Monday, December 23, 2013

BUDDHACARITA 8.65: Physically Being There

⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
iyaṁ tu cintā mama kīdśaṁ nu tā vapur-guṇaṁ bibhrati tatra yoṣitaḥ |
vane yad-arthaṁ sa tapāṁsi tapyate śriyaṁ ca hitvā mama bhaktim-eva ca || 8.65

But this concern I do have –

What kind of physical excellence 
do those women possess who are there?

On which account he undergoes austerities in the forest,

Having abandoned not only royal power but also my loving devotion.

Ostensibly what is bothering Yaśodharā is jealous thoughts about apsarases in Indra's heaven, so that tatra yoṣitaḥ means “the women in that world,” and vapur-guṇam means physical attributes like upturned breasts, lotus-like faces, and all the rest of it.

Another way of reading today's verse is to understand that, below the surface, tu (but) might be signalling a change of tack, so that hitherto Yaśodharā has been wasting her breath lamenting, or at least venting, on the basis of her ancient Indian conceptions of dharma, but in today's verse her thinking takes a more constructive turn.

In that case tatra yoṣitaḥ, “women who are there,” are a symbol of the Zen practitioners of the ten directions and three times who are in the state towards which Yaśodharā's husband is now directing himself. And in that case kīdṛśaṁ nu tā vapur-guṇaṁ bibhrati, “What kind of physical excellence do they possess?” might be a very good question.

FM Alexander described Alexander work as the most mental thing there is. It is the most mental thing there is because it centers on the decision not to do (aka inhibiting) and the thinking of directions such as “head to go forward and up” (aka directing). But the criterion of success or failure in this inhibiting and directing is whether the head keeps pulling back and down, or whether it is allowed to release in the opposite direction (forward and up) so that the back can lengthen and widen and so that breathing can happen freely and fully.
Now when we stop and reflect on it, as I have just spent the last hour doing, this head and this back, and this act of breathing out and breathing in, are never mental constructs.

That being so, to sit upright with one's knees on a mat on the floor and one's sitting bones drilling down into a round black cushion, is a very excellent laboratory for testing out the relation between thinking and physical criteria of excellence.

“What kind of physical excellence do those possess who are there?”

For a start, I would venture, in response to Yaśodharā's question, they don't gasp in a panic-stricken manner for air, pulling their heads back unduly in the process, and then on the out-breath stammer out a load of old nonsense in a voice choking with emotion about dharma having favourites....

But lest this sounds too critical, I think Aśvaghoṣa's secret intention behind today's verse is to credit Yaśodharā for asking a question that is a valid concern (cintā), taking concern to mean “a matter for consideration” rather than “anxious thought.” So the ostensible meaning of iyaṁ cintā in today's verse is "this anxious thought" but the real meaning might be "this matter for consideration" or "this thought." 

iyam (nom. sg. f.): this
tu: but
cintā (nom. sg.: f. thought , care , anxiety , anxious thought ; consideration
mama (gen. sg.): of mine
kīdṛśam (acc. sg. m.): of what kind? what like? ; of what use? i.e. useless
nu: ind. now, indeed ; sometimes it lays stress upon a preceding word , esp. an interr. pronoun or particle
tā (nom. pl. f.): those [women]

vapur-guṇam (acc. sg.): m. personal beauty [EBC: the attributes which belong to bodies; EHJ: excellent beauty; PO: bodily splendor]
vapus: mfn. having form or a beautiful form , embodied , handsome , wonderful ; n. form , figure , (esp.) a beautiful form or figure , wonderful appearance , beauty ; n. the body
guṇa: m. a quality , peculiarity , attribute or property ; good quality , virtue , merit , excellence
bibhrati = 3rd pers. pl. bhṛ: to bear , carry , convey , hold ; to bear i.e. contain , possess , have , keep
tatra: ind. there
yoṣitaḥ (nom. pl.): f. a girl , maiden , young woman , wife

vane (loc. sg.): n. the forest
yad-artham: ind. on which account , for which purpose , wherefore , why
sa (nom. sg. m.): he
tapāṁsi (acc. pl.): n. ascetic practices, austerities
tapyate = 3rd pers. sg. passive tap: to be heated or burnt , become hot ; to be purified by austerities (as the soul); to suffer or feel pain ; to suffer pain voluntarily , undergo austerity (tapas)

śriyam (acc. sg.): f. light , lustre , radiance , splendour , glory , beauty ; prosperity , welfare , good fortune , success , auspiciousness , wealth , treasure , riches (śriyā , " according to fortune or wealth ") , high rank , power , might , majesty , royal dignity
ca: and
hitvā = abs. hā: to abandon, quit
mama (gen. sg.): my
bhaktim (acc. sg.): f. attachment , devotion , fondness for , devotion to (with loc. , gen. or ifc.) , trust , homage , worship , piety , faith or love or devotion
eva: (emphatic)
ca: and

爲何勝徳色 修習於苦行

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