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Old wives' tales in Theīgāthaā: a review article

  • J. C. Wright (a1)


The commentary on the Pali Theīgāthā, without which Pischel would ‘hardly have ventured to publish this text at all’ (PTS ed., 1883, 120), has lacked, certainly a complete translation, but more importantly a satisfactory romanized edition. Edward Müller's edition of the commentary (PTS ed., 1893 = Thī-a Ee), based on transcripts of the one Burmese palm-leaf manuscript that had been available to Pischel, contained numerous misreadings and was never revised, although correct readings of the Sinhalese sources have been available since the 1918 Colombo edition, and more readily available, in large measure, since K. R. Norman's annotated translation in Elders' verses, II, 1971.1



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1 Pischel, R. (ed.), The Theīgāthā, in Oldenberg, H. and Pischel, R. (ed.), The Thera- and Theīgātha, PTS, 1883; 2nd ed. with appendices by Norman, K. R. and Alsdorf, L., PTS, 1966; Müller, E. (ed.),Theīgāthā commentary, PTS, 1893 (Thī-a Ee); Bihalpola Siri Déwarakkhita Théra (ed.),Therī-gāthā-atthakathā, rev. by Théra, Mahagoda Siri Ñánissara, Colombo, 1918 (Thī-a Ce); Lilley, Mary L. (ed.), Therī-apadāna PTS, 1927. Therī-gāthā-aṭṭhakathā, Chaṭṭhasaṅgayana ed., 1977(Thī-a Be). K. R. Norman (tr.), The elders' verses, I, Theragāthā, PTS, 1969 (EV, I); revised tr. in Poems of early Buddhist monks, PTS, 1997. The elders' verses, II, Theīgāthā, PTS, 1971 (EV, II); revised tr. in Poems of early Buddhist nuns, PTS, 1989.

2 Therigāthā-aṭṭhakathā (Paramatthadīpanī VI) by Achahya Dhammapāla (Oxford: The Pali Text Society, 1998) viii, 414 pp. The commentary on the verses of the Therīs (Therīgāthā-aṭṭhakathā: Paramatthadīpanī VI) by Ācariya Dhammapāla (Oxford: The Pali Text Society, 1998), xiv, 445 pp.

3 The MBh. phrase (‘and together with the women, Draupadī, etc.’) is inaccurately rendered by both Ganguli and van Buitenen. Similarly, Thī-a vividhā dhātiyo ādikatvā mahatā parihārena … parihariyamāno ‘looked after with great attention, viz. various nurses, etc’ (rather than ‘looked after with great care by various sorts of nurses and so forth’: trans., p. 3): dāraka-parihāra, referring to children's clothing alone (Ja II 20, 20), implies an etymological sense ‘swaddling’; the kumāra-parihāra (Ja I 148, 24–6) that is provided for the royal parivāra (Ja VI, 2, 26–30) involves nursing as well as princely raiment; hence the verb parihara- ‘to look after’. Dh.'s construction seems to treat parihāra on a par with parivāra.

4 The absence in Ee Ce of Pādas be from the quotation's third verse is reported as an omission of the line 3cd (coupled with a variant reading d for b), and later as an omission of 3ab (edition, 32), suggesting that even the editor has been confused by his end-numbering of Apadāna verses, while eschewing verse-initial capital letters.

5 Ee (indicating the metrical licences implied: cf. Norman, EV, II, 62f.):

23 sumuttike sumuttikā ≠ sādhû muttik' amhi musalassa, ahirîkô mê chattakaṃ vā pi ≠ ukkhalikā me daḷiddabhāvā ti.

24 rāgaṃ ca ahaṃ dosaṃ ca ≠ vicchinda[n]tî viharāmi, sā rukkhamūlam upagamma ≠ aho su[k]khan ti sukhatô jhāyāmi.

6 For Th 111, Warder, , Pali metre, PTS, 1976, 220 could suggest only a hybrid Triṣṭubh opening and Gaṇa cadence (but a very rare Triṣṭubh opening, followed by a sequence that in its entirety would be unacceptable in Arya). On trie principle envisaged here, Mālinī would qualify as a comparable exaggeration of a Triṣṭubh Pāda with initial resolution; and Mandākrāntā and Sragdharā as exaggerations of Triṣṭubhs with resolved fourth syllable, such as occur in Saddh P.

Mand. emerges first (following a Srag.) in Maitrakanyaka, in a corrupt verse with a complex Rūpaka figure (Divy., 1886, 587). For its Pāda b, a better solution would be va[v]ne vṛddhi[m] ○lakṣmyambujasya, without the further alteration to ○lakṣmyambuja[nm]a that was proposed by Klaus in Maitr., Indica et Tib., 1983, 30). Klaus (p. 46) did not adopt Brough's necessary emendation -virasā≠yā[sa]-tikṣṇāṃśumālaiḥ, taken from the banal recurrence of -virasā ≠ yāsa in a subsequent Mand. verse. The form aṃśumāla-, that Brough and Klaus both sought to emend, is supported by patnīśālam in VS and mallikāmāla-bhārin in Kāvyād (possibly based on the type senâ-jit: AiGr., II, 1, 134).

7 Müller erroneously suppressed the -ti: but cf. Pischel's ed. of Thī, p. 177.

8 An Āryā reading sûmuttikā sumuttîkā hardly recommends itself (cf. Norman, EV, II, 63). Norman's proposed ablative in -assa could hardly subsist alongside the genitive (so that alteration of *agārassa to agārasmā in Pali, and to agārasthā beside agārasya in Mahāvastu, could be mere Sanskritism). The pronominal genitive with muc- ‘escape’ in MBh. 3.42.29 na hi te mucyet … ātatāyinah, and the usage with pratigṛh- ‘accept subsistence from’ in MBh. 3.186.38 nṛpāṇām … pratigṛhṇanti and Manu 4.84 and 87 (86 ghoras tasya [rājñah] pratigrahaḥ), are perhaps warrant enough for a metrically convenient genitive with muc- in Pali.

9 The instrumental case serves as ablative with muc-, as commonly in Sanskrit: Pruitt's translation imposes the instrumental rendering, not only on the Thī text following Norman, but also on Dh. (albeit inconsistently: cf. his translation, p. 25, line 4).

10 On this evidence, the nuance is not likely to be [thrust in], as assumed notably in CDIAL, s.v. *KHODD-, and EWA, s.v. KHOD): RV 10.101.12 offers the sequence kaprthàm uddhā-, codaya-, khud-, implying a stage beyond codaya- ‘thrust’. CDIAL shows, besides H. khodnā ‘dig, hoe, probe, search’ (cf. also H. khojnā ‘seek’ s.v. *KHOJJA-, *KHUDDATI), also vestiges of ‘pound, thrash, break up clods’ on the Sindhi and Oriya periphery; cross-reference should have been made to kuddāla ‘hoe’ of Drav. origin (DEDR, 1722). A form *khujjiyaṃ may lurk in Deśīn. 2.75, glossed ‘suratam’: it is written khuḍḍiyaṃ (v.l. -ṭṭ;-) and is duly referred to irrelevant Dhātup. etyma khud(d)- and khuṭ;ṭ;-: but a relevant Ski. gloss tuḍati is assigned to these.

11 Ee rāhuggaho ‘having Rāhu as grasper, as eclipsing planet’ is in keeping with the original meaning of grádha as ‘(evil) influence’ and with rāhuṡatru (R 2.106.3), rāhusapatna (BCar. 2.46) ‘moon’. This is not effectively contradicted by Dh.'s ablative gloss -gahato, which is doubtless influenced by cando va rāhugahaṇā in Sn 465. A nominative epithet in apposition with cando may better explain the late position of iva; and the pun in yogehi ‘from baneful ties/from planetary conjunctions’ rules out the possibility of a second ablative in the clause. Norman, unable to accept the nominative at face value (EV, II, 53), perhaps influenced by later use of rāhugraha as ‘the demon Rāhu’ (Śṛὅgāratilaka 2), took it to be a corruption of Dh.'s improbable *-gahato), or else a locative *-gahe which produces a worse simile in the absence of any balancing epithet for the subject of comparison, and would similarly involve the later use of graha as ‘eclipse’ (arkagrahe Var BṛS, candragraha- HCat.). His revised rendering (Poems, 1989, ‘the moon, when grasped by Rāhu’) may still envisage the locative.

12 This renders Yaśodharā's epithets with an eye to the assonance. The epithet rahusapatna-vaktra ‘moon-faced’ cannot require that Rāhula be derived as rāhu-han from the late root - take’. For he cannot be presented simultaneously as ‘the moon’ and ‘moon-faced’, as Leumann implied (‘Vergleichung Rāhula's mit dem Rāhu-sapatna’) and as Johnston made explicit (‘Rāhula has not merely a face like the moon, but his face is that of Rāhu's foe’). Nor would a word ‘Rāhu-killer’ be glossed with rāhusapatna ‘having Rāhu as opponent’. The latter (despite Johnston here, and MW and Pollock translating rāhuśatru in R) does not mean ‘Rāhu's foe’, but must rest on indraśatru; and (despite MW and Apte) an indraśatru as ‘Indra's enemy’ or ‘Indrakiller’ is nowhere attested, neither in the summary of the indraśatru story in Bh P nor by Mallinātha's equating indraśatru with Prahlāda (Ragh. 7.35). Aśv. no more commits Rāhula to derivation from rāhu than Yaśodharā to derivation from svayaśas; but the eventual notion deriving the suffix -la from lā- ‘ādāne’ could have been encouraged by such association of Rāhula with rāhugraha ‘*moon’.

13 The pi… pi construction suggests a pair of conditional clauses. It does not seem likely that (with Norman, EV, I, 1969, 6; so also Poems, 1997) the third line refers only to the tools: a general implication of non-attachment would seem to be picked up in the fourth line.


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