The Snake Simile
Thus have I heard:
At one time the Buddha was at Mala, and taught thus.
“To those who do not wisely examine their purpose, these teachings will not yield insight. Some people, for example, study the teachings only to use them in argument. To them, these teachings, wrongly grasped, will bring harm and suffering.
“Suppose a man wants a snake. He sees a snake, and when he grasps its tail, the snake bites him. Because of that, he suffers death or pain, and why, because of his wrong grasp of the snake.
“But suppose a man wants a snake, sees a snake, and with a forked stick holds it firmly down. Having done so, he catches it firmly by the neck. Similarly, there are some here who, having learned, examine wisely the purpose of the teachings. To them, these teachings will bring welfare and happiness.
“Having crossed a river on a raft he made by tying together bundles of reeds, and having arrived at the other shore, a man thinks ‘This raft has been helpful. I will lift it onto my back and go on’. Will the raft then be help or hindrance to that man?
“In this way, the Dharma is like a raft. It has the purpose of crossing over, not of being clung to.”