Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kassapa (Mahakasaapa and foremost in asceticism) —Exchange of Robes

The Buddha had a special insight not only for his own wisdom and enlightenment but for all those that to him for rescue. There were many enlightened beings in the course of history but very few of those men decided to brave through the entangled mesh of physical world and help out those seeking their guidance but the Buddha chose to help others on the path of enlightenment. The Buddha could fish out the people seeking him as a guide or when they are ready to receive higher levels of teachings and such intuitions came through to him without any physical presence of his disciples. Once during his meditative calm the Buddha felt the tremble of earth and knew that Kassapa is ready to follow in the teachings of his doctrine and decided to meet him on the route to Mahatittha.

The transformation of Pippala Kassapa began early one morning and when he was overseeing the preparation of the fields for the upcoming sowing season. When the workers began ploughing through the fields, a number of worms were displaced and were exposed to birds as prays who made good use of the opportunity. This site of natural ecological interdependence disturbed Kassapa and made him think. He discussed it among his worked about who do they think would be held responsible for the injustice done to these innocent worms and workers confirmed his doubt that it would be the master of the land, on whose orders the land is being tilled who is responsible for the death of these creatures. It was Kassapa’s turn to look deeper in the cycle of life and death and its sustenance and he decided he want to break the cycle of life and death and joy and sorrow and achieve the state of nirvana where the survival of life is not at the cost of others.

As Kassapa wandered around in search of a teacher, he found the Buddha sat down under a fig tree (Bahuputtaka Nigrodha) on the road between Nalanda and Rajgriha, the awaiting his future disciple. The moment Kassapa laid eyes on the Buddha he knew that he had found his guide. The Buddha’s radiant presence and surrounding aura mesmerized Kassapa and he fell to the Buddha’s feet; he offered respectful greetings and asked permission to enter the Noble Order.

The Buddha then dispensed a discourse in which He instructed Kassapa on three accounts in order that he may: (S.ii.220)

After this discourse the Guide and His new disciple walked back to Rajgriha.

On the way the Buddha wanted to rest under a tree. Kassapa then took his outer robe (pilotikasanghāti), folded it four-fold and asked the Buddha to sit on it, as His doing so would bring great benefit to him for a long time. The Buddha accepted Kassapa’s robe and commented on its softness. Hearing this, Kassapa immediately offered his robe to the Buddha by saying, “May the Blessed One, out of compassion for me, accept this robe.” The Buddha then asked Kassapa if he would wear the worn-out, coarse rag-robe that he was wearing. Full of joy, Kassapa accepted the Buddha’s rag-robe and agreed to wear it. Kassapa was the only monk with whom the Buddha had exchanged robes. Though the significance of this exchange was not described in the text, it may have reminded Kassapa of an ancient aspiration to be foremost among the monks in austere practices, because he took upon himself the thirteen austere practices. 7 days after ordination, Maha Kassapa became an Arahant.

Kassapa was known as Maha (great) Kassapa to distinguish him from others who had the same Brahmin name. It is said that Maha Kassapa was the only monk to share seven of the thirty two marks of noble birth that the Buddha had. In keeping with his aspiration the Buddha declared that Maha Kassapa was foremost among the monks in austere practices. He was also the third most pre-eminent monk among the Buddha’s retinue and to this day is remembered at the jewel of a follower.

Next Post: The Monastic sites

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maha Kasyappa was also one of the senior monks during the event of First Buddhist council.
He is also one of the ten foremost Buddha Disciples.