aparāḥ śayitā yathopaviṣṭāḥ stana-bhārair-avanamyamāna-gātrāḥ |
upaguhya parasparaṁ virejur-bhuja-pāśais-tapanīya-pārihāryaiḥ || 5.54
Other individuals, having dropped off as they sat,
Their bodies bowing down under the troy weight of their breasts,
Shone forth, as they drew each other into a protective embrace,
Using the leashes of their arms, with golden cuffs.
Today's verse contains a metaphor within a metaphor. The metaphor within a metaphor, as I read it, is the description of the women's arms as snares or ropes or leashes or chains, and their golden bracelets as nooses or cuffs.
What is ostensibly being described, then, is women who were sitting close together – for example on a couch, or in a small circle on the floor – having fallen asleep while still sitting up. So the women are still sitting, even as they sleep, and the weight of their breasts is pulling them forward and down; but their mutually intertwined arms are supporting them and maintaining them in a sitting position.
But I think what is being suggested as part of the wider metaphor is sitting in a meditation hall, in a group of mutually supportive friends, and dropping off one's own body and mind.
Thus, in an early chapter of Shobogenzo titled Rules for the Hall of Heavy Cloud (JU-UNDO-SHIKI), Dogen wrote:
The members of the Hall should harmonize like milk and water, and should whole-heartedly promote each other's practice of the truth.... The benevolence of this Saṁgha, in promoting each other's health and in promoting each other's practice, surpasses even that of a father and mother. A father and mother are only parents for the short span between life and death, but this Saṁgha will be friends in the Buddha's truth forever.
Following this wider metaphorical subtext, then, śayita in the 1st pāda, which ostensibly means dropped off in the sense of having fallen asleep, really means being in a state of utter repose, one's own body and mind having spontaneously fallen away and one's original features – thanks to the whole-hearted support of good friends – having emerged.
Exactly what the 2nd pāda signifies, I am not sure. But it certainly does not suggest the kind of hyper-extended and narrowed back that tends to be favoured by soldiers standing to attention on a military parade ground – not to mention Zen advocates of sitting in the right posture (one of whom, I confess, I used to be). One of the meanings the dictionary gives for bhāra is a particular weight of gold – something like a troy pound – and so bhāra is conceivably intended to convey a sense of breasts adorned by gold, an energized mass as opposed to a dead weight.
In the 3rd pāda, upaguhya parasparam (lit. pressing each other to each other's bosoms) as part of the wider metaphor means “whole-heartedly promoting each other's practice of the truth” as “friends in the Buddha's truth forever.”
And in the 4th pāda I think that golden cuffs, like the golden bands in BC5.50, are a suggestion of energy flowing through joints that are free of undue tension – apropos of which an aphorism of FM Alexander's may be relevant:
“You chase tension all around the body, and it ends up in the wrists.”
As a preventive measure against such tension, is it useful in sitting to have a picture of golden cuffs around the wrists and golden bands around the elbows and upper arms? Is it is useful to think of sitting itself as golden?
Notwithstanding the affirmation of group sitting practice that seems to be implicit in today's verse, I think that, in the end, those might be questions for each person to investigate for him or her self, as an individual who is anya or apara – other, different.
aparāḥ (nom. pl. f.): others, other women
śayitāḥ (nom. pl. f.): mfn. reposed , lying , sleeping , asleep
śī: to lie , lie down , recline , rest , repose ; to lie down to sleep , fall asleep , sleep
yathā: ind. in which manner or way , according as , as , like ; as soon as ; as , because , since
upaviṣṭāḥ (nom. pl. f.): mfn. seated , sitting
stana-bhāraiḥ (inst. pl.): with the burdens of their breasts
stana: m. the female breast
bhāra: m. ( √ bhṛ) a burden , load , weight ; a large quantity , mass , bulk ; a partic. weight (= 20 tulās = 2000 palas of gold)
avanamyamāna-gātrāḥ (nom. pl. f.): bodies being bowed down
avanamyamāna = pres. part. passive ava- √ nam: to bow ; to bow , make a bow to
gātra: n. " instrument of moving " , a limb or member of the body ; the body
ava- √ nam: to bow
ava- √ man: to despise , treat contemptuously
upaguhya = abs. upa- √ guh: to hide , cover , conceal ; to clasp , embrace , press to the bosom
parasparam: ind. each other, mutually
virejur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. vi- √ rāj: to be illustrious or eminent , shine forth , shine out (abl.) , glitter ; to appear as (nom.)
bhuja-pāśaiḥ (inst. pl.): with the snares/ties/chains of their arms
bhuja: m. the arm; the hand ; a branch , bough ; a bending , curve , coil (of a serpent ; bhuja-ga = " going in curves " , a snake); the base of a triangle
pāśa: m. a snare , trap , noose , tie , bond , cord , chain , fetter (lit. and fig.); (ifc. it expresses either contempt e.g. chattra-p° , " a shabby umbrella " , or admiration e.g. karṇa-p° , " a beautiful ear " ; after a word signifying , " hair " abundance , quantity e.g. keśa-p° , " a mass of hair ")
tapanīya-pārihāryaiḥ (inst. pl. m./n.): with their golden bracelets / with golden cuffs [for nooses]
tapanīya: n. 'to be heated', gold purified in fire
pārihārya: m. a bracelet ; n. taking , seizure