One of three brothers, the Tebhātika-Jaṭilā, living at Uruvelā. He lived on the banks of the Nerañjarā with five hundred disciples. Further down the river lived his brothers Nadī-Kassapa with three hundred disciples and Gayā-Kassapa with two hundred.
The Buddha visited Uruvela-Kassapa and took lodging for the night where the sacred fire was kept, in spite of Kassapa’s warning that the spot was inhabited by a fierce Nāga. The Buddha, by his magical powers, overcame, first this Nāga and then another, both of whom vomited fire and smoke. Kassapa being pleased with this exhibition of psychic power, undertook to provide the Buddha with his daily food. Meanwhile the Buddha stayed in a grove nearby, waiting for the time when Kassapa should be ready for conversion. Here he was visited by the Four Regent Gods, Sakka, Brahma and others. The Buddha spent the whole rainy season there, performing, in all, three thousand five hundred miracles of various kinds, reading the thoughts of Kassapa, splitting firewood for the ascetics’ sacrifices, heating stoves for them to use after bathing in the cold weather, etc. Still Kassapa persisted in the thought, “The great ascetic is of great magic power, but he is not an Arahant like me.” Finally the Buddha decided to startle him by declaring that he was not an Arahant, neither did the way he followed lead to Arahantship. Thereupon Kassapa owned defeat and reverently asked for ordination. The Buddha asked him to consult with his pupils, and they cut off their hair and threw it with their sacrificial utensils into the river and were all ordained. Nadī-Kassapa and Gayā-Kassapa came to inquire what had happened, and they, too, were ordained with their pupils. At Gayāsīsa the Buddha taught them the Fire Discourse (Āditta-pariyāya), and they all attained Arahantship.
From Gayāsīsa the Buddha went to Rājagaha with the Kassapa brothers and their pupils, and in the presence of Bimbisāra and the assembled populace Uruvela-Kassapa declared his allegiance to the Buddha.¹
Later, in the assembly of monks, Uruvela-Kassapa was declared to be the chief of those who had large followings (aggaṃ mahāparisānaṃ).² Six verses attributed to him are found in the Theragāthā,³ wherein he reviews his achievement and relates how he was won over by the Buddha.
In the time of Padumuttara Buddha he was a householder, and having seen the Buddha declare a monk ⁴ to be the best of them with large followings, wished for himself to be so honoured in a future life, and did many works of merit towards that end.
Later, he was born in the family of Phussa Buddha as his younger step-brother, his father being Mahinda.⁵ He had two other brothers. The three quelled a frontier disturbance and, as a reward, obtained the right to entertain the Buddha for three months. They appointed three of their ministers to make all the arrangements and they themselves observed the ten precepts. The three ministers so appointed were, in this age, Bimbisāra, Visākha and Raṭṭhapāla.
Having sojourned among gods and men, the three brothers, in their last birth, were born in a brahmin family, the name of which was Kassapa. They learnt the three Vedas and left the household life.⁶
According to the Mahānāradakassapa Jātaka,⁷ Uruvela-Kassapa was once born as Aṅgati, king of Mithilā in the Videha country. He listened to the teachings of a false teacher called Guṇa and gave himself up to pleasure, until he was saved by his wise daughter Rujā, with the help of the Brahma Nārada, who was the Bodhisatta.
Uruvela-Kassapa was so called partly to distinguish him from others named Kassapa and partly because he was ordained at Uruvela. At first he had one thousand followers, and after he was ordained by the Buddha all his followers stayed with him and each of them ordained a great number of others, so that their company became very numerous.⁸
The scene of the conversion of Uruvela-Kassapa is sculptured in Sañchi. According to Tibetan sources, Kassapa was one hundred and twenty years old at the time of his conversion.⁹
Hsouien Thsang found a stūpa erected on the spot where the Buddha converted Kassapa.¹⁰
Belaṭṭhasīsa was a disciple of Uruvela-Kassapa and joined his teacher when the latter was converted.¹¹ Senaka Thera was Kassapa’s sister’s son.¹² Vacchapāla was among those who joined the Order, after having seen Kassapa pay homage to the Buddha at Rājagaha.¹³
¹ This story of the conversion of the Kassapas is given in Vin.i.24 ﬀ and in AA.i.165 f; also in ThagA.i.434 ﬀ.
² A.i.25. ³ Thag.vv.375‑80. ⁴ Sīhaghosa was his name, Ap.ii.481.
⁵ According to Bu.xix.14, Phussa’s father was Jayasena.
⁶ AA.i.165 f; DhA.i.83 ﬀ; Ap.ii.481 ﬀ. ⁷ J.vi.220 ﬀ; Ap.ii.483.
⁸ AA.i.166. ⁹ Rockhill, op.cit., 40. ¹⁰ Beal, Bud. Records, ii.130.
¹¹ ThagA.i.67. ¹² ThagA.i.388. ¹³ ThagA.i.159.