1. Asita.Often called the Buddhist
Simeon, though the comparison is not quite correct. He was a sage and the
chaplain of Sīhahanu, father of Suddhodana. He was the teacher of the Suddhodana,
and later his chaplain. He came morning and evening to see the king, Suddhodana,
who showed him as great respect as he had while yet his pupil; this, we are
told, is a characteristic of Sākiyan kings.
With the king's leave, Asita renounced
the world and lived in the king's pleasance. In due course he developed various
iddhi powers. Thenceforward he would often spend the day in the deva worlds.
Once, while in Tāvatimsa, he saw the whole city decked with splendour and the
gods engaged in great rejoicing. On inquiry he learnt that Siddhattha Gotama,
destined to become the Buddha, had been born. Immediately he went to
Suddhodana's home and asked to see the babe. From the auspicious marks on its
body he knew that it would become the Enlightened One and was greatly overjoyed,
but realising that he himself would, by then, be born in an Arūpa world and
would not therefore be able to hear the Buddha preach, he wept and was sad.
Having reassured the king regarding the babe's future, Asita sought his sister's
son, Nalaka, and ordained him that he might be ready to benefit by the Buddha's
teaching when the time came. Later Asita was born in the Arūpa world (Sn.,
pp.131-36; SnA.ii.483ff.; J. i.54f).
According to Buddhaghosa (SnA.ii.483),
Asita was so-called because of his dark complexion. He also had a second name,
Kanha Devala (SnA.ii.487). Other names for him were Kanha Siri (Sn.v.689), Siri
Kanha (SnA.487) and Kāla Devala (J.i.54).
He is evidently to be distinguished from
Asita Devala, also called Kāla Devala.
The Lalita Vistara has two versions of
Asita's prophecy, one in prose and one in verse, which, in their chief details,
differ but slightly from the Pāli version. In the former his nephew is called
Naradatta, and Asita himself is represented as being a great sage dwelling in
the Himālaya but unknown to Suddhodana.
Here is evidently a confusion of his
story with that of Asita Devala. In the Mahāvastu version (ii.30f) he is spoken
of as the son of a brahmin of Ujjeni, and he lives in a hermitage in the Vindhyā
mountains. It is noteworthy that in the Jātaka version he is called, not an isi,
but a tāpasa, an ascetic practising austerities. And there we are told that when
the king brought the boy, the future Buddha, and prepared to make him do
reverence to the ascetic, the babe's feet turned up and placed themselves on the
ascetic's head. For there is no one fit to be reverenced by a Bodhisatta, and
had they put the babe's head at the feet of the ascetic, the ascetic's head
would have split into seven pieces.
The tāpasa could see forty kappas into
the past and forty kappas into the future. J. i.54-5. See Thomas, op. cit., pp.
on the growth of the Asita legend.
2. Asita. A Pacceka Buddha, mentioned in
a list of Pacceka Buddhas (M.iii.70; ApA.i.107).
3. Asita. A garland-maker in the time of
Sikhī Buddha. While taking a garland to the palace, he saw the Buddha and
offered it to him. As a result, twenty-five kappas ago he became a king named Dvebhāra. In the present age he was known as Sukatāveliya Thera (Ap.i.217).