Friday, February 15, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.76: A Story of Sexual Harassment & Coercion

kālīm caiva purā kanyāṁ jala-prabhava-saṁbhavām |
jagāma yamunā-tīre jāta-rāgaḥ parāśaraḥ || 4.76

In olden times, again, the maiden Kālī

Whose birth had its origin in water,

Was pressed for sex on a bank of the Yamunā

By lusting Parāśara, 'The Crusher.'

Today's verse is more amenable to a pāda-by-pāda translation that preserves the original order of elements, albeit by switching from the active to the passive voice.

A translation in the active voice, for conformity with previous verses, might run:

The lusting 'Crusher,' Parāśara, what is more,

In olden times on a bank of the Yamunā,

Ravished the maiden Kālī –

She whose birth had its origin in water.

“Ravished” in this rendering may be too strong as a translation of jagāma. That said, in the account of Parāśara's behaviour contained in this Wikepedia entry on Kālī, Parāśara is to say the least insistent, and jagāma does include the meaning of “attacked.” 

The Mahabharata, Harivamsa and Devi Bhagavata Purana assert that Satyavati was the daughter of a cursed apsara (celestial nymph) named Adrika. Adrika was transformed by a curse into a fish, and lived in the Yamuna river. When Uparicara-vasu was on a hunting expedition he had a nocturnal emission while dreaming of his wife. He sent his semen to his queen with an eagle but, due to a fight with another eagle, the semen dropped into the river and was swallowed by the cursed Adrika-fish. Consequently, the fish became pregnant. The chief fisherman caught the fish, and cut it open. He found two babies in the womb of the fish: one male and one female. The fisherman presented the children to the king, who kept the male child. The boy grew up to become the founder of the Matsya Kingdom. The king gave the female child to the fisherman, naming her Matsya-gandha ("She who has the smell of fish") due to the fishy odor which came from the girl's body. The fisherman raised the girl as his daughter and named her Kali ("the dark one") because of her complexion. Over the course of time, Kali earned the name Satyavati ("truthful"). The fisherman was also a ferryman, ferrying people across the river in his boat. Satyavati helped her father in his job, and grew up into a beautiful maiden.
The Devi Bhagavata Purana narrates that when Kali (Satyavati) was ferrying the rishi Parashara across the river Yamuna, the sage wanted Kali to satisfy his lust and held her right hand. She tried to dissuade Parashara, saying that a learned Brahmin of his stature should not desire a woman who stinks of fish. She finally gave in, realizing the desperation and persistence of the sage and fearing that if she did not heed to his request, he might topple the boat midstream. Kali agreed, and told Parashara to be patient until the boat reached the bank. On reaching the other side the sage grabbed her again, but she declared that her body stank and coitus should be delightful to them both. At these words, Matsyagandha was transformed (by the powers of the sage) into Yojanagandha ("she whose fragrance can be smelled from across a yojana"). She now smelled of musk, and so was called Kasturi-gandhi ("musk-fragrant"). When Parashara, tormented with desire, approached her again she insisted that the act was not appropriate in broad daylight, as her father and others would see them from the other bank; they should wait till night. The sage, with his powers, shrouded the entire area in fog. Before Parashara could enjoy himself Satyavati again interrupted him to say that he would enjoy himself and depart, robbing her of her virginity and leaving her shamed in society. The sage then blessed her with virgo intacta. She asked Parashara to promise her that the coitus would be a secret and her virginity intact; the son born from their union would be as famous as the great sage; and her fragrance and youth would be eternal. Parashara granted her these wishes and was satiated by the beautiful Satyavati. After the act the sage bathed in the river and left, never to meet her again. The Mahabharata abridges the story, noting only two wishes for Satyavati: her virgo intacta and everlasting sweet fragrance.
Ecstatic with her blessings, Satyavati gave birth to her baby the same day on an island in the Yamuna. The son immediately grew up as a youth and promised his mother that he would come to her aid every time she called on him; he then left to do penance in the forest. The son was called Krishna ("the dark one") due to his colour, or Dvaipayana ("one born on an island") and would later became known as Vyasa – compiler of the Vedas and author of the Puranas and the Mahabharata, fulfilling Parashara's prophecy. After this, Satyavati returned home to help her father.
In the original Sanskrit of today's verse, the final word is the subject Parāśara, which means 'Crusher.' Coming at the end of the verse, this adds extra force to the sense of coercion which the above rendering of the story brings out.

When Nanda quotes the same story in Saundara-nanda Canto 7, the verb he uses has a less active or aggressive sense that jagāma: the verb Nanda uses is siṣeve, from the root sev, among whose meanings the dictionary gives as to serve, wait or attend upon, honour, obey, worship; as well as to enjoy sexually, have sexual intercourse with.
So too did the seer Parāśara, user of curses as arrows, have intercourse (siṣeve) with Kālī, who was born from the womb of a fish / The son he conceived in her was the illustrious Dvaipāyana, classifier of the Vedas. // SN7.29 // 
The sense that I get from today's verse, then, is that in regard to the response of the old wizard Parāśara to the strong sexual desire he felt for the young maiden Kālī, Udāyin sounds somewhat affirmative, or at least accepting – in the spirit of "thus it ever was."

One can't help feeling that the prince ought to respond antagonistically to the stimulus of Udāyin's view. But when the prince does respond to Udāyin, he does not in fact seem to be interested in trying to tell Udāyin the score or in trying to reform Udāyin's stupid opinions.

In Alexander terms, one might say that the prince “stayed back in his own back.”

In so doing, the prince might not have done much in the way of re-educating Udāyin there and then, but he did what he could do (and did not do what he did not need to do) in order to be of help in future to 
(1) Mahā-kāśyapa and 
(2) Ānanda, who did what they could to be of help to 
(3) Śaṇavāsa, and so on through 
(4) Upagupta, 
(5) Dhītika, 
(6) Micchaka, 
(7) Vasumitra, 
(8) Buddhanandhi, 
(9) Baddhamitra, 
(10) Pārśva, and 
(11) Puṇyayaśas, who did what he could to be of help to 
(12) Aśvaghoṣa, who did what he could to be of help to us. 

kālīm (acc. sg.): f. “black,” N. of satyavatī , wife of king śāntanu and mother of vyāsa or kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana (after her marriage she had a son vicitra-vīrya , whose widows were married by kṛṣṇa-dvaipāyana , and bore to him dhṛta-rāṣṭra and pāṇḍu)
ca: and
eva: (emphatic)
purā: ind. before , formerly , of old
kanyām (acc. sg.): f. a girl , virgin , daughter

jala-prabhava-saṁbhavām (acc. sg. f.): born from one produced from water ; [EBC: the daughter of the son of the Water (Agni)]
jala: n. water
prabhava: m. production , source , origin , cause of existence (as father or mother , also " the Creator ") , birthplace (often ifc. springing or rising or derived from , belonging to)
sambhava: m. birth , production , origin , source , the being produced from (ifc. = " arisen or produced from , made of , grown in ")

jagāma = 3rd pers. sg. perf. gam: to go ; to go to or towards , approach; to go against with hostile intentions , attack ; to approach carnally , have sexual intercourse with (acc.)
yamunā-tīre (loc. sg.)
yamunā: f. N. of a river commonly called the Jumna (in Hariv. and Ma1rkP. identified with yamī q.v. ; it rises in the himā*laya mountains among the Jumnotri peaks at an elevation of 10 ,849 feet , and flows for 860 miles before it joins the Ganges at Allahabad , its water being there clear as crystal , while that of the Ganges is yellowish ; the confluence of the two with the river sarasvatī , supposed to join them underground , is called tri-veṇī q.v.)
tīra: n. a shore, bank

jāta-rāgaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. enamoured, lusting
parāśaraḥ (nom. sg.): m. 'crusher , destroyer,' N. of a son of vasiṣṭha or of a son of śakti and grandson of vasiṣṭha (according to MBh. the father of vyāsa ; said to be the author of RV. i , 65-73 and part of ix , 97)


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