Wednesday, November 13, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.25: Having Bamboo Pipes for Nostrils

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
hata-tviṣo 'nyāḥ śithilātma-bāhavaḥ striyo viṣādena vicetanā iva |
na cukruśur-nāśru jahur-na śaśvasur-na celur āsur likhitā iva sthitāḥ || 8.25

Other women, being bereft of sparkle,
being flaccid in their core and in their arms,

[Individual women, being different, being free of fury,
being relaxed in their souls and loose in their arms,]

Women who seemed by their languor to be almost insensible,

Neither cried out, nor shed tears; they neither audibly breathed,

Nor moved a muscle: As if in a painting, they stayed still.

Whereas both EBC and EHJ have hata-tviṣo 'nyāḥ in the 1st pāda, the old Nepalese manuscript has dviṣo rather than tviṣo.

Hata-dviṣo 'nyāḥ would make sense in terms of the hidden context which is to describe individuals who are different (i.e. non-buddhas) and who have slain, or who are in the process of slaying, the enemies of greed, hatred and delusion. But it would be difficult to make anything of the ostensible meaning of hata-dviṣo 'nyāḥ striyaḥ i.e. “other women who had slain their enemies.”

If we read hata-tviṣo 'nyāḥ, however, as per EBC and EHJ, then the ambiguity of tviṣ comes nicely into play. The ostensible meaning is that – unlike the expressive drama-queen Gautamī who resembled a golden banana plant – these other women lacked sparkle (tviṣ = light, brilliance, glitter, beauty, colour). Below the surface, the hidden meaning is that these non-buddhas were free of emotional over-excitement (tviṣ = violent agitation, vehemence, violence, fury, perplexity). To use a metaphor from Chinese Zen, they had bamboo pipes for nostrils and black beads for eyes.

Still in the 1st pāda, śithilātma-bāhavaḥ is also open to being read on these two levels. Ostensibly these lifeless other women who lacked sparkle also lacked muscle tone, both in their core and in their peripheral muscles (śithila = flaccid, languid, unenergetic, weak). Below the surface, the hidden meaning is that these non-buddhas were not rigid but were loose, relaxed, free (śithila = loose, relaxed, not rigid), in their souls and in their limbs.

The 2nd pāda, then, continues the ironic description so that languid (viṣāda) and insensible (vicetana) are ostensibly pejorative descriptions of women who have given up the ghost, but Aśvaghoṣa's real intention might be to point obliquely to the chilled state of non-doing in which a non-buddha resides. (The √sad of viṣāda, incidentally, originally means to sit down.)

And the 3rd and 4th pādas, as I read them, continue in the same vein, ostensibly describing women who are paralysed by their sorrow, while ironically suggesting the behaviour of a Zen monk practising sitting-meditation, thinking up as if his life depended on it, but without doing a single thing in the way of muscular movement that might betray what he is secretly thinking.

hata-tviṣaḥ (nom. pl. f.): mfn. bereft of sparkle ; free of over-excitement
hata-dviṣaḥ [old Nepalese manuscript (?)] (nom. pl. f.): mfn. one who has slain his enemies
hata: mfn. struck , beaten (also said of a drum) , smitten , killed , slain , destroyed , ended , gone , lost (often ibc. = " destitute of " , " bereft of " , " -less ")
tviṣ: f. violent agitation , vehemence , violence , fury , perplexity ; light , brilliance , glitter , splendour , beauty , authority ; colour
dviṣ: mf. foe, enemy
hata-tviṣ = hatá-cchāya: mfn. dimmed in lustre , bereft of beauty
anyāḥ (nom. pl. f.): others, women who were different
śithilātma-bāhavaḥ (nom. pl. f.): relaxed in essence and in arm
śithila: mfn. loose , slack , lax , relaxed , untied , flaccid , not rigid or compact ; languid , inert , unenergetic , weak , feeble
ātman: m. the breath ; the soul , principle of life and sensation ; the individual soul , self ; essence , nature , character , peculiarity (often ifc. e.g. karmātman , &c ) ; the person or whole body considered as one and opposed to the separate members of the body ;
bāhu: m. arm
śithilāṁsa-bāhavaḥ [EHJ] (nom. pl. f.): loose of shoulder and arm
aṁsa: m. the shoulder , shoulder-blade

striyaḥ (nom. pl.): f. women
vi-ṣādena (inst. sg.): m. drooping state , languor , lassitude ; dejection , depression , despondency (esp. as the result of unrequited love) ; disappointment , despair
vicetanāḥ (nom. pl. f.): mfn. senseless , unconscious , absent-minded ; inanimate , dead ; foolish, stupid
iva: like, as if

na: not
cukruśur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. kruś: to cry out , shriek , yell , bawl , call out , halloo ; to lament, weep
na: not
aśru (acc sg.): n. a tear ; with √muc , or √kṛ to shed tears
jahur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. hā: to leave ; to discharge , emit ; to lose , be deprived of
na: not
śaśvasur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. śvas: to blow , hiss , pant , snort ; to breathe , respire , draw breath (also = live) ; to sigh, groan ;

na: not
celur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. cal: to be moved , stir , tremble , shake , quiver , be agitated , palpitate ; to be moved from one's usual course , be disturbed , become confused or disordered , go astray
āsur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. as: to be , live , exist , be present
likhitāḥ (nom. pl. f.): mfn. scratched , scraped , scarified ; drawn , delineated , sketched , painted
iva: like, as if
sthitāḥ (nom. pl. f.): mfn. standing, standing firm ; standing , staying , situated , resting or abiding or remaining

其餘諸夫人 憂苦四體垂
内感心慘結 不動如畫人

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