What drug was Ananda taking?

In Sutta 10 (“Subhasuttam”) of the Digha Nikaya we hear of an occasion where Ananda is asked to go visit Subha, but replies that the day is not right because he has taken ‘medicine’.

What is the medicine? I’m searching for the Pali term. And, I’m searching for those who have understanding of the wider cultural-context.

Was he on some kind of opiate or sedative.. or some other “intoxicant”?

Why was the occasion not correct? He was older than Buddha, and Buddha had recently passed into parinibbāna at this point.


So, here is Walshe’s translation. The relevant piece is 1.4.


And, here is the Pali (of the relevant passage, 1.4):

Evaṃ vutte, āyasmā ānando taṃ māṇavakaṃ etadavoca –
“akālo kho, māṇavaka.
Atthi me ajja bhesajjamattā pītā.
Appevanāma svepi upasaṅkameyyāma kālañca samayañca upādāyā”ti.

Evaṃ, bho”ti kho so māṇavako āyasmato ānandassa paṭissutvā
uṭṭhāyāsanā yena subho māṇavo todeyyaputto tenupasaṅkami;
upasaṅkamitvā subhaṃ māṇavaṃ todeyyaputtaṃ etadavoca,

avocumhā khomayaṃ bhoto vacanena taṃ bhavantaṃ ānandaṃ –
‘subho māṇavo todeyyaputto bhavantaṃ ānandaṃ appābādhaṃ appātaṅkaṃ
lahuṭṭhānaṃ balaṃ phāsuvihāraṃ pucchati, evañca vadeti –
“sādhu kira bhavaṃānando yena subhassa māṇavassa todeyyaputtassa
nivesanaṃ tenupasaṅkamatu anukampaṃ upādāyā'”ti.

Evaṃ vutte, bho, samaṇo ānando maṃ etadavoca –
‘akālo kho, māṇavaka. Atthi me ajja bhesajjamattā pītā.
Appevanāma svepi upasaṅkameyyāma kālañca samayañca upādāyā’ti.
Ettāvatāpi kho, bho, katameva etaṃ, yato kho so bhavaṃ ānando okāsamakāsi
svātanāyapi upasaṅkamanāyā”ti.

Trying to untangle:

  • akālo
    Pali-Dictonary from VRI akālo:Unseasonableness,wrong time
  • bhesajjamattā
    Concise P-E Dictionary bhesajjamattā:[f.] a dose of medicine.

So, these are two most relevant terms. It is the ‘wrong time’ (akalo) because he has ‘taken a dose of medicine’ (bhesajjamatta).

  • Can we know anything about the type of medicine that is being referred to here
  • Does this Pali term reveal anything about what the substance may have been?

From here, I learn that “bheṣajya raja bodhisattva” means ‘Medicine King Bodhisattva’. So, I imagine that ‘bhes’ is the part of bhesajjamattā that means “medicine”.

Now, what does the ajjamatta entail? It must mean ‘taking a dose’ or something..

ajjaPali-Dictionary Vipassana Research Institute

Now, what is matta?

matta PTS Pali-English dictionary The Pali Text Society’s Pali-English dictionary
Matta,2 [pp.of madati] intoxicated (with)…


It seems to mean: “now intoxicated”.

So, with the meaning I’m finding for Matta, it seems that it suggests that Ananda is saying:

“I’m now intoxicated (under the influence of) medicine. (bhesajjamattā) It is the wrong time. (akālo)”


Does that make any sense?

Thank you!


    1. Thank you! I’m meeting some resistance from the Buddhist-internet on this one… People think it is idle speculation on an insignificant sutta. Bah! This is interesting! Study is not forbidden!

      Study and Practice.
      Wisdom and Compassion!


    2. hey, I made the mistake of equating matta and majja! but, my original question is still alive.. it still seems that the medicine was some sort of intoxicant that incapacitated him.


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