Fermented urine as medicine

27. Contentment

  • Numbered Discourses 4
    1. At Uruvelā
      [Pardon my clumsy notation!]
      “Mendicants, these four trifles are easy to find and are blameless. What four? Rag-robes … A lump of almsfood … Lodgings at the root of a tree … Fermented urine as medicine …

I try…really try to understand. But this passage is outstanding in its ability to confuse. If anyone can explain this thing about fermented urine I will be extremely grateful.
I have not tried any home experiments related to this idea. Thus I await your wisdom.


Hi Rosie,

Drinking cow urine is an old Indo-Iranian practice that continues to some extent today. In India, you can buy bottles of it. Drinking it is touted as a cure for everything from Acne to Covid-19, but it has other uses, for instance in the Zoroastrian initiation rite.


There’s actually even an archaic English word for fermented urine - lant. For a variety of reasons, urine actually tends to come out less contaminated than other bodily fluids (still not sterile!). The fermentation process further sterilizes it, and increases ammonia concentration & alkalinity. This potentially has all of the benefits of a high-alkaline solution. For example, some romans used fermented urine to clean their teeth. People all over the world used it as a household cleaner. As a poor person in the pre-modern era, your alternatives alkaline products might have been things like a wood ash, which can often be dangerously alkaline (especially with repeated use).

Of course, I would not recommend anyone do this today. But it’s not totally baseless, and it wasn’t idiosyncratic to just ancient India.


The former prime minister of India Moraj Desai is famous for drinking his own urine.
Morarji Desai - Wikipedia
With Metta

So did Gandhi. ………….

Quick PSA: If you take any kinds of pharmaceuticals, they are going to be passed through your urine. Drinking that urine could have negative medical consequences, especially since it’s not always the same chemical going out as it was going in.

But to the point of the sutta, the idea is that a monastic is to make do with whatever is available, even if they are some of the least desirable things in the world. A reminder of these four “fall back” requisites are made right after ordination ceremonies.


Wow! Well I gotta say that this is some information I did not anticipate, but for which I am grateful. Gives me a whole new appreciation for tooth paste! lol

And that makes a lot of sense. But it also seems that technology, while of great benefit, has contradicted the effort to simplify a monastic’s life. I’m guessing that the ubiquitous use of cell phones can complicate a monk’s day in ways Buddha never imagined.
Which brings to mind another interesting question: What kind of cell phone would Buddha have used? :face_with_raised_eyebrow: :thinking: :mask: :roll_eyes: :dharmawheel:
Thank you!

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In the modern era, we might probably say “Aspirin as medicine…” Cheap, easy to obtain, and providing comfort in most situations. :upside_down_face: :slightly_smiling_face: