By Ranjini Obeyesekere
Translations of 2 works from Sri Lanka on Yasodhara, the spouse of the Buddha--an allusive and exciting determine in Buddhist lore and literature.
Read or Download Yasodhara, the Wife of the Bodhisattva: The Sinhala Yasodharavata (The Story of Yasodhara) and the Sinhala Yasodharapadanaya (The Sacred Biography of Yasodhara) PDF
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Additional info for Yasodhara, the Wife of the Bodhisattva: The Sinhala Yasodharavata (The Story of Yasodhara) and the Sinhala Yasodharapadanaya (The Sacred Biography of Yasodhara)
Many of them were written down, though we do not know whether by the authors themselves or by later scribes. Several have been found in palm leaf manuscript collections. The secular poetry of this period was most often composed in four-line, end-rhymed stanzas. The vocabulary was simple, almost colloquial, and the images often repetitive and from a stock repertoire. The metrical patterns were the familiar ones enabling the verses to be sung or chanted. Rules of grammar and syntax were not necessarily always followed, and the end rhymes were sometimes forced.
In all these laments, the narrative persona, if not the actual author of the poem, is a woman. Yasodharā, Kuveni, Pattini, and Madri Devi are all women faced with loss. The laments are therefore the expression of loss in very feminine terms. They are often embedded in a larger narrative that provides a context for the lament, but it is these verses that are excerpted and sung especially at funerals and are therefore the most popular and best known sections of the poems. The tradition of laments may have come from India or may have had preBuddhist origins, but the Sri Lankan laments referred to are now very much a part of a Buddhist tradition or have been incorporated into that tradition.
It is the folk poet’s ability to create a human portrait of the Bōdhisattva, torn between the decision to leave the palace and his human ties of love for his wife and newborn child, that gives balance to the poem. Otherwise Yasodharā’s long and despairing lament and reproaches that follow soon after would seriously undermine the Buddhist worldview of the total poem by presenting the Bōdhisattva’s act as one of heartless cruelty. The emotional balance of the poem comes from the interplay between the two parallel sections in the narrative poem.