The Snake and the Rope is part of an ancient repertoire.
For fun, go to google. Put a guru or New Wage teacher's name into the exact phrase slot.
Then, put the two words, 'rope' 'snake' into the all words slot. Punch the button then see what you get.
I ran searches using Muktananda, Ramana Maharshi, Aurobindo, and MK Gandhi. Interestingly, Gandhi used the snake and rope metaphor to make a case that immoral behavior leads from a state of delusion--illustrating how a particular teacher cant take this common old story and modify it to suit his particular teaching agenda.
There are just a few metaphors in commonplace use by Hindu gurus, that have been used for centuries. Teaching by illustrations is common, and there are a few metaphors that are common place cliches, but used very, very often. They may have the soothing effect of a lullaby.
The larger lesson for us at RR.com is that any non Hindu teacher can learn these same images and rapidly establish rapport with an audience who has heard these before.
You can be sure that anyone who has taken even a cursory glance through Hindu spiriutality or spent even a modest amount of time at an ashram will have encountered the snake and rope story.
She got the courage to look again and apparently what she thought was a snake was actually a rope! Great teaching story, only thing it is a very old one used in a lot of different spiritual traditions.
This is correct.
On page 212 of his memoir, The Ochre Robe (which was published in two editions in 1970 and 1980), Bharati describes the snake and rope analogy.
Thus, in explaining the absoluteness of the Brahman and the relativity of the world, the phenomenality of objects, the analogy of the snake and the rope plus two equally simple analogies, have been used without modification, from the Upanisads down to to the present day.
A man sees what he thinks is a snake, and he acts accordingly--he hits it, or he gets afraid, he may even die with terror; but if a clever man directs a light toward the object and makes the man realize it was only a piece of rope, this particular illusion disappears, and questions like when and where did the snake originate? are no longer asked or are asked in a facetitious manner. The snake is (in this analogy) the phenomenal world, the 'rope' the absolute, the Brahman.
I cannot say whether the tedious repetitiveness of these analogies derives from naivete in the Indian scholastic, or whether it is deliberate--in which latter case, it may be well be a formidable instrument of indoctrination.
I have found among all strata of Hindu laity in pursuit of some religious problem that a persuasive analogy tends to have a greater effect than even wha well reasoned argument when unsupported by a simile or an analogue.
'The 'snake' and the 'rope' seemed to convince the Police Inspector and his guests* just as they ahve been convincing learned (Indian) pundits for many centuries.
*(The Police Inspector sponsored a religious gathering to which Bharati was invited to speak.)
(Pages 212-2, The Ochre Robe
, by Agehananda Bharati, 1980 edition)
Folks, this snake and rope story is a commonplace in Indian/Hindu teaching stories.
So...anyone on the seekers circuit who has spent time at an ashram would have encountered this very story. For Bharati makes it clear this was a commonplace teachig cliche.
Here are some examples:
Muktananda used the snake and rope metaphor
From the Meditation Revolution
"Using the classic Vedantic metaphor, Muktananda likened such ignorance to the misapprehension of a snake in what is in truth a coiled rope"
So did Ramana Maharshi:
The World is Unreal
At Ramana Ashram when the Maharshi was alive in physical form, especially when Westerners would come, he would give them a little book. It is only about twelve pages or so, and he would ask them to read it because it contains the essentials of his teaching.
From the 'little book'
I am going to read it and then we can discuss it. Number 4: "When will the realization of the Self be gained?" The Maharshi's answer is, "When the World which is what is seen has been removed there will be Realization of the Self which is the Seer." Number 5: "Will there be realization of the Self even while the world is there?" The answer is simply, "There will not be". "Why?" Maharshi answers, "The Seer and the object seen are like the rope and the snake, -- just as the knowledge of the rope which is the substrate will not arise unless the false knowledge of the illusory serpent goes, so the realization of the Self which is the substrate will not be gained unless the belief that the world is real be removed".
Sri Aurobindo (just read the citations in the search results)
MK Gandhi used this snake rope metaphor to teach about sexual restraint.
'Mind take a rope to be a snake, and the man with that mentality turns pale, runs away, or takes up a stick to belabour the fancied snake. Another mistakes a sister for wife and has animal passion arising in his breast. The passion subsides the moment he realizes his mistake..
So someone who did a layover at an ashram while in their earlier years on the Seekers Circuit would perhaps have a pleasant buzz of famliarity when reading this encounter between BK and her
Hindu monk and Sanscrit scholar Agehananda Bharati was born in Austria and lived in India for years, becoming ordained in 1949. He became proficient enough to teach and lecture to audiences at all levels, from villages to being on faculty at Delhi University and Benares Hindu University. Bharati was often invited to speak at satsangs in pious households.
This bias in which a good story is more persuasive than use of evidence and good reasoning may now have become a widespread bias in Westerners who have been socialized in New Age circles. We are being turned into a hybrid species--wage earners in capitalist society, but under the tutelage of New Wage Brahmins, being skillfully trained to have the mentality of pre-modern peasants who grovel to gurus, lose capacity for abstract and logical thought, and who take metaphors literally.
But the old generation Sanskrit scholars used snake and rope as part of their own tradition of teaching philosophy and logic. This was not used to teach people to zone out.
Unfortunately the Hindu Reform movements tended to be anti intellectual and could and did use these same snake and rope stories to con audiences into accepting a dumbed down version Hinduism in which scholarship and evidence were treated as obstacles to spiritual attainment.
Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 07/31/2009 09:57PM by corboy.