Wednesday, May 15, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 5.61: Filling An Irregular Frame

¦−⏑−⏑−−¦¦⏑⏑−−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−−   Aupacchandasaka
vivtāsya-puṭā vivddha-gātrī prapatad-vaktra-jalā prakāśa-guhyā |
aparā mada-ghūrṇiteva śiśye na babhāse viktaṁ vapuḥ pupoṣa || 5.61

With her oral cavity open and her legs spreading out,

So that she sprayed saliva,
and made visible what normally remains secret,

One different one had dropped off, who,
rocking somewhat in her intoxication,

Did not make a pretty sight, but filled an irregular frame.

People who want to know who Aśvaghoṣa was are prone to think that he supplied the most important information about himself in the extant colophon – i.e. the bit at the end of his epic story of Beautiful Happiness that reads: This is the work of a beggar, the respected teacher Aśvaghoṣa of Saketa, son of the noble Suvarṇākṣī, crafter of epic poetry and talker of the great talk.

My impression is that a verse which really tells us most about how Aśvaghoṣa saw himself is today's verse. On the face of it, this sounds like a shocking contention, at least if one only takes today's verse at face value, as per the following translations:
Another, with fully-developed limbs, her mouth wide open, her saliva dropping, and her person exposed, lay as though sprawling in intoxication, — she spoke not [reading na babhāṣe, as per the original manuscripts] but bore every limb distorted. (EBC)
Another lay as if sprawling with intoxication, with her mouth gaping wide, so that the saliva oozed forth, and with her limbs spread out so as to show what should have been hid. Her beauty was gone, her form distorted. (EHJ)
another was lying as if she was drunk, mouth wide open and saliva oozing, legs wide open and genitals exposed, body distorted, looking repulsive. (PO)
The ostensible meaning in the 1st pāda of today's verse of vivṛtāsya-puṭā is thus simply “her mouth wide open” (EBC/PO) or “her mouth gaping wide” (EHJ), but the original meaning of āsya is not so much the outer mouth as the inner mouth and the rest of the face – as reflected by such compounds as āsya-garta ("the hollow of the mouth") and āsya-loman (“facial hair, beard”). Thus, with the addition of puṭa ("hollow space, cavity"), āsya-puṭa more literally means “the cavity of the mouth/jaws/face” or “the oral cavity.” 

The spraying of saliva, then, which is expressed in the 2nd pāda as prapatad-vaktra-jalā (lit. “flying mouth-water”) is not necessarily happening through the open mouth of somebody who is sleeping; the spraying of saliva might be something happening behind the closed mouth of somebody who is sitting. And if we understand it like this, the spraying of saliva, within an open or expanded oral cavity, was something that Aśvaghoṣa had only ever witnessed happening in one individual – namely, that very different individual whose name was Aśvaghoṣa.

Aśvaghoṣa himself, then, might also be the one who sat with his legs spreading (or more literally “growing”) out of his lengthening and widening back; and who, in so sitting, caused the secret or the mystery (guhya) to be revealed. 

What was that secret? I don't know, but I think it might have to do with the principle of non-doing, or with the practice of not doing the wrong thing so that the right thing has a chance of doing itself. That being so, to send the knees forwards and away, as a preventive direction, might be direct expression of the secret – when one actually applies oneself to thinking the direction "knees forwards and away," that is, as opposed to thinking or writing about it.

The iva in the 3rd pāda, as I read it, means somewhat or slightly, so that the hidden gist of the second half of today's verse to suggest sitting not as the imitation of a perfectly symmetrical stone statue but rather as the practice of an individual living breathing human being – and one, again, who is not primarily interested in putting on a good show.

My provisional title for today's post, before I came to study the verse in detail, was Letting It All Hang Out. Ostensibly that is what the woman in today's verse is doing. But the beggar/poet who is being described, following the metaphorical sub-text as I read it, is very far from one who lets it all hang out. On the contrary, subtle actions that cause an irregular frame to be filled, like raising the dome of the soft palate and releasing the legs out of the pelvis, are manifestations (to quote a veteran Alexander teacher) of a delicacy of movement in which there is very great accuracy.

So if we are talking specifically about Aśvaghoṣa, in terms of letting or not letting it all hang out, a contrast might be drawn between these long, rambling and sometimes downright disorderly comments of mine, and the elegance and economy of Aśvaghoṣa's verse, tightly shackled as it invariably is to the merciless tyranny of Sanskrit metre.

From the series of fourteen verses that ends with today's verse, what hint can we glean about the meaning of the canto title abhi-niṣ-kramaṇaḥ? The translation that occurs to me this morning is “Getting the Whole Self Totally Out” – using the oral cavity, the face, the eyes (open or closed), the neck, the spine (whether it has a scoliosis or a lordosis, or both), the mechanism of breathing (whether deep or not), the breasts (whether female or male), the soft arms complete with energetic golden bands, and the legs growing out of the back; plus using that which is born of the head, as well as unconsciousness.

Ostensibly, then, the title of the present Canto relates to the prince's getting himself out of the palace and into the forest. But when we dig for its deeper meaning, the whole of Aśvaghoṣa's writing, as is also the case with Dogen's writing, turns out all to be intimately entangled with sitting-meditation.

The main point, whatever one's station and wherever one happens to be stationed, is just to sit. 

vivṛtāsya-puṭā (nom. sg. f.): her oral cavity wide open
vivṛta: mfn. uncovered , unconcealed , exposed , naked , bare; unclosed, open
vi- √ vṛ: to uncover , spread out , open , display , show , reveal , manifest
āsya: n. mouth , jaws ; face ; mfn. belonging to the mouth or face , belonging to that part of the mouth or face which is the organ of uttering sounds or letters
puṭa: mn. a fold , pocket , hollow space , slit , concavity; m. a casket; m. the enveloping or wrapping of any substance
vivṛddha-gātrī (nom. sg. f.): her legs spread fully out
vi-vṛddha: mfn. grown , increased , enhanced , grown up , fully developed , large , numerous , abundant , mighty , powerful
gātra: n. " instrument of moving " , a limb or member of the body

prapatad-vaktra-jalā (nom. sg. f.): her saliva spraying
prapatat = pres. part. pra- √ pat: to fly away or along , hasten towards (loc.) , fly or fall down upon (loc.) , fall
vaktra: n. " organ of speech " , the mouth , face
jala: n. water , any fluid
prakāśa-guhyā (nom. sg. f.): with her private parts visible
pra-kāśa: mfn. visible ; clear , manifest , open , public
guhya: mfn. to be covered or concealed or hidden or kept secret , concealable , private , secret , mysterious , mystical ; n. a secret , mystery ; n. the pudenda

aparā (nom. sg. f.): another
mada-ghūrṇitā (nom. sg. f.): rolling about with intoxication
mada: m. hilarity , rapture , excitement , inspiration , intoxication
ghūrṇita = past. part. ghūrṇ: to move to and fro , shake , be agitated , roll about
iva: like, as if ; in a certain manner , in some measure , a little , perhaps (in qualification or mitigation of a strong assertion)
śiśye = 3rd pers. sg. perf. śī: to lie , lie down , recline , rest , repose ; to lie down to sleep , fall asleep , sleep

na: not
babhāṣe [EBC] = 3rd pers. sg. perf bhāṣ: .to speak , talk , say , tell
babhāse = 3rd pers. sg. perf. bhās: to shine , be bright
vikṛtam (acc. sg. n.): mfn. transformed , altered , changed &c ; (esp.) deformed , disfigured , mutilated , maimed , unnatural , strange , extraordinary
vapuḥ (acc. sg.): n. form , figure , (esp.) a beautiful form or figure , wonderful appearance , beauty ; n. nature, essence ; n. the body
pupoṣa = 3rd pers. sg. perf. puṣ: to cause to thrive or prosper , nourish , foster , augment , increase , further , promote , fulfil (e.g. a wish) , develop , unfold , display , gain , obtain , enjoy , possess

頻呻長欠呿 魘呼涕流涎
[Conflated with 5. 53?] 

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