The Great Etadagga

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The Great Etadagga

Post by yawares » Mon May 28, 2012 12:04 pm

Dear Members,

I would like to thank Bhikkhu Gavesako for giving me this beautifully written story of the great Thera MahaKassapa. This Uposatha Day I'm so delighted to present one of the greatest stories ever told to you all.

Thera Maha Kassapa: Father of The Sangha
[by Hellmuth Hecker revised and enlarged translation from the German by Nyanaponika Thera @ 1995–2012]

Among those of the Buddha's disciples who were closest to him, there were two friends, Sariputta and Maha Moggallana, who were the chief disciples of the Buddha, the exemplary pair of disciples. There were also two brothers, Ananda and Anuruddha, who were likewise eminent "Fathers of the Order." In between these two pairs stands a great solitary figure, Pipphali Kassapa, who later was called Maha Kassapa, Kassapa the Great, to distinguish him from the others of the Kassapa clan, such as Kumara Kassapa and Uruvela Kassapa.

After Sariputta and Maha Moggallana had passed away, predeceasing the Buddha, it was Maha Kassapa who was held in greatest respect and reverence in the Order. But even after the Buddha's passing away, Maha Kassapa did not become the elected head of the Order of Monks, as it had been the Buddha's express wish that there should not be a supreme authoritative head of the Sangha. Shortly before his passing away, the Buddha had said: "That which I have proclaimed and made known, Ananda, as the Teaching and the Discipline (Dhamma-Vinaya), that shall be your Master when I am gone" (D.16).

Yet the natural authority emanating from Maha Kassapa made him particularly honored and venerated in the Sangha. There were many factors that contributed to his pre-eminent position after the death of the Master. He had been praised by the Buddha as being equal to him in many respects[1] and he shared with the Master seven of the thirty-two "Marks of a Great Man." He had been the only monk with whom the Buddha had exchanged robes. Maha Kassapa possessed to the highest degree the ten "qualities that inspire confidence."[2] He was also a model of a disciplined and austere life devoted to meditation. So it is no wonder that he was elected to preside over the First Council of the Sangha which had been summoned on his urgent advice. It may have been on account of all these features of his personality and his life that, much later in China and Japan, Maha Kassapa came to be regarded as the first patriarch of Ch'an or Zen Buddhism.

MahaKassapa: The Great Etadagga

[by Hellmuth Hecker revised and enlarged translation from the German by Nyanaponika Thera @ 1995–2012]

Like the two chief disciples, Sariputta and Maha Moggallana, Maha Kassapa too descended from the brahman caste, and again like them, he was older than the Buddha. He was born in the Magadha country, in the village Mahatittha, as the son of the brahman Kapila and his wife Sumanadevi. He was called Pipphali. His father owned sixteen villages over which he ruled like a little king, so Pipphali grew up in the midst of wealth and luxury. Yet already in his young years there was in him the wish to leave the worldly life behind, and hence he did not want to marry. When his parents repeatedly urged him to take a wife, he told them that he would look after them as long as they live, but that after their deaths he wanted to become an ascetic. Yet they insisted again and again that he take a wife, so to comfort his mother he finally agreed to marry — on the condition that a girl could be found who conformed to his idea of perfection. For that purpose he shaped a golden statue of a beautiful woman, had it bedecked with fine garments and ornaments, and showed it to his parents, saying: "If you can find a woman like this for me, I shall remain in the home life." His parents approached eight brahmans, showered them with rich gifts, and asked them to take the image with them and travel around in search of a human likeness of it. The brahmans thought: "Let us first go to the Madda country, which is, as it were, a gold mine of beautiful women." There they found at Sagala a girl whose beauty equaled that of the image. She was Bhadda Kapilani, a wealthy brahman's daughter, aged sixteen, four years younger than Pipphali Kassapa. Her parents agreed to the marriage proposal, and the brahmans returned to tell of their success. Yet Bhadda Kapilani also did not wish to marry, as it was her wish, too, to live a religious life as a female ascetic. Such identity between her aspiration and Pipphali Kassapa's may well point to a kammic bond and affinity between them in the past, maturing in their present life and leading to a decisive meeting between them and a still more decisive separation later on.

When Pipphali heard that what he had thought most unlikely had actually occurred, he was — unhappy and sent the following letter to the girl: "Bhadda, please marry someone else of equal status and live a happy home life with him. As for myself, I shall become an ascetic. Please do not have regrets." Bhadda Kapilani, like-minded as she was, independently sent him a similar letter. But their parents, suspecting such an exchange would take place, had both letters intercepted on the way and replaced by letters of welcome.

So Bhadda was taken to Magadha and the young couple were married. However, in accordance with their ascetic yearning, both agreed to maintain a life of celibacy. To give expression to their resolve, they would lay a garland of flowers between them before they went to bed, determined not to yield to sensual desire.

This young wealthy couple lived thus happily and in comfort for many years. As long as Pipphali's parents lived, they did not even have to look after the estate's farms. But when his parents died, they took charge of the large property.

One day, however, when Pipphali Kassapa was inspecting the fields, it happened that he saw, as if with new eyes, what he had seen so often before. He observed that when his people plowed, many birds gathered and eagerly picked the worms from the furrows. This sight, so common to a farmer, now startled him. It now struck him forcefully that what brought him his wealth, the produce of his fields, was bound up with the suffering of other living beings. His livelihood was purchased with the death of so many worms and other little creatures living in the soil. Thinking about this, he asked one of his laborers: "Who will have to bear the consequences of such an action?" — "You yourself, sir," was the answer.

Shaken by that insight into kammic retribution, he went home and reflected: "If I have to carry along the burden of guilt for that killing, what use is all that wealth to me? It will be better if I give it all to Bhadda and go forth into the ascetic's life."

But at home, at about the same time, his wife had a similar experience. She too saw afresh with a deeper understanding what she had very often seen before. Sesamum seeds had been spread out in the open to dry, and crows and other birds ate the insects that had been attracted by the seeds. When Bhadda asked her servants who it was that had to account morally for the violent death of so many creatures, she was told that the kammic responsibility was hers. Then she thought: "If even by that much I commit a wrong, I won't be able to lift my head above the ocean of rebirths, even in a thousand lives. As soon as Pipphali returns, I shall hand over everything to him and leave to take up the ascetic life."

When both found themselves of one accord, they had pale-yellow cloth and clay bowls brought for them from the bazaar, and then shaved each other's head. They thus became like ascetic wanderers, and they made the aspiration: "Those who are Arahats in the world, to them we dedicate our going forth!" Slinging their almsbowls over their shoulders, they left the estate's manor, unnoticed by the house servants. But when they reached the next village, which belonged to the estate, the laborers and their families saw them. Crying and lamenting, they fell to the feet of the two ascetics and exclaimed: "Oh, dear and noble ones! Why do you want to make us helpless orphans?" — "It is because we have seen the three worlds to be like a house afire, therefore we go forth into the homeless life." To those who were serfs, Pipphali Kassapa granted their freedom, and he and Bhadda continued on their road. leaving the villagers behind still weeping.

When walking on, Kassapa went ahead while Bhadda followed behind him. Considering this, Kassapa thought: "Now, this Bhadda Kapilani follows me close behind, and she is a woman of great beauty. Some people - could easily think, 'Though they are ascetics, they still cannot live without each other! It is unseemly what they are doing.' If they spoil their minds by such wrong thoughts or even spread false rumors, they will cause harm to themselves." So he thought it better that they separate. When they reached a crossroads Kassapa said: "Bhadda, you take one of these roads, and I shall go the other way." She said: "It is true, for ascetics a woman is an obstacle. People might think and speak badly about us. So please go your own way, and we shall now part." She then respectfully circumambulated him thrice, saluted him at his feet, and with folded hands she spoke:

"Our close companionship and friendship that had lasted for an unfathomable past comes to an end today. Please take the path to the right and I shall take the other road." Thus they parted and went their individual ways, seeking the high goal of Arahatship, final deliverance from suffering. It is said that the earth, shaken by the power of their virtue, quaked and trembled.

Note : This last paragraph really made me cry.

Love Buddha's dhamma,

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