Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: snakes

Expand Messages
  • Stephen Hodge
    Mention is made in some Buddhist texts of four venomous snakes that are likened to various bad, dangerous things. Unfortunately, the names of each of the four
    Message 1 of 4 , Jun 6, 2004
    • 0 Attachment
      Mention is made in some Buddhist texts of four venomous snakes that are
      likened to various bad, dangerous things. Unfortunately, the names of each
      of the four snakes themselves are rarely mentioned and I only have them in
      secondary Buddhist languages. I have a good idea what they might be in
      English -- cobras, vipers, kraits etc but not the original names. Are they
      ever mentioned anywhere in the Pali canon ?

      Many thanks,
      Stephen Hodge
    • dhammanando_bhikkhu
      ... Hello Stephen, Three Pali tetrads of snakes come to mind, but I m not sure if any are quite what you re looking for. Perhaps you could state which bad
      Message 2 of 4 , Jun 8, 2004
      • 0 Attachment
        Stephen Hodge:

        > Mention is made in some Buddhist texts of four venomous snakes
        > that are likened to various bad, dangerous things.
        > Unfortunately, the names of each of the four snakes themselves
        > are rarely mentioned and I only have them in secondary Buddhist
        > languages. I have a good idea what they might be in English --
        > cobras, vipers, kraits etc but not the original names. Are they
        > ever mentioned anywhere in the Pali canon ?

        Hello Stephen,

        Three Pali tetrads of snakes come to mind, but I'm not sure if
        any are quite what you're looking for. Perhaps you could state
        which bad things they represent. Otherwise it's hard to know what
        to look for, since Pali has at least thirty words for 'snake'.
        Anyhow, these are the tetrads I can recall now:

        Firstly there are the four royal snake families
        (naagaraajakulaani) of the Khandhaparitta: Viruupakkha,
        Eraapatha, Chabbyaaputta, and Gotamaka. But these aren't your
        regular snakes; they're all respectable upper-class naagas, so I
        doubt they would ever be compared to anything bad or dangerous.

        Then in the Aasiivisasutta (S iv 172-5) the four mahaabhuuta are
        compared to four (unspecified) kinds of viper. The Atthakathaa
        gives these names based on the effects of their venom, but these
        are not normal Pali words for snakes: ka.t.thamukha, puutimukha,
        aggimukha, and satthamukha.

        The ka.t.thamukha's venom (representing pa.thavii) makes the
        victim's body and limbs become as stiff as a board. The
        puutimukha's venom (representing aapo) makes the body ooze with
        pus like an over-ripe jakfruit. The aggimukha's venom
        (representing tejo) makes the victim feel as if the body were on
        fire. The venom of the satthamukha (representing vayo) makes him
        feel he is being drilled full of holes.

        These four types of snake are then sub-divided according to the
        means by which the venom acts (by biting, seeing, physical
        contact, or contagion). That gives us 16 kinds of snake. These
        are then sub-divided according to which part of the body they
        like to bite....and so it goes on. By the end we have 1024 kinds
        of snake, but I'm not sure any one of them could be identified as
        a cobra, a krait or any other known snake. All the same, it's an
        interesting passage, and quite ingenious how it relates the
        snakes to the characteristics of ruupa. I have appended it below
        in a postscript.

        The Atthasaalinii (DhsA) has a verse with much the same
        teaching, albeit rather shorter:

        Patthaddho bhavati kaayo, da.t.tho ka.t.thamukhena vaa;
        pathaviidhaatuppakopena, hoti ka.t.thamukheva so.
        Puutiyo bhavati kaayo, da.t.tho puutimukhena vaa;
        aapodhaatuppakopena, hoti puutimukheva so.
        Santatto bhavati kaayo, da.t.tho aggimukhena vaa;
        tejodhaatuppakopena, hoti aggimukheva so.
        Sa–chinno bhavati kaayo, da.t.tho satthamukhena vaa;
        vaayodhaatuppakopena, hoti satthamukheva so.

        As bodies that the ka.t.thamukha bites
        Stiffen, so bodies from the tottering
        Of the extension-element grow stiff
        As though they entered ka.t.thamukha's mouth.

        As bodies that the puutimukha bites
        Grow putrid, so bodies from the tottering
        Of the cohesion-element will rot
        As though they entered puutimukha's mouth.

        As bodies that the aggimukha bites
        Grow hot, so bodies from the tottering
        Of the heat-element wax also hot
        As though they entered aggimukha's mouth.

        As bodies that the satthamukha bites
        Are cut up, so bodies from the tottering
        Of the element of motion are cut up
        As though they entered satthamukha's mouth.
        (The Expositor II 395)

        Finally, there's another Aasiivisasutta in the Catukka-nipaata of
        the A`nguttara Nikaaya which compares people to four kinds of
        snake according to how quickly they get angry and how long they
        remain so. The Atthakathaa does not identify the snakes; the
        .Tiikaa gives the following as examples:

        Venomous but not aggressive: ma.nisappa (tree snake).
        Aggressive but not venomous: udakasappa (water snake).
        Both venomous and aggressive: ane.lakasappa (white snake ??).
        Neither venomous nor aggressive: niilasappa (whip-snake).

        However, I wouldn't expect much material from Pali
        sub-commentaries to be present in non-Theravaadin texts.

        Best wishes,

        Dhammanando

        ______________________________________

        From the Commentary to the SN's Aasiivisasutta:

        Tattha 'cattaaro aasiivisaa' ti ka.t.thamukho, puutimukho,
        aggimukho, satthamukhoti ime cattaaro. Tesu ka.t.thamukhena
        da.t.thassa sakalasariira.m sukkhaka.t.tha.m viya thaddha.m hoti,
        sandhipabbesu adhimatta.m ayasuulasamappita.m viya ti.t.thati.
        Puutimukhena da.t.thassa pakkapuutipanasa.m viya
        vipubbakabhaava.m aapajjitvaa paggharati ca`ngavaare
        pakkhitta-udaka.m viya hoti. Aggimukhena da.t.thassa
        sakalasariira.m jhaayitvaa bhasmamu.t.thi viya thusamu.t.thi viya
        ca vippakiriiyati. Sattamukhena da.t.thassa sakalasariira.m
        bhijjati, asanipaata.t.thaana.m viya mahaanikhaadanena
        khatasandhimukha.m viya ca hoti. Eva.m visavasena vibhattaa
        cattaaro aasiivisaa.

        Visavegavikaarena panete so.lasa honti. Ka.t.thamukho hi
        da.t.thaviso, di.t.thaviso, phu.t.thaviso, vaatavisoti catubbidho
        hoti. Tena hi da.t.thampi di.t.thampi phu.t.thampi tassa vaatena
        paha.tampi sariira.m vuttappakaarena thaddha.m hoti. Sesesupi
        eseva nayoti. Eva.m visavegavikaaravasena so.lasa honti.

        Puna puggalapa.n.nattivasena catusa.t.thi honti. Katha.m?
        Ka.t.thamukhesu taava da.t.thaviso ca aagataviso no ghoraviso,
        ghoraviso no aagataviso, aagataviso ceva ghoraviso ca,
        nevaagataviso na ghoravisoti catubbidho hoti. Tattha yassa visa.m
        sampajjalitati.nukkaaya aggi viya siigha.m abhiruhitvaa akkhiini
        gahetvaa khandha.m gahetvaa siisa.m gahetvaa .thitanti
        vattabbata.m aapajjati ma.nisappaadiina.m visa.m viya, manta.m
        pana parivattetvaa ka.n.navaata.m datvaa da.n.dakena paha.tamatte
        otaritvaa da.t.tha.t.thaaneyeva ti.t.thati, aya.m aagataviso no
        ghoraviso naama. Yassa pana visa.m sa.nika.m abhiruhati,
        aaru.lhaaru.lha.t.thaane pana aya.m siita-udaka.m viya hoti
        udakasappaadiina.m visa.m viya, dvaadasavassaccayenaapi
        ka.n.napi.t.thikhandhapi.t.thikaadiisu ga.n.dapi.lakaadivasena
        pa––aayati, mantaparivattanaadiisu ca kayiramaanaasu siigha.m na
        otarati, aya.m ghoraviso no aagataviso naama. Yassa pana visa.m
        siigha.m abhiruhati, na siigha.m otarati ane.lakasappaadiina.m
        visa.m viya, aya.m aagataviso ceva ghoraviso ca. Yassa pana
        visa.m manda.m hoti, otaariyamaanampi sukheneva otarati
        niilasappadhammanisappaadiina.m visa.m viya, aya.m nevaagataviso
        na ghoraviso naama. Iminaa upaayena ka.t.thamukhe
        da.t.thavisaadayo puutimukhaadiisu ca da.t.thavisaadayo
        veditabbaati. Eva.m puggalapa.n.nattivasena catusa.t.thi.

        Tesu "a.n.dajaa naagaa" ti-aadinaa yonivasena ekeka.m catudhaa
        vibhajitvaa chapa.n.naasaadhikaani dve sataani honti. Te
        jalajaathalajaati dvigu.nitaa dvaadasaadhikaani pa–casataani
        honti, te kaamaruupa-akaamaruupaana.m vasena dvigu.nitaa
        catuviisaadhikasahassasa`nkhaa honti. Puna gatamaggassa
        pa.tilomato sa.mkhippamaanaa ka.t.thamukhaadivasena cattaarova
        hontiiti. Te sandhaaya bhagavaa "seyyathaapi, bhikkhave, cattaaro
        aasiivisaa" ti aaha. Kulavasena hi ete gahitaa.

        Tattha 'aasiivisaa' ti aasittavisaatipi aasiivisaa,
        asitavisaatipi aasiivisaa, asisadisavisaatipi aasiivisaa.
        'Aasittavisaa' ti sakalakaaye aasi–citvaa viya .thapitavisaa,
        parassa ca attano sariire ca aasi–canavisaati attho. 'Asitavisaa'
        ti ya.m ya.m etehi asita.m hoti paribhutta.m, ta.m ta.m visameva
        sampajjati, tasmaa asita.m visa.m hoti etesanti aasiivisaa.
        'Asisadisavisaa' ti asiviya tikhi.na.m
        paramammacchedanasamattha.m visa.m etesanti aasiivisaati
        evamettha vacanattho veditabbo. 'Uggatejaa' ti uggatatejaa
        balavatejaa. 'Ghoravisaa' ti dunnimmaddanavisaa.

        'Eva.m vadeyyun' ti pa.tijaggaapanattha.m eva.m vadeyyu.m.
        Raajaano hi aasiivise gaahaapetvaa: "tathaaruupe core vaa etehi
        .da.msaapetvaa maaressaama, nagaruuparodhakaale parasenaaya vaa
        ta.m khipissaama, parabala.m nimmaddetu.m asakkontaa subhojana.m
        bhu–jitvaa varasayana.m aaruyha etehi attaana.m .da.msaapetvaa
        sattuuna.m vasa.m anaagacchantaa attano ruciyaa marissaamaa" ti
        aasiivise jaggaapenti. Te ya.m cora.m sahasaava maaretu.m na
        icchanti, "evamete diigharatta.m dukkhappatto hutvaa marissantii"
        ti icchantaa ta.m purisa.m eva.m vadanti 'ime te ambho purisa
        cattaaro aasiivisaa' ti.

        Tattha 'kaalena kaalan' ti kaale kaale. 'Sa.mvesetabbaa' ti
        nipajjaapetabbaa. 'A––ataro vaa a––ataro vaa' ti
        ka.t.thamukhaadiisu yo koci. 'Ya.m te ambho purisa kara.niiya.m,
        ta.m karohii' ti ida.m atthacarakassa vacana.m veditabba.m. Tassa
        kira purisassa eva.m aasiivise pa.tipaadetvaa Îaya.m vo
        upa.t.thaakoâti catuusu pe.laasu .thapitaana.m aasiivisaana.m
        aarocenti. Atheko nikkhamitvaa aagamma tassa purisassa
        dakkhi.napaadaanusaarena abhiruhitvaa dakkhi.nahattha.m
        ma.nibandhato pa.t.thaaya ve.thetvaa dakkhi.naka.n.nasotamuule
        pha.na.m katvaa susuuti karonto nipajji. Aparo
        vaamapaadaanusaarena abhiruhitvaa tatheva vaamahattha.m
        ve.thetvaa vaamaka.n.nasotamuule pha.na.m katvaa susuuti karonto
        nipajji, tatiyo nikkhamitvaa abhimukha.m abhiruhitvaa kucchi.m
        ve.thetvaa galavaa.takamuule pha.na.m katvaa susuuti karonto
        nipajji, catuttho pi.t.thibhaagena abhiruhitvaa giiva.m
        ve.thetvaa uparimuddhani pha.na.m .thapetvaa susuuti karonto
        nipajji.

        Eva.m catuusu aasiivisesu sariira.t.thakesuyeva jaatesu eko tassa
        purisassa atthacarakapuriso ta.m disvaa "ki.m te, bho purisa,
        laddhan" ti, pucchi. Tato tena "ime me, bho, hatthesu
        hatthaka.taka.m viya baahaasu keyuura.m viya kucchimhi
        kucchive.thanasaa.tako viya ka.n.nesu ka.n.nacuu.likaa viya gale
        muttaavaliyo viya siise siisapasaadhana.m viya keci
        ala`nkaaravisesaa ra––aa dinnaa" ti vutte so aaha: "bho
        andhabaala, maa eva.m ma––ittha Îra––aa me tu.t.theneta.m
        pasaadhana.m dinnanâti. Tva.m ra––o aagucaarii coro, ime ca
        cattaaro aasiivisaa durupa.t.thaahaa duppa.tijaggiyaa, ekasmi.m
        u.t.thaatukaame eko nhaayitukaamo hoti, ekasmi.m nhaayitukaame
        eko bhu–jitukaamo, ekasmi.m bhu–jitukaame eko nipajjitukaamo.
        Tesu yasseva icchaa na puurati, so tattheva .da.msitvaa maaretii"
        ti. Atthi pana, bho, eva.m sante koci sotthimaggoti? aama,
        raajapurisaana.m vikkhittabhaava.m –atvaa palaayana.m
        sotthibhaavoti vatvaa "ya.m te kara.niiya.m, ta.m karohii" ti
        vadeyya.

        Ta.m sutvaa itaro catunna.m aasiivisaana.m pamaadakkha.na.m
        raajapurisehi ca pavivitta.m disvaa, vaamahatthena
        dakkhi.nahattha.m ve.thetvaa, dakkhi.naka.n.nacuu.likaaya
        pha.na.m .thapetvaa, sayitaasiivisassa sariira.m parimajjanto
        viya sa.nika.m ta.m apanetvaa, eteneva upaayena sesepi apanetvaa
        tesa.m bhiito palaayeyya. Atha na.m te aasiivisaa "aya.m
        amhaaka.m ra––aa upa.t.thaako dinno" ti anubandhamaanaa
        aagaccheyyu.m. Ida.m sandhaaya 'atha kho so, bhikkhave, puriso
        bhiito catunna.m aasiivisaana.m É pe É palaayethaa' ti vutta.m.

        Tasmi.m pana purise eva.m aagatamagga.m oloketvaa oloketvaa
        palaayante raajaa "palaato so puriso" ti sutvaa "ko nu kho ta.m
        anubandhitvaa ghaatetu.m sakkhissatii" ti vicinanto tasseva
        paccatthike pa–ca jane labhitvaa "gacchatha na.m anubandhitvaa
        ghaatethaa" ti peseyya. Athassa atthacaraa purisaa ta.m pavatti.m
        –atvaa aaroceyyu.m. So bhiyyosomattaaya bhiito palaayetha.
        Imamattha.m sandhaaya 'tamena.m eva.m vadeyyun' ti-aadi vutta.m.

        ______________________________________

        Under the weight of 30,000 EU Directives the distinctive and
        historic nations of Europe are being 'harmonised' out of existence.

        June 10th: Say NO to European Union.

        United Kingdom Independence Party -- http://www.ukip.org

        "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion."
        -- Edmund Burke
        ______________________________________
      • Stephen Hodge
        Hello Bhante, You wrote: Three Pali tetrads of snakes come to mind, but I m not sure if any are quite what you re looking for. Perhaps you could state which
        Message 3 of 4 , Jun 9, 2004
        • 0 Attachment
          Hello Bhante,

          You wrote:

          Three Pali tetrads of snakes come to mind, but I'm not sure if
          any are quite what you're looking for. Perhaps you could state
          which bad things they represent. Otherwise it's hard to know what
          to look for, since Pali has at least thirty words for 'snake'.
          Anyhow, these are the tetrads I can recall now:
          *****
          Thank you for your reply. I'm not interested in the symbolism attributed to
          snakes nor the legendary anthropomorphic nagas, but I am trying to ascertain
          i) what names are given to the individual snakes in the fairly common set of
          four, and ii) what actual snakes they correspond to. All too often with
          flora and faunna, one encounters unhelpful glosses in dictionaries etc "a
          kind of snake" etc. I'm translating some material from Tibetan and can
          reconstruct the Sanskrit for three of the four: aa`sii-vi.saa,
          d.r.s.ti-vi.saa and naaga -- there is a fourth which is puzzling. In the
          Lanakavatara-sutra, mention is made of the first two above with bhujaga and
          ghora as the other two, although some people have incorrectly understood
          these as epithets.

          *******
          > Then in the Aasiivisasutta (S iv 172-5) the four mahaabhuuta are
          compared to four (unspecified) kinds of viper. The Atthakathaa
          gives these names based on the effects of their venom, but these
          are not normal Pali words for snakes: ka.t.thamukha, puutimukha,
          aggimukha, and satthamukha.

          Yes, it is this group of four -- but I do not believe that they are all
          vipers. Regarding the names, as one can see from above, the Skt names also
          seem to be derived from the effects of the venom -- for example, there is
          another called `svaasa-vi.saa. In my sources, mention of the four most
          feared venomous snakes clearly refers to actual snakes. Since modern Indian
          sources state that there are four extremely deadly snakes (saw-scaled
          vipers, Russell's vipers, spectacled cobras and the common krait, which
          between them kill over 25,000 people per annum in India), I think it is
          reasonable to assume the the four classical venomous snakes and the four
          "modern" ones. I would just like to know which is which -- but
          surprisingly, nobody seems to know.

          >The ka.t.thamukha's venom (representing pa.thavii) makes the
          victim's body and limbs become as stiff as a board. The
          puutimukha's venom (representing aapo) makes the body ooze with
          pus like an over-ripe jakfruit. The aggimukha's venom
          (representing tejo) makes the victim feel as if the body were on
          fire. The venom of the satthamukha (representing vayo) makes him
          feel he is being drilled full of holes.
          [snip]
          However, I wouldn't expect much material from Pali
          sub-commentaries to be present in non-Theravaadin texts.

          ***
          This is, of course, interesting but still not helpful. Regarding Pali
          commentorial sources, one thing that did occur to me is that these highly
          venomous snakes don't actually live in Sri Lanka -- could that be the case ?


          Thank you for the obvious trouble you have gone to over your reply -- I'll
          let you know if I ever resolve the problem.

          Best wishes,
          Stephen Hodge

          *********

          > June 10th: Say NO to European Union.
          > United Kingdom Independence Party -- http://www.ukip.org
          It's just a pity that many UKIP representatives also espouse quasi-racist
          opinions -- a kind of soft version of the BNP ?
        • dhammanando@csloxinfo.com
          ... Hello Stephen, I have now finished examining all the occurrences of ka.t.thamukha, puutimukha etc. in the Pali, Atthakathaa and .Tiikaa. My conclusion is
          Message 4 of 4 , Jun 13, 2004
          • 0 Attachment
            Stephen Hodge wrote:

            > Thank you for your reply. I'm not interested in the symbolism
            > attributed to snakes nor the legendary anthropomorphic nagas, but
            > I am trying to ascertain i) what names are given to the
            > individual snakes in the fairly common set of four, and ii) what
            > actual snakes they correspond to.

            Hello Stephen,

            I have now finished examining all the occurrences of
            ka.t.thamukha, puutimukha etc. in the Pali, Atthakathaa and
            .Tiikaa. My conclusion is that there is no evidence at all that
            the commentators thought of these as specifying any actual
            snakes. The ka.t.thamukha, for example, appears to be simply any
            kind of snake whose venom makes one's body stiff, but cannot be
            limited to any particular snake of this sort. The closest the
            commentators come to making an identification is in the SA
            passage that I appended to my last post. But this only comes when
            the commentator gets down to the sub-sub-species and consists
            only of ".....like a tree-snake". If even a sub-sub-species can
            only be identified in this vague manner, it seems unlikely that
            the commentators intended any greater degree of specificity for
            the main species.


            > All too often with flora and faunna, one encounters unhelpful
            > glosses in dictionaries etc "a kind of snake" etc.

            Sometimes it can't be helped. Even ancient dictionaries like the
            Abhidhaanappadiipikaa and its .tiikaa will sometimes just say "a
            kind of bear" or "a small tree". The best one can then hope for
            is that the word will have survived (with unchanged meaning) in
            Sinhalese or some modern Indian language.

            > I'm translating some material from Tibetan and can reconstruct
            > the Sanskrit for three of the four: aa`sii-vi.saa,
            > d.r.s.ti-vi.saa and naaga -- there is a fourth which is puzzling.
            > In the Lanakavatara-sutra, mention is made of the first two
            > above with bhujaga and ghora as the other two, although some
            > people have incorrectly understood these as epithets.

            You perhaps will have noticed in the SA passage in my last post
            that there is a tetrad comprising:

            1) da.t.thaviso
            2) di.t.thaviso
            3) phu.t.thaviso
            4) vaataviso

            This would seem to partly overlap with the ones you name above,
            but again there is no evidence that the Pali commentator
            understood them to be actual snakes. They are merely the
            sub-divisions of the main groups. An aggimukha da.t.thavisa, for
            example, would be a snake that bites and whose bite makes you
            feel your body is burning.


            >> Then in the Aasiivisasutta (S iv 172-5) the four mahaabhuuta are
            >> compared to four (unspecified) kinds of viper. The Atthakathaa
            >> gives these names based on the effects of their venom, but these
            >> are not normal Pali words for snakes: ka.t.thamukha, puutimukha,
            >> aggimukha, and satthamukha.


            > Yes, it is this group of four -- but I do not believe that they are all
            > vipers.

            You're right. I was under the impression that 'viper' meant any
            kind of venomous snake. Now I find it only means the viperidae
            family.

            > Regarding the names, as one can see from above, the Skt names also
            > seem to be derived from the effects of the venom -- for example, there is
            > another called `svaasa-vi.saa. In my sources, mention of the four most
            > feared venomous snakes clearly refers to actual snakes. Since modern Indian
            > sources state that there are four extremely deadly snakes (saw-scaled
            > vipers, Russell's vipers, spectacled cobras and the common krait, which
            > between them kill over 25,000 people per annum in India), I think it is
            > reasonable to assume the the four classical venomous snakes and the four
            > "modern" ones. I would just like to know which is which -- but
            > surprisingly, nobody seems to know.
            >
            > Regarding Pali commentorial sources, one thing that did occur to
            > me is that these highly venomous snakes don't actually live in
            > Sri Lanka -- could that be the case ?

            It seems unlikely to me. The four you named above are all found
            in Sri Lanka, but even if it were some snake unique to India one
            would expect that Buddhaghosa -- a native of Bodh Gaya -- would
            have known about it.

            A likelier explanation is that the Pali commentators had either
            had no contact with those traditions in which the snakes were
            given identities, or else they knew about it but thought it an
            unnecessary distraction from the purpose of the simile. (The
            snakes are not referred to in any other context in Pali sources).

            Best wishes,

            Dhammanando

            P.S.

            > It's just a pity that many UKIP representatives also espouse quasi-racist
            > opinions -- a kind of soft version of the BNP ?

            I see them as tough Tories rather than soft fascists. Their
            small-government conservatism has little in common with the
            authoritarian centralism advocated by the BNP.
          Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.