paNamaNi

Ulrich T. Kragh utkragh at HUM.KU.DK
Mon Feb 7 16:24:15 EST 2005


First of all, thank you to everyone who replied to my inquiry about the
hood-jewel (paNamaNi) of the snake, especially to Allen Thrasher for his
helpful references and Timothy Cahill for his Indian story.

Having now looked at various sources, I am coming to the conclusion that a
hood-jewel refers to a "snake-stone" or "serpent-stone" (sarpamaNi), a stone
supposedly found inside the head of certain snakes, which has the power to
heal snakebites and other poisons. A snake-stone appears to be a well-known
phenomenon in many cultures, including celtic and other European cultures
and is also known in China. It is debated whether the stone actually comes
from the snake, as legend suggests, or whether it is a substance obtained
from the bamboo-plant.

For those interested, a longer, multi-cultural description can be found at
http://www.jjkent.com/articles/history-snake-stones.htm
with more pages following, if you click on the forward button at the end of
the page.

This leaves me with a questoin to the scholars of Indian medicine (Dominik
Wujastyk, Kenneth Zysk, ?) on this list: do we have any Sanskrit
descriptions of snake-stones (sarpamaNi/paNamaNi/phaNamaNi) and their use?
In particular, is there a passage that identifies the paNamaNi as the
"snake-stone" remedy against poisons?

My posting also spurned a longer discussion about JayAnanda's commentary on
the Buddhist CandrakIrti's MadhyamakAvatAra, since I characterized
JayAnanda's text as an INDIAN commentary. As noted by some of you, the
Tibetan colophon of the text states that it was translated by the Kashmirian
paNDita JayAnanda and the Tibetan translator kun dga' grags in Mi nyag gi
yul (Xixia), and in that sense, it may be more "indic" than "Indian", or
(who knows) even written directly in Tibetan without having been composed
first in Sanskrit.

This, however, is of lesser significance. The text is a word-by-word
commentary, which clearly comments directly on the Sanskrit text of
MadhyamakAvatAra, not following any of the Tibetan translations, because it
displays the word-order of the Sanskrit text and quite often uses slightly
different translations than found in the two Tibetan translations of
MadhyamakAvatAra. In that sense, it is a very useful tool for analyzing and
mentally reconstructing the Sanskrit text (as the Sanskrit text is not
available). Whether it is then to be called an "Indian" commentary or not
can be debated, as long as it is recognized to be a commentary on the Indian
text rather than on a Tibetan translation.

With best regards,
Ulrich Timme Kragh
Harvard University, post-doc



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