Monday, December 10, 2012

BUDDHACARITA 4.9: When Women Show Their Original Features

sarvāḥ sarva-kalā-jñāstha bhāva-grahaṇa-paṇḍitāḥ |
rūpa-cāturya-saṁpannāḥ sva-guṇair-mukhyatā gatāḥ || 4.9

“Adept in all the subtle arts,

Expert in understanding the emotions,

Possessed of beautiful form and dexterity,

By graces that are proper to you,
you all have risen to pre-eminence.

Every verse that Aśvaghoṣa writes seems to be suffused with irony. But some speakers, like Hurry-Up Udāyin, and like the striver in Saundara-nanda, are singularly unaware of the irony in their own words. 

So in a verse like today's verse, there may be dramatic irony in the speaker's lack of awareness of the verbal irony in his own words.

That being so, if a function of dramatic irony is “to highlight the importance of a particular truth by portraying a person who is strikingly unaware of it,” then a particular truth of which Udāyin is being portrayed as strikingly unaware, might be irony itself. 

Expression of the truth is so often ironic in Aśvaghoṣa's writing that one begins to get the impression that Aśvaghoṣa saw something very truthful about irony. This appreciation of irony is doubltess related with mindfulness of the gap that is liable to exist, when we purport to be something, between how we purport to be and how we actually are.

In today's verse what Udāyin intends his words to convey is a sexist and condescending view. But what Udāyin's words also convey, unbeknowns to Udāyin himself, is a description of one who has gone beyond all views.

In the former case, sarva-kalā-jñāḥ means, to paraphrase, knowing every womanly wile and exotic technique for giving men pleasure; bhāva-grahaṇa-paṇḍitāḥ means expert in seizing men's hearts; rūpa-cāturya-saṁpannāḥ means equipped with the kind of beautiful figure and deftness of touch, or manual dexterity, that are sufficient to satisfy a man; and sva-guṇair-mukhyatāṁ gatāḥ means risen as high in the social pecking order as any courtesan could hope to rise, relying on the particular seductive charms that are proper to a courtesan.

In the latter case, a four-phased philosophical progressison becomes apparent, in which 
(1)  sarva-kalā-jñāḥ means knowing what Dogen called 最上無為の妙術 (Jap: SAIJO-MUI NO MYO-JUTSU) the subtle technique which is supreme and free of doing;
(2) bhāva-grahaṇa-paṇḍitāḥ means expert in understanding those human emotions that are rooted, for example, in undue excitement of primitive survival reflexes, most notably that deep fear of death personified by Māra – the Māra reflex (aka Moro reflex); 
(3) rūpa-cāturya-saṁpannāḥ means possessed not of “right posture” but of that beautiful form in sitting which is liable to be manifested by a person who understands in practice what FM Alexander meant when he said “the conscious mind must be quickened”; and 
(4) sva-guṇair-mukhyatāṁ gatāḥ means truly risen to pre-eminence by sitting in lotus, allowing body and mind to drop off, naturally and spontaneously, and letting one's original human features emerge.

What Udāyin has in mind, then, when he speaks of sva-guṇaiḥ, “graces proper to you,” is the equipment of seduction. But what Aśvaghoṣa has in mind when he puts the word sva-guṇaiḥ into Udāyin's mouth might be the tendency of clouds naturally to float, of trees to grow, of the sun to shine, and of running water and birds to produce sounds rich in frequencies that nourish the human brain and nervous system. Sva-guṇaiḥ, in other words, means not only the seductive graces that are proper to female courtesans, but also the original state of grace that naturally belongs to everybody... though generally we are so busy hastening near to targets that we cannot find the time to re-discover our birthright.

sarvāḥ (nom. pl.): f. all
sarva-kalā-jñāḥ (nom. pl. f.): skilled in all the arts; knowing every [womanly] wile
kalā: f. a small part of anything , any single part or portion of a whole; an atom ; any practical art , any mechanical or fine art ; skill , ingenuity
kalā-jña: mfn. skilled in arts ; m. an artist
stha = 2nd pers. pl. as: to be

bhāva-grahaṇa-paṇḍitāḥ (nom. pl. f.): expert in seizing hearts
bhāva: m. being ; true condition or state , truth , reality ; any state of mind or body , way of thinking or feeling , sentiment , opinion , disposition , intention ; (in rhet.) passion , emotion ; love , affection , attachment ; the seat of the feelings or affections , heart , soul , mind
grahaṇa: n. n. seizing , holding , taking; n. catching , seizure , taking captive ; n. gaining , obtaining , receiving , acceptance; n. assuming (a shape) ; n. undertaking , devoting one's self to (in comp.); mentioning , employing (a word or expression); n. perceiving , understanding , comprehension , receiving instruction , acquirement of any science
paṇḍita: mfn. learned , wise , shrewd , clever , skilful in , conversant with

rūpa-cāturya-saṁpannāḥ (nom. pl. f.): possessed of beauty and dexterity
rūpa: n. any outward appearance or phenomenon or colour (often pl.) , form , shape , figure; handsome form , loveliness , grace , beauty , splendour
cāturya: n. dexterity , cleverness
catura: mfn. swift , quick ; dexterous , clever , ingenious , shrewd ; charming , agreeable
cat: to hide oneself, to go
saṁpanna: mfn. fallen or turned out well , accomplished , effected , perfect , excellent (ifc. or with loc. = " perfectly acquainted or conversant with "); endowed or furnished with , possessed of

sva-guṇaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. one's own merits ; mfn. having one's own merits , appropriate
mukhyatām (acc. sg.): f. pre-eminence , superiority , highest rank or position
mukhya: mfn. being at the head or at the beginning , first , principal , chief , eminent
gatāḥ (nom. pl. f.): mfn. gone; gone to any state or condition

聰明多技術 色力亦不常
[Relation to Sanskrit tenuous] 

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