Sunday, December 9, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 4.8 Udāyin Hastens Up

tās-tathā tu nir-ārambhā dṛṣṭvā praṇaya-viklavāḥ |
purohita-suto dhīmān-udāyī vākyam-abravīt || 4.8

But seeing them so disinclined to do,

Thinking them timid about displaying love,

The clever son of a family priest,

'Hurry-Up' Udāyin, spoke his piece:

Today's verse marks the transition from one kind of irony to another. Hitherto in this canto Aśvaghoṣa has been using verbal irony, ostensibly painting women in an unfavourable light while really using them as paragons of how a devout meditator becomes spellbound by the Buddha's teaching. The verbal irony continues in today's verse with (a) the description of the women as nir-ārambhāḥ (“disinclined to do”), which ostensibly means lazy, listless or lacking in enterprise, but which really describes the attitude of a practitioner who has made the Buddha's four noble truths into his own possession; and (b) the description of Udāyin as dhīmān (“clever”), which ostensibly means “wise” (EBC/PO) or “sagacious” (EHJ), but which really describes the kind of intelligence manifested by the great classical economists and politicians of recent years – the kind of wisdom, sagacity, and insight into the management of a national economy that allowed Britain's erstwhile chancellor Gordon Brown to declare “the end of boom and bust.” In the case of Udāyin, to whom Aśvaghoṣa ascribes not even the status of a family's brahman priest, but only the status of a wet-behind-the-ears son of a such a priest, dhīmān does not mean wise at all. Dhīmān means full of bright ideas. Dhīmān means, to put it crudely, full of shit.

So now, as the preachy Udāyin hastens onto the scene, Aśvaghoṣa is about to treat us to some dramatic irony, as defined in Wikipedia as follows:
In dramatic irony, the author causes a character to speak or act erroneously, out of ignorance of some portion of the truth of which the audience is aware. In other words, the audience knows the character is making a mistake, even as the character is making it. This technique highlights the importance of a particular truth by portraying a person who is strikingly unaware of it.
The first clue to the real nature of Udāyin's cleverness might be contained in the 4th pāda, in his name, which is made up of the prefix ud, which means “up” or “up to,” and āyin which means “hastening near,”  or in other words end-gaining. The particular truth that Aśvaghoṣa has in mind might be the principle of indirectness, the means-whereby principle, the truth of softly-softly catchee monkey. And in Hurry-Up Udāyin, Aśvaghoṣa might be portraying the very person who is strikingly unaware of it.

My commentary on Udāyin's purported wisdom, like my commentary on the preaching of the striver in Saundara-nanda, will arise from the murky depths of long-accumulated personal experience -- experience that has not stopped accumulating yet.

tāḥ (nom./acc. pl. f.): they
tathā: ind. thus
tu: but
nir-ārambhāḥ (nom./acc. pl. f.): mfn. not undertaking enterprises , abstaining from all work
ārambha: m. undertaking , beginning ; (in dram.) the commencement of the action which awakens an interest in the progress of the principal plot ; effort, exertion

dṛṣṭvā = abs. dṛś: to see , behold , look at , regard , consider ; to see by divine intuition , think or find out , compose , contrive (hymns , rites , &c )
praṇaya-viklavāḥ (acc. pl. f.): bewildered in their love [EBC]; embarassed by love [EHJ] ; timid in their displays of love [PO; see comment below] 
praṇaya: m. a leader ; affection , confidence in (loc.) , love , attachment , friendship , favour; desire , longing for
viklava: mfn. overcome with fear or agitation , confused , perplexed , bewildered , alarmed , distressed; timid, shy
vi- √ klav: to become agitated or confused
√ klav: to fear , be afraid

purohita-sutah (nom. sg. m.): the son of a family priest
purohita: mfn. placed foremost or in front , charged , commissioned , appointed ; m. one holding a charge or commission , an agent ; m. (esp.) a family priest , a domestic chaplain
dhī-mān (nom. sg. m.): mfn. intelligent , wise , learned , sensible
dhī: f. thought , (esp.) religious thought , reflection , meditation , devotion , prayer (pl. Holy Thoughts personified)

udāyī (nom. sg.): m. Udāyin; “hastening up”
ud-ā- √ yā: to go up to
āyin: mfn. coming or hastening near
vākyam (acc. sg.): n. speech , saying , assertion , statement , command , words
abravīt = 3rd pers. sg. imperf. brū: to speak , say , tell ; proclaim

有婆羅門子 名曰優陀夷


Mike Cross said...

My first attempt at translating the 2nd pāda was "Thinking them to be intimidated by love."

This translation follows EHJ in taking love to be the cause of embarassment/timidity.

Patrick Olivelle, however, takes timidity to be the cause of the women's slowness to display love.

PO therefore translates as "timid in their display of love," and adds
a footnote arguing that 'The term praṇaya means not just love but in the present context more specifically the displays of love, flirtations and the like that the courtesans were supposed to be engaged in so as to divert the mind of the future Buddha. See 4.101 where the term clearly means displays of love.'

On reflection, PO's translation and interpretation are not only superior but also fit better with Udāyin's agenda, which is to encourage the women to get a move on in their mission to distract the prince.

Happi said...

Hi Mike -

I can totally relate to your commentary today. Lately I've been observing how no matter how hard I try, my perception of things as they are is lagging behind the times. This has the unfortunate effect of causing my responses to be backwards from what they should be to get what I want. What a trap. It's totally frustrating!

I'm pretty sure, given your Alexander training, you likely understand from you're own personal experience.

I better go work on the lecture I'm supposed to give tomorrow.

Mike Cross said...

Thanks Gisela. May preparations for the talk go well!