Vomitting Hot Blood

Every so often when going through the Suttas, I will come across the phrase that one or many, ‘vomited up hot blood’. What does this mean? This seems to me to be an idiom. Are there idioms in Pali?

I came across this phrase just now while listening to the story of when Sariputta and Moggolana left their first teacher. It said that after the two great disciples left their old teacher became very upset and vomited up hot blood.

I have also read this phrase, the story I remember it from was from a Sutta where the Buddha was walking with many disciples during the night. Off the path a man was sitting by a large fire, the Buddha then gave a sermon about the desires of the man next to the fire. Many monks were displeased by the teaching and were said to have ‘vomited up hot blood’ before deciding to disrobe.


This is found in Kd1 (just search for blood)

Devadatta vomits hot blood in Kd17

an7.72. It’s mentioned in Mil5.3.2

It’s also mentioned in sn4.25 and mn36.

By idiom, do you mean that the phrase refers to something other than literal hot blood being vomited? Like the phrase “he saw red”? I have always assumed that when it says hot blood is vomited, that means that hot blood is vomited.


Could be figurative language that describes an apoplectic diatribe by someone who is very angry?

I’m unaware of anyone in the modern world who literally vomits up hot blood after becoming angry. So unless people living in that time and that place were unusually angry or had some kind of pervasive medical problem, I think assuming it is figurative language to be the more conservative approach.



Not to argue, but I’d say the more conservative approach would be to take it as written unless there is proof otherwise. It’s certainly possible to vomit blood. Unlike the idiom “see red” where clearly objects in ones field of vision don’t change colour. In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether it is literal or not, imo.

In a couple of cases (mn36, an7.72) there is mention of simultaneous heart explosion, so I guess you could argue that was figurative (since they don’t die immediately, which one would expect) and therefore the vomiting might be also. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


In the Serivanija Jātaka story, the 3rd story in the collection, the tale ends with an angry man’s death (the future Devadatta) related in graphic detail, including gushing blood from his mouth.


I guess this gets into what the meaning of ‘conservative’ is and whether we have different definitions? For me, here it means something like, “in the face of uncertainty, assume the very least amount.” Given I can make sense of the term as figurative language and can also make sense of them as literal I think the figurative has the smaller amount of baggage. Why? Because it doesn’t involve me assuming “is”, “are”, “be” as positive truth values in the face of the unknown.

To be sure, I don’t know that the figurative is the case. I don’t know if the literal is the case. I don’t know if it is some combination where sometimes it is meant literally and sometimes figuratively. I don’t know if there is some third, fourth, fifth possibility that I’m overlooking or haven’t foreseen. I know very little.

In my own experience, when I assume the literal and commit to some hypothesis like “although I don’t know it to be the case, unless shown otherwise I’ll assume the passage is literal” I find that over time this uncertain statement has the habit of slowly turning into a certainty or near certainty in my mind. I find myself arguing that the literal is actually the case when in fact I don’t know it, I’m just assuming it.

In my own experience, when I assume the figurative and don’t commit to some hypothesis that something actually is the case, then I find the uncertainty to stick around longer and I remember that my assumption is just that - an assumption - and I’m more open and flexible to being shown evidence contrary to my speculative assumption.

In other words, I guess I think the figurative leads to less heavy metaphysical assumptions than the literal and as metaphysical assumptions tend to drift in my mind from uncertainty to certainty, with forgetfulness of my own uncertainty, I think it more conservative to assume the less weighty metaphysical assumption. That is why I call it the more conservative option.

Still it isn’t the most conservative option. That would probably be just to not assume anything at all. To read the passages and understand that a figurative or a literal reading is possible and then to rest with my own uncertainty about which is the case without assuming either. That’s probably the most conservative approach to my mind at least.

Without arguing maybe you can explain your definition of ‘conservative’ here and why the literal reading seems more fitting to your definition?



What are other uses for the word here translated as “vomit”? I’m wondering if it would plausibly refer to spitting blood from the mouth, or else coughing up blood.

The suttas describe people breathing fire, so a spout of blood from the stomach isn’t necessarily out of place, I’m just curious if this could also have a more naturalistic interpretation.

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We discussed this once earlier on the forum here.

TLDR, its most likely an idiom, whose closest English translation is ‘to spew hot words’ . The idiom ‘hot blood’ in Indian languages is commonly used in reference to angry, ill thought out, ill conceived and/or impulsive speech and actions. (similar to how young testosterone driven males and their actions can be referred to in English as ‘hot blooded’).



Thank you everyone for sharing.

I’m giving @faujidoc1 the solution badge, as it leads to further discussion should someone search for the phrase “vomited hot blood” and they end up in this topic discussion.


I know this has been solved but just wanted to say that “spitting blood” is also a common english idiom for losing ones temper, so the figurative interpretation has that giong for it to.


Yes, I don’t know what TKDL means, but I agree it’s an idiom, perhaps like, ‘my blood was boiling…’.


Seems to me to be a very fitting and graphic description of a devil getting owned.

Similar to the common German expression that somebody “bit into a sour apple”.

the plain english translation of this always made sense to me.

people with severe hate, jealousy or anger towards the buddha would likely be the sort to have had stomach ulcers and stress.

the vomiting hot blood just sounds like the completion of that sort of medical condition under circumstances when they experience ever greater stress - bursting some blood vessel in the midst of a hypertensive episode etc.

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Because of poorly grounded attention (ayoniso manasikārā) you’re bitten (khajjasi) by your thoughts (vitakkehi).

Akusalavitakkasutta (SN 9.11)

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So be it, but I abstain from considering the matter concluded. Perhaps this is a different case.

"Sañjaya then fainted, and hot blood issued from his mouth"1

This man is not speaking angry words. He’s out. And prior to that he was in a state of moral anguish and despair. Not anger.

1 Maha-Moggallana

One of the two Thai translations of AN7.72, that of Mahachulalongkorn Uni, does in fact have the sixty monks spitting blood. The other, that of Mahamakut Uni, has the blood gushing out.

The “spitting” translation, if accepted, would open the door to the possibility that the mental distress occasioned by hearing the sutta caused the sixty bhikkhus to have either a facial seizure or facial muscle spasms, either of which might have caused them to bite their tongues. With the resulting contusion being lingual, rather than pulmonary or gastrointestinal, the blood would be small in quantity. And since the blood is already in the mouth, its ejection from the body would be via spitting rather than vomiting.

Such a scenario might appeal to those who favour a literal rather than figurative reading of the episode but who are discomfited by the absence of any known medical condition that would produce the effect described on account of the reasons given.

On the other hand, it seems to be beset by a couple of problems of its own.

Firstly, it’s at odds with the Milindapañha’s account, in which the exsanguination is attributed to a fever (pariḷāha) rather than a seizure.

Secondly, as far as I know, the verb uggacchati always involves upward motion. This would be readily compatible with the idea of blood rising up from the lungs or the intestines, but it would be a bit of a stretch to associate it with spitting. In spitting there can only be upward motion if one leans back one’s head and discharges at a vertical or diagonal angle – a very peculiar way of going about it!