Is there a Goblin in the House?

1:6 Mahākassapa (6) (Kassapa Sutta)

Thus has it been made known. At another time the Blessed One was staying near Rājagaha, at the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrels’ Feeding Sanctuary. It was then that the Venerable Mahákassapa who was residing at the Pepper Cave suddenly became violently ill with a serious disease. After a period of time he recovered from the illness when the thought occurred to him, “What if I were to enter Rājagaha for a quest of alms?”

Not far away as many as 500 devas earnestly began to assemble a vast quantity of almsfood in order to assist the Venerable Mahákassapa. Instead of graciously accepting their divine offer, he declined their services and began robing himself in the forenoon and entered into Rājagaha by way of streets that were aligned with the destitute poor, and the lowly weavers’ quarter.

The Blessed One, on realizing the sublime significance of such an action, uttered the following verse:

Not supporting another, completely unknown,
Who is greatly subdued and well-established in the one-essence,
With all pollutants discarded thus being rid of all faults,
He alone is an Arahant indeed!

Rājagaha: (P. Rājagaha; T. Rgyal po’i khab; C. Wangshe cheng; J. Ōshajō; K. Wangsa sŏng 王 舍 城). Sanskrit name for the capital of the kingdom of MAGADHA during the time of the Buddha. The Buddha’s first visit occurred prior to his enlightenment, when he passed through the city shortly after his renunciation. He was watched on his alms round by Bimbisāra, who offered him half of his kingdom. The prince refused but promised to visit the city after he achieved his goal. When the Buddha returned to the city in the first year after his enlightenment, Bimbisāra donated a grove for the use of the Buddha and his monks during the rains retreat (VARṢĀ). It was called VEṆUVANAVIHĀRA, or “Bamboo Grove Monastery,”

Buswell  Jr., Robert E.; Donald S., Jr. Lopez. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Kindle Locations 52449-52453). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Venerable Mahākassapa: (P. Mahākassapa; T. ’Od srung chen po; C. Mohejiashe; J. Makakashō; K. Mahagasŏp 摩 訶 迦 葉). Sanskrit name of one of the Buddha’s leading disciples, regarded as foremost in the observance of ascetic practices (P. DHUTAṄGA; S. dhūtaguṇa). According to the Pāli accounts (where he is called Mahākassapa) his personal name was Pipphali and he was born to a brāhmaṇa family in MAGADHA.

Upon seeing the Buddha, Pipphali, whose name thenceforth became Kassapa, immediately recognized him as his teacher and was ordained. Traveling to Rājagaha (S. RĀJAGṚHA) with the Buddha, Mahākassapa requested to exchange his fine robe for the rag robe of the Buddha. The Buddha consented, and his conferral of his own rag robe on Mahākassapa was taken as a sign that, after the Buddha’s demise, Mahākassapa would preside over the convention of the first Buddhist council.

Mahākassapa possessed great supranormal powers (P. iddhi; S. ṚDDHI) and was second only to the Buddha in his mastery of meditative absorption (P. JHĀNA; S. DHYĀNA). His body was said to be adorned with seven of the thirty-two marks of a superman (MAHĀPURUṢALAKṢAṆA). So revered by the gods was he, that at the Buddha’s funeral, the divinities would not allow the funeral pyre to be lit until Mahākassapa arrived and had one last chance to worship the Buddha’s body.

In the famous Chan story in which the Buddha conveys his enlightenment by simply holding up a flower before the congregation and smiling subtly (see NIANHUA WEIXIAO), it is only Mahākāśyapa who understands the Buddha’s intent, making him the first recipient of the Buddha’s “mind-to-mind” transmission (YIXIN CHUANXIN). He is thus considered the first patriarch (ZUSHI) of the Chan school.

Buswell  Jr., Robert E.; Donald S., Jr. Lopez. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Kindle Locations 37701-37705). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

500 devas: Divine agencies closely guarded the Buddha’s disciples and were eager in this instance to attend to Mahākassapa’s needs. Being the resolute solitary he never strayed from the Buddha’s admonition that one should rely on “the Self” [the one-essence] alone in all earthly matters. Indeed, such is the strength of the Recollective Resolve to closely follow the Dharma-Lord’s admonitions, even if it presents severe hardships.

Not supporting another, completely unknown:  From Ireland’s footnote,

Comy.: He is described as “not supporting another” (anaññaposì) because he is solitary, without anyone else whom he must maintain; this is said to show how easy he is to support. The phrase can also mean that he is “not maintained by another,” since he is not bound to any donor for his requisites. He is called “unknown” (aññáta) because he does not make himself known out of a desire for gain, honour, and fame. The word can also mean “well known,” i.e. for his good qualities.

1.7 (7) At Pāvā (Ajakalápaka Sutta)

Thus has it been made known: On a certain occasion the Blessed One was residing near Pāvā at the Ajakalāpaka [Herd-of-goats] Shrine, which also happened to be the domicile of the yakkha Ajakalápaka.

During that particular junction, in the inky-pitch darkness of the night, The Blessed One was sitting out in the open air as the sky above released rain in scattered drops. Meanwhile the yakkha Ajakalápaka, true to his nefarious nature, wanting to instill the deepest fear and consternation in the Blessed One, approached him and gave voice three-times in a terrifying nature: “Shrieking horror is now descending upon you—here’s a goblin for you, recluse!!!”

Then, realizing the nature of the beast, the Blessed One uttered the following verse:

When an Arahant has gone well-beyond to the other shore
All things pertaining to oneself,
No longer affects his True Nature
Therefore be gone demon with your pandemonic shrills!

Pāvā: [Eventually] the site of the *Buddha’s last meal as served to him by *Cunda the blacksmith. From Pāvā the Buddha made his way to *Kuśinagara, which was to be his last resting-place.

Keown, Damien. A Dictionary of Buddhism (p. 214). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

Ajakalápaka: Name of a man-eating ogre yakkha; S. YAKṢA) whose conversion by the Buddha is described in Pāli materials. Ālavaka dwelt in a tree near the town Ālavi and had been granted a boon by the king of the yakkhas that allowed him to eat anyone who came into the shadow of his tree. Even the sight of the ogre rendered the bodies of men as soft as butter. Ascetics seeing the strange abode would descend out of curiosity, whereupon Ālavaka would ask them knotty questions about their beliefs. When they could not answer, he would penetrate their hearts with his mind and drive them mad.

Buswell  Jr., Robert E.; Donald S., Jr. Lopez. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (Kindle Locations 2886-2888). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Yakkha: The yakshas (यक्ष Sanskrit: yakṣa; Pali: yakkha) are a broad class of nature-spirits, usually benevolent, but sometimes mischievous or capricious, connected with water, fertility, trees, the forest, treasure and wilderness.

Interestingly enough, Ajakalápaka would later become a disciple of the Buddha.

This passage is a perfect example that no force, whether good or evil, has any power or influence over a Buddha. Picture yourself sitting in a haunted house when suddenly your senses are assaulted by some horrific and demonic source. Such was the atmosphere in which this story takes place. The Buddha remained unphased by the attack and instead put the demon in his place. One should be aware that for the ardent adept, this same type of response would be warranted, regardless of the dreadful form of such attacks by evil powers. All the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and the infinite host of Dharma-protectors are forever near at hand to repel such attacks. All one need do is to properly invoke their aid. Fear not, for you are never alone. Above all, always remember your True Nature. Invoking the Sutras are also a source of protection:

gate, gate,
bodhi, svaha!

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