Wednesday, December 5, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 4.4: Brilliant Attributes

taṁ hi tā menire nāryaḥ kāmo vigrahavān-iti |
śobhitaṁ lakṣaṇair-dīptaiḥ saha-jair-bhūṣaṇair-iva || 4.4

For those women esteemed him

As a god of love in physical form,

Made beautiful by brilliant attributes

Like the adornments one is born with.

What today's verse is ostensibly about is putting an ancient Indian holy man called Gautama on a pedestal, and honouring His miraculous, supernatural splendour.

Hence EHJ: "For the glory of the brilliant signs on his person, as of ornaments born on him, made the women deem him to be the god of love in bodily form." 

The ostensible meaning of saha-jair-bhūṣaṇaiḥ, then, is as indicated by EHJ's translation “ornaments born on him,” together with his footnote to the effect that There are many Buddhist tales of people being born with ornaments on them.

But if the original teaching of the Buddha was like that, why in the early days, I wonder, was it forbidden to build beautiful Gautama statues?

If Aśvaghoṣa's only intention was to compare beautiful distinguishing marks on the prince's body to shiny baubles that ancient Indians imagined to be born miraculously on babies with special religious significance, then there would be little here to interest an irreligious bloke who sits.

I think Aśvaghoṣa's real intention was that the brilliant adornments with which a baby is born are, for example, effortless movements of the floating ribs. A truly brilliant adornment, in other words, is the kind of naturally beautiful coordination that babies tend to manifest, in the ease with which they breathe.

And the brilliant attributes of a buddha might be similar to, but they are not the same as, these brilliant adornments with which a baby is born.

The difference might be the difference indicated by FM Alexander when he said, as quoted in the comment to 4.2:
"When an investigation comes to be made it will be found that every single thing we do in the work is exactly what is done in Nature, where the conditions are right, the difference being that we are learning to do it consciously."
What Alexander meant by “learning to do it,” paradoxically, is primarily a matter of learning what not to do. In other words, natural breathing as the brilliant attribute of an adult is an action not so much of doing as allowing.

If the 3rd pāda of today's verse is understood like this, then the verse once again exhibits a four-phased progression in which
(1) subjects assign value to an object;
(2) something related to mind is expressed in physical form;
(3) beauty exists in acts of allowing; and
(4) a punch-line points to the point of sitting practice itself.

In conclusion, when sitting is practised as an exploration of utter loss in an hour of pain, how is the breathing? Is it like the breathing of an expert on breathing, such as a yoga teacher, or a top martial artist, or a voice coach, or a teacher of the FM Alexander Technique, or an ever-so-mindful Buddhist monk? Is it the same as a baby's breathing? Is it like a baby's breathing?

A Japanese great-grandson of Aśvaghoṣa, many times removed, instructed that there should be thousands and tens of thousands of questions like these – the answer to all of which might be “No!”

tam (acc. sg. m.): him
hi: for
tāḥ (nom. pl. f.): they
menire = 3rd pers. pl. perf. man: to think, to regard or consider any one or anything (acc.) as (acc.) ; to perceive , observe , learn , know , understand , comprehend (acc.)

nāryaḥ (nom. pl.): f. woman
kāmaḥ (nom. sg.): m. Kāma, name of the god of love
vigraha-vān (nom. sg. m.): mfn. having form or figure , embodied , incarnate
vigraha: m. separate (i.e. individual) form or shape , form , figure , the body
iti: “...,” thus

śobhitam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. splendid , beautiful , adorned or embellished by
lakṣaṇaiḥ (inst. pl.): n. a mark , sign , symbol , token , characteristic , attribute , quality
dīptaiḥ (inst. pl. n.): mfn. blazing , flaming , hot , shining , bright , brilliant , splendid

saha-jaiḥ (inst. pl. n.): mfn. congenital , innate , hereditary , original , natural
bhūṣaṇaiḥ (inst. pl.): n. embellishment , ornament , decoration
iva: like

衆女見太子 光顏状天身
不假諸飾好 素體踰莊嚴

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