The Mahavastu (great story)

by J. J. Jones | 1949 | 502,133 words | ISBN-10: 086013041X

This page describes thirty monks (ordination of the thirty companions) which is Chapter XXXV of the English translation of the Mahavastu (“great story”), dating to the 2nd-century BC. This work belongs to the Mahasanghika school of early Buddhism and contains narrative stories of the Buddha’s former lives, such as Apadanas, Jatakas and more..

Chapter XXXV - The thirty monks (ordination of the thirty companions)

At Benares thirty boon companions[1] went out to a park. The mother of one of them was dead and had been reborn among the devas. She had mastered the dharma at the time the wheel of dharma was set rolling, and she now remembered her son. Because of her love for her son, she loved all his companions as much as she did him.

Now in Benares there was a courtesan named Kāśikā. And why was Kāśikā the courtesan so called? As a maturing of good karma she came to have a lovely body, so that her fee[2] was the whole of a thousand pieces of money.[3] That was why she was called Kāśikā. Upārdhakāśikā was Kāśikā’s sister, and she also like Kāśikā, as a maturing of former karma came to have a lovely body. (376) But she had only one eye, and that a red one. For that reason her fee was half a thousand pieces of money.

The boon companions said to Kāśikā, “Come and serve[4] us.” But she, under the control of[5] that deva,[6] refused to go and said, “I have some household work to do and I cannot come.” So they went to the park taking Upārdhakāśikā with them instead.

Then the deva, disguised as Kāśikā, came and stood where the companions could see her. And when they saw her they ran to her. But she kept moving on without stopping, though they could see her all the time. Thus the deva led the companions from the park and took them to Ṛṣivadana into the presence of the Exalted One, and then she vanished. The companions went up to the Exalted One to bow at his feet.

The Exalted One said:

What play, what delight can there be while the world is ever burning? Plunged in darkness as you are will you not seek a light?

What cheer, what joy can there be while the world is ever burning? Plunged in darkness as you are will you not make a light to shine?[7]

Then they were all converted by the Exalted One into the state of having control over the powers,[8] initiated with the formula of “Come, monks,” and ordained as monks. Such was the initiation, ordination and admission into monkhood of the venerable thirty companions.

Here ends the account of the ordination of the thirty companions.

Footnotes and references:


Goṣṭhika, in this sense BSk., but not Pali, corresponds to AMg. goṣṭhiya, -iga (B.H.S.D.). In the Pali texts it is these and not the five monks already mentioned (p. 313) who are designated bhaddavaggiyā “the good group” or “group of high standing.” See I. B. Horner, Bk. of Disc. 4, p. 31, n. 2, for references to Pali commentaries on the meaning of this term. But the account of their conversion as given in the Mhvu. differs considerably from that at V. 1.23f.


Literally “she was worth”, kṣamati, cf. Pali khamati.


Kāśibhūmi. For this sense of kāśi see B.H.S.D., where Edgerton refers to the same meaning given the Pali kāsi by the Com. on V. 1.281. See also Miss I. B. Horner’s long note on the same passage in Bk. of Disc. 4, p. 398. Cf. D.P.N. s.v. Addhakāsī.


Upasthānakārī. Cf. p. 37 (text).


Adhiṣṭhitā. See p. 333, n. 3.


I.e., the deceased mother of one of the young men.


Cf. Dh. 146.


Balavaśībhāva. See vol. 1, p. 43, n. 2.

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