Tuesday, February 12, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.73: Strong Sexual Desire, Re-directed & Consummated

agastyaḥ prārthayām-āsa soma-bhāryāṁ ca rohiṇīm |
tasmāt tat-sadśīṁ lebhe lopā-mudrām-iti śrutiḥ || 4.73

And so much did Agastya desire Red Rohiṇī,

The wife of moon-god Soma,

That he came to possess, tradition has it,
a woman modelled after her,

'The Robber of Attributes,' Lopā-mudrā.

Neither EHJ nor PO could trace the story of Agastya lusting after Rohiṇī, whose name 'the Red One' is thought to derive from the colour of the star Aldebaran, in the constellation of the moon.

The story is well documented, in contrast, of how Agastya fashioned Lopā-mudrā by taking her doe-eyes from deer, and other attractive attributes from other animals. EHJ notes that the best known version of Agastya's subsequent marriage to Lopā-mudrā is in the Agastyopākhyāna, M Bh., iii. A note by PO adds the information that at M Bh CE III.94.24, Lopā-mudrā is compared to the star Rohiṇī.

With corroborating evidenced drawn from the literature, Udāyin is ostensibly building his case for following sexual desire as a natural instinctive drive.

The irony might be that, due to the particular way in which Aśvaghoṣa has caused Udāyin to relate the ancient legend of how Agastya eventually consummated his desire – combining the well-known element of the legend which was Agastya's fashioning of Lopā-mudrā, with a relatively obscure reference to similarity between Lopā-mudrā and Rohiṇī – Udāyin is implicitly building a case for re-directing desire.

As a key element in evolution by natural selection, the instinctive consummation of sexual desire is part of the approach that FM Alexander called end-gaining. Alexander saw that the next step for mankind, having got thus far relying on evolution, was to learn how consciously to re-direct the energy of desire  so that human desires might be consummated relying less on instinct and more on reason.  

I think that in today's verse Aśvaghoṣa was coming from the same awareness as was FM Alexander, who thought that in this matter of conscious re-direction of desire, he had “barely scratched the surface of the egg.”

Today's verse along with yesterday's verse, then, might have much more to them than initially meets the eye. I think they stem from Aśvaghoṣa's awareness of the vital importance of the energy of sexual desire, in light of two big laws of the universe – evolution via natural selection, and the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

agastyaḥ (nom. sg.): m. (according to Un2. iv , 179 fr. a-ga , a mountain , and asti , thrower). N. of a ṛṣi (author of several Vedic hymns ; said to have been the son of both mitra and varuṇa by urvaśī ; to have been born in a water-jar ; to have been of short stature ; to have swallowed the ocean , and compelled the vindhya mountains to prostrate themselves before him ; to have conquered and civilized the South ; to have written on medicine , &c )
prārthayām-āsa = 3rd pers. sg. periphrastic perf. pra- √arth: to wish or long for , desire (acc.); to demand in marriage , woo

soma-bhāryām (acc. sg. f.): Moon's wife
soma: ,m. juice, the soma; the moon or moon-god
ca: and
rohiṇīm (acc. sg.): f. (f. of rohita, " red " ; also f. of rohin, “rising,” ) a red cow or [later] any cow (represented as a daughter of surabhi and mother of cattle , esp. of kāma-dhenu , " cow of plenty " ; in the veda , rohiṇī may perhaps also mean " a red mare ") ; N. of the ninth nakṣatra or lunar asterism and of the lunar day belonging to it ( it is personified as a daughter of dakṣa , and as the favourite wife of the Moon , called " the Red one " from the colour of the star Aldebaran or principal star in the constellation which contains 5 stars, and is figured by a wheeled vehicle or sometimes by a temple or fish )

tasmāt: ind. from that , on that account , therefore
tat-sadṛśīm (acc. sg. f.): resembling her
sadṛśa: mfn. like , resembling , similar to (gen. instr. , loc. , or comp.)
lebhe = 3rd pers. sg. labh: to gain possession of , obtain

lopā-mudrām (acc. sg.): f. N. of the reputed wife of the sage agastya (she is said to have been formed by the sage himself and then secretly introduced into the palace of the king of vidarbha , where she grew up as his daughter ; she asked her husband to acquire immense riches ; so he went to the rich demon ilvala , and having conquered him , satisfied his wife with his wealth ; she is considered as the authoress of RV. )
lopā: f. a kind of bird
lopa: mfn. breaking, robbing, disappearance
mudrā: f. a seal ; any stamp or print or mark or impression ; an image , sign , badge , token (esp. a token or mark of divine attributes impressed upon the body)
iti: “...,” thus
śrutiḥ (nom. sg.): f. hearing , listening ; that which is heard or perceived with the ear , sound , noise &c ; rumour , report , news , intelligence , hearsay ; a saying ; that which has been heard or communicated from the beginning , sacred knowledge orally transmitted by the Brahmans from generation to generation , the veda (iti śruteḥ , " because it is so taught in the veda , according to a śruti or Vedic text ")

阿伽陀仙人 長夜脩苦行
爲以求天后 而遂願不果

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