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Understanding Snake And Rope Example In Hinduism

The Vedantin in Hinduism likes to give the illustration of the snake and the rope. There is something on the ground and a person out of ignorance and perhaps also due to poor lighting, mistakes it to be a snake. He yells, shrieks, his heart palpitates, he looks for a stick, and cries out for help until he is assured that it is just a mere harmless rope. The frightening and intimidating world is only Brahman devoid of action.

There is also the other Vedantin view that what lies ahead is really a snake and one, in all his foolishness, thinks that it is merely a rope. He goes to handle it, despite being cautioned that it is a snake, gets bitten and there is no end to his plight. That is the harm in seeing Atman in Anatman (real in unreal); it brings about grief, affliction, misery, fear, calamity, and every other negative result.

There is a snake lying ahead and one looks at it only to find that it does not manifest any of the ‘snake features’. By snake features, which will be repeated herein, is meant, its wriggling motion, its raising the hood, its hissing and its rushing forward to bite. One thinks that it is just a harmless thing, absolutely without any action (Brahman). That is a costly mistake. But wait! In a while he sees it wriggling slowly and then fast, raising its hood, hissing and rushing forward to bite. Then he sees the world (Shakti) aspect of Brahman and runs seeking rescue from its dangers.

What becomes clear from this illustration is that these snake features can be latent or potent! The snake can wriggle and exhibit all other snake features (Shakti aspect) or can lie inactive (Brahman aspect) like a harmless object. The snake features reveal in greater detail the immense possibilities that lie in the harmless looking snake—both the actionless and action laden aspects, and yet it is the same snake. Thus the Shakti worshipper gets to experience the joy of communing with the Divine Mother and also experience the Bliss of Brahman. While Brahman is without any action, all these denied actions take place in the Shakti aspect of the ultimate Reality. Thus he gets a total view of the ultimate Reality.

SourceArticle titled ‘The Illustration Of Snake’ by Swami Satyapriyananda – Vedanta Kesari May 2018