‘That bhikkhu lets go both the near and far shores’: meaning and metaphor in the refrain from the uraga verses

Dhivan Thomas Jones

Abstract


 The uraga (‘serpent’) verses are some early Buddhist stanzas, preserved in different versions, each with the refrain (in Pāli at Sn vv.1–17) so bhikkhu jahāti orapāraṃ, urago jiṇṇam iva tacaṃ purāṇaṃ, ‘That bhikkhu lets go both the near and far shores, like a serpent its worn-out old skin’. The meaning of orapāra, ‘near and far shores’, has posed a problem for ancient and modern commentators, because according to the usual metaphor of ‘crossing the flood’ the bhikkhu lets go the ‘near shore’, which is saṃsāra, to reach the safety of the ‘far shore’, which is nirvāṇa. I discuss some commentarial and recent discussions of the refrain, before presenting two possible solutions to this problem: first in terms of the old binary cosmology, whereby the bhikkhu lets go the ‘near shore’ of this world and the ‘far shore’ of the other, and second in terms of the ‘stream of the Dharma’ metaphor, in which the bhikkhu lets go the ‘near shore’ of the subjective sense spheres and the ‘far shore’ of the objective sense spheres. I conclude with a consideration of metaphor in the uraga verses refrain, and how the refrain may be an example of early Buddhist non-dualism.


Full Text:

 Subscribers Only

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Copyright (c) 2016 Dhivan Thomas Jones