ogha: flood

ogha: the flood (of suffering)

oghatiṇṇa: flood-crosser, one who has crossed the flood (of suffering)


PED: the old word ‘ogha’

PED (sv Ogha) says that one who has ‘crossed the flood’ (oghatiṇṇa) is ascribed the mental and moral qualifications of the arahant, but adds that ‘less often we have details of what the flood consists of.’ It says that ‘towards the end of the Nikāya period we find, for the first time, the use of the word in the plural, and the mention of the four oghas identical with the four āsavas… The 5th century commentators persist in the error of explaining the old word ogha, used in the singular, as referring to the four āsavas.’

The ocean of the six senses

Before discussing ‘the flood,’ we will first deal with ‘the ocean.’ This has two meanings:

1) the ocean of the six senses (cakkhu bhikkhave purisassa samuddo etc, S.4.157) in which ‘ocean currents’ are the six sense objects. This is the ocean that the arahant has crossed (atari cakkhu samuddaṃ: crossed the ocean of the eye). This ocean with its six sense objects is elsewhere called ‘everything’ (cakkhuñceva rūpā ca… mano ca dhammā ca idaṃ vuccati bhikkhave sabbaṃ S.4.15). Therefore, in crossing the ocean, one crosses over everything.

2) the ocean (of the six sensuous objects)‘:

• There are visible objects known via the visual sense that are likeable, loveable, pleasing, agreeable, connected with sensuous pleasure, and charming. In the (terminology of the) Noble One’s training system this is called the ocean.
Santi bhikkhave cakkhuviññeyyā rūpā iṭṭhā kantā manāpā piyarūpā kāmūpasaṃhitā rajanīyā ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave ariyassa vinaye samuddo (S.4.158).

• There are mentally known objects known via the mental sense that are likeable, loveable, pleasing, agreeable, connected with sensuous pleasure, and charming. In the (terminology of the) Noble One’s training system this is called the ocean.
Santi bhikkhave manoviññeyyā dhammā iṭṭhā kantā manāpā piyarūpā kāmūpasaṃhitā rajanīyā. Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave ariyassa vinaye samuddo (S.4.158).

The flood of birth, old age, and death

But in crossing the flood, what is crossed? The nature of the flood is revealed in the scriptures as follows:

1) In the Pārāyanavaggo, the Chapter on The Way to the Far Shore, Venerable Mettagū called it ‘the flood of birth, old age, grief, and lamentation’ (oghaṃ jātijaraṃ sokapariddavañca).

2) The bhikkhunī Upasamā told herself to cross the flood, the realm of death so hard to get beyond (upasame tare oghaṃ maccudheyyaṃ suduttaraṃ Thī.v.10), where ‘flood’ therefore means the realm of death.

3) Venerable Kappa compared being afflicted by old age and death (jarāmaccuparetānaṃ) to standing in the middle of a lake when a very fearful flood has arisen (majjhe sarasmiṃ tiṭṭhataṃ oghe jāte mahabbhaye Sn.v.1092) where ‘flood’ therefore means the flood of old age and death.

4) Venerable Nanda referred to those who had not overcome birth and old age (nātariṃsu jātijaranti Sn.v.1080-1082) as ‘not flood-crossers’ (anoghatiṇṇo), where ‘flood’ therefore means the flood of birth and old age.

The flood of dukkhakkhandha

The scriptures show that ‘old age and death’ is an abbreviation for the whole mass of suffering (dukkhakkhandha), as follows:

1) In the Mahānidāna Sutta the Buddha initially said birth produces old age and death, grief, lamentation, physical pain, psychological pain, and vexation (jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇaṃ sokaparidevadukkhadomanassūpāyāsā D.2.56), and then said‘birth produces old age and death’ (jātipaccayā jarāmaraṇan ti). The full meaning of the condensed second statement is in the first statement.

2) In the Parivīmaṃsana Sutta (S.2.80) a bhikkhu investigates ‘the many and various kinds of suffering that arise in the world (headed by) old age and death’ (anekavidhaṃ nānappakārakaṃ dukkhaṃ loke uppajjati jarāmaraṇaṃ). The bhikkhu then realises when there is birth, then old age and death come to be (jātiyā sati jarāmaraṇaṃ hoti). Here ‘old age and death’ stands for ‘the many and various kinds of suffering that arise in the world (headed by) old age and death.’

3) Venerable Mettagū first called the flood ‘birth, old age, grief, and lamentation’ (jātijaraṃ sokapariddavañca Sn.v.1052), he then said that one who had ‘crossed this flood’ (oghamimaṃ atāri) had overcome birth and old age (atāri so jāti jaran ti, Sn.v.1060) where ‘birth and old age’ stands for what he previously called birth, old age, grief, and lamentation.

Oghatiṇṇo and dukkhotiṇṇā

That ‘flood’ means ‘flood of dukkhakkhandha’ is also evident in the association of otiṇṇā and tiṇṇā. When young men take up the ascetic way of life, they do so with the thought:

• ’I am overwhelmed by suffering, overcome by suffering.
dukkhotiṇṇā dukkhaparetā

… Perhaps an ending of this whole mass of sufferingmight be discerned!’
appeva nāma imassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa antakiriyā paññāyethā ti (S.3.93; It.89).

So dukkhotiṇṇā is shown to mean dukkhakkhandhotiṇṇā. But flood-crossers are called oghatiṇṇo (Sn.v.108), where ogha corresponds to dukkha, and therefore to dukkhakkhandha.

Oghataraṇa Sutta

In the Oghataraṇa Sutta (S.1.1) a deva asks the Buddha how he crossed ‘the flood’ (kathaṃ nu tvaṃ mārisa oghamatarī ti) without explaining which flood. Bodhi says the four floods are meant (CDB p.341 n.1). But the deva clarified the issue by equating ‘crossing the flood’ to ‘overcoming attachment to the world (of phenomena)’:

• At long last, I see a Brahman who has realised the Untroubled who, without halting or overstraining, has overcome attachment to the world (of phenomena)
Cirassaṃ vata passāmi brāhmaṇaṃ parinibbutaṃ
Appatiṭṭhaṃ anāyūhaṃ tiṇṇaṃ loke visattikaṃ

That the flood in the Oghataraṇa Sutta can again be taken as the flood of dukkhakkhandha, in spite of the later reference to attachment, is proven by comparison with the Mettagū Sutta where the same thing happens. Firstly Venerable Mettagū asked:

• How do the wise cross the flood of birth, old age, grief, and lamentation?
☸ Kathaṃ nu dhīrā vitaranti oghaṃ jātijaraṃ sokapariddavañca

The Buddha replied:

• I shall explain the teaching to you, which is fathomable in this lifetime, which is not just hearsay, understanding which, one living the religious life, one who is mindful, would overcome attachment to the world (of phenomena).
Kittayissāmi te dhammaṃ, diṭṭhe dhamme anitihaṃ
Yaṃ viditvā sato caraṃ, tare loke visattikaṃ

So when the deva asked about crossing the flood, he meant the flood of dukkhakkhandha. Both references show this is accomplished by overcoming attachment to the world of phenomena.

In conclusion: flood (of suffering)

In conclusion, ‘ocean’ means ‘everything’ and ogha means ‘the flood of the whole mass of suffering.’ But ‘of the whole mass’ is redundant, so we call it ‘flood (of suffering).’


Illustration: ogha, flood (of suffering)

The ascetic Sabhiya said to the Buddha:

You have left the darkness (of hell) and the flood (of suffering)…

You have reached the end of suffering, gone beyond suffering
antagūsi pāragū dukkhassa (Sn.v.538-9).


The commentary says oghatamagā stands for ogha-tamaṃ agā where darkness is paired with the flood of suffering. Like ‘flood,’ darkness in the scriptures means intense suffering, as follows:

1) Having passed on they go to darkness, falling headlong into hell
pecca tamaṃ vajanti ye patanti sattā nirayaṃ avaṃsirā (Sn.v.248).

2) Defilement is the road to hell. Reaching (on rebirth) the plane of damnation, going from womb to womb, from darkness to darkness, such a bhikkhu goes to misery when he passes on.
maggaṃ nirayagāminaṃ; vinipātaṃ samāpanno gabbhā gabbhaṃ tamā tamaṃ save tādisako bhikkhu pecca dukkhaṃ nigacchati (Sn.v.278).

3) How is a person heading from darkness to darkness? In this regard, some person has been reborn in a low family… after death he is reborn in the plane of sub-human existence, in the plane of misery, in the plane of damnation, or in hell.
tamo hoti tamaparāyaṇo… nīce kule paccājāto hoti… parammaraṇā apāyaṃ duggatiṃ vinipātaṃ nirayaṃ upapajjati (A.2.85).

Illustration: flood (of suffering)

Seeing a sage who had crossed the flood (of suffering), the lady made merit leading to future happiness.
Akāsi puññaṃ sukhamāyatikaṃ
Disvā muniṃ brāhmaṇi oghatiṇṇan ti

Illustration: oghatiṇṇo, one who has crossed the flood (of suffering)

The bhikkhu who has overcome the five bonds (to individual existence) is called one who has crossed the flood (of suffering).
Pañcasaṅgātigo bhikkhu oghatiṇṇo ti vuccati (Th.v.633; S.1.3).

Illustration: oghatiṇṇā, those who have crossed the flood (of suffering)

I do not say that all ascetics and Brahmanists are hemmed in by birth and old age. Whosoever have abandoned (attachment) in this world to what is seen, heard, sensed, (or cognised), and (adherence to) all observances and practices, and have abandoned (attachment to) all various bodily forms, and who, through profoundly understanding craving are free of perceptually obscuring states, these are men who have crossed the flood (of suffering), I declare.
Nāhaṃ sabbe samaṇabrāhmaṇāse jātijarāya nivutā ti brūmi
Ye sīdha diṭṭhaṃ vā sutaṃ mutaṃ vā silabbataṃ vāpi pahāya sabbaṃ
Anekarūpampi pahāya sabbaṃ taṇhaṃ pariññāya anāsavāse
Te ve narā oghatiṇṇā ti brūmi

Illustration: oghaṃ, flood (of suffering)

I have crossed (to the Far Shore), reached the Far Shore, having eliminated the flood (of suffering).
Tiṇṇo pāragato vineyya oghaṃ (Sn.v.21).


Here the flood is not ‘crossed.’