Tuesday, January 1, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.31: Let the Secret Reveal Itself

kā-cit tāmrādharoṣṭhena mukhenāsava-gandhinā |
viniśaśvāsa karṇe 'sya rahasyaṁ śrūyatām-iti || 4.31

One girl, whose mouth with copper-red lower lip

Betrayed a whiff of distilled nectar,

Whispered in his ear,

Let the secret be revealed!”

If a flirting woman wished to say, in a coquettish way, “Listen to a secret,” then rahasyaṁ śrūyatām would be one way of saying it. At the same time, a Sanskrit-speaking practitioner who wished to encourage another Sanskrit-speaking practitioner in the practice of non-doing might use the exact same words rahasyaṁ śrūyatām to mean “Let the mystery be revealed” – in other words “Don't keep trying to nail jelly to the wall, you moron! Let the mystery reveal itself.”

Was Aśvaghoṣa conscious of the double-entendre? You can bet your bottom dollar he was.

What we are getting here, then, is a kind of ironic reversal of ordinary sexual innuendo. In ordinary sexual innuendo ostensibly innocent language has a covert sexual meaning. In Aśvaghoṣan innuendo, overtly sexual language has a covert meaning related to sitting-Zen.

That being so, the girl's lower lip is described as copper red ostensibly because of the lingering presence of licqour, that is, distilled spirit of the alcoholic variety; or because of the presence of the natural nectar of a woman's lips. But the hidden meaning may be that the girl's moist lip is an indication of the presence in her of concentrated vital spirit, or maybe even of amṛta, the nectar of immortality.

kā-cit (nom. sg. f.): somebody, one of the women
tāmrādharoṣṭhena (inst. sg.): with a copper[-coloured] lower lip
tāmra: mfn. of a coppery red colour ; made of copper ; n. copper ; n. a coppery receptacle
adhara: mfn. lower , inferior , tending downwards; m. the lower lip , the lip
oṣṭha: m. the lip

mukhena (inst. sg.): n. the mouth , face , countenance ;
āsava-gandhinā (nom. sg. f.): smelling of licquor ; betraying a whiff of distilled spirit / a woman's nectar
āsava: m. distilling , distillation ; rum , spirit distilled from sugar or molasses , spirituous liquor in general ; the nectar or juice of a flower ; the nectar or juice of the lips (of a woman) ; m. exciting , enlivening
gandhin: mfn. smelling of (in comp.); ifc. having (only the smell i.e.) a very little of anything

viniśaśvāsa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi-ni- √ śvas: to breathe hard , snort , hiss ; to sigh deeply
karṇe (loc. sg.): m. the ear (karṇe [in drama] into the ear , in a low voice , aside)
asya (gen. sg.): his

rahasyam (nom. sg.): n. a secret , any secret doctrine or mystery , any subtle or recondite point , mystical or esoteric teaching
śrūyatām = 3rd pers. sg. passive imperative śru: to be heard or perceived or learnt ; to be celebrated or renowned , be known as , pass for , be called (nom.) ; to be heard or learnt (from a teacher) ; to be taught or stated (in a book) ; to be heard i.e. pronounced or employed (as a sound or word)
iti: “...,” thus

[No corresponding Chinese] 

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