Looking for the source of 2 similes

Greetings Friends

I’m looking for the source of 2 similes that deal with illusion that I remember reading, but can’t remember where. I’ve searched in the index of similes and tried searching for the words to no avail. If someone is aware of them I’d be very grateful. :slightly_smiling_face: :pray:

  1. digging out a pond or lake looking for the moon/diamond without success because it is actually only a reflection of the moon

  2. Mistaking a red gob of spit for a ruby

This is not what you mention, but it is similar. Simile of the lute. sn35.246.

I honestly don’t think the digging a pond simile is in the EBTs anywhere. Sounds very Zen to me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

A search for pond and moon doesn’t turn it up either.

The ruby/spit also doesn’t sound familiar. A search returns nothing.

I mention the searches because at the moment it would only work if you searched for ruby AND spit etc, not ruby spit.


Greetings Ven, many thanks for that :slightly_smiling_face: :pray:

At least I know that my searches were ok as you couldn’t find it either :smile:

It’s not from the zen. These were definitely about the illusory nature of perception, rather than the usual zen or mahayana usages. My reading is pretty purely from EBT’s so there is not much else that intrudes into memory. I’m thinking they must have been tales or stories… The one about the ruby, could possibly have come from a re-told Ajahn Chah story, as I think the gob of spit was compared to that of betel nut spit. It’s a mystery :smile:

They were good similes, but it’s good to know that they are not from the suttas, so that I can use them accurately.

Ps thanks for the sutta reference, it is along the similar lines

Many Thanks and best wishes

Well, I can’t swear to it. Perhaps they sound familiar to Ven. @Dhammanando?

I also tried a google search for both similes and came up empty there too.

Too bad there isn’t a unified search feature for all of Ajahn Chah’s tranlsations. @Stu, do you have something like that?

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No I don’t. Wouldn’t that be lovely!


There’s this :wink:

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Hi Viveka

I think both of these are related by Ven. Ñāṇananda in the Nibbāna Sermons.

The first one is from Sermon 9:

Now let us take up a parable by way of an illustration of the distinction between the wrong view of the dogmatists, already analysed, and the right view, which is in complete contrast to it. It is an episode in the Ummaggajātaka which more or less looks like a parable to illustrate this point.[343] In the Ummaggajātaka one comes across the problem of a gem. In that story there are in fact several such problems concerning gems, and we are taking up just one of them.

The citizens of Mithilā came and informed king Videha that there is a gem in the pond near the city gate. The king commissioned his royal adviser Senaka with the task of taking out the gem. He went and got the people to empty the pond but failed to find the gem there. Even the mud was taken out and the earth dug up in a vain attempt to locate the gem. When he confessed his failure to the king, the latter entrusted the job to bodhisatta Mahosadha, the youngest adviser. When he went there and had a look around, he immediately understood that the gem is actually in a crow’s nest on a palm tree near the pond. What appeared in the pond is only its reflection. He convinced the king of this fact by getting a man to immerse a bowl of water into the pond, which also reflected the gem. Then the man climbed up the palm tree and found the gem there, as predicted by Mahosadha.

The second one is from Sermon 12:

An Indian poet once spotted a ruby, shining in the moon light, and eagerly approached it, enchanted by it, only to find a blood red spittle of beetle. We often come across such humorous stories in literature, showing the pitfalls of prolific conceptualisation.


Dear @stu, that is SO classic :rofl: :joy:

Took me right back - I used to read brer rabbit as a little girl :smile:

@Christopher Well done detective - thank you :pray: :smiley:


Can I ask how you found them. Do you have some search function or have you memorized them to such an amazing degree that you can find the exact place in over 800 pages?

In awe


A master of Google Fu does not reveal his secrets to those outside the clan :ninja:t2:

But anything for a Dhamma sister! Both of those similes sounded very familiar to me, so I thought I could find it pretty easily. I did a general Google search on “dhamma,” “ruby,” and “spittle” (with quotes, so that it would only return results that mention all 3 of those exact words). The Nibbāna Sermons came up as the fifth result, and I knew that’s where it was (and was pretty sure the other simile was in there too). I have a copy of the Nibbāna Sermons as a Word document, and I just did a search of the document for “ruby” and found the passage. I then did another search on “reflection” and found the other one.


I bow to the Master of Google Fu :bowing_woman:


I searched through Ja 546 Mahā-Ummaggajātaka [Mahānipāta] and can’t find the story. I confess I haven’t read the whole thing, but if you have, could you or @Viveka point out where it is?

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On SC, Ja 546 is listed as the Vidhurapandita Jātaka. The Maha-Ummagga Jātaka is at Ja 542. Here’s the relevant story:

Now the king desired to test the sage. At that time there was a precious jewel in a crow’s nest on a palm-tree which stood on the bank of a lake near the southern gate, and the image of this jewel was to be seen reflected upon the lake. They told the king that there was a jewel in the lake. He sent for Senaka, saying, “They tell me there is a jewel in the lake; how are we to get it?” Senaka said, “The best way is to drain out the water.” The king instructed him to do so; and he collected a number of men, and got out the water and mud, and dug up the soil at the bottom—but no jewel could he see. But when the lake was again full, there was the reflexion of the jewel to be seen once more. Again Senaka did the same thing, and found no jewel. Then the king sent for the sage, and said, “A jewel has been seen in the lake, and Senaka has taken out the water and mud and dug up the earth without finding it, but no sooner is the lake full than it appears again. Can you get hold of it?” He replied, “That is no hard task, sire, I will get it for you.” The king was pleased at this promise, and with a great following he went to the lake, ready to see the might of the sage’s knowledge. The Great Being stood on the bank, and looked. He perceived that the jewel was not in the lake, but must be in the tree, and he said aloud, “Sire, there is no jewel in the tank.” “What! is it not visible in the water?” So he sent for a pail of water, and said, “Now my lord, see—is not this jewel visible both in the pail and the lake?” “Then where can the jewel be?” “Sire, it is the reflexion which is visible both in the lake and in the pail, but the jewel is in a crow’s nest in this palm-tree: send up a man and have it brought down.” The king did so: the man brought down the jewel, and the sage put it into the king’s hand. All the people applauded the sage and mocked at Senaka—“Here’s a precious jewel in a crow’s nest up a tree, and Senaka makes strong men dig out the lake! Surely a wise man should be like Mahosadha.” Thus they praised the Great Being; and the king being delighted with him, gave him a necklace of pearls from his own neck, and strings of pearls to the thousand boys, and to him and his retinue he granted the right to wait upon him without ceremony.