Wednesday, February 20, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 4.81: Forbidden Objects & Available Enjoyments

evam-ādīn mahātmāno viṣayān garhitān-api |
¦⏑⏑⏑−¦¦−−⏑⏑¦⏑−⏑−   navipulā
rati-hetor-bubhujire prāg-eva guṇa-saṁhitān || 4.81

Great men, driven by pleasure,

Enjoyed objects such as these,

Even when those enjoyments were forbidden –

How much more [to be enjoyed] are those that come with merit?

Today's verse as I read it works better with evam-ādīn in the accusative, modifying viṣayān (sensual objects/enjoyments) as per the old Nepalese manuscript. EBC's manuscript had evam-ādyā[ḥ] in the nominative, modifying mahātmāno (great men), and EHJ amended his Sanskrit text accordingly, on the basis that both the Chinese and Tibetan translations also seem to read evam-ādyā. That basis, I am sure, at least as far as the Chinese translation is concerned, is no basis at all.

In BC4.77, when Akṣamālā was described as garhitāyām, I discussed whether garhita should be understood as meaning “vile, contemptible” (expressing Udāyin's own contempt for an outcaste) or more neutrally as “despised” (expressing the general attitude to an outcaste). Another possibility that I failed to consider in BC4.77 is that garhita might mean “forbidden.” In today's verse, anyway, I think “forbidden” fits as a translation of garhitān.

So evam-ādīn viṣayān garhitān means women as forbidden sexual objects, like Ahalyā, who, as the wife of the sage Gautama,was forbidden fruit that tasted sweet to the god Puraṁdara; like Lopā-mudrā whom Agastya enjoyed as a second-best object, when his first choice Red Rohiṇī was unavailable to him; like Mama-tā, who, as the wife of his brother, was forbidden fruit to Bṛhas-pati, but he enjoyed her anyway; like Bṛhas-pati's own wife, who the Moon ought not to have enjoyed while she was performing a sacred rite, but he also did anyway; like the young maiden Kālī who the old wizard Parāśara fleetingly enjoyed, after being forbidden for a while; like the despised (or forbidden?) outcaste Akṣa-mālā, who the sage Vasiṣṭha enjoyed; like Mādrī, forbidden enjoyment of whom Pāṇḍu was finally unable to resist; and like the brahmin girl who Karāla-janaka ought not to have abducted, if he wished to keep his kingdom.

What Udāyin is ostensibly doing in the 4th pāda, then, is encouraging the prince to enjoy the women in the park as objects which are not forbidden to him, since such enjoyment would not have attached to it the sin of tasting forbidden fruit, but would come only with merit. 

So if once again we look for truth in Udāyin's words that he is expressing unbeknowns to himself, can the 4th pāda be read as an exhortation to enjoy enjoyments which are not forbidden to anybody but which are both pleasurable and full of merit – like, say, mindful breaths, or spoonfuls of breakfast, or sips of tea?

Read like this, although Udāyin himself might never have guessed it in a dream, the 4th pāda once again seems to relate to the principle of not being greedy for what might or might not be accessible out there, but instead being content with whatever small enjoyments are readily available – the principle, in other words, of alpecchu-saṁtuṣṭa, having small desire and being content.

In the words of Master Wanshi, quoted in Shobogenzo chap. 66, Shunju:
I tell you I can catch a giant turtle just by bending down. You are a laugh, dallying in the sand with a fishing rod.
The irony that may be read into today's verse, then, is that insofar as the gist of what Udāyin is telling the prince is “There is no need for you to hanker after objects that are distant, or inaccessible, or forbidden; you can simply enjoy what is readily available,” that gist is also the gist of the Buddha's teaching of wanting little and being content – alpecchu-saṁtuṣṭa.

evam-ādīn (acc. pl. m.): mfn. beginning with such a one , of such qualities or kind , such
evam-ādyāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. beginning with such a one , of such qualities or kind , such
mahātmānaḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. " high-souled " , magnanimous , having a great or noble nature , high-minded , noble ; highly gifted , exceedingly wise ; eminent , mighty , powerful , distinguished; m. the Supreme Spirit , great soul of the universe

viṣayān (acc. pl.): m. an object of sense ; anything perceptible by the senses , any object of affection or concern or attention , any special worldly object or aim or matter or business , (pl.) sensual enjoyments , sensuality
garhitān (acc. pl. m.): mfn. blamed ; contemned , despised , contemptible , forbidden , vile
api: even

rati-hetoḥ (gen. sg.): for the joy of sex, for the joy of it, because of sexual passion
rati: f. pleasure , enjoyment , delight in , fondness for ; the pleasure of love , sexual passion or union , amorous enjoyment (often personified as one of the two wives of kāma-deva , together with prīti q.v.)
hetu: m. " impulse " , motive , cause , cause of , reason for (loc. , rarely dat. or gen. ; hetunā, hetoḥ, hetave, hetau , " for a cause or reason " , " by reason of " , " on account of " [with gen. or comp. e.g. mama hetoḥ or mad-dhetoḥ , " on account of me "])
bubhujire = 3rd pers. pl. perf. bhuj: to enjoy , use , possess , (esp.) enjoy a meal ; to enjoy (carnally)

prāg-eva: ind. still more so , how much more
guṇa-saṁhitān (acc. pl. m.): [objects] associated with merit
guṇa: m. good quality , virtue , merit , excellence
saṁhita: mfn. put together , joined , attached ; joined or connected or endowed or furnished with , abounding in , possessed of , accompanied by (comp.)

如是比衆多 悉爲女人壞
況今自境界 而不能娯樂

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