According to Buddhist literature, the deadliest epidemic called “Ahivāthaka ” was spread in the state of Rājagaha in ancient India (at present it is known as Bihar State) in the Buddha’s era in 2600 years ago.

The word “Ahivāthaka” is derived from two words (Ahi + Vāthaka) in the Pāli language.  The word “Ahi” means the snake venom and “Vāthaka” means the infection through the air.

As a first step, the flys and mosquitoes that inhabit the home, are the first to infect the epidemic. It’s gradually infected cats, dogs, and cattle, which eventually leads to the outbreak of the epidemic to humans and the ultimate result is the severe deaths.

Although the way of infection is slightly different, this “Ahivāthaka” epidemic is much similar in nature to what we experience today since it is speculated that this too began with the consumption of animal flesh (especially the snake flesh) in Wuhan Province, China.

The ancient method of controlling that “Ahivāthaka” epidemic was to seal the house while the vector was at home. Only if the carrier gets cured of the immune system, he can go out by breaking the wall of the sealed house by himself. There is nothing wrong with calling this process the “quarantine” that we called it today.

There is a reference in the Buddhist literature that a young man named “Kumbha Ghōshaka” survived from the epidemic in 2600 years ago. There is much we can learn from that young man who survived the epidemic in that era.

After he survived the epidemic, he chose a job called the “Pabōdana Chōdana”. That is, to make people awake. He wakes up early in the morning and encourages people to wake up and makes people alacrity to do their work.

It is not wrong to refer this young man as the State of China, which survived from today’s global pandemic and appears to be serving as the role of the young man who survived from Ahivāthaka epidemic in 2600 years ago which waking up to take necessary precautions early to encounter the situations.

Unfortunately, some states forget to wake up and keep on sleeping without hearing from the survivors.

References: Pāli Canon (Thripitikaya), Kuddaka Nikāya, Dhammapada Pāli, Appamāda Wagga (4th Chapter)

Author – Ven. Homagama Rewatha Thero

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