Advertisement

Journal of Indian Philosophy

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 289–312 | Cite as

After the Unsilence of the Birds: Remembering Aśvaghoṣa’s Sundarī

  • Sonam KachruEmail author
Article

Abstract

Once encountered in Beautiful Nanda, Aśvaghoṣa’s Sundarī is unforgettable. It is easy, then, to forget that we are given to see and hear her only in two of the eighteen chapters of Aśvaghoṣa’s long, lyrical narrative of Nanda. When she is given to speak, her words and voice resonate powerfully, but the narrative reduces her at last to silence. Among the last images of her, there is the moment when she is likened to a screaming bird, bereaved of her mate, her voice transformed and eventually drowned out (Beautiful Nanda 6.30). This essay argues for a new interpretation of the salience of this figurative transformation, and of two different ways in which Sundarī is lost to view as she is forgotten or overlooked by characters in the narrative. Along with a close-reading of Sundarī?s loss of voice, this essay offers readings of the depiction of Sundarī?s grief (Beautiful Nanda 6.28-29) and Nanda?s ?disremembering? of her (Beautiful Nanda 7.5-7.9). In conclusion, I suggest that re-reading such passages recommends taking very seriously the possibility that for Aśvaghoṣa there might be a close relationship between the kind of sensitivity his poetry enables and a variety of moral attention.

Keywords

Aśvaghoṣa Buddhism  Literature  Saundarananda  Attention  Ethics 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

References

  1. Beard, M. (2015). SPQR: A history of ancient Rome. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  2. Bloom, H. (2011). The shadow of a great rock: A literary appreciation of the King James bible. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bodhi, B. (2012). The numerical discourses of the Buddha: A translation of the Aṅguttara Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications.Google Scholar
  4. Borges, J. L. (1999). Selected non-fictions. Edited by Eliot Weinberger. New York: Viking.Google Scholar
  5. Bremmer, J. N. (2002). The rise and fall of the afterlife. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carpenter, A. D. (2018). Illuminating community: Animals in classical indian thought. In P. Adamson & G. F. Edwards (Eds.), Animals: A history (pp. 63–85). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Chadwick, H. (2008). Confessions. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Collet, A. (2013). Beware the crocodile: Female and male nature in Aśvaghoṣa’s Saundarananda. Religions of South Asia, 7(1–3), 61–76.Google Scholar
  9. Collins, S. (2006). Nirvana and other Buddhist felicities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Covill, L. (2007). Handsome Nanda. Clay Sanskrit Library. New York: New York University Press, JFC Foundation.Google Scholar
  11. Cox, W. (2017). Modes of philology in medieval South India. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  12. Doniger, W. (2006). Zoomorphism in ancient India: Humans more bestial than the beasts. In L. Daston & G. Mitman (Eds.), Thinking with animals: New perspectives on anthropomorphism. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Doniger, W. (2009). The Hindus: An alternative history. New York: Penguin Press.Google Scholar
  14. Engle, A. B. (2016). Translator. The Bodhisattva path to unsurpassed enlightenment: A complete translation of the Bodhisattvabh?mi. Boulder: Snow Lion.Google Scholar
  15. Fitzgerald, J. L. (2004). The Mahābhārata: The book of the women (Book 11) and the book of peace, part one (Book 12). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  16. Goldman, R. P., Sutherland Goldman, S. J., & van Nooten, B. A. (2010). The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki: An epic of ancient India, Volume VI: Yuddhakāṇḍa, Parts I and II. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.Google Scholar
  17. Hill, G. (2008). Collected critical writings. Edited by Kenneth Haynes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Hudson, E. (2013). Disorienting Dharma: Ethics and the aesthetics of suffering. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Ingalls, D. H. H. (1965). An anthology of Sanskrit Court Poetry: Vidyākara’s Subhāṣitaratnakoṣa. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Iyer, N. C. (1884). (Translator.) The Brihat Samhita of Varaha Mihira. Madura: South Indian Press.Google Scholar
  21. Johnston, E. H. (1937). The Buddha’s mission and last journey: Buddhacarita, XV to XXVIII. Calcutta: Punjab University Oriental Publications.Google Scholar
  22. Kachru, S. (2012). The last embrace of color and leaf: Introducing Aśvaghoṣa’s disjunctive style. Almost Island. Winter, pp. 1–64. Retrieved from https://www.forum-transregionale-studien.de/fileadmin/pdf/ zukunftsphilologie/publications/Kachru-the_last_embrace_of_colour_and_leaf.pdf.
  23. Kachru, S. (2015). What is it like to be a likeness of oneself? Gestures of light, motion and mind at the surfaces of representation. Monograph. Essays of the Forum Transregionale Studien: 1. Berlin.Google Scholar
  24. Kachru, S. (Forthcoming). Of doctors, poets, and the minds of men: Aesthetics and wisdom in Aśvaghoṣa’s Beautiful Nanda. In R. Stepien (Ed.), Buddhist literature as philosophy, Buddhist philosophy as literature. New York: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  25. Kapstein, M. T. (2001). Reason’s traces. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications.Google Scholar
  26. Kern, H. (1865). The Bṛhatsañhita of Varaha-Mihira. Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press.Google Scholar
  27. Kragh, U. T. (2010). Of similes and metaphors in Buddhist philosophical literature: Poetic semblance through mythic allusion. Journal of the School of Oriental and African Studies., 73(3), 479–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Leslie, J. (1998). A bird bereaved: The identity and significance of Vālmīki’s Krauñca. Journal of Indian Philosophy, 26/5, 455–487.Google Scholar
  29. Lincoln, B. (1999). Theorizing myth: Narrative, ideology, and scholarship. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  30. Malamoud, C. (1998). Cooking the world: Ritual and thought in ancient India. Translated by David White. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Milosz, C. (1983). The witness of poetry. The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures 1981–82. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Ohnuma, R. (2016). Animal doubles of the Buddha. Humanimalia, 7(2). Spring. Retrieved September 4, 2018, from https://www.depauw.edu/humanimalia/issue%2014/ohnuma.html.
  33. Olivelle, P. (2008). Life of the Buddha., Clay Sanskrit Library New York University Press, JFC Foundation: New York.Google Scholar
  34. Passi, A. (1982). Some preliminary considerations on Aśvaghoṣa’s Saundarananda. East and West, 32(1/4), 65–74.Google Scholar
  35. Patterson, L. (1991). Chaucer and the subject of history. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  36. Payne, M. (2010). The animal part: Human and other animals in the poetic imagination. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pine-Coffin, R. S. (1961). Confessions. London: Penguin Classics.Google Scholar
  38. Pollock, S. (2007). The Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki: An epic of ancient India: Volume II: Ayodhyākāṇḍa. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. [Reprint. Princeton University Press, 1984.]Google Scholar
  39. Quagliotti, A. M. (2000). The ‘Parting of the Hair’: A Gandharan relief with two scenes from Buddha’s life. Annali dell’Istituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli, 60, 233–245.Google Scholar
  40. Roebuck, V. J. (2010). The Dhammapada. London: Penguin Classics.Google Scholar
  41. Salomon, R. (1983). The Buddhist Sanskrit of Aśvaghoṣa’s Saundarananda. Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Sud Asiens, XXVII, 97–112.Google Scholar
  42. Sawhney, S. (2009). The modernity of Sanskrit. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  43. Scarry, E. (1985). The body in pain: The making and unmaking of the world. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Schlingloff, D. (1975). Aśvaghoṣa’s Saundarananda in Ajanta. Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens, 19, 85–102.Google Scholar
  45. Stauffer, J. (2015). Ethical loneliness: The injustice of not being heard. New York: Columbia University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Thanissaro, B. (1996). The wings to awakening. Barre, MA: Dhamma Dana Publications.Google Scholar
  47. Vogel, J. P. (1962). The goose in indian literature and art. Memoirs of the Kern Institute no. 2. Leiden: E. J. Brill.Google Scholar
  48. Vogler, C. (2007). The moral of the story. Critical Inquiry, 34(1), 5--35.Google Scholar
  49. Williams, M. (1876). Śakuntalā: A Sanskrit Drama, in seven acts, by Kālidāsa. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  50. Williams, B. (1981). Moral luck: Philosophical papers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zin, M. (2006). The story of the conversion of Nanda in Borobudur. In Vanamālā, Festschrift A. J. Gail (pp. 205–275). Edited by Gerd J. R. Mevissen and Klaus Bruhn. Berlin: Weidler Buchverlag.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Religious StudiesUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations