Home page Up (parent) Next (right) Previous (left) Abbreviations

Page last updated on 8 October, 2020

Association for Insight Meditation Home Page

Tapassu, Tapussa

1. Tapassu, Tapussa.– A merchant of Ukkalā. He and his friend, Bhalluka (Bhalliya), while on their way to Rājagaha, saw the Buddha at the foot of the Rājāyatana tree, in the eighth week after the Enlightenment. Urged by a deity, who had been their relation, they offered the Buddha rice-cakes and honey in a bowl provided by the Four Regent Gods. They became the first lay disciples of the Buddha, and their formula of Refuge contained no reference to the Saṅgha (Vin.i.3 f; A.i.26; UdA.54; J.i.80).

According to the Theragāthā Commentary (ThagA.i.48 f), Tapassu and Bhalluka were brothers, sons of a caravan leader of Pokkharavatī. Some time later they visited the Buddha at Rājagaha, where he taught them; Tapassu, thereupon, became a Stream-winner, while Bhalluka entered the Order and became an Arahant.

In the time of Sikhī Buddha they were brahmins of Aruṇavatī. Hearing that two caravan leaders, Ujita and Ojita, had given the first meal to the Buddha, they gave alms to the Buddha and his monks, and wished for a similar privilege for themselves under a future Buddha. In the time of Kassapa Buddha, they were sons of wealthy cattle-herders (Gopāla-seṭṭhi), and for many years provided the monks with milk-rice.

The Aṅguttaranikāya Commentary (AA.i.207 f) says that the deity, who caused Tapassu and Bhalluka to give alms to the Buddha, was their mother in their previous birth. The Buddha gave them, for worship, eight handfuls of his hair, which he obtained by stroking his head. They took the hair with them to their city — which, according to this account, was Asitañjana — and there built a cetiya, from which rays of blue light issued on fast-days. Tapassu is called a “dvevācika-upāsaka” — one who took refuge by two phrases, i.e. in the Buddha and Dhamma only as the Saṅgha was not yet established (AA.ii.696), and is included in a list of eminent lay supporters (upāsaka). A.iii.450. The Sanskrit books call him Trapusa (Dvy.393; Mtu.iii.303.)

2. Tapassu.– Chief of the lay disciples of Dīpaṅkara Buddha. Bu.ii.215.

Tapassu Sutta.– The householder Tapassu visits Ānanda at Uruvelakappa, and expresses surprise that young men in the fullness of life can renounce the pleasures of household life and enter the Order. Ānanda takes Tapassu to the Buddha, who is having his siesta at the foot of a tree in the Mahāvana, and repeats Tapassu’s remark. The Buddha tells Ānanda how he himself had attained to Buddhahood by passing through the nine successive abidings (anupubbavihārā). These nine stages consist of the four rūpa-jhānas, the four formless arūpa-jhānas (ākāsānañcāyatana, etc.), and, as the crowning stage, the cessation of perception and feeling (saññāvedayitanirodha) (A.iv.438 ff).

The Tapassu mentioned is evidently identical with the brother of Bhalluka mentioned above.

The Commentary (AA.ii.814) on this passage makes no attempt to distinguish him from any other.