Tuesday, December 17, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.59: Listening with Compassion, As Just One of the Girls

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
imaṁ pralāpaṁ karuṇaṁ niśamya tā bhujaiḥ pariṣvajya paras-paraṁ striyaḥ |
vilocanebhyaḥ salilāni tatyajur-madhūni puṣpebhya iveritā latāḥ || 8.59

Having heard this piteous lament,
[Having listened with compassion to this garbled discourse,]

The women entwined each other with their arms

And let the tears drop from their eyes –

Like shaken creepers dropping beads of nectar from their flowers.

The subject of today's verse is tā striyaḥ, the women in general, the nameless chorus who, below the surface in Aśvaghoṣa's poetry as I read it, represent the practitioners walking around and sitting in a vihāra where nobody is interested in making a name for himself. The equivalent term in Dogen's writing might be 大衆 (DAISHU), which translates as something like “all the monks of the assembly” or simply “the assembly.”

On the surface today's verse describes an opening of the floodgates when those women (tā striyaḥ) have heard Gautamī's mournful/piteous (karuṇamlament/ravings (pralāpaṁ). Hence imaṁ pralāpaṁ karuṇam is translated by EBC asthis piteous lamentation,” by EHJ as “these piteous ravings,” and by PO as “this piteous lament” – each of the three professors translated karuṇam as “piteous,” taking karuṇam as an acc. sg. masculine adjective agreeing with pralāpam.

If, however, Aśvaghoṣa was describing the women in such a way as to bring a smile behind the eyes of thousands of nameless monks in ancient India – and I think he was – then, firstly, karuṇam can be taken as acc. sg. neuter, in which case it describes the women's manner of listening as compassionate; and, secondly,  the pralāpam which was the object of their listening can be taken not so much as a lament (as per EBC and PO) or as ravings (as per EHJ) but rather as a garbled discourse. The garbling, in that case, as we have been studying verse by verse, has been deliberately done by none other than the obfuscater-in-chief, Aśvaghoṣa himself.

In conclusion, what message might today's verse have for a bloke who sits? Maybe today's verse is intended to serve as a reminder that the point of sitting-meditation is to drop off body and mind and just be one of the girls.


All buddhas of the ten directions and three times
Many venerable bodhisattvas and mahāsattvas,

imam (acc. sg. m.): this
pralāpam (acc. sg.): m. talk , discourse , prattling , chattering; (also n.) lamentation ; incoherent or delirious speech , raving
pra- √lap: to speak forth (inconsiderately or at random) , prattle , talk idly or incoherently , trifle ; to lament, bewail ; to speak or tell in a doleful manner ; to call upon or invoke in piteous tones
karuṇam (acc. sg. m.): mfn. mournful , miserable , lamenting ; compassionate
karuṇam: ind. mournfully , woefully , pitifully , in distress
niśamya = abs. ni- √ śam: to perceive, hear, learn
tā (nom. pl. f.): those [women]

bhujaiḥ (inst. pl.): with arms
pariṣvajya = abs. pari √svaj: to embrace , clasp , occupy
svaj: to embrace , clasp , encircle , twist or wind round
paras-param: ind. one another , each other , with or from one another , one another's , mutually , reciprocally
striyaḥ (nom. pl. f.): the women

vilocanebhyaḥ (abl. pl.): n. the eye ;
salilāni (acc. pl.): n. flood , surge , waves ; n. (also pl.) water ; n. eye-water , tears
tatyajur = 3rd pers. pl. perf. tyaj: to abandon; to let go , dismiss , discharge

madhūni (acc. pl.): n. anything sweet (esp. if liquid) , mead &c ; n. honey ; n. the juice or nectar of flowers , any sweet intoxicating drink , wine or spirituous liquor
puṣpebhyaḥ (abl. pl.): n. flowers
iva: like
īritāḥ = nom. pl. f. past. part. īr: to agitate , elevate , raise (one's voice)
latāḥ (nom. pl.): f. a creeper , any creeping or winding plant or twining tendril Mn. MBh. &c (the brows , arms , curls , a slender body , a sword-blade , lightning &c are often compared to the form of a creeper , to express their graceful curves and slimness of outline)

念子心悲痛 悶絶而躄地
侍人扶令起 爲拭其目涙 

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