stock phrase about women?

Martin Delhey mdelhey at YAHOO.COM
Thu Mar 11 07:25:42 UTC 2004

--- Richard MAHONEY <rbm49 at EXT.CANTERBURY.AC.NZ>
> On Wed, Mar 10, 2004 at 02:59:40PM -0500, Allen W
> Thrasher wrote:
> [snip]
> > I had another idea that seems very improbable to
> me but which
> > perhaps should be put down to be rejected.  Could
> vraNa 'wound'
> > figuratively refer to the vulva, as in English
> taboo 'gash'?
> [snip]
> From Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary.
> Version: 0.1a_8. [mw]:
>   strIvraNa
>      3[ str'I-vraNa ] m. the female organ Kpr.
> Best regards,
>  Richard MAHONEY

Since there seem to be many colleagues out there who
are very interested in the problem of how to
understand rma byed pa and vraNa bhaGga, I would like
to share some more of my findings with the list.
The interpretation suggested by Allen W. Thrasher and
Richard Mahoney, that is, to understand vraNa in the
sense of strIvraNa, can, in my opinion, definitely not
be ruled out. To the best of my knowledge, in Buddhist
texts all the openings of the body are quite often
referred to as vraNa. I have already considered this
possibility before, but I was still unable to enter
firm ground regarding the meaning of the whole
compound vraNabhaGga.
Somadeva's suggestion to emend the text is quite
natural in view of the difficulties. However,
vraNabhagGa is, in my opinion, clearly confirmed by
the Tibetan translation rma 'byed pa, by Tibetan rma
'dral ba in another citation of this sermon in the
yogAcArabhUmi (unfortunately a section which is not
preserved in Sanskrit) and by the new text passage
that has been found by Jonathan.
Xuanzang's Chinese translation, however, has jiu li
and cheng li as equivalents ("to perform the rites"?).
Stephen Hodge's suggestion to interpret this in the
sense of vandana is interesting, although I did not
know that jiu li etc. can be understood in this way. I
will think about this.But in my opinion it is hardly
possible that Xuanzang had a Sanskrit text of the
yogAcArabhUmi corrupted in two different places to
something like *vandana instead of vraNa (or

The second YogAcArabhUmi passage mentioned above,
however, contains a gloss, which seems to point in
another direction. Unfortunately, it is quite
difficult, either. Both the Tibetan and the Chinese
expressions are somewhat problematic, but they
possibly can go back to something like Skt.
*sukumArAGga (to the best of my knowledge, usually
this means something like "tender", "having a tender
body (or limbs)"?).
The meaning given in the PED seems to be inspired by
Buddhaghosa's fanciful but not really convincing
interpretation of the term. However, the passage from
Chinese mentioned by Stephen Hodge may force me to
consider this interpretation anew.
To understand Pali vana- in this compound in the sense
of "lust, desire" or the like is definitely a
possibility. Meyer and Pischel offered this
possibility (independently from each other) as early
as 1909.
vraNa may simply be a wrong Sanskritization of Middle
Indic *vaNa = Skt. and pAli vana. This would, of
course, indeed imply that the correct understanding of
the whole word has been lost quite early in the text
transmission (of the mUlasarvAstivAdin).

This must be sufficient for the time being, since I am
running out of time.

Best wishes,
Martin Delhey

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