Thursday, January 17, 2013

Konjaku Monogatarishū Vol. 2, Tale 1: Śuddhodana's Death #1 (part 6)

Fig. 1: 大
We continue with the next segment of Śuddhodana's story:
The Great King took the Buddha's hand and pulled it close to his own chest, at which point (fig. 1) he [Śuddhodana] ended up achieving arhathood (fig. 2).
Fig. 2: 阿
The first thing to note is of course the term arhat (Sanskrit: अर्हत). It essentially refers to someone who has achieved nirvana. Note that, just as with anāgāmi (see fig. 5), the final kanji 「果」 represents the suffix -hood. Therefore, the Japanese term for arhat would be just 「阿羅漢」. This is a purely phonetic representation, as the first two kanji have been encountered before in unrelated contexts, such as the names Ānanda (阿難) and Rāhula (羅睺羅).

Another interesting observation for fig. 1 is how the kana 「セ」 actually looks much more like its hiragana equivalent 「せ」. This appears to be one of the few cases in this text where a kana favored the modern hiragana style over the katakana version.

Fig. 3: 其ノ

The final point of interest is the verb ending at the end of fig. 2. Note that we have the verb 「」 ("to achieve") in its continuative form (連用形), which is 「」. Next is the honorific verb 「給フ」, also in the continuative form. Finally is the auxiliary verb 「ヌ」, which is in the predicative form (終止形) and has the perfective (完了) function. The verb not only indicates the completion of an event/action, it also signifies that it occurred naturally, which is where the "ended up" part of the translation comes from. This is comparable to the modern Japanese 「なってしまった」.
After that, some time passed, and the Great King's life came to an end (fig. 3).
Fig. 4: 其
I treated 「其ノ後」 as a compound meaning "after that". Other than for that, the most confusing part of fig. 3 was the compound 「絶畢」, which I couldn't find a dictionary entry for. The meaning was pretty clear (and redundant), as the first kanji means "discontinue", while the second means "finish". However, I wasn't sure about the reading. What I've selected above, 「ぜつひつ」, is just based on the on'yomi of the two kanji. However, it might be read as 「ぜっぴつ」, which is the modern reading for 「絶筆」, which has the same first kanji and a similar second kanji (it also has the on'yomi reading 「ひつ」).

Edit: as Chris has suggested in the comments below, it is more likely that 「絶畢」 is read as 「たへはて」, since supplementary verbs such as 「給ふ」 must be preceded by a verb, rather than a nominal compound. Verbs are usually written using kun'yomi, making 「ぜつひつ」 or 「ぜっぴつ」 unlikely readings.
Fig. 5: 皆
At that time, inside the castle, the people, from top to bottom (fig. 4), everyone wept and grieved without limit (fig. 5).
There's not too much to say here. We see an alternate kanji for the verb for "to weep" (泣く). That verb is in the continuative form, followed by the verb 「悲む」 in the attributive form (also 「悲む」), as it is immediately followed by a noun (事).

The same pattern with 「无限シ」 that we've seen many times before is repeated here.
Fig. 6: 其ノ
Those sounds reverberated through the castle (fig. 6).
The only thing of interest in fig. 6 is the verb ending. It is the verb 「響ク」 in the imperfective form (未然形) followed by the causative (使役) auxiliary verb 「す」 in the predicative form. It indicates the imposition of a deliberate action by someone on something/someone (in this case, that would be the sounds of the weeping causing reverberation through the castle). The word 「響かす」 exists as a verb by itself in modern Japanese, with the meaning of "to make something resound".
After the "evil" [passed], a coffin was immediately made using the seven treasures (fig. 7). The Great King's body was coated with scented hot water [i.e., it was bathed], and brocaded clothing was put on him. Then he was placed in the coffin (fig. 8).
Fig. 7: 其ノ惡
Fig. 8: 大王ノ
The first thing to note in fig. 7 is the use of the word 「悪」. I wasn't sure what the implications of it were here. Although there weren't quotation marks in the original text, they were in the transcription, so I kept them, both in my transcription and in my translation. As for the reading, it could be 「わる」 as well; I wasn't sure.

Edit: as Chris has suggested in the comments, it appears that the kanji in the original manuscript for 「惡」 is an itaiji (variant kanji) that is actually the 「西」 radical on top instead (and the 「心」 radical still on bottom). It's not clear why it's used here though.

Edit 2: it has been confirmed (by Chris) in an itaiji dictionary that the kanji with a 「西」 on top and a 「心」 on the bottom is a variant of 「惡」.

I'm guessing it refers to some sort of evil spirits, but I can't find any references to the existence of such a concept in Buddhism. I'm not an expert on the topic though, so I might have missed some stuff. Similarly, the use a coffin is perplexing when cremation is standard. Likely, the coffin was a temporary device used for ceremonial transportation of the body to the cremation location. In any case, that question will probably be resolved in a future post.

I didn't fully understand how to parse 「忽七宝」. By itself, 「七宝」 refers to the seven treasures of Buddhism, namely gold, silver, pearls, agate, crystal, coral, and lapis lazuli. 「忽」 can mean "immediately", which I thought was the most appropriate definition to use here.

Moving on to fig. 8, the reading for 「香湯」 (written as 「こうとう」 in modern Japanese) is something I was able to derive from dictionary entries such as this one. However, I couldn't find an entry for 「香湯」 itself, so I just guessed at the meaning based on the two separate kanji and the context.

We see another instance of 「せ」 vs. 「セ」 (as mentioned previously in the comments on fig. 1) in the verb 「着セ」. The second stroke of 「せ」 is clearly visible in the original manuscript. 「着セ」 is the continuative form of the premodern word 「す」, which has the same meaning as the modern 「着せる」.

Fig. 8 ends with 「入レ奉レリ」, which can be broken down as 「入レ」+「奉レ」+「リ」. The first part is the verb 「ル」 ("to put inside") in its shimo-nidan "ra" form, where the continuative form would be 「入レ」. Next is the honorific verb 「奉ル」 in the realis (perfective) form (已然形). It is in this form because following it is the auxiliary verb 「リ」, which requires the preceding verb to be in that form. 「リ」 itself is in the predicative form, and takes on the perfective (完了) meaning here.