LEELA / LIILA
Classical Sanskrit(1) doubts the word liila (f). Suggestions are given such as play , sport , diversion , amusement , pastime, mere appearance , semblance , pretence , disguise , etc.
Hybrid Sanskrit(2) mentions líláyit-tatva in relation with Buddha’s descent from Tushita where he taught his mother the Abhidharma, as it is mentioned in the Mahá-vyútpatti(3). The Thai amulets that relate to this episode are called Phutta Leela (Buddha lílá). They show Boddha with one foot standing and one foot in the air. Líláyit-tatva is therefore the swaying gait of a person descending a stair.
Tibetan Buddhism has appropriated the Mahá-vyútpatti as one of their own manuscripts, but in actuality this manuscript belonged to some or other Indian Buddhist sect, either in Nalanda or elsewhere, and as of the 7th century the manuscript, or copies of it, migrated to Tibetan reading rooms.
The hindu Mahábharata has the episode of the Pándavas in which a warrior is mentioned by name of Duryódhana. This Duryódhana is known as ”the warrior with the broken thighs”, i.e. he was crippled.
One of the statues belonging to the Cambodian Khmer sites, the Koh Kher-site where Hinduïsm merged with Buddhism had a ”Duryodhana Bondisant”: Duryodhana bodhisattva (see picture). In May 2014 this statue was handed over to one of Cambodia’s museums. This statue shows ”Duryodhana” as one with legs that at first sight are considered to be in a dancing position. Hence William Sax(4) mentions the hindu folk festival Pandav leela and suggests that this is a dance festival dedicated to the Pandava mentioned in the Mahábharata, and more particularly dedicated to Duryodhana’s dance. In actuality Duryodhana’s lílá (or liila, or leela) is the gait of a crippled man.
Therefore leela, lílá, liila should be translated as “swaying gait”.