Monday, January 21, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.51: Unscrupulous Behaviour, Triggered by Intoxication

mattasya para-puṣṭasya ruvataḥ śrūyatāṁ dhvaniḥ |
aparaḥ kokilo 'nuktaḥ pratiśrutkeva kūjati || 4.51

Let the sound be heard of the intoxicated male who is calling –

He who was nourished by one other than his mother!

Another male cuckoo, acting without scruple,

Makes a call like an echo.

The ostensible gist of today's verse, as I read it, is that the courtesan is continuing to talk to the prince about the birds and the bees, in such a way as to encourage him to follow his natural instincts as a red-blooded male, without being too conscientious but rather being as spontaneous as rival male cuckoos – whose calls, so they say, are not learned but innate:
Cuckoos are often highly secretive and in many cases best known for their wide repertoire of calls. Calls are usually relatively simple, resembling whistles, flutes, or hiccups. The calls are used in order to demonstrate ownership of a territory and to attract a mate. Within a species the calls are remarkably consistent across the range, even in species with very large ranges. This suggests, along with the fact that many species are not raised by their true parents, that the calls of cuckoos are innate and not learnt....The cuckoo family gets its English and scientific names from the call of the Common Cuckoo, which is also familiar from cuckoo clocks. Some of the names of other species and genera are also derived from their calls, for example the koels of Asia and Australasia. (Wikipedia)
The hidden meaning that Aśvaghoṣa had in mind might relate to the transmission of the buddha-dharma, which (12) Aśvaghoṣa would have heard in the intoxicated preaching of (11) Puṇya-yaśas, who would have heard it in the intoxicated preaching of (10) Pārśva, who would have heard it in the intoxicated preaching of (9) Baddha-mitra, who would have heard it in the intoxicated preaching of (8) Buddha-nandi, who would have heard it in the intoxicated preaching of (7) Vasu-mitra, who would have heard it in the intoxicated preaching of (6) Micchaka, who would have heard it in the intoxicated preaching of (5) Dhītaka, who would have heard it in the intoxicated preaching of (4) Upagupta, who would have heard it in the intoxicated preaching of (3) Śāṇa-vāsa, who would have heard it in the intoxicated preaching of (2) Ānanda who, together with (1) Mahā-kāśyapa, heard it in the intoxicated preaching of Śākya-muni, who, in turn, is said to have heard it following the seven ancient buddhas.

Understood like this, today's verse echoes yesterday's verse which ended with the word anugacchati, he/she follows.

Line by line, the 1st pāda expresses a state of spiritual intoxication whose manifestation the 2nd pāda describes in terms of audible sound; the 3rd pāda describes the absence of any impediment to action; and the 4th pāda, following on from yesterday's verse, suggests the reality of following in a one-to-one transmission or succession. (Where did I get the wherewithal to analyse a four-line verse as above? Not from my biological mother.) 

In Saundara-nanda, the Buddha compares the one-to-one transmission to a source of light:
Therefore forgetting the work that needs to be done in this world on the self, do now, stout soul, what can be done for others. / Among beings who are wandering in the night, their minds shrouded in darkness, let the lamp of this transmission be carried. // SN18.57 //
In today's verse, as I read it, the one-to-one transmission is compared to a source of sound, an innate call, made by one individual who is intoxicated, being high on dharma, and then by another one. Mattasya, then, means intoxicated, spirited, energetic, ebullient; in short, up for it.

After I published yesterday's verse I reflected that in taking itself too seriously my comment might have missed the spirit of the verse itself, which describes one goose swimming or waddling obediently after another. The same may be true of today's comment in relation to today's verse which, after all, if I understand it correctly, is comparing a one-to-one transmission of the Buddha's dharma to one call of a drunken cuckoo (or more accurately a drunken koel) being followed like an echo by the unscrupulous call of another cuckoo.

mattasya (gen. sg. m.): mfn. excited with joy , overjoyed , delighted , drunk , intoxicated (lit. and fig.); excited by sexual passion or desire , in rut , ruttish (as an elephant) ; m. the Indian cuckoo
para-puṣṭasya (gen. sg.) m. 'nourished by another,' the Kokila or Indian cuckoo
puṣṭa: mfn. nourished , cherished , well-fed , thriving , strong , fat
puṣ: to be nourished , to thrive , flourish; to cause to thrive or prosper , nourish , foster , augment , increase , further , promote , fulfil (e.g. a wish) , develop

ruvataḥ = gen. sg. m. pres. part. ru: to roar , bellow , howl , yelp , cry aloud ; to make any noise or sound , sing (as birds) , hum (as bees)
śrūyatām = 3rd pers. sg. passive imperative śru: to hear , listen or attend to anything (acc.) , give ear to any one (acc. or gen.) , hear or learn anything about (acc.); to hear (from a teacher) , study , learn
dhvaniḥ (nom. sg.): m. sound , echo , noise , voice , tone , tune , thunder; the sound of a drum; empty sound without reality; allusion , hint , implied meaning , poetical style

aparaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. posterior , later , latter ; following ; western ; inferior , lower (opposed to pára) ; other , another (opposed to svá) ; different (with abl.) ; being in the west of ; distant , opposite.
kokilaḥ (nom. sg.): m. a cuckoo
an-utkaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. free from regret , not regretting , self-complacent , not repenting of
utka: mfn. excited by the desire of obtaining anything; wishing for (with inf.) , desirous of , longing for ; regretting , sad , sorrowful ; absent , thinking of something else ; mn. desire
anvakṣam [EHJ]: ind. afterwards , immediately after

pratiśrutkā (nom. sg.): f. an echo , reverberation
pratiśrutya [EBC] = abs. prati- √ śru : to listen , give ear to (gen.) ; to assure , agree , promise anything (acc.) to any one (gen. or dat.
iva: like
kūjati = 3rd pers. sg. kūj: to make any inarticulate or monotonous sound , utter a cry (as a bird) , coo (as a pigeon) , caw (as a crow) , warble , moan , groan , utter any indistinct sound

[No corresponding Chinese]


Anonymous Souls said...

Olivelle and Johnston have anvakṣaṃ (adv. "immediately after") rather than anuktaḥ.

Anonymous Souls said...

My apologies for my haste in pointing out that Johnston and Olivelle both had anvakṣaṃ rather than anuktaḥ! I noticed only afterwards that you had already taken note of this and that Johnston was aware of it as well, as indicated in his footnote. Still, for what it is worth, the Tibetan has "mngon sum du" here, which roughly translates as "immediately" and thus appears to support the anvakṣaṃ reading.

Mike Cross said...

Yes, experience (and the evidence of e.g. Weller's fragments) shows that EHJ has a good track record in making amendments to the Sanskrit text, based on the Tibetan.

Still, the old Nepalese manuscript's an-uktaḥ is an interesting kind of a negation, and I am not sure why EHJ deemed it "surely impossible."

EBC translated an-uktaḥ "as if consenting."

Maybe one day more old manuscripts will be unearthed and clever comments based on wrong readings will be seen for what they really were -- manifestations of ill-informed ignorance!