icchaa-visheShe sati tatra tatra
yaan'-aasan'-aader bhavati prayogaH
yasmaad atas tarSha-vashaat tath" aiva
janma prajaanaam iti veditavyam
Only insofar as the specific intention exists
to do this or that,
Does an action like going or sitting happen;
Hence, in just the same way,
by the force of their thirsting
Living creatures are born -- as is to be observed:
Desire for the truth we usually describe as hunger, whereas thirst carries more of a sense of craving, or longing, or existential angst of something being missing. This sense of an unfulfilled emotional need for something -- which is not clearly definable, not solid -- leads some to drink, and some to faith in God. It leads some back to investigate thirsting itself.
The Buddha seems to be saying here that it is thirsting which powers the samsaric swing through one realm of suffering to the next.
This may be why going back to square one, in the practice of sitting-dhyana, generally seems to have to do with having nothing to do with thirst, with divorcing one’s sitting from the thirsting tendency, with consciously breaking away from thirsting -- initially through reliance on reason (see 17.42).
The principle that thirsting begets suffering, the final words of this verse seem to suggest, is for each person to realise for himself or herself -- and not only in theory, but through the kind of direct observation described in verse 16.20.
icchaa: f. wish , desire , inclination
visheShe = locative of visheSha: characteristic difference, peculiarity; (in compounds often also = special, peculiar, particular, different)
sati (locative of sat): there being [an intention]
tatra tatra: in that and that place, here and there
yaan (present participle of yaa): going
aasaan: (present participle of aas): sitting
aadeH (gen. sg.): and so on
bhavati (3rd person singular of bhuu): it arises, it occurs
prayogaH = nominative, singular of prayoga: undertaking; practice, experiment (opposed to theory); cause, motive, affair, object; consequence, result
yasmaat: from which, since
atas: from this, from this or that cause or reason
tarSha: thirst, wish, desire for (in comp.)
vashaat = ablative of vasha: will, wish, desire; authority, power, control, dominion; (at the end of compounds) by command of, by force of, on account of
tathaa: likewise, in the same way
eva: [emphatic] just
janma = nom. sg. janman: n. birth, production, existence, life
prajaanaam = genitive, plural of prajaa: procreation , propagation , birth; offspring , children , family , race; a creature, animal, man
iti: thus, that
veditavya (gerundive from vid): to be learnt or known or understood [or observed]
Since a man moves, sits, etc., according to his particular volitions to do this or that, similarly, therefore, the birth of creatures is to be recognised as due to the compulsion of desire.
An action such as going or sitting occurs whenever there is a particular volition to that effect. Therefore understand that the birth of living creatures is likewise forced by volition.