Mahākassapa Encounters the Buddha

The earth trembled and shook. Knowing the meaning of this, the Buddha set out to meet his future disciple. He walked the distance of five miles to greet Mahākassapa on the road, an act of compassion towards the unsuspecting disciple. Sitting down under a banyan tree, the Buddha emitted rays of light so that the entire thicket of trees shined brightly.

Seeing an ascetic sitting under a banyan tree, shining brightly, filling the thicket with light, Mahākassapa thought to himself, “This must be my master for whose sake I have gone forth!” Mahākassapa approached the Buddha, fell to his feet, and exclaimed, “The Blessed One, Lord, is my teacher, and I am his disciple! The Blessed One, Lord, is my teacher, and I am his disciple!”

The Buddha then gave Mahākassapa the following three exhortations as his first formal introduction to the Dharma:

You should train yourself thus, Kassapa: “A keen sense of shame and fear of wrongdoing (hiri-ottappa) shall be present in me towards seniors, novices, and those of middle status in the Order.

“Whatever teaching I hear that is conducive to something wholesome, I shall listen with an attentive ear, examining it, reflecting on it, absorbing it with all my heart.

“Mindfulness of the body linked with gladness shall not be neglected by me!” Thus should you train yourself.

This triple exhortation constituted Mahākassapa’s going forth (pabbajjā) and higher ordination (upasampadā) together.

Walking together toward Rājagaha, the Buddha wanted to rest and proceeded to the root of a tree. Mahākassapa folded his double-robe in four and requested that the master sit on it. The Buddha sat on Mahākassapa’s robe and remarked, “Soft is your robe of patched cloth, Kassapa.”

Hearing this, Mahākassapa replied, “May the Blessed One, O Lord, accept this robe of patched cloth out of compassion for me!”

The Buddha responded, “But, Kassapa, can you wear these hempen, wornout rag robes of mine?”

Full of joy, Kassapa said, “Certainly, Lord, I can wear the Blessed One’s rough and wornout rag robes.”

(Note: I already posted a shorter version of this story, but thought it worth while to include the longer version that has the Buddha giving Mahākassapa a Dharma practice. This story about the Buddha and Mahākassapa can be found in Great Disciples of the Buddha: Their Lives, Their Works, Their Legacy, pp. 117 – 18.)

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1 thought on “Mahākassapa Encounters the Buddha”

  1. Oh, I love these instruction to Mahakashyapa! Especially the first one, which I take to mean: “Remember that you’re always up to something. Take note of it and knock it off.”

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