Enlightening to the Meaning of the Vicious Snake

A pond in the mountains.

In ancient India, a farmer overheard the Buddha and his disciple talking about a snake (Image: naban55 via Pixabay)

A long time ago in India, the Buddha and a disciple named Ananda walked in the wilderness of the countryside. By the side of a field, they suddenly saw a pile of shiny objects. The Buddha said to Ananda: “Look, there is a big poisonous snake.” Ananda replied: “Master, it is a vicious snake.”…

At that time, a farmer was working in the field and heard the conversation between the Buddha and Ananda. He thought: “I should go and find out what kind of snake they saw.” The farmer went over and saw a pile of gold. Overcome by temptation, he wrapped the gold pieces up and took them home.

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The farmer had lived in poverty and was always short of food and clothing. After taking the gold, he became rich overnight, eating delicious food and wearing amazing clothing. He had everything he wanted.

The farmer finally understood what the vicious snake was.
After taking the gold, the farmer became rich overnight and had everything he wanted. (Image: via Pixabay)

The news of the farmer’s newfound wealth quickly spread throughout the country. The king questioned the origin of the farmer’s wealth, so he arrested the farmer and put him in jail. Although the farmer had used up his fortune, he was not pardoned and would receive punishment.

Buddha and Ananda discuss a vicious snake

The farmer remembered his greed for gold and felt regret. He repeatedly said to himself in prison: “Master said it was a poisonous snake. Ananda said it was a vicious snake!” The jailer reported the matter to the king. The king called the farmer in and asked him: “Why do you say: ‘Master said it was a poisonous snake and Ananda said it was a vicious snake’?” The farmer replied: “On that day, I worked in the fields and heard the Buddha and Ananda having a discussion about a snake. Today, I finally understand what a vicious snake really is.”

The farmer was blinded by his own greed and was enchanted by the treasure. With an ill-gotten fortune to satisfy his unbridled pleasure in squandering money, he finally understood that the gold was really like a vicious snake. Rotting in jail, he raised his faith in the Buddha and repented.

The king, who believed in the Dharma, listened to the farmer’s answer and knew that he had understood the Buddha’s words. The king forgave him and spared him the remainder of his prison sentence because he had enlightened to the Buddha’s teaching in the field.

Translated by Yi Ming and edited by Helen

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