Friday, November 28, 2014

BUDDHACARITA 12.116: The Awake Snake Expressesssss Itself

¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−¦¦⏑−⏑−¦−⏑⏑¦−⏑−⏑−   Vaṁśastha
tatas tadānīṁ gaja-rāja-vikramaḥ pada-svanenānupamena bodhitaḥ |
mahā-muner āgata-bodhi-niścayo jagāda kālo bhujagottamaḥ stutim || 12.116 

Just then the snake with the spirit of an elephant-king

Was awakened by the peerless sound of the sage's feet; 

Realizing that the great sage was set on awakening,

The black cobra Kāla, 
most excellent of serpents, sang his praisessss...

With today's verse the metre changes from the more commonplace 8-syllable śloka metre (also called anu-ṣṭubh), to the 11-syllable vaṁśastha metre. The śloka metre must have presented the composer of Sanskrit verse with less of a challenge, each two-pāda line allowing great liberty except in the 5th, 13th, 14th and 15th syllables (MW). The 11-syllable vaṁśastha metre is not so permissive and therefore would have required more of a conscious effort on the part of the poet. The effect of the change of metres must have been to alert the listener that this long Canto was finally approaching its climax.

EHJ translated the 3rd pāda of today's verse “realising that the great sage had determined on enlightenment...” and noted that the Tibetan translator also took āgata in this sense (of realising).

EHJ refers to two further examples of Aśvaghoṣa using ā-√gam (to arrive at) to express alighting on something with the mind:
'The seer, the hearer, the thinker, and the very act of doing of what is to be done – / All that is I.' Having fallen into such thoughts (ity evam āgamya), around and round he goes in saṁsāra. // BC12.38//
Comprehend, therefore, that suffering is doing; witness the faults impelling it forward; / Realise (āgaccha) its stopping as non-doing; and know the path as a turning back. // SN16.42 //

Ithe latter verse, EHJ noted, āgaccha – even though the use is unusual – can only mean “understand” (or “realize”).

EBC had translated āgata-bodhi-niścayaḥ “being sure that he was on the point of attaining perfect knowledge” and on my first attempt at translating today's verse, before considering EHJ's note, I also went with Sure that the great sage had come to the point of awakening,...”

Over the past six years, however, while the Chinese translation has shown itself in verse after verse to be not so much a work of translation as work of paraphrasing, EHJ's readings, taking account of the Tibetan translation, have shown themselves to be remarkably reliable.

As regards the meaning of today's verse, the main gist of the verse, if we take it literally, or take it seriously, is that a snake spoke a eulogy to the great sage. Since snakes don't generally speak Sanskrit, I think Aśvaghoṣa -- or the story-tellers who went before him -- must have been exercising a bit of poetic license. 

tataḥ: ind. then
tadānīm: ind. at that time , then
gaja-rāja-vikramaḥ (nom. sg. m.): with the power of a king of elephants
vikrama: m. step, stride; valour , courage , heroism , power , strength

pada-svanena (inst. sg.): by the sound of his feet
anupamena (inst. sg.): mfn. incomparable , matchless ; excellent , best
an-upamā: f. the female elephant of the south-east or of the north-east.
bodhitaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. awakened, woken up

mahā-muneḥ (gen. sg. m.) of the great sage
āgata-bodhi-niścayaḥ (nom. sg. m.): convinced about his arrival at awakening (EBC: being sure that he was on the point of attaining perfect knowledge) ; understanding his will to awakening (EHJ: realising that the great sage had determined on enlightenment)
āgata: entered (into any state or condition of mind) ;
ā- √ gam: to come , make one's appearance , come near from (abl.) or to (acc. or loc.) , arrive at , attain , reach
niścaya: m. inquiry , ascertainment , fixed opinion , conviction , certainty , positiveness ; resolution , resolve, fixed intention , design , purpose , aim

jagāda = 3rd pers. perf. gad: to speak articulately , speak , say , relate , tell
kālaḥ (nom. sg. m.): mfn. black; m. the poisonous serpent Coluber nāga (= kālasarpa)
kālasarpa: m. the black and most venomous variety of the Cobra , Coluber nāga
bhujaga: m. (fr. bhuja + ga) " going in curves " , a snake , serpent , serpent-demon
uttama: mfn. uppermost ; best , excellent (often ifc. , e.g. dvijottama , best of the twice-born i.e. a Brahman
stutim (acc. sg.): f. praise , eulogy , panegyric , commendation , adulation

安祥師子歩 歩歩地震動
地動感盲龍 歡喜目開明 

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