Monday, March 23, 2015

BUDDHACARITA 14.37: Sex Objects As Suffering Subjects

[No Sanskrit text] 

| gaṅ du lha mo rnams kyis ni | | sdug pa dbaṅ med lhuṅ ba la |
| sñiṅ la brtse ba ltos rnams kyis | | lag pa rnams kyis gos rnams ’dzin | 

lha: deity; god; divinity; goddess (Ch. 玉女)
sdug: beloved ; suffering
med: absence; free from; left behind; departed
brtse: love, mercy, pity
lag: hand
gos: cloth, clothing

EHJ's translation from the Tibetan:
37. And as their lovers fall helplessly, the Apsarases regard them pitifully and catch their clothes with their hands.

宮殿廓然空 玉女悉遠離
The palaces and joyous precincts empty now, the Devīs all alone and desolate, (SB) 
Their palaces became desolate and empty, and the jade ladies all departed. (CW)

It is clear from Aśvaghoṣa's treatment of Sundarī in his other epic poem, Saundara-nanda, that Aśvaghoṣa was not above seeing women as attractive objects of male sexual desrie, with slim waists, firm upturned breasts, darting eyes, and all the rest of it.

It is equally clear from his treatment of Sundarī that Aśvaghoṣa was not below seeing women as the suffering human subjects towards whom the Buddha's universal compassion was directed.

I guess that today's verse, then, might have been designed to challenge the view of a bloke whose nature is veiled in ignorance, who would tend to think that celestial nymphs existed in heaven only as sex symbols. Such an ignoramus – speaking from experience – might easily fail to appreciate the extent to which celestial nymphs abide in heaven not only as loveable objects but also as suffering subjects.

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