shirasy atho vaasasi sampradiipte
saty' aavabodhaaya matir vicaaryaa
dagdhaM jagat satya-nayam hy adRShTvaa
pradahyate samprati dhakShyate ca
Though your head and clothes be on fire
Direct your mind so as to be awake to the truths.
For in failing to see the purport of the truths,
the world has burned,
It is burning now, and it will burn.
Being on fire is no time for philosophical thinking about a doctrine of four truths.
But, this verse seems to say, being on fire is just the time to be awake to the four truths, which has got nothing to do with philosophical doctrine.
The purport of the truths, again, is not to get something like philosophical understanding. It is to get rid of something -- to eliminate faulty sensory appreciation and the associated faults of hypertonus and hypotonus, greed, hatred, ignorance, and so on.
To live consciously in the burning world, again, is never a philosophical problem. It is the much more challenging problem of how, day by day, a person responds or reacts to the stimulus of living -- either by joining in with the blind reactions of the burning world or by continuing to come back to conscious, simple living.
So the thrust of this verse, as I read it, is anti-thetical to the previous verse; and the two verses can be seen as the first and second verses in another series of four verses, consisting of:
1. a general conception of the four truths (16.42);
2. the contrary exhortation to wake up from such abstract thinking (16.43);
3. the synthesis, which is accurate insight (16.44); and
4. the liberation of the mind, going beyond plus and minus (16.45).
The theme of the present set of four verses from 16.42, then, is mental.
From 16.46 there are three verses touching on energetic leakage, and the six elements of the material world.
From 16.49 there are four verses setting the scene for the practice of Yoga itself, i.e., the formal practice of abandoning the faults.
And from 16.53 the Buddha describes in exact detail what stimuli to choose to respond to, and what stimuli to decide not to react to, in the actual moment-by-moment practice of inhibiting faults.
shirasi = locative of shira: the head
atha (introductory or connecting particle): now, next, then
vaasasi = locative of vasa: garment, dress, clothes
sampradiipte = locative of sampradiitpa: blazing or flaming up
avabodha: waking, being awake
saty'aavabodhaaya (dative): so as to awaken to the truths
matiH (nominative, singular): f. thought, mind
vicaaryaa = nom. sg. f. vicarya: (from vi-√car) to be deliberated or discussed
vi-√car: to act , proceed , behave ; to practise , perform , accomplish , make , do ; to move hither and thither (in the mind) , ponder , reflect , consider ; to examine , investigate , ascertain
dagdham = nom. sg. n. dagdha (fr. past participle √dah, to burn): mfn. burnt , scorched , consumed by fire
jagat (nom. sg.): n. people, mankind; the world
nayam (acc. sg.): m. (from (√nii, to lead) leading (of an army); conduct , behaviour , (esp.) prudent conduct or behaviour , good management ; wisdom , prudence , reason ; plan , design; leading thought , maxim , principle , system , method , doctrine
a- (negative suffix): not
dRShTvaa = absolutive of dRSh: to see
pradahyate (3rd person singular, passive of pra-√dah, to burn): to take fire , be burnt , burn
samprati: now , at this moment , at present
dhakShyate = 3rd pers. sg. future of √dah: to burn
The mind should be directed to the comprehension of the Truths even though one's head or clothing is on fire. For mankind through not understanding the doctrine of the Truths has been burnt, is being burnt now and will be burnt.
Though your head and clothes be on fire, direct your mind towards the comprehension of the Truths, for in its failure to perceive the doctrine of the Truths, the world was burned, is burning now, and will burn in the future.