SN 35.197 (238): Asivisa Sutta — Vipers

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SN 35.197 (238): Asivisa Sutta — Vipers

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Aug 10, 2011 8:46 pm

SN 35.197 PTS: S iv 172CDB ii 1237
Asivisa Sutta: Vipers
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


The Buddha uses some vivid imagery to illustrate the life-and-death urgency of Dhamma practice.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Savatthi in Jeta's Grove. Then he addressed the monks, "Monks, suppose there were four vipers of utmost heat & horrible venom. Then a man would come along — desiring life, desiring not to die, desiring happiness, & loathing pain — and people would tell him: 'Good man, these four vipers, of utmost heat & horrible venom, are yours. Time after time they must be lifted up, time after time they must be bathed, time after time they must be fed, time after time put to rest. And if any of these vipers ever gets angered with you, then you will meet with death or death-like suffering. Do what you think should be done.'

Then the man — afraid of the four vipers of utmost heat & horrible venom — would flee this way or that. They would tell him, 'Good man, there are five enemy executioners chasing right on your heels, [thinking,] "Wherever we see him, we'll kill him right on the spot." Do what you think should be done.'

Then the man — afraid of the four vipers of utmost heat & horrible venom, afraid of the five enemy executioners — would flee this way or that. They would tell him, 'Good man, there is a sixth executioner, a fellow-traveler, chasing right on your heels with upraised sword, [thinking,] "Wherever I see him, I'll kill him right on the spot." Do what you think should be done.'

Then the man — afraid of the four vipers of utmost heat & horrible venom, afraid of the five enemy executioners, afraid of the sixth fellow-traveling executioner with upraised sword — would flee this way or that. He would see an empty village. Whatever house he entered would be abandoned, void, & empty as he entered it. Whatever pot he grabbed hold of would be abandoned, void, & empty as he grabbed hold of it. They would tell him, 'Good man, right now, village-plundering bandits are entering this empty village. Do what you think should be done.'

Then the man — afraid of the four vipers of utmost heat & horrible venom, afraid of the five enemy executioners, afraid of the sixth fellow-traveling executioner with upraised sword, afraid of the village-plundering bandits — would flee this way or that. He would see a great expanse of water, with the near shore dubious & risky, the further shore secure & free from risk, but with neither a ferryboat nor a bridge going from this shore to the other. The thought would occur to him, 'Here is this great expanse of water, with the near shore dubious & risky, the further shore secure & free from risk, but with neither a ferryboat nor a bridge going from this shore to the other. What if I were to gather grass, twigs, branches, & leaves and, having bound them together to make a raft, were to cross over to safety on the other shore in dependence on the raft, making an effort with my hands & feet?' Then the man, having gathered grass, twigs, branches, & leaves, having bound them together to make a raft, would cross over to safety on the other shore in dependence on the raft, making an effort with his hands & feet. Crossed over, having gone to the other shore, he would stand on high ground, a brahman.

"Monks, I have made this simile to convey a meaning. Here the meaning is this: 'The four vipers of utmost heat & horrible venom' stands for the four great existents: the earth property, the liquid property, the fire-property, & the wind property. 'The five enemy executioners' stands for the five clinging-aggregates: the form clinging-aggregate, the feeling clinging-aggregate, the perception clinging-aggregate, the fabrications clinging-aggregate, the consciousness clinging-aggregate. 'The sixth fellow-traveling executioner with upraised sword' stands for passion & delight.

"'The empty village' stands for the six internal sense media. If a wise, competent, intelligent person examines them from the point of view of the eye, they appear abandoned, void, & empty. If he examines them from the point of view of the ear... the nose... the tongue... the body... the intellect, they appear abandoned, void, & empty. 'The village-plundering bandits' stands for the six external sense-media. The eye is attacked by agreeable & disagreeable forms. The ear is attacked by agreeable & disagreeable sounds. The nose is attacked by agreeable & disagreeable aromas. The tongue is attacked by agreeable & disagreeable flavors. The body is attacked by agreeable & disagreeable tactile sensations. The intellect is attacked by agreeable & disagreeable ideas.

"'The great expanse of water' stands for the fourfold flood: the flood of sensuality, the flood of becoming, the flood of views, & the flood of ignorance.

'The near shore, dubious & risky' stands for self-identification. 'The further shore, secure and free from risk' stands for Unbinding. 'The raft' stands for just this noble eightfold path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. 'Making an effort with hands & feet' stands for the arousing of persistence. 'Crossed over, having gone to the other shore, he would stand on high ground, a brahman' stands for the arahant."

See also: MN 22 The Water-Snake Simile
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: SN 35.197: Asivisa Sutta — Vipers

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Aug 10, 2011 8:50 pm

SN 35.197: Asivisa Sutta — Vipers
Translated by John Ireland


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... passage-59

At one time the Lord was staying near Saavatthi... and there he addressed the bhikkhus saying:

"Suppose, bhikkhus, there were four poisonous snakes, highly dangerous, extremely venomous. And a man were to come along, wishing to live, not wishing to die, desiring happiness and loathing pain. And people were to say to him: 'Here, good man, are four poisonous snakes, highly dangerous, extremely venomous. From time to time they must be roused, bathed, fed and bedded down. But when one or the other of these four poisonous snakes... becomes disturbed and angry, then you will come by your death or suffering comparable to death. So do whatever must be done, good man.'

"Then suppose, bhikkhus, that man, in terror of the four poisonous snakes, might run away and people were to say to him: 'Good man, five murderers are following after you saying, "When we see him we shall kill him." So do whatever must be done, good man.'

"Then suppose, bhikkhus, that man, in terror of the four poisonous snakes, in terror of the five murderers, might run away and people were to say to him: 'Good man, a sixth, a murderous robber with an upraised sword is following after you saying, "When I see him I shall cut off his head." So do whatever must be done, good man.'

"Then suppose, bhikkhus, that man, in terror of the four poisonous snakes, in terror of the five murderers, in terror of the sixth, the murderous robber, might run away. And, he should see an empty village. Whatever house he enters he finds it bare, void and empty. Whatever vessel he handles therein he finds it bare, void and empty. Then people were to say to him: 'Good man, bandits who attack villages are going to attack this empty village. So do whatever must be done, good man.'

"Then suppose, bhikkhus, that man, in terror of the four poisonous snakes, in terror of the five murderers, in terror of the sixth, the murderous robber, in terror of the village-attacking bandits, might run away. And he should see a great stretch of water, the near shore insecure and fearful, the far shore secure and free from fear, but no boat for crossing over nor a bridge for walking from one shore to the other.

"Then, bhikkhus, it might occur to that man: 'Here is a great stretch of water... but no boat... nor a bridge... What if I were to collect grass, pieces of wood, branches and leaves, construct a raft and supported by it and laboring with hands and feet, go safely to the other shore.

"Crossed over, gone beyond, the braahma.na stands on dry ground.[75]

"This is my simile, bhikkhus, for showing the meaning. And this is its interpretation:

"'The four poisonous snakes, highly dangerous, extremely venomous' — this is a designation for the four great elements: the elements of earth, water, fire and air.[76]

"'The five murderers' — this is a designation for the five aggregates of grasping: the body-aggregate of grasping, the feeling-, perception-, mental activities-, consciousness-aggregate of grasping.

"'The sixth, the murderous robber with an upraised sword' — this is a designation for enjoyment and attachment.

"'The empty village' — this is a designation for the six internal sense-bases. For if a wise, learned and intelligent man examines the eye... the ear... the nose... the tongue... the body... the mind, it appears as void, unsubstantial and empty.

"'The village-attacking bandits' — this is a designation for the six external sense-bases. For the eye is attacked [tormented] by attractive and repulsive visible objects, the ear... the nose... the tongue... the body... the mind is attacked by attractive and repulsive mental objects.

"'The great stretch of water,' — this is a designation for the four 'floods': sensual desire, [continual] becoming, [wrong] views and ignorance.[77]

"'The near shore insecure and fearful' — this is a designation for the existence-group.[78]

"'The far shore secure and free from fear' — this is a designation for Nibbaana.

"'The raft — this is a designation for the Noble Eightfold Path, that is to say, right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

"'Laboring with hands and feet' — this is a designation for strenuous effort.

"'Crossed over, gone beyond, the braahma.na stands on dry ground,' — this is a designation for the Perfected One (arahant)."


Notes

[75] This is probably an idiomatic phrase or a popular quote.

[76] These are the four elements (dhaatu) composing the body. When one or another of these elements becomes out of balance ("disturbed and angry") the body becomes sick and dies.

[77] The floods (oghaa) are identical with the taints (aasavas) mentioned earlier.

[78] The existence-group (sakkaaya) is a term for the group of mental and physical factors, impermanent and subject to suffering, constituting an individual existence.
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Re: SN 35.197: Asivisa Sutta — Vipers

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Aug 10, 2011 11:26 pm

Sadhu! Sadhu! I havent read this one in years -thank you for posting it.

It highlights seeing the aadinava -drawbacks of the four great elements, the five aggregates, craving, sensuality, six sense bases etc.

It also shows the way out. Brilliant!

:namaste:

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Re: SN 35.197: Asivisa Sutta — Vipers

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Aug 10, 2011 11:36 pm

From the pts pali: "Cakkhuto cepi naṃ bhikkhave paṇḍito vyatto medhāvi upaparikkhati, rittakaññeva khāyati, tucchakaññeva [PTS Page 175] [\q 175/] khāyati, suññakaññeva khāyati." I wonder if there are other translations of these terms, than the ones below:

-abandoned, void, & empty
-bare, void and empty

Thanks

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Re: SN 35.197 (238): Asivisa Sutta — Vipers

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Aug 12, 2011 9:40 am

In Bhikkhu Bodhi's SN translation this is SN 35.238

BB: Spk says this sutta was addressed to bhikkhus who practises meditation using the characteristic of suffering as their meditation subject. Spk takes the "four vipers" (cattaro asivisa) as referring to the four families ov vipers, nor four individual serpents.

The four are:
(i) the wooden-mouthed, whose bit causes the victims entire body to stiffen like dray wood;
(ii) the putrid-mouthed, whose bite makes the victim's body ooze like a decaying fruit;
(iii) the firey-mouthed, whose bite causes its victim's body to burn up and scatter like ashes or chaff.
[See 35:69 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn35/sn35.069.than.html]
(iv) the dagger-mouthed viper, whose bite causes the victim's body to break apart like a pole struck by lightning.

The entymology of asivisa is uncertain. Spk offers three alternatives, none particularly persuasive:
(i) Asittavasa, "with besprinkled poison", because the poison is stored as if it were spinkling (asincitva viya) their whole body;
(ii) asitavisa, "with eaten poisin", because whatever they eat becomes poison; and
(iii) asisadisavisa, "with swordlike poisin", because their poison is sharp like a sword.
Sp I220,13 offers "it is a viper because its poison comes on quick and fast."
Four types of asivisa are mentioned at ANII 110-11.

AN IV 110 Āsivisa
http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pit ... ggo-e.html
10. Asivisasutta: The poison in desires

11.10. Bhikkhus, there are four kinds of poison in desires. What four?

External poison not terrible, terrible poison not external, external and terrible poison and no poison external or terrible.
...
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Re: SN 35.197 (238): Asivisa Sutta — Vipers

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Aug 13, 2011 11:49 am

More from BB and Spk:

"Good man, these four vipers are of fierce heat and deadly venom. From time to time they must be lifted up; from time to time they must be bathed; from time to time they must be fed; from time to time they must be laid to rest."

BB: Spk glosses "to be made to lie down".

Spk provides and elaborate background story, making these actions a punishment imposed on the man by the king.
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Re: SN 35.197 (238): Asivisa Sutta — Vipers

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Aug 13, 2011 9:12 pm

"Then, bhikkhus, afraid of the four vipers of fierce heat and deadly venom, and of the five murderous enemies, that man would flee in one direction or another. Then they would tell him: 'Good man, a sixth murderer, and intimate companion, is pursuing you with drawn sword, thinking "Wherever I see him I will cut off his head reight on the spot". Do whatever has to be done, good man'."

Spk: The king spoke to his ministers thus: "First, when he was pursued by the vipers, he fled here and there, tricking them. Now, when pursued by five enemies, he flees even more swiftly. We can't catch him, but by trickery we can. Therefore, send as a murderer an intimate companion from his youth, one who used to eat and drink with him." The ministers then sought out such a companion and sent him as a murderer.


[Flees to an empty village, void, deserted, empty...]
"... they would tell him: 'Good man, just now village-attacking dacoits[*] will raid this empty village ..."

[*] Be: pivisanti, Se and Ee vadhissanti. Bandits: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dacoity


"... He would see a great expanse of water whose near shore was dangerous and fearful, and whose further shore was safe and free from danger, but there would be no ferryboat or bridge for crossing over from the near shore to the far shore."

BB: See the better knows simile of the raft at MN 22: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .html#raft


"Then the man would collect grass, twigs, branches, and foliage, and bind them together into a raft, so that by means of that raft, making an effort with his hands and feet, he would get safely across to the far shore. Crossed over, gone beyond, the brahmin stands on high ground."

BB: As in SN 35.228, The Ocean. http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pit ... ggo-e.html
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Re: SN 35.197 (238): Asivisa Sutta — Vipers

Postby bodom » Sat Aug 13, 2011 9:33 pm

Heres a talk on this sutta from Bhante G:

The Four Vipers

Bhante Gunaratana explains the symbolism and Dhamma within the story of the man who escapes vipers and a gang of murderers and comes upon a deserted village where he finds a hut with empty clay pots. Finally he is able to cross over a stream by mean of a raft that he builds.

http://www.bhavanasociety.org/resource/the_four_vipers/

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: SN 35.197 (238): Asivisa Sutta — Vipers

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Aug 14, 2011 8:43 am

Thanks Bodom, that talk is well worth listening to. :anjali:


Let's look at the similes:

Four vipers = Four great elements.

BB: Spk correlates each element with a particular family of vipers:
Earth element: wooden-mouthed viper.
Water element: pudrid-mouthed viper.
Fire element: fiery-mouthed viper.
Air element: dagger-mouthed viper.
See also Visuddhimagga 11:102.
Spk devotes three pages elaborating on the comparison.

Visuddhimagga 11:102
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... on2011.pdf

    102. (d) Great alteration: the unclung-to and the clung-to are the [basis of] great
    alterations. Herein, the great alteration of the unclung-to evidences itself in the
    emergence of an aeon (see XIII.34), and that of the clung-to in the disturbance of
    the elements [in the body]. For accordingly:

      The conflagration’s flame bursts up
      Out of the ground and races higher
      And higher, right to the Brahmá heaven,
      When the world is burnt up by fire.

      A whole world system measuring
      One hundred thousand millions wide
      Subsides, as with its furious waters
      The flood dissolves the world beside.

      One hundred thousand million leagues,
      A whole world system’s broad extent
      Is rent and scattered, when the world
      Succumbs to the air element.

      The bite of wooden-mouths can make
      The body stiff; to all intent,
      When roused is its earth element,
      It might be gripped by such a snake.

      The bite of rotten-mouths can make
      The body rot; to all intent,
      When roused its water element,
      It might be gripped by such a snake. [

      The bite of fiery-mouths can make
      The body burn; to all intent,
      When roused is its fire element,
      It might be gripped by such a snake.

      The bite of dagger-mouths can make
      The body burst; to all intent,
      When roused is its air element,
      It might be gripped by such a snake.

    So they are great primaries (mahábhúta) because they have become (bhúta) [the
    basis of] great (mahant) alteration.
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Re: SN 35.197 (238): Asivisa Sutta — Vipers

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Aug 14, 2011 9:52 am

Five murderous enemies = five aggregates subject to clinging.

BB: See the simile of the murderous servant at SN 22.85. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
and also SN 22.95, Phena Sutta: Foam
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
This has various similes for the aggregates and states:
    "Such is this continuum,
    This illusion, beguiler of fools.
    It is taught to be a murderer,
    Here no substance can be found."

BB: Spk explains that this refers specifically to the aggregate of conciousness. The aggregate-mass is a murderer in two ways:
(i) because the aggregates slay each other; and
(ii) because murder appears in dependence on the aggregates.
As to (i), when the earth element breaks up it takes along the other elements, and when the form aggregate breaks up it takes along the mental aggregates.
As to (ii), when the aggregates exist such things as murder, bondage, injury, etc., come into being. On the comparison of the aggregates to murderers, see too SN 22.85 [above].


Sixth murderer, intimate companion = delight and lust.

BB: Spk: Delight and lust is like a murderer with a drawn sword in two respects:
(i) because when greed arises for a specific object it fells one's head, namely the head of wisdom;
(ii) because it sends one off to rebirth in the womb, and all fears and punishments are rooted in rebirth.


Empty village = six internal sense bases.

Presumably a reference to being empty of self.


Village-attacking dacoits (bandits) = external sense bases.
"The eye, bhikkhus, is attached by agreeable and disagreeable forms..."

The great expanse of water = four floods: sensuality, existence, views, ignorance.


The near shore, which is dangerous and fearful = indentity.

BB: Spk: "Identity (personal identity) is the five aggregates pertaining to the three planes. Like the near shor with it's vipers, etc, "identity" is dangerous and fearful because of the four elements and so forth.


The further shore, which is safe and free from danger = nibbana.

The raft = noble eightfold path.

Making effort with hands and feet = arousing of energy.

'Crossed over, gone beyond, the brahmin stands on high ground': this is the designation for the arahant.
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