The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

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

This page describes The story of Upaka and Capa 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 Buddha Reflecting Deeply on the Profundity of the Dhamma. 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 Buddha meeting Ascetic Upaka

When the Buddha thus went from Mahābodhi to Bārāṇasī on foot, the ascetic Upaka, who was travelling between Mahābodhi and Buddhagayā, approached the Buddha on seeing Him and asked: “My friend, your organs of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind are so clear; your complexion is also clean and radiant. My friend, under which teacher have you gone forth? Who is your teacher? Whose teaching do you like?” The Buddha thereupon gave the reply to the ascetic Upaka in verse:

Sabbābhibhū sabbāvidū'ham asmi;
sabbesu dhantmesu anupalitto.
Sabbañ'jaho taṇhā’khaye vimutto;
sayaṃ abhiññāya kam uddiseyyaṃ

Upaka, I, the Buddha, have mastered all the Dhammas in the three worlds and possessed perfect and complete knowledge of them all; I am one also free from the stain of kilesa, such as greed, wrongdoing, delusion, etc., with regard to the three forms of existence (tebhūmaka-dhammas). I have abandoned all the tebhūmaka-dhammas. I am also one established securely in Nibbāna where taṇhā is extinct. Being one who has penetrated all the Dhammas by myself, without being taught by others, whom should I point out saying, ‘This is my teacher?’ In fact, there is none.

Na me ācariyo atthi;
sadiso me na vijjati
Sadevakasmiṃ lokasmiṃ;
n'atthi me paṭipuggalo

Upaka, for Me, there is no teacher. (Not to speak of a teacher superior to Me), there is even no one who is My peer. There is no one in the world of sentient beings, including devas, who can represent Me in respect of such qualities as Sīla, etc.

Ahaṃ hi Arahā loke;
ahaṃ satthā anutttaro
Eko'mhi Sammāsambuddho;
sītibhūto'smi nibbuto

Upaka, I am indeed the arahat in the world, one deserving of special veneration: I am also the incomparable and most excellent Teacher of the devas and humans in the world. Since I can discern with sayambhu-ñāṇa all the Dhammas without perversion, I am the Supremely Self-Enlightened One. I am also one who has extinguished the fire of kilesa.

Dhammacakkaṃ pavattetuṃ;
gacchāmi kāsiṇaṃ puraṃ.
Andhībhūtasmim lokasmiṃ;
āhancham amatadundubiṃ

Upaka, I will go to Isipatana Deer Park, near Bārāṇasī, in Kāsi Country, to set in motion the Wheel of Dhamma. I will beat the large Deathless Drum for all devas and humans who, without the eye of wisdom, are groping like the blind.

Thereupon, the ascetic Upaka said: “My friend, if what you claim is true, you must be one who possesses infinite wisdom (ananta-ñāṇa) and who has conquered the five Evils (māras).”

The Buddha replied thus:

Mādisā ve jinā honti;
ye pattā āsavakkhayaṃ.
Jitā me pāpakā dhammā;
tasmā 'ham Upaka Jino

Upaka, the Buddhas who are of the same nature like myself are named Conqueror (jina) since they have attained the arahatta-magga-ñāṇa, the extinction of the four āsavas, and got rid of unwholesome factors (akusaladhammas). I am also known by the name of jina, for, like these Buddhas, I have attained the Knowledge of the extinction of āsavas, āsavakkhaya (arahatta-magga) ñāṇa, and abandoned the akusala-dhammas.

Thereupon, the ascetic Upaka saying, “My friend, what you have said may be true!” nodded his head and took another route to go to Vaṅkahāra county. The opportunity of having such a dialogue and discussion with the Buddha proved to be a helpful factor in his renouncing the world later on. True! Upaka was in fact one who possessed extraordinary merit (adhikāra). For this very reason, the Buddha had taken the journey on foot to meet him on the way.

(Those who listened to the Buddha’s words of the Dhamma before He delivered the Sermon of Dhammacakka did not attain magga-phala. They just acquired a tendency (vāsanā) for applying themselves to the realisation of the Dhamma. It is a dammatā; and so Upaka did not attain magga-phala although he had listened to such profound words of the Dhamma relating to the qualities of the Buddha. He just enjoyed the benefit of having an inclination to become a bhikkhu afterwards.)

The Story of Upaka in brief.

The ascetic Upaka lived in a small hermitage in a hamlet of hunters in Vaṅkahāra county and was held in high esteem and looked after by the leading hunter of the hamlet. (As there were plenty of wild gnats in the said county, Upaka was made to spend his time inside a large pitcher.)

As the hunter wanted to go to a distant deer-forest, he left word with his daughter Cāpā: “Daughter, look after and serve well our reverend teacher who is an arahat. Don't fail to do so!” (Cf. Chāvā, Sutta nipāta Commentary: Majjhima Nikāya Commentary). And then he left for the forest in company of his sons and younger brothers.

Cāpā, the daughter of the chief hunter, had pleasant, beautiful looks. She possessed perfect bodily form with features becoming to a women. The day after the father-hunter had left, the ascetic Upaka went to the chief hunter’s house. On seeing the hunter’s daughter Cāpā as she approached close to him to offer alms food which she had prepared, he became overwhelmed by lust. So, without even being able to take the food, he went back to his place carrying the alms-food in a dish. Keeping the dish of alms-food in a suitable place, and thinking, “I will remain alive only if I can have Cāpā! I will die if I cannot get her!” he lay down without taking food.

On the seventh day, when the chief hunter returned home, he enquired from Cāpā about teacher Upaka. On being told by Cāpā: “Father, your teacher Upaka came to the house only one day and had not come again,” he went straight to teacher Upaka (without even changing his clothes) in the very guise that he had on from the forest, and asked him: “What ails you, Venerable Sir?” feeling and massaging his legs at the same time. The ascetic Upaka, without yet giving an answer, remained lying, rolling to the left and to the right and groaning. When the hunter pressed him for an answer, saying: “Just tell me sir. I will do everything I can possibly do for you.” The ascetic Upaka replied: “I can be alive only if l can have Cāpā. If not, it is better for me to die even here.”

When the hunter asked: “Venerable Sir, do you possess any skill?” the ascetic Upaka replied: “I possess none.” Again, when the hunter said: “Venerable Sir, one who is not skilled in anything will not be able to manage domestic affairs,” the ascetic Upaka replied: “I am not skilled in anything. Nevertheless, I will carry the carcass obtained by you. I will also sell its meat.”

Saying: “We also like the idea of you carrying and selling meat,” the hunter gave him an outer garment and let him change into a layman’s clothings and, bringing him home, he gave his daughter Cāpā in marriage to Upaka.

The son born of the union of Upaka and Cāpā as husband and wife was given the name of Subhadda. When the child cried, Cāpā used to nag, taunt and ridicule Upaka by singing this lullaby[1] to hurt and disparage him indirectly:

Son of a meat vendor, ascetic and ex-monk!
Son of a foolish ex-monk, a hunter’s hanger-on,
who fell in love with me. Mother is coaxing you to sleep,
Stop crying! I wish you would sleep.

In a cradle finished with emerald and diamond,
Sleep! my son of pure gold.
Mother will sing and rock (the cradle) to lull you to sleep.
Stop crying! gold nugget! I wish you to sleep.
Your father, last in the file of men!
This (his) way avoid; in future for liberation strive.
Mother is advising you
My pretty son, my garland of gold!

Thereupon, Upaka said: “Wife, do you think of me as one who has nobody to turn to for help and refuge? I have a very good friend by the name of Ananta Jina. I will go to that good friend Ananta Jina.” Realising “This Upaka is unbearably hurt if I taunt and insult him in this way,” Cāpā would sing the lullaby again and again. One day, Upaka departed for the Middle Country (Majjhima Desa) without informing Cāpā, without letting her know.

At that time, the Buddha happened to be dwelling in Jetavana Monastery in Sāvatthi; and He had earlier given words in advance to the monks: “Ascetics, if someone comes and enquires after Ananta Jina, point him out to Me.” Upaka enquired from every one he met all along the way: “Where is Ananta Jina staying?” and in due course he reached Savatthi; and, standing in the centre of Jetavana Monastery, asked the ascetics: “Venerable Sirs! Where is Ananta Jina staying?” The ascetics took him to the presence of the Buddha. On seeing the Buddha, Upaka immediately addressed Him: “Glorious Buddha! Do you still remember and know me, your disciple?” When the Buddha said: “Yes, Upaka, I do. Where are you living at present?” Upaka replied: “Glorious Buddha! I am living in Vaṅkahāra county.” Thereupon, the Buddha asked him: “Upaka, you have become advanced in age. Can you enter the order of ascetics?” Upaka replied: “Yes, Glorious Buddha, I will.” Thereupon, the Buddha permitted him to enter the order of ascetics and taught a suitable form of meditation. Upaka practised the meditation with great exertion and attained anāgāmī-phala. When he died, he was reborn in Avihā which is the lowest (first) in the five planes of Suddhāvāsa Brahmā World; and, before long, he attained arahatta-phala.

The Story of Cāpā in brief.

After she was abandoned by the ex-monk Upaka, Cāpā became weary of the world of humans; so, after entrusting her young son Subhadda to his grandfather, she took the same journey taken by Upaka. On reaching Sāvatthi, she became a bhikkhunī in the presence of other bhikkhunīs. There, she practised and developed Vipassanā meditation strenuously and having attained arahatta-phala after going through the four maggas in succession, she became a female arahatta by the name of Cāpā Therī with the āsavas extinguished. (Therigāthā Aṭhakathā.)

Footnotes and references:


lullaby: This was written by Manli Sayadaw who is famous for his works in verse.

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