The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

This page describes The Story of Kaladevila the Hermit contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as the Jewel of the Buddha. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).

The Story of Kāḷadevila the Hermit

Prologue: The citizens from the two cities of Kapilavatthu and Devadaha conveyed Queen Mahāmāyā and her noble Bodhisatta son back to the city of Kapilavatthu.

[For Anudīpanī, see The Story of Kāladevila The Hermit]

The very day the new born Prince and his mother were thus brought back to the city of Kapilavatthu, Tāvatiṃsa devas, headed by Sakka, rejoiced on learning that “a noble son has been born to King Suddhodāna in Kapilavatthu City” and that “the noble son will definitely become an Enlightened One at the sacred grounds of the Assattha Bodhi tree,” and they threw up their garments in the air, clapped their arms with the other hands, etc., and indulged themselves in merry-making.

At that time, Kāḷadevila the hermit, who had gained the Five Higher Knowledges and Eight Attainments and who was in the habit of frequenting the palace of King Suddhodāna, took his meal there as usual and went up to Tāvatiṃsa to spend the daytime in that celestial abode. He sat on the throne of gems in the bejewelled mansion, enjoying the bliss of jhāna. When he emerged from his jhāna, standing at the mansion’s gate and looking around, he saw joyous Sakka and other devas tossing up their headgears and costumes and extolling the virtues of the Bodhisatta at the celestial main road of sixty-yojana length. He asked: “O Devas, what makes you so happy and so playful? Tell me the reason.”

Thereupon the devas answered: “Venerable Hermit, a noble son has been born to King Suddhodāna today. That noble son, sitting cross-legged under the Assattha Bodhi tree at the most sacred spot, the centre of the universe, will attain Omniscient Self-Enlightenment. He will then deliver the sermon, the ‘Wheel of Dhamma’. We will thus get the golden opportunity of seeing the boundless glory of a Buddha and of listening to His supreme Dhamma-sermon. That is why we are indulging ourselves in merry-making.”

On hearing the devas' reply, Kāladevila speedily descended from Tāvatiṃsa and took his seat, prepared in the palace of King Suddhodāna. After exchanging words of greeting with the King, Kāḷadevila said: “O King, I have heard that a noble son has been born to you. I would like to see him.” Then the King had his fully dressed son brought to him, and he carried the son straight to Kāḷadevila to make him pay homage to the royal teacher. When he was thus carried, the two feet of the Prince flew aloft and rested on the hermit’s matted hair, just as a streak of lightning flashed on the top of dark blue clouds.

Special note: There is verily no one deserving of the homage by a Bodhisatta, who is in his last existence. Should anybody, not knowing about this, places the Bodhisatta’s head at the feet of Kāḷadevila, Kāḷadevila’s head would be split into seven pieces.

Kāḷadevila, realizing this astonishing and extraordinary glory and power of the Prince, decided: “I should not destroy myself.” Then rising from his seat he paid obeisance to the Prince with his hands clasped. Witnessing the marvellous scene, King Suddhodāna also bowed down before his own son.

Kāḷadevila Laughing and Weeping

Kāḷadevila, having acquired the Five Higher Knowledges and the Eight Attainments, could recall events of the past forty kappas and also foresee those of the future forty kappas. Thus he was capable of recollecting and discerning the events of eighty kappas in all.

(A detailed account of Kāḷadevila is given in the Anudīpanī.)

Having inspected the major and minor characteristics on the Prince, Kāḷadevila pondered whether the Prince would become a Buddha or not and came to know, through his foreseeing wisdom, that the Prince certainly would. With the knowledge that “Here is a superb man,” he laughed in great delight.

Again, Kāḷadevila pondered whether he would or would not see the young Prince attain Buddhahood. He realized through his foreseeing wisdom that before the young Prince’s attainment of Buddhahood, he would pass away and be reborn in an arūpa abode of Brahmās where nobody would be capable of hearing the Deathless Dhamma even if hundreds and thousands of Buddhas were to go and teach it. “I will not get an opportunity of seeing and paying obeisance to this man of marvel who is endowed with unique merits of the Perfections. This will be a great loss for me.” So saying and being filled with immense grief, he wept bitterly.

[see notes on the arūpa abode below]

The Enquiry by People

When the courtiers saw Kāḷadevila laughing and weeping, it occurred to them thus: “Our Venerable Hermit laughed first, and later he wept, which is strange indeed.” So they enquired: “Venerable Sir, is there any danger that might befall to our master’s son?” “There is no danger for the Prince. In fact, he will become a Buddha.” “Then why do you lament?” the people asked again. “Because I shall not get an opportunity to see the attainment of Enlightenment by an extra-ordinary man who is endowed with such wonderful qualities. This will be a great loss to me. So thinking, I lament,” he replied.

(The above narration has been made in accordance with what is described in the Buddhavaṃsa and Jātaka Commentaries and the Jinālaṅkāra Sub-commentary. In some works on the life of the Buddha in prose, the reading goes as follows: When King Suddhodāna asked: “At what age the Prince would renounce the world and attain Buddhahood?” Kāḷadevila answered: “At the age of thirty-five.” This passage is a deduction from the words addressed by Kāḷadevila to his nephew (his sister’s son), Nālaka the youth: “Dear Nālaka, a son has been born to King Suddhodāna. The child is the future Buddha; he will attain Buddhahood at the age of thirty-five.” The King was not pleased to hear that his son would become a Buddha. He wanted to see his son only as a Universal Monarch, not as a Buddha. Therefore, he must not have asked about the time of his son’s renunciation and attainment of Buddhahood. That is the reason for the omission of such a passage in the aforesaid Commentaries and Sub-commentary. Here in this work, too, we therefore make no mention of it.)

The Monkhood of Nālaka The Youth

Having answered thus, Kāḷadevila the hermit pondered: “Though I will miss the Prince’s attainment of Buddhahood, I wonder whether somebody among my relations will have an opportunity of witnessing it.” Then he foresaw that his nephew, Nālaka, would. So he visited his sister and summoned his nephew and urged him, saying:

“My dear nephew, Nālaka, the birth of a son has taken place in the palace of King Suddhodāna. He is a Bodhisatta. He will attain Buddhahood at the age of thirtyfive. You, my nephew, are somebody deserving of meeting the Buddha. Therefore, you had better become a recluse immediately today.”

Though born to the parents of eighty-seven crores worth of wealth, the young Nālaka had confidence in his uncle, and thought: “My uncle would not have urged me to do what is not beneficial. He did so because it is of benefit indeed.” With this conclusion, he had the robes and the alms-bowl bought and brought immediately from the market himself:”

“I have become a recluse with dedication to the Buddha, the noblest personage in the world. (I become a recluse being dedicated to the Buddha who will certainly appear.)”

Having said thus, he faced to the direction of Kapilavatthu, where the Prince was, and made obeisance by raising his clasped hands in fivefold veneration. Thereafter, he put his bowl in a bag, slang it on his shoulder and entered the Himalayas. Awaiting to receive the Buddha there in the forest, he devoted himself to asceticism.

(In connection with the birth of the Prince, the history of his lineage together with the founding of Kapilavatthu City is mentioned in the Anudīpanī.)

[For Anudīpanī, see A Brief History of The Royal Lineage of The Bodhisatta]

Notes on the arūpa abode of Brahmās:

(An arūpa abode of Brahmās is a plane of existence which is totally devoid of material phenomena, there being only mental consciousness (citta) and its concomitants (cetasika). In such an abode are reborn ti-hetuka puthujjanas, worldlings with three roots (roots of non-greed, non-hate and non-delusion) and such Noble Ones as Sotāpannas (Stream-winners), Sakadāgāmins (Once-returners) and Anāgāmins (Non-returners) who have attained the arūpa jhāna. The sotāpannas, sakadāgāmins and anāgāmins who have reached that arūpa brahmās' abode will no longer return to the lower planes of existence. As they are experienced in practising meditation up to the stage of the Path and Fruition while in the sensuous wholesome abodes (kāma sugati) and in the material (rūpa) abodes, they are able to pursue the same Vipassanā(Insight) meditation which they had practised previously. They attain higher stages up to the Path and Fruition and Nibbāna in the same abodes of arūpa, thereby terminating all suffering in saṃsāra even though they do not hear the Dhamma from anyone. Worldlings of the three roots, (who have attained the arūpa-jhāna in the human world) such as Hermits Kāḷadevila, Āḷāra and Udaka, were reborn in an arūpa abode upon their death. As this abode, by nature, is devoid of any kind of matter, those who are reborn there have absolutely no eyes (cakkhu-pasāda) for seeing the Buddha and no ears (sotapasāda) for hearing His Dhamma. Thus they can neither behold a Buddha nor listen to His sermon even if one comes and teach it. On their part, Buddhas do not pay a visit and give a sermon in an arūpa abode. And if worldlings have no chance to hear the Dhamma from others (parato ghosa), they will never attain the Path and Fruition.

(Kāḷadevila and Udaka, who reached Nevasaññā-nāsaññāyatana arūpa abode as worldlings, would remain in saṃsāra for eighty-four thousand kappas. Āḷāra who reached the arūpa abode of Ākiñcaññāyatana would remain in saṃsāra for sixty thousand mahā-kappas. Therefore, even if a Buddha were to appear in the human world in the present kappa, they have no chance to realize Liberation.

(In this connection, it may be asked as to whether Kāḷadevila could not have been reborn in a rūpa abode provided he directed his mind towards that existence. Since he had fully attained the eight mundane jhānas, his rebirth could have taken place in any of the ten rūpa Brahmā-worlds up to the topmost Vehapphala if he were so inclined. This is the answer.

(If there was such an opportunity, it may be asked: “Why had Kāḷadevila no inclination to be reborn in one of the ten rūpa abodes of his choice?” The reply should be that he had no such inclination because he was not skilful enough to do so. What it essentially means is this: An achiever of the eight mundane attainments is likely to be reborn in one of the rūpa or arūpa abodes which attracts him. Kāḷadevila could have been in a rūpa abode only if he desired to be there. If he were there, he would have been in a position to pay homage as a rūpa Brahmā to the Buddha. But his failure to be there was due to his lack of proper skill in directing his mind towards that particular abode which is lower than arūpa.

(There still arises another argument: “Kāḷadevila, who had kept away grief (domanassa) through his attainment of jhānas, should not have succumbed to that displeasurable feeling and shed tears.” He did so because his was merely keeping grief away. To make it a little more explicit: Only those mental defilements, which have been completely eliminated by means of the Path, cannot reappear in one’s mental continuum. But those defilements, which just kept away from oneself through sheer mundane jhāna attainments, are apt to reappear when confronted with something strong enough to draw them (back to oneself). Kāḷadevila had not eliminated such defilements;he had only kept them away from himself by means of jhāna attainments. Hence his weeping.

(Still another question may be asked as to how it was possible for Kāḷadevila to be reborn in an arūpa abode since he slipped from the jhānas through grief when he wept. The answer should be that he could be so reborn because the same jhānas were regained by him effortlessly. To make it still more explicit: the defilements that have been just removed from worldlings of mundane jhāna attainments come back because of a powerful factor and thereby making them slip from their jhānas, but if the defilements do not reach the extreme, the worldlings can readily regain their jhānas as soon as the force of the emotion subsides; and it cannot be easily known by others that “These are the ones who have fallen off their attainments.”

(In brief, like Kāḷadevila and others, those who have gained the eight mundane jhānas can be reborn in one of the ten rūpa Brahmā abodes, which are lower, or in one of the four arūpa Brahmā abodes, which are higher, if they have prepared their minds to do so. If they have not, they will be reborn only in the abode that is determined by the highest of their mundane jhānas since that particular jhāna alone can effect such a result. The knowledge that one can reach any abode that one sets the mind on is acquired only through a Buddha’s Teaching within His dispensation. Outside the dispensation, however, there can be no such penetration. Kāḷadevila was not a disciple of a Buddha, thus he did not belong to a Buddha’s dispensation. Therefore, he was ignorant of the means to train his mind. If he had known, he would have done so to be reborn in one of the ten rūpa Brahmā-worlds, of which Vehapphala is the highest. If he had done so, he could have been reborn there and might get the opportunity of seeing the Buddha. But now his ignorance had led to the failure of doing what would be proper for him. He would therefore be reborn in Nevasaññā-nāsaññāyatana which is the topmost arūpa abode, and reflecting on his forthcoming rebirth, he became so distressed that he could not help weeping; when he thus wept, he lost his jhānas. But, since he had committed no serious evil deeds whatsoever, he regained the eight mundane attainments by resuming the preliminary exercises of a kasiṇa meditation effortlessly, as soon as the tempo of his grievous defilements ceased, with nobody knowing his slip from the jhānas. Therefore, it should be understood that Devila the Hermit was reborn in the arūpa Brahmā abode of Nevasaññā-nāsaññāyatana on his death through Nevasaññānāsaññāyatana jhāna which is the highest of the eight mundane attainments.)

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