Wednesday, February 13, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.74: An Archetypal Priest

utathyasya ca bhāryāyāṁ mamatāyāṁ mahā-tapāḥ |
mārutyāṁ janayām-āsa bharad-vājaṁ bhas-patiḥ || 4.7

Again, the great ascetic Bṛhas-pati, 'Lord of Prayer,'

Begat Bharad-vāja, 'Bearer of Velocity,'

In 'Self-Centred' Mama-tā,

Who was a daughter of the storm-gods 
and the wife of [his brother] Utathya.

Today's verse is one of those verses in which the subject of the sentence (Bṛhas-patiis not specified until the very end. This style of expression is sometimes associated with a sting in the tail, and the sting in the tail of today's verse, as I read it, is only felt when we understand that the proper name of Bṛhas-pati, the ascetic hero of today's verse – the guy who got his brother's wife pregnant – is literally “Lord of Prayer.”

I think, then, that Aśvaghoṣa intended us to see a certain irony in Udāyin's citing of the example of Bṛhas-pati, in whom, the dictionary informs us, Piety and Religion are personified; he is the chief offerer of prayers and sacrifices, and therefore represented as the type of the priestly order.

In an effort to bring out some of the irony that I read in the original verse, and to ensure that the English also finishes with a punchline, I have changed the order of the elements and added the information [his brother] in square brackets.

Whilst no specific prohibition is recorded in Saundara-nanda against having sex with your in-laws, a general prohibition is referred to against wooing other people's wives:
Even the man of money and youth with senses excited by objects of his affection -- / Even he never approached others' wives, for he deemed them to be more dangerous than a burning fire. // SN3.32 //
Whereas Bṛhas-pati, despite impregnating his sister-in-law, is regarded as the priestly type, in Aśvaghoṣa's writing I sense a pervasive admiration for those who do not conform to type. These individuals – see especially Saundara-nanda Canto 10 – are often described with the word anya, which means other, different, odd, individual.

Because Sri Lankans like to give their monks rich food, the archetype of the Sri Lankan monk has become overweight and suffering from diabetes. How much to eat, however, always remains a matter of individual choice, and is not a matter to be decided by government pronouncement – as a monk I saw interviewed on TV, responding to a Sri Lankan government initiative, seemed smilingly to suggest. So, notwithstanding the archetype, there might be many shaven-headed individuals in Sri Lanka who are not overweight and not suffering from diabetes.

Who wants to be an archetype, anyway?

Sometimes I do. But when I reflect on it, it is a delusion.

utathyasya (gen. sg.): m. Utathya, N. of a son of aṅgiras and elder brother of bṛhaspati
ca: and
bhāryāyām (loc. sg.): f. wife

mama-tāyām (loc. sg.): f. the state of " mine " , sense of ownership , self-interest , egotism ; Mama-tā, N. of the wife of utathya and mother of dīrgha-tamas
mahā-tapaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. very afflicted ; practising severe penance or great religious austerities ; m. a great ascetic

mārutyām (loc. sg. f.): mf(ī)n relating or belonging to the maruts , proceeding from or consisting of the maruts ; f. the north-west quarter
marut: m. pl. (prob. the " flashing or shining ones " ) the storm-gods (indra's companions)
janayām-āsa = 3rd pers. sg. periphrastic causative perfect jan: to generate , beget , produce , create , cause

bharad-vājam (acc. sg.): m. " bearing speed or strength (of flight) " , a skylark ; N. of a ṛṣi (with the patr. bārhaspatya , supposed author of RV. vi , 1-30 ; 37-43 ; 53-74 ; ix , 67. 1-3 ; x , 137 , 1 , and purohita of diva-dāsa , with whom he is perhaps identical ; bharad is also considered as one of the 7 sages and the author of a law-book)
bharat: mfn. bearing
vāja: m. strength, speed
bṛhas-patiḥ (nom. sg.): m. Bṛhas-pati, " lord of prayer or devotion " N. of a deity (in whom Piety and Religion are personified ; he is the chief offerer of prayers and sacrifices , and therefore represented as the type of the priestly order , and the purohita of the gods with whom he intercedes for men ; in later times he is the god of wisdom and eloquence , to whom various works are ascribed ; he is also regarded as son of aṅgiras , husband of tārā and father of kaca , and sometimes identified with vyāsa ; in astronomy he is the regent of Jupiter and often identified with that planet)
bṛh: prayer



H.I. said...

mahā-tapaḥ (nom. sg. m.)

The nom. sg. m. (which is indeed what is wanted here, although tapaḥ is in itself a neuter noun, because this is a bahuvrīhiḥ adj. to a masc. noun) should be not mahā-tapaḥ but mahā-tapāḥ. Aśvaghoṣa is, in my opinion, far more likely to have written the latter, grammatically correct, form than the former. (That he should have used tapas in compound 'thematized', i.e. treating it as an -a stem---in which case -tapaḥ could be nom. sg. m.---instead of as an -as stem, I also think is highly unlikely, though such a usage was certainly acceptable for some authors of, for instance, Purāṇic or tantric texts.)

Thanks for your dhairya in continuing this project.


Mike Cross said...

Many thanks indeed, for the intervention and the encouragement.

I shall amend the text back to mahā-tapāḥ, as per your suggestion and as per EBC's text.

The dhairya feels like a trickle, and not always of the purest water...

Thanks again.