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Verse 56: The Story of Thera Mahakassapa

While residing at the Veluvana monastery in Rajagaha, the Buddha uttered Verse 56 of this
book, with reference to Thera Mahakassapa.

Arising from nirodha_samaapatti.htm"> nirodhasamapatti*, Thera Mahakassapa entered a poor section of the city of
Rajagaha for alms-food. His intention was to give a poor man an opportunity of gaining great
merit as a result of offering alms-food to one who had just come out of nirodha_samaapatti.htm"> nirodhasamapatti.
Sakka, king of the devas, wishing to take the opportunity of offering alms-food to Thera Mahakassapa,
assumed the form of a poor old weaver and came to Rajagaha with his wife Sujata in the form
of an old woman. Thera Mahakassapa stood at their door; the poor old weaver took the bowl
from the thera and filled up the bowl with rice and curry, and the delicious smell of the curry
spread throughout the city. Then it occurred to the thera that this person must be no ordinary
human being, and he came to realize that this must be Sakka himself. Sakka admitted the fact
and claimed that he too was poor because he had had no opportunity of offering anything to
anyone during the time of the Buddhas. So saying, Sakka and his wife Sujata left the thera
after paying due respect to him.

The Buddha, from his monastery, saw Sakka and Sujata leaving and told the Bhikkhus about
Sakka offering alms-food to Thera Mahakassapa. The Bhikkhus wondered how Sakka knew
that Thera Mahakassapa had just come out of nirodha_samaapatti.htm"> nirodhasamapatti, and that it was the right
and auspicious time for him to make offerings to the thera. This question was put up to the
Buddha, and the Buddha answered, "Bhikkhus, the reputation of a virtuous one as my son,
Thera Mahakassapa, spreads far and wide; it reaches even the deva world. On account of his
good reputation, Sakka himself has come to offer alms-food to him."

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 56. The scents of rhododendron and of sandal wood are very faint; but the scent
(reputation) of the virtuous is the strongest; it spreads even to the abodes of the deva.

* nirodha_samaapatti.htm"> nirodhasamapatti: sustained deep mental absorption following the attainment of nirodha,
i.e., temporary cessation of the four mental khandhas.

Translated by Daw Mya Tin, M.A.,
Burma Pitaka Association, Rangoon, Burma 1986.


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