Notes on the Fifty-Ninth Chapter of the Avadānakalpalatā
The Avadānakalpalatā, by the Kashmiri poet Kṣemendra (ca. 990–1066 CE), is a collection of Buddhist legends in one hundred and eight chapters. The fifty-ninth chapter of the work is devoted to the legend of Prince Kuṇāla, the son of King Aśoka. Kṣemendra bases his version of the legend of Kuṇāla on the Ku na la’i rtogs pa brjod pa (*Kuṇālāvadāna), available to us in its entirety in Tibetan (’Dul ba, Peking, SU227b3–240a4). A glimpse at Kṣemendra’s version tells us that the poet takes pains to introduce into his version elements typical of court poetry, for example, the description of spring (vv. 18–21), of women (vv. 65–68), of a sunset (v. 122), of the rising of the moon (vv. 127–128), etc. However, scholars have paid little attention to Kṣemendra’s use of poetic elements. Focusing on the text of the fifty-ninth chapter of the Avadānakalpalatā, I consider the question of Kṣemendra’s attitude towards poetry, and the poetic traditions upon which he has drawn. A perusal of the text reveals the following:
• According to poeticians, a simile (upamā) must be constructed so that the standard of comparison (upamāṇa) could agree in gender, number, and case with the subject of comparison (upameya). In verse 28, Kṣemendra uses a simile in which the standard of comparison does not agree in gender with the subject of comparison, as in bhītyeva śīlena vimucyamānā (“Just as one is free from fear, similarly she was free from morality.”).
• In Mālatīmādhava 9.10, Bhavabhūti (eighth century CE) employs a simile in which the standard of comparison does not agree in number with the subject of comparison, as in tṛṇam iva tataḥ prāṇān moktum mano vidhṛtaṃ tayā (“Just as one resolves to give up a blade of grass, similarly she then resolved to give up her life.”). It is interesting to note that Jagaddhara (ca. thirteenth to fourteenth century CE), one of the commentators on the Mālatīmādhava, advances the view that the simile in question cannot be regarded as defective, for the defect of disagreement in number is here acceptable because of poetic sentiment (rasa).
• In verses 25, 27, and 28, one can find the words prakampa (“tremor”), moha (“delusion”), and bhīti (“fear”), respectively, which are, according to the dramaturge Dhanaṃjaya (late tenth century CE), used to describe the symptom (anubhāva), the transient state of mind (vyabhicārin), and the basic emotion (sthāyibhāva) of a terrifying sentiment (bhayānakarasa), respectively.
• A large number of poetic phrases employed by Kṣemendra can be exclusively found in the works of non-Buddhist poets, such as Bhavabhūti, Maṅkha (twelfth century CE), and others. A closer investigation of the examples in which non-Buddhist poets use poetic phrases similar to Kṣemendra’s makes it possible for us not only to tentatively reconstruct the original text of the Avadānakalpalatā, but to more accurately interpret the same text.
In conclusion: (1) Kṣemendra gives priority to the suggestion of sentiment over the construction of ornaments of speech within the confines of rules laid down by poeticians; (2) He drew more heavily on the tradition of Hindu court poetry than that of Buddhist court poetry, which he does not quote at all in his treatise on poetry.