Monday, December 31, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 4.30: One Girl (Enter the Non-Doing Individual)

srastāṁsa-komalālamba-mdu-bāhu-latābalā |
antaṁ skhalitaṁ kā-cit-ktvainaṁ sasvaje balāt || 4.30

One girl
– from whose relaxed shoulders delicately dangled

Soft arms like tendrils –

Simulated a stumble,

So that she could not help but cling to him.

Reading between the lines, I think Aśvaghoṣa filled today's verse with clues hinting at the excellence of the individual female (abalā kā-cit; [nom. sg. f.]) who is its protagonist.

In the 1st pāda, relaxed shoulders (srastāṁsa) speak for themselves. Aśvaghoṣa uses the same phrase srastāṁsa to describe the one grown old (i.e. a buddha) in BC3.41:
“That individual with an expanded belly, whose body moves as he breathes, whose arms hang loose from his shoulders (srastāṁsa-bāhuḥ), whose limbs are wasted and pale,/ And who keeps saying 'Mother!', pathetically, while leaning on others for support: This man is Who?” //3.41//

In the 2nd pāda the protagonist of today's verse is described as abalā, lit. “one who is weak (f.),” i.e. a member of the weaker sex, a woman or a girl. But the repeated emphasis (conveyed by komala and mṛdu) on tenderness, softness, and delicacy, might be intended to suggest lack of force (abala) not as a weakness but as a strength, as an adornment that accompanies abstention from violent end-gaining.

The 3rd pāda, in that spirit, describes the girl's use of a skillful means, an indirect expedient, of the kind which the 2nd chapter of Lotus Sutra famously celebrates the Buddha using.

And in the 4th pāda balāt picks up and turns around the aforementioned irony of abalā ("a [weak] woman"). Balāt, literally means “by force, forcibly,” which sounds like the macho antithesis of non-doing, but which might be intended as an ironic expression of the right thing unstoppably doing itself.

It was in this vein that Dogen described the Zen masters of the past as  被礙兀地 (Jap: GOCCHI NI SAERARU)  “obstructed by the still state”:-
“In general, in this world and in other worlds, in India and in China, all equally maintained the Buddha-seal, and solely indulged in the fundamental custom: they simply devoted themselves to sitting, and were obstructed by the still state.” (See also comment to BC4.7.)
A person walking in front of you drops their wallet. You pick the wallet up and give it back to them. 

In theory, one always has a choice, but in practice sometimes not.

Even when such an opportunity presents itself, mind you, it might not be necessary to tense one's shoulders in religious eagerness to do the right thing.

Truly did an American philosopher say, "The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing." 

And equally truly did he say, "If you can fake that, you've got it made." 

srastāṁsa-komalālamba-mṛdu-bāhu-latā (nom. sg. f.): having delicate arm/creepers that hung down softly from relaxed shoulders
srasta: mfn. fallen , dropped , slipped off ; loosened , relaxed , hanging down , pendent , pendulous ; separated , disjoined
aṁsa: m. the shoulder , shoulder-blade
komala: mfn. tender , soft (opposed to karkaśa) , bland , sweet , pleasing , charming , agreeable; n. silk
ālamba: mfn. hanging down ; m. that on which one rests or leans , support , prop ; m. a perpendicular

mṛdu: mfn. soft , delicate , tender , pliant , mild , gentle
bāhu: mf. the arm , (esp.) the fore-arm , the arm between the elbow and the wrist
latā: f. a creeper , any creeping or winding plant or twining tendril Mn. MBh. &c (the brows , arms , curls , a slender body , a sword-blade , lightning &c are often compared to the form of a creeper , to express their graceful curves and slimness of outline)
abalā (nom. sg. f.): mfn. weak , feeble; f. a woman
bala: n. power , strength , might , vigour , force

anṛtam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. not true , false; n. falsehood , lying , cheating
skhalitam (acc. sg.): n. the act of tripping , stumbling , staggering ; n. mistake , error , failure , blunder ; n. circumvention , stratagem (in war) ; mfn. stumbling , tripping , unsteady (as a gait) ; intoxicated , drunk
kā-cit (nom. pl. f.): somebody, one of the women

kṛtvā = abs. kṛ: to do, make
enam (acc. sg. m.): this/that man; him
sasvaje = 3rd pers. sg. perf. svaj: to embrace , clasp , encircle , twist or wind round
balāt: ind. (abl.) forcibly , against one's will , without being able to help it
bala: n. power , strength , might , vigour , force

[Relation with Sanskrit tenuous] 

No comments: