Author Topic: What is a Naga?  (Read 28921 times)

hope rainbow

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Re: What is a Naga?
« Reply #15 on: April 19, 2012, 02:11:44 PM »
Nagas are a class of beings that manifest themselves to us humans as dragons or snakes as that is the form that we can understand them as. The western terms Leviathan and Salamander refers to nagas and they usually control water as this is the element that they are most proficient in. In eastern mythology, they are the Chinese dragons and they do also manifest as unusual snakes.

In Buddhism, we are told that Nagas have very powerful spiritual power/psychic powers that the wiccans and witches can only dream to achieve of and they are highly intelligent but they are also easily jealous and easily angered, which kinda sounds like some autistic savants. However, they are counted as a form of animals and they get greatly annoyed by people who eat meat in their presence.

We are also taught that birth as a Naga happens if we study a lot of Dharma but put little to practice or if we do not hold the vows and pay little attention to them. Both The Lamrim and Shuragama Sutra (Hsuan Huas commentary) highlights this point. Lamrim gives the example of Elapatra Naga who used to be a monk but broke his vows and was born as a Naga, while Shuragama sutra states that the Nagas are "quick with the vehicle but slow with the percepts(vows)"

In both the instances of a Thai forest monk who wished to see a naga in the forest, and to Hsuan Hua himself, nagas manifested as a snake with a red head and green body to show them their presence and signify that they pay their respect to the monks. There are many other well documented cases of nagas manifesting and they rarely do as they are very vain and will only do so if they feel that you are worth their respect.

Thank you Ensapa for these clarifications.
Frok your description of Nagas as intellectually able beings experiencing jealousy, it reminds me of the description of the Asuras, the demi-gods.
But then from their physical body, or the green snake with red head, it seems like they look like animals, or half-animals. Or like dragons...

In which realm could we classify the nagas?


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Re: What is a Naga?
« Reply #16 on: April 20, 2012, 03:39:56 AM »
Nagas are serpentine creatures with powers to affect human beings through diseases etc and they are said to hold wisdom in their watery kingdoms. They usually live in the oceans but sometimes they inhabit rocks and trees. They are worshipped as divine beings that have the power to bring or withhold rain. They are also used as ornaments by some tantric deities and are believed to be protectors of Buddha's doctrine.

There is a story about Buddha giving the Prajnaparamita texts to the nagas for safekeeping until the birth of someone who was able to interpret them correctly. This was Nagarjuna who is said to have magically flown to the nagas' city (Bhogavati) and retrieved the hidden texts.

In his biography of the Venerable Acariya Mun of Thailand, Acariya Maha Boowa Nanasampanno talked about the Arhat's encounters with nagas who came for his teachings during the time he was in Chiang Mai. He said that devas and nagas showed great respect for Acariya Mun, and for the place where he lived. They would always avoid the meditation path. Here is a passage from the book regarding the nagas:

"Nagas, too, avoided passage across the pass when arriving for a visit. On occasions when their leader had to pass through that area, he always circled around the head of the meditation path. Sometimes the nagas sent a messenger to invite Acariya Mun to attend a function, much as humans do when they invite monks to local functions. The messengers always avoided crossing his meditation path. Occasionally, when they were unable to avoid crossing over some of the sand ..., they would first sweep the sand away with their hands, and then crawl across. Standing up again, they walked to Acariya Mun's residence. Their behaviour was always wonderfully composed.  Acariya Mun believed that if human beings, the custodians of the sasana (Buddha's teachings), have a true interest in Dharma and a deeply-rooted feeling of genuine respect, they should exhibit the same reverential behaviour toward the sasana as devas and nagas do." (p. 230-231)


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Re: What is a Naga?
« Reply #17 on: April 21, 2012, 04:06:37 PM »
Nagas are serpent or dragon-like creatures that exist within Buddhist and Hindu mythology. Traditions about n?gas are also very common in all the Buddhist countries of Asia. In many countries, the n?ga concept has been merged with local traditions of great and wise serpents or dragons. In Tibet, the n?ga was equated with the klu, wits that dwell in lakes or underground streams and guard treasure. In China, the n?ga was equated with the lóng or Chinese dragon, and the Dragon King. The Buddhist n?ga generally has the form of a great cobra-like snake, usually with a single head but sometimes with many. At least some of the n?gas are capable of using magic powers to transform themselves into a human semblance. In Buddhist painting, the n?ga is sometimes portrayed as a human being with a snake or dragon extending over his head. One n?ga, in human form, attempted to become a monk; when telling it that such ordination was impossible, the Buddha told it how to ensure that it would be reborn a man, able to become a monk. In the 'Devadatta' chapter of the Lotus Sutra, an eight year old female Naga, after listening to Manjushri preach the Lotus Sutra, transforms her body into that of a male human and immediately reaches full enlightenment. This narrative reinforces the ironic viewpoint prevalent in Mahayana scriptures that a male human body is required for Buddhahood, even if a being is so advanced in her realization that she can magically transform her body at will and demonstrate the emptiness of the physical form itself.

I think that Nagas are very interesting creatures and they do exist. I remember hearing stories about how people would be able to see Nagas on certain Thai rivers. I also guess that only certain people would have the merit to see a naga. I personally never seen one before.