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Kumāra-Kassapa

1. Kumāra-Kassapa Thera.– He was foremost among those who had the gift of varied and versatile discourse (cittakathikānaṃ) (A.i.24). His mother was the daughter of a banker of Rājagaha, and she, having failed to obtain her parent’s consent to become a nun, married and, with her husband’s consent, joined the Order, not knowing that she was pregnant. When her condition was discovered her colleagues consulted Devadatta, who declared that she was no true nun. The Buddha, on being consulted, entrusted the matter to Upāli, who had it fully investigated by Visākhā and other residents of Sāvatthi, and he gave his finding in the assembly, in the presence of the king, that the nun was innocent. (For details see J.i.148; Upāli’s handling of the case won the Buddha’s special commendation, see, e.g., AA.i.172). When the boy was born the king reared him, and the boy was ordained at the age of seven. The boy came to be called Kumāra, because he joined the Order so young and was of royal upbringing, and also because the Buddha, when sending him little delicacies such as fruit, referred to him as Kumāra Kassapa. Once, when Kumāra Kassapa was meditating in Andhavana, a non-returner Brahmā, who had been his companion in the time of Kassapa Buddha, appeared before him, and asked him fifteen questions that only the Buddha could answer. This led to the teaching of the Vammika Sutta (M.i.143 ff), and after dwelling on its teachings Kassapa became an Arahant. (For Kumāra Kassapa’s story see J.i.147 ff; AA.i.158 f; ThagA.i.322 f; MA.i.335 f). His mother, too, developed insight and attained to Arahantship. It is said that she wept for twelve years because she could not be with Kassapa, and one day, seeing him in the street, as she ran towards him and fell, milk flowed from her breasts and wet her robe. Kassapa, realising that her great love was standing in the way of her attainments, spoke harshly to her that she might love him the less. The ruse succeeded and she became an Arahant that very day (DhA.iii.147).

In the time of Padumuttara Buddha Kassapa was a learned brahmin, and having heard a monk ranked foremost in eloquence, he wished for a similar distinction and did many acts of piety towards that end. When the teachings of Kassapa Buddha were being forgotten, he, together with six others, entered the Order and lived a life of rigorous asceticism on the summit of a mountain. (Ap.ii.473 f; the details of this story are given in DhA.ii.210‑12; among Kassapa’s companions were also Pukkusāti, Bāhiya Dārucīriya, Dabba Mallaputta, and Sabhiya Thera; see also UdA.80 f).

Two verses of deep significance ascribed to Kumāra-Kassapa are found in the Theragāthā (vv.201.202). Although it is said that he was a very eloquent speaker, the examples given of his teaching are extremely scanty. The Aṅguttaranikāya Commentary (i.159) states that the Buddha gave him his title from the skilful way in which he argued with Pāyāsi, as related in the Pāyāsi Sutta; but this cannot be correct for, according to Dhammapāla (VvA.297), the events of the Pāyāsi Sutta took place after the Buddha’s death. The Sutta, however, does justify Kassapa’s reputation. (For his praises see also MA.i.500 f).

Kassapa’s higher ordination (upasampadā) took place in his twentieth year. A doubt arose as to whether this was valid because, according to the rule, twenty years must be completed before upasampadā. The Buddha held that in reckoning the age the time spent in the mother’s womb could also be included. Vin.i.93; Sp.iv.867.

2. Kumāra-Kassapa.– A thera in Sri Lanka, at whose request was written the Dhammapadaṭṭhakathā. DhA.i.1; Gv.68.

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