[Advaita-l] samsaara

Siva Senani Nori sivasenani at yahoo.com
Wed Oct 5 10:35:52 CDT 2011

There is a famous kriti in Telugu (by Bhadrachala Raamadaasu or Kancherla Gopanna, 17th century): "naa taramaa bhavasaagaram eedanu naLinadaLekshaNa Raamaa!" - "O Rama! with eyes like the petals of a lotus, is it possible for me to cross this ocean that samsaara is?" 
In this kind of usage, it is the seemingly endless expanse of the ocean that is used as a metaphor for the cycle of birth and death called samsaara.
sam sarati iti samsaarah - ('sam' is comprehensive and 'sarati' is moves about, as seen in the Marathi usage 'sarak'). Now "sam sarati", as I recollect, is explained as the movement between death and birth. I guess, one could also characterise it as the movement between cause and effect. The karma accumulated - good or bad - in a birth can be seen as the cause; after enjoying the results appropriate to that karma - time spent in Naraka or Svarga thus exhausting a part of the accumulated karma - one goes back to life again. Both the paraloka enjoyed and the particular form of birth - as an insect, bird, animal, human being etc. - could be taken as the effect. After birth, death is inevitable; and once a life is led, some karma would be accumulated unless one gets j~naana, and so once again the cycle - of birth and death, or cause and effect - continues.
Just like crossing the ocean is very difficult but possible, it might be thought that crossing the endless cycle of birth and death is difficult, but possible.
Saagara is also known for other qualities like fathomless depth (gambheerah), and as a treasure-house (ratnaakarah - as many precious gems like pearl, coral and ruby are to be found in the ocean), or as the final destination of all waters (aakaaSaat patitam toyam yathaa gacchati saagaram | sarva-deva-namaskaarah keSavam pratigacchati || - "Just like the water that drops from sky goes towards the ocean, salutations offered to all gods go to Kesava"). I do not offhand recollect usages of bhava-saagara with these qualities being taken as the samaana-dharma. 
So we can take "difficult to cross" as the samaanyadharma in the usage bhava-saagara, till we come across a better explanation.
Note that the 'difficult to cross' property of ocean has also been used. For instance, by Kalidasa in the very second Sloka of Raghuvamsa, wherein saagara is described as dustara - difficult to cross: 
kva sūryaprabhavo vaṃśaḥ kva cālpaviṣayā matiḥ | titīrṣur dustaram 
mohāduḍḍupenāsmi sāgaram || Ragh_1.2 ||

(Nandargirkar's translation of the Sloka is: Where is the race sprung from the sun (the race which traces its origin to the sun)? and where my scanty powers of mind? Methinks! from sheer folly I am bent upon crossing the ocean, though difficult to be passed over, by means of a small raft (or a boat).)
N. Siva Senani

>From: Krishna Subrahmanian <krishna.subrahmanian at yahoo.com>
>To: Advaita-L Mailing List <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
>Sent: Wednesday, October 5, 2011 5:53 PM
>Subject: [Advaita-l] samsaara
>Dear Members,
>Why is worldly life compared to an ocean?  Why is it called "ocean of samsaara" or "bhava sagara"?  Is it because it is an unending sequence of cause and effects?  Or is there a different reason?  Any clarification on this is appreciated.
>Archives: http://lists.advaita-vedanta.org/archives/advaita-l/
>To unsubscribe or change your options:
>For assistance, contact:
>listmaster at advaita-vedanta.org

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list