do any monks follow the prescription of the buddha these days and use urine as a medicine?
I seem to remember a talk where Ajahn Brahm suggested that he had drunk his own urine in the past. Don’t know if it was for medicinal purposes or if he was just thirsty and had no fresh water.
What is the “prescription” of the Buddha for using urine as a medicine?
Medicinal urine in one of our four requisites or material supports, our basic needs, which the Buddha asks monastics to rely upon in their most humble forms:
- Accommodation - to be content with staying at the foot of a tree
- Robes - be content with rags for robes
- Almsfood be content with whatever is offered as food, such as leftovers
- Medicine be content with fermented urine as medicine.
We are reminded of these simple supports by our preceptor during our ordination. There’s also a few suttas that mention these supports, like this:
A variation is regularly chanted in monasteries that encourages us to "wisely reflect"on their use, though medicines in that context seems to have a broader scope than just urine, and today we take it to mean life-time medicines as well as seven day tonics.
Of course, we are allowed improvements on these basic things, but these are regarded as the bare minimum that we should be satisfied with as monastics. So, we should be content with staying at the foot of a tree but are allowed the improvement of a hut if it is available. Similarly, we are allowed robes that are not made from rags, food that isn’t leftovers, and other types of medicine, such as paracetamol, antihistamines etc
@MOCA There are some monks who use urine for certain limited medicinal care, especially in the forest for things such as cuts, insect bites or rashes. I guess a few might drink it. I believe that later uses of urine practiced by some people today are quite different from the way it was used in the time of the Buddha, where specifically fermented or putrid urine was called for, the purpose being curative medicine particularly, not drinking daily straight from the source as a preventative or panacea as some people do today… In any case, I’d say monks drinking urine are very much in the minority these days.
I remember hearing that the urine used in the Buddha’s time may have been cow urine. It still retains special significance to some Hindus today, coming as it does from the sacred cow. Other cultures drank mare urine. An enzyme from mares urine was later used as a basis for the contraceptive pill! So, who knows what other uses or medicinal benefits there might be!
I also seem to remember somewhere in the Vinaya there is a recipe for medicine to heal snake bite. It contains urine, faeces, mud and blood (I think?). Personally, I’m glad that there has been quite a bit of progress in the field of medicine in the last 2500 years and am happy that these days there are more efficatious remedies available!
Thanks so much for your detailed answer!
I saw a video of a guy in the Middle East drinking from his camel. Makes sense for nomadic cultures i guess…
Yes, thanks for mentioning this! this snake bite treatment sounds like a purgative? Although i forget the sutta, it was something like “the four dirty things” (might be in AN4?) and included ash, excrement, urine et al.
" For snakebite: A medicine may be made of the “four great filthy things”: excrement, urine, ashes, and clay (!). If there is someone present to make these things allowable, one should have him/her make them allowable. If not, one may take them for oneself and consume them. The Commentary notes that this allowance covers not only snakebite, but also any other poisonous animal bite."
Lots of other great stuff in there too.
Just mind that excrement, faeces, are to be burnt completely before they can be used as medicine!
Note however that in ancient China people actually made and consumed a yellow soup out of faeces.