Bodhisattvacharyavatara by Acharya Śāntideva
Chapter VII– verse 4
Transglomeration: Baited then caught in the traps of the hunters, the kleśas, these disruptive emotions; here I am, snared and trapped in birth after birth, endlessly becoming. And still do I not see that I am lying here in the open jaws of the lord of death?
~~~ “BCA” ~~~
V. 3 languishing in rebirth and becoming through inertia, sleep and learnt-dependence
↑ Stitch ↓
V. 4 like cornered prey, trapped in birth after birth
Simile: kleśas (trappers, hunters), those minds that consent to a sense of a self, distinct from other >>> birth (trap/net and being trapped), the exercise of those kleśas in the building up and identifying that sense of self as a person, self-identity >>> death (mouth of the trapper, death; once trapped, death is inevitable), that once exposed and out on a limb as a self, the downfall of the self is inevitable; kleśas > birth > death happens inexorably
Reflection: there is such a mass out there, in here, of constantly connecting, branching, tiding, consuming, conflicting, incompatible, over-laying, undermining, influencing, exploiting, accruing causes and conditions, like an overwhelming mass of muscle with ever-renewing fibres of connective tissue pulling in all directions, like a self-propelling idea with ever-firing synapses in all directions; and I need to haemorrhage from it all so that I am not consumed by it (but how do I adhere in the first place, and at all – because I seek to define myself in and amidst this amorphous mass of cause and conditioning; if I need to haemorrhage from it I need to dismantle this very needy self that came into existence when I was born and fears that it will go out of existence when it dies (as all cause and conditioning inevitably does) before it was able to prove itself); but I do not need to ignore it for concern of all others caught in the same unnecessary drag and whirl, I do not just inure myself from the mire (even if I do have to lose that self to inure it) and think the job is done; look at all my brothers and sisters bumping into their own walls, I’ve got a job, here, to do
Reflection: … in the human realm, certainly, there is a proliferation, a saturation even, of cause and conditionality within which we exercise our lifetimes and even, to some extent, which we understand: we build our civilisations and technology and science upon it, we personally define our ‘selves’ according to how we navigate through cause and conditionality; but our understanding is, necessarily, only human, it is only a political or social or institutional or technological or economic understanding of how the mass (the chaos) of cause and conditioning can be made to work to a specific goal: from the time the ape triumphantly picked up the bone to the graceful according waltz of the spaceship rendezvous we have channelled cause and conditionality to make the various froth of civilisations through which we live, and this channelling has been achieved by selectivity, by de-finition, by dividing and exclusivising, by hierarchizing … by the exercising of will on cause and conditionality to hone an outcome; we, as humans, have the ability – and have exercised it – to play cause and conditionality, to make certain things happen despite the amorphous mass of cause and condition that is all about – but we are also trapped and caught in those very same outcomes that we ourselves channelled, we are stuck being one side or the other (king or peasant, rich or poor, have or have not) of whichever dichotomy we are proximate to because we are defined by it, and we are such a clever species that we can be proximate to many more than one dichotomy; because the channelling serves a self, the manipulation of cause and conditionality narrows the plethora of possible outcomes to serve a particular need of a self, and because there are all these other ‘selves’ about, the prevailing ‘channel’ becomes the one through which the majority of others can define themselves compromised, whether willingly or coerced; it is the exercise of will over cause and conditionality which defines the human experience; (those practised in the exercise of magic practise the same exertion of will over cause and conditionality which bypasses established political, economic routes of cause and conditionality through tapping into more subtle fibres and synapses of cause and conditionality – but it is nevertheless the exercise of will over (caused and conditioned) existence); OK, so the ethical question arises: is this exercise of will to serve the needs of the selfs (i.e. ‘I’ and, by mutual distinction, ‘other’), good, or not … depends on the extent to which the channelling of causes and conditions is for the sake of a self over and against other selves (on either a macro or micro level) (i.e. selfish, not good), or whether it is for the sake of others over and against oneself (i.e. better, but unsustainable), or whether it is exercised with no sense of self (one’s own or others’) at all (good, as in, wise; wise, as in, plays within cause and conditionality without self-reference, which can only be fully appreciated when cause and conditionality are realised to be empty of any self at all in order to be causal and conditional … emptiness); so, as with chapter 6 which largely played out the exercise of other-concern in the cause and conditional context of difficulty and frustration, chapter 7 likewise exercises will/effort in the cause and conditional context of inertia and self-defeat; but, again as already noted, there is a ‘wise accommodating with’ in the exercise of patience, there is a ‘wise making so’ with effort – the dynamics are contrasting although the wisdom is the same
Reflection: this is very redolent of the suffering of conditioned aggregates – that having the body and receptors of a human being, I am inexorably to experience the fulfilments and frustrations of a human life according to both the constructive and destructive tendencies I packed with me when I came. The fact that I just don’t feel right today is a peculiarly human condition which might even drag me back for a whole day or week; it is a feeling and drag that could not even remotely occur to my cat who is made up of an altogether different physiology and psychology and sense of self – she has the aggregates of a cat, she suffers from a desperation around feeding that I, a rationalising human, need not suffer from; how these kleśas perceive and develop within me and my cat are wholly dependent on the psycho-physical aggregates which we respectively spent many lifetimes accumulating before; and here we both are, wandering about our lives and bumping into our respective walls, both of us also wilfully (well, actually, that’s only for me, as I have the human mind-aggregate) oblivious to the fact that it will all just end some time, the body/mind aggregates will fail and we shall die
Determination: I need to sharpen up my act, I need to sharpen up the realisation of what is going on here, I need to do more than simply run around after the next feed, however I might cleverly conceive of it being a human being; (‘… and may it increase infinitely’).