One of the Buddha’s most eminent disciples, chief among those who upheld minute observances of form (dhutavādānaṃ).¹ He was born in the brahmin village of Mahātittha in Magadha, and was the son of the brahmin Kapila, his mother being Sumanādevī; he himself was called Pippali.² When he grew up he refused to marry in spite of the wishes of his parents; but in the end, to escape from their importunities, he agreed to marry if a wife could be found resembling a statue, which he had made. Bhaddā Kāpilānī was found at Sāgala to fulfil these conditions, and though the young people wrote to each other suggesting that somebody else should be found as a match for each, their letters were intercepted and they were married. However, by mutual consent the marriage was not consummated, the two spending the night separated by a chain of flowers. Pippali had immense wealth; he used twelve measures of perfumed powder daily, each measure a Magadha-
The husband and wife, finding that they were of one accord, took yellow clothes from their wardrobe, cut off each other’s hair, took bowls in their hands, and passed out through their weeping servants, to all of whom they granted their freedom, and departed together, Pippali walking in front. However, soon they agreed that it was not seemly they should walk thus together, as each must prove a hindrance to the other. And so, at the cross-
The Buddha, sitting in the Gandhakuṭi in Veḷuvana, knew what the earthquake signified, and having walked three quarters of a league,³ sat down at the foot of the Bahuputtaka Nigrodha, between Rājagaha and Nāḷandā, resplendent in all the glory of a Buddha. Pippali⁴ saw the Buddha, and recognising him at once as his teacher, prostrated himself before him. The Buddha told him to be seated, and, in three homilies,⁵ gave him his ordination.
Together they returned to Rājagaha, Kassapa, who bore on his body seven of the thirty-
In the past, Kassapa and Bhaddā had been husband and wife and companions in good works in many births. In the time of Padumuttara Buddha, Kassapa was a very rich householder named Vedeha and married to Bhaddā, and very devoted to the Buddha. One day he heard the Buddha’s third disciple in rank (Nisabha) being awarded the place of pre-
In the next birth he was Nanda, king of Bārāṇasī, and, because he had given robes in past lives, he had thirty-
Kassapa was not present at the death of the Buddha; as he was journeying from Pāvā to Kusinārā he met an Ājīvaka carrying in his hand a mandārava flower picked up by him from among those which had rained from heaven in honour of the Buddha, and it was he who told Kassapa the news. It was then the seventh day after the Buddha’s death, and the Mallas had been trying in vain to set fire to his pyre. The Arahant theras, who were present, declared that it could not be kindled until Mahā-
It is said ¹¹ that the relics of the Buddha which fell to Ajātasattu’s share were taken to Rājagaha by Kassapa, in view of that which would happen in the future. At Pāvā (on the announcement of the Buddha’s death), Kassapa had heard the words of Subhadda, who, in his old age, had joined the Order, that they were “well rid of the great recluse and could now do as they liked.” This remark it was which had suggested to Kassapa’s mind the desirability of holding a Recital of the Buddha’s teachings. He announced his intention to the assembled monks, and, as the senior among them and as having been considered by the Buddha himself to be fit for such a task, he was asked to make all necessary arrangements.¹² In accordance with his wishes, all the monks, other than the Arahants chosen for the Recital, left Rājagaha during the rainy season. The five hundred who were selected met in Council under the presidency of Kassapa and recited the Dhamma and the Vinaya.¹³ This recital is called the Therasaṅgitī or Theravāda.
The books contain numerous references to Mahā-
The Buddha regarded him as equal to himself in exhorting the monks to lead the active and zealous lives,¹⁵ and constantly held him up as an example to others in his great contentment.¹⁶ and his ability to win over families by his teaching.¹⁷ The Buddha also thought him equal to himself in his power of attaining the absorptions (jhāna) and abiding therein.¹⁸
Kassapa was willing to help monks along their way, and several instances are given of his exhortations to them;¹⁹ but he was evidently sensitive to criticism, and would not address them unless he felt them to be tractable and deferential to instruction.²⁰
He was very reluctant to teach the nuns, but on one occasion he allowed himself to be persuaded by Ānanda, and accompanied by him he visited the nunnery and taught the nuns. He was probably not popular among them, for, at the end of his discourse, Thulla-
Kassapa viewed with concern the growing laxity among members of the Order with regard to the observance of rules, even in the very lifetime of the Buddha, and the falling off in the number of those attaining Arahantship, and we find him consulting the Buddha as to what should be done.²⁵ Kassapa himself did his utmost to lead an exemplary life, dwelling in the forest, subsisting solely on alms, wearing rag robes, always content with little, holding himself aloof from society, ever strenuous and energetic.²⁶ When asked why he led such a life, he replied that it was not only for his own happiness but also out of compassion for those who came after him, that they might attain to the same end. Even when he was old and the Buddha himself had asked him to give up his coarse rag robe and to dwell near him, he begged to be excused.²⁷ Once, when Kassapa lay grievously ill at Pippaliguhā, the Buddha visited him and reminded him of the seven factors of enlightenment (bojjhaṅga), which he had practised.²⁸ The knowledge that he had profited by the Master’s teaching, we are told,²⁹ calmed his blood and purified his system, and the sickness fell away from him “like a drop of water from a lotus leaf.” He disdained being waited upon by anybody, even by a goddess such as Lājā, lest he should set a bad example.³⁰
Owing to his great saintliness, even the gods vied with each other to give alms to Kassapa. Once when he had risen from a trance lasting seven days, five hundred nymphs, wives of Sakka, appeared before him; but, snapping his fingers, he asked them to depart, saying that he bestowed his favours only on the poor.³¹ When Sakka heard of this, he disguised himself as a weaver worn with age, and accompanied by Sujātā, transformed into an old woman, appeared in a weaver’s hut along the lane where Kassapa was begging. The ruse succeeded and Kassapa accepted their alms; but, later, be discovered the truth and chided Sakka. Sakka begged forgiveness, and, on being assured that in spite of his deception the almsgiving would bring him merit, he flew into the air shouting, “Aho dānaṃ, mahā danaṃ, Kassapassa patitthitaṃ.” The Buddha heard this and sympathised with Sakka in his great joy.³² However, on one occasion so great was the importunity with which the monks of Āḷavi had wearied the people, that even Mahā-
Sāriputta seems to have held Kassapa in great esteem, and the Kassapa Saṃyutta contains two discussions between them: one on the necessity for zeal and ardour in the attainment of nibbāna,³⁶ and the other on the existence of a Tathāgata after death.³⁷ This regard was mutual, for when Kassapa saw the great honour paid to Sāriputta by the devas he rejoiced greatly and broke forth into verse.³⁸
Kassapa lived to be very old, and, when he died, had not lain on a bed for one hundred and twenty years.³⁹ He is several times referred to in the Jātaka stories. Thus, he was the father in the Bhagga Jātaka,⁴⁰ the brahmin in the Kurudhamma,⁴¹ one of the devaputtas in the Kakkāru,⁴² Mendissara in the Indriya,⁴³ and in the Sarabhaṅga,⁴⁴ the father in the Padakusalamānava,⁴⁵ the teacher in the Tittira,⁴⁶ Mātali in the Bīlārakosiya,⁴⁷ one of the seven brothers in the Bhissa,⁴⁸ the bear in the Pañcuposatha,⁴⁹ the chaplain in the Hatthipāla,⁵⁰ Vidhura in the Sambhava,⁵¹ the senior ascetic in the Saṅkhapāla,⁵² the millionaire Kulavaḍḍhana in the Cūḷasutasoma,⁵³ Suriya in the Sudhābhojana,⁵⁴ the tree sprite in the Mahāsutasoma,⁵⁵ the father in the Sāma,⁵⁶ and Sūra Vāmagotta in the Candakumāra.⁵⁷
³ This journey of the Buddha is often referred to, e.g., MA.i.347, 357.
⁴ Henceforth called Mahā-
⁵ The three homilies are given at S.ii.220, “Thus Kassapa must thou train thyself: 1) “There shall be a lively sense of fear and regard (hirotappa) towards all monks, seniors, novices, and those of middle status. 2) Whatever doctrine I shall hear bearing upon what is good, to all that I will hearken with attentive ear, digesting it, pondering it, gathering it all up with my will. 3) Happy mindfulness with respect to the body shall not be neglected by me.”
⁶ The robe that Kassapa exchanged with the Buddha was Puṇṇā’s cloak. See Puṇṇā (6). This incident Kassapa always recalled with pride, e.g. S.ii.221. It is said that the Buddha paid him this great honour because he knew that Kassapa would hold a recital after his death, and thus help in the perpetuation of his religion. SA.ii.130.
⁷ See Bhaddā Kāpilānī.
⁹ This account of Kassapa’s last life and his previous life is compiled from AA.i.92 ﬀ; SA.ii.135 ﬀ; ThagA.ii.134 ﬀ; Ap.ii.578 ﬀ. Ap.i.33 ﬀ. gives other particulars — that he made offerings at Padumuttara’s funeral pyre and that he was once a king named Ubbiddha in the city of Rammaka; see also ApA.i.209 f.
¹³ DA.i.3 f; 5 ﬀ; Sp.i.4.ff; Mhv.iii.3 ﬀ.
¹⁴ E.g., S.i.114; but his range of knowledge was limited; there were certain things which even Kassapa did not know (DhA.i.258).
¹⁷ The Buddha compares him to the moon (candopama), unobtrusive; his heart was free from bondage, and he always taught others out of a feeling of compassion. S.ii.197 ﬀ. Kassapa’s freedom from any kind of attachment was, as the Buddha pointed out to the monks, due to the earnest wish he had made for that attainment in the past, “He has no attachment to requisites or households or monasteries or cells; but is like a royal swan which goes down into a lake and swims there, while the water does not adhere to his body.” (DhA.ii.169 f).
¹⁸ S.ii.210 ﬀ.
¹⁹ E.g., Thag.vss.1051‑57, 1072‑81, and his long discourse at A.v.161 ﬀ.
²⁰ E.g., S.ii.203 ﬀ; and at 219, when Thullanandā finds fault with him for blaming Ānanda. Kassapa had good reason for not wishing to address recalcitrant monks. The Kuṭidūsaka Jātaka relates how one of his disciples, Uluṅkasaddaka, angered by some admonition from Kassapa, burnt the latter’s grass hut while he was away on his alms round (J.iii.71 f ).
²⁴ SA.ii.133; Ānanda regarded Kassapa in some sort of way as a teacher, and held him in great respect, not daring to mention even his name, lest it should imply disrespect (see Vin.i.92 f).
²⁵ S.ii.224 f. At the First Council, when Ānanda stated that the Buddha had given leave for the monks to do away with the minor rules of the Order, Kassapa was opposed to any such step, lest it should lead to slackness among the monks and contempt from the laity (Vin.ii.287 f).
²⁶ See also the Mahāgosiṅga Sutta (M.i.214), where Kassapa declares his belief in the need for these observances; that his example was profitable to others is proved by the case of Somamitta who, finding his own teacher Vimala given up to laziness, sought Kassapa and attained Arahantship under his guidance.
²⁷ S.ii.202 f; but See Jotidāsa, who is said to have built a vihāra for Kassapa, and entertained him.
³¹ The story of Kāḷavilaṅgika is an example of Mahā-
³⁵ This is probably the incident referred to at Vism.68.
³⁹ DA.ii.413; AA.ii.596; he was one hundred and twenty at the time of the First Recital (SA.ii.130). According, to northern sources, Kassapa did not die; he dwells in the Kukkuṭagiri Mountains, wrapt in concentration, awaiting the arrival of Metteyya Buddha (Beal, op.cit., ii.142 f ). A tooth of Mahā-
⁵⁸ BuA.42; chiefly Kumāra Kassapa, VibhA.60.
References in the notes are to the Pāḷi texts of the PTS. In the translations, these are usually printed in the headers near the spine, or in, for example, the Visuddhimagga, they are given in square brackets in the body of the text, thus . References to the Jātaka Commentary are given as J, not JA, which would normally be used, as that is reserved for the Journal Asiatic.