sa hi doSHa-saagaram agaadham
pratataara lokam api ca vyataarayat
For he [had crossed] the fathomless sea of faults
Where cares are fish and falsity is the water --
Moved by waves of anger, over-exuberance, and fear.
He had crossed and he took the world across too.
(1) Just as suffering is an inclusive term for many and various kinds of physical and mental pain, anguish, unease, and dissatisfaction, the sea also is an inclusive entity.
(2) Just as the essential components of suffering, working in combination with each other, are the amorphous mass of faulty sensory appreciation by which I deceive myself, and various endgaining ideas, so the sea is a great body of uncountable stuff with individual creatures living in it.
(3) Effort that I make directly, to try to stop suffering and make myself happy -- in the American way -- is just like going into water and making more and more waves. This is just how nervous swimmers tend to react to water, as my brother and my wife know well. As teachers of the FM Alexander Technique, what they enable others to do during a lesson in the water is not so much to gain the end of learning to swim, but rather to learn to inhibit the idea that it is necessary to do something to conquer either water or fear of water.
(4) Just to sit is not necessarily a means for getting ourselves over to the far shore of the Buddha's enlightenment. It might be a means of allowing the Buddha's wisdom to take us over.
So the key to understanding the real meaning of this verse, and all of Ashvaghosha's verses, I think, is contained back in verse 3.12, in which Ashvaghosha introduces the words (1) duHkha, (2) samudaya, (3) shanti, and (4) upaaya.
doSHa: fault, vice, deficiency, sinfulness, harm; misuse; disease [of the three humours, applied also to the humours themselves]
saagara: sea, flood
gaadha: fordable, shallow
upadhi: the act of putting or adding on; addition; fraud, circumvention falsity, fraudulence, false pretence, condition.
[MW adds, for Buddhist usage see] upaadhi: a substitute; anything which may be taken for or has the mere name or appearance of another thing; appearance, phantom, disguise; condition; deception; deceit.
aadhi: (1) mortgage, financial liability, (2) mental trouble, anxious thought, care
jantu: creature, fish [to fry?]
mada: exhilaration, rapture, intoxication, lust, arrogance, presumption, conceit
calam: moved, disturbed, agitated
pratataara = from pra + tRii: to go to sea, pass over, cross
(The related word pratara is used to describe the joints of the neck and spinal vertebrae.)
vyataarayat: carried across, ferried across, took across
For not only did He himself pass over the flood of evil, which cannot be forded, whose waters are the determinants of existence with the fish of mental troubles and which is agitated by the waves of anger, intoxication and fear, but He also ferried the world across.
For the seer had passed over the fathomless sea of faults--which is watered by conditioned existence, which has anxious thoughts for fish, and which is disturbed by waves of anger, desire and fear--and he carried the world across too.