Mahāparinibbānasuttaṁ
The Discourse about the Great Emancipation

[Chaṭṭhabhāṇavāraṁ]
[The Sixth Chapter for Recitation]

[43: Mahākassapakathā]
[The Story concerning Mahākassapa] cf. Pañcasatikakkhandhakaṁ, opening (Cullavagga, 11).01

Tena kho pana samayena āyasmā Mahākassapo
Now at that time venerable Mahākassapa

Pāvāya Kusināraṁ addhānamaggapaṭipanno hoti,
was travelling along the highway from Pāvā to Kusinārā,

mahatā bhikkhusaṅghena saddhiṁ pañcamattehi bhikkhusatahi.
together with a great Community of monks, around five-hundred monks.

Atha kho āyasmā Mahākassapo maggā okkamma aññatarasmiṁ rukkhamūle nisīdi.
Then venerable Mahākassapa, after descending from the path, sat down at the root of a certain tree.

Tena kho pana samayena aññataro Ājīvako
Now at that time a certain Ājīvaka Sometimes translated as naked ascetic. The Ājīvakas were followers of Makkhali Gosāla, and held that there was no result of action (akriyavāda).02

Kusinārāya Mandāravapupphaṁ gahetvā, Pāvaṁ addhānamaggapaṭipanno hoti.
while holding a Mandārava flower Mandārava flowers were believed to grow in the Tusita heaven and only fall on special occasions.03 from Kusinārā was travelling along the highway to Pāvā.

Addasā kho āyasmā Mahākassapo taṁ Ājīvakaṁ dūrato va āgacchantaṁ,
Venerable Mahākassapa saw that Ājīvaka approaching from afar,

disvā taṁ Ājīvakaṁ etad-avoca:
and after seeing (him), he said this to that Ājīvaka:

“Apāvuso amhākaṁ Satthāraṁ jānāsī?” ti
“Do you know our Teacher, friend?”

“Āma āvuso jānāmi. Ajja sattāhaparinibbuto samaṇo Gotamo,
“Certainly, friend, I know. Today is seven days since the Final Emancipation of the ascetic Gotama,

tato me idaṁ Mandāravapupphaṁ gahitan.”-ti
therefore I am holding this Mandārava flower.”

Tattha ye te bhikkhū avītarāgā
Then those monks there who were not free from passion,

appekacce bāhā paggayha kandanti,
some, throwing up their arms, were weeping,

chinnapātaṁ papatanti āvaṭṭanti vivaṭṭanti:
falling down (as though) cut down, rolling backwards and forwards as though with their feet cut off, they were crying:

‘Atikhippaṁ Bhagavā parinibbuto,
‘Too quickly the Gracious One has attained Final Emancipation,

atikhippaṁ Sugato parinibbuto,
too quickly the Fortunate One has attained Final Emancipation,

atikhippaṁ Cakkhumā loke antarahito!’ ti
too quickly the Visionary in the world has disappeared!’

Ye pana te bhikkhū vītarāgā te satā sampajānā adhivāsenti:
But those monks who were free from passion, mindfully, with full awareness, endured, (thinking):

“Aniccā saṅkhārā taṁ kutettha labbhā?” ti
“Impermanent are (all) processes, how can it be otherwise?”

* * *

Tena kho pana samayena Subhaddo nāma vuḍḍhapabbajito
Now at that time one who had gone forth in old age, named Subhadda

tassaṁ parisāyaṁ nisinno hoti.
was sitting in that group. This is a different Subaddha than the one mentioned earlier.04

Atha kho Subhaddo vuḍḍhapabbajito te bhikkhū etad-avoca:
Then Subhadda, who had gone forth in old age, said this to those monks:

“Alaṁ āvuso mā socittha mā paridevittha,
“Enough, friends, do not grieve, do not lament,

sumuttā mayaṁ tena Mahāsamaṇena upaddutā ca homa:
we are now freed from that troublesome Great Ascetic, (saying):

‘Idaṁ vo kappati, idaṁ vo na kappatī.’ ti
‘This is allowable for you, this is not allowable for you.’

Idāni pana mayaṁ yaṁ icchissāma taṁ karissāma,
But now we will do whatever we wish,

yaṁ na icchissāma taṁ na karissāmā.” ti
and we will not do whatever we do not wish.” The Commentary relates a long story here telling how Subhadda after ordaining had once prepared a meal for the Buddha and the Community, but had been rebuked by the Buddha for breaking Vinaya rules in its preparation. He thereafter held a grudge against the Buddha and against the Vinaya.05

Atha kho āyasmā Mahākassapo bhikkhū āmantesi:
Then venerable Mahākassapa addressed the monks, (saying): Note that here Ven. Mahākassapa does not answer what was said by Subhadda at all, but instead exhorts the monks. One can't help feeling that the narrative has been poorly stiched together here. In the Vinaya account of this story Cullavagga 11, beginning), Subhadda's outburst comes after Ven. Mahākassapa's exhortation, which is much more fitting.06

“Alaṁ, āvuso, mā socittha, mā paridevittha,
“Enough, friends, do not grieve, do not lament,

na nu etaṁ āvuso Bhagavatā paṭikacceva akkhātaṁ:
were you not warned by the Gracious One, friends, when he declared this:

‘Sabbeheva piyehi manāpehi nānābhāvo vinābhāvo aññathābhāvo.’
‘There is alteration in, separation from, and changeability in all that is dear and appealing.’

Taṁ kutettha āvuso labbhā yaṁ taṁ,
How can it be otherwise, friends, for that which is obtained,

jātaṁ bhūtaṁ saṅkhataṁ palokadhammaṁ?
born, become, in process, subject to dissolution?

‘Taṁ vata mā palujjī’ ti netaṁ ṭhānaṁ vijjatī.” ti
It is not possible (to say) this: ‘It should not dissolve’.

Tena kho pana samayena cattāro Mallapāmokkhā,
Now at that time four leaders of the Mallas,

sīsaṁ nahātā ahatāni vatthāni nivatthā:
having washed their heads and put on clean clothes, (said):

“Mayaṁ Bhagavato citakaṁ āḷimpessāmā,” ti na sakkonti āḷimpetuṁ.
“Let us burn the Gracious One's funeral pyre,” but they were not able to burn (it).

Atha kho Kosinārakā Mallā āyasmantaṁ Anuruddhaṁ etad-avocuṁ:
Then the Mallas of Kusinārā said this to venerable Anuruddha:

“Ko nu kho Bhante Anuruddha hetu ko paccayo,
“What is the reason, venerable Anuruddha, what is the cause,

yenime cattāro Mallapāmokkhā,
why four leaders of the Mallas,

sīsaṁ nahātā ahatāni vatthāni nivatthā,
having washed their heads and put on clean clothes, (and saying):

‘Mayaṁ Bhagavato citakaṁ āḷimpessāmā,’ ti na sakkonti āḷimpetun?”-ti
‘Let us burn the Gracious One's funeral pyre,’ are not able to burn (it)?”

“Aññathā kho Vāseṭṭhā Devatānaṁ adhippāyo.” ti
“The Divinities The Commentary says these Divinities were Ven. Mahākassapa's supporters, like Sakka. See Ud. 1-6 and 3-7 for instances of the Divinities waiting on Ven. Mahākassapa.07 have another intention, Vāseṭṭhas.”

“Kathaṁ pana Bhante Devatānaṁ adhippāyo.” ti
“But what is the Divinities' intention, reverend Sir?”

“Devatānaṁ kho Vāseṭṭhā adhippāyo:
“The Divinities' intention, Vāseṭṭhas, (is):

‘Ayaṁ āyasmā Mahākassapo Pāvāya Kusināraṁ addhānamaggapaṭipanno
‘The venerable Mahākassapa is travelling along the highway from Pāvā to Kusinārā

mahatā bhikkhusaṅghena saddhiṁ pañcamattehi bhikkhusatehi,
together with a great Community of monks, around five-hundred monks,

na tāva Bhagavato citako pajjalissati
the Gracious One's funeral pyre will not burn

yāvāyasmā Mahākassapo Bhagavato pāde sirasā na vandissatī.’ ” ti
while venerable Mahākassapa has not worshipped the Gracious One's feet with his head.’ ”

“Yathā Bhante Devatānaṁ adhippāyo tathā hotū.” ti
“Let us do according to the Divinities' intention, reverend Sir.”

 

Atha kho āyasmā Mahākassapo
Then venerable Mahākassapa

yena Kusinārā Makuṭabandhanaṁ nāma Mallānaṁ Cetiyaṁ,
approached Kusinārā, and the Mallas' Shrine called the Bonded Coronet,

yena Bhagavato citako tenupasaṅkami,
and the Gracious One's funeral pyre,

upasaṅkamitvā ekaṁsaṁ cīvaraṁ katvā añjaliṁ paṇāmetvā,
and after approaching and arranging his robe on one shoulder, extending (his hands) in respectful salutation,

tikkhattuṁ citakaṁ padakkhiṇaṁ katvā,
and circumambulating the funeral pyre three times,

pādato vivaritvā Bhagavato pāde sirasā vandi.
and uncovering the feet he worshipped the Gracious One's feet with his head. The Commentary takes this a bit more literally than necessary, and says that Ven. Mahākassapa attained fourth jhāna and made a determination that the Buddha's feet should break through their five hundred layers of wrapping, before he worshipped them.08

Tāni pi kho pañca bhikkhusatāni ekaṁsaṁ cīvaraṁ katvā añjaliṁ paṇāmetvā,
Also five-hundred monks, after arranging their robes on one shoulder, extending (their hands) in respectful salutation,

tikkhattuṁ citakaṁ padakkhiṇaṁ katvā,
and circumambulating the funeral pyre three times,

Bhagavato pāde sirasā vandiṁsu.
worshipped the Gracious One's feet with their heads.

Vandite panāyasmatā Mahākassapena
After (the Gracious One's feet) had been worshipped by venerable Mahākassapa

tehi ca pañcahi bhikkhusatehi sayam-eva Bhagavato citako pajjali.
and by five-hundred monks the funeral pyre caught fire by itself.

 

Jhāyamānassa kho pana Bhagavato sarīrassa,
Now while the Gracious One's body was burning,

yaṁ ahosi chavī ti vā camman-ti vā maṁsan-ti vā nahārū ti vā lasikā ti vā
of the outer skin, the inner skin, the flesh, the sinews, the synovial fluid,

tassa neva chārikā paññāyittha na masi sarīrāneva avasissiṁsu.
neither charcoal was evident, nor was ash of the body left over.

Seyyathā pi nāma sappissa vā telassa vā jhāyamānassa
Just as while ghee or oil is burning

neva chārikā paññāyati na masi,
there is no charcoal and no ash evident,

evam-eva Bhagavato sarīrassa jhāyamānassa,
so when the Gracious One's body was burning,

yaṁ ahosi chavī ti vā camman-ti vā maṁsan-ti vā nahārū ti vā lasikā ti vā,
of the outer skin, the inner skin, the flesh, the sinews, the synovial fluid,

tassa neva chārikā paññāyittha na masi sarīrāneva avasissiṁsu.
neither charcoal was evident, nor was ash of the body left over.

Tesañ-ca pañcannaṁ dussayugasatānaṁ dve va dussāni na ḍayhiṁsu
Only two of those five-hundred pairs of clothes were not consumed,

yañ-ca sabbabbhantarimaṁ yañ-ca bāhiraṁ.
that on the inside and that on the outside.

Daḍḍhe kho pana Bhagavato sarīre
When the Gracious One's body was burnt

antalikkhā udakadhārā pātubhavitvā, Bhagavato citakaṁ nibbāpesi.
a shower of water appeared in the sky, and the Gracious One's funeral pyre was extinguished.

Udakaṁ sālato pi abbhunnamitvā, Bhagavato citakaṁ nibbāpesi.
Also after water rose from a well, The Commentary first says the water came from the Sāla trees, which is hard to understand, but in the same comment continues: samantā pathaviṁ bhinditvā pi naṅgalasīsamattā udakavaṭṭi phalikavaṭaṁsakasadisā uggantvā citakam-eva gaṇhanti; having broken through the earth all round like the head of a plough, a jet of water, like a crystal crown, having risen caught hold of the pyre. This makes me think that the water may have come from a well (lit: [water]-hall), and I translate it as such. However, I have not found the expression used in this way elsewhere, so the meaning remains doubtful.09 the Gracious One's funeral pyre was extinguished.

Kosinārakā pi Mallā sabbagandhodakena Bhagavato citakaṁ nibbāpesuṁ.
Also the Mallas from Kusinārā extinguished the Gracious One's funeral pyre with all types of fragrant water. These lines seem to record three disparate accounts of how the pyre was eventually extinguished.10

Atha kho Kosinārakā Mallā
Then the Mallas of Kusinārā,

Bhagavato sarīrāni, sattāhaṁ Santhāgāre sattipañjaraṁ karitvā,
* after making an enclosure of spears in the Council Hall, Comm: tattha sattipañjaraṁ katvā ti sattihatthehi purisehi parikkhipāpetvā; here after making an enclosure of spears means having made an enclosure of people with spears in their hands.11

dhanupākāraṁ parikkhipitvā,
and surrounding the Gracious One's bodily relics with bows,

naccehi gītehi vāditehi mālehi gandhehi
honoured, respected, revered, and worshipped (it)

sakkariṁsu garukariṁsu mānesuṁ pūjesuṁ.
with dance, song, music, garlands, and perfumes.