Thread: The Snake King

  1. #1
    Earlier today, I came across an interesting sutta which I hadn't read before. It's AN 4.67.....

    67. The Snake King

    At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery.

    Now, at that time a monk in Sāvatthī passed away due to a snake bite. Then several mendicants went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and said to him, “Sir, a monk in Sāvatthī has passed away due to a snake bite.”

    “Mendicants, that monk mustn’t have spread a mind of love to the four royal snake families. If he had, he wouldn’t have died due to a snake bite.

    What four? The royal snake families of Virūpakkha, Erāpatha, Chabyāputta, and Kaṇhāgotamaka. …

    Mendicants, I urge you to spread a mind of love to the four royal snake families, for your own safety, security, and protection.

    I love the Virūpakkhas,
    the Erāpathas I love,
    I love the Chabyāputtas,
    the Kaṇhāgotamakas I love.

    I love the footless creatures,
    the two-footed I love,
    I love the four-footed,
    the many-footed I love.

    May the footless not harm me!
    May I not be harmed by the two-footed!
    May the four-footed not harm me!
    May I not be harmed by the many-footed!

    All sentient beings, all living things,
    all creatures, every one:
    may they see only nice things,
    may bad not come to anyone.

    The Buddha is immeasurable,
    the teaching is immeasurable,
    the Saṅgha is immeasurable.
    But limited are crawling things,

    snakes and scorpions, centipedes,
    spiders and lizards and mice.
    I’ve made this safeguard, I’ve made this protection:
    go away, creatures!
    And so I revere the Blessed One,
    I revere the seven perfectly awakened Buddhas.”

    Any thoughts?

  2. #2
    Forums Member trusolo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
    wow a nice sutta! I can think of several ways of looking at this.

    1) From Buddhist teaching perspective, it could just be one more teaching tool for metta meditation for lay people because it is a topic and mind-state they must have had to encounter everyday, so highly relatable.

    2) What I find very interesting is the use of the word “snake family” - we are especially fearful of reptiles and bugs. As a scientist, I wonder how much Buddha knew about evolution and our own reptilian part of the brain. I wonder if he knew that our fears come from amygdala which is the part we have been carrying since the time most creatures were reptiles and that it is still part of us and hence not to fear but acknowledge and understand.

    3) Given the stories that no animals would harm him, it is quite possible the Buddha investigated these fears and overcame them.

    4) At a mundane level, we know that animals are super sensitive in picking up our fears and feelings in general. I don’t have pets but I have heard and seen people who have pets and pet trainers talk about it. If it works with dogs and other higher animals may be it can be extended to all creatures and you could in principle be immune from any harm from any creatures.

    Very interesting! Thanks for posting. I have to think more about this because this meditation has practical verifiable implications (not that I am going to sit in a snake pit surrounded by 100 snakes, but I have family members who are mortified at the sight of spiders. I have spent a lot of time telling them that 99.9% of spiders and snakes we encounter are completely harmless. I myself hate the sight of cockroaches even though I know logically that they can not directly harm me, they can only spread germs.)


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