Thag 18  Mahā Kassapa

One shouldn’t go about

surrounded, revered

by a company:

One gets distracted;

concentration

is hard to gain.

Fellowship with many people

is painful.

Seeing this,

one shouldn’t approve

of a company.

A sage shouldn’t visit families:

one gets distracted;

concentration

is hard to gain.

He’s eager & greedy for flavors,

whoever misses the goal

that brings bliss.

They know it’s a bog—

the reverence & veneration

of families—

a subtle arrow, hard to extract.

Offerings are hard for a worthless man

to let go.

* * *

Coming down from my dwelling place,

I entered the city for alms,

stood courteously next to a leper

eating his meal.

He, with his rotting hand,

tossed me a morsel of food,

and as the morsel was dropping,

a finger fell off

right there.

Sitting next to a wall,

I ate that morsel of food,

and neither while eating it,

nor having eaten,

did I feel

any disgust.1

Whoever has mastered

left-over scraps for food,

smelly urine for medicine,

the foot of a tree for a dwelling,

cast-off rags for robes:

He is a man

of the four directions.

* * *

Where some are exhausted

climbing the mountain,

there2

the Awakened One’s heir

—mindful, alert,

buoyed by his psychic power—

Kassapa climbs.

Returning from his alms round,

climbing the peak,

Kassapa does jhāna

with no clinging,

having abandoned terror

& fear.

Returning from his alms round,

climbing the peak,

Kassapa does jhāna

with no clinging,

unbound

among those who burn.

Returning from his alms round,

climbing the peak,

Kassapa does jhāna

with no clinging,

effluent-free,

his task done.

Spread with garlands of vines,

places delighting the mind,

resounding with elephants,

appealing:

Those rocky crags

refresh me.

The color of blue-dark clouds,

glistening,

cooled with the waters

of clear-flowing streams

covered with ladybugs:

Those rocky crags

refresh me.

Like the peaks of blue-dark clouds,

like excellent peaked-roof buildings,

resounding with tuskers,

appealing:

Those rocky crags

refresh me.

Their lovely surfaces wet with rain,

mountains frequented

by seers

& echoing

with peacocks:

Those rocky crags

refresh me.

This is enough for me—

desiring to do jhāna,

resolute, mindful;

enough for me—

desiring the goal,

resolute,

a monk;

enough for me—

desiring comfort,

resolute,

trained;3

enough for me—

desiring my duty,

resolute,

Such.

Flax-flower blue,

like the sky

covered over with clouds;

filled with flocks

of various birds:

Those rocky crags

refresh me.

Uncrowded

by householders,

frequented

by herds of deer

filled with flocks

of various birds:

Those rocky crags

refresh me.

With clear waters &

massive boulders,

frequented by monkeys &

deer,

covered with moss &

water weeds:

Those rocky crags

refresh me.

There is no such pleasure for me

in the music of a five-piece band

as there is when my mind

is at one,

seeing the Dhamma

aright.

* * *

One shouldn’t do lots of work,

should avoid people,

shouldn’t busy oneself.

He’s eager & greedy for flavors,

whoever misses the goal

that brings bliss.

One shouldn’t do lots of work,

should avoid

what doesn’t lead to the goal.

The body gets wearied,

fatigued.

Aching, one finds

no tranquility.

* * *

Simply by flapping the mouth

one doesn’t see

even oneself.

One goes around stiff-

necked,

thinking, ‘I’m better

than they.’

Not better,

he thinks himself better,

the fool:

The wise don’t praise him,

the stiff-necked man.

But whoever isn’t stirred

by the modes of

‘I’m better,

not better.

I’m worse.

I’m like that’;

one who’s discerning,

who acts as he says,

well-centered

in virtues,

committed to

tranquility of awareness, he

is the one

the wise

would praise.

One with no respect

for his fellows in the holy life,

is as far

from true Dhamma

as the earth

from the sky.

But those whose sense of shame

& compunction

are always rightly established: They

have flourished in the holy life.

For them

there’s no further becoming.

A monk conceited & vain,

even though clad

in a robe of cast-off rags,

like a monkey in a lion’s skin,

doesn’t shine because of it.

But a monk not conceited

or vain,

masterful,

his faculties restrained, shines

because of his robe of cast-off rags,

like a lion

in the cleft of a mountain.

* * *

These many devas,

powerful, prestigious

—10,000 devas—

all of Brahmā’s retinue,

stand with their hands over their hearts,

paying homage to Sāriputta,

the Dhamma-general,

enlightened,4

centered,

great master of jhāna,

[saying:]

‘Homage to you, O thoroughbred man.

Homage to you, O superlative man—

of whom we have no direct knowledge

even of that

in dependence on which

you do jhāna.

‘How very amazing:

the awakened ones’

very own deep range—

of which we have no direct knowledge,

though we have come

as hair-splitting archers.’

Seeing Sāriputta,

a man worthy of worship,

worshipped by deva retinues,

Kappina

smiled.5

* * *

As far as this buddha-field6 extends

—except for the great sage himself—

I’m the one

outstanding

in ascetic qualities.

There’s no one else

like me.

The Teacher has been served by me;

the Awakened One’s bidding,

done;

the heavy load,       laid down;

the guide to becoming,   uprooted.

Neither to robe,

nor dwelling,

nor food

does he cling:

Gotama,

like a lotus unspotted

by water, inclining

to renunciation,   detached

from the three planes of becoming.7

He,

the great sage,

has the establishings of mindfulness

as his neck,

conviction

as hands,

discernment

as head.8

Having great knowledge,

he goes about

always unbound.

Notes

1. This passage has often been misread as saying that the leper’s finger fell into Mahā Kassapa’s bowl, and that Mahā Kassapa actually ate the finger. Nothing in the verse, though, indicates that this is so. It simply says that the finger fell off, and that Mahā Kassapa ate the food. Furthermore, there is a rule in the Mahāvagga—Mv.VI.23.9—that imposes a grave offense on any monk who eats human flesh. So it’s highly unlikely that Mahā Kassapa ate the leper’s finger.

2. Reading tattha with the Thai and Sinhalese editions.

3. Reading sikkhato with the Thai edition.

4. Reading dhīraṁ with the Thai and PTS editions. The Burmese and Sinhalese editions read vīraṁ, hero.

5. Ven. Sāriputta was foremost among the monks in terms of discernment (AN 1:183); Ven. Kappina, foremost among the monks in exhorting other monks (AN 1:231). The Buddha praises him at SN 21:11 for his attainment of psychic powers, and at SN 54:7 for the solidity of his concentration based on mindfulness of breathing.

6. This appears to be one of the earliest references to “buddha-field,” a concept that was to play a large role in the Apadāna literature and, through that, in the Mahāyāna concept of the Pure Land. Here it appears to mean the sphere of the current Buddha’s influence. In the Apadānas it takes on two other meanings: as (1) a field for producing merit, on the lines of the traditional image of the Saṅgha as the unexcelled field of merit; and (2) a heavenly realm where a particular Buddha dwells. These two meanings were influential in the early Mahāyāna sūtras that formed the basis for Pure Land practice.

7. The three planes of becoming are the sensual, form, and formlessness. See AN 3:77–78.

8. See Thag 15:2.

See also: SN 1:10; AN 3:35; AN 4:28; AN 5:77–78; AN 5:98; AN 5:114; AN 6:42; AN 11:10; Ud 2:10; Ud 4:4; Sn 4:14