Tuesday, May 7, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.53: A Beautiful Stoop

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
maṇi-kuṅḍala-daṣṭa-pattra-lekhaṁ mukha-padmaṁ vinataṁ tathāparasyāḥ |
śata-pattram-ivārdha-vakra-nāḍaṁ sthita-kāraṇḍava-ghaṭṭitaṁ cakāśe || 5.53

With its streaks of scented make-up nibbled by jewelled ear-rings,

The bowed lotus-face of one, again, who was different,

Looked a picture, like a lotus of many petals, 
with its stalk half rounded,

That had been pecked and dunked by a perching duck.

The simile of the lotus that has suffered the attentions of a kāraṇḍava duck, representing a woman's beautiful face that has had its make-up nibbled away at the edges by her earrings, is familiar to us from the description of Sundarī in SN Canto 4:
Then, looking repeatedly at the face of her husband, whose hand had clung to the mirror, / She completed her face-painting, so that the surface of her cheeks was wet with tamāla juice. // SN4.20 // Framed by the tamāla smudges, her face with its cherry red lips, and wide eyes extending to her hair, / Seemed like a lotus framed by duck-weed, with crimson tips, and two big bees settled on it. // 4.21 // Attentively now, Nanda held the mirror, which was bearing witness to a work of beauty. / Squinting to see the flecks she had painted, he beheld the face of his impish lover. // 4.22 // The make-up was nibbled away at its edges by her earrings so that her face was like a lotus that had suffered the attentions of a kāraṇḍava duck. / Nanda, by gazing upon that face, became all the more the cause of his wife's happiness. // SN4.23 //
Again, the sagging stalk of a lotus. as a simile for a stooped posture, is familiar from its use to describe Nanda at the end of SN Canto 5:
As his hair was thus being banished, his tearful downcast face / Resembled a rain-sodden lotus in a pond with the top of its stalk sagging down. // SN5.52 //
EHJ explains the simile in today's verse as follows: The face is the lotus, the earring the bird, the neck the bent stalk.

Following EHJ, PO notes that The simile appears to be as follows: the lotus is the face, the stalk is the neck, the bird is the earrings. Kāraṇdava is probably the common coot, although the term is also applied to any water bird.

I rather picture the stalk as the whole of the spine, including the neck, forming (as per EBC's translation) "a half-circle."

So much for the simile. What about the metaphor?

I am not sure about the make-up and earrings, but the gist of the metaphor is that a battered lotus with a rounded stalk is a sitting buddha who is not necessarily a Buddhist poster boy  – and who in this sense is apara, different, individual, other than what was expected. 

EHJ comments in a footnote to tomorrow's verse: If the verbs in this and the preceding verses [virejurcakāśe and viraraja] mean 'appear beautiful', as the negatives show them to do in 57, 60, and 61, we should have the contradiction that the women were attractive in these attitudes.

In today's verse, following EBC's “appeared to be a lotus”, EHJ translated cakāśe as “it took the likeness [of a lotus],” and PO followed suit with “looking like a lotus.” These neutral translations of cakāśe have the merit of not excluding either the ostensible gist of the present series of verses (in which the women's grotesque postures make them unattractive) or the hidden subtext (in which the beauty of a sitting buddha's sitting shines through, in spite of his or her individual irregularities).

At the same time, I think there is indeed a contradiction here that Aśvaghoṣa's wording is inviting us to recognize. The contradiction, which EHJ somehow intuited from the Sanskrit but failed to clarify, arises from the sub-text of the metaphor, in which Aśvaghoṣa is ironically singing the praises of individual buddhas who sit beautifully, in irregular attitudes. And the meaning of the negatives to which EHJ refers, like na babhur (“they did not shine”) in BC5.57, might be that they were not concerned about keeping up appearances; rather, they were happy just letting it all hang out.

Thus, if the sub-text of yesterday's verse was to praise the irregular, pendulous beauty of a buddha who sits with a lateral curvature of the spine, the sub-text of today's verse might be to praise the irregular beauty of a sitting buddha who sits with a forward curve in the spine – so that the primary curve of the spine, which a baby has in the womb, is more pronounced, and the secondary curves of the spine less so.

In view of the sub-text which is thus emerging from the present series of verses as we study them one by one, the wording of "grotesque postures and gestures,” which was my first stab at translating vikṛtāś-ca gātra-ceṣṭāḥ in BC5.47, evidently needs to be changed. As a translation of vikṛtāḥ, "irregular" may be closer to capturing the ambiguity that Aśvaghoṣa is playing with – so that on the surface vikṛtāḥ means irregular in the sense of grotesque, deformed, not as they ought to be; whereas the real meaning of vikṛtāḥ might be irregular in the sense of not conforming to people's immature conceptions of regularity. 

When Shobogenzo Book One was published in 1994, Dogen's instruction 正身端坐 (SHOSHIN-TANZA) was translated in it as “make the body right and sit up straight.” A much better translation, as I understand those words now, would have a more non-doing feel about it, along the lines of “Allowing the body in the right direction, sit upright.”

The point, in conclusion, is that there is no such thing as a right shape or position, but there is a right direction; and a person who is going in that direction – whatever his or her peculiar shape happens to be – is going in the right direction. 

maṇi-kuṅḍala-daṣṭa-pattra-lekham (nom. sg. n.): with face-paint nibbled by jewelled ear-rings
maṇi: m. a jewel , gem , pearl
kuṅḍala: n. ear-ring
daṣṭa: mfn. bitten , stung
pattra-lekhā: f. a decoration consisting in lines or streaks drawn on the face and body with musk and other fragrant substances.
pattra: n. the wing of a bird , pinion , feather ; a leaf, petal
lekha: m. a line , stroke; f. a scratch , streak , line , stroke , stripe , furrow ; the pale or faintly discernible streak of the young moon's crescent , the act of delineation , drawing , painting; the drawing of lines with fragrant substances (on the face , arms , breast &c )

mukha-padmam (nom. sg. n.): a lotus-face
vinatam (nom. sg. n.): mfn. mfn. bent , curved , bent down , bowed , stooping , inclined , sunk down , depressed , deepened ; humble , modest ; dejected , dispirited
tathā: ind. similarly
aparasyāḥ (gen. sg. f.): another, another woman

śata-pattram (nom. sg.): 'having a hundred (i.e. numberless) feathers or leaves' ; n. a lotus which opens by day
iva: like
ardha-vakra-nāḍam (nom. sg. n.): with its hollow stalk bent half down
ardha: half
vakra: mfn. crooked , curved , bent , tortuous , twisted , wry , oblique
nāḍa: n. (fr. naḍa) = nāla , a hollow stalk

sthita-kāraṅḍava-ghaṭṭitam (nom. sg. n.): pressed down by a kāraṅḍava duck standing on it
sthita: mfn. standing
kāraṇḍava: m. a sort of duck
ghaṭṭita: mfn. rubbed , touched , shaken ; pressed down
ghaṭṭ: to rub (the hands) over , touch , shake , cause to move ; to stir round ; to have a bad effect or influence on (acc.)
cakāśe = 3rd pers. sg. perf. kāś: to be visible , appear ; to shine , be brilliant , have an agreeable appearance

頻呻長欠呿 魘呼涕流涎
蓬頭露醜形 見若顛狂人
華鬘垂覆面 或以面掩地
或擧身戰掉 猶若獨搖鳥  

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