Monday, November 25, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.37: Emotional Palaces Abduct Their Arms

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
imāś-ca vikṣipta-viṭaṅka-bāhavaḥ prasakta-pārāvata-dīrgha-nisvanāḥ |
vinā-ktās-tena sahāvarodhanair-bhśaṁ rudantīva vimāna-paṅktayaḥ || 8.37

These rows of palaces too,
flinging the dove-cots of their arms up and out,

Their long calls being the cooing of devoted doves,

Seem when bereft of him,
along with the women of the inner apartments,

Mightily to weep and wail.

EHJ noted “The verse is intended to overtrump Rām. 2.43.33, and 3.58.40.” Presumably the verses in the Rāmayana to which EHJ referred also personify palaces in some way. In the version of the Rāmayana that I checked, however, I could not locate those verses.

Prasakta (1. attached, devoted, enamoured; 2. lasting, constant) appeared in the 2nd pāda of yesterday's verse, where I translated it as 2. “forever” (“whose bloodshot eyes have been clouded forever by tears”). Reflecting on the primary meaning of prasakta, and taking account of the truth of impermanence, I might change the translation of prasakta either to “lingering” (“whose bloodshot eyes are clouded by lingering tears”) or to “devoted” ( “whose bloodshot eyes have been clouded by tears of devotion.”) Or I might at least add a footnote or an alternative translation in square brackets to highlight the ambiguity of prasakta

In any event, the same word prasakta appears in the 2nd pāda of today's verse, where EBC reads it as again expressing 2. constancy; hence “the long unbroken moans of their doves.” EHJ notes that the Tibetan translation also reads prasakta as describing the sounds of the doves or pigeons as 2. “incessant.” EHJ himself, however, prefered to read prasakta as describing the birds as 1. “enamoured” ; hence “heaving long sighs with their enamoured doves.” PO followed EHJ's reading and translated  “sighing deeply through their cuddling doves.”

The truth of the matter may be that as usual, Aśvaghoṣa is using a word with multiple meanings to encourage us to engage the grey matter. Yesterday, in straining my grey matter over the many possible meaning of same, I overlooked the ambiguity of prasakta – in which situation, the repetition of prasakta in today's verse comes as if as a reminder, or a red flag. 

In the 3rd pāda, the old Nepalese manuscript has vinā-kṛtās-tena sahaiva rodhanair, which EBC translated “separated verily, with him, from all who could restrain them.” EBC thus took tena + saha = “with him,” and vinā-kṛtās rodhanair as describing the palaces being separated from agents of restraint.

EHJ amended the text to vinā-kṛtās-tena sahāvarodhanair, and translated “together with the women, on separation from him.” So EHJ took vinā-kṛtās + tena = “separated from him”; and saha + avarodhanair as “together with the women.”

There might be something to be said for retaining the original Sanskrit and translating the second half of the verse along the lines that EBC did:

“[The palaces] seem, when they are rendered free – along with him – from all confinements, mightily to weep and wail.”

In that case, the sense of unbridled emotional reaction would fit with the suggestion of arms flying up and out like doves scattering from a dove-cote.

All things considered, however, EHJ's amendment does make sense and I have followed it. 

Either way, the main point of interest raised by today's verse, as I read it, as a bloke who sits – apart from prasakta raising a question about the lasting nature (or otherwise) of devotion/attachment – is contained in the 1st pāda in the compound vikṣipta-viṭaṅka-bāhavaḥ, (lit. “their dove-cotes/arms being thrown about”). The allusion, as I take it, is to the survival reflex (called the Moro reflex) which can readily be elicited in new-born babies by allowing them to drop backwards in space – upon receipt of which stimulus their arms fly up and out.

Any regular reader of this blog will have been bored to tears already by me going on about the Moro reflex. What I will add in connection with today's verse is a word about how the hands are held in sitting-meditation, in a mudrā called in Japanese 法界定印 HOKKAI-JO-IN, “the mudrā of the balanced state of the Universe.”

As I sat this morning, acknowledging the lingering (prasakta) presence of emotional attachments and of the lingering (prasakta) influence of the Moro reflex on and in my body and mind, I reflected on 1. the meaning of the action of holding the hands so that the tips of the thumb are touching together and the fingers are overlapping, and at the same time 2. the significance of this use of the hands being called “the mudrā of the balanced state of the Universe.”

Holding the open hands so that the tips of the thumb are touching together and the fingers are overlapping can be understood as the very antithesis of the Moro reflex --  in both aspects of that reflex, the first of which is the flinging of the arms up and out in an extension response of the whole body, and the second of which is a grasping of the hands in a closing response. 

But this expression of inhibition of the Moro reflex is not traditionally called “the mudrā of inhibiton of lingering emotion in me.” It is rather called “the mudrā of the balanced state of the Universe.” So behind this traditional term 法界定印 HOKKAI-JO-IN, “the mudrā of the balanced state of the Universe,” there appears to be the same recognition as Yaśodharā is expressing in today's verse, which is namely that when women are emotional, the palaces that contain those women are emotional; and so that, conversely, if we wish the whole Universe to be peaceful, a good place to start might be the use of our own head, neck, back, legs, arms, hands, fingers, and – last but not least – thumbs.

imāḥ (nom. pl. f.): these
ca: and
vikṣipta-viṭaṅka-bāhavaḥ (nom. pl. f.): their dove-cotes/arms being flung up and out
vikṣipta: mfn. thrown asunder or away or about , scattered &c
vi- √ kṣip: to throw asunder or away or about , cast hither and thither , scatter , disperse ; to extend , stretch out
viṭaṅka: mn. the loftiest point , top , pinnacle ; a dove-cot , aviary
bāhu: m. arm

prasakta-pārāvata-dīrgha-nisvanāḥ (nom. pl. f.):
prasakta: mfn. attached , cleaving or adhering or devoted to ; clinging to the world , mundane ; being in love , enamoured ; continual , lasting , constant , eternal
pārāvata: mfn. remote , distant , coming from a distance , foreign ; m. a turtle-dove , pigeon
dīrgha: mfn. long (in space and time) , lofty , high , tall; deep
nisvana: m. sound , noise , voice

vinā-kṛtāḥ (nom. pl. f.): mfn. " made without " , deprived or bereft of , separated from , left or relinquished by , lacking , destitute of , free from (instr.)
tena (inst. sg. m.): him
saha: ind. together with , along with , with (often as a prep. governing instr. case , but generally placed after the governed word e.g. tena saha , " along with him ")
eva: emphatic
rodhanaiḥ (inst. pl.): n. shutting up , confinement ; n. stopping , restraining , checking , preventing , impeding
ava-rodhanaiḥ [EHJ] (inst. pl.): n. siege , blockade ; n. secluding , imprisonment ; n. a closed or private place , the innermost part of anything ; n. obtaining ; n. the inner or women's apartments (in a royal palace) ; n. pl. = ava-rodhās m. pl. the women's apartments , the wives of a king
ava- √ rudh: to obstruct , enclose , contain ; to check , keep back , restrain

bhṛśam: ind . strongly , violently , vehemently , excessively , greatly , very much
rudanti = 3rd pers. pl. to weep , cry , howl , roar , lament , wail ; to bewail, deplore
iva: like
vimāna-paṅktayaḥ (nom. pl. f.):
vimāna: m. disrespect , dishonour ; m. n. a car or chariot of the gods , any mythical self-moving aerial car ; m. the palace of an emperor or supreme monarch (esp. one with 7 stories)
paṅkti: f. a row or set or collection of five ; a sort of five fold metre consisting of 5 pādas of 8 syllables each ; any stanza of 4 x 10 syllables ; any row or set or series or number , a group , collection , flock , troop , assembly , company (e.g. of persons eating together or belonging to the same caste)

況此窓牖中 悲泣長叫者
生亡其所天 是苦何可堪

No comments: