6 October 2022

#84. Devāvatāra

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Cave No. 16

Identification: Foucher (1921, narrative nos. 58–60).

The legend is from the life of the Buddha.—After defeating the ascetics with his superhuman powers, the Buddha went to Indra’s heaven. He spent three months there and preached the doctrine to his mother, who was reborn as a goddess, besides other gods and goddesses. On earth, the monks were yearning for the Buddha’s return. Therefore, the monk, Maudgalyāyaṇa, flew to Indra’s heaven and received the Buddha’s promise to descend to earth after a week. For the Buddha’s departure, the gods made three staircases of precious material, ending near the city gates in a grove of fig trees at Sāṃkāśya. The Buddha was escorted by Brahmā and Indra. He descended to the middle staircase while Brahmā and Indra,with their entourage, joined on the right and left staircases, respectively. On his return, the monk, Śāriputra, welcomed him. There was a huge crowd waiting to honour the Buddha. The monk, Subhūti, chose to meditate in isolation. The nun, Utpalavarṇā, arrived late and missed the Buddha’s reception. She edged close to the Buddha’s throne in the form of a great king and attended his sermon from the first row, but was recognised by the monk, Udāyin by her female smell. Subsequently, the Buddha issued a rule that one should not use one’s superhuman powers for personal advantage.

—Source: Singh 2019, 31-33; Schlingloff 2013, I, 476

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