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Alagad-dupama Sutta - The Snake Simile

Thus have I Heard. One the Blessed One lived at Savathi, in Jeta's Grove, in Anathanpindika's monastery.

"…………………Good, monks. It is good that you …understand the teaching proclaimed by me. For in many ways have I spoken of those obstructive things that they are obstructions, indeed, and that they necessarily obstruct him who pursues them. Sense desires, so have I said, bring little enjoyment, and such suffering and disappointment. The perils in them are greater. Sense desires are like the bare bones (cannot satisfy an animal's hunger), have I said; they are like a lump of flesh (for birds of prey to fight each other), like a torch of straw (carried against the wind can burn the carrier), like a pit of burning coals (towards which a person is dragged), like a dream (which vanishes on awakening), like borrowed goods (temporary and not a lasting possession), like a fruit bearing tree (if one climbs to get the fruit and another cuts it down, injury will follow to the one up the tree), like a slaughter house (sense desires kill much that is noble and cut off higher development), like a stake of swords (causing wounds where none were before), like a snake's head (a grave risk if not watched carefully) are sense desires, have I said. They bring much suffering and disappointment. The perils in them are greater. But this monk Arittha, formerly of the vulture killers, [who said that as he understood the teaching the things called 'obstructions' are not necessarily obstructive for one who pursues them] misrepresents us by what he had personally has wrongly grasped; he undermines his own future and creates much demerit. This will bring to this foolish man much harm and suffering for a long time.

"Monks, it is impossible indeed, that one can pursue sense gratification without sensual desire, without perceptions of sensual desire, without thoughts of sensual desire.

The snake

"There are here, O monks, some foolish men who study the teaching; having studied it, they do not wisely examine the purpose of those teachings. To those who do not wisely examine the purpose, these teachings will not yield insight. They study the Teaching only to use it for criticizing or refuting others in disputation. They do not experience the true purpose for which they ought to study the Teaching. To them these teachings wrongly grasped will bring harm and suffering for a long time. And why? Because of their wrong grasping of the teachings.

"Suppose, monks, a man wants a snake, looks for a snake, goes in search of a snake, He then sees a large snake, and when he is grasping its body or its tail, the snake turns back on him and bites his hand or arm or some other limb of his, And because of that he suffers death or deadly pain. And why? Because of his wrong grasp of the snake.

"Similarly, O monks, there are some foolish men who study the teaching; having studied it, they do not wisely examine the purpose of those teachings. To those who do not wisely examine the purpose, these teachings will not yield insight. They study the Teaching only to use it for criticizing or for refuting others in disputation. They do not experience the true purpose for which they ought to study the Teaching. To them these teachings wrongly grasped, will bring harm and suffering for a long time. And why? Because of their wrong grasp of the teachings.

"But there are here, O monks, some noble sons who study the Teaching; and having studied it, they examine wisely the purpose of those teachings. To those who wisely examine the purpose, these teachings will yield insight. They do not study the Teaching for the sake of criticizing others nor for refuting others in disputation. They experience the purpose for which they study the Teaching; and to them these teachings being rightly grasped, will bring welfare and happiness for a long time. And why? Because of their right grasp of the teachings.

"Suppose. Monks, a man wants a snake, looks for a snake, goes in search of a snake. He then sees a large snake, and with a forked stick he holds it firmly down. Having done so he catches it firmly by the neck. Then although the snake might entwine with the coils of its body that man's hand or arm or some other limb of his, still he does not on that account suffer death or deadly pain. And why not? Because of his right grasp of the snake.

"Similarly, O monks, there are here some noble sons who study the teaching; and having learned it, they examine wisely the purpose of those teachings. To those who wisely examine the purpose, these teachings will yield insight. They do not study the Teachings for the sake of criticizing others nor for refuting others in disputation. They experience the purpose for which they study the Teaching; and to them these teachings being rightly grasped, will bring welfare and happiness for a long time. And why? Because of their right grasp of the teachings.

"Therefore O monks, if you know the purpose of what I have said, you should keep it in mind accordingly. But if you do not know the purpose of what I have said you should question me about it, or else ask those monks who are wise.

The Raft

"I shall show you, monks, the Teaching's similitude to a raft: as having the purpose of crossing over, not the purpose of being clung to. Listen, monks, and heed well what I shall say."
"Yes Lord", replied the monks and the Blessed One spoke thus:
"Suppose, monks, there is a man journeying on a road and he sees a vast expanse of water of which this shore is, perilous and fearful while the other shore is safe and free from danger. But there is no boat for crossing over from this side to the other. So the man thinks: "This is a vast expanse of water; and this shore is perilous and fearful, but the other shore is safe and free from danger. There is, however, no boat here for crossing, nor a bridge for going over from this side to the other. How, if I gather reeds, sticks, branches and foliage and bind them into a raft?" Now that man collects reeds, sticks, branches and foliage, and binds them into a raft. Carried by that raft, labouring with hands and feet, he safely crosses to the other shore. Having crossed and arrived at the other shore he thinks: "This raft, indeed, has been very helpful to me. Carried by it, and labouring with hands and feet, I got safely to the other shore. Should I not lift this raft on my head or put it on my shoulders, and go where I like?
What do you think about it, O monks? Will by acting thus, would that man do what should be done with a raft?"
"No Lord".
"How then, monks, would he be doing what ought to be done with a raft? Here, monks, having got across and arrived at the other shore, the man thinks: "This raft, indeed, has been very helpful to me. Carried by it, and labouring with hands and feet, I got safely across to the other shore. Should I not pull it up now to the dry land or let it float in the water, and then go as I please?" By acting thus, monks, would that man do what should be done with the raft?
"Yes, Lord".
"In the same way, monks, have I shown to you the Teaching's similitude to a raft: as having the purpose of crossing over, not the purpose of being clung to.
You, O monks, who understand the Teaching's similitude to a raft, you should let go even good teachings, how much more false ones!

Grounds for false views

"There are, monks, these six grounds for false views. What are the six? There is here, monks, an uninstructed worldling who has no regard for Noble Ones, who is ignorant of their teaching and untrained in it; who has no regard for men of worth, who is ignorant of their teaching and untrained in it: he considers corporeality (form/body) thus: "This is mine, this I am, this is my self"; he considers feeling thus: "This is mine, this I am, this is my self"; he considers perceptions and memories thus "This is mine, this I am, this is my self"; he considers mental formations thus: "This is mine, this I am, this is my self"; and what is seen, heard, sensed and thought, what is encountered, sought, pursued in the mind, this he also considers thus: "This is mine, this I am, this is my self"; and also this ground for views holding 'The universe is the Self. That I shall become after death: permanent, stable, eternal, immutable; eternally the same shall I abide in that very condition' - that view too, he considers thus; "This is mine, this I am, this is my self".

"But monks, there is here a well instructed noble disciple who has regard for the Noble Ones, who knows their teaching and is well trained in it; who has regard for men of worth, who knows their teaching and is well trained in it: he does not consider corporeality/ the body in this way: "This is mine, this I am, this is my self"; he does not consider feelings in this way: "This is mine, this I am, this is my self"; he does not consider perception and memories in this way: "This is mine, this I am, this is my self"; he does not consider mental formations in this way: "This is mine, this I am, this is my self"; and what is seen, heard, sensed and thought, what is encountered, sought, pursued in the mind, this also he does not consider in this way: "This is mine, this I am, this is my self"; and also this ground for views holding : 'The Universe is the Self. That I shall be after death: permanent, stable, eternal, immutable, eternally the same shall I abide in that very condition' - that view, too, he does not consider thus: "This is mine, this I am, this is my self".
Considering thus, he is not anxious about unrealities."

Anxiety about unrealities

When that was said, a certain monk asked the Blessed one:
"Lord, can there be anxiety about unrealities in the external?"

"There can be, O monk, " said the Blessed One. "in that case, monk, someone thinks: 'Oh I had it! That, alas, I have no longer! Oh, may I have it again! But alas, I do not get it!' Hence he grieves, is depressed and laments; beating his breast, he weeps and dejection befalls him. Thus monk, is there anxiety about unrealities, in the external."

"But Lord, can there be absence of anxiety about unrealities in the external?"

"There can be, O monk," said the Blessed One. In that case, monk, someone does not think thus: 'Oh I had it! That, alas, I have no longer! Oh, may I have it again! But alas, I do not get it!' Hence he does not grieve, is not depressed and does not lament; he does not beat his breast, nor weeps and no dejection befalls him. Thus monk, is there absence of anxiety about unrealities, in the external".

"Lord, can there be anxiety about unrealities in the internal?"

"There can be, Monk," said the Blessed One. "In that case, monk, someone has this view: 'The Universe is the self. That I shall be after death; permanent, stable, eternal, immutable; eternally the same shall I abide in that very condition.' He then hears a Perfect One expounding the Teachings for the removal of all Grounds for Views, of all prejudices, obsessions, dogmas and biases; for the stilling of all kamma processes, for the relinquishing of all substrata of existence, for the extirpation of craving, for dispassion, cessation, Nibbana. He then thinks: 'I shall be annihilated, I shall be destroyed! No longer shall I exist!' Hence he grieves, is depressed and laments; beating his breast, he weeps and dejection befalls him. Thus, monks, is there anxiety about realities, in the internal".

"But Lord, can there be absence of anxiety about unrealities, in the internal?"

"There can be, monk," said the Blessed One. "In that case, monk, someone does not have this view: "The Universe is the self. That I shall be after death; permanent, stable, eternal, immutable; eternally the same shall I abide in that very condition". He then hears a Perfect One expounding the Teachings for the removal of all Grounds for Views, of all prejudices, obsessions, dogmas and biases; for the stilling of all kamma processes, for the relinquishing of all substrata of existence, for the extirpation of craving, for dispassion, cessation, Nibbana. He then does not think: 'I shall be annihilated, I shall be destroyed! No longer shall I exist!' Hence he does not grieve, is not depressed and does not lament; he does not beat his breast, nor does he weep and no dejection befalls him. Thus, monks, is there absence of anxiety about realities, in the internal".

Impermanence and Not-self
"You may well take hold of a possession, O monks, that is permanent, stable, eternal, immutable, that abides the same in its very condition. But do you see, monks, any such possession?"

"No, Lord."

"Well monks, I too, do not see any such possession that is permanent, stable, eternal, immutable, that abides eternally the same in its very condition.

"You may well accept, monks, the assumption of a self-theory from the acceptance of which there would not arise sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair. But do yo see, monks, any such assumption of a self-theory?"
"No, Lord."

"Well, monks, I too, do not see any such assumption of a self-theory from the acceptance of which there would not arise sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair.
"You may well rely, monks, on any supporting argument for such views, from reliance on which there would not arise sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair. But so you see, monks, any such supporting argument for views."

"No, Lord."

"Well, monks, I too, do not see any such supporting argument for such views form the reliance on which there would not arise sorrow and lamentation, pain, grief and despair.
"If there were a self, monks, would there be my self's property?"

"So it is, Lord."

"Or if there is a self's property, would there be my self?"

"So it is, Lord."

"Since in truth and, in fact, self and self's property do not obtain, O monks, then this ground for view - 'The universe is the self. That I shall be after death; permanent, stable, eternal, immutable, eternally the same shall I abide, in that very condition'- is it not, monks, an entirely and perfectly foolish idea?"

"What else could it be, Lord? It is an entirely and perfectly foolish idea."

The Three Characteristics

"What so yo think, monks: is corporeality (the body) permanent or impermanent?"

"Impermanent, Lord."

"And what is impermanent, is it painful or pleasant?"

"Painful, Lord."

"And what is impermanent, painful, subject to change, is it fit to be considered thus: 'This is mine, this I am, this is my self?"

"Certainly not, Lord."

"What do you, think, monks:
 Is feeling,
 Is perception and memory,
 Are mental formations,
 Is consciousness,
Permanent or impermanent?"

"Impermanent, Lord."

"And what is impermanent, is it painful or pleasant?"

"Painful, Lord."

"And what is impermanent, painful, subject to change, is it fit to be considered thus: 'This is mine, this I am, this is my self'?"

"Certainly not, Lord."

"Therefore monks, whatever corporeality (body), whether past, future or present, in oneself or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, for or near, - all corporeality should, with right wisdom, thus be seen as it is: 'This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.'
 Whatever feeling,
Whatever perception or memory,
Whatever mental formation,
Whatever consciousness,
Whether past, future or present, in oneself or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near - all of them should be with right wisdom, thus be seen as they are: 'This is not mine, this am I not, this is not my self'.

"Seeing this, monks, the well-instructed noble disciple becomes disgusted/dissatisfied with corporeality, become disgusted/dissatisfied with feeling, with perception, with mental formations, with consciousness.
"Through his being disgusted/dissatisfied, his passion fades away. His passion having faded, he is freed. In him who is freed there is the knowledge of freedom: 'Ceased has rebirth, fulfilled is the holy life, the task is done, there is no more of this to come', thus he knows.

The Arahant

"This monk is called one who has removed the crossbar, has filled the moat, has broken the pillar, has unbolted his mind; a Noble One who has taken down the flag, put down the burden, become unfettered.
"And how, monks, is that monk one who has removed the cross-bar? Herein the monk has abandoned ignorance, has cut it off at the root, removed it from its soil like a palmyrah tree, brought it to utter extinction, incapable of arising again. Thus has he removed the cross-bar.
"And how, monks, is that monk one who has filled the moat? Herein the monk has abandoned the round of rebirths, leading to renewed existence; he has cut it off at the root, removed it from its soil like a palmyryah tree, brought it to utter extinction, incapable of arising again.
"And how has he broken the pillar? He has abandoned craving, has cut it off at the root, removed it from its soil like a palmyrah tree, brought it to utter extinction, incapable of arising again.
"And how has he unbolted his mind? He has abandoned the five lower fetters [belief in a self, doubts about the Buddha and the teachings, adherence to rites and ceremonies,  sense desire, ill will,], has cut them off at the root, removed them from their soil like a palmyrah tree, brought them
to utter extinction, incapable of arising again.
"And how is the monk a Noble One who has taken down the flag, put down the burden, become unfettered. He has abandoned the conceit of self, has cut it off at the root, removed it from its soil like a palmyrah tree, brought it to utter extinction, incapable of arising again. Thus is the monk a Noble One who has taken down the flag, put down the burden, become unfettered.

"When a monk's mind is thus freed, O monks, neither the gods with Indra, not the gods with Brahma, nor the gods with Lord of Creatures, when searching will find on what the consciousness of one thus gone is based. Why is that? One who has thus gone is no longer traceable here and now, so I say.

Misrepresentation

"So teaching, so proclaiming, O monks, I have been basely, vainly, falsely and wrongly accused by some ascetics and brahmans: 'A nihilist is the ascetic Gotama; He teaches the annihilation, the destruction, the non-being of an existing individual'.
As I am not and as I do not teach, so have I been baselessly, vainly, falsely and wrongly accused by some ascetics and brahmans thus: 'A nihilist is the ascetic Gotama; He teaches the annihilation, the destruction, the non-being of an existing individual.

"What I teach now as before, O monks, is suffering and the cessation of suffering.

Praise and Blame

"If for that others revile, abuse, scold and insult the Perfect One, on that account, O monks, the Perfect One will not feel annoyance, nor dejection, nor displeasure in His heart. And if for that others respect, revere, honour and venerate the Perfect One, on that account the Perfect One will not feel delight, nor joy, nor elation in His heart. If for that others respect, revere, honour and venerate the Perfect One, He will think: It is towards this mind-body aggregate which was formerly fully comprehended, that they perform such acts.

"Therefore, O monks, if you too, are reviled, abused, scolded and insulted by others, you should on that account not entertain annoyance, nor dejection, nor displeasure in your hearts. And if others respect, revere, honour and venerate you, on that account you should not entertain delight, nor joy, nor elation in your hearts. If others respect, revere, honour and venerate you, you should think: 'It is towards this mind-body aggregate which was formerly comprehended, that they perform such acts'.

"Therefore, monks, give up whatever is not yours. Your giving it up for a long time will bring you welfare and happiness. What is that is not yours? Corporeality (body) is not yours. Give it up! Your giving it up will for a long time bring you happiness. Feeling is not yours. Give it up! Your giving it up will for a long time bring you happiness. Perception and memory is not yours. Give it up! Your giving it up will for a long time bring you happiness. Mental formations are not yours. Give them up! Your giving them up will for a long time bring you happiness. Consciousness is not yours. Give it up! Your giving it up will for a long time bring you happiness.

What do you think, monks: if people were to carry away grass, sticks, branches and leaves of this Jeta Grove, or burn them or did with them what they pleased, would you think: These people carry us away, or burn us, or do with us what they please?

"No Lord. Why not? Because, Lord, that is neither ourself nor the property of our self.".

"So too, monks, give up what is not yours'! Your giving it up will for a long time bring you welfare and happiness. What is not yours? Corporeality (body) is not yours. Give it up! Your giving it up will for a long time bring you happiness. Feeling is not yours. Give it up! Your giving it up will for a long time bring you happiness. Perception and memory is not yours. Give it up! Your giving it up will for a long time bring you happiness. Mental formations are not yours. Give them up! Your giving them up will for a long time bring you happiness. Consciousness is not yours. Give it up! Your giving it up will for a long time bring you happiness.

The Explicit Teaching and Its Fruit

"Monks, this teaching, so well proclaimed by me, is plain, open, explicit, free of patchwork (deceptions). In this Teaching that is no well proclaimed by me and is plain, open, explicit and free of patchwork, - for those who are Arahants, free of taints [belief in a self, doubts about the Buddha and the teachings, adherence to rites and ceremonies,  sense desire, ill will, attachment to the form and formless realms, pride, restlessness, ignorance], who have accomplished and completed their task, have laid down the burden, achieved their aim, severed the fetters binding to existence, who are liberated by full knowledge, there is no future round of existence that can be ascribed to them.

"Monks, in this Teaching that is so well proclaimed by me and is plain, open, explicit and free of patchwork, those monks who have abandoned the five lower fetters [belief in a self, doubts about the Buddha and the teachings, adherence to rites and ceremonies, sense desire, ill will]will all be reborn spontaneously in the Pure Abodes and there will pass away finally, no more returning from that world.

"Monks, in this Teaching that is no well proclaimed by me and is plain, open, explicit and free of patchwork, those monks who have abandoned three fetters [belief in a self, doubts about the Buddha and the teachings, adherence to rites and ceremonies] and have reduced greed, hatred and delusion, are all Once-returners, and, returning only once to this world, will then make an end to suffering.

"Monks, in this Teaching that is so well proclaimed by me and is plain, open, explicit and free of patchwork, those monks who have abandoned three fetters [belief in a self, doubts about the Buddha and the teachings, adherence to wrongful rites and ceremonies], are all Stream-enterers, no more liable to downfall, assured, and headed for full Enlightenment.

"Monks, in this Teaching that is so well proclaimed by me and is plain, open, explicit and free of patchwork, those monks who are mature in Dharma (Teachings), mature in Faith are all headed for Enlightenment.

"Monks, in this Teaching that is so well proclaimed by me and is plain, open, explicit and free of patchwork, those monks who have simply faith in me, simply love me, are all destined for heaven."

Thus said the Blessed One. Satisfied, the monks rejoiced in the words of the Blessed One.

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