27 September 2022

#67. Kāśyapa

3 min read

Cave No. 9

Identification: episodes 1 to 3 by Foucher (1921, narrative no. 53), 4 to 8 by Schlingloff (2013). The legend is from the life of the Buddha.—

As the Buddha began teaching his sermon and accepted his first disciples as monks in his doctrine, he thought of converting an ascetic. Thus, he went to Magadha, where an old brahman named Urubilva-Kāśyapa, belonging to Kāśyapa lineage, lived with his disciples near the river Nairañjana. Once, Kāśyapa invited the Buddha to stay awhile. The Buddha expressed his wish to spend the night in the brahman’s fire house. Kāśyapa informed the Buddha about a poisonous snake which dwelt in that house, but the Buddha entered the fire house and sat in meditation. The enraged snake spewed smoke and fire, but the Buddha, deep in meditation, produced such a bright light that Kāśyapa thought the fire house was ablaze and the Buddha had turned to ashes. The Buddha forced the snake into his food bowl and took the animal to Kāśyapa. Kāśyapa was surprised and deeply impressed by the power of his meditation.

Next, the Buddha demonstrated to Kāśyapa his control over the fire. Kāśyapa’s disciples attended to three fire pots and tried to light a fire. Kāśyapa correctly assumed that because of the Buddha’s power, they failed to do so; on Kāśyapa’s request, the Buddha lit the fire. Once, when Kāśyapa’s hut caught fire, no one could extinguish the blaze. Only the Buddha could do so with his magical power. Kāśyapa observed the nightly visits of the deities to the Buddha. First came the Four Kings of Heaven followed by Indra; then came Brahmā who appeared like columns of fire. Later, the Buddha accepted Kāśyapa’s invitation for some lavish entertainment. He repeatedly offered delicious fruits to Kāśyapa and filled his bowl with food derived from different plants.

On another occasion, Kāśyapa sat down beside the Buddha to eat a meal. The Buddha wanted water to clean himself. Indra appeared and produced a stream of water from the earth’s cleavage. The Buddha, after his ablutions, bathed in that water; the branch of an Arjuna tree bent low, so that he could seize it. When the Buddha wanted to clean his patched robe, Indra provided him with a big stone to thrash his wet clothes on and another slab for drying them.

The people of Magadha would come to Kāśyapa to pay their respect during a seven-day festival. Kāśyapa feared that the people would pay respect to the Buddha rather than to him; the Buddha read his mind, and departed. After the festival, he came back on Kāśyapa’s secret bidding. Once, the river Nairañjana flooded, but the Buddha walked on a dry ground. Kāśyapa thought that he might drown and went in a boat to rescue him. When Kāśyapa saw him walking on the ground, he asked the Buddha to come on board. The Buddha rose above the water and stepped into Kāśyapa’s boat. Kāśyapa was amazed at all these miracles but still considered himself to be a saint. The Buddha again read his mind and told him that he had not attained sainthood. When Kāśyapa became aware of his weakness, he asked the Buddha to let him become a monk. The Buddha admitted Kāśyapa, and later, his two brothers into his doctrine. The Buddha went to Gaya from Urubilva, where he manifested his spiritual powers to his newly converted disciples with three miracles; that of his magical power, of his authority and of his persuasive power. Thus, the Kāśyapa brothers and other disciples became saints.

—Source: Singh 2019, 31-33; Schlingloff 2013, I, 381-383

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