Friday, May 3, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.49: Clasping the Bamboo Flute

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
vibabhau kara-lagna-veṇur-anyā stana-visrasta-sitāṁśukā śayānā |
ju-ṣaṭ-pada-paṅkti-juṣṭa-padmā jala-phena-prahasat-taṭā nadīva || 5.49

Another individual, clasping her bamboo flute in her hand,

As she lay with a white robe slipping down from her breast,

Resembled a river where a line of orderly bees is visiting a lotus  

A river where foam from the water is giving the shore a white smile.

As regards the elements of the river simile, EHJ noted that the bees are the flute, the lotuses the hands, the banks the breasts, and the foam the white robe. EHJ noted further that laughter is white in comparisons.

PO noted that the simile appears to be as follows: the river is the the body/chest, the foam the white dress, the breasts are the lotuses, and the row of bees is the flute.

The simile as I picture it compares the individual woman (breasts and all) to a river, the bamboo flute in her hand to a line of bees visiting a lotus, and her white robe to white foam on the shore of a river

So much for the simile. If, as I argued yesterday, each girl is a metaphorical monk, where does the bamboo flute fit into the wider metaphor?

Probably the man to ask would be long-time follower of this blog Jordan Fountain, a straight-shooting US Marine who is also a long-time devotee of the bamboo flute.

All I can think is that if, in the first verse in the 14-verse series, a cherished lute is the symbol of honoured religious insignia, then for balance the bamboo flute might represent something irreligious – and the juxtaposition of two such items, symbolized by cherished lute and bamboo flute, might cause a reader whose mind is amused by such trifles to laugh or smile. 

Apropos of which Kodo Sawaki, so the story goes, used to say that buddha has the freedom to do this (joining hands and bowing) and the freedom to do this (pulling down the skin below the eyeball with the tip of his index finger).  

Some advocate, as a practice that is conducive to mindfulness, maintaining a half-smile; and the logic in this is readily appreciable. In the Alexander world, Marjorie Barstow is known for saying that everything works better with a smile. The danger with believing in this principle is that one is liable to make a grinning pillock of oneself by going around artificially trying to do a half-smile. In that case, the effort to keep smiling corresponds to lying down and striving to go to sleep  – well-intentioned effort that makes sense in theory but tends not to work in practice. For this reason, I think, FM Alexander himself, who was nothing if not practical, took the indirect approach and asked his pupils to think of something funny that might make them smile. For this reason, also, when we browse images of Kodo Sawaki, the old contrarian sometimes seems almost to be making a conscious muscular effort to turn the sides of his mouth downwards. 

So I, for my sins, read today's verse in this light. Which is to say that on the surface Aśvaghoṣa is using a simile to describe the allure of a female sleeping beauty. But I think what Aśvaghoṣa might really be doing, within a metaphor, is helping the reader in the direction of a possible genuine smile, by conjuring a picture of a man who aspires to Buddhist enlightenment, when he is necessarily given over during the night to the darkness of sleep, holding in his hand, totally unconsciously and unintentionally, ... well, his bamboo flute. 

vibabhau = 3rd pers. sg. perf. vi- √ bhā: to shine or gleam forth , come to light , become visible , appear ; to shine brightly , glitter , be resplendent or beautiful , strike or catch the eye
kara-lagna-veṇuḥ (nom. sg. f.): hand clasping her bamboo flute
kara: m. 'doer'; the hand
lagna: mfn. adhered , adhering or clinging to , attached to , sticking or remaining in , fixed on , intent on , clasping , touching
veṇu: m. a bamboo , reed , cane ; a flute , fife , pipe
anyā (nom. sg. f.): another one; a different/odd woman

stana-visrasta-sitāṁśukā (nom. sg. f.): her white upper garment fallen from her breast
stana: the female breast ; the nipple (of the female or the male breast)
visrasta: mfn. fallen asunder or down , unfastened , untied , loosened , detached ; dishevelled ; slackened , relaxed
sita: mfn. white
aṁśuka: n. cloth ; fine or white cloth , muslin ; upper garment
śayānā (nom. sg. f.): lying down, resting, sleeping

ṛju-ṣaṭ-pada-paṅkti-juṣṭa-padmā (nom. sg. f.): its lotuses frequented by an orderly row of bees
ṛju: mfn. tending in a straight direction , straight ; in a straight line
ṣaṭ-pada: m. a six-footed animal , insect ; f. (ifc.) a bee
paṅkti: f. a row or set or collection of five , the number 5 ; any row or set or series or number , a group , collection , flock , troop , assembly , company
juṣṭa: frequented , visited , inhabited ; afflicted by (comp.): furnished with , possessed of ( comp.)
padma: lotus

jala-phena-prahasat-taṭā (nom. sg. f.): its sloping banks smiling with the white foam of its water
jala-phena: m. water-froth;
phena: m. foam , froth , scum
prahasat: mfn. laughing , smiling
taṭa: m. a slope , declivity , any part of the body which has (as it were) sloping , sides (cf. śroṇi- , stana- , &c ) , a shore
nadī: f. flowing water , a river (commonly personified as a female)
iva: like

傍倚或反側 或復似投深

No comments: