271. The Bodhisatta As Kassapa

Once upon a time prince Brahmadatta, son of Brahmadatta king of Benares, and the son of his family priest named Kassapa, were schoolmates and learned all the sciences in the house of the same teacher. By and bye the young prince on his father’s death was established in the kingdom. Kassapa thought, “My friend has become king. he will bestow great power on me. what have I to do with power? I will take leave of the king and my parents, and become an ascetic.” So he went into the Himalayas and adopted the religious life, and on the seventh day he entered on the Faculties and Attainments, and gained his living by what he gleaned in the fields. And men nicknamed the ascetic Lomasakassapa (Hairy Kassapa).

With his senses mortified he became an ascetic of grim austerity. And by virtue of his austerity the abode of Sakka was shaken. Sakka, reflecting on the cause, observed him and thought, “This ascetic, by the exceedingly fierce fire of his virtue, would make me fall even from the abode of Sakka. After a secret interview with the king of Benares, I will break down his austerity.” Sakka met the king and said, “I am sakka. If you want to rule India alone, bring Lomasakassapa here and bid him offer a sacrifice of slain beasts, and you shall become, like Sakka, exempt from old age and death, and exercise rule throughout all India.”

On hearing his words the king readily assented. Next day the king summoned a councilor named Sayha and said, “Go to my friend Lomasa-kassapa and in my name speak thus to him. ‘The king by persuading you to offer a sacrifice will become sole ruler in all India, and he will grant you as much land as you desire. come with me to offer sacrifice.” Sayha went to Kassapa and conveyed the message. Then Kassapa said to him:

No island realm, safe-guarded in the sea,

Shall tempt me, Sayha, to this cruelty.

A curse upon the lust of fame and gain,

Whence spring the sins that lead to endless pain.

Better, as homeless waif, to beg one’s bread

Than by a crime bring shame upon my head.

Yea better, bowl in hand, to flee from sin

Than by such cruelty a kingdom win.

Sayha went and told theses to the king. The king kept silent. But Sakka came at midnight and told him to send princess Candavati to Kassapa. Sayha and Candavati went to Kassapa and told, “If you come and offer sacrifice, the king will give you his daughter to wife.” The ascetic losing his moral sense looked at her, struck with love of the maiden and with the mere look he fell away from meditation. Kassapa trembled with the power of passion and accepted to offer sacrifice. He mounted a splendid chariot and went to Benares. So the king next day went with Candavati to he sacrificial pit. There all four-footed beasts, elephants, horses, bulls and the rest were placed in a line. Kassapa essayed to offer sacrifice by killing and slaying them all. Then the people that were gathered together there said, “This is not proper or befitting you, Lomasakassapa. who do you act thus?”

At this moment Kassapa, to offer sacrifice, lifted up his precious sword to strike the royal elephant on the neck. The elephant at the sight of the sword, terrified with the tear of death, uttered a loud cry. On hearing his cry the other beasts too, elephants, horses, and bulls through fear of death uttered loud cries, and the people also cried aloud. Kassapa, on hearing these loud cries, grew excited and reflected on his matted hair. Then he became conscious of matted locks and beard, and the hair upon his body and breast. Full of remorse he cried, “Alas! I have done a sinful deed, unbecoming my character,” and showing his emotion he spoke:

This cruel act is of desire the fruit.

The growth of lust I will cut down to the root.

Then the king said, “Go ahead; Offer the sacrifice and I will now give you the princess Candavati, and my kingdom and a pile of the seven treasures.” On hearing this Kassapa said, “Sire, I do not want this sin upon my soul,” and spoke:

Curse on the lusts upon this earth so rife,

Better by far than these the ascetic life;

I will forsaking sin a hermit be.

Keep thou thy realm and fair Candavati.

With these words he concentrated his thoughts on the mystic object, and recovering the lost idea sat cross-legged in the air, teaching the law to king, and admonishing him to be zealous in good works, he bade him destroy the sacrificial pit and grant an amnesty to the people. And at the king’s request, flying up into the air he returned to his own abode. And as long as he lived, he cultivated the Brahma perfections and became destined to birth in the Brahma world.

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