Sunday, March 8, 2009

SAUNDARANANDA 16.24: A Mystery of Cause and Effect

doSha-kShayo jaatiShu yaasu yasya
vairaagyatas taasu na jaayate saH
doSh'-aashayaas tiShTati yasya yatra
tasy' opapattir vi-vashasya tatra

In whichever realms of existence a man has ended faults,

Because he no longer cares
he is not born in those realms.

Wherever he remains susceptible to a fault,

That is where he crops up, like it or not.

This verse also need not be understood as having to do with the doctrine of reincarnation; it can be understood more as an observation of a common, but mysterious, fact of life.

For example, as a person who tends to be bothered by noise, even if I go to a remote forest, it seems that bothersome noise tends to pursue me, in the form of chain-saws, heavy machinery, off-road motorbikes, barking dogs and the like.

I suppose the point of this verse, then, is that a person who has yet to give up anger tends to crop up repeatedly in the samsaric realm of asura (angry demons), the person who has yet to give up arrogance tends to crop up repeatedly in the realm of deva (gods), the person who has yet to give up insecure clinging tends to crop up repeatedly in the samsaric realm of the preta (hungry ghost), et cetera.

Above all, or below all, the mysterious truth may be that a person who has yet to look his own denial fully in the eye is ever prone to the disappointment of finding himself back again in the dark hell of that denial, whereas when the fault of denial ends in a particular sphere, a person then becomes enabled to walk away from that sphere and will not be reborn again in that sphere.

dosha: fault
kShayaH (nom. sg.): m. loss , waste , wane , diminution , destruction , decay , wasting or wearing away (often ifc.); end , termination
jaatiShu = locative, plural of jaati: f birth, re-birth, form of existence; position assigned by birth
yaasu = loc. pl. f. yat: who, what, which, often repeated to express " whoever " , " whatever " , " whichever "
yasya = gen. sg. yat: who, what, which

vairaagya: change or loss of colour , growing pale; disgust , aversion , distaste for or loathing of (loc. abl. , or comp.); freedom from all worldly desires , indifference to worldly objects and to life , asceticism
-taH: (ablative suffix) due to, from, since
taasu (locative, plural of saa): in those [forms of existence]
na: not
jaayate: to be born, be reborn, be caused to be born, be destined for, become
saH (nominative, singular): he

doSha: fault
aashayaH = nominative, singular of aashaya: resting-place, bed, seat; the seat of feelings and thoughts, the mind, heart, soul; a receptacle
tiShTati = 3rd person singular of sthaa: stand, stay, remain; continue in any condition or action
yasya yatra: (correlatives of tasya and tatra in next line) in whichever

tasya (gentive, singular): of that, belonging to that
upapattiH (nominative, singular): happening , occurring , becoming visible , appearing , taking place
vi-vashasya = genitive of vivasha: deprived or destitute of will , powerless , helpless , unwilling , involuntary , spontaneous
tatra: in that

EH Johnston:
When a man has extirpated the vices with respect to any type of disposition, he is not reborn in that variety owing to passionlessness. When a tendency to the vices subsists in any disposition, he is reborn in that type whether he would or no.

Linda Covill:
When a man has destroyed faults in certain forms of existence, thanks to that dispassion he is not reborn in those forms again. When he harbors a latent tendency to a fault in that form, rebirth in that form is forced on him.


Dirk said...

Very true!
I am always following the slowest traveler on the road! Perhaps when I learn to be timely,that fellow (the "slow poke") will all but vanish.
Right now that person is there every morning I head off to work. Funny I rarely ever meet them on the way home.

lxg said...

Hi Mike,

I'm not sure that I understand your use of the word 'denial' in your comments. Would you mind expanding on that a bit.


Mike Cross said...

Thanks, Dirk. Your observation rings true in my experience too, the fault in question being my impatience. I find that I very often crop up in a situation where I am waiting for my wife.

Mike Cross said...

Hi Alex,

In developmental terms the deepest kind of fault I am aware of is related with fear paralysis. Physiologically this is implicated in shock, and pyschologically in denial -- i.e. inability to accept the truth/reality of something.

Shock/denial at the beginning of a bereavement process, for example, has to do with fear paralysis, I think.

After a bereavement or other form of disappointment, somebody who is not particular susceptible to the fault of denial will move on fairly quickly through the phase of paralysis/shock/denial. Whereas a person who, for his or her sins, is particularly susceptible to the fault of denial, is liable to keep finding new situations, or keep coming back to the same situation, where he or she can get further practise in the fault of denial!

An example might be a tendency to stick with a cheating partner, or a succession of cheating partners, or to keep dealing with a fraudulent salesman, or a succession of conmen.

In the context of this discussion of the four noble truths, denial is a kind of suffering, akin to trouble, and I think Ashvaghosha is telling us that our task is simply to walk away from trouble.

All the best,