[Advaita-l] Rajju-sarpa analogy in Srimadbhaagavatam

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Mon Mar 26 23:00:49 EDT 2018

Rajju-sarpa analogy in Srimadbhaagavatam

In the 11th Skandha, 26th chapter there is the teaching of vairagya and in
the discourse, the rope-snake analogy is given to show how one mistakes the
Atman for the body:

kim etayā no ’pakṛtaṁ
rajjvā vā sarpa-cetasaḥ
draṣṭuḥ svarūpāviduṣo
yo ’haṁ yad ajitendriyaḥ  11.26.17


kim — what; etayā — by her; naḥ — to us; apakṛtam — offense has been done;
rajjvā — by a rope; vā — or; sarpa-cetasaḥ — who is thinking it to be a
snake; draṣṭuḥ — of such a seer; svarūpa — the real identity; aviduṣaḥ —
who does not understand; yaḥ — who; aham — I; yat — because of;
ajita-indriyaḥ — having not controlled the senses.


How can I blame her for my trouble when I myself am ignorant of my real,
spiritual nature? I did not control my senses, and so I am like a person
who mistakenly sees a harmless rope as a snake.


When a person mistakes a rope for a snake, he becomes fearful and anxious.
Such fear and anxiety are, of course, illusion, since the rope can never
bite. Similarly, one who mistakenly thinks that the material, illusory
energy of the Lord exists for his personal sense gratification will
certainly bring down on his head an avalanche of material, illusory fear
and anxiety.

kvāyaṁ malīmasaḥ kāyo
daurgandhyādy-ātmako ’śuciḥ
kva guṇāḥ saumanasyādyā
hy adhyāso ’vidyayā kṛtaḥ  11.26.18


kva — where; ayam — this; malīmasaḥ — very filthy; kāyaḥ — material body;
daurgandhya — bad odor; ādi — and so on; ātmakaḥ — consisting of; aśuciḥ —
unclean; kva — where; guṇāḥ — the so-called good qualities; saumanasya —
the fragrance and tenderness of flowers; ādyāḥ — and so on; hi — certainly;
adhyāsaḥ — the superficial imposition; avidyayā — by ignorance; kṛtaḥ —


What is this polluted body anyway — so filthy and full of bad odors? I was
attracted by the fragrance and beauty of a woman’s body, but what are those
so-called attractive features? They are simply a false covering created by

Hemadri, while commenting on the Muktaphalam of Vopadeva, says for the
first cited verse: अध्यासो अतद्रूपे तद्रूपबुद्धिः |( adhyaasa,
superimposition, is taking one for another). Shankaracharya, in the
Brahmasutra bhashya has given several crisp definitions for 'adhyasa', one
among them is: अध्यासो नाम अतस्मिनंस्तद्बुद्धिः which is what Hemadri has

Also, the Bhagavatam verse is clear that 'avidya, ignorance, precedes

Om Tat Sat

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