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Mahā-Kaccāna, Kaccāyana

One of the most eminent disciples of the Buddha, considered chief among expounders in full of the brief saying of the Buddha, (saṅkhittena bhāsitassa vitthārena atthaṃ vibhajantānaṃ) (A.i.23). He was born at Ujjenī in the family of the chaplain of King Caṇḍappajjota, and was called Kaccāna both because of his golden colour and because Kaccāna was the name of his clan (gotta). He studied the Vedas, and, on the death of his father, succeeded him as chaplain. With seven others he visited the Buddha, at the request of Caṇḍappajjota, to invite him to come to Ujjenī. Kaccāna and his friends listened to the Buddha’s discourse, and having attained Arahantship, joined the order. He then conveyed the king’s invitation to the Buddha, who pointed out that it would now suffice if Kaccāna himself returned to Ujjenī.

Kaccāna accordingly set out for Ujjenī with his seven companions, accepting alms on the way at the house of a very poor girl of Telappanāli, who later became Caṇḍappajjota’s queen. For details see Telappanāli.

Arrived in Ujjenī, Kaccāna lived in the royal park, where the king showed him all honour. He taught constantly to the people, and, attracted by his discourses, numerous persons joined the Order, so that the whole city was one blaze of orange robes. It is said that after having duly established the Buddha’s dispensation (sāsana) in Avanti, Kaccāna returned once more to the Buddha. (Thus, the explanation of the Madhupiṇḍika Sutta was given at Kapilavatthu). Caṇḍappajjota consulted him on various occasions, and among the verses attributed to him in the Theragāthā (Thag.vss.494‑501), are several addressed to the king himself.

It was in the time of Padumuttara Buddha that Kaccāna had made his resolve to win the eminence he did, after listening to Padumuttara’s praise of a monk, also named Kaccāna, for similar proficiency. Kaccāna was then a sorcerer (vijjādhara), and offered the Buddha three kaṇikāra-flowers. So says the Apadāna ii.463, but ThagA. says he was a sorcerer in the time of Sumedhā Buddha. In the time of Kassapa Buddha he was a householder of Bārāṇasī, and offered a golden brick, worth one hundred thousand, to the cetiya which was being built over the Buddha’s remains, and then made a vow that in future births his body should be golden (ThagA.i.483 f; AA.i.117 f).

According to the Apadāna (Ap.ii.465), Kaccāna’s father was called Tirītivaccha (or Tidivavaccha), and his mother Caṇḍapadumā. There is another account of Mahā-Kaccāna in the Apadāna (A.i.84 f), in which it is said that in the time of Padumuttara Buddha he built a Gandhakuṭi named Paduma in the shape of a lotus and covered with lotus flowers, and that thirty world-cycles later he became king under the name of Pabhassara.

Three suttas are mentioned (AA.i.118) as having obtained for Kaccāna his title of eminence — the Madhupiṇḍika, the Kaccāyana, and the Parāyana; several instances are given of people seeking Mahā-Kaccāna’s assistance, for a detailed explanation of something said in brief by the Buddha — e.g., Hāliddikāni, Kālī, Samiddhi, Uttara, and Valliya (see also A.iii.314, 321; v. 225; M.iii.223). Among Kaccāna’s pupils and followers and those who consulted him were Soṇa Kuṭikaṇṇa, Isidatta, Avantiputta, Lohicca, Ārāmadaṇḍa, and Kaṇḍarāyana.

In Avanti, Kaccāna is said to have stayed, not in the king’s park, where he lived soon after his return from the Buddha, but chiefly in the Kuraraghara papātā (e.g., S.iii.9; A.v.46; Ud.v.6; Vin.i.194; DhA.iv.101) and in a hut in Makkarakata forest. S.iv.116; see also VvA.259, according to which he stayed near Potali.

Mention is also made of his staying at Varaṇā on the bank of Bhaddasāri (A.i.65); at the Gundāvana in Madhurā (A.i.67; M.ii.83); at Tapodā in Rājagaha (A.iii.192), in Soreyya (DhA.i.325; for a curious incident connected with Kaccāna’s visit see Soreyya), and in Kosambī (PvA. 140). According to Dvy. (551, 585, 586) he also stayed in Roruka.

It is said (DhA.ii.176) that even when Kaccāna was living at Avanti, a long distance away, he went regularly to hear the Buddha teach, and when the leading elders took their places in the assembly, they always left room for him. On one such occasion Sakka showed him great honour, falling at his feet, and the Buddha explained that this was because Mahā-Kaccāna kept his senses well guarded.

The Majjhima Commentary (MA.ii.854) records a curious story in reference to Kaccāna. Vassakāra, minister of Ajātasattu, saw Kaccāna descending Gijjhakūṭa and said he looked like a monkey. The Buddha read Vassakāra’s thoughts, and warned him that after death he would be born as a monkey in Veḷuvana. He believed the Buddha, and made provision in Veḷuvana for his future comfort as monkey. And this be did indeed become, living in Veḷuvana and answering to the name of Vassakāra!

Kaccāna is identified with the charioteer in the Kurudhamma Jātaka (J.ii.181), and with Devala in the Sarabhaṅga Jātaka (J.v.151).

According to tradition, Kaccāna was the author of the Nettippakaraṇa, the Pāḷi grammar bearing his name, and of the Peṭakopadesa. It is probable that these works were the compilations of a school, which traced its descent to Mahā-Kaccāna.

See also Madhura Sutta.