The Snake

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

The Snake

Postby Ben » Fri Dec 14, 2012 9:44 am

Ajahn Chah isn't my teacher, and I am unfamiliar with a lot of his work.
I read this on facebook and thought it compelling and relevant given a situation I am facing in my life.
And I thought one, or perhaps more, of you would also find it of interest.
Text by Ajahn Chah.
Photo by me.

We people don't want suffering, we want happiness. But in fact happiness is just a refined form of suffering. Suffering itself is the coarse form. You can compare them to a snake. The head of the snake is unhappiness, the tail of the snake is happiness. The head of the snake is really dangerous, it has the poisonous fangs. If you touch it, the snake will bite straight away. But never mind the head, even if you go and hold onto the tail, it will turn around and bite you just the same, because both the head and the tail belong to the one snake.
In the same way, both happiness and unhappiness, or pleasure and sadness, arise from the same parent - wanting. So when you're happy the mind isn't peaceful. It really isn't! For instance, when we get the things we like, such as wealth, prestige, praise or happiness, we become pleased as a result. But the mind still harbours some uneasiness because we're afraid of losing it. That very fear isn't a peaceful state. Later on we may actually lose that thing and then we really suffer.
Thus, if you aren't aware, even if you're happy, suffering is imminent. It's just the same as grabbing the snake's tail - if you don't let go it will bite. So whether it's the snake's tail or its head, that is, wholesome or unwholesome conditions, they're all just characteristics of the Wheel of Existence, of endless change.


copperhead.jpg
copperhead.jpg (86.05 KiB) Viewed 480 times
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 15967
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: The Snake

Postby Aloka » Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:28 am

Thanks Ben, .....and that's a nice snake in the photo !

The discovery of Ajahn Chah's teachings helped to activate my decision to investigate and change tradition from Vajrayana to Theravada.

with kind wishes

Aloka
User avatar
Aloka
 
Posts: 3498
Joined: Wed Jan 21, 2009 2:51 pm

Re: The Snake

Postby Ben » Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:43 am

Hi Aloka

The snake's name is "Randy" and is an Eastern Copperhead. No. 11 on our list of dangerous creatures.
This particular specimen was socialized and as a result - very friendly. This was at a demonstration of snake education and first aid that I organized for some our primary school students. Elapids are fascinating but maligned creatures.
Soon I might have a bit more time on my hands and perhaps then I'll investigate Ajahn Chah's teachings. What I have read, seem very pragmatic and 'earthy', which appeals to me.
kind regards,

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 15967
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: The Snake

Postby Dan74 » Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:09 pm

This was a very powerful passage - thanks, Ben. Sometimes familiar teachings can be stated in a particularly punchy way that pushes past the defenses, eh?

Ajahn Chah is certainly one of the 20th Century classic teachers both in terms of the teachings and the legacy. Definitely worth investigating.

I hope that whatever it is you are facing, mate, that you do your best and things will change for the better. If there is anything I/we can do, also don't be shy. Blessing to give and a blessing to receive!
_/|\_
User avatar
Dan74
 
Posts: 2617
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: The Snake

Postby Aloka » Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:42 pm

Ben wrote:Hi Aloka

The snake's name is "Randy" and is an Eastern Copperhead. No. 11 on our list of dangerous creatures.
This particular specimen was socialized and as a result - very friendly. This was at a demonstration of snake education and first aid that I organized for some our primary school students. Elapids are fascinating but maligned creatures.
Soon I might have a bit more time on my hands and perhaps then I'll investigate Ajahn Chah's teachings. What I have read, seem very pragmatic and 'earthy', which appeals to me.
kind regards,

Ben


Hi Ben,

I like snakes - and once held (and had partly coiled around me) a very large python !

You can always download Ajahn Chah teachings or get free books from Forest Sangha Publications.

http://forestsanghapublications.org/index.php

with kind wishes

Aloka
User avatar
Aloka
 
Posts: 3498
Joined: Wed Jan 21, 2009 2:51 pm

Re: The Snake

Postby plwk » Sat Dec 15, 2012 2:03 am

This reminds me also of Ahina Sutta
Bhikkhus, if you develop and make much this one thing,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.
What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

Anguttara-Nikaya: Ekanipata: Ekadhammapali: Pañhamavagga
VSM VMM WBB TBHT WTBT My Page
plwk
 
Posts: 1126
Joined: Mon Mar 01, 2010 5:14 am

Re: The Snake

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Dec 15, 2012 5:18 am

plwk wrote:This reminds me also of Ahina Sutta


Or MN 22 The Water-Snake Simile:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

"Suppose there were a man needing a water-snake, seeking a water-snake, wandering in search of a water-snake. He would see a large water-snake and grasp it by the coils or by the tail. The water-snake, turning around, would bite him on the hand, on the arm, or on one of his limbs, and from that cause he would suffer death or death-like suffering. Why is that? Because of the wrong-graspedness of the water-snake. In the same way, there is the case where some worthless men study the Dhamma... Having studied the Dhamma, they don't ascertain the meaning of those Dhammas with their discernment. Not having ascertained the meaning of those Dhammas with their discernment, they don't come to an agreement through pondering. They study the Dhamma both for attacking others and for defending themselves in debate. They don't reach the goal for which [people] study the Dhamma. Their wrong grasp of those Dhammas will lead to their long-term harm & suffering. Why is that? Because of the wrong-graspedness of the Dhammas.


The Buddha used the snake simile to describe grasping at views and Ajahn Chah used it in the similar way to describe grasping at pleasures / cravings.
User avatar
David N. Snyder
Site Admin
 
Posts: 7965
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 4:15 am
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Re: The Snake

Postby daverupa » Sat Dec 15, 2012 3:08 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:
plwk wrote:This reminds me also of Ahina Sutta


Or MN 22 The Water-Snake Simile:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Just to round out the topic, here is the next sutta, MN 23:

Dig is a synonym for aroused effort. Obstacle is a synonym for ignorance. Remove the obstacle is dispel ignorance Its meaning is wise one take a tool and dig. Bhikkhu, a swollen dead body is a synonym for anger and restlessness. Take the tool dig and remove the swollen dead body is dispel anger and restlesssness. A forked path is a synonym for doubts. Take the tool, dig and remove the forked path is its meaning. The casket is a synonym for the five hindrances;; sensual interest, aversion, sloth and torpor, restlessness and worry, and doubts. Dispel the five hindrances is. wise one take a tool dig and remove the casket is its meaning. Tortoise is a synonym for the five holding masses. Such as the holding mass of matter, the holding mass of feelings, the holding mass of perceptions, the holding mass of determinations, and the holding mass of consciousness. Remove the tortoise is give up the five holding masses. Wise one take a tool, dig and remove the tortoise is its meaning. Slaughter house is a synonym for the five strands of sensual pleasures. Such as pleasing agreeable forms arousing fondness cognizable by eye consciousness. Pleasing agreeable sounds arousing fondness cognizable by ear consciousness. Pleasing agreeable smells arousing fondness cognizable by nose consciousness. Pleasing agreeable tastes arousing fondness cognizable by tongue consciousness and pleasing agreeabale touches arousing fondness cognizable by body consciousness. Remove the slaughter house is dispel the five strands of sensual desires. Wise one take the tool dig and remove the slaughter house is its meaning. A tendon of flesh is a synonym for interest and greed. Wise one take the tool and dig is its meaning. The snake is a synonym for the bhikkhu with desires destroyed. Wait! Do not hurt the snake, worship the snake, is its meaning.


Bhikkhu Bodhi notes, "The nagas are a class of dragonlike beings in Indian mythology believed to inhabit the nether regions of the earth, and to be the guardians of hidden treasures. The word comes to represent any gigantic or powerful creature, such as a tusker elephant, or a cobra, and, by extension, an arahant bhikkhu. See Dhammpapda Chapter 23: Nagavagga."

It's very difficult for me to not see proto-kundalini symbolism here.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
User avatar
daverupa
 
Posts: 4073
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: The Snake

Postby James the Giant » Sat Dec 15, 2012 4:07 pm

Hmm, reading that quote, I wonder how Ajahn Chah would respond to Goenkaji's oft-repeated injunction; Be Happy.
Maybe Ajahn Chah is speaking more to monastics, and Goenkaji more to laypeople.
I think they'd definitely like each other on a personal level, they're both charismatic, funny, and wise.
Best wishes for your situation Ben.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11
User avatar
James the Giant
 
Posts: 775
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:41 am
Location: Perth, Australia

Re: The Snake

Postby SarathW » Mon Dec 17, 2012 2:11 am

SarathW
 
Posts: 1803
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am


Return to General Theravāda discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: BlueWolf, Nicolas, Pakow Chris and 15 guests