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Maha Kassapa - The Buddha's foremost disciple in Dhutanga practice

Knowledge & Practices of Buddhism, 21:53 PM, April, 14 2024
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Maha Kassapa was an exemplary monk who possessed the most disciplined Dhutanga practice among the Buddha's ten principal disciples.  

On the occasion of his birthday commemoration, please read the article below to better understand his noble vows of saving sentient beings.

A brief overview of Mahakassapa's life

Born into a Brahman family in Magadha (in ancient India), from a young age, Maha Kassapa exhibited an auspicious appearance and precocious abilities, yet no secular desires.

As a young man, he was forced to get married by his parents. As he had no interest in the five sensual desires and wished to lead an ascetic life, he had a golden statue of a beautiful woman sculpted and told his parents he would only marry a woman as beautiful as that statue. Surprisingly, with a Brahmin's help, Maha Kassapa's parents successfully found a woman named Bhadda Kapilani who looked exactly the same as the statue.

A strange coincidence was that Bhadda Kapilani did not want to get married, either. Instead, she only wished to renounce her secular life and enter nunhood. Sharing the same aspiration for an ascetic life, despite being spouses in name, Maha Kassapa and Bhadda Kapilani led a pure and celibate life without any sexual contact with each other.

At night, Maha Kassapa Bhadda Kapilani took turns sleeping and practicing walking meditation. In such a way, they lived together for many years without any defilements or attachments.

Venerable Mahakassapa - The greatest Dhutanga practitioner (Source: Internet)

Venerable Mahakassapa - The greatest Dhutanga practitioner (Source: Internet)

When his parents passed away, he took his leave of Bhadda Kapilani to seek a worthy spiritual master and promised to inform her once he found one.

The other day, when walking for alms, Venerable Maha Kassapa came across the Buddha in meditation (at that time, the Buddha had already attained enlightenment), with glowing happiness, he approached and paid homage to the Buddha, begging to become the Buddha's disciple.

Afterwards, he diligently practiced Dhutanga day and night, hence attaining Arahantship soon after with the title “Foremost in Dhutanga”.

After the Buddha entered Nirvana, Venerable Maha Kassapa held the First Buddhist Council out of his utmost reverence toward the World-Honored One and his vow to propagate the Dharma. As a result, the Buddha's teachings were systematically collected and officially transmitted in written forms on leaf, paper, etc. until now.

Finally, in 496 before the Common Era, Venerable Maha Kassapa entered Nirvana at the age of 120.

Saving the poor old lady - Venerable Mahakassapa's noble compassion

Venerable Maha Kassapa cultivated compassion and let himself be a field of blessing for sentient beings. He collected alms from poor families rather than well-off ones because he knew that people of lesser means were those who lacked blessings. Accordingly, he practiced mendicancy with a vow to help them grow blessings and overcome suffering. Hence, before going on alms round, he often meditated to figure out which poor people he should help with sowing blessings.

Throughout his monastic life, he saved the poor on various occasions. One such example was when he saved an old female beggar.

One day, on his way to Rajgir, he saw a lonely poor old lady taking in a filthy excrement cave near a rubbish pile. Her body was skinny and afflicted with illnesses. Her life was fraught with uncertainty, loneliness, and hunger. She had nothing but a little bamboo cloth to cover her body. Through his meditation, Venerable Maha Kassapa knew that the old lady's current poverty was because she had not cultivated any merits in previous lifetimes. Moreover, he also knew that her lifespan was coming to an end, so he thought “If I do not save her, she will never gain blessings again.”

When the old lady was starving, a servant of a householder brought a bowl of rancid rice soup and was about to throw it away. She approached the servant and asked for the rice water. Then, she took two broken bowls to keep the whole portion. Venerable Maha Kassapa slowly walked toward the old lady and handed his bowl over to ask for the sour soup.

At first, she did not dare because she felt the food's quality was too low, but after listening to Venerable Maha Kassapa's teachings, the old lady humbly proposed to offer him food, which he happily accepted. 

Coming out from the cave, the old lady brought with her the bowl of rice soup and reverently poured it into Venerable Maha Kassapa's bowl. After that, Venerable Maha Kassapa wished the old lady blessings and peace. To banish the old lady's doubt, he drank off the sour rice soup and demonstrated his miracle power right before her. Such a noble gesture brought the old lady unutterable happiness. With that special merit of offering, after death, the old lady was reborn into a heavenly realm, enjoying peace and happiness. 

Venerable Mahakassapa saved a poor old lady

Venerable Mahakassapa saved a poor old lady

Hopefully, the article above will make you grow grateful toward Venerable Maha Kassapa, and those who have practiced, are practicing, will practice Dhutanga. Most favorably, may you have a chance to follow in his footsteps and uphold the Buddha Dharma.

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