Vāntam Āpātum

Posted: 06.09.2011
Updated on: 02.07.2015


This paper by Ludwig Alsdorf was published in Suniti Kumar Chatterji Jubilee Volume [Presented on the occasion of his Sixty-fifth Birthday, 26th November, 1955] (Poona 1955 = Indian Linguistics 16, 1955, pp. 21-28) . To make this online reissue citeable, the page numbers are added to the text (see squared brackets).

Vāntam Āpātum

[21] The 22nd chapter of the Uttarajjhāyā, the first Mūlasūtra of the Jain Canon, tells the well-known story of Ariṭṭhaṇemi, the 22nd tīrthaṃkara. Its title, however, is not, as we should expect, Ariṭṭhaṇemicariya but Rahaṇemijjaṃ, which is derived from the episode filling the last third (w. 32-49) of the chapter. Ariṭṭhaṇemi's former bride Rāyamaī, who after his pravrajyā has followed his example and entered the order, is caught by a heavy rain on her way to Mt. Raivataka; seeking shelter in a cave, she takes off her wet clothes. Ariṭṭhaṇemi's brother Rahaṇemi, who has also turned monk, happens to enter the same cave, and on seeing her nude covets her and proposes to her to "enjoy pleasures" together and afterwards to return to "the path of the Jinas." The frightened girl musters her courage and in a spirited reply convinces him of his folly so that "he returned to the Law like an elephant driven by the hook" (v. 46).

The ancient fame of this episode is attested by the fact that of the five stanzas spoken by Rāyamaī (41-45) three (42-44), plus the concluding statement v. 46, have been incorporated into the 2nd chapter of the Dasaveyāliya-sutta (= Das. 2, 7-10). The first two of these stanzas run as follows:

dhir-atthu te, jaso-kāmī, jo ta jīviya-kāraā

vanta icchasi āvēu! seya te maraṇaṃ bhave ! 42/7

aha ca Bhoga-rāyassa, ta c'as.i Andhagavahio -

mā kule gandhaā homo! sajama nihuo cara. 43/8

I add Jacobi's translation (SBE XLV, p. 118): "Fie upon you, famous knight, [1] who want to quaff the vomited drink for the sake of this life; it [21|22] would be better for you to die. I am the daughter of the Bhoga-king, and you are an Andhakavṛṣṇi; being born in a noble family, let us not become like Gandhana-snakes; firmly practise self-control!"

Obviously in order to explain the cryptic phrase mā kule gandhaā homo used in v. 43/8, the Das. has its quotation from Utt. preceded by the following stanza (Das. 2, 6):

pakkhande jaliya joi dhūma-keu durāsaya

necchanti vantaya bhottu kule jāyā agandhae,

which Schubring translates: "Serpents that are born in a noble family would rather rush into a deadly fire that blazes and smokes than consent to swallow [the poison] they have sent forth."

This translation, as well as Jacobi's translation of Utt. 22, 43, is based on the explanation of the commentaries who describe a curious belief, further illustrated by a story reproduced by Leumann ZDMG 46, p. 604, that a snake-charmer can force a snake to return to the victim it has bitten and give it the choice to suck back (āpātum) from the wound the poison emitted (vānta) by it or to rush into a fire kindled for the purpose; there are two kinds of snakes: the gandhana will choose the former, the agandhana the latter alternative.

A close parallel to the phrase kule jāyā agandhaṇe of Das. 2, 6 is found Isibhāsiyāi 45, 40. V. 38 warns against abandoning the teaching of the Jina after having followed it:

telokka-sāra-garuyaṃ dhīmato bhāsita ima

samma kāea phāsettā puo a virame tato,

"Having carried out [2] to the full this teaching of the wise (Jina) one must not abandon it again." This exhortation is then stressed by three similes (vv. 39-41): [22|23]

baddha-cindho jadhā jodho vammârūho thirâyudho

sīha-āya vimuncittā palāyanto a sobhati 39

agandhae kule jāto jadhā āgo mahā-viso

muncittā sa-visa bhūyo piyanto jāti lāghava 40

jadhā ruppi-kul'ubbhūto ramaijia pi bhoyaa

vanta puo sa bhunjanto dhid-dhi-kārassa bhāyaa 41

"As a warrior with his banner hoisted, clad in his coat of mail, with solid weapons, who utters a lion's roar and then flees, disgraces himself; as a very poisonous snake born in an agandhana family which emits its poison and then drinks it again becomes of no account; as one born from a ruppi [3] family when eating food, lovely though it may be, which he has vomited, becomes the object of contempt … "

Schubring blames the author for having confounded agandhana and gandhana; but agandhana is quite correct and in keeping with the two other similes: a snake which is really agandhana by birth disgraces itself by behaving like, and thus actually becoming, a gandhana one.

The strange expression gandhana in connection with kula, i.e. good family, occurs also in Pali. A stanza of the Itivuttaka (PTS ed., p. 64) reads as follows:

atijāta anujāta puttam icchanti paṇḍitā,

avajāta na icchanti yo hoti kula-gandhano,

"Wise men desire a son of higher birth or equal birth; they do not desire one of lower birth who is a kula-gandhana."

The introductory prose of the Itivuttaka offers the pious but hardly original explanation that an atijāta is the devout Buddhist son of non-Buddhist parents, the anujāta the Buddhist son of Buddhist parents, and the avajāta the non-Buddhist son of Buddhist parents; it has, unfortunately, nothing to say on kula-gandhana. For the latter the MSS have a variety of readings and explanations (kusajantuno, kulagandhano ti kulacchedako, kula-dhaṃsano) merely testifying to the fact that kula-gandhana was unfamiliar and probably obsolete; but it is of course inadmissible (as suggested by the PTS Pali Dictionary s.v. kula) simply to remove the inconvenient word by "correcting" it to kulangāraka - the more so as the almost identical expression [23|24] kule antima-gandhina occurs in gāthā 7 of the Kaṇhadīpāyanajātaka (Jāt. vol. IV, p. 34):

pitaro ca me āsu pitāmahā ca

saddhā, ahū dānapatī vadaññū;

ta kullavatta anuvattamāno

"māha kule antima-gandhino [a]hu"

etassa vādassa jigucchamāno

akāmako dānam ima dadāmi,

"My parents and grandparents were faithful, they were liberal and bountiful; following this family custom - "may I not be the worst gandhina in the family", shunning such talk I practise this liberality without liking it.” [4]

In none of the Pali passages is there any mention nor even the faintest suggestion of snakes; and but for the commentaries and Isibhās. 45, 40 we should certainly never suspect that snakes were spoken of or alluded to in Utt. and Das. either. Further, in spite of the obvious kinship of all Pali and Pkt. passages quoted, there are important differences. The Itivuttaka speaks of a kula-gandhana, where -gandhana can only mean something like "destroying, spoiling, disgracing"; it seems difficult to separate the word from gandha "smell", and the explanation "one who brings the family into bad odour, who makes the family stink" might not be altogether unacceptable. In Das. 2, 6 and Isibh., on the other hand, agandhaṇa is an adjective qualifying [24|25] the kula itself, not him who disgraces it; and in the strikingly parallel passages of Utt. and Kaṇhadīpāyanajāt. we have the locative kule as in Das. 2, 6, and Isibh., but with a nominat. gandhana, antimagandhino, °dhinī similar to the -gandhano of Itiv. Actually, the two passages Das. 2, 6 and Isibh. 45, 40 are difficult to reconcile with the rest, and if in them kula is not to mean "family, noble birth" at all but to denote two very strange species of snakes, this looks hardly original and genuine. The explanation of (a)gandhana remains doubtful, and I confess my inability to explain how this term came to be connected by the Jains with snakes and snake-charming; [5] but on the strength of the Pali parallels I am firmly convinced that in Utt. 22, 42 Rāyamaī does not compare herself and Rahaṇemi to snakes of any kind. As to Das. 2, 6, we shall see in the course of this investigation that this stanza, too, may at least originally have nothing to do with snakes but may have a very different and perfectly simple meaning.

The tale - it might be called a ballad - of Ariṭṭhaṇemi, Rāyamaī and Rahaṇemi is told in Utt. 22 very concisely, but coherently and complete, not necessitating reference to a fuller prose tale - with one exception. Rahaṇemi appears in the cave without even his name having been previously mentioned; we are not told who he is, let alone when and how he came to renounce the world. This lacuna is, of course, filled by the commentaries, [6] and they tell the famous though unsavoury story of Rahaṇemi's previous wooing of Rāyamaī, when the latter, before her and his pravrajyā, in order to deter and convert him drinks a sweet beverage, vomits it with the help of an emetic into a gold cup and offers it to him; on his refusal to drink her vomit she explains that he is doing virtually the same in making love to her who has been "vomited" by Ariṭṭhaṇemi.

It has so far been taken for granted that this story is old and genuine and that Utt. 22, 42 is an allusion to it. Charpentier (ZDMG 64, p. 423) indeed remarks that it is virtually ("eigentlich") not found in the mūla of Utt., but explains his "eigentlich" by adding that v. 42 (vanta icchasi [25|26] āveuṃ) would be absolutely unintelligible if we could not believe that the story was known also to the author of Utt.; later, in the commentary to his critical edition of Utt. (p. 360), he repeats that "the story is well known also to the author of the sūtra, which is to be seen from v. 42 infra." But is this really so?

That a girl scorned by a man, particularly a monk, can indeed call herself "vomited" by him is shown by Utt. 12, 21, where the princess Bhaddā says of the monk to whom her father had tried in vain to marry her:

narinda-devind 'abhivandiea je 'amhi vantā isiā, sa eso,

"The monk, adored by princes and gods, by whom I have been vomited, that is he!"

But vam can, of course, have the more general meaning "to abandon", and in Jain and Buddhist scriptures it is particularly used with reference to the worldly belongings, the sensual pleasures and worldly desires one leaves behind and renounces when entering the order. In Utt. 14, 38 a king is called by his queen vantāsī "eater of vomit" because he has confiscated the property left behind by his purohita who has entered the order together with his wife and children:

vantāsī puriso, rāya, na so hoi pasasio,

māhaea pariccatta dhaa ādāum icchasi,

"A man who eats vomit, O king, he is not to be praised; you want to confiscate the property abandoned by the brahmin." In the parallel Pali story, the Hatthipāla-jātaka (509), the corresponding stanza (18) reads:

avamī brāhmao kāme, te tva paccāvamissasi;

vantādo puriso, rāja, na so hoti pasasiyo,

"The brahmin has vomited the (objects of) sensual enjoyment; these you are going to eat again (praty-ā-vam!)"; the second line is identical with the first line of Utt. 14, 38 except for the use of the synonym vantādo instead of vantāsī. [7] [26|27]

The preceding stanza of the Jātaka (g. 17), also spoken by the queen but not found in Utt., runs:

ete bhutvā vamitvā ca pakkamanti vihagamā,

ye ca bhutvā na vamisu, te me hatthattham āgatā,

"These birds who have vomited after eating fly away; but those who after eating did not vomit have come into my captivity." To explain this, the prose commentary tells a complicated story: in order to convince her husband that it was wrong to confiscate the brahmin's property, the queen had caused a heap of meat to be placed in the courtyard and to be covered with a net leaving only a small opening straight above the meat. Vultures were attracted and came to eat of the meat. The more intelligent ones, when having their fill, realized that they were too heavy to gain the opening and therefore vomited so that they became light enough to escape; the stupid ones swallowed the vomit of the clever ones, could not fly straight up through the opening and were thus caught.

Some outlines of this story may be genuine; the details are hardly to be trusted, and the point of the story is certainly distorted. In the gāthā there is nothing whatever to suggest a re-eating of the vomit; the meaning of the simile can only be: he who after having enjoyed sensual pleasures gives them up ("vomits them") attains salvation; he who does not do so "is caught" in the sasāra. The purport of the stanza, therefore, is not to warn the king against confiscating the brahmin's property but to induce him to renounce the world, which he actually does immediately after the next stanza (18, see above), thanking the queen in the following gāthā (19) for having saved him through her well-spoken gāthās. Clearly, therefore, the order of vv. 17 and 18 must be inverted: the queen first dissuades the king to "eat the brahmin's vomit" and afterwards contrives the simile which induces him to enter the order. And that simile furnishes another instance of the use of vam in the meaning "to renounce (the world)".

The closest parallel to Utt. 22, 42, however, is found in Utt. 10, 29, where a wavering monk is exhorted not to re-enter worldly life in these words:

ciccāṇa dhaa ca bhāriya / pavvaio hi si aagāriya[8]

mā vanta puo vi āvie …

"Having abandoned property and wife, you have entered the state of the houseless; do not drink again your vomit!"

If we read Utt. 22, 42 in the light particularly of this last passage, and without any preconceived ideas, there cannot be the slightest doubt that [27|28] Rāyamaī's words "vantaṃ icchasi āveuṃ, seyaṃ te maraṇaṃ bhave" are nothing but a perfectly clear and intelligible warning against Rahaṇemi's breaking his vows and thus re-entering worldly life; and Das. 2, 6 may have nothing to do with snakes but merely assert that a monk of good breeding who does not want to be a disgrace to his family will rather leap into a blazing fire than give up his monkhood and re-enter the world. In the two stanzas Isibh. 45, 40 f. quoted above, too, the drinking or eating of (one's own!) vomit is a simile for the defection from monkish discipline and relapse into worldly life. Thus, in Utt. 22, 42 there is not only no allusion to the story of the vomited beverage offered to Rahaṇemi - we may even say that if Rāyamaī had intended to remind Rahaṇemi of that drastic scene she would certainly have chosen some more explicit mode of expression.

While Haribhadra in his īkā on Das. 6, 7 explains vanta icchasi āveu by "vāntam icchasy āpātu, parityaktām bhagavatā abhilaas.i bhoktum", Devendra, in his Uttarādhyayana Ṭīkā, contents himself with the Sanskrit translation vāntam icchasi āpātum, but quotes the following āryā:

vijñāya vastu nindya tyaktvā ghanti ki kvacit puruṣāḥ?

vānta punar api bhukte na ca sarva sārameyo 'pi,

which is clearly incompatible with Haribhadra's explanation as it speaks of re-eating one's own vomit and not, as in the alleged case of Rahaṇemi and Rāyamaī, somebody else's (i.e., Ariṭṭhaṇemi's). Moreover, the younger Uttarādhyayana Ṭīkā of Kamalasayama not only omits the story of the vomited drink altogether but gives the following perfectly correct interpretation of Utt. 22, 42. "vāntam udgīram āpātum icchasi, yathā hi kaścid vāntam āpātum icchaty eva bhavān api pravrajyāgrahaatas tyaktān bhogān punar āpātum upabhoktum iti", after which it quotes the same āryā as Devendra.

It is, of course, not inconceivable that after having been drastically repulsed by Rāyamaī and thus caused to enter the order the monk Rahaṇemi should at their later chance meeting in the cave suffer a relapse and renew his attempt to win her. This, however, implies that Rāyamaī does not, as related Utt. 22, 28-30, renounce the world immediately after her bridegroom and under the fresh impression of his pravrajyā and her consequent desertion (which is the only natural course), but that there is, as in Devendra's story, an interval between her wailing over her desertion and her entering the order, an interval allowing for Rahaṇemi to woo her and be repulsed. I have no doubt that in reality the story of the commentators is a secondary invention due to the necessity to fill the gap in the tale of Utt. 22 noticed above and inspired by a mistaken interpretation of Utt. 22, 42 - an interpretation stupidly taking literally what is nowhere anything but a figurative expression: vāntam āpātum, "to drink again (one's) vomit." [28]

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