|(continued from issue #45)||by Bhiksuni Heng Hsien|
Mahakausthila (remember the ending -ena is that of the
One common Sanskrit word for
janu. Another one is asthivat. It is composed of
asthi "bone" and the suffix -vat
-vant) "possessing" Asthivat then, (i lengthens to i before
v), literally means "bone-possessing
thing" or "knee". Sanskrit also has a word
kautilya "crookedness" based on another Sanskrit
"bent, crooked, curved". The equivalent word in Sinhalese (the
language of Ceylon) refers specifically to the bending of the knees.
In Sanskrit the combination vowel plus vowel is unstable, and rarely found. In most of the apparent exceptions to that rule, some modification of at least one of the two vowels has taken place upon its contact with the other vowel. In Prakrit, however, words may consist of strings of vowels with no intervening consonants. In fact, where an equivalent Sanskrit word has a consonant between two vowels, Prakrit often has only the two vowels. Someone putting Maha plus a Prakrit equivalent of asthivat into Sanskrit, seeing two short a vowels juxtaposed, might assume that an intervocalic consonant had been lost, and interpret the Prakrit as representing some such word as kautiya mentioned above. We no longer know all the words that were anciently in use, and so can only surmise. In any case, one might erroneously restore a k. The word would still be a little odd, and so lend itself to further reinterpretation as the derivative of kostha "belly" instead of the word for "knee."
Perhaps it was this way, perhaps not. Using our limited tools of historical research it is very hard to pin down. However if one cultivates the Way with great vigor he can gain access to the tapes from Sakyamuni Buddha’s time. Then he can hear the pronunciation of the Venerable Elder Mahakausthila’s name for himself.
To be continued
1 Vajra Bodhi Sea #44
3 -ta hsi.
4 The ordinary Sanskrit word for "bone" is asthi to which asthi appears related. See turner, A comparative Dictionary of the Indo-Aryan Languages, #958. Also Mayrhofer, Kurzgefastes Etymologisches Worterbuch des Altindischen, under asthi.
5 Turner, idem, #3557
At a thatched hut on the
Flower Peak at T’ien T’ai
Mountain sitting with
Dharma Master Jung
Ching during a long rain.
Our gathered firewood scant,
A frozen lamp
Not glimmering at night;
Inside the cave
Windblown stones and mud,
Engravings of moss
Weather-strip a rickety door.
Untiring brooks in torrent,
Heard rarer and rarer
Where does the heart scheme?
Sitting in the lotus
Wrapped in robes of zen.
--The Venerable Hsu Yun
Translated by Upasaka Han Kuo P’u