc.) , graze , stroke
pīnaiḥ (inst. pl. swelling , swollen , full , round , thick , large , fat , fleshy , corpulent muscular

saṁhataiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. struck together , closely joined or united with (instr.) , keeping together , contiguous , coherent , combined , compacted , forming one mass or body ; become solid , compact , firm , hard ; strong-limbed , athletic ; struck , hurt , wounded , killed
sahitaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. joined , conjoined , united
valgubhiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. handsome , beautiful , lovely , attractive
stanaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. (derivation doubtful , but prob. connected with √ stan, to resound, from the hollow resonance of the human breast) , the female breast (either human or animal) , teat , dug , udder

[Relation with Sanskrit tenuous]

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