Tuesday, December 10, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.52: Everything Goes in Waves

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
mahormimanto mdavo 'sitāḥ śubhāḥ pthak-pthaṅ-mūla-ruhāḥ samudgatāḥ |
praveritās-te bhuvi tasya mūrdha-jā narendra-maulī-pariveṣṭana-kṣamāḥ || 8.52

“Flowing in great waves, soft, black and beautiful,
[Flowing in great waves, soft, beautiful, and not white,]

Each hair rising up singly, growing from its own root:
[Each thought emerging singly, springing up from the fundamental:]

Have those locks of his, born from his head,
been cast upon the ground? –
[Those thoughts of his, born from the summit,
have been cast upon the act of becoming – ]

Locks of hair which are fit to be encircled by a king's crown!
[Thoughts which are fit to encase the cranium of the best of men!]

The subject of today's verse is mūrdha-jāḥ, which ostensibly means “the [hairs] born from his head,” but which below the surface might be intended also to mean “the [thoughts] born from his head” or else “the [thoughts] born from the summit.”

Ostensibly, then, Gautamī is bemoaning the loss of her step-son's beautiful locks – in much the same manner as my own maternal grandmother used to say to me, “Michael, you had such lovely hair! Grow it back... go on... for me.”

It is below the surface, however, that Aśvaghoṣa as usual has buried his real treasure.  By yet another in a long line of strokes of genius, Aśvaghoṣa must have reflected that, in a world where everything from hair to human thought and emotion goes in waves, he could, in a foster mother's description of her son's hair, hide his own allusion to how a non-buddha thinks.

Thus whereas ūrmimat (wavy)mṛrdhu (soft ) and śubha (beautiful ) are adjectives that might equally be expected to describe the hair of (a) an Indian prince and (b) enlightened thoughts, the interesting word in the 1st pāda as I read it is asita (black). Below the surface, as in BC Canto 1, I think asita means “not white,” i.e., not so pure and innocent as believing people are prone to assume.

In the 2nd pāda mūla-ruhāḥ, “springing up from the fundamental,” means, in my book, emerging out of sitting-meditation.

The 3rd pāda can be read, for example, as counterposing the highest and the lowest states of being, the summit (mūrdhan) being the place from where an enlightened mind considers the lowly end-gaining (bhuvi) which causes living beings to suffer.

The 4th pāda, again, could be translated and read in a number of ways. But the translation of maulī-pariveṣṭana that emerged in my mind, springing up from the fundamental, was “encasing the cranium.” The translation emerged first, then I started thinking about what it meant and how I might justify it.

Was Aśvaghoṣa suggesting that clear, preventive thoughts can be as real and tangible and protective as a piece of head-gear like a turban or a crash helmet?

My Zen teacher would not have approved of this line of inquiry. For him thinking and the reality of action were separated by an absolute gulf.

mahormimantaḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. forming great waves, Bcar.
mahat: mfn. great
ūrmimat: mfn. wavy , undulating , billowy ; plaited , curled (as hair) ; m. the ocean
ūrmi: mf. a wave , billow ; (figuratively) wave of pain or passion or grief
mṛdavaḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. soft , delicate , tender , pliant , mild , gentle
asitāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. (sita , " white " , appears to have been formed from this word , which is probably original , and not a compound of a and sita ; cf. asura and sura) , dark-coloured , black
śubhāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. splendid , bright , beautiful , handsome

pṛthak: ind. widely apart , separately , differently , singly , severally , one by one (often repeated)
mūla-ruhāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. rising from a root
mūla: n. root ; basis , foundation , cause , origin , commencement , beginning
ruha: mfn. mounted, ascending
ruh: to ascend , mount , climb ; to rise , spring up , grow , develop , increase , prosper , thrive
samudgatāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. risen up , come forth , appeared , begun
sam-ud- √ gam: to go or rise up together , come or break forth

praveritāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. cast , hurled
pra-veraya: (cf. √ vel , vell) , to cast , hurl
vel: to move, shake
vell: to shake about , tremble , sway , be tossed or agitated
te (nom. pl. m.): those
bhuvi (loc. sg.): f. the act of becoming or arising ; f. the place of being , space , world or universe (also pl.) ; f. the earth (as constituting one of the 3 worlds , and therefore a symbolical N. for the number " one ") ; f. earth (as a substance) , ground , soil , land
tasya (gen. sg.): his
mūrdha-jāḥ (nom. pl.) m. " head-born " , the hair of the head
mūrdhan: m. the forehead , head in general , skull , (fig.) the highest or first part of anything , top , point , summit , front (of battle) , commencement , beginning , first , chief (applied to persons); m. (with Buddhists) " the summit " , N. of a state of spiritual exaltation

narendra-maulī-pariveṣṭana-kṣamāḥ (nom. pl. m.): mfn. fit to cover the crown of an indra among men
narendra: m. indra among men, best of men, man-lord, king
maulī: m. the head , the top of anything; mf. a diadem , crown , crest ; mf. a tuft or lock of hair left on the crown of the head after tonsure , a top-knot
pariveṣṭana: n. a cover , covering
pariveṣṭanā: f. tying round or up
pari- √ veṣṭ : to wrap up , cover , clothe , surround , embrace
kṣama: mfn. fit , appropriate , becoming , suitable , proper for (gen. dat. , loc. inf. or in comp.)

右旋細軟髮 一孔一髮生
黒淨鮮光澤 平住而灑地
何意合天冠 剃著草土中

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