Sunday, November 10, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.22: Of Women's Naked Breasts and Zen Monks' Open Hearts

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
arakta-tāmraiś-caraṇair-anūpurair-akuṇḍalair-ārjava-karṇikair-mukhaiḥ |
svabhāva-pīnair-jaghanair-amekhalair-a-hāra-yoktrair-muṣitair-iva stanaiḥ || 8.22

Their unornamented feet were not painted red;
[Their unembellished practices were not reddened by passion;]

Their faces were flanked by plain ears, ears without ear-rings;
[Their mouths were connected with ears of frankness, 
unfettered ears;]

Their hips and thighs, without girdles, were naturally full;
[Their hips and thighs, ungirt of the belts that signified social rank,
expanded by themselves;]

Their female breasts, without their ropes of pearls,
seemed to have been stripped naked.
[Their breasts, without any attachment to stripping away,
seemed to have been laid bare.]

Below the surface of today's verse, as I read it,
the 1st pāda relates to the simplicity of practising detachment by a method like just sitting;
the 2nd pāda relates to what Paul Madaule, protege of Alfred Tomatis, has called “the ear-voice connection”;
the 3rd pāda is intimately related with the fourth of Alexander's four primary directions, namely “to let the knees go forwards and away” (that direction being not so much about the knees as it is about the lower back and upper legs);
and the 4th pāda completes the circle by again referring to the simple practice of just sitting, whereby no special techniques are employed for stripping away successive layers of the onion, but body and mind are allowed spontaneously to drop off, so that a person's original features are laid bare.

There may be deeper layers of meaning in today's verse that I haven't excavated. Nonetheless, with the above translation, I feel like I have dug up gold that has been buried for a long time. It is akin to gold that was buried by a goldsmith devoted to just sitting, and is gold that nobody could dig up except a miner devoted to just sitting. 

Some time in the next few hundred years a true poet will come along and do for Aśvaghoṣa's poems what Seamus Heaney did for Beowulf. Somebody else, in other words, will come along and fashion this gold that I am digging up into wonderful jewellery – or will otherwise mint it!

Recently in posting a comment on another blog I wrote that Aśvaghoṣa is so full of irony that he makes Shakespeare read like an instruction manual. I stand by that comment. The day will come when study of Aśvaghoṣa's writings will take off in a big way. Maybe universities will be offering courses in Aśvaghoṣa studies, just like today they offer courses in Shakespeare studies.

Meanwhile back here in the present, it is hips and thighs to release and expand to let the head go forward and up...

Head FORWARD, and UP.
Head FORWARD, and UP.
Head FORWARD, and UP.
(But not neglecting the fundamental basis, which is simply to sit in full lotus, letting the knees go forwards and away.)

arakta-tāmraiḥ (inst. pl.): not dyed coppery red ; not reddened by passion
arakta: mfn. undyed
rakta: mfn. coloured , dyed , painted ; reddened , red , crimson ; excited , affected with passion or love , impassioned , enamoured
tāmra: mfn. of a coppery red colour ; n. copper
caraṇaiḥ (inst. pl.): mn. foot ; n. going round or about , motion , course ; n. good or moral conduct ; n. practising (generally ifc.)
anūpuraiḥ (inst. pl.): without foot ornaments ; unornamented
nūpura: mn. an ornament for the toes or ankles or feet , an anklet

akuṇḍalaiḥ (inst. pl. n.): mfn. without ear-rings, Bcar; unfettered
kuṇḍala: n. a ring , ear-ring ; a fetter , tie ; the coil of a rope
ārjava-karṇikaiḥ: with plain and simple ears ; having the large ears of sincerity
ārjava: mfn. (fr. ṛju) straight ; honest, sincere ; n. straightness , straight direction ; n. honesty , frankness , sincerity
karṇika: mfn. having ears , having large or long ears ; having a helm
karṇikā: f. an ear-ring or ornament for the ear ; f. central point , centre ; f. the middle finger
karṇa: m. the ear
ārjava-kandharaiḥ [EHJ] (inst. pl. n.): “their necks unadorned (EHJ)”; “with bare necks (PO)”
kaṁdhara: mf. (fr. kam , head , and dhara fr. √dhṛ) the neck
mukhaiḥ (inst. pl.): n. the mouth , face , countenance

svabhāva-pīnaiḥ (inst. pl.): naturally full ; expanding by themselves
svabhāva: m. native place ; own condition or state of being , natural state or constitution , innate or inherent disposition , nature , impulse , spontaneity ; (ibc. from natural disposition , by nature , naturally , by one's self , spontaneously)
pīna: mfn. swelling , swollen , full , round , thick , large , fat , fleshy , corpulent, muscular
jaghanaiḥ m. the hinder part , buttock , hip and loins , pudenda , mons veneris
amekhalaiḥ (inst. pl.): without girdles ; without belts signifying social rank
mekhala: mn. a girdle , belt
mekhalā: f. a girdle , belt , zone (as worm by men or women , but esp. that worn by the men of the first three classes ; accord. to Mn. ii , 42 that of a Brahman ought to be of muñja; that of a kṣatriya , of mūrvā ; that of a vaiśya , of śaṇa or hemp)

a-hāra-yoktraiḥ (inst. pl. m.): without ropes of pearls ; without ties to removal
a-: (negative prefix) without
hāra: mfn. bearing , carrying , carrying away , stealing ; ravishing , charming , delightful ; m. taking away , removal ; m. confiscation , forfeiture (of land , money &c ) ; m. waste , loss (» kāla-hāra, loss of time) ; m. war, battle ; m. a garland of pearls , necklace (accord. to some , one of 108 or 64 strings)
yoktra: n. any instrument for tying or fastening , a rope , thong , halter ; the thongs by which an animal is attached to the pole of a carriage ; the tie of the yoke of a plough
muṣitaiḥ (inst. pl. m.): mfn. stolen , robbed , carried off ; plundered , stripped , naked ; seized , ravished , captivated , enraptured
iva: like, as if
stanaiḥ (inst. pl.): m. the female breast (either human or animal) , teat , dug , udder ; the nipple (of the female or the male breast)

衣裳壞繿縷 状如被賊形 

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