aviśeṣānupāyābhyāṁ saṅgād-abhyavapātataḥ || 12.24
[It fails] because of wrong grounds,
because of ego-making,
Because of blurring of vision,
because of blurring of boundaries,
Because of lack of discrimination and wrong means,
Because of attachment,
and because of falling on down.
EHJ notes This group of eight reasons, for which the soul fails to free itself, is
found elsewhere only in the Carakasaṁhitā Śarīrasthāna [an Aryuveda text], but there is some similarity of idea at M.Bh., xii. 7505-6. The first five apparently cause ajñāna, the sixth karman, and the last two tṛṣṇā.
Once again, however, I prefer to think that we are exempted from having to contrast and compare Arāḍa's teachings with Indian texts that went before or came after him, by Aśvaghoṣa's description of Arāḍa's teaching as svaysa śāstram, his own teaching (BC12.15).
So rather than look back in search of understanding of this group of eight reasons, we might be better off looking forward, to the next eight verses (BC12.25 to 12.32) in which Arāḍa considers each of these eight reasons in turn.
Since I haven't studied those eight verses in detail yet, the translation of today's verse is provisional.
That said, a priori, I am still thinking in four phases. So whereas EHJ sees a 5-1-2 formation, I see a 2-2-2-2 formation.
Read like this, in the 1st pāda vi-pratyaya and ahaṁ-kāra, relate to the self. The dictionary gives vi-pratyaya as “distrust”; EBC translated as “mistake,” EHJ “misunderstanding”, PO “wrong knowledge.” I am conscious that in the 1st chapter of MMK, Nāgārjuna discusses four pratyaya, which, from initial study of that chapter, I understand to be “the four cornerstones of direction.” So vi-pratyaya suggests to me, at the first phase, wrong grounds for directing the self. Those grounds are primarily related to the vestibular system, which is vital for inner listening to oneself. Ahaṁ-kāra (EBC: egoism; EHJ: wrong attribution of personality; PO: ego) also, more obviously, is a function of the self.
In the 2nd pāda, I read saṁdeha (EBC: confusion; EHJ: confusion of thought; PO: confusion), at the 2nd phase, as a function of the external senses, through which we are connected to the external world. Hence not so much “confusion of thought” as blurring of vision. Abhisaṁplava is given in the MW dictionary as “fluctuation” but samplava shares with saṁdeha the definition “conglomeration,” and the sense of something originally distinct being lost in an amorphous mass. Thus I wonder if abhisaṁplava (EBC: fluctuation; EHJ: wrong conjunction; PO: wrong association), at the 2nd phase, can be understood to express our tendency to subsume ourselves into, or identify with, what – whether on the inside or on the outside – we ought not to subsume ourselves into or identify with. Taking this sense, and wishing to reflect the overlap in meaning between saṁdeha and abhisaṁplava, I have provisionally translated abhisaṁplava as "blurring of boundaries."
The 2nd pāda thus emerges as in some sense anti-thetical to the 1st pāda, which is generally as it should be. In other words, if the thesis of the 1st pāda is that we, with our dodgy vestibular functioning, should not be selfish, then the anti-thesis of the 2nd pāda is that we should, distinctly, to our own selves be true.
The 3rd pāda, then, can be read as related to the essential elements of practice, those elements being, on the subjective side, discrimination, or thinking straight; and, on the objective side, a means-whereby that has been determined to work.
And the 4th pāda seems to sum up in two words what keeps up spinning on the merry-go-round of saṁsāra – namely saṅga, the whole gamut of attachments which ordinarily governs us, and abhyavapāta, the constant gravitational pull, the constant falling – in the absence in the world of the Buddha's original teaching of pratītya-samutpāda – back and down.
I have thus provisionally translated abhyavapāta “falling on down” as the opposite conception to 仏向上事 BUTSU-KOJO-JI, “The Matter of a Buddha Going On Up,” which is my favoured translation of the title of Shobogenzo chap. 28.
Reading Aśvaghoṣa's poetry like this, in four phases – whether or not others regard the analysis as valid – at least has the merit, I can report with certainty from my own experience, of rendering the lines and verses easier to remember in order.
Since today's verse lays the groundwork for the emergence of the matter of a buddha going on up, today's verse as I read it fittingly comes as the fourth in the present series of four verses (BC12.21 - 24).
vi-pratyayāt (abl. sg.): m. distrust
pratyaya: m. belief, firm conviction , trust , faith , assurance or certainty ; conception , assumption , notion , idea ; (with Buddhists and jainas) fundamental notion or idea); consciousness , understanding , intelligence , intellect (in sāṁkhya = buddhi); ground , basis , motive or cause of anything ; (with Buddhists) a co-operating cause
prati- √i: to go towards or against , go to meet (as friend or foe) ; to come back , return ; to trust or believe in
ahaṁ-kārāt (abl. sg.): m. the making of self , thinking of self , egotism
saṁdehāt (abl. sg.): m. a conglomeration or conglutination (of material elements); doubt , uncertainty
saṁ-dehá-gandha: m. a whiff or slight tinge of doubt
saṁ- √ dih: to smear , besmear , cover ; to heap together ; to be doubtful or uncertain (said of persons and things
deha: ( √ dih , to plaster , mould , fashion) the body ; form , shape , mass , bulk (as of a cloud)
abhisaṁplavāt (abl. sg.): m. fluctuation, Bcar.
abhi-: ind. (a prefix to verbs and nouns , expressing) to , towards , into , over , upon. (As a prefix to verbs of motion) it expresses the notion or going towards , approaching , &c
samplava: m. flowing together , meeting or swelling (of waters) , flood , deluge ; a dense mass , heap , multitude ; conglomeration , taking a form or shape , rise , origin ; noise , tumult (esp. of battle) ;
a-viśeṣānupāyābhyām (abl. dual): lack of discrimination and wrong means
a-viśeṣa (abl. sg.): m. non-distinction , non-difference
an-upāya: m. bad means (an-upāyena, "to no purpose")
upāya: m. coming near , approach , arrival ; that by which one reaches one's aim , a means or expedient (of any kind) , way , stratagem , craft , artifice
saṅgāt (abl. sg.): m. sticking, clinging to; addiction or devotion to , propensity for , (esp.) worldly or selfish attachment or affection , desire , wish , cupidity
abhyavapāta: m. gravitation, Bcar. xii, 24
-taḥ: (ablative sufix)
abhy-ava- √ pat: to fly near
ava- √ pat: to fly down
√ pat: to fly , soar , rush on ; to fall down or off , alight , descend (with acc. or loc.) , fall or sink (with or without adhas or narake , " to go down to hell " ; with caraṇau or °ṇayoḥ , " to fall at a person's feet ") ; to fall (in a moral sense)
pāta: flying , mode of flying , flight; throwing one's self or falling into (loc.) or from (abl.) , fall , downfall (also ifc. after what would be a gen. or abl. &c e.g. , gṛha- , fall of a house ; parvata- , fall from a mountain ; bhū- , fall on the earth) ; alighting , descending or causing to descend , casting or throwing upon , cast , fall (of a thunderbolt) , throw , shot ; a fault , error , mistake