SuttaCentral

"Acid Pickle" in MN 13, MN 14

So Google search has failed me. What is the “acid pickle” in MN 13 & MN 14?

Furthermore, for the sake of sensual pleasures they break into houses, plunder wealth, steal from isolated buildings, commit highway robbery, and commit adultery. The rulers would arrest them and subject them to various punishments—whipping, caning, and clubbing; cutting off hands or feet, or both; cutting off ears or nose, or both; the ‘porridge pot’, the ‘shell-shave’, the ‘demon’s mouth’, the ‘garland of fire’, the ‘burning hand’, the ‘grass blades’, the ‘bark dress’, the ‘antelope’, the ‘meat hook’, the ‘coins’, the ‘acid pickle’, the ‘twisting bar’, the ‘straw mat’; being splashed with hot oil, being fed to the dogs, being impaled alive, and being beheaded. These result in death and deadly pain. This too is a drawback of sensual pleasures apparent in this very life, a mass of suffering caused by sensual pleasures.

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From Piya Tan’s analysis of MN 14:

Kings then seize them inflicting on them various kinds of torture: having them whipped, caned, clubbed, their hands cut off, their feet cut off, their limbs cut off, their ears cut off, their noses cut off, their ears and noses cut off; having them subjected to the ‘porridge pot’, to the 'polished-shell shave‘, to ‘Rahu‘s mouth’, to the ‘fiery garland’, to the ‘flaming hand’, to the ‘blades of grass’, to the ‘bark dress’, to [being strapped to the ground by an iron ring around each limb, fastened by iron spikes and then surrounded by fire, called the ‘black antelope’, to [having pieces of their flesh cut and hung on] the ‘meat hooks’, to the ‘coins’ [disc-slice], to the ‘lye pickling’ [immersion in strong alkaline solution], to the ‘pivoting pin’ [where a spike is driven in his skull from ear to ear], to the ‘rolledup straw mat’ [being beaten up]; and having them splashed with boiling oil, and having them thrown to the dogs to be devoured, having them impaled alive on stakes, and having their heads cut off with a sword.

The descriptions in brackets come from the commentary (MA, the Majjhima Nikāya Aṭṭhakathā) I believe.

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Thanks, @Christopher.

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eWWWWWWWW!
That people still indulge in Crime despite millennia of harsh laws and harsher punishment says a lot about the power of Sensual Pleasures!
:grimacing: :grimacing: :grimacing:

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And the ineffectiveness of punitive “justice”

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…And to top it all, the injustice of favoritism by those in charge!

SN 42.13
But you can see someone, garlanded and adorned, nicely bathed and anointed, hair and beard dressed, taking his pleasure with women as if he were a king. You might ask someone: ‘Mister, what did that man do?’ And they’d reply: ‘Mister, that man attacked the king’s enemy and killed them. The king was delighted and gave him this reward. That’s why he’s garlanded and adorned, nicely bathed and anointed, hair and beard dressed, taking his pleasure with women as if he were a king.’

Stop the World! I wanna get off… :laughing:

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And just like in real life:

AN3.100:8.1: Take the case of a person who is thrown in jail for stealing half a dollar, a dollar, or a hundred dollars.
AN3.100:8.2: While another person isn’t thrown in jail for stealing half a dollar, a dollar, or a hundred dollars.
AN3.100:9.1: What kind of person is thrown in jail for stealing half a dollar, a dollar, or a hundred dollars?
AN3.100:9.2: A person who is poor, with few possessions and little wealth.
AN3.100:9.3: That kind of person is thrown in jail for stealing half a dollar, a dollar, or a hundred dollars.
AN3.100:10.1: What kind of person isn’t thrown in jail for stealing half a dollar, a dollar, or a hundred dollars?
AN3.100:10.2: A person who is rich, affluent, and wealthy.
AN3.100:10.3: That kind of person isn’t thrown in jail for stealing half a dollar, a dollar, or a hundred dollars.
AN3.100:10.4: This is how it is in the case of a person who does a trivial bad deed, but they go to hell.
AN3.100:10.6: Meanwhile, another person does the same trivial bad deed, but experiences it in the present life, without even a bit left over, not to speak of a lot. …

AN3.100:13.3: It’s like a sheep dealer or butcher. They can execute, jail, fine, or otherwise punish one person who steals from them, but not another.
AN3.100:14.1: What kind of person can they punish?
AN3.100:14.2: A person who is poor, with few possessions and little wealth.
AN3.100:14.3: That’s the kind of person they can punish.
AN3.100:15.1: What kind of person can’t they punish?
AN3.100:15.2: A person who is rich, affluent, and wealthy.
AN3.100:15.3: That’s the kind of person they can’t punish.
AN3.100:15.4: In fact, all they can do is raise their joined palms and ask:
AN3.100:15.5: ‘Please, good sir, give me my sheep or pay me for it.’
AN3.100:15.6: This is how it is in the case of a person who does a trivial bad deed, but it lands them in hell.
AN3.100:15.7: Meanwhile, another person does the same trivial bad deed, but experiences it in the present life, without even a bit left over, not to speak of a lot. …

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Underappreciated: exactly how cynical the Buddha was when it comes to the application of worldly justice.


The Pali is khārāpatacchika. Cone defines khāra as a saline, corrosive, or alkali, a caustic such as soda or potash. The compound means “a form of torture involving inflicting wounds which are then treated with a caustic fluid”.

IIRC, I used “acid” rather than “lye” as it is more readily understandable as a torture. While the two are chemically opposite, I’m not sure that that distinction was known at the time. But perhaps “caustic” would be better.

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It’s so difficult to read these descriptions and passages. I’m really sensitive, cry easily at movies, an "empath,"etc. Metta and karuna training are immensely helpful. But at the same time is the advice to read these suttas and practice sitting with what arises and develop equanimity, or to guard the sense gates and just not read in the first place?

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Honestly, just skip them! You already have a highly tuned sense of suffering and compassion, and these passages are probably not for you.

Traditionally, the commentaries would usually explain such strong passages by saying they were intended for particularly recalcitrant monks, who the Buddha could not get through to any other way. Rejoice! That’s not you!

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Phew! Thank you Bhante! :pray:

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I came across a detailed description of these ancient tortures on Buddhadust and thought of putting them down here for the sake of academic completeness.

Caution! This needs a strong heart. You might not sleep easy knowing that people did this to each other.

Details of Ancient Torture methods

Extract from the Native Commentary to the Aṅguttara-Nikāya, ii.1,1:
Kettle of gruel: – In the pot-of-gruel torture they cut open the skull, and with a pair of tongs take up a heated iron ball, and throw it in; whereby the brains boil, and run over.
Sea-shell tonsure:–In the sea-shell-tonsure torture they first make an incision through the skin, beginning on either side of the upper lip, and continuing by the roots of the ears, and around by the neck. And drawing together all the hair into one knot, they twist it "by means of a stick until they have raised the scalp. Then they rub the dome of the skull with coarse gravel, and wash it until it presents the appearance of a polished sea-shell.
Rāhu-mouth: – In the Rāhu-mouth torture they keep the mouth open by means of a peg, and burn a candle inside. Or, beginning from the roots of the ears, they dig out the teeth, so that the blood gushes forth, and fills the mouth.
Wreath of flame:–They envelop the entire body in cloth that has been steeped in oil, and then set fire.
Hands of flame:–Having enveloped the hands in cloth that has been steeped in oil, they cause them to flame up like torches.
Blades of grass: – In the blades-of-grass torture they begin at the neck, and cut the skin downwards in blade-like strips as far as to the ankles, and then let them fall. Then they put a halter on the man, and drag him forward, so that he stumbles and falls over the blade-like strips of his own skin.
Bark-dress: – In the bark-dress torture they cut strips the same as before, leaving off at the hips; and from the hips they cut other strips, leaving off at the ankles. Then the strips of the upper part of the body form, as it were, a bark tunic for the lower part.
Black antelope: – In the black-antelope torture they drive the points of four iron stakes through the two elbows and the two knees, so that the man remains pinioned to the ground by means of these four iron stakes. Then they build a fire all around him; and in order to make the fire-surrounded black antelope, mentioned in the text, they remove the stakes from time to time, and set the man on his protruding bones. There is no torture equal to this one.
Hook-meat: – They strike him with double hooks, and thus tear away skin, flesh, and tendons.
Penny-bit: – Beginning at the top, they cut off bits of the size of a penny from the whole body by means of sharp razors, and let them fall to the ground.
Carving by caustics: – They cut the man’s body here and there with weapons, and then, by means of combs, they rub in caustic, so that skin, flesh, and gristle trickle away, and only the bony skeleton remains.
Pivot: – Having made him lie down on one side, they drive an iron stake through his ear, and make him fast to the ground. Then they take him by the feet and whirl him around.
Straw-bolster: – A skilful executioner, without cutting through the skin, will break his bones by means of small hand-millstones, so that when lifted up by the hair, he hangs a limp mass of flesh. Then they wind him round and round with his hair, and dispose him in a coil like a straw-pad.

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