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Alagaddūpama Sutta

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Alagaddūpama Sutta (MN 22; "Simile of the Snake Sutta" or "Water-Snake Simile Suttra") is a sutta from the Majjhima Nikaya of the Pali Canon. A Sarvastivada recension is included in the Madhyama Agama of the Chinese Canon.[1]

Thanissaro Bhikkhu states:

This is a discourse about clinging to views (diṭṭhi). Its central message is conveyed in two similes, among the most famous in the Canon: the simile of the water-snake and the simile of the raft. Taken together, these similes focus on the skill needed to grasp right view properly as a means of leading to the cessation of suffering, rather than an object of clinging, and then letting it go when it has done its job.[2]

Henepola Gunaratana states:

In this sutta, wrongly grasping the Dhamma is compared to catching a poisonous snake by its tail. A snake will bite and cause death or sickness if held incorrectly, but if the snake is caught correctly, the venom can be extracted for medicine and the snake released without harm. Like this, we must grasp the meaning of Dhamma correctly and not cling to it. Mishandling or clinging to the Dhamma can poison the mind just as a venomous snake can poison the body, and poisoning the mind is much more dangerous.[3]



  1. Princeton Dict icon 166px.png Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. Alagaddūpamasutta
  2. Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Dhammatalks icon 50px.png Water-Snake Simile Sutta, Dhammatalks.org
  3. Dalai Lama & Thubten Chodron 2014, s.v. Preface by Bhante Gunaratana.